Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Asteroid IS the Spacecraft

Why would an advanced space-faring species create monstrously inefficient metal constructs for their space-going vessels? Sure, smaller shuttle craft or even “destroyer” class vehicles I can see… But the whole idea of Star Wars’ “That’s no moon - it’s a space station!” seems ridiculous on further thought. I mean, there’s most likely a host of asteroids in a star system (or even a whole belt of them in the event of a earlier planet’s demise.) With behemoths such as these, things like steel girders seem ludicrous, unless they're constructed out of thin air in some manner. Even if they're molecularly synthesized somehow, such construction still seems grossly inefficient and slow in comparison to simply locating an appropriately sized asteroid and forming it into whatever type of vehicle was desired.

At the presumed sizes where this would make sense (dimensions surpassing miles or kilometers), whatever propulsion system that might be used could be fitted onto the naturally occurring structure, and explosives used to shape the asteroid into something more appropriate. Considering the lack of need for any aerodynamics though, such efforts would probably need to be minimal, especially given the huge number of available asteroids to choose from as an appropriate subject for spacecraft-forming.

Once an asteroid was chosen, it would also be relatively simple (in comparsion to the infamous Death Star’s creation, for example) to tunnel through the thing, creating vast labyrinths. These would have the advantage of being deep underground, naturally protected from certain forms of attack. Screw the need for deflector shields!

These large vessels would not need to be fast moving, and might have slowly decaying orbits around planets themselves. Not only would they be naturally camouflaged, but using gravitationally assisted propulsion (perhaps occasionally complemented by technological means), such a vessel or base might be able to slowly navigate throughout a solar system, or even used as the ultimate doomsday weapon against a planetary based civilization if an interception course was plotted.

These are the things that enter my brain after watching a few too many episodes of Red Dwarf in a row. The notion of an asteroid spacecraft or space station brings to mind tunnels, caves, and the dungeon crawl experience. If you’re looking for a way to marry such a thing with a science fantasy setting, this seems like an excellent way to introduce the subject in some manner, complete with scientific rationale.

If that’s not enough food for thought, check out this theory that Phobos, the misshapen moon of Mars is exactly this type of ancient, asteroid/moon-sized and derived spacecraft. Agree with the premise there or not, it makes for some entertaining reading.

10 comments:

Chris said...

IIRC one of the Traveller Digest Group's Traveller adventures hung on the 'asteroid moon as starcraft' hook. It was a lot of fun, but required a bit of grounding in the (Mega)Traveller milieu.

shlominus said...

orcs do it in battlefleet gothic. these ships are called hulks. rules here.

Trey said...

Mars moon isn't the only planetary satellite this theory has been floated about. Check out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaceship_Moon_Theory

About our dear old Luna.

Christian said...

I look forward to first contact with our Martian overlords.

Tom said...

Wow - now that gives me all sorts of ideas! Thanks :-)

Gratuitous Saxon Violence said...

@ Christian - Mars wants Earth Women!

You're for the vats!

Matt said...

What if the Death Star began as an asteroid? The minerals mined from it were used to construct around it, with the asteroid gradually getting smaller and the station bigger, until all that remained was the core, which is where they put the main atomic power source, partially to provide shielding against radiation, and partially to provide protection to the power source. But then, they had to include an exhaust port - there just wasn't any way around it ...

ze bulette said...

Thanks for the comments...

@Trey: You know, I think I've heard that one about the moon. I'm pretty sure I thought it up myself one night listening to the Dark Side of the Moon.
@Tom: Don't forget, potatoes make for great asteroid spacecraft miniatures.
@Matt: Excellent points, all!

Incidentally, it only dawned on me a moment ago that those Chinese character spam comments are probably from the future. I just deleted one, and now I'm regretting not first deciphering it. Probably something about Phobos...

adventurematerials said...

That's funny about the Death Star. Re: asteroid spaceships, have you ever read any of Robert Reed's excellent far sci-fi stories about the Great Ship? Similar sort of thing. _Marrow_ is the first novel in the series, but I believe he wrote a bunch of short stories involving it first.

squidman said...

Awesome!

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