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June 27, 2006

Building new worlds become the greatest generation

Al Globus has a vision and plan to use $4 billion in government prizes and programs to catalize a larger space colonization effort. I think it is a good plan and hope that it can get implemented.

Even better is if we used it and other plans like it to start taking up the challenge to become the greatest generation. Tom Brokaw wrote about the World War II generation as the greatest generation for rising up to stop Hitler from conquering the world. This generation could become the greatest generation ever by building new worlds and conquering space. From Mars, the moon and space colonies in asteroids we could tap in resources and living space that is hundreds of times what is available on earth. Again Al Globus quantifies the benefits and scale of what needs to be done

If we had the will we would mount a D-Day scale invasion of space. The current space effort, as noble as it has been, was to send a handful of people out with car batteries and camping generators. This is not enough. We need to send out thousands with gigawatt powerplants and equipment to build industries. It should be about a historically large and grand vision, that will invigorate america and civilized nations. It will give a powerful reason for children to engage in math and science.

The time and the technology is ripe for launching bold plans. We can use synthetic biology and genetic engineering to adapt plants with extremophile genes to survive in Mars and space colonies. We can make the deserts of Mars and space bloom. New technologies for space construction and systems have been planned and are being developed. We have to carry the work forward and use it.

Besides the logical reasons related to survival that have been presented by others including Stephen Hawking, a bold plan for space colonization is a bold plan for the future. It will be in stark contrast to the minor enemies of civilization who call for a return to the 1200's.

The demonstration of powerful will to make this happen and rapidly push forward in science and technology will put to rest the soft westerner/american myth. It will be a historic change in direction from the lost period (historically) of 1970-200?.

Iraq war II and the whole terrorism thing is historically small beans. Who remembers any of the dozens of barbarian invasions against Rome or specific skirmishes fought by Alexander the Great?

Embarking on a bold effort to colonize space does not mean that we do not fix the problems at home. Successful civilizations of the past that expanded had to effectively manage what they already had and what they were adding. Developing problems needed to be foreseen, understood in detail, avoided and managed. The great civilizations at their peaks lasted for hundreds and even thousands of years with sustainable management of their environment and efficient management of their public works. Smart plans with effective implementation is vital for greatness. However, no matter how good the plans are achieving greatness will require perservering through many challenges and setbacks. It will also require strong leadership and the involvement of the people.

Unlike the past expansions, by expanding into space, we do not need to take away from other peoples.

It was the spreading of civilization that we have used to measure the greatness of the past. It is how we should measure greatness for now and for the future.

Massive space colonization, the building of worlds is a goal worthy for a great generation.

Here is the start of what Al Globus presents:
Imagine a space program based on a vision of settlement, rather than exploration. A vision of billions of people living in hundreds of thousands of orbital colonies serenely orbiting Earth, the planets and our Sun. The current vision is about putting small numbers of people very far away entirely at government expense. Space settlement is about putting very large numbers of people in space primarily at their own expense, and making sure it’s nice enough that they stay and raise the kids. While the current exploration vision is expected to cost about $100 billion up to the first visit to the Moon, the settlement vision is many orders of
magnitude more expensive, making government funding impossible. But government can play crucial role. Specifically, perhaps we could use something close to the current NASA budget to stimulate much larger private investments. In this vision, government funds are devoted to prizes, test facilities and technology development, along with NASA’s traditional science and aeronautic activities. Operations are left to the
private sector.

Related articles:
Space colonization at wikipedia
Lifeboat Foundation
Alliance to Rescue Civilization
Artemis Project
National Space Society
John Hickman argues that only government can afford the high initial investment for very large space development projects.
Sylvia Engdahl discusses the "critical stage" where a level of technology allows both space colonization and human extinction.
(Projects to Employ Resources of the Moon and Asteroids Near Earth in the Near Term) is a guide to websites about asteroid mining and space settlement.
Freeman Dyson predicts that space colonization will only be affordable after a hundred years; and that biotechnology, not propulsion, will be the enabling factor
Academics and other leaders explain that we should colonize space to improve our chance of survival. Authors include Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.

My article on space colonization now and the the number of trips during the initial colonization of pre-colonial america

Project Orion: Using existing capabilites (nuclear bombs) for constructive purpose. A technology for the bold.
There is thorium and uranium on the moon.
We could create breeder reactors on the moon. They could power massive construction and mining to create millions of acres of solar panels. We could build the supplies (more nukes) for the follow on Orion flights to Mars and the asteroids.

Alternatively for the first part getting from earth to the moon. We could use new NIAC (Nasa Institute for Advanced Concept ideas) and some other alternatives.

Magnetically inflated structures
magbeams, plasma magnets
Magnetic launcher
Arrays of lasers for launch

We should be willing to take reasonable risks in the grand endeavor of building new worlds. People do not consider how many die and the costs from using old technology and old ways.

Coal usage directly irradiates everyone.

Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of
coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of
uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium. For 1982 the total release of
radioactivity from 154 typical coal plants in the United States was,
therefore, 2,630,230 millicuries.

Hundreds of lives lost every year in mining accidents.

Lives and damage from the fossil fuel economy. Wars.

Our current crippled approach to space costs direct lives too.

439 people have flown in space. 5% have died. Plus over 200 have died on the ground.

2 comments:

Brian Dunbar said...

You had me up until you mentioned D-Day. D-Day was a grand operation with a limited goal. To finish a dirty job so millions of boys could go home.

I'm with you on the goal. But we've been flooded with rhetoric since the 1970s about this. We know why it's a good idea. What we need are realistic designs and some notion of how this all gets paid for.

bw said...

D-Day had a pretty big limited goal. Take down a Europe wide enemy. Plus it was to kickstart the dirty job, which had only begun in North Africa.

I think the cost effective ways to do it involve:

The magnetically inflated cables for making big structures cheaply in space and can also make superior space vessels.

Adjusting policy to let the entreprenuerial efforts bear fruit. this is already starting to happen.

Push ahead on hypersonic rockets that could make cheap two stage launch systems. Second stage could be plasma magnets or tethers.

Magnetic plasma systems also will be good out in space.

The tech is coming together for inexpensive and profitable systems to drive this forward.

It could all happen faster with more will and with the efficiency not to flush $300+ billion/year on the relatively pointless Iraq situation.