Re: SPACE Colonization essay

Forrest Bishop (
Mon, 29 Dec 1997 12:06:41 -0800

Twink wrote:
> with my essay "For a Free Frontier: The Case for Space Colonization." It's at
> _The Free Radical_ web site:
> Check under backissues. I offer the essay up for comments both critical and
> laudatory, and expect more of the former and none of the latter.

> I look forward to your comments.
> Daniel Ust

Some comments on:

'The Case for Space Colonization'
by Daniel Ust

"There are at least two candidates for terraforming in our
solar system, Mars and Venus.....
One notion is the slow seeding of the target planet
with tailored organisms to make it more and more earthlike.
This can take a long time -- perhaps thousands of years.
Another proposal suggests using "fast and dirty" techniques
such as crashing comets or forcing volcanic eruptions with
nuclear bombs on Mars to make its atmosphere thicker."

Venus is probably the hardest terrrestrial planet to terraform, and
will take
the longest time. Most of its atmosphere has to be stripped off or
first. Just cooling it down may take centuries. Its day is 243 Earth
days long- not
very useful, although possible to revise with orbital mirror-and-shade
It's a nasty place.
Mars is far and away the planet of choice, not only for early
with existing tech, but also for rapid terraformation processes.
Crashing comets
on Mars is probably quite unnecessary if you believe the higher end
for permafrost mass. There is probably enough water on Mars to cover the
planet evenly to a depth of tens of meters, perhaps up to two hundred
meters. It
only needs to be thawed out.
This might be done with geothermal heat pipes, replicated by the
millions (my
proposal), simultaneously building up the atmosphere as well. This might
work one time, but that is all that is needed to bump Mars away from its
cycle attractor.
Seeding Mars with "organisms" need not take millennia- if you are
willing to
consider replicating machinery in this class. Depending on energy and
hydrocarbon availability, as well as self-replication rates, this may
take a little as
_a few months_ to achieve a planet-wide shirt-sleeve environment. Mars
may have so-called "fossil fuel" deposits similar to Earth's oil and
natural gas
reservoirs. If not, there are plenty of carbonaceous asteroids to
choose from,
many resemble large blobs of coal tar.

"The posthuman alternative is to redesign humans, either
through genetic engineering or by a machine-like fix such
as artificial lungs that can process Martian air."

! The current Martian atmosphere is 99% CO2, useless for animal

" This demands technology of a higher order than today....
We can easily imagine
someone adapted to a Martian habitat later being adapted to
suit a Titanian (after Saturn's big moon) one and so on. "

This demand a far higher tech level than terraforming.

"Next, there's O'Neill-style colonization. (Named after G.
K. O'Neill, "

It bugs me to see a concept named after its popularizer.

"... Instead
of living in a space station, whether large or small, the
individual is redesigned to live in space by a melding of
space suit and organism or, in another scenario, to live in
space without a space suit. This demands a higher level of
technology, but the roots of it can be seen in our present

This is very much simpler to do than the planetary environment

"How will it be done?....
What modifications are necessary? Current space stations
are designed for short crew rotations, not as permanent
homes. Reworking them will have to take this into account. "

Current designs do not incorporate artificial gravity. This is a must
near-term permanent habitation. Modding existing would be very much
than designing new.

"To put it bluntly, since NASA isn't
footing the bill, efficiency is not its concern. (David P.
Gump's Space Enterprise: Beyond NASA contains an inventory
of what is wrong with NASA along with some rather tame
proposals for reform.) "

To put it even more bluntly, NASA has been the main obstacle to
for the past two decades. It is first and foremost a corporate welfare
My reform proposals start with instant and total shutdown of the Space
program. Anyone who has anything to do with it should be thrown out on
street, and (most important) the records burned. Note this is not so
different from
what happened to the Apollo program.

"To make things cheaper and more
efficient, the current space programs should be privatized
-- or at the very least laws restricting private enterprise
in space should be repealed."

This is starting to happen after a fashion. There are more subtle forces
to deal
with that operate, in effect, outside of the law.

"One plan
that is still being studied is to use colonies to build
solar power satellite stations (SSPS). These will supply
Earth with cheap electric power. SSPSs would gather
sunlight, change it into microwaves and then beam these
down to collecting antennas on Earth's surface"

This has been studied since the late '60s, it is just now starting to
make economic
sense. The primary obstacle was and is high launch costs (c.f. NASA).

" Moving manufacturing to space is yet another payoff
colonists can give to surface dwellers. This would not
only lessen the pollution impact and the land use of
factories but could possibly eliminate mining on Earth too."

Mining asteroids will, IMO, completely eliminate Earth mining. The ore
is very much higher, and delivery will be very much cheaper, once an
infrastructure is in place.
See "The Interworld Rapid Transit System (A Transportation Network for
Solar System)"
for some ideas on how to do this. The abstract is at
The draft article should show up fairly soon. Also, Robert Forward's
Tethers Unlimited, is working on a linked tether system for Earth-Moon
transportation using lunar dirt as the mass and energy source. This
system can
be enhanced to provide transport to near-Earth asteroids.

" Who will call the shots? Most of today's space activities,
from launching communications satellites to planetary
exploration, are done by government funded and run space

This may not be true anymore. Teledesic, Iridium, NEAP, and others are
private efforts. The number of LEO satellites involved is of the same
order as
the number of .gov sat launches.

".... Given that the larger
corporations tend to operate hand-in-hand with the
government -- often to curtail competition and to get
subsidies -- this might be a problem. The solution, for
those interested in making sure the high frontier is a free
one, is to try to drive government out of space. The less
government there is up there, the fewer favors there are to
be handed out."

Agreed. Elements in the US gov in particular seem to be operating under
delusion that they own outer space. See G. Harry Stine's "Halfway to
Anywhere" for some horror stories.

" ...On Earth,
as better transportation technologies become available (in
the past, these included trains, planes, and automobiles)
because of the limited space centralized control has been

Safety and standardization were central motives of gov regulation. Some
of this also applies to my "Interworld" proposal, unfortunately.

"... As an example of how space can become really cheap, look
all the Cold War ICBMs stockpiled. Currently, there's talk
of destroying them outright, but wouldn't it be better to
sell them as space vehicles? "

The private Conestoga rocket of the early '80s was made from a Minuteman
booster. The company was destroyed by someone who notified some obscure
gov agency that dealt with export law. The spent booster landed in the
Caribbean, outside US territorial waters and was, you see, a form of

Forrest Bishop
Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering