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Space Travel - Lightspeed and Beyond

Channelknight Fadran


So I didn't actually explain how we'd get to Lightspeed in the last article. And I certainly didn't go beyond it.

Should I make this a part two, maybe? Or is it a little late for that?

Screw it. If Incredibles can have a fourteen-year gap between the original and the sequel, then I can make a sequel after a long month or so.

Lightspeed and Beyond 2, Electric Boogaloo: Time Hijinks

We have a couple options here.

Option one is simple and effective, but makes for a terrible trip. Let's say, once again, that we want to get to our neighbor Alpha Centauri for a bit of terraforming and colonization. Apparently regular fusion could theoretically get a real spacecraft going at 10% the speed of light, which means that it'd be a forty-year trip to get there.

That is, as they say, an investment.

Fortunately, it's still well within the human lifespan. So as long as the ship is really big, contains lots of medical equipment (as well as, potentially, an onboard funeral home in case of something nasty happening), a person could totally make the trip. In order to maintain morale and general quality of life, it'd have to be a big ship. And a fancy ship. With, like... all the stuff. It'd literally be a big moving town, careening through space at a gazillion miles an hour.

We'd have to establish a spaceship government, a spaceship bill of rights, a spaceship constitution; spaceship citizenship, spaceship taxes, spaceship productivity. Some people would work in the algae racks to maintain CO2 levels; others would harvest the space plants and work the 3D food printers. You'd have engineers to check and double-check every single tiny thing, because there are no lifeboats on this puppy: if it's gone, it's gone. And everyone probably dies. 

A spaceship president, a spaceship head of engineering, a spaceship zip code manager, a spaceship communications guy. You'd have a whole bunch of folks working the food to keep things spiced up, a slew of guys maintenancing the maintainance robots, several forms of entertainment (theatre troupe, local band, video game devs), and probably a million other things that I haven't even thought of.

Eventually, a spaceship guy and a spaceship gal will be bonded for life by the power vested in the spaceship pastor, then go on to have spaceship babies to grow up in the spaceship. You'd have spaceship parks and spaceship dogs and spaceship youtube and spaceship everything.

(I've always wanted to manage a big cruise spaceship, by the way. I dunno if you've noticed).

That's option one. Just wait it out. However, it's far from guaranteed by any means: there's no telling if the spaceship crew will get angry at the spaceship captain and host a spaceship mutiny. There's no telling if the spaceship engineers get lazy and don't check up on the spaceship airlock and accidentally murders everyone.

So here's option two.

Dunno if any of you have seen Lightyear yet. If not... this probably isn't much of a spoiler. It's literally in the first fifteen seconds of the film or something.

TL;DR - Cryosleep.

It's entirely possible that the scientists and engineers and lucky youtuber guests wouldn't be all too stoked about sitting in the same spaceship for forty years straight, so an alternative option would be to put them under for the entire time in order to pass things by. The spaceship would be relatively small and unfurnished compared to what option one's might be, containing little more than enough chambers for everyone's cryosleep pods and probably some backup supplies just in case. Everything would be automated, which at this point means perfect.

I feel the need to remind you that AI and automation is only ever getting better, so in the next couple centuries, I imagine that automated spaceships would be way better than manned. Heck, it's like that already with airplanes and cars. Almost all accidents with such vehicles are due to human error, and several notable ones could've been easily avoided had the driver/pilot simply left the program in control. Currently, there's an uber-esque service that lets you get a ride in a driverless car, and that line has only seen nine total accidents: six of which were due to other cars doing something really stupid, three of which were when the car itself was freaking stationary and some idiots just walked into it

Here's the Veritasium video, in case you haven't seen it yet.

Of course, this opens up a whole 'nother social can of worms. You'd effectively be shutting yourself out of everything back from your home for about half your friggin life. I imagine that scientists would choose to either stay home or take their entire family, but that still leaves hundreds of friends and acquaintances to never see you again. In forty-four years they - old, tired, and cranky - will finally hear back from you, a servant of humanity sitll in the prime of their life. Each text message is going to take four years to send from Alpha Centauri, which makes things even worse.

But that's... ... ... ...fine... ...?

The Thing About Cryosleep

Let's open up our new science options to putting yourself under for a predetermined period of time, holding your body in a complete and total stasis until then. Suddenly, time becomes no object. An entire dimension of reality just won't apply to you for as long as you're under.

Which means, of course, that space exploration will change up a lot.

Let's say we want to colonize a distant star system, maybe several dozen light-years away. Perhaps even several hundred. You wouldn't just put a team of scientists and such on the ship: you'd have a massive population of regular working folk as well. They, as much as anyone else on any other kind of voyage, would be subjecting themselves to decades of cryosleep in order to continuate the human race. You, as the guy overseeing the voyage, would essentially be shipping an entire population of people to another planet. It would be a one-time investment, for the good of the species rather than your own wallet, as all outward shipments of resources and such would take just as long to get back.

But I really like this idea for an early interstellar story, actually. I think it could be really dang cool. Let's say that we figure out teleportation, first of all, but don't apply it to living beings because that's generally too dangerous. If you can dissolve materials into pure energy and beam it across the cosmos, then you'd essentially be opening up interstellar trade. This, of course, is what we call a "stimulated economy," and would become a massive venture opportunity for space company presidents.

Imagine you're the CEO of SpaceZ: a brand-new company that specializes in trade mediums (you're the middle man for interstellar trade, paying the worker costs and teleportation fees in order to reap the profits of people buying interstellar materials). Let's say it takes several years to build, prepare, populate, and launch an interstellar spaceship. You probably wouldn't oversee the whole thing, spending precious years of your life just waiting. Instead you'd put yourself under cryosleep, and even do so regularly. You would have literal time managers working for you that live out their lives normally, providing by taking care of your business during the down periods and reaping in profits for you. They would also be in charge of ensuring your cryosleep went on and off as intended, keeping your schedule so that you can oversee the big projects for a month or so before going back to sleep for another half a decade.

Cryosleep would be the new transportation of choice, eliminating all waiting time from whatever you might be doing. Imagine you're a regular businessman working for SpaceZ. Maybe you're completely used to getting put into cryosleep every few years or so to oversee colony construction. It's completely normal that your manager is never the same guy, that you never have any consistent friends and acquaintances. Or maybe you make a regular commute between Rigil Kentaurus and our own solar system (which needs a name, by the way), spending a month or so in either one before going back under for the ride back.

As it's likely a very precise science, it probably wouldn't be cheap. At best it would be affordable, meaning families could worry about their new life on Tau Ceti rather than the cost of getting there. As a businessman for SpaceZ, the regular commute would be covered by your boss, the same way plane tickets for working abroad are covered by companies now. But perhaps it gets more expensive the longer you hold it out for, making long-term or consistent cryosleep reserved for the wealthy. This is why SpaceZ's CEO can afford to pop in and out their own company every decade, keeping it in their grasp for hundreds and hundreds of years, all while the middle-managers just live out their lives as normal.

But overall, it's probably the best option for even if we could go at the speed of light, because no way under heaven are you gonna be making a regular four-year commute with nothing but a newspaper to look at. Time is the next dimension we have to conquer, and this is just how we'll do that.

Kay, now get us to this "beyond" stuff.


Tune in next time for Part Three!


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