Space Colony...
July 6, 2002 11:59 PM   Subscribe

Space Colony... Impossible? Two days ago I wrote in my blog that a space colony is a stupid idea. I don't think this project can do much against the growing threat of terrorism. I don't like one thing is this space colony: living really near a nuclear reactor with nowere to escape should something go wrong.
posted by Baud (24 comments total)
S'funny, I come at this from the opposite perspective: I've always been pro-space colonization, and I think that the space colonies could be used to crush the growing threat of terrorism (i.e., as a hammer is used to crush a walnut: we could smack known terrorists with space colonies (everyone would have to be evacuated first, of course — I wrote up some plans for this on my weblog.)).
posted by sylloge at 12:31 AM on July 7, 2002, how did something supposed be a comment to that ended up being a story and not a comment? Nice blog by the way ;-)
posted by Baud at 12:43 AM on July 7, 2002

My brain hurts.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:59 AM on July 7, 2002

"All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct."

Carl Sagan also meant us to leave our Reagans, Rumsfelds and Bushes back at home squabbling over their God-given riches while the progressive mind sought progress. Empowerment that we aren't trapped.
posted by crasspastor at 1:12 AM on July 7, 2002

"living really near a nuclear reactor with nowere to escape should something go wrong"

You could always dump the core. If you can't leave the station, you could jettison the reactor at high speed, amounting to the same thing...
posted by kfury at 1:23 AM on July 7, 2002

Do these lifeboat/space-colony/ark-1 people forget that we've seen Moonraker? We know that as soon as they have their "perfect people" in orbit, they're going to wipe the planet clean of the rest of us!
posted by gojomo at 1:47 AM on July 7, 2002

"The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit..."

Pfft. No doubt.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:57 AM on July 7, 2002

People are not designed to live in space. They are designed to live on planets. The best we can hope for, short of inventing a "warp drive" that is a logrithmic speed of light scale, is to wend our way to Mars.

Then we can do two things: live underground until we can terraform the planet.

So let's concentrate our efforts on building underground cities on Mars (think robots) and then how in blue blazes to terraform a whole freaking planet.

Most of what this amounts to is figuring out how to generate ONE HELL of a lot of Nitrogen. Remember that over 90% of OUR atmosphere is Nitrogen. The Oxygen and CO2 are almost afterthoughts.
posted by kablam at 7:40 AM on July 7, 2002

instead of spending a lot of time and money to move to a new planet, why don't we just stop ruining this one?
posted by mcsweetie at 8:16 AM on July 7, 2002

I'm with mcsweetie on this one. I think space colonization is one of my biggest "problem questions." I would classify myself as an environmentalist: you can call me green, lefty or commie - I don't care. My problem with colonization, is that it goes against the spirit of environmentalism - colonization would be the biggest act of littering since the Earth was littered by all of that pesky oxygen. But by littering - say mars - with people we would reduce the load on Earth. The real double-bind are those that would terraform [well, aeroform] Mars [thus 'littering' it in a sense] and develop technology for the terraforming that could ultimately help "re-balance" earth's ecosystem.

That is, if you believe in global warming and all the science around and concerning it - which the current administration doesn't.
posted by plemeljr at 8:41 AM on July 7, 2002

plemeljr: so, your take on this is that we should just stay here, in our enviromental niche, and leave everything else alone? Does this mean that you are also unhappy that we all left africa? While I agree that we cannot focus on expanding into space while making no attempt to fix the problems of this planet, does anyone really think we should never, ever expand beyond earth? It just seems so counter to our biological imperatives.
posted by pascal at 9:31 AM on July 7, 2002

"Then we can do two things: live underground until we can terraform the planet."

What's the second thing?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:05 AM on July 7, 2002

I saw this on Fark (I think) the other day, and almost posted the link. Although I can't pinpoint the reason why, this lifeboat thing seems like a scam. I love the idea, though.

Maybe I'm an idealist, but I look forward to receiving emails (old emails, I know) from my great-grandchildren's Martian algae farm. Also, me and Ted Williams's head will talk about our decendants as we hit the batting cages on the holodeck. Or something.

This might not be the way to get humans into space, but it's a thing that we need to do. While the idea of salvaging our one planet is very enticing, it's pretty improbable. The Lifeboat people are right when they say that our planet is in big trouble. Why not hedge our bets?
posted by Samsonov14 at 10:13 AM on July 7, 2002

Ack. While I can't stand the pessimism of someone who'd label their organization the "lifeboat" society, I don't see a problem with people banding together to form private space colonies for whatever motivation. But of course a 2001 space station or even an L5 space colony are technically beyond our capabilities now, while landing on and colonizing Mars are not. I prefer the hopefulness and technical groundedness of groups like the Mars Society, who have actually put together a prototype base station and used it to test their thinking in the north of Canada.

Of course we could never move enough people OFF earth to solve population pressures, even assuming they weren't going to solve themselves (which it appears they will). All moving off Earth does is hedge our bets as a species so that some catastrophe doesn't destroy all we've built. It's also likely that, as Zubrin says, we need a frontier to keep us innovative and challenged, and that a Martian frontier would send back technological solutions that could solve or eliminate some of the threats on Earth.

As for the claims in the FPP, again, you have to be pretty pessimistic to believe that terrorism -- or any other calamity short of a massive meteor strike -- could actually destroy the whole global ecosystem. Make it uncomfortable, perhaps; destroy, no. And anyway, if you have a problem with the nuke on your space colony, you just eject it.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 AM on July 7, 2002

plemeljr: Space colonization is not, and barring space elevators, probably never will be, a viable means of relieving population/ecological pressures. You just can't move people off the planet fast enough. For better or worse, we're stuck here in our own mess, and we'll have to learn to clean it up or live with it.

This does not mean that I oppose space colonization - on the contrary, I'm for it, so long as it doesn't involve planetwide terraforming or something equally drastic, hubristic, and irreversible. I think it would be neat. I just think that we need to think of it as cake, and not medicine.

Also, what is this "biological imperative" stuff? What's so imperative about human desires? We want to eat, have sex, and take care of our families and friends. I don't read conquering uncharted territories as being part of the list.
posted by skoosh at 10:32 AM on July 7, 2002

"Gray Goo" A machine that can replicate itself at a molecular level - the apocalyptic scenario is that such a machine would consume and rebuild all matter on Earth into little self-replicating machines.
As far as extinguishing all life on earth goes, nuclear war and genetically-engineered viruses are a much more plausible threat, but I still agree w/ the idea that as a species we are vulnerable to extinction without off-planet colonization.
I don't read conquering uncharted territories as being part of the list. What else is technology *for* (and our ability to travel to and engineer hostile environments) if not to further the growth of the species.
posted by twitch at 11:25 AM on July 7, 2002

plemeljr: so, your take on this is that we should just stay here, in our environmental niche, and leave everything else alone? - pascal

No, I was just commenting on my inner dialogue concerning environmentalism. I think I was being too obtuse. So let me try to rephrase what I was thinking. We commonly think of CO2 emissions [from human activity] as the largest cause of pollution, when in fact, the mass amounts of O2 that was released by algae 3.5 billion years ago was the single largest instance of pollution on Earth, you would see where I am coming from. That is, we are just a drop in the bucket, but a large one, lets think of what the human race will be doing to other environments.

skoosh - I think you and I are arguing the same points. I just want to be sure when we do colonize Mars [and I think we will] that some thought about sustainability of whole ecosystems, even Martian ones, must be considered. Not only in terms of sustaining human life, but the life on Mars - geologic or biologic.

That being said, I think that colonizing Mars, and other planets probable, and should be done. However, I think it will be done in a Manifest Destiny manner, with those ecosystems that we invade relegated to the background.
posted by plemeljr at 11:51 AM on July 7, 2002

posted by mlang at 1:50 PM on July 7, 2002

Space travel's a pipe dream. Massive radiation, vacuum, weightlessness and all its effects on the human body; until we can invent magic things like Star Trek-like radiation shielding, the environment of space is just too hostile. Space colonization would be a massive waste of resources that we need here on earth: if we're going to terraform Mars (something that nobody has the faintest idea of how to actually do) we should be attempting to clean up the planet that we already know that we can live on. The Hubble telescope, sure, unmanned probes to Mars, sure; but there will never be a colony on Mars, expect in our imaginations.
*prepares to duck*
posted by jokeefe at 2:02 PM on July 7, 2002

Carl Sagan also meant us to leave our Reagans, Rumsfelds and Bushes back at home squabbling over their God-given riches while the progressive mind sought progress. Empowerment that we aren't trapped.

That's right. The glorious future is only for those with the "correct" political views. How remarkably enlightened of you.
posted by ljromanoff at 4:41 PM on July 7, 2002

Concern over disrupting the MARTIAN ecosystem?

I feel like I am taking crazy pills here!

Yes, some interesting meteoric rocks have been found and are being studied, but at the moment the existence of life in any form on Mars, past or present, is at best debatable. Call me a callous eco-ogre, but I can't make myself feel even remotely protective about a lifeless "ecosystem".

posted by John Smallberries at 6:12 PM on July 7, 2002

Humanity is so disgusting in it's infinate ways of arguing over infinate possibilities, situations, ideas and beliefs...
posted by spidre at 7:15 PM on July 7, 2002

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