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Science-Based Starships And Colonies (And Aliens!)
A Report Compiled By Raymond Towers
Types Of Interstellar Ships
Types Of Interstellar Propulsion
Advantages Of Space Habitats
Space Habitat Necessities
Types Of Rotating Habitats
Space Colony Notes
About The Author
I loved Space 1999. This was a science fiction TV show from the 1970s that ran for 2 seasons with a total of 24 episodes per season. I loved this series about the same as I loved Star Trek, The Original Series, from the mid-sixties, and this was a lot more than TV shows that came later in the eighties, such as Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century and the original V series.
I think part of the draw was that the fantasy world in Space 1999 was only a couple of steps more advanced than contemporary technology was back then, more in the realm of plausible sci-fi than other franchises in line with the first Star Wars movie, which was full of alien races, medieval fantasy weapons such as light sabers, and giant Death Stars the size of moons. The characters in Space 1999 were regular people in my eyes, back when I was in elementary and junior high watching the reruns of those shows. Martin Landau was usually cool and collected, but if his tantrum buttons were pushed he’d bark at his crew and often make decisions against the consensus. Barbara Bain was a silver-haired fox for me, and still is as I watch the old shows when I can find them on Youtube (Or on the Tubi app!). The show was filmed on a low budget, but I wasn’t too worried about plastic models being used for spaceships and temporary scenery backdrops. I was more interested in whatever new concept would be presented, and how the crew would get out of trouble during the one hour program.
As a tribute to this TV show that helped stoke my love for science fiction, I wanted to go back and watch the old episodes and gain inspiration from them. There was a problem! A lot of the science was inaccurate back then, and is downright ridiculous in today’s world. Just look at the premise of the show: an explosion of nuclear waste causes Luna to be propelled out of orbit, and now Luna and the colony on it are hurtling through space with no hope of rescue and no way to remedy the situation. Moon Base Alpha gets obliterated every other episode, and they lose half of their Eagle ships whenever they have a dogfight in space, but miraculously everything is renewed in time for the next episode. There are no issues with maintaining a breathable environment, replenishing food, water, electricity, fuel for the ships, etc. I know, I know, some of this stuff has to necessarily be simplified for a TV program, such as alien races speaking English for the benefit of the audience, and the ability for the cast to walk around on exotic new worlds without wearing spacesuits.
I can accept some of that stretching of the imagination, and I do similar things myself depending on the writing project I’m working on. However, as a writer trying to present a plausible space environment and ensuing adventure to a reader, I have to make sure that most of my science is grounded on actual facts, and is reasonably extrapolated from what is known today. For those reasons, I’m doing research on the practicality of interstellar ships, space colonies of various types, and a few other related topics. Space 1999 will still be my inspiration, but the web of fantasy I weave my stories around will have a much better real-world grounding. The information I’ve gathered is credible, fairly practical and can be backed up by science.
I’m showing this from a general, semi-detailed perspective, so if any of these ideas interests you, you can do more research on your own. The math on some of this stuff is very complex, and too meticulous for the depth of my project. Also, I’ve left out some of the more fanciful concepts, such as Larry Niven’s Ringworld idea, where a giant human habitat is constructed around an entire planet. That’s really not feasible or practical, as it would take the nickel and iron content of a dozen worlds or more to create. The concepts I’m presenting are much closer to home and could be possible as working models within our lifetimes. Most of the concepts are within our reach with the science and technology we have today, and that will make for a more credible story for you and I to write.
Types Of Interstellar Ships
1. Methuselah ships - The crew on these ships has extremely long life spans and can survive the voyage from start to finish.
2. Sleeper ships - These ships have hibernation areas and a small, active skeleton crew.
3. Generation ships - These ships are designed with the ideas of multiple generations of families living and breeding on board. To prevent genetic stagnation and inbreeding problems, human egg and sperm cells can be frozen for measured durations before they begin to deteriorate, or DNA printing can add new / diversified genetic code onto existing DNA strands.
4. Seed ships - This concept is for a very small and heavily automated ship that carries seeds of life or advanced printing technology. Humans, animals, vegetation and terraforming would be done mechanically upon arrival at a destination. Machines or robots would raise humans once the initial set-up work has been done.
5. Data ships - Another very small ship, this one would carry vast amounts of data that could unpack itself upon arrival, by using local material.
Types Of Interstellar Propulsion
1. Nuclear fusion - At present, these ships are very expensive. Small, controlled (and potentially very dangerous) nuclear explosions would propel a ship forward to approx. 10 percent of light speed. Estimated costs for building this type of ship are around $350 billion dollars. The advantage is they could potentially move huge amounts of cargo, but they would use a tremendous amount of power materials and be difficult to speed up and slow down. A hybrid ship type named the Bussard Ramjet would suck space material in and use that for additional power. The Star Trek ship Enterprise design has twin Bussard Ramscoops on the ends of its wings.
2. Anti-Matter - I’m going to skip this idea, because we can’t make anti-matter, and even if we could, we have no way to safely store it. Basically, anti-matter would provide huge propulsion for a ship.
3. Black hole - This theory is beyond me. I don’t understand the physics of safely using a black hole’s gravity pull to move a ship between stars. Next!
4. Light sails - This concept I really like. Solar panels made of ultra-thin graphene absorb light energy and use it to propel a ship forward. The shape of the sail might be a problem. The further away from a star, the slower the sail would move. Also, the shape of the sail would create drag on the non-solar side. The sail would end up becoming more of a parachute. Lasers or microwaves could boost the sail’s velocity. 1463 Gigawatts of laser power would accelerate the light sail by 1 Gee. A laser may be needed at the destination to slow the sail down.
In the traditional rocket fuel model, Tsiolkovsky’s Rocket Equation tells us that when a rocket-based ship launches, 63% of its weight will be fuel. For a rocket-based ship to land or slow down, 86% of its weight must be fuel. That is the amount of fuel needed to achieve Exhaust Velocity. To propel a ship at twice Exhaust Velocity, the percentages increase to 86% at launch and 98% for slow-down. This is about 400 pounds of fuel for every 1 pound of cargo at 1 times Exhaust Velocity.
Shooting light photon lasers at a graphene sail is more cost effective, but there are problems with making sure the laser hits the sail at just the right angle and also when the laser and sail are too far apart from each other. The proposed thickness for a graphene sail would be 1 micrometer thick. A galactic GPS network will be necessary to keep things in alignment and for course correction. A sister laser at the destination could help slow the sail down. Additional lasers can be spaced out along the travel route.
Alternatives to photon lasers are charged particles aimed at magnetic sails and also solar neutrinos, if a new material were invented capable of reflecting them.
A sample sail ship could weight 10 million kilograms (10,000 pounds) and have the shape of a cone to lessen drag and deflect incoming objects. The amount of laser power needed to push this size ship is tremendous, comparable to the noonday sun shining over an entire continent. The laser can also be used as a particle accelerator and for communications.
50 relays per light year at 2000 light years of highway equals 100,000 total relays. These relays would use about a trillion kilograms of hydrogen fuel per day to power the lasers. There are projections that such a system could power a ship fast enough to reach relativistic speeds, but for the purpose of my writing project, I’ll probably set a more practical cap of 10% of light speed.
(continued in next post)
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About this title: In issue No. 1, for November 2018: Three short stories from the recently released science fiction collection Variant Worlds 2, and an excerpt of over 30 pages from upcoming release Rothschild Apocalypse. Articles include the candid How I Became My Male Characters, and Space-Based Starships And Colonies to give budding writers a good grounding on the basics. Rating: EXTREME controversy.
They say that a good opening sentence has to grip the reader into reading more of the story. Here are the opening sentences from each of the stories in the magazine. Tell me, do they provoke you to want to read on?
There are places that not even god can reach. - Asteroid QQ37, Part 1
Harry Paxton had tits. - The Anomaly Of Object AA
Things were going well in Hydroponics Division, Lender thought. - Asteroid QQ37, Part 2
Every story has a beginning. - Rothschild Apocalypse
A short excerpt from the leading story Asteroid QQ37, Part 1:
There are places that not even god can reach.
Asteroid QQ37 was one of those places. Men with severe prison sentences were taken there to mine, because capital punishment had long since been abolished on the civilized worlds. That’s what they said, anyway, but everyone knew it wasn’t true. The elites that ran the Federation Of Planets used every excuse they could think of to murder their constituents. The elites killed the masses through the food they consumed, the water they drank and with the radiation they sprayed into the skies. Autism, cancer and other induced maladies were running rampant all over the colonized worlds. The masses were too stupid, as always, to comprehend how they were being systematically weakened.
Lender wasn’t among the stupid ones. Lender figured things out and he was vocal about it. That’s how he got his prison sentence. After appearing in one too many protests and posting one too many links to real evidence online, the elite cleansing program targeted him. A hit squad broke into his home to murder his wife and two children, and to plant incriminating files onto his computer. The operatives branded him a murderer and a conspirator. They made up their ‘official story’ that he was trying to overthrow the government. They invented that he was part of a plot to assassinate the president, who was on her third clone by then after previous successful attempts on her life. Nobody knew that, by the way, except for those like Lender that used advanced facial recognition programs to study down to the pores of the president’s face. That bitch had been killed twice and reproduced by the elites, while the public couldn’t be bothered to see that her irises had a synthetic pattern in them. It was obvious to anyone who cared to look.
Len hated religion, as he knew how religious leaders manipulated belief and faith to control the masses. If someone had told him a few years ago that he would one day turn into a religious man, Len would have laughed in their faces. He’d been indoctrinated into Chrislam, of course, like so many others before him, and been taught to bow toward the rising sun of the east every morning. That had only lasted as far as Len’s teenage years, until he discovered that the leaders of the colonized worlds had years before conspired to merge the great religions into one, and that many other diverse religions had existed before the advent of Chrislam.
A new religion, a secret religion, was spreading among the many miners like him whom had lost their hope. Their new god had a name, but the deity’s worshippers kept that name out of their minds as much as they could. The new god had horns and carried a flaming sword in one hand and a book of law in the other. This was a god of vengeance first, of strict holy cleansing and the wiping out of corruption. He would become a god of purity and light only after the cancer of the galactic elite was excised and burned away. In the interim, the god’s flaming sword would swing with fury. The reason Len and others who followed this deity kept their religion out of their brains was because the wardens continually ran mind scans on their prisoners. Too many restricted thoughts would get a miner taken to Interrogation, and that was not a good place for any man to end up. Many times, those men would not come back.
Before the mining sentence, Len had not been a religious man. He hadn’t been a homosexual man either. After getting raped in dark places one time too many by roving bands of desperate men, he had no choice but to adapt to his new circumstances. Len searched out who the political dissidents in the mining colony were, the Truthers like him. He found an Asian man who was nearly as tall as he was, another loner being abused in the same way, and just as strong. He beat that man and raped him, and he made the man watch over Len’s cot as he slept, and to follow him around when he had to go into dark places.
The man’s name was Kyu. He was from New Korea, some new country that was established on one of Saturn’s moons, but Len always forgot which moon. After having enough of being raped, Kyu waited until Len was fast asleep. He beat Len senseless with his shoe and returned the favor. When Kyu was done, he demanded to be treated like a man and not like a slave. By then, both men had gotten accustomed to being near one another. Neither wanted to walk dark corridors alone where bands of men might find them. They become lovers. Kyu no longer sat on the floor while Len slept; now they slept on the same cot. If violence came their way, they stood by each other’s side and faced it together.
About this title: For rookie Spaceman Harold Douglas, the mission sounded simple enough. Take the squad of Space Marines out, discover why the outpost had gone offline, and bring them back home in one piece. That was before the transport suddenly vanished, stranding them all on an alien planet. Now, they are fighting for their lives against the greatest threat humanity has ever seen. Rating: MEDIUM controversy. Click the button to visit this book's page on Smashwords.
(Teaser for the novella Non-Retrieval)
Like a plague they descended, dropping into the midst of the unprepared and frightened soldiers as dozens of bouncing, pummeling cannonballs. Plasma fire whines across the battlefield as skittish fingers pump on smoothly gliding triggers, hitting the alien creatures’ hard shells and deflecting the lethal beams in all directions, including back among our own troops. Howls of pain erupt from the mouths of mortally wounded men, only slightly eclipsed by the orders from their commanding officers.
Through it all, the balled-up insects roll toward where the concentration of soldiers is at its thickest. Then, displaying an uncanny and unnerving sense of synchronicity, the tumbling balls halt all at once and begin to unfurl. Their trademark clicking commences, a combination of sharp screeches and disconcerting snaps that causes involuntary winces and fuels an instinct of panic in some of the young Marines. This noise, of course, serves to briefly stun the troops, as half a dozen jet-black limbs telescope from the rising monstrous bodies. Their two thick and thorny legs lift them to nearly an equal height as the men. Two pairs of arms simultaneously uncurl and clasp together, as if the creature were uttering some dark prayer. For a brief moment, a split second, it seems as if nothing is happening, until the first shockwaves hit.
Death comes quickly to the innermost circle of gawking and gaping spectators, as invisible beams of intense heat immediately incinerate or explode their bodies. The after-effects of the assaults consume a second row of the tightly grouped soldiers, bursting their hair and clothes into flames, and melting their hard plastic weapons in their grips. A high percentage of the frontline infantry, whether through panic or injury, or even simple confusion, is rendered ineffective…
(Partial notes recovered during the aftermath of the War on Betelren Six, Space Corps Outpost 02-27. The author’s identity is not known. The date is Tuesday, January 20, 2060. This is the date of first contact.)