Powered Flight

I recently discussed Electromagnetic, EM Drives and the possibility of their wide spread use in the near future, needless to say he was skeptical.

Ruminating on the response made me think about the Wright brothers and the Wright Flyer.  Why did it succeed when so many others failed?

Academia had spent most of recorded history trying to achieve flight, governments had spent countless treasures to do the same.  Yet a pair of brothers in a bicycle shop were able to break the barrier of powered flight.

Ariel transport was available at the time, in truth it had been available for centuries.  With incremental refinements 18th century hot air balloons had evolved to early 20th century dirigibles.  Yet, powered flight had remained illusive.

20th century man was stuck with an expensive, slow and not entirely reliable method of air transportation, very much like 21st century man is stuck with chemical rockets to get into space.  The problems with today’s rocketry are the same as the ones experienced by lift assisted dirigibles and balloons.  They’re highly dependent on weather, have limited areas to launch from, are massively expensive per lbs to lift, massively expensive to build, hugely complicated to operate and maintain, slow.

Yet the technology to build the Wright Flyer had been available for over 30 years. Reliable internal combustion engines combined with a proper lifting surface and propeller.  Propellers had already been in use, why the configuration of a push propeller on a wing wasn’t utilized before the Wright Flyer will always be a mystery.

We have all the parts to get into space without all the messy expensive rocketry of the 19th century, now it’s a matter of recognizing and utilizing that technology.  It won’t be done by academics or huge government projects.  It’ll be done in some machine shop somewhere in some out of the way place where a few dare to dream big.

Solar Colonization

You read a lot about colonizing the moon or Mars, but when you really think it through, unless you’re able to generate a gravity field, none of these places are conducive to human habitation without serious genetic modification.  It’s Gravity stupid.

Once you leave standard Earth gravity you start losing bone mass.  The moon has 1/6 Earth Standard and Mars  38%.  You and your children are never going to be able to live back on Earth, it’s not about the muscles strength, it’s the lack of bone density.  The truth is that any world that is 20% below ES will probably make things difficult or dangerous for the decedents to return to Earth. There are no other planets or moons in our solar system to safely raise future generations if we don’t develop a gravity field generator.

Sans artificial gravity fields, the only way around this is to generate your own mechanical gravity.  For a space ship linear thrust can generate the G force to simulate gravity, for a space colony centrifugal force would be the only cheap option.

The ideal cheap colony site would be a 10×3 to 30×5 mile long asteroid, nickle iron, as much of a cylinder as you can make it.  Hollow out the inside, strip mining a nickle iron asteroid from both ends should be cost effective in it’s own right. Seal the mining shaft, spin the asteroid to produce as close to 1G as possible and pump in air and water.

There are literally millions of such asteroids in the system, each a private haven.  Just keep in mind a minimum width of 1200ft or the majority of your population will constantly suffer from motion sickness.

Sure you can build your O Neil colonies spheres or cylinders as well, but the cost of all that manufacturing.

Space colonization should always keep in mind, we’re only human and that means we have a small range of environments that we can thrive in without making significant changes in our physiology.

Keep It Simple Stupid works every time.

Most asteroid colonies will probably be a few miles long and maybe a half mile or so wide, covered in solar collectors, filled with various recycling devices, hydroponics and probably aqua culture.  Lite manufacturing and repair facilities on par with neighborhood garages.

Over time as the initial Mining boom collapses most would probably fall in to niche agriculture.  Like most farms most of the young will leave for bigger colonies, which is a good thing for those who remain as they grow or raise more surplus.  You could go up the food chain to meat animals.  Dairy farm?

Finding worlds that fit our Super Goldilocks zone to keep our species coherent will be a challenge, even if there are a 2 billions stars in our galaxy.

The creation of artificial gravity fields or planetary engineering are the only real options if we want to maintain the base line on a wide range of planets.

Then again evolution is about change. Who will we really be in a thousand years anyway?

Poorly Critiqued Books and Authors who refuse to acknowledge it.

The Electronic Self Publishing format allows virtually anyone to publish their writings.  I mean Anyone.  Unfortunately spell and grammar check doesn’t mean you’ve put together a good sentence or a paragraph. Never mind a short story or novel.

Now you can take into account regional “accents” in writing when you have dialog between characters, but there’s no “accents” in third party descriptors.

Now I’m an engineer by training who’s loved books all this life and having also minored in history and economics I was forced into a variety of writing courses, the most creative being how to write for business.  Having received the minimal level of education in stringing words together to tell a narrative it’s amazing to see that folks who imagine themselves writers can’t understand the basics of narrative flow.

Another issue is basic subject matter research.  If you’re writing about goings on in your home town, you should know where everything is in that home town so when you talk about someone at the Piggly Wiggly you know to state it’s the one on the south side of town versus the one on the east side.

Yet a number of folks want to write about space, aliens, military matters and travel without doing even the basic research on what actually exists.  Just because something is in Space or there’s aliens involved doesn’t mean everything “just” is.

What annoys me the most as a Veteran are the people who use the Military, especially the US Military as a prop without any idea of how a Military organization, never mind how the US military operates.

I don’t mean you need to go into detailed explanations or battle talk, but you have to keep basic military conversation etiquette.  Maintain the Chain of Command, Keep Military Discipline, know the rank structure, understand the duties.  The Basics.

NASA is not the end all and be all of space research and exploration.  Hell, they can’t even launch people in space.  Anything that happens in or near orbit is going to be observed by the space agencies of at least 20 countries.

Lets do some research before committing to publish anything.  Google it!

Pet Peeves in Military Science Fiction

Fallacies in Military Space Novels

I’ve put together some Basic and I mean Basic assumptions in any Military Science Fiction story that should be followed to maintain some credibility.

The following assumes Earth has developed a cost effective method to achieve orbit. From there everything else flows.

Industrial

If you can reach orbit cheaply and regularly you can build a large orbital infrastructure, space stations, foundries, factories and shipyards.

Once in orbit you can travel anywhere in the solar system relatively cheaply and easily, even using currently available technology.

Assuming you’ve achieve orbit using some sort of “thrust” technology and not a space elevator that technology should be easy to adapt to interplanetary spaceships.

The incentive to build spaceships is pretty simple and clear.  Unlimited mineral resource, the solar system is teaming with Billion dollar asteroids waiting to be found.

Thus any industrial society who can duplicate the basic engine design to get into orbit will go into the mining business.  You don’t turn your back on 10s of 100s of Trillions in annual revenue.

Thus you can expect every one of the G22 countries to be in space.

Of those 22 a number will absolutely dedicate resources to build a military presence, treaty or no treaty.

  • United States
  • Russian Federation
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • China
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • India
  • South Africa

Fighters/Fleet

There are eventually two schools of thought in space warfare.

  • Those who imagine the possibility of an effective fighter as a front line weapon and those who know it’s not going to happen.
  1. A fighter needs to have the endurance to travel the vast distances in space.  You have to factor in the fuel and speed of the fighter. Unless said fighter can accelerate and decelerate to near C with no energy penalty a pilot will be very uncomfortable crossing a solar system. So you either have  “Large” fighter that can achieve this or you don’t.
  2. Can a small fighter deliver enough payloads to do damage as a primary offensive weapon? Unlikely, space ships by their very nature will be heavily shielded or armored. Fighters would be ineffectual against capital war ships unless they operate in huge swarms where casualties would be immense. You have to keep in mind, in navel warfare fighters are expendable assets.
  3. I find that in most novels where fighters are used as the primary weapon of choice you end up in amateur hour where the laws of physics, basic engineering principals and military discipline are out the window. Said amateurs inevitably propose aerodynamic fighters with limited weapons and armor.  In Space there’s no air, gravity and very little friction.  An armored ball with a drive on one end would be the ideal shape.
  • There also exists a lack of understanding of military vessels or vessels of any kind.
  1.  If you build a Space Carrier it has to be bigger than what exists on Earth.  A Nimitz class carrier is roughly 360meters long and carries roughly 90 air craft.  Said carrier doesn’t have to worry about airtight compartments to handle their air craft, they don’t have to generate breathable atmosphere or deal with the heat/cold of space.  Taking that into account you can only roll your eyes when someone builds a space carrier that’s 30 percent smaller.  Simply factoring in the engines said space carrier would have to be at least 50 percent bigger than a Nimitz.
  2. Assuming you’re never going to land said space ship, you can put weapons placement all around the hull.  The limiting factor is space on the hull, power for the weapons and munitions.  In the case of a Carrier you should be able to land on the “top” or “bottom” of the craft.

WEAPONS

  • There exists a near total lack of understanding of space based weapons.
  1. It’s space, you’re weapons are operating in a vacuum with limited friction or gravity.  Whatever max velocity your payload reaches is the speed it’s going to hit its target at. Beam weapons have issues with dispersion and kinetic rounds keep going till they hit something. Beam weapons operate at light speed, but may not be effective at light speed range.
  2. It’s space, it’s okay to use High Yield Nukes.  You keep seeing people wanting to use Tactical nukes in space, WTF.  It’s been proven that a WW1 battleship can withstand a hit from a 50kton nuke, so imagine how a well armored a space battleship will handle a pocket nuke.  You don’t have to worry about fallout or firestorms.  Nukes in space only affect a small specific area; they’re not strategic weapons in space combat.  So it’s okay to use a 10 megaton nuke on an enemy space ship. Ideally you want to build even bigger war heads.

These are my basic pet peeves.  The mistakes you see in military oriented science fiction.  You see the same mistakes over and over again.  Anyone thinking of writing a realistic military science fiction novel should keep my points in mind.

You can write any kind of story you want, romance, political thriller, comedy, mystery, drama… science fiction allows you to explore all these aspects, but please, if you’re going to write in the context of a military story, keep the basics in mind.  I won’t even touch on Military Discipline.

I would also like to note there many returned veterans who have begun seriously writing and some like to write sci-fi, which is raising the bar on military dialogue and process in fiction.  You don’t have to mind all your p’s and q’s, but try to at least have some idea of how things work in a military setting.