Just for Fun: Space Carriers

Sebastian had a post which mentioned “naval space warfare”, a topic of passing interest to me. Especially, being a big fan of Babylon 5.

But as much as I revere JMS’ Babylon 5 series, I think ALL of the SF shows pretty much miss the future. In space, what are the defining elements?
1. Air containment
2. Mass movement
These are the factors in space.  So for a naval vehicle in space you want the ability to a) contain air and habitable ability and b) to have the ability to drive your mass through space.
What are the effects of combat?  First, to destroy habitable space, which usually mean rupturing a containment environ. Which is likely done by explosion, impact, or energy beam of some unknown sort. 
Explosions we understand, you fire a missile, drone, or move another vehicle close. Blows a big hole. Impact, hey that’s a gun, railgun, particle accelerator, of mass driver (aka asteroidpult). Makes several smaller deeper holes.  Energy beam, we’re not quite there with that but expect there will be ways. That’s essentially a cutter that slices.
How does one defend against that? Namely, by hitting first. I think in space the best best defense is a good offense rings truer than anywhere else.  To do that, you need a large perimeter. Here’s the great thing about space. Have a huge 360 spherical degree perimeter in space is not that hard. Once the fleet is in drift it will pretty much stay in relative position.
In other words, you can have units and ships thousands of miles out drifting in unison.  These would be able to launch drones, and make kamakaze style attacks hopefully long before your main habitats are approached.
But lets fast forward.  The battle has happened. You won, yea!!!!  But it wasn’t an easy fight. You got hit pretty bad. Lots of damage. Huge sections are now uninhabitable. And well, you’re not prone to staying in this neck of the woods for a another fight.
Drop the mass… that’s right, why lug huge swaths of now uninhabitable sections of the ship?
And this is the key component of space naval warfare most miss out on.  I believe unlike our monolithic carrier units. The future capital ship will be made of segments.  Drive units, habitable zones, command units, weapon pods.
After a battle, rather than lingering trying to fix a severely damaged ship. A ship will downgrade.  Drop the two damaged drive units. So you have 4 instead of 6. Get rid of the rupture segments that will never be able to be restored to habitation. But first remove any intact weapons modules. Re-attach to hard points.
What was maybe an 8 segment battleship with 6 drive units and 80 weapon pods now becomes a 5 segment ship with 4 drive units and 55 weapons pods.  Why waste energy trying to move all that dead weight that’s nothing but scrap now?
And ironically, the new configuration has a higher drive to mass ratio.
I do think J. Michael Strazyncski came closest to imagining a realistic space faring world. But even he failed to account for this concept that the dictates of space life will demand of warships.
(Oh, ironically, this was NOT uncommon in the age of sail where a ship may take significant damage to it’s masts and sails. And would be downgraded in it’s rig.)

Published in: on October 11, 2012 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Why go to the moon? Mars? Or anywhere?

A lot of controversy has arisen from Newt Gingrich’s call to establish a moon colony. And most seem to deride this as silliness. Is it?

If you look at it from an individual perspective, why expend billions when there are people starving right here. But this same argument can be applied in many aspects. Why expend money on anything when there are people who hungry? Sure this is a complaint by many against Stealth Bombers and aircraft carriers. But why spend money building new schools or solar energy when there are hungry children?

The presence of a need, does not necessarily preclude pursuing other activities. If that were true, why would anyone watch TV or read a book when they could work extra hours at McDonald’s or Walmart and earn extra $$$ to feed the poor.

One must look at the overall benefit and the future benefit, as well as the intrinsic benefits Space exploration brings.  First off, dreams…how many successful entrepeneurs are where they are today because when they were small kids they dreamed of going into space. While most of them never went to space, that ‘dreaming’ aspect led them to pursue other dreams successfully.

There are many benefits and new technologies that stem from space exploration. But many will question whether the investment provides equivalence in return. Did we gain a value equivalent to the $100 billion spent on the International Space Station? I am not sure…

Many like myself will argue that we’ve failed to re-coup our investment because we so often compromise on achievement. For example, we tend to stay close to home, low orbit and very safe. The result is an ISS that if not supplied will quickly fall and burn up in the atmosphere.  Nor has it been allowed to grow. It is kept afloat by governments. Likewise, these same governments are tied to ever-present social issues that prevent their investment in space. (We currently have no means of reaching the ISS from the U.S. since the shuttles were retired.)

But are there other benefits to be had?

What benefit does the moon hold for earth?  What could a colony on the moon off us?

  1. First off, preservation.  While the cost of establishing a base on the moon would be exhorberent. Doing so would provide the first level of survivability for the species. However unlikely, one sufficiently large asteroid impact on earth could probably wipe out humanity.  While such mike make the earth unlivable for decades, even more, life would eventually regain it’s footing on earth; sans humans. A colony on the moon would allow a potential re-population of the earth by humanity.

    How do you put a price tag on saving the human race?  Is $1 trillion dollars to much to save all of humanity?  Is Earth just one big New Orleans waiting to happen? Will we, like New Orleans, realize only to late that we should have spent the money on the dikes?

  2. Second reason for my support. Many will say “You’re speaking of an unlikely hypothetical disaster in the distant future. Give me something more tangible and immediate.”  Okay, pollution. A large amounts of our planet are being polluted by industry, strip mined for minerals and resources, and left in a toxic moon like state.

    The moon is the perfect place to establish an industrial zone.  Strip mine all you want, you’re still outclassed by craters. Pollute the environment…what environment? Habitats are going to be destroyed because there are zero habitats on the moon.  Not every industry could be moved to the moon. It is doubtful we’ll find oil or coal on the moon. But the mining of many metals and minerals could be possible as the moon’s composition is much like Earth’s.

    After establishing a colony on the Moon, the building of a space station at null gravity (place between Earth and the Moon’s gravity wells) will become more economically feasible as materials could be launched from the moon’s lower gravity well. This station could then send out deeper colonial missions to Mars.  A location with greater resources for a colony to establish and flourish.

  3. Lastly, because it’s there. Mankind has always pursued opportunity. Why do people climb Mt. Everest, is it because of the view (mostly clouds)? Or because it stands there saying “Overcome me if you can!”.  Why did we colonize the New World? A task only slightly less daunting for it’s time than the Moon or Mars would be for ours. Granted they never had to worry about breathable oxygen, but they did have to worry about potable water, food and disease.  The journey often took many months and the hardships were immense with many colonists perishing shortly upon arrival, and even in transit.  But look at the immensity of advancement that came from the journey to, and colonizing of, the new world.

    One would be hard pressed to argue against the fact that the standard of living for the entire planet went up during that colonial period.  For thousands of years, the world remained much the same. Small incremental advancements in sail, metallurgy, science, medicine. Then within a couple of hundred years of discovery, we advanced more than in the thousands of years prior. Could we see a similar state of advancement?  Might venturing to the Luna & Mars be the catalyst to a period of advancement that leads us beyond many of our troubles.  Reducing further problems like hunger, obesity, poverty.  

How do you calculate such benefits?

Going into space is an investment. One much akin to the stock market. One has the potential to lose their shirt, break even, or be extremely profitable.  In my personal opinion it one worth making.  Also in my personal opinion, it is one we’ve been doing wrong for years.  Government was the sole entity allowed to invest in space. But that is changing, and I believe that grants and incentive awards should be offered to encourage space exploration.

And while I may be mistaken, it seems to me that Newt Gingrich’s talk on colonizing the Moon was focusing on encouraging and facilitating private enterprise to do so. As opposed to financing it all with government dollars. And that is something I support even more strongly.

How might the government be able to facilitate such?

  • How about a tax free moon?  No seriously, any goods created or services provided on the moon would be tax free including income.  I imagine this alone would get the finances started to explore space privately. 
  • X prizes – awards, both financial and meritorious, for those private ventures that achieve set goals. First private entity to land a craft on the moon – $1 million.  $25 million to the first to land a return a human being.
  • Allow such venture to be donated to in a tax free manner. Google needs a big write off, so they donate $50 million to an established fund that feeds such X-prizes.

But this can be done, with minimal cost to the tax payer and the potential of much benefit. Now, we just need Mythbusters to do some tests on how firearms function in a low gravity vacuum.

Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,