I was thinking about the various world-changing technologies that will likely be developed during Nefarious’s early adulthood… Things like machine sentience, and the space elevator, which I was reading about today. One Wikipedia article made the claim that the cost of actually building it would be somewhere between $6 and $40 billion — a relatively minuscule amount of money. As is often said, what a shame it is that so much money is misdirected into war. I can’t begin to imagine what an amazing place the world would be if we invested money into building the future rather than destroying the present.
The advantage to the space elevator is of course that it brings the cost of bringing things to orbit to a couple hundred dollars a kilogram — a fraction of what current launch systems cost. To make it obvious, imagine if you lived in an apartment building, and you had to take a rocket to get to your 20th story apartment rather than taking the elevator… it would be ridiculous. Well, rockets to space may one day be just as silly and outrageous wastes of money. Still, thinking about space elevators got me reading about launch systems of the past. I was surprised to read about the massive size of the Saturn V rockets used in the moon project — they’re as tall as a 36 story building. WOW. Watching them take off would have been like watching a skyscraper fly into the sky.
After America went to the moon, Werner Von Braun and NASA had their eyes on a Mars shot — how sad that America lost its way and decided things like the Vietnam War were higher priorities — and they needed even bigger rockets. The Nova rockets in the picture above were truly massive — five hundred feet high, seventy feet across, and able to bring over a million pounds of gear into orbit in a single mission. WOW again. Some of them had rocket engines generating three million pounds of thrust. Sadly, the next era of American rocketry devolved into nuclear missiles, and America’s sights became shamefully low.
I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but that pales before the even more extreme Project Orion — although it’s not really fair to compare them since Nova was “real” and Orion was “theoretical”. Project Orion was another skyscraper sized rocket intended for interplanetary missions, powered by series of nuclear bombs pushing it into space… The largest of their designs was an eight million ton behemoth with the potential for interstellar ark-style travel. I doubt we’ll see nuclear spaceships, but at the same time, now that we’re discovering so many exoplanets, including some earthlike ones, now would be a wonderful time to set our sites not just on the other planets of our solar system, but on the stars.
It’s my hope that one of the side effects of Obama’s presidency is a renewed interest in science and futurism in America, and that we see new technological races, and we return to a world that looks forward with a sense of wonder and optimism. In any case, anything would be better than another eight years of resources squandered in war.