A Blog Devoted to Exploring and Explaining the World of Military Science Fiction.
15 October 2011
FWS: What We Will Fight Over: Habitable Planets
The popular theory in science fiction, especially Star Trek was that once we as race conquer deep space and traveling between the stars, we will be one big happy species. Then there is the other, more realistic view, that we will drag out old hatreds and conflicts out there.In this new FWS series, what we will fight over, we will be exploring the genesis of space warfare and the reason it will be waged, either between us or aliens. In the first installment, we example the most likely explanation, habitable planets. When we look at the unimaginable distances between the stars, then adding the statistics of how many could be Earth-like, we see the treasure that our own world is and how rare others like her would be among the darkness of space. But rarity often breeds the desire for control, and humans like to control things of value, and the possibility of these worlds would be the lifeline for any human group. But would alien species fight us over the same worlds?
Requirements for Habitability
In order for a exosolar planet to be considered "habitable" then it needs to fall within ten requirements:
Planets that lays within the "habitable zone" of a star system called "Goldilocks planet". Close enough in distance to allow liquid water on its surface, warmth without frying the world or boiling off the water, and not too far to the planet into an ice ball. These worlds, depending on the star classification, normally fall with in one AU (about 92,000 miles) from their sun.
The star does not change in its luminosity to a wild degree, which would shower the world in lethal radiation.
The metallicity of the host star, which according to my research, is the matter other than hydrogen and helium, that makes up the star. Poor metal stars (there's a 80's hair band joke in there somewhere) would be too low in mass for Earth-like worlds.
Worlds that would more Terra-like would be of a certain mass, due to low-mass planets that are too small to host an atmosphere and lose energy after their initial formation.
Gas giants are required in the star system for habitual planets to shield these worlds from asteroids, like Shoemaker-Levy 9, and gas giants like Jupiter help stabilize the orbits of the planets in the solar system. Who knew Jupiter was so important?
Worlds that lay within the Habitability Zone need to have stable even orbits to prevent massive temperature fluxunations that would prevent the culture of life. This can be seen in the gas giant 16 Cygni Bb, which takes a swinging wild orbit from basic Jupiter to Venus in seventeen months, freezing and baking the planet over it's relative year.
The planet's rotation around its axis and the the correct amount of tilt to create even seasons and even temperature.
The four basic elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
That there be portions of the planet habitable, not the whole world, much New Caprica from Battlestar Galactica, where there was a narrow tolerable climate band suitable for colonization.
The presences of liquid water
The Numbers and Terminology
Recently, NASA JPL scientists estimated that there are about two billion "Earth-like" Atmospheric Standard worlds in our 400 billion stars Milky Way galaxy. However, our limited technology as only allowed us to discovery 687 planets, orbiting 474 stars, all fall about 300 lightyears from the Sol system, and zero are "Earth-like". Recently Dr. Wesley Traub, chief scientist for NASA's Exoplanet team, wrote that 1/3 of the G, K, and F type stars should have one habitual planet. Of course, our limited scanning and detection equipment is nothing like the Enterprise-D, so it is possible that there are Earth-like moons orbiting the vast amount of "hot Jupiter's" we have located shattered around the stars. At the moment, there 54 discovered worlds in the Goldilocks Zone critical for Earth-like conditions, some simply cross that magical zone, like 61 Cygni Bb, but suffers from extreme seasonal conditions. Then there is the Gliese 581 system. In this red dwarf star system that lays 20.3 LYs away, there is "C", "D", "G", and "E" which are all larger than Terra and lay within the Goldilocks Zone. Could Gliese 581 be the next home for mankind and its next battleground?
Here are various terms used to describe Earth-like extrasolar planet beyond the Sol system:
Minshara class planet
The Question of FTL
How humanity regards these special worlds, depends largely on the reality of faster-than-light travel. If we look at a more "hard" science universe where there is no FTL or just the ability to achieve light-speed, and there is nothing like hyperspace, warp speed, or even stargate portal, Atmospheric Standard Worlds could represent something akin to dry land in the 1995film Waterworld: pure survival in a vast interstellar wasteland.
Without faster-than-light drives, these colonial ventures would be embarking on a mulit-generational effort with journeys to other star systems taking lifetimes. Colonization of this new Earth would be left to the children born in deep space who had only previously knew the world of their metal surroundings. Another method is the use of frozen embryos onboard automated sleeper ships that are sent to a specific and known habitable world. During some point in the journey, these children are born onboard ship, educated via robotic helpers, then occupy their new home. One of advantages of embryonic space colonization is that their genes could be tailored to conform to the destination's local conditions (like my flash-fiction serial CUSTOM), and without the need for Terraforming. However, these children would know nothing of Terra nor the common culture of their mother world, instead, these children might be as alien as any extraterrestrial. These hard science realities would make the newly colonized world more like a homeworld of the colonists in a real honest sense, and if another human faction or alien race attempt to take the world, this would be a war for their very survival. If we examine "soft" sci-fi universe were the FTL is simple and easy, like what is presented in Star Trek and Star Wars, than the game changes with the importance of habitual planets. These humans could locate, reach, and colonize habitable worlds with the easy and in far less time than in hard-science. By the flip of coin, this advanced human civilization could abandon these colonial worlds with more easy.
Lack of FTL=increase of importance of habitual worlds.
Easy FTL=decrease of importance of habitual worlds.
Who Will We Fight?
If the habitual planet is the new battleground among the stars, than who would mankind be fighting? Will it be each other or will be ET trying to take our new exoplanet homes? For centuries, we have been asking the question, are we alone in the universe? With the billions of galaxies and trillions of stars that make our universe, that age-old question is not the right one, rather, its what kind of life is out there. Is it plotting, murderous Ewoks, or those Grey aliens, could it be smart sea cucumbers, or even beings that order pizza, drink light beer while watching reruns of Will & Grace? If there is intelligent life that is spacefaring, will they be our foes in future warfare over habitual exosolar worlds? When it comes to science fiction writers and creators, especially Star Trek, Star Wars and Babylon 5, they project humanity onto their alien ceatures, designing their biology based on humans, and in turn, their worlds are similar to ours. This would mean that all intelligent life in the universe is based on Earth-like worlds, and is offers a grim future when humanity pushes out beyond the Sol system, we're going to be fighting every alien race out there for a second interstellar home, much like the Old Man's War universe.
If we look at this question from a hard science POV, than I would assume they would be figthing fellow humans because of massive diversity of alien life that would be found on exoplanets.
Any sentinel species that evolved on far-flung world would be dependent to the local conditions of their homeworld's planetary position, gravity, and temperature.
This would dictate that these species would be reliant on that type of atmospheric conditions, and is assume that these aliens are carbon based!
After all, our perspective on what is "atmospheric standard" is based on Earth and our biological requirements. It is by this criteria by which we scan the heavens for a worlds similar to Earth as possible for colonization, and ignoring others worlds that are unlivable. This maybe the case with an alien species, they may ignore Earth, and set up homesteads on Venus, and that could deflate any hostile flashpoints for interstellar conflicts over the question of habitability and colonization.
The real issue would be marginal worlds, ones that could be atmospherically pushed via terraforming one way or another to suit either aliens or humans. Or that humans and alien species can modify their biology to match the local conditions of a world, like the xenomorphs from ALIENS, this make things much more interesting. The group that will want the same extrasolar habitable worlds we need, will be us. Some science fiction writers and creators have assumed that once mankind reaches the ability to reach the stars, that we as a collective species will solve our problems and live as one big happy species.
As my wife says, 'I call bullshit on that'.
This is the same agreement that people made after World War One, that modern technology made modern warfare so deadly and bloody, that no government would enter into that hell. Less than a generation later, the world embarked on the greatest loss of human life, World War Two. Mankind fights today, it will fight tomorrow, and even in the distance future, when we look at the promise of habitual exoplanets. In the June 2011 issue of National Geographic, the article "Can China Go Green?, it is said that if the rest of the world lived like USA, than we would Five Earths of resources to filfull that level of need, and that will be the primary drive for factions of humans fighting over habitual exoplanets.
With our homeworld not doing well, and the increasing demand we as a species place on her could force us into the cold void of space for the very survival of our race. Any extraterrestrial planetary ecosystem capable of supporting human life will be looked at as an economic lifeline for these terrestrial government as well as a second home for their population.The idea of sharing of these new worlds would be a nice idea, but we all know how that goes, just look at the colonial history of the Americas or even Africa. The fact is that whoever arrives first will fortiforty their position to keep their virigin colonial site, and there will be other governments/corporations looking at taking that world for themselves.
How Will We Fight
Wars here on terra firma often do not concern themselves amount of enviormental damage that does not relate to economic activities. However, when it comes to the rare treasures that Terra-like exoplanets would represent, consideration would have to be made for the preservation of the ecosystem.
Sorry, Battlestar Galactica, the full-scale use of nuclear weapons on a planet you want to colonize is unlikely, due to the effect of nuclear winters, permit altering of the atmosphere, possibly, undoing the terraforming process. Tactical use of nukes against hardened targets or a few cities, or even a hive of xenomorphs is acceptable limits, but wide-scale nuclear bombardment would likely damage the treasure that Atmospheric Standard worlds are, and then it would be pyrrhic victory. This would also pertain to the mass use of kinetic projectile (rods from god) and/or mass driver asteroid, due to the likelihood of a extinction level event that, again, would alter the planet. Chemical and biological warfare would not be used on strategic level, but a tactical scale, even better would genetically tailor to the hostile human population could be an easy and reversible WMD for soften the planetary battlefield for dirtside invasion, however, once again, the invader would have to be careful in application so as not to ruin the prize for a Earth-standard Exoplanet.
War of the Worlds
"Yet across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded our planet with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us"
I always got a sense from the various works with the War of the Worlds title that Earth was special and its natural richness was something to be fought over. This was explored in more depth during the very odd 1988-90 War of the Worlds TV series, as the alien's sun was dying and Earth was their backup site.
Battlestar Galactica (2003)
While the battle for habitual worlds, like the 12 Colonies of Kobol or even Earth, was not directly what the series was about, it did give the vastness of space its due. Often during the series the crew of the Galactica would pour over star-charts looking Earth and/or worlds that had resources they needed for the journey. Unlike it's 1970's predecessor, not every world was habitable and populated, and gulf between these rare worlds was explored, making this rare in sci-fi.
The 'verse of the Firefly universe is a great example of a one-way colonization of a solar system by a desperate humanity within a hard science reality. It is also interesting how some worlds are fought over, and others are largely ignored.
In one of the most interesting and original Steampunk universe, Space: 1889 was a paper-and-pen RPG from 1988 that showed Victorian Europe occupying a habitable Mars that had native alien intelligent lifeforms. The games as battles, similar to England's colonial conflicts in Africa and India, between the aliens and/or other European nations.
ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manual
In the single greatest work of a futuristic military, the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual details the struggle between different Terran governments and corporations over naturally habitual worlds and terraformed rocks, like LV426. The book states several times that wars in space would not be fought in deep space, but over the planet or asteroid belts, and there would be conflict sites, orbital space and dirtside. One unique concept is the use of human proxy-forces, like settlers that turn their loyalties to another corporation or government. These are factions are often referred to as "B-Boys", "Bebops", or "Bug-Boys."
The genesis of the two Extrasol Wars between the ISA and the Helghan Empire was over two habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system, and who as the right to control them. The game plays with the idea of the Helghan Empire, who were forcibly removed from one world by the ISA, but yet still are projected as being the "bad guys".
In the Mass Effect universe, one of the most important questions that is settled by the Citadel Council, the rights of colonization. This is supposed to deflate interstellar issues, but often the rights of the race depend on their position within the government and how their race is favored.
Old Man's War Universe
Mr. Scalzi as designed most of his alien races around similar biological requirements for habitability as us, making the Old Man's War universe one of the grimiest views of humanity's efforts to colonize in a crowded galaxy. Often these habitual planets violently switch sides during bloody warfare between us and them, resulting in massive losses of colonists and soldiers.
In the background of the Blade Runner story of a 21st century Film Noir, was corporations and governments using skinjobs as soldiers in off-world wars for control of resources and colonial worlds. This is only barely hinted at, and often ignored by the fans and writers, however, this writer thinks that off-world conflicts are the most interesting story idea for the upcoming BR sequel. The 1997 side-sequel, Soldier, shows the wars over colonial propriety in much greater detail.
Starblazers/Space Cruiser Yamato
In the original series, Earth is being bombarded by radiation bomb-meteors from the very distance the Gamilon Empire. Their goal was to devoid Earth of its native population, to make way for these blue-skinned aliens terraforming Earth into their new homeworld, since their world (located over 100,000 LYS away) was dying. The odd thing, was that the planet Gamilon was the second world for the Gamilon people, their original homeworld, Galman, was abandon in the distance past.
Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross
In the Japanese Anime series that served as the visual template for the 2nd generation of Robotech defenders, Earth is abandoned and several worlds are colonized, one being Glorie. However, Glorie was environmentally hostile and was terraformed by the military. Once Glorie was made habitual, the world became home to a military-culture society that was independent of the other human colonized worlds. The original alien inhabitants of Glorie came back to retake the world due to the environment being stable.