Kicking the Ball
Gerard K. O’Neill was the American prophet of space colonization. He questioned whether planets were really the best place for humans to live offworld and instead proposed artificial moons as humankind’s next great destination. In the early decades of this 21st century we find his vision has been all but forgotten. Mars, a cold dim rock without any of the resources needed to support human life, has become some kind of bizarre tourist destination while the Earth’s Moon and it’s resources are ignored. It would seem a conspiracy theorist’s dream and yet even they ignore it. In regards to space travel the mystery concerns that single technology required for star travel; cryopreservation. Freezing human beings without cellular damage and reviving them automatically makes centuries long voyages at some percentage of the speed of light practical. The technical challenges are not great as analogues already exist in nature with quite complex creatures surviving being frozen. So why is pursuing this technology not considered acceptable scientific research? Perhaps because it would completely change the nature of civilization when people no longer die and instead are frozen while the cure for their disease- including old age- is found.
Taking the long way around to the logical end of human expansion into space requires discussing how to actually travel through space. The only place chemical propulsion is worthwhile in terms of Human Space Flight is cislunar space- travel between the Earth and the Moon. The electric systems will never be powerful enough unless there is some form of beamed energy from a solar power space station incorporated. Because of the need for both massive cosmic ray shielding and artificial gravity a true spaceship capable of multi-year interplanetary missions must be nuclear propelled. Because nuclear systems are not appropriate in the magnetosphere due to the contamination hazard, this also means chemical propulsion is the choice for cislunar space. Exactly what kind of system is the next question. Nuclear thermal rockets are not worth the trouble- it is hard enough trying to keep a chemical engine from melting. When surveying nuclear space propulsion systems there are only two candidates with the required Isp’s AND hi-thrust and one of them requires Americium 242- so rare it is unobtainium. It would require starting a whole new nuclear industry to produce this fission fragment engine fuel. Which is a shame because it IS worth the trouble and would enable a small rocket engine with far better fuel economy than a commercial aviation turbofan that would also be able to produce electrical power.The other candidate is nuclear pulse propulsion and is essentially a fusion engine. The only problem with using H-bombs to push a spaceship around the solar system is scale: the bigger the plate the more efficient, but the lower limit is a big dumb alloy disc massing several thousand tons. There is no shortage of fissionable material though and in the Orion LAS we have existing hardware able to safely send appropriately packaged material to the Moon (where the water for all that cosmic ray shielding is available).There are interim parachute type bomb systems that could use very small bombs but they are less durable and efficient.An associate of Tsiolkovsky, Fyodorov, was the founder of the the Cosmism movement and it is worth exploring this belief system when considering the logical end of building Bernal Spheres as O’Neill proposed. The logical end being kicking these spheres like soccer balls across the galaxy using H-bombs. With enough solar energy space stations providing a gargantuan amounts of energy the math works for creating “small singularity engines.” These black hole starships are probably at the very least a century and more away. The logical end of the human race expanding into the galaxy and universe being ever larger scales of human endeavor with the final act being escaping this universe with our time-machine-resurrected-dead onto a higher plane. The way to do this had been explained by Hugo deGaris- with artifical intellects or “Artilects.” We cannot figure out how to do it but they will be able to.
Cosmism is the ultimate solution to answering those two eternally troubling questions; are you crazy enough to believe in God- or crazy enough not to? In my view it is best to just not be crazy and and find a way. That way begins with the heavens themselves and leaving Earth.