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City-ship in space

   
Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
So why keep going?
What else are they going to do, lie down and die? Perhaps finding a really nice earth analog and the temptation to just stop going and settle down might be a plot point.


Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
I have been down that rabbit hole my man. It leads to places most grim and many hours spent on trying to get the champher on the tunnel on your warship just right visually but also to have it make sense for hiding light fixtures behind.
Maybe not that level of detail. I want to run tabletop dungeons, not make a movie out of it. Broad details like "This is roughly the size of an aircraft carrier and I can probably repurpose those floor plans," not "These enumerated fifty plant species form the bulk of the hydroponics, but for diversity we also have..."


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Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
You should just literally call it "the engines" and end it at that. Maybe add a line about them being really big and impressive.
That's a sound plan. I like that plan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
Yea, nope.

There is something you need to understand about alien planets. They are evil and out to get you.

When colonizing a new land mass on Earth you can count on quite a few safe assumptions. You know the air will be
And no, I don't mean just the gas mixture. You can have a perfectly fine looking oxygen-nytrogen mix and still have things such as high background radiation, various trace gases that give you cancer or just airborne infectants that will make you regret you took off your mask real quick.
safe to breathe. You know that the native wildlife, be that plants or animals are
And again, I don't mean the plain old definition of not being poisonous. Although there is that too. But simply that the wildlife is based off the same basic sugars and proteins that we and our farm animals have evolved to break down. Without that you might as well be chewing on stone.
digestible. You know that, unless you picked a really shitty place on purpose the soil is going to have the required minerals your plants need to grow. You know that, again unless you deliberately picked a bad spot your colony is not going to be washed away by a flood or a freak volcano or be smack in the middle of frequent tornadoes.

And that's just the stuff I could think off whilst deliberately limiting my typing time to how long it takes one song on youtube to end so as to avoid walls of text.

On an alien planet none of those are true. And I don't mean they might not be true. No, I literally mean they are not true. End of story. This goes especially for #2 (eating) which is absolutely under no condition going to be true.
You don't know whether the plants and animals use left-handed amino acids or not until you have a survey crew pick one up and find out. Which might be an excellent job for some low-level PC's. And you can't just dump a bunch of convicts on the surface and expect to get Australia 2.0, that much is very true. But that's why you land an intact, self-sufficient craft on the surface and start building out from there rather than just jettisoning a bunch of escape pods onto the planet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
So any colonization effort is going to require years of just sitting in orbit monitoring the planet figuring out climate patterns, areas of dangerous volcanic and similar activity and such but also positive things such as fertile flood plains or mineral deposits that you want to exploit with the occasional trip down to gather soil, flora and fauna samples for examination. Maybe you'll have like a small test settlement sort of how we today might construct a base in the arctic. But that's it.
Unless you're literally dropping nukes and ice comets on the planet, there's no reason not to touch down if you can survey some interesting mineral deposits. You can gather intel with fast, light probes and scout ships while the big, slow colony vessels are still en route to the system, and maybe even do some preliminary terraforming and pick out a nice spot with easy-to-nab ferrous deposits and mineral-rich soils that are suitable for terrestrial microbes.

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Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
It's only after you are reasonably satisfied that you have gathered enough information that you will actually try and establish some sort of long term permanent settlement on the planet. And than you will spend the next generation or so trying to make that settlement self sustaining without support from the mothership so that it can start contributing as opposed to being a net loss.

Only once this is achieved will you slowly start spreading out over the planet establishing similar posts near mineral deposits, fertile farmlands and other exploitable resources and slowly work to connect them into a planetary society.
The "mothership" in this case is the colony habs that get dropped off in the system, rather than the actual mothership.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
And that's when you can start worrying about the hostile subterranean civilization, sentient planet, unspeakable horrors from underneath the oceans or just plain old horrible diseases and hostile wildlife that you still managed to not notice because you were rushing it.
Well, if the PC's are the scout party they're probably going to notice some of those things a good deal earlier than that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
...Whilst we are on those, all major systems be they farming or life support should be doubled if not tripled for redundancy sake.
Well, let's assume that, five hundred years ago, a system this size was rated for ten million and seeded with three million, with the understanding that the population would go up and down as they traveled to new systems, broke off colonies, and repopulated. Fast forward, and regardless of whatever redundancies were originally in place, the system is now at its maximum theoretical capacity, comfort notwithstanding. Sports fields get turned into shanty towns, redundant systems are turned on and become part of the nominal capacity, irreplaceable parts break down and are replaced with something less efficient. Whole new design paradigms are introduced, additional capacity is added in places and ways that were never originally intended, and parts are tack-welded on wherever they will fit. And then the teeming masses sleep and live wherever they will physically fit.

Sorry, PPQ, you're making an awful lot of unsupportable assumptions there.

Alien life will, of course, be alien... but there's absolutely no logical reason to assume a planet which has evolved life more advanced than single cell protobacteria will be that chemically divergent from our own. Because, in the end, there's an extremely finite number of possibilities on the simplest level of organic chemistry.

Alien life will (at least at first) be utterly dependent upon solar radiation to survive, with exception for certain special extremophiles. Same as on Earth, and for the same reason. Stars are the only natural energy source large enough to keep a true ecosystem alive. Hydrogen and Carbon compounds will universally be the most common chemicals you'll find in the habitable zones around a star.

And water's essential for more reasons than I can hope to cover. Solubility, specific heat, low reactivity, lubrication, a billion other traits. Without water, life cannot exist.

Solar radiation ultimately means oxygen waste products as well as the birth of saccharides- it's the only viable chemical chain reaction for long term energy storage. And the simplest protein structures will by definition need to resemble ours, at least in the basic sense- for reasons including "must self-replicate" and "needs to digest sugar to survive".

In fact, alien bacteria will be almost guaranteed to infect humans if we land there, and vice-versa. Viruses and parasites probably won't, but bacteria will.

In short, if a planet has complex life at all, then it's complex life that's going to be similar enough to our world that we'll see animals that resemble one another on both worlds. And, in fact, can probably eat each other and successfully derive nutrition. Not enough to survive, probably, but some. Worst case, you compost them as fertilizer for your crops.

...

Now, the real problems to finding habitable worlds is the rock you're landing on.

First- the Goldilocks Zone- too hot or too cold and we die. Life can still live there, but not human life.

Second- Planets with a liquid core appear to be a rarity in our neighborhood, and you will need a liquid core to generate the magnetic field necessary to shield the planet from deadly radiation. Many species could, in theory, evolve that don't care about radiation (and we'd probably be able to eat them)... but that doesn't help us avoid the Everything Cancer.

Third- Asteroid impacts, axis tilt, and other celestial events. Our planet is incredibly charmed to have that monster sized moon orbiting it. Life would exist without it, but I sincerely doubt said life would ever have been able to develop agriculture, let alone more advanced culture. Now... asteroids will likely be a rarity, since by the time a planet's been around long enough to evolve life, it means the local area has been "swept clean" of most of its rogue planetoids, but we *desperately* need the stabilizing effects of our moon in order to develop civilization. Now, a star-fairing species can overcome those issues, but not easily... and all that life you release into the new world is not gonna be pleased when over the course of a few centuries, the tropical plants find themselves in the mid arctic.

All these can be overcome with the right technological handwavium. A variant of the Bussard Ramjet would be able to insulate a planet against harmful radiation (and in the process, wipe out most native plant species, since they've no doubt come to rely upon the ionizing radiation for survival). Also good for cooling down a hot planet like, say, Venus... and providing huge amounts of raw electricity.

A cold planet like, say, Mars... you can collect random space rocks and launch them at the planet. Clever application of orbital momentum would reduce energy costs and maximize results. Stabilize your planet in a warmer orbit, with the side effect that all those rock collisions will have warmed the planet *and* killed everything which already lived there.

Of course, if a planet's not already in the Goldilocks Zone, nothing within the realm of probable technology could accomplish terraforming in a time frame of less than centuries.

...

The ship would be able to be exponentially smaller if most of the crew wasn't alive for the trip. And I'm not talking the energy-hog that is cryogenics... go smaller, and only store genetic material. Go smaller still, and only store a database of genetic codes that can be loaded into nanobot assemblers and used to generate fetuses from pure elements.

Artificial Abiogenesis. An entire species stored in a flash drive.

...

The supership would run by computer program, with a handful of genetically perfected super-astrophysicists (assuming they can't build sapient machinery in this universe- and it's entirely conceivable that true AI is impossible) and other people grown with the intent of servicing the ship on its long journey.

Once in a solar system, the usual measures will take place. Uninhabitable worlds will either be consumed for raw material or turned habitable. Inhabited worlds would depend upon the ethics of the ship and crew. Options are as follows:

Omnicide the world and replace with your own life.
Invasive, exploitative, cohabitation with the local life. Modify local environs to suit your needs. Discover cool new foods, housepets, and genes to make all new Frankenfoods.
Genetically alter humans so that they are able to survive on this new world in its native state. Exploit your new homeworld.

The ship would, while in the solar system, take the time to recharge, acquire fuel, produce new generations of vat-babies raised for colonial purposes. Construct a couple spare supercomputers for the colonies. Harvest a good chunk of the local space rocks. And, most importantly, scan the stars for the next likely candidate for a colony world.

Over the course of probably a few centuries, it'll be restored to full and go on its merry way, with an entirely new clone-crew. While maintaining communication with the new colonies for new scientific data that can improve the next colonial world program.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TanaNari View Post
Sorry, PPQ, you're making an awful lot of unsupportable assumptions there.
All you say is true, the issue is that its missing a big point. And that's the fact that within this extremely finite number our own planet has produced a myriad of species of which we can only reliably feed on a small portion of.

There is no reason to believe that an alien world would be any different. And without taking years to study the local wildlife you might find your self spending a season farming attractive alien fruit only to discover that they are about as nutritious to you as cardboard or landing to find the fields you wanted to graze your sheep on are toxic to your sheep.

Worse yet, there is no reason to believe that substances we consider poisonous would not be common in the ecosystem. There are plenty of poisonous plants on our world and there is no reason to believe the ratio would be the same. Especially if you include quasi poisonous species. As in those with various trace elements that aren't poisonous until you eat too many like selenium.
It is a perfectly plausible proposition that your new planet will have trace elements in the soil that ensure the majority of plants contain such elements. Or that the plants might have simply evolved in this way to kill of their own natural predators. So you again need to take the time to look. And you can't rely on anything.

That's why I say you absolutely 100% can not rely on the planet being full of things you can eat, drink and assimilate into as a new species invading the ecosystem.

Quote:
In short, if a planet has complex life at all, then it's complex life that's going to be similar enough to our world that we'll see animals that resemble one another on both worlds. And, in fact, can probably eat each other and successfully derive nutrition. Not enough to survive, probably, but some. Worst case, you compost them as fertilizer for your crops.
I am not saying it won't happen. I am saying that the available room for permutation even within our own planet proves that it's something you can not rely on to the point where it is an assumption too dangerous to make.

Simply put, you can not make the assumption that as an invader species we can just slot into an alien ecosystem without serious study and complications at every step. And since he clearly does not have the resources to just burn the whole ecosystem off and replant from scratch the only remotely safe assumption to make is that everything is toxic, inedible and unsafe until proven otherwise. And than start working to prove otherwise.

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Now, the real problems to finding habitable worlds is the rock you're landing on.
That's such a big problem that frankly I was going off it being a starting assumption. Because I concur with you there. It is hard.

Quote:
The ship would be able to be exponentially smaller if most of the crew wasn't alive for the trip. And I'm not talking the energy-hog that is cryogenics... go smaller, and only store genetic material. Go smaller still, and only store a database of genetic codes that can be loaded into nanobot assemblers and used to generate fetuses from pure elements.

Artificial Abiogenesis. An entire species stored in a flash drive.
Maybe I am just old school but I prefer the freeze-dry method of genetic transportation. There is just something in having giant freezers that you don't get in any other way.

Also you are making very huge assumptions as to his ability and will to genetically alter humans in the rest of your text. And I am not sure how much if any of that he would accept.

Also his ability to perform massive engineering or military projects which is not a given if he is going down the realistic SF route.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
All you say is true, the issue is that its missing a big point. And that's the fact that within this extremely finite number our own planet has produced a myriad of species of which we can only reliably feed on a small portion of.
Well, yeah, you must have missed the part where I talked about using native life as fertilizer for crops. Y'know. Wheat. Rice. Potatoes. Soy beans. Sure we might not need them, the human digestive system is more versatile than most species so it probably won't be hard to find enough native life to be sustainable, but as long as the native life is flammable (and everything is flammable if you try hard enough), you know you can sustain a colony on Terran plants alone.

And we've done that since forever. Or did you imagine the colonists came over to America and Australia without a supply of seeds?

To be fair, the whole reason Turkey Day is celebrated in the US this month is because history would have been very different if the native humans hadn't basically accepted the colonists as refugees and shown them how to survive. Those colonists were...not very well prepared for the coming winter. There are a great many foods that we now consider staple crops that are new world foods, not old world imports: corn, potatoes, tomatoes, turkey...

Ideally space colonists have learned from the mistakes of the past and they aren't going to rely on a handy native population to save their lives so that the colonists can subjugate the natives and steal all their valuables. Of course, it could easily make a good RPG campaign if history DID repeat itself.

Regarding finding a rock to live on, in the goldilocks zone, with liquid water and possibly some green visible light, I would simply hand-wave that issue. We don't actually have the technology to scan for habitable planets yet, but we've consistently made progress towards doing so and I can assume that in 50 or 100 years humanity will have a laundry list of worlds that have 1.0 gravity plus or minus .25, that are in the goldilocks zone. We pick six or eight of those that are relatively near each other and we have a mission profile for a thousand-year arc ship.

Our tech is not at the level where we can even store genetic information for a thousand years, much less read and assemble it. Micro-assembly from a database is just not going to happen. Similarly, robots would experience serious problems trying to survive for a couple centuries; their systems are just too delicate and their memory is too short-term for an all-robot solution to be viable.

Cryogenics is one of those wonderful technologies like fusion that is always just ten years away. Last I heard, they'd figured out the problem of ice crystals causing widespread cellular damage but I haven't heard any plausible theories on how to actually revive a suitably-frozen meatsicle.

So...you definitely need a human crew. If robots even arrive at the target system, they'll be broken and dead before they get there. And since humans don't last for a thousand years either it has to be a generation ship. You might be able to swing less than the bare minimum population with frozen samples, but frozen sperm and eggs face the same information degeneracy problems that robots have traveling through deep space for a thousand years. You might land on the world with your team of a hundred scientists and then find out that all your gene samples (or cryogenic meat popsicles) were sterilized by cosmic radiation. Oops.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TanaNari View Post
Well, yeah, you must have missed the part where I talked about using native life as fertilizer for crops. Y'know. Wheat. Rice. Potatoes. Soy beans. Sure we might not need them, the human digestive system is more versatile than most species so it probably won't be hard to find enough native life to be sustainable, but as long as the native life is flammable (and everything is flammable if you try hard enough), you know you can sustain a colony on Terran plants alone.

And we've done that since forever. Or did you imagine the colonists came over to America and Australia without a supply of seeds?
And that would be fine if you were setting up a small village with a couple hundred people. But it simply does not sustainably scale up to what he wants to do which is deposit millions of humans on the planet for permanent stay.
And the reason is that as you scale your operations up to feed and provide for all the people you will start doing permanent ecological damage to the local ecosystems. And if you don't know what you are doing you might well cause mass extinctions and generally destabilize the whole thing to the point where you now have to invest huge resources to fix it. Resources that a realistic SF colony crew simply will not have.

That is why I suggest taking years to study the planet and maybe having a small test colony (mentioned in my first post) and than slowly easing in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by diremage View Post
So...you definitely need a human crew. If robots even arrive at the target system, they'll be broken and dead before they get there. And since humans don't last for a thousand years either it has to be a generation ship. You might be able to swing less than the bare minimum population with frozen samples, but frozen sperm and eggs face the same information degeneracy problems that robots have traveling through deep space for a thousand years. You might land on the world with your team of a hundred scientists and then find out that all your gene samples (or cryogenic meat popsicles) were sterilized by cosmic radiation. Oops.
That's one thing you can actually protect your self against reasonably well simply by having good walls around your refrigerator. In fact, I imagine just putting it in the very center of your ship should do the job simply by putting other stuff around it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PPQ_Purple View Post
That's one thing you can actually protect your self against reasonably well simply by having good walls around your refrigerator. In fact, I imagine just putting it in the very center of your ship should do the job simply by putting other stuff around it.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but putting all your eggs in one basket doesn't seem like a great idea to me no matter how well-armored your basket may be. Failures happen and when your failure mode for the data storage unit is, "Mission failure: everyone dies," that's probably not a good mission plan. Not to mention it makes for kind of a boring RPG.

Quote:
And that would be fine if you were setting up a small village with a couple hundred people. But it simply does not sustainably scale up to what he wants to do which is deposit millions of humans on the planet for permanent stay.
And the reason is that as you scale your operations up to feed and provide for all the people you will start doing permanent ecological damage to the local ecosystems. And if you don't know what you are doing you might well cause mass extinctions and generally destabilize the whole thing to the point where you now have to invest huge resources to fix it. Resources that a realistic SF colony crew simply will not have.
Still inclined to go with landing a couple of self-sufficient hab modules, sterilizing a couple dozen square KM of area around them and then building out from there. Destabilizing the local ecosystem is a given, and desirable because a stable local ecosystem is resilient to invader species like humans and their attendant flora and fauna. First you turn all the venomous lizard-bears with right-handed amino acids into fertilizer, then you can grow your sweet potatoes and soy beans.

Once you've got a couple hundred square KM of human-friendly habitable zone, you can start thinking about conservation and exploitation of the rest. Maybe it turns out that lizard-bear venom cures cancer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by diremage View Post
Not to put too fine a point on it, but putting all your eggs in one basket doesn't seem like a great idea to me no matter how well-armored your basket may be. Failures happen and when your failure mode for the data storage unit is, "Mission failure: everyone dies," that's probably not a good mission plan. Not to mention it makes for kind of a boring RPG.
Thing is, it need not be one basket. And at the same time it absolutely is. Allow me to explain.
Using frozen people, or better yet frozen genetic samples is going to take up far less room or energy to sustain over the course of the flight. Therefore you can keep several isolated stockpiles in reserve as backups. This is something you'd want to do anyway if you intended to colonize multiple planets. And it's not something you can do with an all waking crew.

And at the same time you are kind of stuck with one basket because you only have one ship. If something hits your main engines it won't matter how many redundant refrigerators or colonies of waking people you have.

Quote:
Still inclined to go with landing a couple of self-sufficient hab modules, sterilizing a couple dozen square KM of area around them and then building out from there. Destabilizing the local ecosystem is a given, and desirable because a stable local ecosystem is resilient to invader species like humans and their attendant flora and fauna. First you turn all the venomous lizard-bears with right-handed amino acids into fertilizer, then you can grow your sweet potatoes and soy beans.

Once you've got a couple hundred square KM of human-friendly habitable zone, you can start thinking about conservation and exploitation of the rest. Maybe it turns out that lizard-bear venom cures cancer.
The thing about this line of argument is that it misses the mark on one important factor. And that factor is motivation. As in, why you are colonizing the planet in the first place.

For a realistic hard SF space fairing civilization that can afford to travel between planets, even ones in its own solar system regularly enough to consider mass colonization (like say us in 100 - 200 years time from now) the planets them self have long since ceased being a "must" as opposed to a "nice to have". Or to put it in a different way they simply no longer hold true value.

Allow me to explain.

The conventional roles assigned to planets in SF, these being in no particular order habitation and resource extraction don't really hold water in a civilization with regular, even if slow space travel. And definitively not for one with sufficient orbital infrastructure to build colony ships of the type proposed.

If you can travel between planets, or even just between the Earth and Moon routinely resources can be gained far more easily from space by mining said asteroids or even the moon it self. And all this with the added bonuses that you don't have to fight gravity every time you want to get something from a deep shaft mine or god forbid into orbit and a complete lack of pollution and other problems. And if you have fusion power (which you should if you were embarking on interstellar trips like this) your fuel is literally the most abundant substance in the universe.
Realistically therefore, any civilization that is going to be sending colony ships should by that time have already moved most if not all of its heavy industry into orbit to be serviced by high automation facilities and cheap space resources and fueled by infinite fuel fusion (hydrogen might as well be infinite as common as it is) or even just solar power.

And that leaves only habitation, a purpose for which a rotating cylinder with just the right gravity and a tightly controlled environment and climate is going to be infinitely more pleasing than a real world planet where you have to deal with all sorts of crap. And that's even before we get into the real joy of orbital habitats which is that, thanks to their isolated nature you can have all your fringe groups and religions and different ideas of how to run society each pick one and make their own utopia and not have to worry about conflicts like we do on earth.

Most importantly of all you can do all those within your own solar system and for far less investment in technology and resources than an interstellar colony ship and easily sustain trillions of times the current human population for trillions of years doing so.


So if not the need to find new resources and places to live what is it that drives your people to leave the solar system and find alien planets to colonize? Well the only reason that I can think of is a desire to do so. A desire to expand and explore, to discover strange new worlds and go where no man has gone before.

And if that is your motivating factor than you will want to preserve as much of the local planet as possible. Especially once one of your explorers starts asking the question "Why are we wasting huge resources on destroying and reconstructing the planets ecosystem to our needs only so that we can land there and spend the rest of our lives with worse living standards than we have right now?"







 

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