Predict
Published in

Predict

We’ll Ride Ice-Foam to Proxima Centauri

~ the most economical, near-term star-devouring strategy ~

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

TL;DR — After chewing-up asteroids (only 3% the mass of our moon, total) we’ll gobble Mercury for all its metals. Next, the icy moons become numerous Walls of Ice-Foam hurled toward Proxima Centauri and its sister stars, to clear the way of debris. That’s the key idea: ice-foam is the cheapest, most abundant interstellar Swiffer Mop! Coil guns and plasma-magnet sails will accelerate our robotic vessels, once the trailblazing snow-slabs have absorbed dangerous dust.

The Materials Mandate

Our galaxy insists on only a few things. Aside from those pesky physical laws, there’s the relative abundance and availability of each element. We’re doomed to make greatest use of the most common and easily gotten stuff. Even when some super-material comes along, and it gets used in some expensive, high-tech devices, those fancy gadgets are still only a tiny fraction of the mass of civilization. Most of that mass is cement, gravel, asphalt, granite, steel, aluminum, wood, glass, gypsum. The cheap, easy stuff.

Same rules in space. Asteroids grant easy access, so we grab them first. But, they only add-up to a drop in the material bucket; we need to look at Mercury, and the icy moons, for our sense of what elements we can get.

[Side Note: the Earth and Moon have lots of materials, too, and we’re likely to get better at mining both… But, we won’t mine the whole planet, or moon, for sentimental reasons :) Meanwhile, I expect we’ll grind ALL of Mercury to bits as soon as we’re able — it’s almost entirely valuable metals!]

Mercury’s metals will predominantly reflect sunlight into concentrated industrial stations, and channel magnetic fields to capture solar wind. Precious metals will be sent back to Earth for catalytics and advanced devices. Mercury is money, and demand will be high.

Mars? That’s just sand, and a little iron. Not even worth the rocket needed to escape the gravity well. No valuable exports. Dead end.

The icy moons are where I turn, to point in an interesting direction:

More Water than We Can Use… Here

The water-ice trapped in the solar system’s outer moons is more than enough for fleets of oceans. We have no conceivable use of so much water, compared to the returns and utilities of catalytic metals from Mercury.

So, the next-best use for all that water is as frozen foam slabs, each as large as a barn, that we launch in whichever direction we plan to travel, years later. On its way through vast space, the ice-foam slab impacts debris. Impacted foam absorbs shock well, and fractures the debris. It also melts from the energy of impact, and then the water can re-freeze to bind the debris into the foam — effectively re-enforcing the foam with debris.

Though there isn’t a whole lot of stuff in space, it is moving fast, and our interstellar vessels will be fast, too… So, when we smack into that debris, it’s explosive, destructive, and expensive to repair. The ice-foam wouldn’t eliminate the risk and cost of repairing impacts… yet, it could lower that cost greatly, while making good use of an abundant, easy-to-get material. The foamier, the better, because it sweeps a larger cross-section of space clear of dust, and it scatters debris energy throughout the volume.

Once the foam has arrived at your destination star (just before you do, as you travel faster and catch-up to it), it can be re-melted into larger ice-foam shells, acting as a debris-shield for mining operations around the new star. Much cheaper and easier to maintain than a rock-shell! And, you can hold gasses within the ice-egg. Numerous uses for that, including holding all the gas captured from reflectors & magnetic rings that are kneading plumes of plasma off of your small star. We’ll see :)

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store