Re: NANFA-- Off Topic - electricity

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Fri, 09 Mar 2001 00:45:38 -0500

> On Thu, 8 Mar 2001, Jeffrey Fullerton wrote:
> > It's possible to beam power down from solar farms in geostationary orbit
> Jeff,
> Where have you read this? I would like to read more about this
> especially technical details.
> Thanks
> Sajjad
Like I said it's an old idea. Actually it goes back to the Russian
physicist Konstantin Tsilokovsky who conceived of the idea of people
living in orbital habitats back around the end of the 19th Century- an
idea definitely ahead of its time but more feasable was Dandridge Cole's
"Islands in Space" published in the 1960s - about habitats made out of
hollowed out asteroids (he used the more accurate term "planetoids_
since these bodies are more or less minor planets).

In the 1970s the late Gerard K O'Neill popularized space colonization in
his book "The High Frontier" - not to be confused with "High Frontier"
by General Daniel Graham about the Strategic Defense Initative. O'Neill
was more or less the guru of the space advocacy movement that promoted
development of lunar and asteroidal resources to build both habitats and
solar power satellites to provide a non-polluting energy source to meet
future demand and an alternative to our dangerous dependency on OPEC oil
- which has ironically come back to haunt us again.

The major flaw to O'Neill's idea was the price tag- in the neighborhood
of - I'm guessing $300 Billion spread over a few decades. Actually the
real flaw was that space colony advocates great white hope that they
could convince taxpayers to foot the bill - which would surely have
inflated even more over time given the immense capacity the federal
government has for fraud waste and abuse! Considering how much we are
paying for the paltry watered down version - the International Space
Station- we really got a raw deal - for what we've poured into this
project we ought to have one of those huge wheel shaped structures like
the one in the Stanley Krubic film ironically named "2001"!

A private space venture pulling itself up by its bootstraps will close
the loops and develop an ecosystem to make the station or habitat as
self- sustaining as possible. Also, if someone eventually succeeds in
snagging an asteroid - even a small one- it could provide enough raw
material to really pay off their investment and kickstart the
development of a huge space based infrastructure. That would make
powersats and orbital colonies practical- which will never happen at the
price tag required by NASA. If you ever saw the Omni Max film "L-5: City
in Space"- it took 30 years to build and at the time the story opened it
was teetering precariously on the brink of failure - obviously funded by
your tax dollars - privately funded and in 30 years you could have 3000
thriving colonies each supporting a population of about 10,000 and that
may be a conservative estimate!

I am somewhat amused by the idea of us "polluting" the High Frontier. We
do have a potential problem with space junk in near Earth orbit- but
guess whos fault that is - especially the weapons testing. There is
actually a neat solution to that problem involving lasers to vaporize
the smaller stuff and to zap the bigger peices and provide impulse to
push them out of orbit . Since lifting mass into orbit is so expensive
someone just might build an robot or remote piloted space tug to go out
and grab defunct satellites or discarded rocket stages for salvage to be
used as feedstocks for space factories. Waste is just another resource
waiting for a market to utilize it.

I appologise for going on so long with this off topic- but I wanted to
answer in a single message everyone's questions regarding how space
technology and privatization thereof could actually be a good thing for
humanity and all Earthlife in general. Would World War III being fought
over Persian Gulf oil be a better alternative to a world running on
cheep hydrogen or biofuels made with powersat electricity? More likely
we would derive energy from a number of other sources as well - which
actually is better. I have doubts about cold fusion- fusion in general
takes more energy to sustain than you get out of it- practical uses are
for thermonuclear weapons and possibly a pulse drive for fast trips
around the solar system. For energy source- solar is more practical - in
the vicinity of Earth - raw sunlight is about a kilowatt per meter
square- much greater than you can get down here - and you can even go
with a low tech approach - a simple parabolic mirror to heat a boiler
and drive a steam turbine! Even without the energy option - expansion
(another eco-politically incorrect word) into space would be the best
investment we could ever make on the behalf of our own species and
fellow lifeforms indigenous to this planet - including our beloved
finned friends! One of the things that really attracted me to the High
Frontier was the idea of building self-contained ecosystems in space.
Another blasphemy I suppose since there will always be those who will
say that Earth is the only place we belong and nowhere else. But if
lungfishes back in the Paleozoic Era had that attitude where would we be
today? Space is just another medium for life to move into and adapt just
as dry land was to life coming out of the oceans.

As for those who do not accept an evolutionary model there is still the
cold reality that the Universe dosen't give a rats hind end about living
things since it is for the most part utterly hostile to organic life -
endless void and worlds of howling desolation blasted by radiation and
bombarded by cosmic junk. In otherwords , limiting the distribution of
humanity to planet Earth is about as sensible as trying to keep the last
remnant population of the Devil's Hole Pupfish going in Devil's Hole as
opposed to letting more people become activly involved in keeping and
breeding it!

The logic of diversity dictates simply that it does not pay to keep all
your eggs in one basket. If you adopt that strategy for anything - be it
conservation or playing the stock markets you will eventually loose in
the long term. With the other approach at least someone has a chance to
win which is better than forcing everyone to share the fate of the

Better still - a future of widening horizons- boundless frontiers for
growth and experimentation with new options which will allow more people
to become winners!


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