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Wagon Train to the Stars

Originally published in January 1995

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Who or what might await us in the depths of space?

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In the original HyperCard stack, by clicking on the Balloon Icon above you’d see the following text...

Just exactly how will we make our very first colonization efforts of other solar systems?

Perhaps not with the bang of a warp drive engine, hurtling the equivalent of an aircraft carrier into the void, but rather with the soft rustle of a sail, that a child could easily puncture with a touch.

Star Trek style warp drives are not available to us today, and may not be available by the year 2400, either. But there will still be practical ways for us to escape the cradle of our solar system, much nearer to 2100 than 2400-- especially if we're willing to let our most vulnerable yet capable representatives lead the way-- our unborn children.

Human embryos (or even mere fertilized eggs!) are by far the best candidates for long distance colonization efforts in space. They weigh next to nothing in transport, can easily be suspended for years without undue harm, and can much more easily endure far higher G forces in accelerations and decelerations, than their full grown counterparts-- making them excellent star farers and colonizers.

Unburdened with previous experience of normal life, they will be able to adapt much more easily to the environment they discover themselves a part of, than any more mature humans could.

Near or at the very end of their journey, the embryos or eggs will be allowed to quicken. The resulting children will be raised and educated by automated systems, benefiting from the very best knowledge and techniques available for successful, well-rounded human maturation, with little or none of the problems common in less controlled conditions. The near-perfect genetic code of the children should help as well.

Here on our end the mission may look like this:

Multitudes of low mass cargo containers will be attached to enormous light sails. The light sails may not deploy until the expeditions are near the outer edges of our own system, with the craft initially depending on first and second stages consisting of nuclear propulsion and gravitic slingshot effects via the gas giants or sun, respectively, to build up velocity. Once outside our system, the light sails will deploy, receiving propulsion energy from powerful solar and/or fusion powered lasers installed on asteroids within our system, to help maintain or even add to the ultimate speed of the caravans.

Each expedition will consist of several such trains, in order to keep individual masses low and accelerations high. These would be "seeding" expeditions, containing equipment and supplies suitable for self-sufficent, heavily automated colonies to establish themselves using local resources, over many years.

Organic resources would consist of the frozen human embryos spoken of above, as well as some supporting flora and fauna, all of which could be developed into full-blown animals and human colonists as local conditions allowed.

This strategy would allow massive accelerations of 20 to 60 Gs over long periods, as well as the greatest possible resource efficiency for the operation overall.

When might the first such expedition leave its construction moorings in orbit around the Earth, Moon, or Mars? By my own estimation, around 2150 to 2200-- or about the same time the first matter siphons in orbit around Uranus begin operation (We'll be using matter siphons with the gas giants to pump prodigious quantities of their atmosphere up into orbit, for use as fuel for spacecraft. Similar devices will be used on Earth well before then as cheap lifts for cargo and passengers out of the gravity well, pretty much dooming any possibility of the famed "Sky Hook" towers people have dreamed of for so long (towers standing so tall one could literally take an elevator from ground level to orbit). The subject of siphons and sky cycles will be covered in more depth in a later issue of FLUX.).
J.R. Mooneyham, January 1995•

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