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Subject: The Future (cont. from the United States board)
Phoenix Rising    7/17/2002 1:37:39 PM
NOTE: The below was a divergent thread from a discussion on the United States board, but I felt it should be moved over here, so I'm cutting and pasting the original, and I'll cut and paste future responses from there as well, until hopefully the discussion is all over here. ---------- I guess I'll reveal a darker side of my nature at this point: I'm an English major, and a science fiction writer. I've actually strayed somewhat into the realm of "hard" science fiction and tried to work out what might happen when the population of mankind exceeds that of the ability of the planet to sustain. Incidentally, that capacity has been rated by some cynical estimates to be as low as 12-15 billion, which we could easily reach within our lifetimes. Others make predictions of several times that, but we'll still get there eventually, almost certainly before the year 2200. However, there are hundreds of possibilities for dealing with this inevitability which, unfortunately, do not all lead to mankind asserting its place among the cosmos. I've always hoped for this, but I think it's unlikely. I've actually filled whole notebooks with speculations on other scenarios: 1) The most likely event is that something even more destructive than the atomic bomb is developed, and we destroy ourselves as soon as those weapons fall into the hands of those crazy enough to use them. And there are always going to be those crazy enough to use them. One such weapon that SP alluded to not too long ago is the potential for harnessing small asteroids as continent-breakers. 2) Another likely event is that, through increasingly deadly and global wars, the population can gradually be brought back down to size. Practically as morbid as option #1. 3) Population stabilization. This is the most benign of the options that are still quasi-within the realm of realist fiction, as opposed to true science fiction. Basically, if you discount immigration, the population growth of the Western world has slowed to a crawl. It will continue to dimish as land resources are further consumed and raising a family becomes an increasingly daunting prospect. The argument goes that, if the second and third worlds are really brought up to the standard of living of the current first world countries, then population growth will essentially become a non-issue. Increasing lifespans will account for more population growth than actual birth-death rate disparities. Now I'll go into some of the more sci-fi oriented visions: 4) Subterranean expansion. One option that I explored was similar to that explored in H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine," that a great deal of human society could move underground. It's not impossible. Advances in hydroponic technology, as well as improvements on such facilities as the biospheres in parts of the western American desert, could make the subterranean world far more habitable than it would otherwise be. 5) Aquatic civilizations. If we're dealing with theoretical possibilities as remote as colonizing space, you might as well look at going underwater. The myth of Atlantis might well become a reality (hopefully without the earthquakes, volcanoes, and tidal waves at the end). 6) Colonization of the sky. If you can come up with something that facilitates mass space travel, then the same order of magnitude of technology might well be able to create things that float using nothing but, say, the magnetic field of the Earth. That isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Of course, I don't know where we'd get the material to build all these floating cities, and I don't know how the farmers below would take to it, but it's a possibility. This is the realm of the Cloud City in the Empire Strikes Back, for example. Only once you get beyond total domination of earth, sea, and sky do you have to start looking at space. 7) Lunar expansion. Not impossible, but it would almost certainly have to be supported from the homeworld (though just talking about a "homeworld" instead of a "homeland" is fun). Expansions in hydroponic technology could make even this less necessary. 8) Extra-lunar expansion. At this point, you're talking about concepts that are really far out there (literally). I always wondered how all those starships in Star Wars got built (that's a lot of metal, after all, even if we hollowed out the metallic core of the Earth), and how they were fueled. That kind of power, sustainable over a long period, in as small a space as your average current spacecraft, would require something along the lines of a miniature antimatter reactor. Good luck with that. Let me know if you have any problems ... of course, you'll probably be dead, along with everything in your country and all adjacent ones, before you have a chance to call in tech support. It's pretty sad that I've actually filled notebooks with ramblings and brainstorming on these issues ... I don't think my life really followed that of my fellow high schoolers in that
 
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Ike    RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   7/17/2002 2:26:26 PM
Along that line of thought, my neice and nephews were at space camp last year and one of the things discussed was a long term project that scientists are now starting to plan. It is a plan to colonize Mars and and begin to make the athmosphere breathable thru different possiblities like an artificial greenhouse effect. A very long term (hundreds of years in the making) effort that will create a 'second Earth' for lack of a better term, to shift the Earths population there within the next thousand years or so because of the gradual increase of the suns size, which will start happening about that time, before it flares out at last in a million years or so. During its expansion the Earth will become too hot for comfort and Mars will become about as warm as Earth is now. Of course Earth2 will not last forever either but will give Mankind some more time to find inhabitable planets. When my sister told me this it was the first time I had heard of it.
 
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Phoenix Rising    RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   7/17/2002 2:53:42 PM
Ike, Sorry, but you got your time frames of solar evolution wrong. The sun will remain at its present size for another 5 BILLION years. We're not in too much danger from that front. Considering that mankind has only been around in recognizable similarity to modern man for 300,000 years or so, we've basically got all the time in the world to play with on that front. I'm interested in the theory and idea of colonizing Mars, if only for the way in which human knowledge will have to expand and grow in order to master the task. However, as far as practical necessity is concerned, we're a long way from the death of the solar system. Incidentally, when the sun does expand to a red giant, Mars will become a lot warmer than Earth is now. It will be closer to current-day Mercury. The sun at that point will have actually encompassed the current orbit of the Earth, so Earth will be inside the sun, and the sun will be more than 93 million miles larger in radius than it currently is. At that point, you're looking pretty much at the end of the solar system. If we're not out of here by then, we're toast. Literally. --Phoenix Rising
 
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Ike    RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   7/17/2002 3:07:43 PM
Those were just ball park figures I threw out there, its been a long time since I've sat in an astronomy class. The expansion of the sun is supposed to be gradual enough to allow for all this. If it wasnt then NASA would be making some other kind of plans. Still it shows a lot of optimism on the scientists part that we can figure a way out of this predicament. And it even makes a little sense. But then there are those that will cry about why are we wasting money and time trying to get into space when we should be using the same resources to try and make the Earth a better place to live. Maybe the scientists have already written off this chunk of rock in their books?
 
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Panda Liberation Army    RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   7/17/2002 8:26:04 PM
Phoenix: I read through some of your postings and I was curious: have you ever watched Mobile Suit Gundam? You might find their concept of space colonization interesting - basically they envision dealing with the population problem by moving like 10 billion people out to L-4 and L-5. Anyway, if you haven't already seen it, please check it out. The Panda Liberation Army
 
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TankboiKelarius    RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   12/12/2003 5:27:01 PM
A) We're not having a population problem and wont for several HUNDRED years to come. Anyone that tells you otherwise hasnt been to the midwest of the US, so therefore really doesnt know that there is about 3x as much land that really isnt being used as there is being used by cities and industrial development. B)Reason we will go into space is because there is money to be made out there. Zero G manufacturing, asteroid mining, astrophysical phenominon which can be exploited, take your pick. Our race is an enterprising race, we like to make money, and lots of it. There are millions of asteroids floating around in the belt which is a short 9 month journey from here using present day technology, and the ammount of metals you can pull from even a small asteroid could well number in the billions of dollars. So, my conclusion is that we WILL be going into space, SOON, if simply for the money. Thats why our race has ever done anything, exploring the new world in the 1500's, settling the west, so on and so forth, simply for money. However, I dont think we will be leaving our solar system for quite some time, simply because there really isnt any reason to.
 
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HunterSThompson    RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   12/26/2003 3:20:56 PM
Yes there is alot of land out there that doesn't have people in it, but that isn't the point. The point is that we will run out of fresh water, food, and natural resources way before we run out of land. If lack or space were the only issue then I think the World could handle billions more then the experts predict will be the limit, but land space isn't the issure. The move into space will be by the corporations because eventually they will discover there is a whole lot of money to be made out there. We might leave the Solar System sooner then you think - Tankoibkelarius. It just depends on what we find out there and if we have the technology to go.
 
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   RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   2/6/2004 8:20:45 PM
Questions of leaving the solar system are fairly outlandish. According to Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, no object may accelerate to the speed of light (or, its mass multiplies exponentially as its speed nears 186,000 miles/sec). Which calls into question communications, logistics, the life time of the crew, the life time of the payload, fuel, etc. Given these sorts of prohibitions, the impracticality of going anywhere beyond Pluto is obvious. The concept of a long term lunar colony is curious, but not practical has a terrestrial life boat. The lack of breathable atmosphere, of plentiful natural resources, of proper solar coverage (half its surface is perpetually bathed in darkness, and there is no atmospheric protection, making for some really cold nights and uncomfortably bright mornings), and of earth-like gravity means humand could not live there permanently. Nor could they be self sustaining. Mars, on the other hand, offers considerable advantage over the moon. For one, its rich in natural iron, and presumably other metals (aluminum, graphite, tungsten, tin, etc.). There is a sustainable source of fresh water, and the presence of volcanoes (extinct as they may be) suggests the presence of natural fuels, such as hydrogen. Finally, but perhaps most importantly if your considering any kind of permanent habitation, it has earth-like gravity. And then there are all sorts of neat ideas in regards to efficiently and effectively connecing earth and a martian colony. To reduce the costs of launching martian payloads into earth orbit, one popular SciFi proposal is the space elevator, which has a nanocartbon tube, tethered to the earth on one end with a "space harbor" on the other, providing a constant flow of logistical support without the need for cost-prohibitve gravity breaking chemical launches. For keeping our work horse haulers and transports on the go, without the need for constant refueling and the replacement of rapidly-worn chemical rockets, you could turn to solar sails. Harnessing the gentle shove of interstellar "wind" (the background radiation given off by the sun), I enjoy this concept far moreso than the more direct (and outlandish) fusion or antimatter engines. It bears an artistic eloquence in its similarity to the sailing-ships of old..
 
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Yamato    RE:The Future (cont. from the United States board)   2/24/2004 1:30:12 AM
Yes, I agree with TankboiKelarius and HunterSThompson. The 21 st century will see the start of a new colonial race between the major powers. And, more we will advance in this race, less they will have cooperation and more they will have rivalry. At the beginning, they will have explorers (including scientists), and after will arrive the traders and the industries. During that time, the military presence will also grow. After, finally, will come the settlers. But, the first settlements will be small, and they will have more explorers, scientists, industries and military than civilian settlers. But, from the end of the 21st century and the beginning of the 22nd century, the settlments will probably start to grow. The priority will be to explore before to settle, because the powers would like to have more options before to decide where to put the colonies, to choose the most interesting places. It is an other reason why the first settlements will be small. Also, it means that the exploration over our solar system will be increase a lot. The robots will open the way before the arriving of the human explorers to discover more in details the most interesting ways open by the robots. For this reason, a lot of robots will be send in different directions. They will have also the first factories, mines, spaceyards, ...without forgotting the tourism. Also, they will have more military forces in the space. At the beginnning, just for escort. The second stages will be for the security of the infrastructures. Then, it will be reduced and light forces. After that, they will have more space fighters and spacewarships to strengtening the escort,.. and also to start to attack the enemies's infrastructures, somethings like corsairs. That kind of opperations will also need to put on board of this spaceship small units (maximum battalions) of special forces and marines. Then, by reaction and by prevention, the garrisons will be step by step enlarged to defend the infrastructures. Then, for this reason, and also from the time that the settlememts will become more large (with more territories, more infrastructures, more populations and more ressources to defend or to conquest), the lsanding (ground) forces will become more and more large, to finally become the main force, like it is on earth. All these activities will need more technologies, but will also stimulate the R&D,...some in cooperation, but more and more on a national base (for the major powers).
 
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Nanheyangrouchuan    The Future of the US in Space   3/2/2004 6:36:53 AM
We are not going be able to be comfy making a marginal living competing with Indian and Chinese engineers who make a pittance and live with the parents until they are 30, so the US needs more than a Bush 'vision' of going to Mars. We need a reality. To that end I think the mining companies of the world would be very interested in helping the US finance a real push to get to the moon. US steel makers (with the right amount of investment) would be able to set up processing facilities on the moon to build a real fleet of Mars ships. Miners and steelworkers could be sent on 6 month tours like boomer crews but they would mostly monitor robots (probably provided by the Japanese). While this is taking place, large probes are sent to Mars with the ability to produce water (probably through fission or decay). The first human bearing ships are sent from earth, but processed materials are sent from the moon to build complex structures. Eventually, the Mars crews shuttle to the Moon and ride to Mars on nuke rockets. The mining and steel companies get their investment back by selling the processed material to the US and partners for building out the moon and Mars. yeah, the plan sounds sketchy and will take a few decades to get into gear, but how about it?
 
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Warhammer    RE:The Future of the US in Space   6/14/2004 10:17:48 PM
I think we need a new vehicle for getting off this rock, as well as a new line of space suits as the current ones are way too bulky. What we really need is something the size of a C-5 that can fly into space with little help, and can carry vast amounts of payload to get the machinery and resources up into space. Perhaps we can load a few SCRAM jets onto the wings of a modified C-5 and drag the beast into space. Think we would need an aircraft that is a bit more aerodynamic than the C-5, but something of that size would really give us the lift we need to start the colonization and capitalization of space.
 
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