Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Homesteading to the Stars

Just taken out a trial subscription to 'Analog Science Fiction & Fact' magazine on the Kindle store - here in the UK it is £1.99 a month which I think is an excellent price. I do think it is great that we can get sci-fi short story magazines on the Kindle store and would love to see some stats on whether subscriber numbers are up because of it...

Photo courtesy of the NASA Ames Research Centre

Anyway back to the magazine. I haven't read any of the short stories yet, but was immediately drawn to the 'fact' part of the magazine, in this case a single article by Arlan Andrews Snr entitled 'Homesteading to the Stars: Colony vs Crew'. This is a fascinating look at an some of the design & planning aspects of a multi-generational colony or 'ark' ship to another star system. The article doesn't look at the physics or other technical details of how the ships might work but more about the cultural, economic and sociological factors. The author suggests that a group of hollowed out asteroids (either natural or artifical) travel together. This provides multiple redundancies in case one suffers an accident, but allows different asteroid-ships to have different specialities and could also have different habitats and weather systems so people from one ship could vacation on another ship. A number of other points were:

  • The colony ships would maintain communication links with Earth system for messages, entertainment, sharing science knowledge etc. 
  • The colonists could work on research projects and other activities that would improve scientific knowledge and provide value en-route to help payback the costs of the ship launch etc.
  • The colonists would work on a large project that would take a significant proportion of the voyage - creation of a world-let that would form a home for them to move to when it was ready and as a backup in case the colony world in the new star system turns out to be unsuitable. Most importantly though it would provide colonists with a common purpose, a raison d'etre, a focus, something to do to keep them busy etc.
There's lots more in the 4,000 word article - I strongly recommend buying the magazine and reading the article. I'd pay the £1.99 subscription each month just for 1 article like this one.

I'll be revisiting the topic of space colonies and ark ships in the near future as I'm very interested in this, both the science fiction and the - somewhat speculative - science fact.