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Thread: Where would you point the last spaceship leaving Earth?

  1. #1 Where would you point the last spaceship leaving Earth? 
    Forum Freshman Oskar's Avatar
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    As I'm working on a science fiction novel, I thought I might put this question to those who might know better. First, a bit of background ...

    The Earth has become a hostile place for human survival and a large spaceship carrying the last 10,000 or so humans is being sent off into space in the hope that our species can survive. It is approximately 50-100 years in our future, so technology has probably advanced enough to allow this to happen, i.e. the construction of a mammoth ship capable of sustaining a large human cargo for a considerable amount of time. There is little hope that there is a final destination, only a good chance that wherever the ship is headed there will be a good chance of picking up mineral and energy resources to continue the journey. In fact, it is hoped that a new human race can give up the Earth for a life amongst the stars.

    What I want to know is where in the known galaxy or universe would we send this ship?

    If it's towards a star, which one?

    I'd appreciate any comments, especially those with detailed explanations. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask.


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  3. #2  
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    I'm going to move this to the science fiction forum.

    Maybe this article will give you some ideas.
    Planetary habitability - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I think you had better make it a lot longer than 50 to 100 years. The distances involved, and the energy needed to get to even a tiny fraction of the speed of light, make interstellar travel practically unthinkable, in my opinion.


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    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Toward the highest density of stars within the Milky Way for the highest probability of finding a habitable planet.
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  5. #4  
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    Not really. The highest density is near the galactic center, where the radiation environment is intolerable for stable life. Or in Globular Clusters, where the odds of ejection or collision are the highest.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Freshman Oskar's Avatar
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    Firstly, my apologise for posting in the wrong section. I thought the astronomy section was more appropriate because of the 'facts' I was after. Anyway, the moderators know their business. Thanks.

    In my story, the human population within the spaceship never do find another habitable planet. They are content to exist as travellers who over the generations are able to mine their sparse environment for raw materials, etc. After many, many generations their once mammoth 'mothership' is dwarfed by the new constructions that either travel with their mothership or are left to orbit/float in some corner of space. So, there really is no need for the original spaceship to go very fast because they have time - 100s, if not, 1000s of years in space.

    Thanks for all the comments so far!
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  7. #6  
    The Enchanter westwind's Avatar
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    For Oskar. Now that I have read your Novel I can recommend, that as travel reading, the time should pass Quickly. westwind.
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  8. #7  
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    As Harold suggested you likely have to set this a little further into the future than 50 or 100 years, but not by much. Two or three hundred should do it. Long before that time we will have identified any habitable planets in our immediate neighbourhood. I suggest you look up some of the links on the exoplanets site for an understanding of how we will know these things and what we will know.
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  9. #8  
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    I have no trouble setting this voyage further into the future, but I'm certainly not interested in these passengers finding or settling on a planet. I think the distances are too vast and the probability of finding a suitably habitable planet are just too far fetched. I can accept that I'm probably too naive and/or unlearned about recent developments and discoveries of exoplanets to consider this possibility. The main idea or theme I'm trying to toy with is that this 'last spaceship leaving Earth' is more or less an act of desperation, like sending out lifeboats from a sinking ship. More to the point, I want to explore the idea that this group of humans must learn to adapt to an existence without a terrafirma, i.e. they must learn to survive by creating their own world. This is, of course, fraught with great difficulties and risks. As I stated at the top of this post, all I want for them is a ready supply of materials and energy reserves to continue the work of construction, maintenance and travel.

    To add a little more, I do intend for them to exist like this for a considerable time, perhaps many thousands of years. After that time, there will be an enthusiastic movement to return back to Earth.

    Slight edit: When I say, 'I'm certainly not interested in these passengers finding a planet', any planets they do come across would likely be inhospitable or undesirable, except, maybe, for its resources.
    Last edited by Oskar; March 9th, 2012 at 12:09 AM. Reason: Additional information
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  10. #9  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    It sounds you want to write something that qualifies as pure Space Opera in the style of the Golden Age, rather than hard science fiction in the manner of Alistair Reynolds or Greg Bear or Baxter. I think you will find the market for that has gone. If you want to have something that is credible and therfore readable you need to become versed in current developments on exoplanets and planetary formation. Only that way can your voyagers find realistic resources.
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  11. #10  
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    So where would these people 50ish years in the future pin their hopes on? And the reader already knows from the back cover it's a bust.

    You could dodge the scientific question by making their decision political, ideological, or even religious.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Freshman Oskar's Avatar
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    Space Opera? I suppose time and my effort will tell. I really don't see why there's a problem with the notion that a human sub-culture would find a way to be content without having soil beneath their feet. Part of the analogy I might draw upon is our current situation where large portions of our species is content to live a more or less home-bound lifestyle. In fact, compared to my childhood, which was spent largely ourdoors, there is a growing generation that is willing to give up this choice. How many people of all ages are stuck inside glued to their televisions or computers?

    With regard to my lack of knowledge of exoplanets, I don't see that we can or will be able to conclusively say or predict that a habitable planet exists. I do, however, think that statistically there are, probably, 1000s of planets capable of supporting us, but it just seems fantastic right now. You mention Baxter. I read his ARK and was deeply disappointed that he chose to end that book with a fairytale ending, i.e. finding a suitable planet to end the years of torment aboard their spacecraft. To me, that book was pure space opera.

    To add just a little more, the information I'm trying to glean from this forum only makes up a small portion of the book I am writing. In fact, it only constitutes a section near the end. I could go on and divulge more, but I'd rather not at this stage.

    As for pinning their hopes? Survival of the species should be enough.
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    55 Cancri and hope it has got a few good moons around its F planet.
    Course it might be just easier to head to Mars and make that best of it there. Unless the sun were the problem, such a colony would at least be tried. And that cult ship that just took over and headed towards our sun....mention them too.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    55 Cancri and hope it has got a few good moons around its F planet.
    Course it might be just easier to head to Mars and make that best of it there. Unless the sun were the problem, such a colony would at least be tried. And that cult ship that just took over and headed towards our sun....mention them too.
    I would tend to agree with you, Mars sounds like a pretty good initial choice, even though for us humans it would still be a pretty inhospitable place to make a living at.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oskar View Post
    After many, many generations their once mammoth 'mothership' is dwarfed by the new constructions that either travel with their mothership or are left to orbit/float in some corner of space.
    Sounds a lot like Ringworld.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oskar View Post
    Space Opera? < snip>You mention Baxter. I read his ARK and was deeply disappointed that he chose to end that book with a fairytale ending, i.e. finding a suitable planet to end the years of torment aboard their spacecraft. To me, that book was pure space opera.
    We seem to have a divergence of opinion. Space Opera is not used as a perjorative term in science fiction circles, but defines a sub-genre that has an honourable history and contains works by many of the greats of the field.

    With regard to my lack of knowledge of exoplanets, I don't see that we can or will be able to conclusively say or predict that a habitable planet exists.
    You do not see this possibility because you are currently ignorant of exoplanet research. If you maintain that ignorance your work will run the risk of being a third rate Space Opera. Further, if you understand the issues of exoplanet research and of planetary formation you can more convincingly offer explanations by which your voyagers will find the raw materials they seek. As well as generating lots of intriguing logic puzzles for them sto solve and crisis situations for them to extract themselves from.
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  17. #16  
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    There are 760 confirmed exoplants, a dozen or so might be "habitable" by humans. At this point in our search, it's hard to say for sure. After all, it's been only a few dozen years that we had evidence for any exoplanets at all.

    The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia
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  18. #17  
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    Thanks for all your responses, guys. I do appreciate them.

    I think I lack a clear definition of Space Opera. However, SF books I've enjoyed over the years would include, Dune (Herbert), Foundation series (Asimov), To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Farmer), Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury), Brave New World (Huxley), Queen of Angels (Bear) and 1984 (Orwell) - just to name a few, and in no particular order.

    Presently, I am researching exoplanets to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. It's also an important means to curb my bias, my obstinance.

    So, thank you again for your considered responses and links to relevant sites.
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  19. #18  
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    Bearing in mind the lack of need to find a planet, it seems kinda silly to leave the solar system. If the mother ship potters around picking up ice and mineral resources from debris, then there are several places. The asteroid belt. The rings of Saturn. The Kuiper belt.

    These would solve the problem of massively long periods of time required to travel interstellar.
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  20. #19  
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    I was about to say something similar to skeptic. I'll add instead they could build a rotating(to simulate gravity) space station on a small asteroid or colonize the solar system it would be a lot less hazardous than venturing into interstellar space far from resources and far from the energy and obstacle/rock/debris illumination that the sun provides. In a sci-fi scenario its not an issue, but if in real life I had to climb aboard a space ship similar to those with have now (meaning without shields etc) and told it will accelerate on a trajectory outside the solar system, Id be scared the ship would hit a rock or block of ice and be partially ripped appart, maybe its just me. I've not read the details of the setup, but potentially the Earth itself could be colonized as if it were Mars (with domes and underground cities sealed from the environment). Edit: oh I just read the point is to leave earth to return after a long time.
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  21. #20  
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    While the idea of building a vast ship and blasting off from earth is dramatic, the more practical would be bulding lots of smaller spaceshuttle type craft and bulding your mothership in orbit. It need not be particularly elegant, a rather sloppy hodge-podge of greenhouse ships, living spaces, storage and machine shop factory areas, power plants etc all cobbeled together into a large steerable space station. The only reason to send it into interstellar space would be if teh area around our sun was going to be inhospitable or if all teh resources had been used up.

    If our sun is going nova I don't think the ship would be fast enough to get out of range without FTL drive. If you have FTL then you have a different problem and may not need the space habitat.

    If Earth were slowly over crowding and becoming polluted then we might find space habitats to be superior living space. They would be then built as resorts, luxury condos in the sky, food production facilaties, you name it. Eventually the simple pressures of ecconomics would lead them to go farther and farther away from our sun and actually colonize interstellar space.
    In the remote future someone might notice that there were planets orbiting some stars that it might be possible to live on. The first colonists of an extra solar planet might be disidents or escaped criminals from a space city.
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  22. #21  
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    While the idea of building a vast ship and blasting off from earth is dramatic, the more practical would be bulding lots of smaller spaceshuttle type craft and bulding your mothership in orbit. It need not be particularly elegant, a rather sloppy hodge-podge of greenhouse ships, living spaces, storage and machine shop factory areas, power plants etc all cobbeled together into a large steerable space station.
    Funnily enough I was thinking, for social organisation, you could look at those people who spend their whole lives at sea. They're a bit like those communities that spring up on smallish boats in harbours and along riverbanks, but they actually spend practically all of their lives on the open seas. The kids just dive in the water to swim over and play with the neighbour's kids. Somewhere in South East Asia, IIRC. But they also 'gather resources' and trade with land-based people to some extent. Couldn't track them down on a search. Got a horrible feeling that I remember it from an Attenborough documentary or something like that.
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  23. #22  
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    Great responses. In my story - perhaps it's a bit like that movie, When Worlds Collide, there is enough incentive to send a population of humans away from a potentially dying planet. It's a two-fold experiment: one group stays on; the other moves away. The narrative is concerned with the consequences of these actions. Thanks a lot, so far!
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  24. #23  
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    So, if I am understanding your premise correctly, You want to make "space Gypsies" for lack of a better term. As finding habitable planets is not your focus, and assuming that an event is going to make remaining in our local stellar system to dangerous, I would recomend that they point the ship toward our closest stellar neighbor. The closest is the Centauri system followed by Barnard's Star and Wolf 359. Any of these would make good destinations providing you have a propulsion system that can accelarate your ship to speeds approaching that of light. I would say at least 80 to 90 percent. Now before we jump on the whole THEORY of relativity band wagon lets remember it is a THEORY and not scientific law. The speeds would allow the journey to take years instead of decades or centuries. You may want to do some research on the Gypsy culture for some ideas. It takes a certain mind set to exist without a home. I like the premise so far and would most certainly enjoy reading more. As for some statements regarding the nature of the fiction and the debate between "hard"SF and other types. Go to Barnes and Noble and you will find a grand assortment of "space opera" type fiction which still sells quite well. I myself prefer Hard SF but sometimes complete flights of SF fancy are enjoyable as well. And it still sells quite well here in the U.S. "Bio of a Space Tyrant" is still in print after all. And if that series does not fit into the genre of Space Opera I dont know what does.
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  25. #24  
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    Do not forget, dmwyant, that the ship has also to decelerate.
    It might, with major technological advances, be possible to accelerate a ship to a high fraction of light speed, but to get it down to relative zero again will take another enormous heap of reaction mass.

    I doubt it can be done. The NASA scientists I quoted earlier think 10% to 20% of light speed is all we will ever be able to achieve.

    However, that is not so bad. If a large enough vessel can be built, the decades long travel to get to the alpha Centauri system would still be comfortable. Imagine doing it on a ship the size of a luxury ocean liner, with a spin element to provide gravity. Imagine also that improvements in human biology and genetics permit a life span of, perhaps, 200 years. A few decades in travel may not seem so bad.
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  26. #25  
    Forum Bachelors Degree dmwyant's Avatar
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    Of course one could bring in the ever popular "wormhole" technique I myself rather like the system used in the Mass Effect universe where a substance, when electrical current is applied, can reduce or increase the relative mass of an object within the field. Pretty cool idea and I must say I wish I had come up with it. Back to the point. Even 10 to 20 percent would be good. If my math is right, and it probably is not, 20 percent would allow a vessel to arrive in the vacinity of Proxima Centauri in... 20 to 25 years? that isn't bad at all if using a "generation" ship. Or group of ships that are able to travel together in a convoy of sorts. As all would be traveling at the same relative velocity then transfer between ships would be a simple matter of a shuttle or some such.
    Thankyou for reminding me about that whole pesky deceleration issue. But if we used gravity wells in the acceleration process we would be able to save reaction mass for the deceleration I think...
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  27. #26  
    Forum Bachelors Degree dmwyant's Avatar
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    So basically to answer the initial question... Aim for the Centauri system or Barnards Star or Wolf 359 as they are all under 10 light years in distance.
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  28. #27  
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    Yes, I do think the people abandoning Earth will have to adopt a 'space gypsy' mentality. This term alone is quite valuable for me to keep things in perspective. There will, no doubt, be resitance and teething problems at first, but as the generations adapt I would hope that the notion of anchoring onto a planet is not very enticing. Like gypsies, they might stay for awhile, but ultimately their 'itchy feet' would compel them to move on.

    I'm not a scientist, so my work will not satisfy those looking for 'hard SF'; rather, it will try and avoid blatant errors in logic and reason. It would be foolish for me to think I can avoid all these errors, and that's why a forum like this can help reduce the number. I do have a strong interest in the sciences, especially astronomy, physics and psychology.

    As I've said before, there are a number of other unique factors that compel me to steer my narrative in the direction I'm suggesting and, if it's at all possible, I'd rather not divulge too many of these details - unless it's absolutely necessary. My apologise in advance.
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  29. #28  
    Forum Bachelors Degree dmwyant's Avatar
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    There should be no reason why you must divulge your literary devices. As a writer myself I appreciate how hard it is to keep the details vague while gathering the answers you need. I had that problem when I was investigating the feasability of stable Einstein-Rosen bridges. Just remember.... The fatcs should never get in the way of the fun. The best advice I can give is Don't let what we know now interfere with what we may learn in the future. After all Science Fiction should be at least somewhat speculative... Never be afraid to ask that most important question..... WHAT IF?
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  30. #29  
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    The whole What if thing was said at a writing workshop by William Gibson
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  31. #30  
    Forum Bachelors Degree dmwyant's Avatar
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    If you have not seen it yet I would recomend the animated film Titan A.E. Earth is destroyed and humans tend to live together on floating "drifter" colonies cobbled together from various derelicts and debris.
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  32. #31  
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    Before the ship leaves the solar system, it can stop by Jupiters moon Europa to gather water and Saturns moon Titan to gather fuel.
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    Fantastic, really your novel is going to be a big hit. You have a different, unique and interesting story.

    You should head this spaceship to a friendly planet in a galaxy far from our galaxy.

    Please also share the name of your novel when you are finished with this, we are very eager to read this.
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  34. #33  
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    What kind of ship is this? Are the people in stasis or is this a kind of generation ship? Since you say it's the near future, it's safe to assume there isn't artificial gravity or anything to worry with. Have you considered the side effects of long-term space travel?
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  35. #34  
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    They would probably not have a pre determined destination, This star ship would have to be considerably advanced, it would need to seek out a habitable planet by going star to star, using sensors and specialized science equipment.
    We just don't know where to go, we may have hints but it's still a complicated situation.
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  36. #35  
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    Oskar, I'm someone who likes science in his fiction but don't get too carried away trying to reconcile a good story with science based reality; it will be the human characters and drama that make for a successful publication and book sales - SF readers are generally comfortable with imaginary technologies that overcome limitations and sometimes the less explanation the better.

    Like Skeptic said, the reality is that utilising resources within the solar system for space habitats makes more sense than heading off looking for habitable planets around other stars. Suitable atmospheres and climate and compatible biology are likely to be very rare if they exist at all (suitable atmosphere being a consequence of biology) and without an 'invented' technology to travel between stars with relative ease they are unreachable; a new planet is probably the least likely way that humans will secure their ongoing survival beyond Earth. 'Found amazing planet but can't use it' is much more likely IMO than the SF standard of planets everywhere, just add humans. And 'Can't reach other stars at all' the most likely situation of all.
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