Tag Archives: space colonies

3D Printed organs: future or fantasy?

The Guardian has published an interesting article about using 3D printers for creating human organs. The idea is quite simple: if you have the required tissue types, the 3D printer is able to print the organ you want. Organs are three-dimensional structures, and because they are standardized, their structure could be stored in a computer file.

Combined with the ongoing developments in stem cell research, this technology might make organ donation obsolete by 2050. This is great news for space colonists, at least if they would need an organ transplant in outer space. If an organ needs to be sent from Earth, it would take months before it arrives at a space settlement in the Earth-Sun’s Lagrange points or in the Asteroid belt. Even if the organ would survive the transport, it might arrive too late for the patient.

See also

3D-Printing, a key technology for humanizing space

Manifesto part 3

3D-printing and space colonization

Space colonies and monetary systems. Part 2

Introduction Part 2: Full reserve banking

This post is the second part of our series on Space colonies and monetary systems. In the previous part we discussed the idea of debt free money of the corner-stone of the monetary system we propose. In this part we will discuss full reserve banking and why this is a necessary condition of a debt-free monetary system. First we will discuss the current system of fractional reserve banking, and why that system is problematic.

2.1 What is fractional reserve banking?

Nowadays most money is created as credit money by either central or commercial banks. How central banks can create money is quite straight forward: with a few keystrokes the employees of the central bank can create money, they can subsequently lend to the commercial banks. More people have difficulties to grasp how commercial banks can create money, and the non-banking citizens are not to blame. Bankers tend to make use of technical jargon, which might not be understood even by the bankers themselves.

Most people, who have never studied banking in any detail, will utter that it’s illegal for everyone, except the government, to create money, aka counterfeiting. For many centuries counterfeiting was considered such a severe crime, it was punishable by death in almost every country. People used to believe that the coining of money was a god given privilege of the king, Save for a few countries, counterfeiters are no longer be executed nowadays, but in many countries counterfeiters can face years of imprisonment for crime.

However, banks are privileged institutions, unlike ordinary members of the public, the government allows banks to create money. Before we can continue, we have to keep in mind that only cash money, i.e. coins and notes, are legal tender. For matters of law bank money is not “real” money, that is accepted nevertheless, is due the fact that if you want to have cash money you can go to the ATM: there you can convert your “bank money” into legal tender. If Alice owes Bob some money, then Bob is obliged to accept any sufficient cash payment as settlement of debt. However, Alice has all her money on the bank and she doesn’t want to go to the ATM, instead she transfer money from her account to Bob’s. Now Bob is able to convert Alice’s “bank money” into cash.

In real life there is much more bank money than cash, either in circulation or stored in bank vaults. If all clients of a bank would try to remove their money from the bank, most clients will be empty-handed because there is not enough cash to meet such demand. A fundamental question, is how it can be that there is much more bank money than cash? The story goes that in earlier times, when only coins were legal tender, people deposited their coins at a gold smith. If you carry large amounts of gold coins, you are taking great risks. Not only you could lose your money (and your life) by robbery, it is also quite cumbersome to carry heavy coins all the time. When you deposited your coins at the goldsmith you received a note, which stated the value of your deposit. Now if you want to buy something, you could give the seller your note(s). Subsequently the seller was able to redeem this at the goldsmith.

However, the smiths soon discovered that people did not redeem the notes, instead the notes went into circulation: Alice used her notes to pay Bob, Bob to pay Caroline, Caroline to pay David and so on. Meanwhile the smiths had large deposits of gold in their possession. Knowing that only a few note holders would claim their money, the smiths came with the idea to lend the money to people against interest. Of course, lenders got the loans in notes. Now we have more notes than is back by deposits: the depositors have notes equal to the deposits, whilst the lenders have additional notes.

Of course, the smiths, now bankers, learned they could do this a multiple times. A certain amount of deposited money could be lend multiple times. Replace gold with coins and bank notes, and notes with bank money, and we get what is called fractional reserve banking. This system has certain benefits, but creates several risks. The two most important risks related with fractional reserve banking are: 1. Uncontrolled increase of the money supply; 2. Bank runs.

The problem of bank runs has been described above, unlimited growth of the money supply induces the risk of (hyper)inflation. In order to combat these two problems, most central banks impose minimal reserve requirements on the commercial banks. The ECB or the Fed might say to the banks in their jurisdiction, that they should have minimal reserves of 25%. For every hundred euro or dollar the banks keep, they should have 25 in reserve. By regulating this requirement central banks has to influence money creation by commercial banks.

Though this seems a great tool, but there two problems with these methods: First, the reserve requirements are usually quite low, sometimes as low as 1%. Second, banks are interpreting the reserve requirement creatively. As explained by economist professor Richard Werner if we have, for instance, a reserve requirement of 1%, then a bank should be able to lend of every 100 pounds only 99 pounds. But in reality the following happens:

Suppose that Alice deposits 100 pounds on her bank account. In theory her bank could only lend 99 pounds from it, since they should have 1 pound as reserve. But the bank will usually claim that the 100 pound is their 1% percent, now they can lend 9900 pounds instead of 99 pounds. The result is that 9900 pounds has been created by the bank.

2.2 Why fractional reserve banking is problematic

The money created by commercial banks is created as credit, as debt. This means that the money created in this manner, has eventually to be repaid to the bank. The following example will illustrate why this is problematic: suppose that Bob is a plumber, and he needs a new van. Bob has at this moment not enough money to buy the van, so he goes to the bank for a loan of 9900 pounds. He gets the loan, and inclusive interest Bob has to pay the bank 12,000 pounds. Now I am a factory owner, and I need to maintain the plumbing of my factory. Bob and I agree that he would to this for 15,000 pounds. For this necessary investment I get a bank loan, and eventually I has to pay back 18,000 pounds.

Since nowadays governments do not create debt free money, almost any money is created as credit. And has been illustrated in the previous example, in order to repay your debt, someone else has to become indebted. Because of interest, the total debt has to grow. Under the current financial system it’s impossible for all debtors to pay off their debts simultaneously. Every time someone pays of his or her debts, the debt has to be shifted to someone else.

And due to interest, especially compound interest, the total amount of debts is ever-increasing. One might ask why this is a problem. Being indebted is generally considered a bad thing, and people are almost always advised to pay off their debts as soon as possible. Not being able to pay off your debts is even worse. People who are defaulting on their debts, are risking to lose their possessions, since the creditors can by court order seize the debtor’s property in order to settle the debt. Businesses which has to default on their debts, face bankruptcy and their employees can lose their jobs, which causes even further financial problems. It’s for no reason that indebtedness is considered as negative. Therefore it’s important that governments will issue debt-free money in order to enable citizens to pay off their debts without shifting their debts to other persons.

Our commitment to government issued debt-free money is incompatible with the creation of credit money by commercial banks, even if both types of money would coexist. This because banks might create more credit money than the government will create debt-free money. Besides the negative consequences of indebtedness, fractional reserve banking has another problem. Since commercial banks are in control over the money supply, they might cause inflation by creating too much money.

Commercial banks pursue their own interests, not the public interest. For each individual bank it is attractive to create as much credit as possible, because so they can receive more interest. Simultaneously it would be better if the total money creation by banks would be limited, however no bank would rationally pursue such limit by itself. Consequently banks will create as much money as possible, this results in inflation. Also as argued by Professor Werner this private money creation causes asset bubbles, which will disrupts the functioning of the real economy.

2.3 Full reserve banking

Theoretically full reserve banking is nothing more than raising the minimal reserve requirement to 100%. However, establishing such requirement has profound effects. Most importantly banks are no longer able to create credit money at will. We see that as a good thing. Nevertheless there are people who oppose full reserve banking, and they have a few arguments to defend their position.

First proponents of fractional reserve banking argue that if commercial bank are no longer allowed to create money, the money supply will become fixed and cannot grow proportionally to the economy and therefore full reserve banking would lead to deflation. Deflation is the opposite of inflation, and is generally considered by economists as a worse phenomenon than inflation. There is general consensus among economists of different schools that recessions are often caused by deflation. However, the risk of deflation can be avoided in a full reserve banking economy if the government will create an adequate amount money, which we have defended in part 1 of this series. This government created money will also be debt-free and since the government is a single agency it can control the money supply more effective than self-interested commercial banks.

A second argument raised by apologetics of fractional reserve banking against full reserve banking, is that under a full reserve banking system banks can no longer lend money to the public. However, this argument is only partially true. This argument is based a mistaken assumption: banks are financial intermediaries, between those who want to save/invest their money and those who wants to lend money. As we have seen above this is not true, since banks are creating the money they lend. In order to see why this particular argument is flawed, we should look how full reserve banking might work.

In line with the “Chicago plan” we should distinguish between demand deposits and term deposits. Demand deposits are those bank accounts which allow the client to withdraw his or her money at any time, whilst term deposits are those savings which cannot be withdrawn for a certain period of time. Under the Chicago plan banks are not allowed to lend money deposited on checking accounts, thereby establishing a full reserve banking system. However, money deposited as term deposits can be lent by the banks, but only to sum of money deposits. If Alice has a 10,000 pound term deposit by her bank, the bank can only lend 10,000 pounds to Bob (assuming for the sake of the argument that Alice is the only term depositor). Another way for banks to raise money they can lend is to issue bonds. The benefit of bonds is that the owners can sell their bonds if they need money.

Since the money on checking accounts cannot be lend by banks, the holders of these accounts will not receive any interests from it. This raises two question: Why will people place their money on the bank? and How will bank make money from checking accounts? The answer to the first question is simple: save keeping and enabling financial transactions. The answer to the second question is equally simple: for the services mentioned in the answer to the first question, the clients will be pay a fee to the bank.

If a full reserve banking system as described in the Chicago plan, will be implemented, it reasonably to believe that there will be two types of banks: first there will be banks specializing in checking accounts and related services, secondly there will be banks which will intermediate between savers and borrowers. The first bank type will be save for bank runs, since they are forced by law to keep 100% reserves and therefore are always able to give clients back their money. Though clients of the second bank type have to face the risk to lose their money in case their bank will go bankrupt, they can reduce this risk by spreading their saving over multiple banks.

Fractional reserve apologetics might argue in response to our counter-arguments, that though the government might be able to create enough money to prevent deflation, but that the money created and allocated by the government might not get at the “right” places. If the government will create and allocate the money supply, some people will have a money surplus, whilst other will have a deficit. However, in our proposal the people with excess money can lend their money to the banks, which will lend it to those who need loans. In this manner full reserve banking will have the benefits of the current system, without its main disadvantages.

In the next part of this series we will discuss interest-free loans by the federal credit bank.

See also

A program of monetary reform  The final statement of the Chicago plan, written by Paul Douglass, Irving Fisher and others. The Chicago plan as described here is one of the inspirations of our proposals for monetary reform.

Richard Werner: Banking & The Economy A video featuring economist professor Richard Werner, who explains how fractional reserve banking works in reality.

Statehood, legal and practical considerations

Introduction

The primary purpose of Lagrangian Republican Association is the establishment of an independent and sovereign republic in space. However, what is sovereignty? And what is a state? These questions are of great importance for every movement aimed at the colonization of space, whether in free space or on Mars. In this post we will discuss several issues related to statehood and sovereignty. Continue reading Statehood, legal and practical considerations

3D-printing, a key technology for humanizing space

As a regular reader of our site might know, Republic of Langrangia are strongly in favour of 3D printers (see here and here). Recently, this idea has become mainstream. On space.com you can read the following article: 3D Printing Could Aid Deep-Space Exploration, NASA Chief Says.

The basic argument for 3D-printing in Space are simple: our Solar system is rich in all kinds of resources. Through in situ resource utilization the input for 3D printers can be made from asteroidal material (or if necessary from Lunar or Martian material). The blue prints of the needed objects can be stored electronically on board of a Space colony or can be transmitted from Earth. This would significantly reduce the launch of all kind of supplies.

3D printing will also reduce the number of people needed for Space industries, because a 3D printer can print a whole variety of things. And in principle, we have to launch only one 3D printer, since this machines should be able to reproduce themselves.

On the Ethics of Colonizing Mars and Space

Both the colonization of Mars and Space colonization has ethical concerns. In this post we will discuss some of the more important issues.

Possible Life on Mars

Similarly, nobody really mourns for those who do not exist on Mars, feeling sorry for potential such beings that they cannot enjoy life.

David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been. The Harm of Coming into Existence. 2006.

One of the arguments against colonizing Mars is concern for possible Martian lifeforms. Some people argue that introducing terrestrial life to the Red planet, would be bad for native Martian life. Most scientists believe that, if Martian life (still) exists, it will most likely consist of bacteria or similar organisms.

The question we should ask ourselves is whether such Martian bacteria has any moral standing. According to English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, beings have moral standing if they can suffer. Bentham’s student John Stuart Mill, has introduced another important principle in moral philosophy, the harm principle. According to this principle our liberty is limited by the liberty of others; we may do what we wish as long as we do not harm other beings.

If we combine Bentham’s axiom of suffering with Mill’s harm principle, we can conclude the following: we may not beings who have the ability to suffer. As far as we know, bacteria cannot suffer, therefore they have, according to Bentham, no moral standing. For this reason we cannot conclude that bringing terrestrial lifeforms to Mars is immoral, because native Martian life might became extinct.

A related argument is that if terrestrial lifeforms are introduced to Mars, the original lifeforms cannot be distinguished from the introduced ones. This would interfere with scientific research to life on Mars. Although this might be regrettable, we might ask ourselves whether this would outweigh the benefits which colonizing Mars would offer to humanity.

A third concerned with the possibility of Martian bacteria is the health risk for colonists. This fear is understandable, however it is quite unlikely. Infectious diseases are generally limited to certain organisms. So is HIV dangerous for cats, apes and humans, whilst crocodiles are immune for it. Because parasites are adapted to a certain host organism, they cannot infect other organisms. (This also implies that all stories about fighting alien invaders with biological warfare are implausible.)

Of course, there is one caveat to this reasoning. Martian microbes might be poisonous to us.

Environmental impact on Earth

Another concern regarding space colonization, is the environmental impact of rockets. This is a serious problem, the pollution due to launching rockets into space do damage to our atmosphere. This pollution has all kinds of harmful effects to people, not the least to public health. The harm principle dictates that we should reduce the impact of rockets.

The precise environmental impact of a rocket depends on its type, especially on the kind of fuel used. Many rockets use poisonous fuels such as hydrazine, a hydrogen-nitrogen compound. By burning hydrazine both water (H2O) and nitrogen n-oxides  are produced, especially the latter is problematic since they are one of the causes of acid rain.

Hydrogen rockets, which produce water vapour as exhaust, are the most environment-friendly type of chemical rocket. Although there some technical difficulties with managing hydrogen rockets, the space shuttle program has shown that these can be overcome. Water vapour is a greenhouse gas, in fact one of the strongest, however this gas also stays in the atmosphere for a short time.

On the other hand, space colonization will also solve some environmental problems. For instance, asteroid mining would eliminate the need for mining on Earth. And mining is one of the leading causes of environmental degradation.

The costs of space colonization

Space-flight is expensive and so is space colonization. Therefore some people argue that given the large amount of poverty in the world, it is wrong to spend billions of dollars to a space colonization programs. However, these people are unaware that space colonization might be a solution for the problem of poverty.

The Solar System contains a lot of resources, so much that John Lewis has calculated that an equal distribution of these resources, would give every human on Earth a 100 billion dollars, which is much more than Bill Gates’ net wealth. Of course, this is somewhat extreme and this calculation is based on current prices of resources. When asteroid mining will increase the supply of this resources, their prices will fall. However, this price fall is not bad, since materials will become cheaper and so will the general price level. In this manner poor people can do more with their money.

Further, space colonization might increase employment, both in Space and on Earth, by creating all kinds of jobs. Even if the direct employment as result of space colonization will be limited, there is also the possible increase of indirect employment. Employees in the space industry will demand all kind of goods and services, which will create many more jobs etcetera.

Conclusion

Space colonization faces several difficult ethical question, however, it is also a potential solution for some ethical problems such as environmental damage and poverty.

The Ideal Space Settler?

American philosopher James Park has written a document in which he outlines criteria for selecting immigrants for the USA. In this post I want to discuss what characteristics are desirable in prospective Space settlers. Since launch capacity is limited, only a few hundreds or thousands of people will be able to immigrate to Space colonies each year (at least this will be the case during the early years, when Space settlements will develop this capacity will raise). Therefore good criteria for selecting settlers for new Space colonies will be even more important.

What are Park’s criteria for selecting new immigrants? His article gives the following list:

1.  LANGUAGE ABILITIES

2.  OCCUPATIONAL SKILLS

3.  BUSINESS ABILITIES AND CAPITAL

4.  CREATIVE TALENTS

5.  EDUCATION

6.  FAMILY CONNECTIONS AND OTHER SUPPORT SYSTEMS

7.  MINOR CHILDREN INCLUDED IN THE IMMIGRANT FAMILY

8.  NOT BEING A CRIMINAL

9.  SELECTING THE VERY BEST APPLICANTS

10.  LOTTERY AS AN ALTERNATIVE

11.  CONCLUSION: THE BEST PEOPLE ON EARTH

I will discuss this points one by one.

Language

Not surprisingly Park argues that new American immigrants should be able to understand and use English. However, there is no reason to assume that  English will be the official language of a Space colonies. We have discussed the issue of language and Space colonization in a previous post.

Occupational skills

This one is of particular interest. Space settlements are in need of a wide variety of occupational skills. Unlike present day America, Space settlements has to start with zero population.Therefore every job opening has to be filled by an immigrant, simple because are no unemployed Space settlers. Even more than in the USA immigrants has to be selected for relevant skills, we do need five hundred psychologists but a few physicians are very welcome. Especially we need people with practical and technical skills.

Business abilities and capital

It would be fine if people with business abilities and capital will join the Space movement, however it is not necessary that these people will join the first few shifts of immigrants. People willing to invest their capital in Space colonization can do that through donations and loans, and can use their business abilities to organise the Space movement. However this can be done from Earth as long as Space settlements are in their infancy.

Creative talents

This one is very important. Because Space settlers are subject to unexpected situation creativity is key to survival in Space. Therefore selecting prospective settlers on their creativity is not only a good idea, it is of vital importance.

Education

Having completed an education is not only important for the specific skills one has acquired, but is also proof that someone has the ability to learn new things. Further by being educated someone also demonstrates having the discipline to complete certain tasks.

Family connections

In isolated small communities like a Space settlement with a few hundred residents, inbreeding is a huge problem. For this reason alone, being a relative of an existing Space settler should be a contra-indication for selection. The risks of inbreeding do not weigh up to the benefits of having relatives in a Space colony.

Yes, we acknowledge those benefits. If you have family in another country you will adapt to your new country faster, because you are supported by people you know and love. However, for existing countries with large populations such as the US inbreeding is not a real concern, since such countries already have a diverse gene pool.

Minor children

For practical reasons it would be better if Space settlements should select immigrants who haven’t children, yet. Preferentially immigrants are either young (between age 18 and 40) singles or childless couples. We believe it would be better if Space settlers will found a family after immigration to Space.

Children, especially the very youngest, might suffer from extreme stress as a result of immigration from Earth to Space. The trip from Earth to the Lagrange points of the Sun-Earth system will take month, during which the immigrants will be subjected to low or zero gravity (in the space habitats there will be artificial gravity). Such a long period of zero gravity will have enormous effects on the health of children and might be dangerous for them.

Given that it would be better for Space settlers to found a family after immigration, so that their children can grow up within artificial gravity, we should limit immigration opportunities of people above the age of forty. However, there should be no immigration ban for those category, but we should prefer young adults, although the presence a few middle-aged person will be desirable.

Not being criminal

This one is really obvious. The last thing we need in a Space settlement are murderers, (serial) rapists, paedophiles, terrorists, all kinds of violent robbers etcetera. Only people who are able of peaceful cooperation are welcome in our new societies. All prospective Space settlers should be able to prove their lack of a criminal record. Once it has been discovered one has lied about his criminal record, that person should be expelled from the settlement.

I will discuss the topic of criminal justice and space colonization in a future post, for now you can read this post.

Selecting the very best immigrants

The question whether we should select the very best immigrants, or should immigrant just be sufficiently good? I think we should opt for the latter, albeit our standards should be quite high.

A particular concern of James Park is preventing a brain drain from other countries. Given the fact that due to limited launch capacity only a few hundred people can immigrate to Space Settlements. So the Space movement has not to worry about a possible brain drain.

Lottery as alternative(?)

James Park suggest to use lottery instead of the criteria mentioned above. However we would argue to use lottery in addition to those criteria. After all, there are much more people who would qualify than could be reasonable transported into Outer Space. Lottery would give each potential immigrant an equal chance of being selected.

Our selection process will be a two-step procedure. First prospective settlers will checked whether they met our criteria, if they qualify they will be admitted to the next step. The second step will a lottery. If for instance a hundred people can be transported to a Space settlement, and say five thousand applicants are qualifying, then from their names one hundred will be randomly selected.

Additional Criteria

Since emigrating to a Space Settlement is quite different from to the US, we should have a few additional criteria. As explained in a previous post, we believe that prospective should be vegetarians. People who really like to eat meat, should not apply. Further people should sign a pledge that they subscribe our value, especially that they support our commitment to Republicanism, Liberalism, Secularism and Humanism. People who don’t like these principles should either found their own space colonization group or they should stick here on Earth.

Federalism and Space colonization

In his 1986 article  Philip Bosshardt argued:

We have seen that cultural divergence works against federation. Barring unforseen developments in relativistic physics, settlements will never be in instant communication with each other. Message flow may resemble more the speeds of royal message runners in the Persian and Incan empires, taking minutes if not hours to traverse the distances between settlements. Modern technological societies could scarely function without the ability to shift huge volumes of information nearly instantaneously; without up-to-date information on events in the “provinces,” no ruler of trans-Solar System empires is going to know if his directives are being carried out. And at the other end of the chain of command, local governors will be reluctant to cede power to a ruling body that cannot have very good knowledge of current conditions. (Bosshardt, 1986).

This passage makes it clear that Bosshardt is talking about trans-Solar System federations or empires. The size of the Solar System is simply to large to unite it under one single political entity. However, this is no argument against small and local space federations. In fact, it is likely that many future Space nation will be federal states.

What is federalism?

Like many political terms federalism has different meanings in different situations. In the United States of America, federalism is mostly used for the movement or ideology which favours a stronger position of the national government. But in other countries such as Belgium or Spain, federalism stands for the opposite idea: transferring power from the national government to sub-national governments.

If we say that Republic of Lagrangia endorses federalism, we mean that we favour the creation of a federal state or federation. A federation is a state based on the principle of shared sovereignty: on some issues the federal governments has exclusive authority, whilst other issues belong to the exclusive domain of the states. Typically foreign policy, defense and inter-state relation are under federal authority.

Why does this matter for space settlements?

Because of their nature, Space habitats will be the fundamental political units of Space society. Space settlements are, in a physical sense, closed systems. The residents of a Space habitat can if they wish relocate their territory. A luxury not available to the people of, say, Pennsylvania.

This fact has important consequences for inter-settlement politics. When, for instance, Colorado and Utah have an intense conflict with each other, they are nevertheless forced to deal with each other. If, however, two Space settlements has a similar dispute either habitat can decide to relocate away from the other.

Individual Space settlements enjoy a greater factual sovereignty than US states or even members of the European Union. However, many Space settlements will be rather small, having a population from a few thousand to several hundred thousands. Therefore many settlements will be dependent from each other. For economic reasons, most settlements will specialize in specific goods or services whilst importing other from other settlements.

Regulation required by inter-settlement trade will be among the primary reasons of creating a federation of Space habitats. Further small Space habitats will have difficulties with setting up a proper defense force, by uniting themselves they will be able to manage a proper military. Also by creating a federal government Space people can pursue a more effective foreign policy, especially in relation with terrestrial nations.

One or multiple Space federations?

A single Space federation is impracticable for the reasons given by Philip Bosshardt, the Solar System is simply too big. For these reason alone, there will be multiple federations each in a different part of our Solar System. However, distance is not the only reason for multiple federation.

Since different people have different political ideologies. Therefore different Space settlements will implement different political and social systems. Socialist settlements will most likely prefer to federate with other socialist settlements, whilst libertarian settlements will federate with other libertarians.

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.

3D printing and space colonization

Part One of this of this post was originally posted on blogspot.com on November 4, 2012 and Part Two was published there on November 24, 2012.

Part One

As you can read in our manifesto  we have high esteems of the prospects of 3D printing. This technology will make it possible to produce customized spare parts anywhere they are needed. In combination with in situ resource utilization, 3D printing will lessen the dependence of Space settlers of importation of goods from Earth.

Why do we have such a hopeful view of 3D printing? This article on BBC News shows that it is possible to print the parts of guns with a commercial available 3D printer. Not that we advocate this particular application of 3D printing, far from it. But that some technology may be used for (possibly) illegal application, is not a reason for banning it (this would as absurd as outlawing the Internet, only because Internet has mad it easier to spread child pornography). For instance knifes can be used for legal purposes like cooking, but also for murdering people. The use of technology of illegal purposes should be banned, not the technology itself, certainly if the noble applications are much more important.

That said, I will return to my argument. If it is possible to print parts of guns, it will be possible to create many more stuff. Notice that a properly working gun is a moderately complex object. Within a few years from now, 3D printers will be able to create almost every part we need, including the parts of a 3D printer itself. It is not hard to imagine to bright prospects of 3D printers for space colonization.

Once 3D-printing has advanced to the point that nearly all things can be printed, we need only to bring one 3D-printer (or at least its dissembled components) to outer space. There we can print new printers, thereafter we can produce all the stuff we need, while simultaneously weakening our dependence of Earth based supplies. Which is important, because it makes Space Settlers less vulnerable from extortion and blackmailing from Terrestrial powers.

Part Two

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on 3D-printing, today I found the following article. This article describes a method to print electronic circuits, which a of huge importance for space colonization. We cannot think about space colonization or space travel in general without the extensive use of electronics.

This new development will make the production of cheap electronics reality. And by moving such 3D-printers into outer space, Space Colonies will become self-sufficient much earlier than I would have ever dreamed. As I have explained in my earlier post, the dependence on the import of components from Earth is both expensive and will make Space Colonies vulnerable to sabotage by terrestrial parties.

I am interested to learned what is next regarding 3D-printing.