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Interesting things to do with the solar system in scifantasy
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Zinegata
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechalich wrote:
The bottom line is that empires are economic entities as well as political ones, and the economic forces are very, very strongly against the formation of a solar empire and very much for the Earth just extracting whatever it wants and hauling it back home for use here. Establishing space colonies, as opposed to space mining platforms, is only something you do if Earth isn't looking like home anymore. And you have to damage Earth a lot to get there. Every single other place in our Solar System is significantly less accommodating to human life than Antarctica.


Yep.

I would note however that the conceit of many "Solar System Sci-Fi" - such as Gundam - is premised on a conflict between Earth and the "colonies". However, much of this sci-fi was developed in the 60s and 70s, which presumed large human populations were necessary to achieve industrialization and extraction in space (and also because the downfall of imperialism was a hot topic back then). Realistically, the highly automated "oil rigs in space" approach you mentioned is more likely because of the challenges of creating long-term human habitation in space.

A different tack could be a deliberate migration to space due to the overpopulation of Earth - again another Gundam trope. But barring the development of low-cost Earth to space travel (e.g. a Space Elevator) an Elysium-style space station exclusive to wealthy elites is more likely than the Gundam-style space colonies housing millions of displaced migrants looking for a better life.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Cowboy Bebop's Mars is only habitable in a few crater cities with artificial atmospheres that need constant replenishment 'cause Mars has no magnetosphere to stop solar winds from whipping it away:

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I wonder if the databooks for that series ever elaborated on the tech involved and general spread of humanity.

Yeah Earth really is the most attractive planet to live in so a big disaster to force humanity to find habitation elsewhere would be convenient.

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is that it occupies the uncomfortable midpoint between the present day and the bright/grimdark sci-fi future where technology has essentially turned into magic.


There's some settings with techno-space magic and a focus on earth, Bungie's Destiny is about a magic alien moon that came and did the terraforming for humans, then the space devil came and destroyed humanity to the point there's only one human city left. As interesting as the setting seems they've delivered it in a shockingly bland way, at least in my opinion.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Zinegata wrote:
Realistically, the highly automated "oil rigs in space" approach you mentioned is more likely because of the challenges of creating long-term human habitation in space.

A different tack could be a deliberate migration to space due to the overpopulation of Earth - again another Gundam trope. But barring the development of low-cost Earth to space travel (e.g. a Space Elevator) an Elysium-style space station exclusive to wealthy elites is more likely than the Gundam-style space colonies housing millions of displaced migrants looking for a better life.


However it's important to note that oil rig workers stay on the rig for two weeks and then get one to three weeks off. Basically they spend roughly half of each month in the rig and the other half in a town. That kind of quick turnaround simply wouldn't be possible for belt miners or Jovian fabrication system maintenance crews or whatever if the nearest town was back on Earth.

If you are going to put working people two hundred and ninety thousand times as far away from a Nevada brothel than it is possible for any point on planet Earth to be, you're going to have to bring the whores to them. And their families, and teachers for their children, and cooks for their restaurants, and so on and so on. Yes, you can ship goods in, and you can even automate many services, and of course you're going to be able to send up all the movies and music and shit of the capital, but even if there are only five people pressing buttons to work whatever the main purpose of your space base, you're going to need all the trappings of civilization. Your model is going to look a lot like Kodiak, Alaska or Kenai, Alaska. Or really any of those remote fishing towns. They have about seven thousand people in them. Not because you need seven thousand people to run fishing boats or canning operations, but because you need people to run all the other shit and provide basic human companionship to the handful of people doing the main industry.

You just aren't going to be able to do the Red Dog Mine strategy of having people work for 4 weeks and then send them back to Anchorage to spend some weeks in a city of 300,000+ people to work out their loneliness and lack of blow jobs. Or if you can, then transportation across the solar system is so fucking easy that you might as well dump a bunch of people into Venusian habitats because it just doesn't fucking matter.

Either way, I just don't see any permanent space habitat with less than six thousand people in it. There just wouldn't be enough people to hit critical civilization mass, no matter how good your robot mining or machine fabrication was.

-Frank
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Hicks
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Whittier , Alaska; a city that mostly lives in 1 building, and has a population of ~214.

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But yeah, don't you need at least 7,000 people so the colony dosen't die out due to inbreeding?
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Whittier is not a counter example. People in Whittier can and do go to Anchorage on a daily basis.

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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Whittier is not a counter example. People in Whittier can and do go to Anchorage on a daily basis.

-Frank


A better example would be the smaller permanent Antarctic bases. McMurdo is big enough for over a thousand people, but drops to only 250 in the winter. Britain's Halley Research Station only has 13 people during the winter.

And Antarctic Winter lasts 7 months.


Of course, staying in Antarctic during the winter is a psychologically grueling experience that most people don't want to go through more than one. And it's still one plane trip from civilization, during the summer. It's only a 6 month wait. Depending on the spacecraft available in setting, travel to a mining colony or something could take years.

A trip to the asteroid belt takes 3 years and 9 months, meaning that asteroid miners would have a seven and half year round trip, not including the time they actually spend working.


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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

You have the Red Dwarf which is a city unto itself as a mining ship. So when it reaches an asteroid the entire ship is able to do the mining stuff and when they're in transit for months (years?) they can eat curry and go on dates.

There's also examples of the asteroid itself being turned into a ship. Knights of Sidonia is a colony ship built out of a mostly water asteroid that provides raw materials for repairs and new construction.

Are there resources we know about found in the asteroid belt but not found on the moon or mars? I figure it'd be easier to build a permanent mining colony there than fly all the way to the belt.

Or are we talking catching asteroids that pass by near earth and mining them? If so what kind of ship would be needed to stop or land on or redirect the average asteroid that passes within 1m km of earth?


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Orca
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If you want small colonies there is a RL model in the slave-using fishing industry around Southeast Asia. It might not be a civilisation to be proud of, but colonies oppressed by evil Earthers sounds like a good conflict to start a game with.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Orca wrote:
If you want small colonies there is a RL model in the slave-using fishing industry around Southeast Asia. It might not be a civilisation to be proud of, but colonies oppressed by evil Earthers sounds like a good conflict to start a game with.


Yeah CP Foods is big on slavery, they're a gigantic company in Thailand. They supply cheap and tasty shrimp to 7-11 among other things. Burmese slaves today are the cheapest in the history of Thailand. The slavers still make regular stops in civilization though.


Hmmm perhaps a religious priesthood of sorts could get into mining? Years of isolation and solitude away from the temptations of the blue planet to mine and refine the precious gifts of the galaxy.


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kzt
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:

You just aren't going to be able to do the Red Dog Mine strategy of having people work for 4 weeks and then send them back to Anchorage to spend some weeks in a city of 300,000+ people to work out their loneliness and lack of blow jobs. Or if you can, then transportation across the solar system is so fucking easy that you might as well dump a bunch of people into Venusian habitats because it just doesn't fucking matter.

Either way, I just don't see any permanent space habitat with less than six thousand people in it. There just wouldn't be enough people to hit critical civilization mass, no matter how good your robot mining or machine fabrication was.

It all depends on the underlying space tech. If your assumption is that you can get constant 1g or better thrust then in 4 days you can travel at least 300,000,000 km, so Mars is at most 5 days away from earth. But yeah, if you have travel time to Mars or Triton (or wherever you want to go) is multiple weeks to months then the oil rig model seems doubtful at best. If you have Honorverse scale 500g acceleration then oil rigs around Neptune seem a pretty viable model, though you can certainly come up with reasons to not do that.
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Stahlseele
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

And then you need to come up with an explanation of how humans survive constant 500g accelleration . .
The human body can withstand surprisingly big accellerations, given that they are only very very short.
Long term accelleration is still pretty damn strenous.
See the centrifugal tests they make astronauts go through for an idea what constitutes long term in terms of accelleration. Minutes at single to double digit g accellerations.
Now 1g is pretty much perfect for anything born and raised on earth, because it means we can more or less just go about our business as usual . .
But it is also horribly slow in space terms. And then we get to the point that at the middle point of your journey you need to turn about 180 around and decellerate for the same ammount of time that you had previously spent accellerating . . this is what really makes space travel slow. You can get to mars in days with constant accelleration of manageable proportions. But you will arrive at mars in a crater of your own production.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

1g of acceleration will get you to Mars or Venus in less than 4 days and get you to Jupiter in less than 6 days. Things start getting kinda sketch out to Uranus, where it takes about 12 days one-way. And of course it's essentially useless at having any kind of economic contact out of the solar system, as the journey to Proxima Centauri at 1g would would take over five years each way.

I would submit that if you have economical 1g transportation available to you with your super tech, that you would have colonies with a lot more than six thousand people in them. At that point, your Jovian orbital stations are going to be cruise destinations and have about a quarter million people.

If you can't maintain 1g of acceleration, as our current technology cannot, then you're looking at remote outposts that do personel rotations like 4 times a year (or less!) and have circa 6-10 thousand people in them. If you can, then you're looking at resort communities with industrial bases on islands as your comparison point, and you're looking at cities of a quarter million people or more. If you have Alcubierre FTL warp drives up and running, then there's basically no limit. You're talking about accessible designed living spaces, at which point your reference point is cities like Brasilia.

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kzt
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Stahlseele wrote:
And then you need to come up with an explanation of how humans survive constant 500g acceleration . .
The human body can withstand surprisingly big accelerations, given that they are only very very short.

Basically gravity control was the answer in that universe. Which makes a lot of other things possible if you wanted to go there.
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:

If you are going to put working people two hundred and ninety thousand times as far away from a Nevada brothel than it is possible for any point on planet Earth to be, you're going to have to bring the whores to them. And their families, and teachers for their children, and cooks for their restaurants, and so on and so on.


And at this point my mind immediately went to Bladerunner's approach of building replicants.

And of course you have a problem with the uncanny valley, and when you're stuck on Io for 8 years and your android cook is *almost* human but manages to creep you the fuck out every meal for 8 years, then it becomes a problem. So you start to try to make them either more or less human.


Then again I love Bladerunner.
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

kzt wrote:
FrankTrollman wrote:

You just aren't going to be able to do the Red Dog Mine strategy of having people work for 4 weeks and then send them back to Anchorage to spend some weeks in a city of 300,000+ people to work out their loneliness and lack of blow jobs. Or if you can, then transportation across the solar system is so fucking easy that you might as well dump a bunch of people into Venusian habitats because it just doesn't fucking matter.

Either way, I just don't see any permanent space habitat with less than six thousand people in it. There just wouldn't be enough people to hit critical civilization mass, no matter how good your robot mining or machine fabrication was.

It all depends on the underlying space tech. If your assumption is that you can get constant 1g or better thrust then in 4 days you can travel at least 300,000,000 km, so Mars is at most 5 days away from earth. But yeah, if you have travel time to Mars or Triton (or wherever you want to go) is multiple weeks to months then the oil rig model seems doubtful at best. If you have Honorverse scale 500g acceleration then oil rigs around Neptune seem a pretty viable model, though you can certainly come up with reasons to not do that.


Yeah but how economical is it to build and fuel a ship that is capable of 500g acceleration vs setting up a larger population and sending smaller supply ships out to the settlement?

I imagine even a 1g trip is going to be expensive as fuck.
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Pixels
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Because you're going to have to create some scifi tech to make it work in the first place, how economical it would be to operate a 500g accelerating ship versus a 1g accelerating ship is an input of your setting, not an output.

---

A quick reminder: more acceleration doesn't give you linear returns. Part of that is a purely Newtonian consideration, that if you accelerate quickly you'll have less time to take advantage of that acceleration. Without relativity, multiplying acceleration by n cuts travel time from t to t/sqrt(n).

Inside the solar system you mostly need not consider relativity, but if you want to go galactic then it matters a lot. Without FTL you're not getting to Proxima Centauri faster than 4.243 years (in Earth's reference frame) no matter your acceleration. 1g gets you there in 5.87 years / 3.54 years (Earth's reference frame / ship's reference frame), 500g gets you there in 4.25 years / 10.89 days. In other words, 500 times the acceleration delivers the goods only 1.38 times faster. It would keep a shipment of apples nice and fresh though.
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:

Are there resources we know about found in the asteroid belt but not found on the moon or mars? I figure it'd be easier to build a permanent mining colony there than fly all the way to the belt.


The key to asteroid mining is gravity, you want to avoid gravity wells because that's the big limitation on transport. Landing on the Moon or Mars has an immense fuel cost, and due to the tyranny of the rocket equation that does horrible things to your potential payload and the kind of drives you can use. As a result even something the size of Ceres is larger than you want to mine. Your best bet are small asteroids in the 1-10 km diameter range.

The key resources to mine from asteroids - for the purpose of an extractive industry providing for people elsewhere - are heavy metals (platinum, nickel, gold, etc.) and rare earths (cerium through yttrium). Keep in mind that neither of these things are something we're ever likely to run out of on Earth, it's just that they are highly dispersed in ways that are extremely expensive to access (for example, gold suspended in the ocean) and so mining asteroids where they would be much more common could potentially be cheaper.

Quote:
Or are we talking catching asteroids that pass by near earth and mining them? If so what kind of ship would be needed to stop or land on or redirect the average asteroid that passes within 1m km of earth?


If you're redirecting asteroids you're talking about years or decades. Basically you're flying a ship with some kind of high-efficiency ion drive that will nudge the object into a pass towards Earth where it will either transfer into Earth orbit or be caught by some kind of device capable of snagging it into orbit so you can do the processing there.

Pixels wrote:
Inside the solar system you mostly need not consider relativity, but if you want to go galactic then it matters a lot. Without FTL you're not getting to Proxima Centauri faster than 4.243 years (in Earth's reference frame) no matter your acceleration. 1g gets you there in 5.87 years / 3.54 years (Earth's reference frame / ship's reference frame), 500g gets you there in 4.25 years / 10.89 days. In other words, 500 times the acceleration delivers the goods only 1.38 times faster. It would keep a shipment of apples nice and fresh though.


In most scenarios you aren't accelerating/decelerating anything close to 100% of the travel time though. Assuming any source of fuel at all such an approach is absurdly wasteful. Any sort of actual starship - and most vessels capable of relatively long distance in-system journeys - are likely to spend the overwhelming majority of their time coasting.

FrankTrollman wrote:
I would submit that if you have economical 1g transportation available to you with your super tech, that you would have colonies with a lot more than six thousand people in them. At that point, your Jovian orbital stations are going to be cruise destinations and have about a quarter million people.


I'd actually go further. If you're talking about sustained economical 1g acceleration you're probably into a post-scarcity situation at a level similar to that of Eclipse Phase (digitization of consciousness being optional) or higher in which case traditional conceptions of 'empire' are replaced by a new paradigm of political organization. Unless you do something like Dread Empire's Fall does where you impose limitations on the development of society by fiat. That is a very good series to look at in terms of how many fiat impositions Walter John Williams had to make (in this case imposed through the device of an almighty alien society builder) in order to have a space war that met the conventions of war as we currently understand it.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Flatline wrote:
Yeah but how economical is it to build and fuel a ship that is capable of 500g acceleration vs setting up a larger population and sending smaller supply ships out to the settlement?

I imagine even a 1g trip is going to be expensive as fuck.


Depends on what your technology actually does. Hydrogen fusion makes a ridiculous amount of energy, and is ultimately what powers every plant and animal on the surface of the Earth. We don't use it on Earth to make massive energy because we can't do it small enough to usefully generate power for cities. We can totally blow up islands and shit though, and we've been able to do so for generations now.

If you want 1g of acceleration for a ship that's about a third of a million tonnes (about half again bigger than the world's largest oceanic cruise ships today), giving it 1g of acceleration would take a bit over three billion joules every second. That sounds like a lot, and it is. But that is also the consumption of at least... 830 grams of hydrogen fuel per day. The amount of tritium required to send six thousand people on a two week round trip luxury cruise to Jupiter in continuous Earth gravity comfort could plausibly fit in a backpack and be carried by a single person.

And depending on what you claim the limits of fusion actually are, we might still not be in a free energy utopia. After all, getting massive amounts of energy out of fusion is something we've been able to do since before I was alive, but getting useful energy out of fusion is still currently acience fiction. It's entirely plausible that we could have technology that lets us use nuclear power to shoot three gigawatt jets of fire continuously out of giant spaceships a half kilometer in length but don't have technology that would let us spin turbines and generate electricity measurable in kilowatt hours. It would be totally reasonable based on current engineering limits if we could send big ships on fast burns around the solar system but couldn't do anything remotely equivalent for small vessels.

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Stahlseele
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

And why would you?
If you can have capital size ships shooting around interplanetar space, then leave orbital space to small rocket ships. Carriers are a proven design after all.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It has interesting implications.

That ship drives are single-use ablative items, and ships have to replace the drives with one (or two, another in the front to avoid a major rotation) built for the journey they are about to undertake with a specific weight requirement. So every port has to be large enough to construct these enormous ship drives in orbit, so you aren't lighting one down near the surface where it's going to vaporise and irradiate a bit too much rock near the launch.

And the ships all have to carry a lot of ballast, like tens of millions of tonnes of it. Mostly water, because it's good for radiation and micro-meteorite shielding, and also you can find fuel in it after it absorbs enough radiation.

That the trip to orbital ports or asteroid mines or next star or next galaxy is the quick bit, and actually landing back on Earth or even Mars is super-expensive and most people don't ever bother again. That hopping a ride on a parts freighter to Jupiter is hardly any money, compared to shifting up to orbit or even to a different port around the same planet.

That sending down a command shuttle is the resource-intesive bit of each mission, with the most need of expertise, and that's why it's always got Kirk and Spock and McCoy on it, but the fusion drive guy is no use and stays on the big ship.

That you can carry a giant stack of nested engines at each end and make as many planned stops as you like, so long as you can pick up ballast at each one to avoid over-acceleration.
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Stahlseele
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:

That ship drives are single-use ablative items, and ships have to replace the drives with one (or two, another in the front to avoid a major rotation)

Err . . no . .
THAT is majorly stupid, if you use the 1g accelleration to go about your business as if you were on earth, then the 1g has to be in your down/towards feet direction. If you then simply went from +1g to -1g, you would now suddenly be on the former ceiling. So you would have to build everyting twice in the ship. Once the right way up and once the wrong way down. Which means so much wasted space, weight, mass and literally everything else that for the same price you could simply build 2 exactly identical to each other ships with the same capacity just by making them turn around half way through.
If you are doing some sort of gravity shenanigans your idea might work a bit better, but then i have to ask why you are bothering with stuff like that anyway if you can manipulate one of the major forces of the universe to such an extent as to not have it matter anymore . .
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
However it's important to note that oil rig workers stay on the rig for two weeks and then get one to three weeks off. Basically they spend roughly half of each month in the rig and the other half in a town.


Yes, I agree that you'll need communities if you're presuming that you need at least some staff to perform maintenance on the oil rigs. The thing is many space exploitation proposals are now premised on entirely automated systems, with humans tele-operating if any intervention is necessary. Basically, it's probably easier to figure out a highly reliable automation and tele-operation process than getting 6,000 people into space along with their town. Heck, it may be easier to do something similar to that sci-fi flick where Kevin Spacey is endlessly cloned to do maintenance.

And in any case the ideal place to put towns in space are in Space Stations, preferably stationed at stable Lagrange points. Because that's where you can keep it spinning to simulate Earth gravity without increasing travel costs.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
Yeah CP Foods is big on slavery, they're a gigantic company in Thailand. They supply cheap and tasty shrimp to 7-11 among other things. Burmese slaves today are the cheapest in the history of Thailand. The slavers still make regular stops in civilization though.


Hmmm perhaps a religious priesthood of sorts could get into mining? Years of isolation and solitude away from the temptations of the blue planet to mine and refine the precious gifts of the galaxy.


The issue here is that the space craft and the mining colony are incredibly costly items from a capital expenditure perspective. Fishing boats used by slavers by contrast are often cheap hand-me-downs. Any reasonable business seriously trying to exploit resources elsewhere in the Solar System isn't going to put a billion-dollar craft in the hands of a couple of slaves who might consider just crashing the damn thing into the nearest rock out of spite. It's also the same reason why the process for selecting astronauts has thus far been an extremely careful process.
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Zinegata
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechalich wrote:
The key resources to mine from asteroids - for the purpose of an extractive industry providing for people elsewhere - are heavy metals (platinum, nickel, gold, etc.) and rare earths (cerium through yttrium). Keep in mind that neither of these things are something we're ever likely to run out of on Earth, it's just that they are highly dispersed in ways that are extremely expensive to access (for example, gold suspended in the ocean) and so mining asteroids where they would be much more common could potentially be cheaper.


It's two fold - an asteroid must have the rare metals and elements that you want, and it must have stuff needed to generate and renew a supply of water. Without water you can't really do a lot of industrial processes to do on-site separation of ores. And if you don't do on-site processing then you may as well just attach a rocket engine on the asteroid and bring it closer to Earth.

I would also point that right now we don't even have particularly accurate "prospecting" tools, and probes for the express purpose of determining the resource content of asteroids are basically non-existent and what we know is largely piggy-backed on the science surveys.

That's why I'm a bit more convinced by the idea that space will primarily be a zero-G factory for Earth rather than a new frontier to prospect and mine from. You can get more gold on Earth if you look hard enough and are willing to invest in more expensive process; but I don't think you can really make a carbon nanotube on Earth - it has to be done in space.


Last edited by Zinegata on Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:21 am; edited 2 times in total
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Water may not be necessary for industrial processes due to microgravity. Vaporization and gaseous seperation might work.
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