Building a Future

Earth has been the cradle for life as we know it for at least 3.5 billion years. Humanity as a species has existed for less than 200 thousand years. Civilization was born about 12,000 years ago. In all this time we have lived in the cradle we were born into. No human has been more than 260,000 miles from Earth or been away from it for more than a year and a half.  We have thrived on Earth up to this point adapting our environment to support a population far larger than any other species of a comparable size and complexity. This will not continue for much longer. We have tapped almost all of the easily available resources on the planet. This is not to say that there are not a massive amount of resources that are yet to be tapped but it does mean those resources will become increasingly more expensive at a faster rate. I do not believe the end is near but it is beginning to become clear to most everyone that we are starting to outgrow our home.

It is time we commit ourselves to leaving the cradle we were born into or it may someday become our casket. That is not to say I ascribe to the worries about an extinction event. Though it is possible that some unforeseen disaster could blot out all of humanity the reality is that humanity right now would likely the survive the asteroid impact that happened 65 million years ago. What is more sure is that if we chose not to move to space there are only two possibilities I see. Either we continue to expand to the point where the Earth cannot support us or we limit ourselves and eventually smothering ourselves to death. In any case the only insurance of long term survival of humanity is in space.

I am doing this blog out of the passionate belief that humanities future is in space. I believe eventually either this will become evident to most people or the benefits of living in space will draw people to live in space. In a hundred years I believe more than 1 percent of the entire human population will reside off Earth. In two hundred years I believe a majority of humanity will live in space. Eventually Earth itself may become a vague memory of a time when we restricted ourselves to the surface of a single planet.

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2 comments

  1. alsanbalaur · July 17, 2015

    Hate to be the nag here, but you made one glaring error – the distance humans have sojourned from Earth. Our furthest expeditions have been to Luna which ranges from 225,622 mi at perigee to 252,088 mi at apogee. Even in metric, this is 363,104 km to 405,696 km, not the 678,000 miles you list.

    Other than that, yes we are LONG overdue moving from the cradle to, well, if not the big boy bed, at least a larger crib. We have the technologies necessary to create human habitations that could house hundreds, if not thousands of full time residents. What we lack, is the will to spend the money to do so.

    It would not take long, from today’s technology levels, through research, to be able to create habitats that could house tens of thousands, maybe even millions. This would have us graduate up from infants to toddlers. Who knows, someday we may even be allowed at the big people table during intergalactic Thanksgiving.

    OK, I think I’ve stretched that metaphor to the breaking point, moving on.

    As you pointed out in other conversations, one thing we need to ignore is the thought that vast tracts of any such orbital habitat needs to be open park land. I do still think SOME of it should be, just because we all find parks relaxing and rejuvenating. It makes the most sense, to me, to have a layer cake toroid habitat – lowest levels being utility and docking areas. (Imagine the launch energy from the centrifugal force alone!) Then factory and shop spaces that work better with gravity, or even high gravity, then living and low impact work spaces in a 0.8 to 1.2 G zone, then as gravity works it’s way down, hospitals, geriatric living spaces, low grav manufacturing and labs, and then, “open” spaces. Well, some “open” space could be on ANY deck, given an elevated ceiling, with appropriate LED or LCD “sky” and plants.

    Hydroponic farms would work at all levels, creating zones that would be the same as terrestrial vertical farms. These could, to some extent, connect to the “open” areas, so the plants filtering, and perfuming the air, would enhance the outdoor feel. These open areas don’t need to be large, but we do need to remember that geographically these habitats will be very small, at least at first. Travel to other habitats would start out scarce, travel to a planet probably even more so, along the level of emigrating to North American from Europe in Colonial times. Recreational outlets WILL be needed, and these open areas would be essential for that.

    It is going to take some doing, but we need to stop thinking 2 dimensional. We think in terms of expansion as “out into the frontier/prairie where if your city needed to grow, you spread it wider out.Expansion needs to translate now to UP, and not just the “up” of a skyscraper. We also need to think in terms of down. We can, in many parts of the world, expand our reach into the bedrock. Kansas has a virtual city of excavated caverns. Currently they are almost unused. This could happen to many dozens of layers downward, perhaps up to a mile underground. Properly managed, there could also be dedicated tunnels for high speed passenger and separate freight rail lines. There would be space for all sorts of vertical farms, stadiums for events, homes, shops, storage, whatever is needed.

    If we then take that stacked mentality to space, habitats would be able to make a LOT more sense, and a lot better use of the space they construct.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. spacecolonist · July 17, 2015

    Thank you for catching my mistake, I have changed it to a more accurate round number. I am not sure where I got the original number. In your reply you have touched on many of the topics I hope to explore in later posts. It is so good to see so many of my own ideas echoed back to me. Part of the reason I chose the picture from ‘2001’ was that it was one of the best fits of what I believe will be the shape of orbital habitats. I hope to hear more from you in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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