Sunday, October 21, 2012


You must begin somewhere! I am getting connected with the international Project Hyperion group by working on basic genetic and cultural issues of multi-generational starships. I can bring to the discussion and plans a knowledge of human genetics and bio-cultural evolution (the topic of a feature I recently wrote for Scientific American, which will be published next year). This weekend I crunched some numbers and came up with 18k humans as the minimum number I would want to send out as a sustainable population of humans in multigenerational starships. Actually that is a minimum number multiplied by a safety factor. The formula for the number is subject to all kinds of adjustment, but you must begin somewhere. Now this figure and its formula go on to the propulsion people, to see what its mass implies for their plans...The idea is not to build anything now, but to have, at the end of the century, the capacity to build and send out interstellar starships carrying human (and their domesticate) populations suststainable over multiple generations.

"Project Hyperion – Manned Interstellar Flight

Many studies of interstellar craft focus on vessels that are unmanned. This is because the task of starship construction is considered sufficiently challenging without the additional complexity of creating an environment where humans could survive for decades or even centuries. Project Hyperion will tackle this specific challenge head on and perform a preliminary study that defines concepts for a crewed interstellar starship. Major areas of study include propulsion, environmental control, life support, social studies related to crewed multi-decadal/multi-century missions, habitat studies, communications, psychology of deep spaceflight, mission objectives and ethics of sending humans to the stars. Like with all complex system developments, a major challenge is to merge the results from the domain-specific sub studies into a coherent system design. This shall be accomplished by using up-to-date systems engineering approaches like concurrent engineering and model-based systems engineering"

More than 30 years ago, my Dad bought a book for me at NASA-Houston, titled "Space Settlements: An Engineering Strudy". In it he wrote that he thought that some day humanity would colonize space, and that he thought that I might be a part of that effort. I am putting a lot of work into fulfilling that dream, to which I fully subscribe. After all, we buy insurance for our own lives, and space colonization is just an insurance policy for humanity and civilization. We humans have plenty of problems, and colonizing space will not solve them, but it would prevent all of our eggs, so to speak, from being in the same, fragile basket.

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