Keeping the Worldship Alive

by Paul Gilster on September 21, 2012

One of the challenges of explaining why a starship project is worth doing even though its final goal may not be realized for a long time is in showing how this work can have an impact on improving things on Earth. Technological spinoffs have acquired a bad name because of the stigma of Teflon and Tang — NASA hasn’t made the strongest case for how advanced work changes lives (and in any case, Teflon and Tang are not actually NASA spinoffs, though they are in the eyes of the public). But work in space can effect profound changes on Earth, and there is every reason to believe that energy breakthroughs in propulsion and power generation could be highly useful in solving our planet’s future energy demands. [See the comments for a recent change to this text].

The list can obviously be expanded, as in the case of closed ecologies, which we’ve been talking about recently in these pages. A long-duration human mission demands attention to environments and their maintenance that will surely tell us much about preserving Earth’s ecosystems. Now I see that Rachel Armstrong, who works on sustainable environmental solutions using synthetic biology, is developing Project Persephone, an Icarus Interstellar initiative for the 100 Year Starship effort that looks at starship architecture and how it can best protect its inhabitants.

Armstrong is a TED Fellow whose work is multidisciplinary to the core. Indeed, it’s her view that “Scientists need to work outside their own areas of expertise to make new technologies that are pertinent to the 21st century and to collaborate, both with other scientific disciplines and the arts and humanities.” Synthetic biology can be considered the engineering of living systems. In an article for Discovery News, Armstrong explains that a ‘worldship’ — a vast craft that might take centuries or more to carry a human population to the stars — will need to behave as a supple and evolving ecology rather than as the kind of mechanistic system found in modern cities today.

Image: A worldship conceived as a vast cylinder, housing a self-contained ecology that may have to survive for centuries if not longer. A new project examines synthetic biology and sustainable architectures for such an effort. Credit: Adrian Mann.

That means thinking creatively about what the kind of materials we build with and what we ask them to do. Inert materials and industrial methods are what we are familiar with, but it’s Armstrong’s view that these practices create barriers rather than connections:

Perhaps it is possible to use the innate “force” of different kinds of materials to create an artificial nature, which can shape streams of material flow to create a living interior that is capable of regeneration and is not simply waiting to be consumed by its human colony. A material ecology may be feasible if the worldship itself was able to provide an external source of energy, so that the living interior would not be a closed system, but open — as if it had its own (nuclear) sun.

Just as metamaterials hold out the prospect of cheaper and lighter manufacture of large objects like telescope mirrors, synthetic biology may help us work with and adjust the numerous interactions that make up the support structure for a functioning community. Armstrong points to possibilities like using artificial soils and terrestrial micro-biota to seed a worldship’s ecology. Project Persephone will develop technical models that explore such systems and the infrastructures to support them.

Out of this, of course, may well come commercial products that can show us how to make our cities more livable. An ‘ecological architecture’ is one designed to “integrate our megacities with natural ecologies and strive for a new kind of ‘sustainability’ where, through the design of buildings, our civilization can return useful substances back to the environment, as well as consume them.”

Thus the end of the old industrial paradigm in favor of a complex, ecological approach to architecture and community design. A long-haul starship is the perfect experimental vehicle in which to model these concepts, for it’s a closed system that demands we apply the lessons we’ve learned from our own ecology in creating a sustainable living space for generations of crew. The growing interest in these matters is a demonstration of how many issues we’ve overlooked in favor of concentrating on the propulsion dilemma. Yet experiments in closed ecologies and synthetic biology can proceed in the near-term, with a technological spinoff that could quickly demonstrate the value of long-term approaches to basic human needs.

As for the name, Persephone was not only a goddess of the underworld but the goddess of spring growth, worshipped in the ancient world in the initiation ceremonies known as the Eleusinian Mysteries. The cult of Demeter (mother of Persephone) seems to have been in place in Mycenaean Greece if not before, offering its initiates passage to an paradisiacal afterlife. According to the legend, the abduction of Persephone by Hades prompted Demeter to search for her, setting up a reunion that marked the rebirth of plant life and the end of drought. Wrapped up in the Eleusinian mysteries, then, is the secret of the seasons, death and regeneration.

When I think about a starship whose living systems have grown critically out of balance, I think of Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop, a 1958 novel published in the US as Starship. What appears to be a primitive tribe living a simple farming life turns out to be the descendants of a multi-generational starship crew returning from a planet around Procyon, the ship’s systems largely out of control. The new focus on closed systems and their management should spin off some interesting fiction of its own as the innovative ideas of a living architecture take hold. For more on synthetic biology and self-repairing architectures, you can see Rachel Armstrong’s 2009 TED talk here.

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jkittle September 21, 2012 at 10:04

Building a worldship requires a tremendous amount of resources/ and a lot of mass. it turns out that the asteroid Vesta appears to have a fair amount of hydrates ( water) at the surface( very surprising result!) This could build a fleet of colony vessels for in solar system habitats, eventually leading to worlships that move at a stately pace between dwarf planets and asteriods. This is a slow and steady path, eventually leading to the stars. I am starting to believe that a manned base on Ceres or Vesta may make sense as a target of opportunity in the next 40 years.

Paul D. September 21, 2012 at 15:49

But so many basic computer functions today grew out of database work Lockheed first performed for NASA,

Let me express great skepticism at this claim, since (1) I’ve never heard of any such thing, and (2) the private sector had and has enormous incentives to develop database technology without government help.

Paul Gilster September 21, 2012 at 16:24

Paul D., I’ve been hearing this for years. But if it’s incorrect, I’ll want to back off it. Let’s hear from other readers on this. I had thought Lockheed’s database work was a real driver for computer technology in the early days of spaceflight.

Paul Gilster September 21, 2012 at 16:41

OK, I’m pulling back the Lockheed comment because I can’t verify it. Thanks for calling this to my attention, Paul.

Later: Just tracked down my source on this, who turns out to be a fellow I was interviewing on a story on database development way back in the early 90s. I’m still pulling the original comment because I can’t verify his reference to the importance of Lockheed’s tech developed for NASA.

Alex Tolley September 21, 2012 at 18:48

A long-haul starship is the perfect experimental vehicle in which to model these concepts,…

Why does it need to traveling to the stars to test out ideas? A worldship in earth orbit, and later ones in deep space, make much more sense to test ideas, and have access to earth resources to make fixes.

Sending a worldship to the stars would consume vast energy resources for propulsion. The small, devices described in “Existence” makes much more energetic sense, whether you accept min uploading or not.

BTW, KSR’s new book, “2312: A Novel” describes some very interesting “worldships” that cruise the solar system like cyclers. They are described as terrariums, which seems appropriate for the ecosystem designs they represent. Many are built from hollowed out asteroids, although Vesta is not one – it is populated with “tents” on its outer surface.

Christopher Phoenix September 21, 2012 at 19:00

Certainly, the sort of technology that a multigenerational starship will require- in particular closed ecology and recycling technologies- will be extremely useful for building an ecologically sustainable civilization on Earth. In particular, the long term view inherent in discussions of interstellar travel- particularly multigenerational space travel- will help create a society that thinks about how our actions have consequences not just for tomorrow or next week but the next few hundred years. “Enlightened expansion of human planning horizons” was the term The Starflight Handbook used, as I recall…

Armstrong is a TED Fellow whose work is multidisciplinary to the core. Indeed, it’s her view that “Scientists need to work outside their own areas of expertise to make new technologies that are pertinent to the 21st century and to collaborate, both with other scientific disciplines and the arts and humanities.”

The beginnings of Nexialism? :-) Somewhere, Elliot Grosvenor is smiling quietly…

ljk September 21, 2012 at 22:11

Why Humans May Be the Biggest Hurdle for Interstellar Travel

by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor

Date: 21 September 2012 Time: 07:04 AM ET

The biggest challenge in mounting a space mission to another star may not be technology, but people, experts say.

Scientists, engineers, philosophers, psychologists and leaders in many other fields gathered in Houston last week for the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss launching an interstellar voyage within 100 years.

“It seems like it would be so hard, and the biggest obstacle is ourselves. Once we get out of our way, once we commit to this, then it’s a done deal,” said former “Star Trek: The Next Generation” actor LeVar Burton, who is serving on the advisory committee of the 100 Year Starship project.

Full article here:

http://www.space.com/17703-interstellar-spaceflight-challenges-humanity.html

David September 21, 2012 at 22:40

http://io9.com/5944505/how-soon-before-mass+produced-3d-printed-leather
Here is one that will be big and it was NASA that first funded and created cultured meat. leather will be commercial in 5 years ,processed meat in 10 .
I agree with last comment when food can be produced cheaply it will free up almost the entire planet.
NASA needs to bragg more

vruz September 21, 2012 at 23:53

A starship like Persephone doesn’t need to be constructed near Earth.
It could be a built with self-replicating technology at a location where the necessary materials are abundant, like the asteroids belt.

Humans and biological material can be sent there when the time is right, from Earth or from a Mars base, which should happen earlier than interstellar travel anyway.

Also, I’m surprised how little Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama gets mentioned along with Persephone.
Basically the same starship concept.

Enzo September 22, 2012 at 1:37

Is it possible to make a container that is perfectly sealed to the vacuum of space for thousands of years ?
The problem is that, if the ship is traveling between stars, there are very few options to replenish escaped volatiles.
Even a small rate of loss can be a problem over long time.

Christopher Phoenix September 22, 2012 at 2:01

@Alex Tolley

Why does it need to traveling to the stars to test out ideas? A worldship in earth orbit, and later ones in deep space, make much more sense to test ideas, and have access to earth resources to make fixes.

I don’t think Paul is suggesting that we build an actual worldship to test out ideas for building a sustainable civilization on Earth- rather, we use it as more of a hypothetical model. It is easy to see parallels between Earth’s biosphere and a multigenerational spacecraft on a centuries-long voyage to the stars- both continuously recycle matter within the biosphere, and only energy flows in an out. On the other hand, a ship that still takes in resources from Earth is not a closed system like the Earth or an isolated multigenerational ship, so it is not as useful a model, even though it is a logical first step toward launching a true Space Ark.

Sending a worldship to the stars would consume vast energy resources for propulsion. The small, devices described in “Existence” makes much more energetic sense, whether you accept min uploading or not.

Okay- I’ll make some absurdly simplistic back-of-the-envelope calculations to figure out how much energy we’ll need. My multigenerational starship weighs 5,000,000 tons and will take 200 years to reach Alpha C. That works about to 7,500 km/sec, or 2.5% C. If my calculations are correct, it will take about 1.3×10^22 joules to accelerate this ship to cruising velocity, or about 13 times our annual global energy consumption. This is in the idealized case where all the input energy ends up as the kinetic energy of the starship.

This for the idealized case where all the energy is converted to the kinetic energy of the starship with perfect efficiency. Real starships will require more energy (probably much more), and if the ship has no means of slowing down other than using its engine, then the ship will require twice the amount I calculated. Perhaps we can use magnetic sails for braking instead.

At first glance, this looks like a big problem, especially to a civilization that gets its energy by burning dead plants. However, aspace faring civilization will have access to vast amounts of energy, both from vast solar cell arrays located near the sun, widespread fusion power, or even more exotic techniques. Don’t fall for the fallacy of the big and costly- just because something is big, costly, and crazy by our standards does not mean it is impossible for a far more advanced civilization. For a solar system wide civilization, launching multigenerational starships may be a big task, but perhaps no bigger than a Saturn V was to us in the 1970′s.

Also, if you are willing to accept a 500 year trip to Alpha C in my starship, then the cruising speed is only 1% C and the energy cost is about 2×10^15 joules, much less than the 2.5% C ship. Play with the numbers to your hearts content- assuming we someday become a solar system wide civilization with, say, about 10^17 watts at our command (equivalent to amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface) or more, we could launch multigenerational starships. This will depend on how quickly our energy usage grows, and how much it matters to us to send out colony ships, but it is potentially feasible. Nor does it require large amounts of near-magical tech like mind uploading- just lots of industrial activity and energy production in deep space. Read The Starflight Handbook for more on this- there’s a very good appendix that discussed the energy requirements of interstellar flight near the back of the book.

Robert Horley September 22, 2012 at 8:20

I haven’t read ’2312′ yet, but I’ve often thought that world ships will evolve from hollowed Asteroids used in semi powered cycler orbits linking most of the planets of the solar system.
Eventually when the technology is mature enough, then they will move off into interstellar space.

Alex Tolley September 22, 2012 at 11:08

A long-duration human mission demands attention to environments and their maintenance that will surely tell us much about preserving Earth’s ecosystems.

Maybe. Earth is dynamic. Ecosystems are constantly changing in response to their climatic optimum. This means that in a worldship, the ecosystem will be constantly trying to change which will require a lot of management to maintain it’s state.

Interestingly, O’Neill suggested that his space colonies could influence earth cities – illustrated in his book “2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future” – what we might now call arcologies. However, arcologies are open systems, so they do not need fully closed system technologies.

I would think that actual worldships will not contain earth ecosystems. (Are they a desire to return to “Eden”?) More likely they will use controlled biology as optimized nanosystems for life support. It is relatively easy to grow algae for air reprocessing. I expect engineered biology to simplify the biology, optimize I/O and remove undesired functions. The ship will be a large machine, rather than a open landscape. If you want to explore open spaces, book the holodeck.

By the time we ever get to build such vessels, most people will live in mega cities. Such cities will be the natural, and desired, habitat of humans. They will be served with food from very efficient farms and factories. Most humans won’t even be able to relate to natural environments and won’t be comfortable in them. Preserved ecosystems will be parks to visit. Everything else will probably be somewhat impoverished, trying to adapt to a warmer world.

Eniac September 22, 2012 at 11:45

@Christopher:

However, aspace faring civilization will have access to vast amounts of energy, both from vast solar cell arrays located near the sun, widespread fusion power, or even more exotic techniques.

Keep in mind, though, that the starship is unlikely to be charged up with electricity. Rather, it will require large amounts of fuel, so we should worry about where we can find the fuel (once we have an idea what that fuel is) rather than how to produce equivalent amounts of energy.

Christopher Phoenix September 22, 2012 at 16:46

@Eniac

Keep in mind, though, that the starship is unlikely to be charged up with electricity. Rather, it will require large amounts of fuel, so we should worry about where we can find the fuel (once we have an idea what that fuel is) rather than how to produce equivalent amounts of energy.

Well, that depends on which starship concept we are talking about. Beamed energy craft- like laser pushed lightsails, particle beam pushed magnetic sails, laser powered rockets and ramjets, etc.- will require us to beam vast amounts of energy into deep space for prolonged periods of time. So, these starships would be charged up by electricity- or rather, by laser light or particle beams produced by beam generator stations back near Sol.

Rockets require fuel, not electricity or laser light, so our problem there is finding the fuel, not producing the energy needed to accelerate the craft. Solar sails, ramjets, and the hypothetical “quantum drive” (which taps into vacuum energy- unlikely, but researchers have studied it seriously) don’t require energy from the launching civilization at all, because they gather it along the way. Maybe arguments against interstellar travel based on energy are a bit too much like a Victorian physicist concluding that sending steam locomotives to the Moon is impossible because we can’t carry enough anthracite coal!!

william September 22, 2012 at 20:18

news:

Dry-run experiments verify key aspect of Sandia nuclear fusion concept September 17, 2012

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-09-dry-run-key-aspect-sandia-nuclear.html

Jeff K September 22, 2012 at 22:14

@ Christopher
“Maybe arguments against interstellar travel based on energy are a bit too much like a Victorian physicist concluding that sending steam locomotives to the Moon is impossible because we can’t carry enough anthracite coal!!”

Too true!

Eniac September 23, 2012 at 13:01

@Christopher: Exactly.

tchernik September 23, 2012 at 15:27

@Alex Tolley

While you present very lucid and rational points. I hope you are wrong about people of the future becoming uncomfortable with nature, and preferring artificial environments to natural ones!

I think there are some reasons to think it would be quite the contrary. While we are not returning to “natural living” en masse anytime soon(we like our modern comforts like internet, reliable, food medicine, hygiene, etc. too much), I perceive there is a strong social interest towards nature appreciation, even now.

For example, the many people that want to include forestry and natural vistas in their immediate surroundings, or that travel into pristine areas just for experiencing the beauty of mostly untouched environments.

We don’t need to fake becoming savages again (as in many science fiction works) in order to still continue enjoying and wanting to have natural-like biotopes near us.

And I also think we have just barely scratched the surface of what would be possible with artificial ecosystems. Unfortunately this is an area where real engineering and experience will really come in force until we have a strong need of it. In particular, when there are actual efforts trying to build settlements outside of Earth, due to sheer size, requirements and complexity of such systems.

Fortunately experience should come even if we don’t want it, as humanity starts building orbital and planetary settlements, where they could start tuning some parameters on their closed environments, and watch the unfolding results. I think things may actually start as you posit, because we should have fully artificial closed environments first (solving the basic needs of recycling water, air and other human needed resources) with as few unknowns as possible.

The knowledge about fully closed artificial ecosystems will eventually include more and more information about introducing living elements in the closed artificial environment, until the relationships between the living and artificial parts become fully understood, and science gives way to artificial ecology engineering.

Even if natural systems are sub-optimal compared to artificial ones for some tasks, there are some compromises that we can make in order to ensure a significant presence of living elements, just for ensuring human beings are in an environment as Earth-like as possible. Humans will very likely want it, and maybe even need it, because we don’t know the effects of living all your life on fully artificial environments (both for the mind and for the body).

In the long term, humanity will learn how to mix artificial and living elements into a close system that can be maintained and be able to work for long periods of time (decades, centuries), starting with smaller efforts around the solar system.

I think we eventually will have closed ecology systems that work and incorporate living and artificial elements in the right way, resulting in environments where humans can live all their lives, for several generations (ratified by practice).

And then’s when things could really get going about the worldship concept.

Astronist September 23, 2012 at 18:12

Paul, I think you’ve omitted the most important corollary of expansion into space, which is that it maintains an open avenue for dynamic industrial and population growth for many centuries into the future. Growth is absolutely fundamental to our civilisation. The trick we need to see, in my view, is to ramp down material growth on Earth at the same time as ramping it up in space. Earth continues to benefit because it is an integral part of a broader Solar System growth economy (and can continue to focus on lower-impact forms of growth such as IT and nanotech). And, as you say, space growth gives us new options for industrial energy supply to Earth. With the starship as the long-term goal, the intermediate goal of a well-populated Solar System is clear, and the direction of our society settled for a long time to come.

Stephen

Paul Gilster September 24, 2012 at 9:08

Well said, Stephen! I agree with you that the growth issue is fundamental.

Alex Tolley September 24, 2012 at 9:48

@tchernik
City bred people are already becoming uncomfortable in the country. Visiting it and appreciating it is one thing, being comfortable staying in in for even a short length of time is getting more difficult. City people are comfortable in parks and other controlled “natural” settings, less so in the real country. For half a century, one has been able to read articles about people never have left their city, and thing experience is going to get more common as cities get larger and shelter an increasing fraction of the population. It may change, but this is the trend.

I suspect any space habitat or worldship is likely to be more like a garden or park if scenery is what you want. Controlled and controllable. But if you can make it virtual, then that is the most mass and space conserving approach, and it doesn’t suffer from rampant biology.

ljk September 24, 2012 at 10:18

Christopher Phoenix said on September 22, 2012 at 16:46:

“Maybe arguments against interstellar travel based on energy are a bit too much like a Victorian physicist concluding that sending steam locomotives to the Moon is impossible because we can’t carry enough anthracite coal!!”

Or launching three men to the Moon using a 900-foot cannon.

http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/julongun.htm

jkittle September 24, 2012 at 14:19

hey can we use this left over u233 to power our first world ship?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/24/us/uranium-233-disposal-proves-a-problem.html?ref=science

I am smiling here…. JUST A FEW BILLION… we could use that to have sent a few more saturnV’s to the moon..

ljk September 25, 2012 at 9:06

Lawless Sustainability: Persephone

By Rachel Armstrong

New technology and innovative solutions for a sustainable future.

Project Persephone is one of a number of projects orchestrated by Icarus Interstellar, and comprises the living interior of a worldship. Persephone brings together international designers to address fundamental design principles necessary to generate the kind of interior that not only supports a colony but can change and adapt to their needs. In other words, from its inception Persephone proposes to be an ecology, rather than a built environment.

Although there are precedents in biosphere design and the colonization of closed environments, Persephone aims to take a ‘bottom-up’ approach to the challenge and work like Nature does, starting with the basic ingredients. Yet Persephone’s ‘living interior’ is more than an academic proposition and serves as a platform through which we can develop prototypes to address some of our greatest current challenges in architecture, design and ecology.

Persephone gives us the opportunity to imagine how we could create ‘sustainable’ buildings within our proliferating megacities – vast urban expanses that house more than ten million people such as, Bejing, New York and New Mexico – to begin to re-think the way we inhabit space and how we use our terrestrial resources.

The problem with sustainability is that it was designed by committee rather than springing from the loins of a mature design movement. Its character has therefore been reactively shaped in response to industrial, technological and political parameters that are simply ‘branded’ as ‘’ecological’ – using the principles of material conservation – where ‘sustainable’ buildings consume less energy, use fewer resources or emit ‘less’ carbon.

So, we continue to tread a path of human development characterised by resource consumption – although we’re attempting to take the slow, rather than fast route, towards environmental poverty.

Indeed, we’re so entrenched in a particular kind of industrial thinking that we’re missing the possible significance of architecture’s role in a much bigger environmental picture – namely, the opportunity to orchestrate the material exchanges that flow through our cities using an ecological paradigm.

Full article here:

http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/lawless-sustainability-persephone/

Allen G. Taylor September 25, 2012 at 18:31

Paul,

NASA DID have a role in database development, but it was not with Lockheed. It was with IBM. IBM provided the database for cataloging and keeping track of the many thousands of part that went into the Saturn/Apollo vehicles. They later commercialized the product as IMS, their first real hierarchical database system.

Paul Gilster September 25, 2012 at 21:35

Allen, thanks for the information. My original source was way off the mark on this one! Good to know about IMS and its roots.

Ron S September 25, 2012 at 21:54

Oh my, I remember IMS very well from my youth. Even then it wasn’t aging well in comparison to the new RDBMS competitors. There was a joke going around in IT circles back then that went like this: “There is no problem too large or so complicated that it can’t be made worse with IMS.” A bit cruel since almost any first-generation complex system is awful in hindsight.

jkittle September 26, 2012 at 10:39

william
Thanks for the update article on Sandia. high energy gain nuclear fusion demonstration in this decade looks very probable now. What follows is inevitable. turns out that we have energy for the next 60 years from fracked oil/gas fields, after that, we are intot he fusion ream there are MANY engineering and even theoretical challenges to get the energy of fusion generated into useful work.

ljk September 27, 2012 at 0:09

Packing for an Interstellar Space Voyage: What to Bring?

by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor

Date: 26 September 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

Contemplating the idea of a manned voyage to another star raises many confounding questions, including one that has been around since the days of the first travelers: What to pack?

To build a closed environment that can sustain astronauts and perhaps their descendants during the long mission is going to require many kinds of technological innovations, some of them needed just to clothe the interstellar travelers, said Karl Aspelund, a professor of textiles, fashion merchandising and design at the University of Rhode Island.

“The longest time anyone has been in space is around 400 days. Now we’re suddenly talking years, decades, possibly even generations,” Aspelund said last week at the 100 Year Starship Symposium in Houston, a conference about interstellar space travel. “That changes everything.”

Full article here:

http://www.space.com/17763-interstellar-spaceflight-clothing-packing.html

Alex Tolley September 27, 2012 at 9:43

The longest time anyone ce, large planet with an atmospherehas been in space is around 400 days

OTOH, humans have been in space several million years. It is just that we have a nice large planet with an atmosphere to protect us. Is that so hard to emulate?

ljk September 27, 2012 at 14:20

Alex Tolley said on September 27, 2012 at 9:43:

“The longest time anyone ce, large planet with an atmospherehas been in space is around 400 days.”

“OTOH, humans have been in space several million years. It is just that we have a nice large planet with an atmosphere to protect us. Is that so hard to emulate?”

So far apparently, yes. Just ask the folks who ran Biosphere II. We have yet to attempt and succeed at really long-term living in environments sealed off or otherwise far away from Earth and humanity without lots of support.

Antarctica does not really count, either.

JoeP October 3, 2012 at 16:19

I bought a used copy of Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop after reading this article (as I never read it).

It was a pretty good novel. It does not read like a novel written in the 1950s.

ljk October 6, 2012 at 0:13

Book Review: Seed of Light, Edmund Cooper (1959)

August 14, 2012

Edmund Cooper’s Seed of Light (1959) is less of a traditional narrative of the voyage of a generation ship as are its fellow generation ship novels of the 40s/50s. The best examples are Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop (1958) and Robert Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky (1941). Seed of Light is more like a piece of pseudo-history interlaced with fragments of narrative of varying effectiveness.

The work is best described as a thematically-linked series of novellas tracking the future development of man in broad strokes à la Brian Aldiss’ Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960).

Unfortunately, Cooper’s original splicing of the generation ship theme onto a Future History template (made popular but Olaf Stapleton and Isaac Asimov among others) is extremely uneven. Some portions are involving while others are plagued by laborious epoch-spanning pseudo-historical lectures.

Because each part is a separate novella (the last two are more closely connected) I’ll rate them separately.

Full review here:

http://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/book-review-seed-of-light-edmund-cooper-1959/

ljk December 23, 2012 at 1:52

A.M. Hein, M. Pak, D. Pütz, C. Bühler, P. Reiss: “World Ships – Architecture & Feasibility Revisited”

by Andreas M. Hein

WORLD SHIPS – ARCHITECTURES & FEASIBILITY REVISITED

JBIS, Vol. 65, pp.119-133, 2012

ANDREAS M. HEIN

1*

, MIKHAIL PAK

2**

, DANIEL PÜTZ

1†

, CHRISTIAN BÜHLER

1‡

AND PHILIPP REISS

1

§

1.

Icarus Interstellar, 2809 Spenard Rd, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, USA.

2.

WARR Interstellar Flight, Technische Universität München, Boltzmannstr. 15, 85748 Garching. Germany.

Email: ahein@icarusinterstellar.org

*

, Mikhail.pak@mytum.de**, dpuetz@icarusinterstellar.org

,cbuehler@icarusinterstellar.org

and preiss@icarusinterstellar.org

A world ship is a concept for manned interstellar flight. It is a huge, self-contained and self-sustained interstellar vehicle. Ittravels at a fraction of a per cent of the speed of light and needs several centuries to reach its target star system. The well-known world ship concept by Alan Bond and Anthony Martin was intended to show its principal feasibility.

However, severalimportant issues haven’t been addressed so far: the relationship between crew size and robustness of knowledge transfer,reliability, and alternative mission architectures. This paper addresses these gaps. Furthermore, it gives an update on target star system choice, and develops possible mission architectures. The derived conclusions are: a large population size leads torobust knowledge transfer and cultural adaptation.

These processes can be improved by new technologies. World shipreliability depends on the availability of an automatic repair system, as in the case of the Daedalus probe. Star systems withhabitable planets are probably further away than systems with enough resources to construct space colonies. Therefore,missions to habitable planets have longer trip times and have a higher risk of mission failure.

On the other hand, the risk of constructing colonies is higher than to establish an initial settlement on a habitable planet. Mission architectures with precursor probes have the potential to significantly reduce trip and colonization risk without being significantly more costlythan architectures without.

In summary world ships remain an interesting concept, although they require a space colony-basedcivilization within our own solar system before becoming feasible.

Keywords:

Manned interstellar flight, world ship, colonization, exoplanets, space colony

http://www.academia.edu/2111006/A.M._Hein_M._Pak_D._Putz_C._Buhler_P._Reiss_World_Ships_-_Architecture_and_Feasibility_Revisited_

ljk December 23, 2012 at 1:58

Will humans continue to evolve during multigenerational space missions?

George Dvorsky

Scientific American has posted an interview and podcast with Portland State University anthropologist Cameron Smith about the ways in which humans might evolve during extended missions in space. Given the intense timeframes involved, Smith speculates about the various ways in which Darwinian pressures will continue to shape human evolution. Just because we’re in space, he argues, doesn’t mean evolution has stopped. But while Smith is right about our need to adapt to space, his vision of how it will come about is utterly wrong — and here’s why.

Full article here:

http://io9.com/5970140/will-humans-continue-to-evolve-during-multigenerational-space-missions

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