Science Fiction

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Post War Developments

The news of Earth’s defeat had different effect on both sides of the war. At Mars, an auction was held to sell Earth’s ships to the highest bidder. All the confiscated ships were sold to various business enterprises to be converted into business use. Some trading firms bid for the ships so that they can be sold back to earth but when they found out that Earth could not afford to buy them back, the ships were later sold in secondary markets.

While on earth, the news of such quick loss was received with shock and disbelief. Many could not believe that the mighty earth fleet could be so easily taken over. Then as the shock subsided, finger pointing and blame shifting began. Everyone seemed to be united to blame the crew for their defeat and they refused to send any transport to pick up the crew let alone pay for their accommodation expenses.

In the end the Administrators had decided to send back their prisoners-of-war for free and write off their living expenses. This was the only loss of the Administrators but this amount was proportionally small compared to the avenue gained from the auction of ships.

The worst fallout was the collapse of Earth’s economy. In their eagerness to have a share of taxes from the Asteroid Belts, governments borrowed and invested heavily into the battle fleet. When the fleet was confiscated and hopes of collecting taxed vanished, many nations faced financial strain in their daily operations. They have a few choices.

First, they could increase taxes, which will invariably cause resentment among their citizens. Next they could print more money, which will only result in high inflation. The best way for them was to expand trading relationships with the Asteroid Belt. Vast farming land was opened to produce agricultural products to be exported to the Asteroid Belts in exchanged for precious metals. Peace was restored. The old suspicion was replaced with the immediate need to restore the financial stability of the treasury.

The center of human civilization had shifted from Earth to the Asteroid Belt. While the Asteroid Belt prospered (especially after the contribution from the modified battle fleet), Earth become the backwaters concentrating only in agriculture. It was the time when every child on Earth wanted to go to space when they grow up.

The War

2 years later.

Open Transmission.

From: Alexander Dome, Fleet Admiral, Earth Fleet 1
To: The Administrators, Mars Station 1 & surrounding settlers

This is Alexander Dome of Earth Fleet 1. In the name of the United Nations Of Earth, I am claiming Mars Station 1 to be the provincial capital of United Nations at the Asteroid Belt. We come in peace but we will respond to any form of attack against us. I repeat do not attack us or we will respond in kind.

As for the Administrators, when the fleet is within 100 km from the station, you will power down all your weapons and your ships. You will hand over all the records of the inhabitants to the fleet, the only legal administrators of this region. You will not be harmed. In return for your corporation, you will be allowed to continue with your own business as long as you abide by the rules.

To all the inhabitants, we are not the occupying force. We are the peacekeeping force. We ensure and enforce peace in the region. As long as you obey the law you can continue with your lives. This is the assurance from the United Nations.

End Transmission.

Open Transmission

From: Alfa November, Chief Executive Officer, Mars Station 1
To: Alexander Dome, Fleet Admiral, Earth Fleet 1
This is Alfa November of Mars Station 1. On behalf of the people of Mars Station 1 and our business partners who had chosen to cooperate with us, we reject your claim to this station and advise you to go home. We are fully aware of the firepower of your fleet but it will be useless against us in our home space.
We welcome your trade not your dominance. Let me repeat you are advised to turn back.
End transmission.
Admiral Alexander Dome was fuming mad at the arrogance of this administrator. “I will teach him a lesson”, he thought to himself. He was confident. He has the command of Earth’s finest crew and strongest fleet the testimony of Earth’s industry (if you can overlook the fact that the nuclear reactors, engines, propulsion system and life support system were made by the manufacturers in the Asteroid Belt.)

In addition, the ship computer had listed out every possible action from the enemy and produced counter actions. There was no reason why he couldn’t crush these uncivilized rebels.

As the fleet drew near to the station, red alert was initiated throughout the fleet. All the 50,000 crew and soldiers were on high alert. The view of Mars Station 1, was visible to the naked eyes. Suddenly the sensors reported movement of trading ships toward the surface of Mars. There were total power shutdown including life support at all the orbital constructs including Mars Station 1.

The admiral instructed the sensor drones to approach the enemy to investigate. The drones reported no energy signal, which meant all the orbiting stations and the ships landed on Mars were dead. If there were people inside, they would die of suffocation due to the absence of life support.

Alexander Dome could sense a trap but he knew nothing could hide from his sensor drones. His strategy was to wait long enough for the people inside the stations and ships to die from suffocation. He gave order for the fleet to position itself around Mars Station 1 and used lasers to disable every weapon system to eliminate the possibility of a sneak attack.

Suddenly his whole bridge plunged into darkness. Communication was dead. “Engineering report status!” he shouted. “Sir, they attacked us with EMP”

EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse. It is electromagnetic wave produced at a very short time interval (like 1 nanosecond). The result is a huge quantity of energy compressed in a small interval of time. The effect on any form of electronic circuits is lethal. Every circuit exposed to EMP is burnt.

The administrators had constructed an underground nuclear reactor at Mars directly below Mars Station 1 to produce this pulse. Once the fleet was within range, encrypted transmission was sent out to every station and ship to shut down all their circuits including their life support. All the crew will have to breathe though oxygen tank for a few seconds.

From the viewing screen of Fire Dragon, the flagship of Earth Fleet 1, the admiral saw hundreds of ships approaching the fleet from the surface of Mars intending to take advantage of Earth Fleet 1’s power blackout. He knew his fleet was more than capable to handle this situation. “Engineering report status.” He ordered his engineering officer. “All primary circuits are completely burnt. The secondary circuits have been initiated. We should have life support and communications ready at any time now. Full power will be restored within 5 minutes.”

“Navigation, estimate time for the arrival of enemy fleet.”

“Admiral, based on their current position and maximum speed, they can only engage us in 45 minutes.”

“That gives us 40 minutes to prepare for them.” The admiral was pleased with the outcome. The rebels had tried to resist but will eventually fail. His only regret was the battle will end too soon. Life support and communication was restored. He prepared for the battle cry. “Open communication to the whole fleet. This is Admiral Alexander Dome, execute Battle Formation Dome506 the moment you have full power restoration. Engage enemy when ready”

The efficiency of the secondary circuits was as expected. Within 5 minutes the whole fleet had full power restoration but something unusual happened. The ship navigators lost control of the ships. Instead of moving into formation as instructed, the ships moved to form 4 straight lines according to their classification as if they were arranging themselves on a shelf for a sale.

The crew started to panic for the first time. No one knew what was going on. Everything, including the mighty battle computer was not responding to human command.

Then the communications set received an incoming transmission.

Incoming Transmission.

From: Alfa November, Chief Executive Officer, Mars Station 1
To: Alexander Dome, Fleet Admiral, Earth Fleet 1

This is Alfa November of Mars Station 1. We have taken control of all your ships. In accordance to our rules on illegal parking of spacecrafts, we are confiscating the fleet. Our business partners are currently on their way to transport all the crew to our new resort on Mars. Please be assured we have informed Earth to arrange for your transport home. Once they have paid for the accommodation cost, you are free to leave with them. Meanwhile I wish you good night and have a good sleep.”

End Transmission.

The life support system started to emit sleeping gas causing the crew to feel drowsy and fell asleep. When they awoke, they found themselves in an enclosed dome on the surface of Mars. After they were fully recovered, a voice from the internal communication was heard.

“Good morning. I am Linda Foo the Hospitality Manager of Mars Resort. On behalf of Mars Resort we welcome all of you the valiant crew of Earth Fleet 1 to our resort. We will ensure all your needs will be met to your satisfaction.”

“What if we want to leave!” someone shouted.

“You are free to do so after you have paid the bills. Please be informed that there are no atmospheric suits in this compound. The only place you can breathe is within this resort.”

An engineer who could not overcome his curiosity asked, “How did you guys take over our ships?”

“I am sorry, I am not an engineer but I will try my best to answer. According to the news report, the electromagnetic pulse emitted from Mars Reactors contained machine codes that were written to override the codes of your Secondary Circuits. Once the codes were implanted, the Administrators can take over the ships by remote control.”

“What are you going to do with our ships?” the admiral asked. His greatest concern was on how to answer to his superiors on Earth.

“They will be auctioned to the highest bidders and the proceeds will be shared among the shareholders of this war. Thank you for asking. We wish you all the best. Linda out.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Administrators Office

An Extra-Ordinary Meeting was called at Mars Station 1 to review the information gathered and to formulate solution. Solutions were proposed and debated. An open transmission was sent to all the inhabitants at the vicinity.

Open Transmission
To: All settlers and traders around the vicinity of Mars Station 1
From : Alfa November, Chief Executive Officer, Mars Station 1

To all our business partners. I am here to address the rumors of war that had been circulating in the Internet. Yes, it is true. Even as I speak now, Earth is preparing an attack on us. Their purpose is to establish their law and order in this place. Once they are here, they will initiate registrations and taxation to finance their rule. We will see them in 2 years, which coincides with the time when Earth-Mars distance is the shortest.
Together with this transmission, we have attached all we know of their battle fleet. In a nutshell, nothing we have here can overcome the might of this fleet but we the Administrators of Mars Station 1 have decided to hold our position and find a way to defeat them, even knowing that the odds are stacked against us.
As for you, our dear business partners, you have 2 choices. First you can leave. Move as far as you can from us in order to avoid any negative fallout. You can begin to redeem the Administrators Coupon anytime you want and please be assured that we will honor the payment of every coupon. Even now, my colleagues in charge of payments are speeding up the payment process for our suppliers and contractors so that you can have as much resources as possible to prepare for your escape plan. On behalf of the Administrators of Mars Station 1, I would like to wish you all the best in your journey and thank you for being our trusted business partners.
As for those who choose to stay and fight along us, please register yourselves at our website. You will be given a personal code, which will serve as a means of co-ordination in the war. Should we survive and win the day, you will have higher priority in the spoils of war and future partnership.
Overall, whatever your choice is I would like to express my personal gratitude for being a part of this society. I wish the best for all my dear friends out there.
Yours sincerely,
Within 24 hours of the transmission, the receivers at Mars Station 1 were jammed with incoming transmission. There was significant increase in coupon redemption. To the surprise of the Administrators, almost 80% of the inhabitants had chosen to register to participate in the war. Most of them had decided that running away was pointless, as they would eventually be hunted down and forced to pay tax. No matter how much their disdain for the Administrators in giving advises, they believe their best bet was to stand together.
As for the remaining 20%, they maintained a neutral stand. They wished the Administrators lead coalition could defeat Earth but should they fail, then there can still be chance to do business with the new rulers.

Preparations For War

The Security Council has unanimously voted to extend ISA’s representative powers at the Asteroid Belt. Preparations were made to build the Earth’s first Inter-planet military force. Soldiers were being recruited and trained in space warfare. The huge costs incurred were justified with potential tax returns from the Belt.
In order to array suspicion from the enemy, ISA agents disguised as pirates to harass trading ships around earth. Then ISA used this event to justify the expansion of its space fleet.
The best designers were recruited to design long-range battle ships. They were then built at the Orbital Stations.
The Administrators were monitoring all these developments from Mars Station 1.
They sensed something big was going to happen and began to employ the routine information gathering method. Instructions were then sent to the information gathering term contractor, which was spying agency run by Free Traders. After 30 days, a transmission was detected at Mars Station 1.
To: Albert Star Kim

Information Compilation Manager

Mars Station 1

The following is the information requested 30 days ago. As the information is guarded with high level of confidentiality, the gathering process involved high expenses. In accordance to our Term Contract Chapter 443 Section 54-C you are to reimburse us the full amount in 20 hours. Attached is the breakdown on the expenses in which most of it was used to bribe top officers in the International Space Authority, United Nations Secretariat and Top Space Shipyard.

Based on the information gathered, your suspicion is proven to be accurate. The UN has authorized the ISA to expand its powers to the Asteroid Belt. They intend to establish their government here and expect us to live by their rules and pay taxes to finance their space ships. In order to exert their authority they are now in the process of building a battle fleet. The fleet is scheduled to be operational in 2 years to coincide with the next Earth – Mars fly-pass.

Details Of Earth’s Battle Fleet

Dragon Class Battle Cruiser – 21 units.

The largest ships in the fleet after the Jupiter Class Mobile Storage. Each ship is about 10km long equipped with advanced sensors, nuclear reactor and nuclear weapon systems. In order words, this is a flying fortress. It is also a huge store, packed with soldiers and logistic support. Appendix C shows the full specifications of this ship.

After establishing their dominance (meaning getting rid of you guys.) Each of them will be stationed at different regions managed by a regional governor. But before that the ship captains are to take charge. The flagship – Fire Dragon is under the command of the Fleet Admiral, a guy by the name of Gary Von Barne. It also serves as the main administrative office.

Eagle Class Fighter – 150 units

These are the fighters. Each has the size of half of our conventional trading ship. Designed to operate at high speed and maneuverability, it can easily outrun every ship at this Belt. (So, this rules out any attempt to run away). It has the capacity of 10 crew and 50 soldiers. Weapon systems include nuclear missiles, high-speed projectiles and lasers.After establishing their rule, these ships will serve as patrol ships monitoring the region under their control.

Jupiter Class Mobile Storage – 10 Units

These are the storerooms. Each has the capacity to carry 20% of the fleet needs (energy, food, ammunitions, spare parts etc) for one earth-year. So in total, not counting the supplies from the Phoenix Class Battle Cruisers, the fleet has a 200% factor of safety for one earth-year supplies.

Swallow Class Sensor Drones – 800 units

Robotic sensor drones. They are the smallest in the fleet. Equipped with highly sensitive sensors and advanced computer systems allow these drones to respond automatically in the event communication with the mother ship cuts off. Only weapon is laser-guided guns.

Their function is to form a protective layer to envelop the fleet to guard against any ambush.

Battle Formations and Strategies

The research of the above was still ongoing when we were gathering information. Quantum-Cray, Earth’s most powerful supercomputer is still simulating every possible attack from the enemy (that’s you) and formulate counter-strategies. So, whatever strategies you are thinking of, you better be smarter than the machine.

Political System

After establishing their rule, only the flagship with its escort fighters will remain at Mars Station 1. The rest of the 20 Battle Cruisers will spread over to control different settlement regions. Their main objective will be to get your records to facilitate their administrations. They will also face high pressure from their masters on Earth to collect enough taxes.

What to do?

This is your problem. Their whole purpose can be summarized into 2: taxing us and getting rid of you. While we, InfoGatherer Pte Ltd will fully prefer you, the Administrators than those in the Earth Fleet to run this place, there is a limit of what a small company like us can do.

We wish you all the best in your greatest challenge ever. We also hope you can settle our outstanding claims so that we too can have sufficient resources to make our preparations.

Thank you.

Canon Bomber

Chief Information Gatherer

InfoGatherer Pte Ltd

The Rise Of International Space Authority

As the space colonies prosper, economy on Earth was moving to a new equilibrium. Agriculture was enjoying huge boom due to the high demands on their products especially coffee, tea and chocolates. Manufacturing industries like the manufacturers of space engines, ship hull, robots and reactors were the main casualties. They could not compete with the better quality products from the Belt and many had to close down.

The worst loss for Earth was brain drain. The idea of living in a space ship or even inside an asteroid became a romantic notion to many on earth. So, not only the poor who cannot find jobs on Earth wanted to migrate to the Belt, even the rich and successful professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers and accountants find it tempting to move to the Belt.

Meanwhile, the International Space Authority (ISA) had been monitoring the progress of the colonies and repeatedly lobbied the United Nations for the mandate to bring order to the colonies. The petition had been rejected, as the nations had no intention to jeopardize trading relationship with the Belt and pay for cost of this “new order”.

Finally, the ISA submitted a decisive report that results in the first inter-planetary war.
To:His Excellency Secretary General Of The United Nations Of Earth
Members Of The Security CouncilHead Of States
We, the International Space Authority (ISA) are grateful for being bestowed with the honor of representing all people of Earth to bring peace and order to space around us. It is our responsibility to continue to do so and to ensure that the people of Earth will continue to live in peace, prosperity and freedom from any threat that comes from the sky above us. However, the latest developments at the Asteroid Belt reveal to us that we may not be able to live securely for long.
We have reliable evidence to conclude that the recent developments out there can cause serious repercussions that will spell the end of our peace, prosperity and freedom that we have enjoyed for so long. This evidence is currently stored in the memory chip at the cover of this report.

Before we present our findings, let us qualify by stating that we are not warmongers. We do not advocate any form of destruction and certainly not any killing of human lives. That does not mean we should not take initiative to prevent the development of any threat to us. What we would like to ask is for you to allow us to bring law and order to the people out there. Our purpose is to be the agency of the United Nations to bring law and order that is essential for our collective peace and prosperity.
Here is the introduction on them:
Who are they?
They are the space settlers. Since the last 2 centuries, the colonies have been expanding at an astronomical rate. Our intelligence estimates their population at 1 billion, which is about 10% of the current population on earth.
They live scattered throughout the Asteroid Belt and some even extended to the moons of Saturn. The manufacturing powerhouses are located inside a number of huge asteroids. We do not know what is inside them as our sensors are unable to penetrate into the rocks.

The vast majorities are nomads, living in their space ships trading with people they pass by.
Why are they a threat?
Because they are lawless. The closest thing they have that resembles a government is a group of people they called “Administrators”. These “Administrators” are nothing more than the descendents of administrative staff sent there 200 years ago. All of them live in Mars Station 1, a station built from Earth’s initiative and resources.

As rulers, these “Administrators” are extremely weak. After more than 200 years of development they do not even have a single professional soldier! All they have done was set up some trading rules and most of the time they are engaged in their own business activities. This is totally unethical. Just imagine if the rulers are themselves so preoccupied in their greed, what do you expect from the people? Their whole society is a literal manifestation of the power of greed.
Without the establishment of Law at the Asteroid Belt, the people there can literally do what they want. The only real development they have achieved is in space technology. Today, they can build better ships than we do.
Combine this “freedom” with greed and their access to superior technology. The result will be our greatest fear - Space-Age Vikings. Some may argue that they have been trading peacefully with us for the past centuries, so what is the threat? If we use history as our guide, then we can predict that it is only a matter of time they will leverage on their superior space technology to raid our planet and demand tributes. Even today we know that our agricultural products are in huge demand at the Belt. The question now is when will they stop trading and start demanding for them.
Can we initiate peaceful negotiation with them? The answer depends on which “them” are we referring to. We can talk to the “Administrators” but these guys don’t have any control over their people. In our last count, there are about 200 million groupings or companies there. Each has the potential to launch raids on us.
What shall we do?
The outcome is clear. We need to bring order to these people. Let us reinsert that this is not a call to war. This is rational respond. We can see very clearly around us that even without violence, they are bankrupting our industries and causing brain drain from our planet.
Our proposal is as follow:
  1. Authorize ISA to extend the UN’s interest to the Asteroid Belt.
  2. Initiate a standing professional space army and administrators to bring order.
  3. Design and built a fleet of battle ships.
  4. Establish tax system to pay for the above cost.

We would like to remind everyone that this is the best time to act. Right now, they are still a scattered group with no full time soldiers and not a single battle ship. We cannot afford to give them time to start one. We cannot afford to do nothing.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Prosperity of The Colonies

The abundance of natural resources continues to fuel expansion of human population at the Asteroid Belt. Huge asteroids like Ceres (diameter 918km) and Vesta (diameter 500km) become permanent mining colonies. Miners drilled through the asteroids to create cavities to house their colonies. Thus, you could find human beings living inside huge asteroids getting used to the micro gravity inside the rock. These were the first space-age cavemen.

Since then, there will be 3 distinctive groups of people at the Belt- Rock Settlers, Free Traders and the Administrators.

As the Rock Settlers established themselves within the cavities of their asteroids, they began to set up their own specialized manufacturing base using minerals mined from their own home. A colony in asteroid rich in titanium would initially find competitive advantage to manufacture ship’s engines. Over time, they became so efficient in producing high quality engines that even it the titanium deposits in their asteroid run out, their engines will still be in high demand even if they have to import the raw materials causing the price to escalate.

Thus the Asteroid Belt become a giant industrial estate with the Rock Settlers becoming the major industrial force of the system. Almost everything used in the Belt was manufactured inside some rocks.

Meanwhile, the traffic at the Asteroids is controlled by the Free Traders. These were the people who spend their entire lifetime in their ships travelling from asteroid to asteroid serving as conduits for trades. Whenever Earth orbits passes closer to their vicinity, they will trade with Earth traders – exchanging the Asteroid’s industrial products with Earth’s organic products like coffee, tea and chocolates which have become prized luxuries by the people at the Asteroid Belt, Rock Settlers and Free Traders alike.

Apart from trading, some Free Traders engaged in tourism, bringing people to outer planets like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus.

Despite the distinctive lifestyles of these 2 groups, the dynamics of the asteroid society causes many overlaps among them. For example, a Free Trader who is tired of moving around can choose to sell his ship and buy a partnership share of an asteroid. Likewise a Rock Settler who wants to travel can choose to sell his shares of his asteroid and buy a trading ship.

Prosperous Free Traders who owned huge fleet of trading ships will inevitably diversify their assets to acquire shares of manufacturing bases in asteroids. Likewise for successful Rock Settlers who acquired shares in trading companies run and operated by the Free Traders.

The smallest of the 3 group was the Administrators. These are the people living in Mars Station 1, the only gravity-generating base in the Asteroid Belt. Despite their small numerical numbers, they were the most organized group and their influence could be found throughout the Belt. They set up the infrastructures for the whole system.

If the whole Belt is seen as a nation, then the Administrators will be the ruling class. However, this system of government is unprecedented by Earth’s standard. They were not democratic because there were never elected. Nether were they dictatorial because they do not have the means to enforce their rule. They did not even have a single soldier. Therefore the Administrators never demand, they only advise. These advises were usually acted upon by the inhabitants for business reasons stated below.

The Administrators used their organizational and planning skills in setting up the system’s infrastructures and thus positioning themselves in a favorable business position. They were the single largest customer, financier and business partner to the rest of the inhabitants. Naturally, lucrative contracts would be awarded to the “Most Favorable Business Partners” referring to those that chose to obey the Administrators’ advice. While Free Traders or Rock Settlers who has decided not to follow the Administrators’ advise will not face any direct action, they will be placed at lower priority when it comes to business dealings with the Administrators. This is a result nobody wants.

The most influential company set up by the Administrators was MarsNet, an internet service provider. This company has a database of millions of subscribers, thousands of advertising contracts and paying regular rents to hundreds of habited asteroids for leasing space on them to store relay stations and data recovery centers. Whenever MarsNet decided to install additional relays and data centers, it would always be flooded be many tender quotations because the orders were usually huge in the magnitude of hundreds of relay stations at one time.

Company Registra, an organization arm of the Administrators was responsible in registration of companies. It earned its income from a one-time registration fee, maintenance fees and arbitration fees. While it was not compulsory for the businesses to register their companies, all of them chose to do so because a registered company gave the impression of integrity. This facilitates business dealings.

Whenever there was a dispute among the companies, they would approach Company Registra for arbitration. Once they did that, apart from paying the arbitration fees, they were obliged respect the outcome. For serious cases, Company Registra can choose to deregister a recalcitrant company.
When the demand for capital increased, the Administrators set up Asteroid Exchange and Capital Reserves. The Asteroid Exchange was a combination stock and commodity market. It allows expanding companies to raise funds by selling their shares to the public and provide a liquid secondary market for these shares.

In order to facilitate hedging on commodity prices, the Exchange started a futures market for various metals, most popular being uranium, plutonium, gold, platinum and titanium.

Capital Reserves is the equivalent of central bank for the Belt. Its most important role is to issue currency and regulate credits. Unlike the nations of Earth that printed pictures on pieces of papers and call them money, the Administrators were more resourceful. They first acquired a number of precious metals and then issued coupons on them. These coupons can be used by anyone to redeem the stated amount of metals from the Administrators. As long as the integrity of the Administrators is not in doubt, these coupons are as valuable as their underlying assets.

At first these coupons were used to pay the Free Traders for services render and goods delivered to the Administrators. Then they started to circulate among every inhabitant at the Belt. Even Earth traders started use and keep them. On Earth they were know as “Space Money”. Eventually they became choice investments for Earth fund managers. The Administrators were careful to preserve their integrity and transparency in order not to cause any negative effect on the coupons.

It is important to note that this coupon is different from Earth’s money. Every coupon is a promise from the Administrators that guarantees the redemption of a certain quantity of a certain metal. There are a total of 5 metals used as underlying asset – gold, platinum, titanium, uranium and plutonium. So, the relative value of the coupons also depends on the relative values of their underlying asset. For example, when the price of gold is half of platinum, it takes 2 coupons of 1 kg Gold to match the value of 1 coupon of 1 kg Platinum.
Soon, some Rock Settlers started to set up banks to receive these coupons as deposits and lend them out as loans.
When the economy expanded, so was the demand for the Administrators Coupons. In order to issue more coupons the Administrators will have to acquire more metals. So far the Administrators refused to issue empty coupons. They began to explore mining on Mars. Being the only people in the Belt who can withstand high gravity, they had to be personally involved in the entire mining operation. Once promising mines on Mars had been identified, the Administrators invited tenders for the design and manufacturing of mining robots, surface dwelling units and transportation system from the “Most Favorable Business Partners”. Not only that, some partners were invited as shareholders for this venture. By this time the term “Most Favorable Business Partners” became quite redundant because everyone who live in the Belt was one.
Since mining operations started in Mars, the number of Administrators moving to the surface of Mars increased. Soon they began settle the permanently become the first Martians. Thus the Administrators Group started to split into 2 groups, the original Administrators that continued to do the same jobs as before and the new Martians that occupied and prospered from mining activities on Mars.
It is important to note that due to the huge area of the Asteroid Belt, no amount of communication system can overcome one limitation of physics – the speed of light. If you try to talk through a phone to a friend that lives one light-month away, the friend can only hear you 1 month later and when he responds, it takes another month for his voice to reach you. So the idea of live telecast and real time quotes is quite limited. For this reason, no one can technically be truly considered dominant in this world.

Phase 3: To Mars And Beyond

Mars Station 1 represents the first real breakthrough in space exploration. It will be built with the best available resources. Equipped with its gravity generation unit and powered by it own attached nuclear plant (since it is out of the jurisdiction of ISA), Mars Station 1 allows its occupants to stay independent from Earth.

The above feature is important because the distance between Earth and Mars varies according to their different orbits. Earth-Mars Transport is only feasible at their closest orbital fly-pass. When Earth and Mars are at the opposite end of the sun, even speed of light communication is impossible. Therefore despite possible improvement of ship design and speed, Earth-Mars transportation is seasonal.

As a self-sufficient enclave, it will have its own school, hospitals, food production and recreation areas. Incentives to attract settlers will be minimal because it will be viewed as an opportunity toward greater prosperity. The pioneering spirit is revived. The riches of the sky is now open for all and people are rushing for this very opportunity but only there is only space in the station for 10,000 people.

The mass exodus begins. Interested settlers will rush to the Belt to occupy their own asteroid. Transportation companies are going to make huge profits transporting people and cargoes from Earth to Mars with a window period where the distance between them is the smallest. Orbital factories are stretching their capacities to their limits meeting the demands for new ships, mining equipment and life support systems while banks will start to grant loans to settlers from their huge unused surplus.

When available living units in Mars Station 1 is filled up, people will have to live permanently in their own ships. These were the space age nomads. It will be a completely new environment. Gravity in the ships was close to zero. This was the beginning of human beings adapting to life at zero gravity.

This “mad-rush” ended when Mars and Earth moved away from each other beyond the feasible range. The colonies were left on their own. This formed the seed of independence from Earth. It was Phase 1 starting all over again except there were no continuous support from Earth. It was more rugged. The Nomads would engage in various enterprises. Some used their ships to tow asteroids for an agreed fee. Others set up facilities like orbital food farms and workshops by parking their ship at the orbit of Mars. Inevitably, driven by desperation some became pirates.

Meanwhile, Mars Station 1 is the focal point at this region. No one was going to settle too far away from Mars, as it would mean isolation. Trade and territorial disputes were discussed and resolved in this station. New guidelines were formed to preserve harmonious relationship and a voluntary neighbourhoodwatch were formed to combat piracy. This was the first step towards the evolution to a confederacy government.

The harsh environment caused new innovations to be developed. Better weapons and defense system were needed to fight piracy. Artificial food technology was being improved, as the flow of organic food from Earth was seasonal. Ships were getting more resilient, self-sufficient, last longer and have better life support.

Will there be settlement on the surface of Mars? Yes but limited to research projects and land speculations. Settlements on Mars have the combined disadvantage of gravity and unbreathable air, thus requiring high cost to generate air and overcoming gravity.

Prelude to Phase 3: A New Ecology

Apart from close proximity to cheap raw materials, another advantage of having an orbital-manufacturing base is, there is no limit on how big you want your factory to be due to the weightless environment. No matter how many rooms you add to it, it will never crash to earth.

In order to prevent the increasing numbers of space stations from crashing each other, a powerful International Space Authority (ISA) will be set up to regulate and authorize the establishment of any man-made object orbiting the earth. Its function is to ensure that every space station/ factory to stay in its approved orbit and the approved orbits will never cross path at the same time or collision will occur.
Any space station, which intends to change its orbital path, will need prior approval from the ISA. The ISA will in turn conduct regular checks on the orbital path of every space station and should there be any discrepancies in them the management of the station will be notified and instructed to adjust accordingly. Failure to comply with ISA can cause the entire station to be disabled and its crew detained. This is a measure to prevent any collision of space stations.

As Phase 2 Industries continue to prosper, a new ecology will develop in the skies. Raw material gatherers and refiners are at the bottom of the “food chain”. The refined metals are then send to the neighboring factories to be made into various applications. Some of the products will be resell to other orbital stations and the rest will be sent to earth via the space elevators.

As explained earlier, trading stations with space elevators will become the center of Earth-Space trades. There will be a number of transport companies using their fleet of transport ships to move cargoes from stations to stations. They will function as the equivalent of trading ships.

As for energy source, the conventional solar panels will not be enough to provide the energy for industries. Nuclear fission power will become necessary (assuming nuclear fusion is still not economically viable). However for safety reason, the ISA will ban the use of nuclear power in space.

A new innovation to bypass this ban is to set up nuclear plants on the surface of the moon. The nuclear plant operators will buy refined uranium and plutonium from the orbital refiners. They will then be split in a controlled nuclear explosion and the energy produced will be used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Additional energy will then be used to compress this gas into liquid. The liquid hydrogen and oxygen will be sold to all the operating stations as energy source with space tankers (the equivalent of super tankers in the sea.)
Over time the space tycoons (those who owned the orbital factories, cargo ships and nuclear plants on the moon) will begin to realize that the lifeline of their industries is the Asteroid Belt (between Mars and Jupiter). The existing way of sending a few convoys of ships to back a few rocks is not a good way to secure the vast riches of the Asteroid Belt.
So, they will start to co-operate and combine their resources and expertise to build the first permanent human settlement in space. It will be the largest space station ever built at that time, able to accommodate at least 10,000 people, shaped like a wheel and able to spin to produce artificial gravity. This station will be called Mars Station 1 because it orbits Mars.
Mars Station 1 will represent quantum leap in the history of space settlement as it will allow a new generation of human beings to live their whole life without stepping a foot on Earth. It will also serve as a rally point in the future Earth-Space Conflict, which will be explain in later chapters.


Phase 2 :Space Industries

As the space stations become richer, it will increase its operations by processing the cut asteroids before sending them to earth. So, instead of sending small mineral rocks to earth, the station will be able to set up a mineral-processing arm to purify the precious metals, cast them into ingots and sell them to earth at a higher price.

At this time, space has transformed from the equivalent of Primary Industry to Secondary Industry. The isolation of the space station in space makes it an ideal place to process minerals as it does not cause any pollution to Earth.

The space industry will further develop when the station administrators will start to employ expertise to expand to manufacturing activities using the materials obtained from the asteroids. Basically, there will be 2 types of products manufactured, products developed for self used and products to be exported to earth using the advantage of zero g environment.

In the first category, the making of products for self-use is necessary because the station’s experts are more familiar of what they really need than those who stay on earth do. Secondly, it will save cost because every item imported from Earth involve high transportation cost.

As the manufacturing capacity progresses, coupled with availability of cheap minerals and weightless environment (facilitates the movement of huge items), the orbits of Earth will become the manufacturing bases. More people will be stationed in space to serve the expanding industries but some employees will still be earth-bound, working long distance from their computers. There will still be no permanent settlement in space although it is getting more crowded. The sky of Earth will be filed with many Space Stations serving as factories. They will be known as Space Factories.

What will happen to earth then? With manufacturing industries shifting above and employment opportunities developed in space, there will be more service-based industries to serve the recreation need of these space expatriates. The earth will be more organic as there will be lesser factories. There will definitely be more launching pads to launch rockets and projectiles to space.

The common conversation will be “Do you work in space or on earth?” If the person works in space the next question will be “What is the Orbital Path of your factory?”

At this time, while the transportation system will get more efficient, the best real estate will be at the Equator both on Earth and up in the orbit due to the development of Space Elevators. A space elevator works the same way as the common lift except that it hangs from the space station and extends down to the surface of the earth. With the space elevator, we only have to press the “Up” button and wait for the door to open. When the door opens, step in. The next time the door opens again, you are in a space station. This will be a very efficient way to travel to space but it will only be available to stations above the line of Equator.

This is the reason why Equator is necessary. In order for the Space Elevator to work, it cannot move at all or it will knock into buildings and mountains. The only way for a space station to appear stationary from earth is for it to orbit around the earth at the same rate of earth’s rotation (one round in 24 hours) and the only place it can do so is above the Equator.

Thus, the most established and powerful space stations are the ones above the Equator where they can take advantage of the space elevators. They can choose to become collection centers for asteroids, manufacturing base or trading center (using the advantage of space elevators). In order to improve profitability, these stations will concentrate on becoming trading centers (equivalent of seaports) and leave manufacturing to other Non-Equator stations.

The Equator Stations will become trading hubs in Earth – Space trades.While on earth, nations at the Equator will have a windfall. All they have to do is to allow a space elevator to extend to their air space. The next thing will be to collect taxes on goods coming in and out from the elevator. By extension, their seaports will become very busy distributing goods from the Space Elevators.

As civilization continues to advance, the asteroids within the vicinity of earth will be consumed. It will be necessary to go beyond the vicinity of Earth. The next destination will be to establish permanent base at the Asteroid Belt (between Mars and Jupiter). That will be the Phase 3 – To Mars and Beyond.


Phase 1 : Blueprint

To start we need infrastructures in orbit. This includes a station in space that will serve as a logistic center. Initially this station will construct towing ships to gather mineral rich asteroids.

The main challenge is to face with technical difficulties in working in vacuum and weightless environment. This is also a phase where huge investments is poured in without seeing any visible returns. Parts for the station have to be launched from earth using either rockets or projectiles and assembled in space.
Once the functional station is assembled, the next part is to build space worthy vessels to approach mining sites. Initially, the objective is to identify and examine asteroids, which are mineral rich rocks in space. The nearest source is at the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Suitable asteroids (small and rich enough) will then be towed to Earth’s orbit, which is not a big problem as the working environment is at zero gravity (g).
At orbit, machinery will then be launched from the station to cut the asteroids into smaller pieces and send to earth.
The station will be served with minimum direct human participation and extensive automation for the following reasons:
First, the high cost of life support will cause the station management to keep the number of human beings to be as small as possible. On earth, the air we breathe is free but in space it has to be manufactured and recycled. Thus an additional pair of lungs in the station will incur significant cost. This will encourage extensive automation in the stations.
The routine for station staff will work like our present ship or offshore platform crew, away from home for a few months in the station and come back to earth for another few months. They will consist of technical experts involved in the maintenance of the automations and the mining crew involved in towing and cutting asteroids.

Secondly, the absence of gravity in the free falling state of the orbit will cause permanent damage to the bone structure of people staying for too long. Currently studies show the astronauts exposed to zero gravity experienced calcium loss in their bones, causing their bones to become brittle and weak. This represents occupational risk. A small human crew will minimize this problem.

The next question is, can we manufacture gravity in space? Yes but the cost is too high. Theoretically we can simulate gravity by spinning the station. The centripetal force produced by spinning will push every object in the station toward its wall, thus giving the impression of weight.

What we need to do is to build a station shaped like a wheel and make it spin. However the cost for such construct is too high and it required huge energy consumption to spin the wheel. It is not wise to add to the existing high cost. Therefore artificial gravity, while is possible will not be implemented.
As long as the asteroid towing and cutting operation remain profitable, the 2nd Phase will be developed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Why do we need to leave earth to go to outer space? Almost every modern science fiction I came across have scenarios where human beings starts to spread beyond earth. Practically, the main reason for such exodus is the limitation of resources on earth. Space beyond earth is a huge source of minerals, energy and of course spaces (when the earth gets too crowded). The other reason is to spread out the human population in order to preserve our species from extinction in the event something bad happens to earth like asteroids knocking into it.

Therefore, the ultimate question is not whether we will spread beyond earth but when will we do it assuming our species live long enough.

Out of all our existing space activities, the only profitable category is in communication and spy satellites. This also explains why it has the most progress. Satellites make money. This encourages business enterprise to develop betters versions and launches more of it to space. Is that all we can do? Space around us is full of valuable minerals especially from the Asteroid Belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. If only this resources can be tapped, the human civilization will start to dominate the entire star system.

In order to do that, we have to resolve the many obstacles, which will require huge investments. I foresee the following necessities to be established:
  1. Develop cheap and efficient transport to move people and cargo up to the orbit.
  2. Building and assemble space stations to function as space ship manufacturing base.
  3. Identify suitable asteroids for mining.
  4. Establish mining system.
  5. Establish Space – Earth trade.