Category Archives: space colonization

Public transportation in O’Neill cylinders

In a previous post I discussed the spatial planning of the interior of O’Neill Cylinders. In a note I promised to make another post about (public) transportation inside O’Neill cylinders. For the sake of the argument, I will assume here that the chosen spatial planning is either the Broadacre cityGarden city or Colombia design. Further I want to recall that a O’Neill cylinders has a length of approximately 35 kilometers and a diameter of 6 kilometers (specific dimension may vary among different sources, however the difference is usually only a few kilometers).

A key feature of the design of the O’Neill cylinder is the alternating arrangement of “valleys” (stripes of land) and windows, three of each. It follows from the given dimension that each valley is approximately 3 kilometers wide and 35 kilometers long. Gerard O’Neill himself proposed that there would be parallel to the valley’s heartline a subterranean maglev line. This would function like most subway systems on Earth and would enable (long distance) rapid transit in an O’Neill cylinder. However this system, would not quite suitable for short distance travel, therefore a second transportation system is required.

While the maglev subway will serve as the core of the framework of intra-habitat transportation, there will be finer second network. What requirements do we look for? Ideally we would like an on-demand service, great amount of privacy and the ability to choose our destination. However do not like to waste a lot of time for searching for parking lots. Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is a proposed idea which would combine the best of private and public transportation.

In order to show what a PRT system might look like, I have selected two YouTube videos about personal rapid transit systems. The first YouTube video (of 8.45 minutes) is about the personal rapid systems as designed by Swedish company Vectus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1rf_lOb3b0&list=PL4229DA20757B7CD6

This second YouTube video (5.55 min) is a promotional video of Vectus, in which they explain how their product will work.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5W3OSZu9oA

Yes, I do realise that Vectus is a commercial company which seeks to sell its concepts. Nevertheless, I think that this “sales man videos” give a clear picture how PRT systems would operate in practice.

The prospects of personal rapid transit systems are bright. They will enable to establish the first car-free society in history without sacrificing the individual freedom of movement.

Space settlements and foreign policy

Introduction

When space settlements are reality, they will have to interact with other human communities, whether these are other space settlements or terrestrial communities. Especially in the early days of human space colonization, almost every space based community will be dependent on both the Earth and other space settlements, since it will be highly unlikely that one (small) space colony can be entirely autarkic. Therefore space based communities are required to maintain international relations and so they are in need of a foreign policy. In this post I will, for the sake of the argument, assume that space settlements will be sovereign entities, which are free to manage their own affairs.

Relations with terrestrial nations

Basically we have to distinguish between international relations with terrestrial nations on one hand and with other space settlements. This reason for this distinction is simple, for the next few decades, and probably for the next century, Earth will be the most populous entity in our Solar System and for obvious reasons it will also serves as man’s center of culture and civilization.

The first space settlements will depend on trading, especially mineral resources, with Earth for their economic survival. Additionally, the early settlements will have to rely on the importation of many specialized goods from Earth, at least until the moment these can produced in outer space. This means that the Earth as a whole has huge potential of power on space settlements.

It is easy to imagine that Earth will demand low prices for the resources they buy from Space Settlers, while asking for high prices on the goods they sell to Space communities. If terrestrial parties are able to play out space communities against each other, the Earth will probably be able to achieve its aims. One way to counter this is for Space Settlements to develop their economies as fast and as diverse as possible, in order to weaken their dependency on importing goods from Earth.

Another way is for Space Settlements to organize themselves and to act as a unity in their relations with terrestrial nations, much like how organizations as OPEC operate. This strategy is especially advantageous if space settlements are able to play into the differences and conflicts among terrestrial nations and to exploit them to their own advantage.

Relations between space settlements

Inter-settlement relations differ fundamentally from terrestrial-space relations in certain aspects. Trade between settlements will, at least during the early years, be limited. The abundance of mineral resources in outer space (recall that we believe in colonizing the near earth asteroids instead of, for example, the Moon), means that most Space Settlements will be self-sufficient regarding these. The most likely goods to be traded among Space Settlements are agricultural products (because this will be much less expensive than importing these from Earth), and when Space economy became more developed there will be a shift to more specialized goods, which will replace importing from Earth.

A complicating factor in inter-settlement relations are the great distances between space settlements. This will reduce the chance of escalating conflicts, but also hinders cooperation between Space Settlements. The abundance of resources reduces potential for conflicts, therefore war between (coalition of) Space Settlements is quite unlikely during the early decades. Most Space Settlements will probably tend to avoid interference with the domestic affairs of other Settlements.

Suggestions for foreign policy

How should Space Settlements shape their foreign policy? Our advise is basically: avoid meddling with the internal affairs of other communities, both terrestrial and space-borne. As we have argued earlier, Space Settlements shouldn’t join the UN, a statement we want to repeat here. A policy of strict neutrality regarding conflicts between terrestrial powers, will improve the reputation of Space Settlements as peaceful and non-threatening political entities.

Also should Space Settlements abstain from purely terrestrial questions, such as global climate change. There is absolutely no reason for Space Settlements to join, for instance, the Kyoto-protocol or similar treaties. By avoiding getting involved with purely terrestrial affairs, Space Settlements will avoid irritation by terrestrial governments and this will subsequently reduce the emerging of hostile sentiments among some terrestrial groups.

Further we of Lagrangian Republican Association, believe that Space Settlements should also refuse to act as mediators in conflicts between terrestrial nations/parties. If Space Settlement are able to get known as peaceful and neutral communities, some will be tempted to ask them to mediate in purely terrestrial conflicts. However this would be a violation of a strict non-interventionist foreign policy.

Also by acting as a mediator, Space Settlements risk to lose their reputation as neutral states, especially if negotiations are without result or if one of the conflicting parties believe that the results are not fair in some way or another. Since it is almost impossible to determine whether such party is right or not, this risk is in our opinion to great.

On the language of a space colony

This post was originally posted on blogspot.com on June 13, 2012

In this post I will discuss the very important question of which language a space colony should have? I will argue that a constructed language would be our best choice, but I will first explain why this question is as important as I claim. Sequentially I will sketch the problems of selecting a natural language for a space colony and finally I will explain how these problems are solved by selecting a constructed language.

The first point we have to consider is  why we should agree on a common language. There are a lot of countries which do well without an official language, for instance the USA and the Netherlands. But these countries have de facto a national language, in a traditional homogeneous society newcomers have to learn that society’s language in order to be fully functional. So countries with a historical common language don’t need to formalize this.

A common language in a society, which is widely understood by its members, enables useful communication within it, think for example about the law. People has to be able to know the law and as matter of fact, the law has to be written in some language. It’s true that some multilingual countries write their laws in multiple languages, but most of these countries are bilingual, so the costs of translating laws and other official documents are quite modest. If the number of recognized languages increases, then also the associated costs will increase. The most clear example of this is the European Union, which has no less than 23 official working languages and as a result a large part of the budget of the EU goes up to translating (for instance the instant interpreting in the European Parliament).

It’s clear that Space colonists would want to avoid this absurdity, we have better use for our money (lower taxes would be for example a nice idea for attracting new immigrants), so they should rationally choose for one single language (important to note is that this will not mean that other languages are not allowed). So the next question is which language to pick?

For the sake of the argument I will assume that the official language of a single Space colony will be decided by democratic procedures, like a referendum (a practical consequence of this will be, of course, that several colonies will each pick another language). It would be a nice exercise to see whether this could lead to a situation in which a Space colony should decide to become deliberately a multilingual society and if so under what circumstance, and therefore contradicting my “theorem of unilingualism“. My hunch will be that it depends on the specific decision procedure, but I don’t think it will be appropriate to discuss this question here, so for those who are interested I will place this discussion in a comment of this post.

This will bring me to my main argument. At this moment, there some 7000 natural languages in the world, most of them are rather small. Although mandarin Chinese has more speakers, English is more widely spread (this is the main reason why this entire blog is in English) and has also more non-native speakers. This combined with the fact that a large part of the Space advocacy movement is located in the English-speaking world, has led by some to assume that English would therefore the logical choice for Space colonies.

Well, I have to disagree. English, like all other natural languages, is associated with a specific culture, in this case the Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain, North America and Oceania. So by choosing for English as official language, a Space colony is willingly choosing for the Anglo-Saxon culture, at least in the eyes of outsiders. It is my personal conviction that Space colonies should develop their very own cultures, which are clear distinct from any terrestrial “culture”. And the most important tool to realize this is by selecting a language which is not related to any other culture. As a corollary of this, I also believe that different Space communities will distinguish of each other by choosing different languages.

An other problem of choosing English, the same applies for every other natural language, is that it will discriminate against non-native speakers. Those who are native speakers are in an advantageous position in comparison of those who are not. Since I believe that Space colonies will not be established by cultural homogeneous groups, I consider this as unnecessarily unfair. In order to avoid the creation of unjust advantages for native speakers, we should choose for an artificial or constructed language. Since no colonist will be a native speaker of this language, all colonist will be equal in this respect.

Over the course of history, there have been many proposals for so-called auxiliary languages, with Esperanto as its most famous example. Because of its popularity, I will strongly advice against the selection of Esperanto as an official language of a Space colony, since in the last 120 years the Esperanto culture has developed its own distinct culture. I believe that the association of the Space colonization movement with the Esperanto movement, will be bad for both movements. But nevertheless those who are in charge of designing languages for Space colonies, can learn much from Esperanto and related projects like Ido or Interlingua.

Although it is not the purpose of this essay to provide guidelines for creating a language,  it would advisable that Spacer languages should be based on the principles of international auxiliary languages. This because the type of constructed languages is aimed at easiness to learn, and since the population of (early) Space colonies is likely to be multicultural.

Note

As I have promised, I will discuss here the question of multilingual Space colonies. First I have to note, that since most early space colonies will be multicultural, their citizens will speak many different languages in private relations, that is not where I am talking about, instead I will concentrate only on official languages.

Although it would be the rational choice to select one and only one official language, I believe there will be Space colonies which will be multilingual. Mostly as part of a comprise between different groups. Suppose that the citizens of the colony Bernal Alpha have to vote on an official language and have three choices: Esperanto, Interlingua and Novial. Let the result of this vote be as follows: 45% for Esperanto, 45% for Interlingua and 10% for Novial. Then there are two possible solutions: 1. a second vote between Esperanto and Interlingua, or 2. making both Esperanto and Interlingua official languages.

It will depend on the specific circumstances whether which option will be selected. How strongly are the voters “attached” to “their own” language?

Manifesto part 7

Funding

The important question is how are we going to fund our plans. The cornerstones of our funding plan are crowd funding and incrementalism. The introduction of internet and online banking, has made crowd funding possible. The idea is that the members of the public will make a small donation to fund projects they like. Several artistic projects, games and even companies are successfully financed through crowd funding. There are actually two kinds of crowd funding, donation and loans. In the latter case the money has to be repaid with interest, in both cases a large sum of money can be raised by a large crowd willing to donate/invest a small amount of money.

Incrementalism is that we start small. First we want to collect around €100,000 in donations from the public, with this money we want to buy/lease a piece of land in Northern Chile. Subsequently we want to lend up to a million Euros for building our spaceport. In the next phase we will offer our launch facilities to customers in order to generate revenue for both paying interest and reinvesting. When we can run our launch base profitably or at least almost profitably, we can ask for a second and larger loan (through crowdsourcing) for our first NEO mission. Once we can return a sample containing some precious metals, the age of Space Colonies is finally arrived.

The third principle of our funding policy is that we do not accept government funding or large private donations. Since we want to create a new independent republic in Outer Space, we prefer ten thousand donations of €100 to one donation of €1,000,000. Once we allow government sponsoring, we are at risk of becoming a colony of an existing state. Also we do not want to allow that wealthy people or corporations can buy into our movement, with the result that our “republic” only serves the purposes of our “donors”. This, however, does not mean that we will never cooperate with governments or corporations, but only if we believe such an action would be beneficial for our cause.

Manifesto part 6

No involvement with Lunar or Mars colonies

There are a lot of organizations devoted at the colonization of the Moon and/or Mars, we will not participate in their efforts. We do not see any benefit of the establishment of human settlements on the Moon and our red neighbour. Both celestial bodies have the disadvantage of their low gravity, which is bad of human health. But on the other hand the gravity of these bodies great enough, to give them a high escape velocity. Mars has an escape velocity which is about half Earth’s (which is 11 km/s) and the Moon’s is about a fifth, where the escape velocity of asteroids is close to zero.

Escape velocity is of great concern for space colonists, because in order to reach this velocity energy is needed. Reducing energy requirements is saving money, which improves the economical credibility of space settlement programs. When we realize that there are no resources on the Moon or Mars we cannot find on near earth asteroid or comets, we see that it makes no sense to establish colonies on the Moon and Mars.

In fact all resources we can find on Mars and the Moon, are delivered there by asteroids. Some people will cite the (presumed) lunar reserves of helium 3 (a proposed fusion fuel) as a reason for Lunar colonies. We, however, believe that there is no need for helium 3 as an energy source in the Inner Solar System. If the Outer Solar System will be colonized helium 3 extraction from Uranus makes more sense.

Manifesto part 5

Launch facilities

We should not forget to discuss this very important issue. In order to get anywhere in space we need to launch spacecrafts in the first place. So we need a launch platform. Theoretically those platforms can be everywhere on the planet, even at sea, but is preferable to launch rockets somewhere near the equator. From a practical perspective we should locate our launch site should be at some distance away from populated areas. For these reason we believe that Northern Chile (Norte Grande) is an ideal location, save for the benefits of its location it also takes into account that Chile is politically a stable country.

In line with the previous section, we prefer traditional rockets over all proposed but speculative launch systems. Although we recognize the drawbacks of rockets, the fact remains that chemical rockets at least work. While all other proposed alternative launch systems are never tested at full-scale. We can invest many millions of dollars in investigating, for instance, the use of rail gun, but if in the end this system does not work as expected we will lose all our credibility as an organization. In is already difficult to promote space colonization, the only way to convince the mass public is by building an actual space habitat. But wasting our money with speculative launch systems, we are doing the space movement more harm than good.

From both technical and environmental reasons, we believe that hydrogen fueled rockets are the best choice. Technical advantage is that hydrogen rockets has the best efficiency and performance (this why the Space Shuttle used hydrogen fueled engines), and the environmental benefit is that hydrogen rocket only produce water as exhaust. Many other rockets are powered by hydrazine which as fuel is very poisonous and it exhaust gasses are also not very friendly for our already vulnerable atmosphere.

How do want to get the needed hydrogen and oxygen? Very simple, electrolysis of water. Our plan is to install a large number of solar arrays in the Atacama desert, the electricity they generate will be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. We realize that the Atacama desert is the driest in the world, but through the use of solar desalination it is possible to produce rocket fuel from sea water.

It is important to note that we can already in this phase generate revenue. By offering some of our launch capacity to third parties. This is central to our ideas of incremental funding, which we will explain in a later section.

See also: Launch facility location options