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May 20th, 2014, 03:49 AM #1
How long would it take to build a ship?
How long would it take to build a starship from scratch that could hold about a million people in relative comfort for an indefinite amount of time?
Assuming you had the materials, the know how and the ability to enter deep space?
May 20th, 2014, 06:40 AM #2
Well, let's see, we've been at it about 3.5 billion years so far.
Or if you listen to Carl -- if you want to make a cherry pie, first you have to create the universe.
May 20th, 2014, 08:52 AM #3
We have the know how and materiels to do it now, what we lack is the political will to do it. It would require a vast amout of capital and resources. The more your willing to expend the the quicker it would get done. Barring and significant improvemets in manufacturing techniques it would take decades at a minimum.
You might want to check out a book by Paul Chaffe called Genesis which deals with constructing just such a ship. I really enjoyed this book and the sequel, too.
May 20th, 2014, 09:36 AM #4
May 20th, 2014, 03:15 PM #5
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- Sep 2013
Scratch Biscuit Star Ship
Well you pose an interesting question but it has no answer in its current form. But if you stipulate certain conditions I think you could come up with some reasonable answers:
Scenario #1: Building a million person star ship in our current world with current technology. The short answer of course is it ain't gonna happen. It would require a significant fraction of the global economy to pull this off and of course they would never be able to come to an agreement. But say there was significant motivation to over come the lack of cooperation (for instance the pending nova of Sol), could we do it? Do we have a technology for interstellar travel? Probably not but we might be able to do it with a light sail...a really big light sail. The sail could be manufactured in orbit which would require putting a few thousand metric tons of raw material in orbit. Difficult but not impossible if US, Russian, ESA and Chinese agencies really ramped up their booster production. And of course there are other technologically advanced countries not in the rocket-building business who could be brought on board. That is the easy part but now it gets harder, namely the ship and how to get a million people to it. We don't have the ability to freeze and revive people nor any form of stasis, so they will have to journey to the stars as living, breathing entities. Hmmm...gonna need a really big ship. Now a million people on Earth can live pretty comfortably on a few square kilometers, especially if you stack their living space. Of course it takes a lot more land, water and air to actually support them, so our ship will have to be larger than just a few kilometers in diameter, so let's bump it up by an order of magnitude and make it a sphere 50 kilometers in diameter with about 10% devoted to people living space and the remainder used for growing food, air/water purification and energy production (likely a combination of nuclear and solar). With some back-of-the-envelope calculations I come up with a weight of this vehicle (or small world if you like) at about 12.5 million metric tons. Add to this about another 50K tons of people and a whole bunch of water, dirt and air. I think you see what I'm getting at...this is a whole lot to put in orbit. But that is just a numbers game. If you have a thousand Saturn V's, a thousand Energia and a thousand Long Marches, and continue to make them year after year, it can be done. Just takes time and work. Decades of work. Or, maybe just a bit more technology. Technology like a geostationary elevator. Technologically we aren't quite there but we are close. This scenario is really hard but not impossible. Is it likely, even under our dire threat of death by Nova? No. If word got out that the sun was going nova in a few decades the world would just go bonkers. People would just bury their heads in their navels and check out.
OK, lets all give thanks that Sol is a nice stable main sequence star and we don't have to worry about it any time soon. So we move on to another scenario, one with a bit more technology. What one bit of technology would make this previous scenario a lot easier. How about time stasis a la Larry Niven's Slaver time stasis device. If we could do this we could pack all one million of our travelers along with a lot of food supplies, animals, etc into just a few cubic kilometers. Of course we could invent just about any technology we want using our imagination. Star ship! No problem. Just dump a few kilograms of nanobots programed with a star ship app onto a 25 km diameter nickel/iron asteroid. Come back in a few months and pick up the keys. We still have the problem of getting a million people on board so just have those bots make a really big space elevator. How to propel the ship. Well forget about that Victorian light sail. How about a nice Bussard Ram. Once up to speed all you need is power; pick up mass along the way. Surely we'll have fusion figured out by then. Funny how I keep coming back to Larry Niven. Cut my SF teeth on him so I guess he has left a mark.
Fingers are tired so I'm signing off.
May 20th, 2014, 05:07 PM #6
What if we were living in a star trek type of civilization with the technological level of say the vulcans. We had built star ships before, thousands of them, but then we burned all of them and put up a barrier to prevent anyone from building a new ship and leaving the planet or to prevent anyone from another planet of flying in.
But then some major disaster hits and we have a limited amount of time before everyone on the planet dies. You ask the intergalactic authority for help, but because you'd been a jerk and cut yourself off to hide from them before and had refused to be a good little citizen planet they say, "screw you, help yourselves" so you have to build yourself a new starship from scratch to hold as many people as you can, to live in space until you can find your people a new planet somewhere else.
I would think that a ship of this scale had never been built before. You have the plans stored for the ships from the past, but you have to manufacture everything else yourself from the beginning.
May 20th, 2014, 06:37 PM #7
The way to do it would be to hollow out an asteroid.
The big issue is the propulsion system.
Once we have the robots developed I would guess it could be hollowed out and fitted in 30 years. But I would expect some kind of cold sleep to be developed sooner so that much space should not be necessary.
May 20th, 2014, 09:40 PM #8
What he said. Constructing a kilometers-long starship by starting with a hull, like you would a boat, is bad design. Take a kilometers-long asteroid, hollow it out, reinforce the inner surface, outfit the innards with life-sustaining nature, bring in the people.
Millions of people is somewhat ridiculous. It would be so enormous you couldn't accelerate such a ship, it would effectively have the mass of a small moon. A few thousands would be best.
Your crew will need long lives in the hundreds so you can remember the solar system and teach it to several generations of your children, all also long-lived. Your initial (and later on, replacement) population needs to be professionals in all the fields they'll need to survive and maintain a technical society (while accounting for - contextually - worthless individuals that will crop up along the way), and the new generations will need to spend a lifetime learning until they are as good as their teachers and can teach the next generations without loss of knowledge.
You need advanced multimedia systems, preferably implanted memory technologies or direct-to-sensorium technologies like brain implants to experience life outside of the closed environment of the ship (thus understand on a gut level the reality that the ship is only transitory), computer and robot teaching aids, 100% modular and recyclable technologies and fabrics, small scale yet advanced manufacturing capabilities to rival those of the solar system and accessible in-flight, and if you can...throw in fabrication and repair nanotechnologies.
You need a robust, peace-driven societal model that covers non-violent conflict resolution, and that deals in a very honest way with the human drive towards domination and submission seen in the dynamics of politics. You need to select your initial population for their drive, professionalism, mental and emotional stability, training in the field(s) required, and as gene pool, while on-board also carrying millions of unrelated frozen gametes and embryos that will be used during the trip for artificial insemination to simulate the presence of a very large and diverse genetic pool (meaning many of the children born will not have genetic material in any way related to anyone alive on the ship, including the parents).
Every single step needs to be checked a million times by humans and futuristic autonomous scenario-based AI programs in search of mistakes and conceptual flaws.
One could go like this for a million words and still not scratch the surface of what is required for interstellar travel, especially the lived-in, non-frozen kind.
If you like reading serious subject matter, there is always this that puts things in perspective: Centauri Dreams, a website for the Tau Zero Foundation. In there is hundreds of hours of reading.
May 20th, 2014, 11:23 PM #9
Apparently the answer is 20 years. It won't hold a million people, but at least some could survive anyway. Thanks everyone for the great info, links, and ideas!!!!!!
Oh, and thanks for moving my thread, too. I just couldn't decide which forum to put it in.
Last edited by TheIELighten; May 20th, 2014 at 11:27 PM.
May 21st, 2014, 06:52 PM #10
At least a couple of weeks. Unless I work weekends.
May 21st, 2014, 10:17 PM #11
Any question involving writing and book publishing business and marketing issues, as opposed to the content of published works, should be here in the Writing Forum.
May 21st, 2014, 11:08 PM #12
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- Mar 2012
Building it... not any time soon. But probably doable in a couple of centuries; I'd expect the biggest problem would be collecting a few million tons of Helium-3 from Jupiter or Saturn.
Actually, that way you'd end up with something pretty close to Clarke's Rama, though that had antigrav, not fusion rockets.
May 22nd, 2014, 02:49 PM #13
May 23rd, 2014, 09:03 AM #14
May 23rd, 2014, 12:24 PM #15
Have fun -- WB