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:
  1. 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.
  2. The star does not change in its luminosity to a wild degree, which would shower the world in lethal radiation.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. The planet's rotation around its axis and the the correct amount of tilt to create even seasons and even temperature.
  8. The four basic elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
  9. 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.
  10. 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:
  • M-Class
  • T(erra)-Type
  • Terran Standard
  • Earth Standard
  • Atmospheric Standard
  • Habitual
  • Colony suitable
  • E(arth)-Type
  • Goldilocks planet
  • 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 1995 film 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.   
Simply put:
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.   


Examples:

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. 

FIREFLY
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.










SPACE: 1889
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."









KILLZONE
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".


Mass Effect
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.














Blade Runner
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.


LINKS

Here is the link to the NASA Exoplanet site

http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/


8 comments:

  1. Interesting article, William!! You are discussing perhaps the most important issue in future warfare- what are we fighting over? If there is nothing worth fighting over, than there won't be any future wars in space.

    I tend to have a more hopeful vision of the future where technological advancements have eliminated most reasons for wars, but I definitely know better than to expect that future humanity will be nice to each other when there is something everyone wants but not everyone can have. I have a few points to make regarding wars over habitable planets.

    In a universe without FTL drives, spacecraft will need to have closed life support systems to sustain there crews on long journeys to the stars. Before humans head for the stars, we will first build space habitats, like O'neill colonies. "Islands in the Sky", if you will. These space habitats offer several advantages over planets- you can create any environment you want onboard them, set your own preferred gravity, remain separate from other factions of humanity, and travel freely through the cosmic void. Solar energy is easy to harvest in space and asteroids offer raw materials for such massive spaceships.

    Starships, then, might be similar ships designed to support a small community on the interstellar flights. A spaceship could head for the stars at sub-C speeds with a closely knit family of crew-members.

    It is quite likely that people who dwell on such craft would not want to live on a planet. To quote the young lunar girl in the novelization of 2001: A Space Odyssey, "Earth is a nasty place- you hurt yourself when you fall down!!" A space habitat is not the same as a lunar colony, I know, but you get the general idea.

    You have to watch out for "planetary chauvinism"- future space pioneers might not want to live on planets at all!! Anyone with the ability to build a close life support system could simply opt to live on a large spacecraft. They could wander the galaxy, even, never having to stay in one place or worry about maintaining a planetary ecosystem in the face of cosmic disasters like supernova or solar flares. Imagine a spaceborne human in 2567- "You don't want to live on a planet- you can't leave when the sun starts flaring!!"

    There are many advantages to living on a spacecraft instead of a planet, like that big gravity will you have to blast out of so dangerously every time you want to go somewhere.

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

    Christopher Phoenix

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  2. Just a thought- of course, some people might prefer to live on a planet. At any rate, every SF universe has its founding assumptions. What matters is that they are well thought out and the consequences of every element introduced is explored thoroughly.

    Looking at space travel from the hard SF view, it seems that before humanity can become star-faring, we will have developed technologies that will alleviate our current planetary issues- somewhat like what Star Trek portrays. We will need closed life support systems- this technology might also allow scientists to solve the current problems with food supply and global warming. We need access to vast amounts of energy, perhaps by building solar power satellites, harnessing the energy of solar flares, or using Jupiter's magnetic field as a generator. We need fusion power, super-strong materials, etc. Before we can think about Mars terraforming, we will have the capability to stop Earth marsforming.

    Whether this means our future will be Star Trek like or that we will simply fail to become a Type 2 Civilization is debatable. Could our future be "Become like Star Trek or just die?" A civilization that can create antimatter for deep space travel could easily provide electrical power on Earth.

    n a SF novel, the future could develop in different ways. Perhaps some
    insanely easy method of hyperspace travel is discovered, causing Weyland Yutani to relocate a lot of their interests to more profitable planets than the nearby rocks. Perhaps an alien species was not so far-sighted as to chose to live in space habitats and chose to come invade Earth in some fusion powered rustbucket stolen from a more advanced society. Any number of things are possible.

    One interesting possibility is aliens roaming the cosmos in worldships- if one such worldship came upon Earth, would they be friendly to us?
    http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=19669

    One interesting note is that nuclear pulse drives are visible from large interstellar distances and would appear to be a double ping millisecond pulsar running down the timescale as it moved away from us. Perhaps would should be more concerned if they were moving toward us...

    When discussing wars of habitable planets, you need to keep in mind the notions of "habitable" may vary and that not every civilization may even want to live on a planet, for various reasons.

    As for the vision of the future where humans live peacefully on many planets- the Polity universe created by Niel Asher and explored in the novel Gridlinked offers a different view on how that could come to pass. Humans were just as messy and prone to violence as they are now in the Polity universe, but its not up to humans to keep the galactic peace. Immensely powerful AI's that control a system of interstellar teleportation devices known as Runicibles governs human civilization, and terrorists who attempt to throw of Earth Centrals rule with acts of violence are hunted down and killed by ECS agents. The plus side is that you can travel anywhere in the galaxy you want without needing so much as a passport. You can even carry "proscribed" weapons through the Runcible as long as they are registered and powered down.

    The AI's favorite euphemism for kill when giving orders to ECS agents? "Use maximum sanction"

    Christopher Phoenix

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  3. I had about forgotten that Asimov's concept! Nice catch! I imagine ships that are designed for hundreds of snail-space travel to be akin to the Babylon Five station or even Cloud 9 from BSG. They would be like a crossover vehicle, one part space station, another part starship.
    In some UFO circles, like Richard C. Hoagland, believe that Mars's moon Phobos is a hallow "worldship", and in the book "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell (a great read!), we reach Alpha Centauro in an asteroid ship.
    When it comes to terraforming, I doubt we could remake worlds in our biological imagine, instead, I think we'll remake ourselves to fit the conditions of the planet (within reason).

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  4. I'm planning on reading "The Sparrow" sometime- sounds like a good read. I just got finished with Neil Asher's "Gridlinked"- if you have not read "Gridlinked' yet, I suggest you do. It is a fun read.

    On terraforming planets- it is a rather large proposition. I don't see us taking on the challenge of transforming an inhospitable planet entirely into an Earth analogue until far in the future. Mars would be difficult because that planet is a leaky bag when it comes to holding an atmosphere.

    I think we should redefine our notions of habitable. There might be planets with an atmosphere humans can breathe easily, but I suspect such planets are rare. Even Earth had an unbreathable atmosphere for much of its evolution. However, in terms of air pressure and temperature, there are likely many extrasolar planets that have conditions similar to Earth. On such planets, you could go outside with just a breathing mask. Interestingly, Venus has the most Earth-like conditions just above its cloud layers, temperature and pressure wise.

    I've got a book named "Habitable Planets for Man" in PDF form- I intend to read it sometime soon. This book discusses the requirements for habitability.

    Download it- it is really useful!!!
    http://www.rand.org/pubs/commercial_books/CB179-1.html

    I'm not so sure about modifying humans. It will be possible someday, but right now we can only manipulate one gene- not the thousands that we would need to manipulate to engineer a pig with wings or humans adapted to methane-hydrogen atmospheres.

    Such humans would be alien to us. If a group of adapted humans settle a planet light years away in a universe with multigenerational travel, than they will evolve separately from Earth humans. Their planet will be an island- like Australia- where adapted Earth creatures become as alien as any species from SF.

    In SF universes with commonplace space travel, such islands will not exist. Just as you can move to Australia and marry someone there, a human in Star Trek could travel around the universe and spread their genetic material onto other worlds. We see two different possibilities for the future- one where humans spread in slow sub-C ships, creating new civilizations separated from each other by fast distances of space and time. In a universe with constant acceleration drives or FTL, star-hopping humans will spread their genetics and prevent different groups of humanity from becoming cut off from each other. Even in a universe where FTL is impossible, constant acceleration ships could drop in every few years and contaminate the gene pool.

    Maybe it is short-sighted of me, but I don't really like the "adapted human" concept- it really cuts down my chances of meeting a nice girl form 47 Ursa Majoris. I guess it is because I always wanted to visit the stars myself- not to sit back while machines or snooty trans-humans claimed the stars.

    Interestingly, larger planets- like the super-earths we are finding around other stars- are likely better at supporting life. Earth is borderline habitable, barely capable of having the life-supporting plate tectonics. Something to factor in our stories...
    http://www.rand.org/pubs/commercial_books/CB179-1.html

    Christopher Phoenix

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  5. I think that if we reach Alpha Centauri before the sun kills us all we will find planets (habitable of course) there.

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  6. Cool post. To me I think that when we do colonize other worlds we would have to deal with the factor that the main controllers of those worlds would be on earth. Which to colonist the ? "why listen to a tyrant 3000 parsects away" i think wars in space would be like the insurrection in the halo universe. Or for a modern example: Afghanistan or the American revolution. Colonists wouldn't want to be part of a off world govt. & make an insurgency

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  7. see soldiers jumping innocently from the deadly and muddy trenches, forced to the force by order of their inflexible "superiors" to massacre them from enemy´s machine gun nests...while the causers of those wars: monarchs, politicians and of all religions pontifex in their golden palaces were eating partridges...

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  8. (1)...interstellar travel (immortality comes)... 3D Bioprinting...is the beginning...it´s here...year 2,015...stil not can print an organ by circulates the blood...but with the exponential Progress³ of Science and Technology, in the Future things will come which now not can even imagine...year 2,100...already achieved Bioprinting of living tissue natural identical...year 2,200...the organ´s Bioprinting is already a reality and people living 200 years...year 2,300...the social progress has eradicated religion and monarchies and professional politicians, who lived from the Work of the People, already there are not abusive taxes to keep them, already there are not periodic economic crises artificially created and wars to prevent that People can live too much well... For what purpose has served all wars that the World has had?, absolutely for nothing more but for enrichment of the "leaders" (see History), before wars People lived relatively well, after wars People in rags in long lines for a bowl of hot soup...while the causers of those wars: monarchs, politicians and of all religions pontifex in their golden palaces were eating partridges...

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