23 March 2013

How to Escape a Doomed Planet

I admit it: the last blog post was rather lame. Me moaning about my mental maladies. Self-indulgence at its finest! Or its worst. Sorry about that. It was an exercise in invention, just me thinking aloud and pounding the keys.

But this is serious. Deadly serious. Maybe not for Earthers but for those on another world that is near (metaphorically, not astronomically) and dear to my heart. Call it a test case. How to escape a doomed planet. And where to go. 

In writing THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora" I have made no secret of the main element of the storyline involving the arrival of a comet. Quite a conundrum. Fortunately, the arrival coincides with a sufficiently advanced civilization that possesses advanced technology, enough so to actually have a fair chance of dealing with the issue. Yea, them!

First, I should explain that such an event has been foretold in mythology for eons. And our tangent-hopping interdimensional voyagers have seen its approach while popping into the future on other business. So, in the "past" we have dueling prophets warning about the end of days. In the "future" we are concerned with the science of diaspora--the scattering of a population as a survival strategy.

Second, the weak link in the system is I am not a rocket scientist. Hence, I must do research on all sorts of issues, both social and technological. I do have some head-start based on my extensive reading of space-related books during a childhood in the 1960s, an interest which waned during the Shuttle era. I also can be expected to tell the tale through assorted characters, most of whom are not themselves rocket scientists. Thus, readers will get the science through the voices of non-scientists. (Remember how Sebastian sardonically replied to Chucker's question in THE DREAM LAND Book II: "I can't explain how [interdimensional doorways] work, I just know how to use them"?)

Third, and perhaps most importantly, where do we they go? From Earth, it's fairly easy: the closest star of any kind, with or without habitable planets, is the Alpha Centauri system (read all about it here) which is still about 4.36 light-years away. Considering a trip there for your next holiday? Get a preview here. (Need more info? Check this page; the good stuff is toward the bottom.)

For the good folks of Ghoupallesz, however, destinations are more limited. First around the twin suns (Abæda, the larger, yellow one, and Siila, the smaller, blue one) is the planet of Ghoupallesz orbiting at a comfortable distance. Outward from there are three other planets, thus colder, gassier, less hospitable. The second planet, Gouo, could be used as a way-station for repairs or other short-term stays but is unsuitable for permanent habitation. The other two planets are Kuraja and Sovê, gas giants. That leaves the closest neighboring systems.

Our heroine, Gina Parton (a.k.a. Queen Jinetta of Fenula), does have a background in Physics. Thankfully, she becomes instrumental in locating suitable destinations for the diaspora.

Whereas Earth's closest is 4.36 light-years, the poor travelers from Ghoupallesz must go 17.54 light-years to reach the Tumark-C system where there are three potentially habitable planets within the comfort zone. Next closest is 22.8 light-years to reach the Ubo system, which may have two habitable planets. Then comes Raal at 23.77 and Danida at 25.12 light-years. If they really want to put the pedal to the metal, they can try to reach Sol (a.k.a., Earth's very own star) at a life-stretching 101.38 light-years! (There are three closer systems than Tumark-C, at 8.11, 9.72, and 12.6 light-years, but they do not appear to have habitable planets.) 

Given the apparent necessity of long-period travel, some options remain: 

1) residential ships ("arks") where people are awake the entire voyage, living their lives aboard, or 

2) sleep through most of the trip. 

At, say, half-lightspeed, such a trip would be a manageable 35 to 100 years. Generations will be born and die enroute to the destination. This generous method would require full "hotel" accommodations, food and fuel, and a lot of "dead weight" consisting of people who have no active role in the operation or maintenance of the spacecraft who would nevertheless need to be cared for. Perhaps those people could be put into suspension on the way there. 

We would also need a propulsion system that uses little to no fuel that must be carried along. That's where the rocket scientists come in. NASA? JPL? Anybody...?

Once arriving on a distant unknown world, presuming it is suitable for long-term habitation, as studied prior to arrival, ground personnel would be needed: scientists of all categories, a security force, and construction teams to build structures. Plus other passengers whose usefulness finally gets a test in the setting up and running of a new civilization. Probably on the list of needed skills would not be athletes, entertainers, celebrities of all kinds, etc. Everyone would have to work, contribute to the new society, and most of all: procreate--but procreate with high-IQ mates who may not be passing on the most physically attractive genes.

However, let us not think too far ahead! We must be able to get off the planet, preferably well before the doomsday event. That means building a launch system to go from surface to orbit. Then an orbiting station for assembly of interplanetary vehicles. Meanwhile, further construction would continue on the surface and pieces would be shuttled into orbit to be added to the "frames" under construction there. Once completed, the crew and passengers would be shuttled up to the interplanetary vehicles. At the appointed time, those vehicles would break orbit and sail away from their home world forever.

Plenty of planning to do....

Because it will happen someday, even to Earth. Remember the dinosaurs and their brush with extinction via the Yucatan strike? Well, under the ice of Antarctica is an even larger crater from an even earlier strike!

Now for the fun part: naming the interplanetary vehicles for the mythical gods and goddesses of Ghoupallesz!

[P.S., Sebastian, or someone similar, could walk a number of specialists through a particular interdimensional doorway, thus saving them from the fate of the rocketeer groups. Or not.]

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.


  1. I absolutely love your zealousness to protect, relocate, continue human kind. I am in the opposite spectrum. I believe that unless we have few catastrophic disasters to wipe out huge chunklets of population, humanity does not deserve to breathe on this amazingly beautiful planet. I am a huge fan of life, just not homosapians. I do admire your outlook though <3

  2. Stephen - I love the concept of Asteroid Ships and living entire generations in them. One of my short stories involves an 8 yr old whose family is embarking on just such a journey. I've a scifi novel rolling around my head with that concept too.

    It's possible with the technology we have now, I know that possible and doable are two different things, but what an awesome notion--using the rocks and building blocks of our solar system to build a small worldlet in which to travel to other solar systems.