May 14, 2019

For the first time, I am inspired by space propaganda... Jeff Bezos inspires outright hilarity.

You can watch the whole thing, but I'm jumping to the part with the ludicrous illustrations:



Bezos on a big empty stage — with his slow talking and long pauses and assurances that accommodations in a tube in space will be like a beautiful city from which you and your million fellow citizens can take day trips to earth — is positivity eerie. If the 2 1/2 minutes I've clipped out above were a scene in a movie, everyone in the audience would know that tube would turn into some hellscape.

At 16:11, Bezos says "These are really pleasant places to live." He leans on the "really," as if an acting coach tried to teach him how to sound encouraging and sincere... and failed horridly. Or... failed just right. I'm imagining a hero acting coach trying to save us from the hellscape. All normal humans will hear that "really" and instinctively know it's a con.

This is what we see on screen when he says that:



"They might pick historical cities and mimic them in some way. There will be whole new kinds of architecture. These are ideal climates. These are shirt-sleeve climates. This is Maui on its best day, all year long, no rain, no storms, no earthquakes. What does the architecture even look like when it no longer has its primary purpose of shelter? We'll find out. But these are beautiful. People are going to want to live here."

My favorite part of that is "We'll find out" — especially paired with "People are going to want to live here." Are they going to "want to live here" after they "find out" what architecture even looks like when it no longer has its primary purpose of shelter? We'll find out!

117 comments:

zipity said...


When is the part where the Alien bursts out of Bezos's chest....?

Unknown said...

One too many Star Trek episodes, methinks.

rehajm said...

Farts would easily destroy that place, too.

Char Char Binks said...

It looks good to me. I'll move there.

Michael K said...

I think it is modeled after5 his penis. That's why he was texting it around.

Kay said...

If the 2 1/2 minutes I've clipped out above were a scene in a movie, everyone in the audience would know that tube would turn into some hellscape.


And that movie would be Elysium (2013).

bleh said...

Where are the resources in space? I get that these structures could possibly meet their energy needs via solar cells or whatever. What about water?

Ken B said...

Will there be an Althouse Ringworld portal?

Nonapod said...

There's a goofy boyish wonderment to this, which makes sense since Bezos has been fantasing about this since he was a little kid. He wants to move the vast majority of people off world and leave the Earth iself as a giant park which humans would visit like people vist Yellowstone Park now.

bleh said...

Either earth or the space colonies would become like gated communities for the rich. My guess is the colonies would be used to warehouse the poor and working class, under close supervision, while earth would belong to the rich.

Ken B said...

I like it, it's ambitious but modest. Ambitious compared to World War II; modest, compared to the Green New Deal.

Susan said...

He sure gives an "In space no one can hear you scream." vibe.

Ken B said...

So, a million people each. We'll still have Earth, so we probably won’t need more than four or five thousand of the things.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think it is modeled after his penis. That's why he was texting it around."

Yes, and that can help you visualize who the people are who will want to be set up in that awful space station.

The "shirt-sleeve" climate will be stocked with unattractive men in shirts printed with images of sexually attractive females — like this.

Bay Area Guy said...

Option 1: Send rich, mostly white, professional class with $, access and know-how on spaceships to colonize intergalactic societies, leaving the scum and riffraff on earth to further pollute it and destroy its natural resources.

Option 2: Send all leftists on fleet of spaceships - free of charge! - to explore any and all planets, while we stay here.

Hmmm.

rehajm said...

That structure in the sky looks like the perfect spot for an X wing trench run. Hopefully they made the exhaust ports on that thing significantly smaller than a womp rat.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

It's a rather ingenious solution to the wealth inequality problem. Sell tickets to billionaires and put them on a space ship.

gspencer said...

I spotted the City of Sanchez Valley. It's a bedroom community.

Nonapod said...

What about water?

A fair amount of it could be reclaimed from human waste. I presume the rest would have to come from elsewhere. It could be hauled up from Earth, but it might be easier to extract it from minerals found in asteroids. Comets are basically giant dirty balls of ice. There may be frozen water in lunar regolith too. There's loads of water in the Solar System.

robother said...

At a tender age, Bezos became fascinated with the expression "totally tubular." Its his "redbud."

Left Bank of the Charles said...

"unattractive men in shirts" - And they'll be wearing shorts!

Balfegor said...

It's all fun and games until the space colonies declare independence and drop a colony on Australia.

tds said...

If they get the climate right, they could be able to replicate San Francisco ... with all the homeless and turds on the streets

PM said...

Rare earth metal-mining is the long game for the moon. And that means housing miners. The rest is romantic blather. That's why the Chinese chose to land on the dark side of the moon, which is more mountainous and likely more mineral rich than the flatter, dusty Neil Armstrong side.

PM said...

And there's water on the moon.

bagoh20 said...

A Jihadi's dream target.

Would we be allowed to control who gets in, or is it open borders?

People get ready
There's a train a-coming
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board

All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
You don't need no ticket
You just thank the Lord

So people get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
Coast to coast

Faith is the key
Open the doors and board 'em
There's hope for all
Among those who loved the most...

Chris Lopes said...

"Where are the resources in space? I get that these structures could possibly meet their energy needs via solar cells or whatever. What about water?"
It's called the Moon and the Asteroid Belt for starters. Once you've left Earth's gravity well, the rest of the solar system is your oyster.



5/14/19, 2:02 PM

readering said...

Is this before or after Thanos destroys half the population?

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

how cute! Srasburg-Under-Glass !!

If you shake it, does snow swirl around inside?

Balfegor said...

On a more serious note, I am curious whether anyone has run the calculations for the stresses that you would experience on an O'Neill cylinder, due to having to constantly re-align it to point at the sun. Absent re-alignment, I think the gyroscopic effects of rotation would leave it pointing in a constant direction, i.e. not consistently oriented towards the sun. I've read that the favoured solution is to have two cylinders counter-rotating, so that you could slow one down and speed one up incrementally to re-orient (in the plane defined by the two cylinders, that is). However, it also seems to me that in order to accomplish that, you would need to keep the two cylinders spaced consistently, such that there would be incredible compression/tensile stresses on whatever superstructure is keeping them apart. I haven't watched Bezos's video all the way through, but it seems like possibly his modified O'Neill design has the agricultural ring (the small, narrow one) counterrotating against the main cylinder. I suppose that might work, but wouldn't that just create massive shear stress on the axis joining the agricultural ring to the main cylinder? My last engineering and physics classes were decades ago, so I can't remember how all this works, but it strikes me that there's a lot of materials science advances required before such a space colony could be realised. I could just be misunderstanding how gyroscopes work, though, since rotational dynamics was never my strong suit (a lot of it is counterintuitive to me).

Secondly, I'm also curious whether anyone has run the numbers on the thermodynamics of such a system. It's going to be in sunlight most of the time, so there's going to be energy pouring into the colony -- how are you going to maintain a stable, habitable equilibrium in the colony? Wouldn't you worry about either losing too much energy (colony freezes) or retaining too much (colony boils)?

Does Bezos address these issues?

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

This is where they are sending the deplorables to die.

Ann Althouse said...

"What about water?"

Well, you see right there in the video that a river runs through it.

But there is no rain.

I presume the rivers are like the canals at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

narciso said...

Reminds me of bloenkampts elysium a terrible follow up to his first film

bleh said...

So, to get our resources in space including water, we're going to plunder the moon. Are there no consequences to that?

Ann Althouse said...

"On a more serious note, I am curious whether anyone has run the calculations for the stresses..."

Thanks for that discussion.

Of course, when I read those words, I thought, yes, Bezos is not acknowledging the stress on the human mind. We are evolved to live on earth, and it is already stressful to live in an environment that is so different from what our brains evolved to function in. To go somewhere entirely different, knowing that everything that's meant to seem earthly is just — to use Bezos's word — mimickry... that is so careless!

And he wants a million people in each tube? What percentage of them will be mentally healthy?

I'm picturing rebellion and sabotage, terrorism and crazy ideas of all kinds.

Martin said...

People won't want to live their when they have to pay the fully allocated cost of building and operating their living unit plus their share of common space.

$Trillions doesn't touch the cost of that thing--think $Quadrillions. We're not all worth $80Bn, Jeff.

And then, a few meteor showers every year. It's only a matter of time...

Radiation shielding?

I get solar power and near-100% recycling, but, still.

Anyway, far more efficient to make a rotating disk, rather than a hoop. Much more enclosed space per unit of surface area and per ton of materials, and you get the gravity differences naturally with different distances from the center.

Rob said...

We freak out when a Chernobyl causes several dozen deaths and when an airplane accident causes several hundred. Are we prepared to have structures whose failure causes a million deaths?

EDH said...

Why floating in space? Seems vulnerable and expensive.

Why not a living space built on or carved out of a planet, moon or jet propelled asteroid?

Paul Mac said...

"Does Bezos address these issues?"

Bezos addresses them by sharing this long-term vision which is snipped out of context as the hope, dream for the far future in context of what they are doing now, the first baby steps to get there, reliable, reusable access to space, permanent settlement on the moon.

He is contrasting this to major settlement on Mars as a better alternative for reasons he shares briefly. Both are not something for soon and maybe won't look like he suggests when we get there but are in the realm of feasibility with hard science although plenty of practical details may greatly affect the outcome, including particularly whether we start heading this direction.

Mostly he focuses on the near term and leaves the path from next steps to O'Neill habitats to lots of human potential and choice, do we have the materials or logistics for that now, heck no. What him and Musk are doing is an attempt to make it possible some time in the future, to build the first tools for it. And more importantly to get a popular view of the future that isn't dystopian tripe that futurism in the popular media has been saddled with particularly since the cynical boomer generation started projecting their fears & insecurities in shouts and tantrums over all the rest of us in the late 60s.

It is fascinating how that has continued endlessly even as the world has become a better and better place and most of their dire predictions about population, food, education, prosperity, even the environment and climate have been shown to be utter hogwash again and again.

We probably won't end up with what he suggests here but I'd sure as heck rather head in that direction than whatever future most folks in Madison, WI, even Althouse more open-minded than most, have in mind for future generations.

Nonapod said...

Secondly, I'm also curious whether anyone has run the numbers on the thermodynamics of such a system. It's going to be in sunlight most of the time, so there's going to be energy pouring into the colony -- how are you going to maintain a stable, habitable equilibrium in the colony? Wouldn't you worry about either losing too much energy (colony freezes) or retaining too much (colony boils)?

I assume by the time such spaceborne megastructures are remotely feasible we will have achieved stable Q > 10 fusion. I guess fusion reactors could supplement the solar arrays and offer a lot of energy that could be used for heating and cooling.


Henry said...

Oh how I wish an enterprising hacker, or a junior designer about the leave the country, had substituted Thomas Kincaid's View of Florence from the Biergarten with the outer space panel from The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Henry said...

Secondly, I'm also curious whether anyone has run the numbers on the thermodynamics of such a system....

Compared to the human element, this seems like an "easy" problem to solve. Hand that one over to the engineers.

Henry said...

Balfegor said...
On a more serious note, I am curious whether anyone has run the calculations for the stresses that you would experience on an O'Neill cylinder, due to having to constantly re-align it to point at the sun.

“Which way is the shaft going?” the EWO asked.

“The shaft will go to the left,” the pilot answered.

“It’s gonna be a wide shaft,” the EWO noted.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

isnt this just a giant petri dish floating in space?

how soon before the inhabitants die in their own over-population/excrement/pollution?
what is the ratio of air/space/resources/etc needed to fully absorb
the impact of a person and supporting infrastructure

Balfegor said...

Re: Paul Mac:

Mostly he focuses on the near term and leaves the path from next steps to O'Neill habitats to lots of human potential and choice, do we have the materials or logistics for that now, heck no.

Given the vulnerabilities of O'Neill habitats (and, of course, the ever present threat that spacenoid independence activists will hijack a colony and crash it into the Earth), I think the better solution is really to embed a series of smaller rotating rings underground in the moon or Mars. Just tilt them so the combination of the centrifugal acceleration + natural gravity adds up to a respectably Earth-like gravity (at least enough gravity that bones develop normally). You'll have to worry about tectonics, but those risks seem a lot more manageable than the risks you have to deal with out in open space, and you wouldn't need quite as many advances in materials technology.

You'd still have to deal with all the psychological stresses of being transplanted from Earth into space, as Althouse notes. But we're just people whose souls are trapped by Earth's gravity so who's to say?

Anyhow, obviously I'm a lot more interested in space colonies than Althouse or the other naysayers are, but the path from here to there seems really long. I'm all in favour of starting the process, especially if a pair of billionaires are footing the bill, but this is one of those projects that is going to require immense resources -- a lot more than just putting a couple men on the moon. Or Mars or whatever.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Recently I've been paraphrasing the first Blade Runner movie. "Start a whole new life ... on the Off World Colonies!" As many have noted: if it's so great, why do they have to keep up the constant advertising?

Henry said...

I hope at least one of these tubes is designed for somber people that prefer cold, dark climates.

I want my tube to look like this.

MikeD said...

For all the genius's on this thread, the space habitat's are based on Gerard O"Neill's work. Most easily accessible to the layman in his book "High Frontier". SMOD encourages such Luddite thinking as it's cognizant that Moon/Mars are as easily destroyed as Earth is.

born01930 said...

Think they will have marmots up there?

Henry said...

One science fiction novel I read back in the day took as it's premise the idea that an orbiting space colony secedes from the earth and forms its own nation. The kicker is that the space station has nuclear weapons and immediately becomes a world power.

Leland said...

For cooling, you need radiator arrays pointed into the shaded areas of the vehicle. That's the only way to cool. You can see the radiators on the ISS, they are perpendicular to the Solar Arrays.

For ISS, they use NH4 as a medium to transfer heat from inside the vehicle through the radiators. A problem is when the radiators leak, like from a micrometeorite strike, the NH4 flash evaporates making it difficult to find the leak and repair. I think it has happened twice on ISS with one of those times happening during initial construction. Then again, if you try searching ISS ammonia leak, you'll see the problems if a leak were to occur internally (it hasn't, but it could).

FWBuff said...

My favorite scene was the old-fashioned red and white barn with a green John Deere tractor in front of it. If he is that out-of-touch with modern agriculture on earth, how can we take seriously his plan to feed a million people with 1920's agricultural models in a space tube?

Nonapod said...

Yeah, Sci-Fi and Anime is rife with stories about human space colonies that rebel against mother Earth. It's a well worn trope. Everything from Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, to Gundam, and Exosquad and The Expanse.

Arashi said...

Hm, so the movie Elyseum comes to mind.

That said, we should be reaching out to colonize space. I wish I could find a link to Ray Bradbury's essay, "Tranqulity Base to Stonehenge", as it is aprapro to the discussion.

Balfegor said...

Re: Henry:

One science fiction novel I read back in the day took as it's premise the idea that an orbiting space colony secedes from the earth and forms its own nation. The kicker is that the space station has nuclear weapons and immediately becomes a world power.

Space colonies have a massive advantage in that they can just drop stuff from orbit down onto the Earth, whereas it will cost a lot of energy to move anything from Earth up into orbit. On the other hand, space colonies are incredibly vulnerable to a sufficiently ruthless opponent. They're basically just a bunch of tin cans orbiting in space.

There's really no defensible frontier between a space colony and Earth. The closest you can come is to situate your population in colonies at the Lagrange point on the dark side of the moon, with total control over lunar orbit and the two Trojan Lagrange points on either side of the moon. But if the space colonists have that, then all Earth is under immediate threat, because the colonists can just drop rocks on them (or nukes, I suppose. Or space colonies).

tcrosse said...

Let's call it Ankh-Morpork.

Balfegor said...

re: tcrosse:

Let's call it Ankh-Morpork.

How about Zeon? Imagine Bezos in 30 years . . . he kind of looks like Degwin Zabi doesn't he?

Bay Area Guy said...

Space exploration to properly colonize planets might take decades or even centuries of intergalactic travel.

But humans only live to 80.

So, there's gotta be some intergalactic re-population program, to perpetuate the scientific endeavors.

I know, I know, Yes, we're gonna have female cosmonauts and female engineers and all that good gender-equity and equality stuff, but it might be wise - purely scientifically speaking -- to have a huge cohort of hot babes to help, you know, perpetuate the species.......

JohnAnnArbor said...

It's not a new idea. That's from 1952, pre-satellite.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

we're not going unless they offer free over-nite shipping

narciso said...

The expanse had a very gritty view of how these outer provinces operate.

MikeR said...

Been talking about this since I was a kid. We never had good enough access to space to try it. SpaceX and co. may change that.
There's a lot of wealth out there; most of the resources in the solar system are out there. One asteroid can contain trillions of dollars worth of rare metals.

buwaya said...

If anyone springs for a ticket for me, unlikely as it is, I am there.

#1 in line, for orbit, or Mars, or the stars.

One of my kids keeps trying to sell me a ticket to orbit - I think it is well-meant, but even so. But, alas, even this is out of my reach, and out of reach of their inheritance, more to the point.

Goodbye wife and children (and, very likely, grandchildren). There are ways to die and ways to die, and that one is glorious.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Morpork. ??

that may not be appealing to muslims.
For that, you may need the Sharia-Compliant Halal-9000 series computer.

Dave: "Open the pod-bay doors, Halal"
"I's sorry Dave, not with that pulled-pork sandwich"

narciso said...

Sorry outer planets alliance:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.techtimes.com/amp/articles/124475/20160115/explaining-all-of-the-factions-in-syfys-the-expanse.htm

Scott M said...

Passe' territory for those of us that have been walking through these structures for decades, if only in our imaginations :)

wild chicken said...

I don't remember much about Elysium but the shot of it up floating in the daytime sky was creepy AF.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

"100% recycling" Matter, maybe. Entropy, likely not.

Unknown said...

Maybe he try to create jobs in Detroit or Baltimore or do something about the homeless problem in SF, LA, or Seattle.

mandrewa said...

It's a glorious vision. I fear it's not actually possible. There may be some math problems where the economics and the thermodynamics of these colonies don't add up. But I hope it's possible. Because I fear that this is the only hope the human species has.

Otherwise we are like the Moties in "The Mote in God's Eye". It will be world war after world war until we are all dead. There are all these wonderful qualities that human beings possess (we are a good thing in the universe!) but we are also violent and delusional.

rehajm said...

Maybe he try to create jobs in Detroit or Baltimore or do something about the homeless problem in SF, LA, or Seattle.

Hell. Figure out how to clean up the human poop from those places first, Jeff. Then we can talk...

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Unknown said...
Maybe he try to create jobs in Detroit or Baltimore or do something about the homeless problem in SF, LA, or Seattle.


ok-- now that's just crazy talk.

just kidding.
Utopia, like charity, begins at home

Kevin said...

Where will the water come from?

Amazon Prime.

buwaya said...

"Hell. Figure out how to clean up the human poop from those places first, Jeff. Then we can talk..."

Do not let the troubles of the 5% limit the reach of the other 5%

Even that last, trailing edge of humanity is affected, to some degree, by its leading edge.

Plus Ultra

buwaya said...

"Utopia, like charity, begins at home"

It begins about as far, or as high, from "home" as you can manage.

Fernandistein said...

What about water?

Astronomers have known for decades that there is a lot of water in space to garner.

buwaya said...

The closest I have been to outer space is in various aerospace factories.
They are each in their own way a sort of religious shrine.
That cutting edge of humanity, that's the sort of place where it is cutting away at the constraints on us all, cutting us free from the Earth.

Catholic as I am, that's the sort of heresy that can tempt me. The Vatican has missed the boat. There should be an order devoted to the worship of Gods larger creation. Or an order of St. Liebowitz.

The one place that comes closest to an actual living cathedral of this religion is Elon Musk's rocket factory in Hawthorne. Everything is there, under one very large roof, along with the congregation. When there I felt that I should be on my knees. I resisted the temptation.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

technology wont find the answer to the sin indwelling the occupants of this
man-made marvel.

buwaya said...

We will never find the answer to sin.
Just deal with it as best we can, while we have to.
In the meantime, go forth and multiply.

EDH said...

At this point is there any doubt Bezos wants to be S.R. Hadden from Contact?

"Wanna take a ride?"

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

I'm picturing rebellion and sabotage, terrorism and crazy ideas of all kinds.

inside a state-of-the-art tube in space.

maybe cleaning the poop off the streets is a good place to start after all.

Arashi said...

Nah, leave the poop and the deplorables behind and move to your new utopia in space.

It will work - just like generating all of the country's electic power from wind and solar will.

buwaya said...

"maybe cleaning the poop off the streets is a good place to start after all."

We will have mutants for that.

gpm said...

My money's on Harsh Mistress as Heinlein’s best TANSTAAFL, folks!

buwaya said...

"Nah, leave the poop and the deplorables behind and move to your new utopia in space."

Its not going to be a utopia. It will be enormously difficult and dangerous, and will probably fail again and again, and ruin people over and over.

As did the European conquest of the world.

And yet it must be done.

Rabel said...

Gravity - Destroyer of Dreams.

buwaya said...

"Gravity - Destroyer of Dreams."

Gravity - The engineers ancient and honorable opponent for thousands of years.

Florence said...

Am I the only person who would truly miss the occasional rain shower?

Fen said...

But humans only live to 80. So, there's gotta be some intergalactic re-population program, to perpetuate the scientific endeavors

I think that's the limiting factor. No really, all you engineers stop laughing for second and listen. Look at how much society has changed since WW2. And notice how, once tech started changing the culture, how much quicker it changed each generation. Quicker and quicker, gaining more momentum. Remember the line from Interstellar when the Grandfather says in the pre-blight world it was like a new thing or idea was being invented everyday?

How do we set up generational endeavors when we can't expect our grandkids to uphold the standards and goals of our of own generation? I think in 4-5 generations removed they will have forgotten how to repair the recycling systems and CO2 filters. In 6-7 they will be worshipping the communications orb tower as an ancient artifact left by He Who Promised To Return.

Anne McCaffrey touched on this in her Pern novels. Our heroes quest to find stores of the magical fire that kills the Thread Parasite. They call it Agenotree... AgNO3

Fen said...

"...phonetic reference to HNO3, i.e. nitric acid, although I actually thought that it was a reference to silver nitrate, AgNO3, so it doesn't always work that successfully." - wiki

See, even I messed that up, and it was only a 20 year old memory :)

buwaya said...

"Am I the only person who would truly miss the occasional rain shower?"

Why couldn't you have a rain shower?
These things could be big enough to have their own weather.

The other advantage of an artificial habitat is that the human range can be independent of habitable planets. What if, for instance, the stars and planets at Alpha Centauri do not offer a usable environment for a human settlement.

PresbyPoet said...

We wasted 50 years. Orion (the first one) should be cruzing the solar system. At 1g acceleration we could chase down that interstellar "asteroid". Visit Pluto anytime. Try calculating how fast you go if you accelerate at 1g (32ft per second per second)for a year.

The one thing I appreciate about Obama: He didn't care about space, so he let private business take over. If we depend on the federal gov to get to mars, it will not happen. But Mars is only the start. What is happening now reminds me of several Heinlein stories.

It would be a shame if we repeated the dinos error in not building an anti asteroid defense. We don't know when the Oort cloud will send a visitor to the sun that intersects our orbit.

If Swift/Tuttle's orbit shifts a few days to intersect the earth's orbit on the "right" time on August 14th, it ends the human race. We think we are sure of its orbit, yet we do not know what unknown unknowns orbit out in the Kuiper belt that might shift its ETA.

The asteroid belt contains more resources than the earth. Many rare metals are more abundant. If we do not go,it would be a shame. It would be like the Chinese emperor who junked their ocean going fleet, and never discovered California.

Fen said...

"Upon its 1992 rediscovery, the comet's date of perihelion passage was off from the then-current prediction by 17 days. It was then noticed that if its next perihelion passage (July 11, 2126) was also off by another 15 days (July 26), the comet would pass perilously close to Earth or the Moon on August 14, 2126"

Odd that the Marxists haven't abandoned Climate Doom to seize on this.

mandrewa said...

Possibly there is more water (locked up in the rocks) on the asteroids than we realize.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wllkJ2lazaI
aka "New study confirms the origin of water on earth: asteroids"


The rocket equation, delta-v = exhaust.velocity x natural.log(initial.mass/wet.mass), may pose a problem for large habitable space structures.

Let's assume we have a large space colony, and not worry about how much it costs to build. That's a one-time effort and we can do anything like this one time. The question is what does it take to keep such a thing running?

Well it's sure to demand a certain amount of mass per year. How much mass depends upon on how good the colony is at recycling, but currently the level of recycling required seems far beyond our capabilities. If you start looking into recycling I think we quickly establish that this depends upon knowing how to do it and also the cost of energy.

Unless the energy is very, very cheap recycling at the level required isn't going to be possible and therefore the colony would fail. Fortunately we have this huge thermonuclear reactor in the sky that we call the sun that is pouring out massive amounts of energy all the time and will continue to do so for another 5 billion years.

And fortunately that energy density of solar energy in space is far greater than on the surface of the earth, and fortunately we don't have to worry much about gravity so the solar cells can be quite flimsy. So just maybe it wouldn't cost an unreasonable amount to build very large solar energy collectors. So it's not obviously the case that energy is so expensive in space that you can't run a space colony.

So energy has to be very cheap, but we also know that mass is going to be expensive. In fact much more expensive than mass is on earth.

Part of the reason for that is the rocket equation. The only way to move something around in space is by throwing out propellant. This is true even for solar electric propulsion. And the propellant that is thrown out is permanently lost. It cannot be recovered.

So in order to get mass to the space colony, a rather significant amount of mass has to be expended.

So this is one of the fundamental barriers to keeping a space colony running. How much new mass is routinely needed to keep the colony going, and how much mass has to be expended to get the mass that is needed.

Phil 314 said...

Wouldn’t it be easier to have a network of super computers create a virtual reality that we’re all plugged into. The system would provide basic nutrients and waste disposal while our brains would think we’re a well functioning cool world. No space issues and could withstand some serious climate change.

tim maguire said...

HIs spaceports look nice, but I'd never be comfortable there. The sky is scary and I'd never be able to forget that something could break at any moment and we'd all float away.

Mitch Sondreaal said...

It sure looks a lot like 1970's NASA ideas.
https://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/70sArtHiRes/70sArt/Torus_Cutaway_AC75-1086-1_900.jpg

Susan said...

It doesn't take more than a generation to lose formerly critical skills. Kids no longer read or write cursive, tell time on an analog clock, drive a manual transmission or know how to cook or sew. They can't change a tire never mind rebuild a carburetor or fix a toilet.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Mr. Pants worked with Bezos at another period in his career and says he's a straight-up Bond villain.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

leave the Earth iself as a giant park which humans would visit like people vist Yellowstone Park now

Like those obscene biosphere doggie parks for spoiled Amazonians only while homeless people sit on the street in the rain.

The Godfather said...

How much freedom do you think they'd allow you if you lived in one one those cylinders? They'd control your food, your water, your air. Poop on the sidwalk? They'll tell you when and where you can poop, and you'll say YES SIR!

JML said...

I'm surprised that little shop wasn't a Starbucks.

Narr said...

Arthur C. Clarke, Rendezvous with Rama.

Narr
Just got here! Didn't look at comments, I swear.

Balfegor said...

Re: TheGodfather

How much freedom do you think they'd allow you if you lived in one one those cylinders? They'd control your food, your water, your air. Poop on the sidwalk? They'll tell you when and where you can poop, and you'll say YES SIR!

Yeah, true enough. And the corollary is that if they're run like San Francisco, everyone will die. It's survivable when public infrastructure (and sanitation) breaks down in a terrestrial city. Less survivable on a space colony, where everything has to work right just to keep you alive. Here's hoping the future looks more like Tokyo and less like Seattle.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Blogger Mitch Sondreaal said...
It sure looks a lot like 1970's NASA ideas."

Bezos was born in '64 and was fascinated by science fiction and space exploration as a teen (as I was).
The 70s idea of space colonization can best be thought of as post-Apollo fantasies. We'd been to the moon, what was next? Von Braun pushed for his rotating bicycle-wheel space session. Nixon is supposed to have blanched when he was given the estimated cost. Result: the space shuttle, which never performed at the launch rates and cost that was promised, and, as Feynman predicted, we lost about 1 crew & vehicle very 100 missions.
Space is really, really hard, especially manned missions. At one time space aficianados pointed to the decreased cost per passenger mile over time of commercial aircraft to show how cheap space travel would become.
They don't do that anymore.
You know why spacex lands its rockets on barges in the middle of the ocean? The FAA would never give them permission to land or descend a robotic rocket anywhere near a populated area.
How many crew, passenger, and vehicles lost will it take to bankrupt Bezos (or Musk)?
The technology to launch tens or hundreds of thousands people to low earth orbit and return them safely to earth is not even on the horizon.

Lewis Wetzel said...

The technology to launch rockets into space began, in every case, with technology to launch deliver a warhead on a ballistic missile. The Germans, the Russian, the Americans, same thing.
With considerable expense and effort, that technology can be used to launch satellites, interplanetary probes, and even people into space. It's still ballistic missile technology, designed to deliver a few hundred pounds or a few tons outside the atmosphere, with a parabolic flight path that returns to earth a short time later, all of the flight taking place within a few tens or hundreds of seconds. Rockets are not a "wagon train to the stars."

glam1931 said...

You know why spacex lands its rockets on barges in the middle of the ocean? The FAA would never give them permission to land or descend a robotic rocket anywhere near a populated area.

Nonsense. SpaceX lands the large heavy booster in the Atlantic because it would take too much fuel to get back uprange. Both side boosters land back at Cape Canaveral, which is surrounded by 24 small cities and towns. They just did this a few weeks ago in April.

Lewis Wetzel said...

n 2011, the USAF published the Final Environmental Assessment, Falcon 9 and Falcon 9 Heavy Launch Vehicle Programs from Space Launch Complex 4 East, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (2011 EA), which analyzed the potential environmental impacts of operating the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicle programs from SLC-4 East (SLC-4E). The FAA was also a cooperating agency in the preparation of
2 the 2011 EA. The USAF issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and the FAA issued its own FONSI, to support the issuance of launch licenses to SpaceX for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy commercial launch operations at SLC-4E. The 2011 EA did not include construction of a landing pad or Falcon 9 boost-backs and landings. Therefore, the scope of the 2016 EA included pad construction, infrastructure improvements, and Falcon 9 boost-backs and landings at SLC-4W and on a barge. The 2016 EA d id not include the launch/takeoff of the Falcon 9 at SLC-4E, which was addressed in the 2011 EA.


https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/ea_fonsi_f9_boostback_vafb.pdf

Joe said...

I became a true believer of this stuff in high school in the late 1970s. Read everything I could lay my hands on, including O'Neill's books and other stuff. Went to seminars. The manned space program was the best and colonies in space were just around the corner.

However, I noticed some problems with O'Neill cylinders and so designed my own habitat which [mostly] overcame these problems. (I ended up finding that a Bernal sphere was the most practical and arguably still is.) Unfortunately, it exposed other ones. To my crushing disappointment, the whole thing started collapsing. By the early 90s, it was painfully obvious that the idea was mostly unworkable nonsense.

The penultimate nail was Biosphere 2. It was an utter disaster in just about every way. If we can't remotely make that work on earth, why the arrogance to think we could do it in a space extremely in-hospital to human life?

The final nail was realizing just how much NASA had just plain lied about technological advances resulting from the manned space program. Most of the technological advances we enjoy today actually came from weapons programs, especially nuclear missile programs. One of the more astonishing things is how little real science the ISS does, especially in comparison to the robotic space program, which has given us an amazing amount of science for a fraction of the cost.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I know an ex-inmate from Biosphere 2. She says it got really bad in there.
Sometimes researchers blame "budget problems" as a way to say that their project was so expensive every dollar produced on the planet couldn't pay for it.
Anyway, I tell people who are really into space exploration and exploitation (with humans), that their best bet is to push for economic policies that produce high economic growth. A century of 3.1% world GDP growth increases world GDP 32 times. The wealthier you are, the more achievable space colonization becomes.

Lewis Wetzel said...

During WW2 Gene Roddenberry flew B17s around air bases in the southern Pacific. The exotic islands he visited were run by savage people and European and American colonials, now dominated by the American military. Think about this while you watch ST:TOS and it takes on an interesting flavor.

mandrewa said...

Balfegor said, "And the corollary is that if they're run like San Francisco, everyone will die. It's survivable when public infrastructure (and sanitation) breaks down in a terrestrial city."

I know. I've thought about this before and when I think about the implications I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Human societies seem to break down fast. One generation can achieve something and just two generations later people have forgotten how to do it. From a plentitude of possible examples just look at Detroit, Philadelphia, or Chicago.

The fact is that space colonies demand high functioning people. If you have a colony with a hundred thousand people on it and there is an outbreak of stupidity then everyone dies.

If the technical and economic issues can be solved, this is the biggest barrier to the persistence of space colonies.

Still, it's for that very same reason, outbreaks of stupidity, that we need the space colonies.

Freeman Hunt said...

Handy for people on Earth. If the Tubers get too annoying, you can turn off the radio.

Skippy Tisdale said...

Totally relevant:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybSzoLCCX-Y

Bunkypotatohead said...

white flight never ends.

mandrewa said...

Stupidity is not confined to black people. European history provides almost endless examples of it.

Not to mention the examples right here and right now (in the United States).

Freeman Hunt said...

Wouldn't it be great if all the people who wanted to control everyone else climbed into a tube and launched themselves into space? Maybe this tube-making should be encouraged.