Sunday, April 10, 2011

Should humans attempt to colonize space?

Looks like a modest number of people are participating in this discussion and poll.  Yes 57%, No 43%.

I haven't written a response to that over there, but why not here?

I say yes.  After the big, dumb rocket discussion, I am convinced that large amounts of matter can be sent into orbit with consumables that would support life for some time.  Not only that, but could be expanded over time for as anyone on Earth who wanted to do it.  This would not result in a completely new world immediately, but it would, over time, result in enough matter to sustain a human colony of some size for an indefinite period of time.

How many launches of the big, dumb rocket?  At 550 tons payload per launch, let's say that you were to do as many launches as the Space Shuttle, about 120.  That would result in 550 times 120 tons of matter.  This would result in about 66000 tons of matter, which is about the size of  two World War II aircraft carriers.  Actually, this is not terribly impressive after 120 launches, but the Space Shuttle has managed only a much smaller station, which definitely cannot support itself for long.

The WWII vintage USS Lexington could accomodate 2600 men.  Now, it would be a lot different in space, but it could definitely handle a lot more crew than the space station does now.  The configuration would be different of course.  It's method of providing for itself would be different too.  But something this large could become a base of operations for more significant forays into space.  And these would not require so much support from Earth.

I can envision a system of these stations in space which could become trading outposts between the Earth and the rest of the solar system.  They could produce goods that could be traded with Earth and vice versa.  The system, once deployed, could sustain itself through its own activities. 

I can't prove this, though.  Let's run that one by some experts.  I think that such a system could have a reasonable chance of being self supporting.

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