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Former Director of the ISS Division At NASA Talks About Science Behind 'Elysium' 366

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hardware-part-two dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In the new movie 'Elysium,' Earth a century and a half from now is an overtaxed slum, low on niceties like clean water and riddled with crime and sickness. The ultra-rich have abandoned terra firma in favor of Elysium, an orbital space station where the champagne flows freely and the medical care is the best possible. Mark Uhran, former director of the International Space Station Division at NASA headquarters, talked with Slashdot about what it would take (and how much it would cost) to actually build a space station like that for civilians. It turns out NASA did a report way back in 1975 describing what it would take to build a Stanford torus space station like the one in the movie: rotation for artificial gravity, a separate shield for radiation and debris, the ability to mine materials from astroids or possibly the moon, and $190.8 billion in 1975 dollars (the equivalent of $828.11 billion today). Looks like the ultra-rich are stuck on Earth for the time being." And still artificial gravity experiments languish.
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Former Director of the ISS Division At NASA Talks About Science Behind 'Elysium'

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  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:15AM (#44496971)

    if the rich are in the station and the poor people on earth have no money, how do the rich people make more money to pay the bills?

    • They just contact the crew of the bunghole-shaped spacestation where all the lawyers are sent, done deal.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:24AM (#44497089)

      if the rich are in the station and the poor people on earth have no money, how do the rich people make more money to pay the bills?

      The same way any deeply inequal society does: create the illusion among the poor that if they just work "a little harder" they too can become part of the elite ruling class.

      • by alen (225700) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:56AM (#44497511)

        that's ghetto lottery thinking right there. you're a failure unless you become a billionaire.

        most people are content to view success as living a comfortable life. even hundreds of years ago lots of people became merchants or craftsmen because they had no chance of becoming royalty and didn't want to

      • by Xest (935314)

        Problem is in reality if this ever actually happened then the chances are those left on Earth would over time naturally organise and form hierarchy anyway. One in which the space station dwellers would find themselves left out of, which would probably be bad news when the re-organised earth dwellers figure out once more how to fling things into space.

    • They do the same as they are doing right now - they just print it. Who cares whether it really has value. its $100 because they say it is.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        its $100 because they say it is.

        that's not quite it works. ussr had plenty of cash and fixed prices - nothing on the store shelves though in the end. everything moves to some other currency then(in the ussr, dollars & goods, you could buy anything with western pantyhose).

        but even if you had a slum the size of earth, then you would have plenty of business to do there to accumulate wealth. why they would choose to live in the fucking orbit I don't quite get though since they could live richer and flow even more champagne if they lived p

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          somehow though the synopsis reminded me of ZARDOZ, except zardoz seems to have more solid base to it.

          And a giant fucking head. Don't forget the giant fucking head. With Sean Connery in red bondage gear in its mouth. And that's just the first part of the film. I couldn't make this shit up. The 1970s were the single greatest argument against drug use I have ever come across.

          Anyway... As for slums, yeah, there's still a lot of business to do there, just because it sucks and every individual is poor, it doesn't mean that the overall economy is unproductive, it's just not productive enough to provide a hig

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:29AM (#44497161)

      Ownership of property.

      The money-making businesses stay on earth, making money. The stockholders go up into orbit. They may not be on earth, but they still get their share dividends - which can then pay the cost of resupply rockets.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      if the rich are in the station and the poor people on earth have no money, how do the rich people make more money to pay the bills?

      The same way they do now -- patents, IP lawyers, lobbying the government, and making sure we're beholden to them for absolutely everything and become modern serfs.

      The corporate wet dream, and the standard dystopian future -- an oligarchy where even the food and air will be controlled by corporations.

      You think when Larry Ellison is on his own private island it's all that differen

      • by alen (225700)

        the USA has enough free space where you can buy a cheapo house in the middle of no where and grow your own food and live a self sufficient life

        • Until you or your kid gets sick, then you're without insurance and no income (you're spending your time subsistence farming remember?). Or if there's a drought, flood, tornado or other disaster? And how are you going to do the little things like put a new roof on the place every so often? Guess what, living 'self sufficient' is a lot more difficult than you seem to imagine. The vast (99+%) majority of people are not equipped to do it, even if they had the money saved up to buy the house, the land, and t

    • Taxes. Movie Logic!

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:51AM (#44497429)

      Science Fiction is not prophecy, it is a story.

      Things rarely every go the way it does in Science Fiction, sure some elements come true however they are never so extreme as the story make it.

      Mid 20th century Sci-Fi was overly optimistic. Late 20th century Sci-Fi became overly pessimistic.
      The what really happens in the middle, and for the most part when it happens we don't care too much.
      We are no where near 1984 type of world, however there are some small elements that we need to keep an eye on.
      We are no where near the Jetsons, however there are technologies in today's world we wouldn't want to give up.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @11:08AM (#44497633) Homepage

        "Science Fiction is not prophecy, it is a story."

        Wrong!

        "Idiocracy" is not only prophecy, it's a documentary sent from the future. Hell we are already in the early stages of it. I have seen the SIGNS!

      • by King_TJ (85913) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @11:47AM (#44498155) Journal

        Sure, not everything in a science fiction story plays out as reality. If it did, the stories would be under the headings of "prophecies" instead of sci-fi!

        But the part I constantly find interesting with science fiction is how often it suggests ideas which seem unbelievable at the time, but which more or less come true eventually.

        Taking the 1984 example (since you brought it up) ... Many would insist that the entire "war on terror" the USA is waging is exactly like the Eurasia scenario. (Govt. finds it useful to control the masses by keeping them in a constant state of fear and declared war.) The "Big Brother is Watching" theme throughout it certainly resonates with people today, too. The differences between the book and reality today are the "small elements". (EG. In the book, everyone was viewing broadcasts created by the government while cameras watched them back, and were apparently monitored at random at some central facility. In reality today, everyone views broadcasts which are ostensibly not affiliated with government, but which regularly feed us the versions of the news the government wants us to hear, and the distractions govt. wants us to stay entertained and occupied with. The cameras watching us back aren't centralized or placed in our TV sets, but rather, are strategically distributed all over the landscape, with each serving a specific purpose of controlling one aspect of people's behavior. One set to enforce stopping at red signal lights, one set to enforce speed limits, one set to record one's actions in front of any FDIC insured banking institution.....)

        If you read other dystopian science fiction like Brave New World, you'd find that today's society is probably more like a "mash up" of what it envisioned and the 1984 world.

        As for The Jetsons? It was just a cartoon. I find it a little bit insulting to famous book authors to put it in the same category of science fiction, though it was a perfectly good cartoon series in its own right.

    • Exactly. Wealth is proportional and relative to the disparity between the rich and poor. A space station completely cutoff from Earth severs that that tie between the rich and poor. There for, the "rich" have no wealth.

      • A more practical scenario is Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (no surprise), where a utopian arcology is built adjacent to a dystopian urban slum. Their conclusion was that the arcology can only be successful when both benefit, despite the perceived unfairness. The practical concepts of Elysium are ridiculous, its a thinly veiled metaphor to make a political statement about rich people being evil and the poor deserving unlimited free health care. Sound like any administration we know?
        • by alen (225700)

          it's like the idiotic no money concept in star trek
          the writers/producers are rich hollywood types always dreaming up utopian societies with no money where people just work for no reason. but these people aren't willing to give up their money

          • by kurzweilfreak (829276) <`kurzweilfreak' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @11:46AM (#44498145) Journal
            Star Trek gets away with the no-money concept because it's a post-scarcity society where you can conjure up almost anything from your replicator or holodeck. Even if we did have this technology today, people would still want to do something meaningful with their lives. Money isn't the only incentive for people to work: some people want to accomplish things for their ego, people join an organization such as Starfleet for the feeling of belonging, or even just to alleviate boredom. I would think that on /. of all places, people would recognize that some people do just work for no reason (FOSS anyone?)
            • by OzPeter (195038)

              Star Trek gets away with the no-money concept because it's a post-scarcity society where you can conjure up almost anything from your replicator or holodeck.

              Star Trek has some sort of de facto currency and is a scarcity based society, otherwise everyone would be their own captain of their own personal starship. The portrayal of ST as a post-scarcity based society is just something that is glossed over in order to get to the rest of the story.

      • by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @11:16AM (#44497739)

        Well, the connection becomes more tenuous. They can be absentee landlords, which is a common theme in history. As long as their agents planetside are properly taken care of, it can work, sort of.

        Of course in that situation there is a lot of corruption and waste, which might be why a society that can build a space station also has everyone else living in slums. The Absentee Landlords blast off, their overseers start skimming profits, or using force and their derived authority to over charge the peasants so that the landlords get their cut and the overseers get extra money.

        It would probably look much like the Ferme générale in France.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferme_g%C3%A9n%C3%A9rale [wikipedia.org]

        And like the Farm, it could well touch off a Revolution, although that is no bar to them trying to set that up anyway. Short term thinking and all that.

      • Wealth is proportional and relative to the disparity between the rich and poor. A space station completely cutoff from Earth severs that that tie between the rich and poor. There for, the "rich" have no wealth.

        Wealth can be measured against people who live or have lived in other places and times, not just between contemporary members of the same society. Residents of a completely isolated space station can still be wealthy when compared to those living on Earth, or to historical norms.

    • by Xeth (614132)
      The trailer appears to show the people on Earth forced to work for scraps in factories (presumably making things the people on the station want), with order being enforced by autonomous/remotely-controlled humanoid drones.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Same way they do now. you think the rich live in the factories where they underpay the poor?

    • by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @11:53AM (#44498215) Homepage Journal

      Getting into the position of power where they get the things they want, is what makes them rich. Rich is the consequence, not the premise.

      To answer your question, they get the earthlings to pay the bills, which is why the earthlings are poor. "Send me another batch of wheat and monocle polish, or else my mass driver will send your city another big rock."

    • The rich commit suicide by giving all of their time to some poor guy, Which causes the police force to chase the poor guy to the point where he and his girlfriend take the enitre system down and disrupt the status que...

      Oops wrong movie, But then again, "Elysium" is "In Time" in space so just replace "Embedded watch in arm that kills you when time runs out" with "Space Station that keeps you alive forever" and the above still applies.

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:19AM (#44497029)

    this is off topic, but there is lots of history that shows that some of these dystopian ideas are dumb. the USA and Australia were both originally populated by criminals, slaves, and people the UK didn't want. both became greater than the mother country because people don't just give up and die.

    lots of other examples from history like greece, the middle east, ancient rome where the colonies became greater than the original

    • by jkflying (2190798) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:26AM (#44497109)

      Well, the movie is about exactly why this dystopian idea is dumb: people don't give up, especially when they have little to lose. The movie just shows the 'during', not the 'after'.

    • this is off topic, but there is lots of history that shows that some of these dystopian ideas are dumb. the USA and Australia were both originally populated by criminals, slaves, and people the UK didn't want. both became greater than the mother country because of tremendous "available" tracts of land and natural resources

      I think you're missing the point. It's not about the spirit of the people, it's about the raw capital, and ability to grow through rapid economic expansion. Except for maybe Mars, space doesn't really provide that.

      • by Rakishi (759894)

        Except for maybe Mars, space doesn't really provide that.

        A relatively small asteroid has more metal in it than all of Earth's mining industries produce in a year. Space is filled with resources, the issue is as always getting them to where you need them. If you live in space that's a lot easier than if you live on Earth.

        As for available land. Space... is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is.

        • Quite a lot of our techniques for refining metals require vast quantities of water and oxygen, and gravity.
          • by Rakishi (759894)

            Assuming that the way we do something is the only way to do it and we can never figure out a different way is silly. I'd wager that a lot of the resource we mine today would have been considered "impossible" to mine fifty years ago. Then we invented new technologies and new approaches and adjust old ones to fit the new situation.

            On Earth we have water, oxygen and gravity so we use them. In space we have abundant solar energy, no gravity and no friction/heat conductivity so we'd use those. Plus no real envir

    • by OakDragon (885217)

      ...the USA and Australia were both originally populated by criminals, slaves, and people the UK didn't want...

      I was going to take exception to the "criminals" part, regarding the USA. Then I remembered that most of us were traitors.

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        ...the USA and Australia were both originally populated by criminals, slaves, and people the UK didn't want...

        I was going to take exception to the "criminals" part, regarding the USA. Then I remembered that most of us were traitors.

        In the 1860s you could destroy a Canadian politician's career if you could successfully label him an "American sympathizer" in the press.

        The difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? Point of view.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Yes, but now we have multi-national corporations and the treaties they write on behalf of government.

      Dystopian futures fall into "oppressive government" or "oppressive corporations" -- and we're proceeding on track for the corporations to do what governments have been unable to do for hundreds of years.

      Because when Comcast is planning on giving you 'friendly' tips you're about to violate copyright, and industry groups write the text of your treaties to their own benefit -- unless you can reverse that, that'

      • by alen (225700)

        OMG, they are going to make you pay to rent or buy movies instead of watching them for free

        oppression

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Or pay a license fee to sing happy birthday, or pay to buy clean water, or Mickey Mouse being granted perpetual copyright, or patenting everything so it's not possible to make anything without paying some asshat royalties for a patent so obvious anybody could tell you how to do it.

          No sir, those things could never happen.

          It's about way more than movies.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by alen (225700)

            big deal
            its illegal to sing happy birthday to make money off it, when someone gets sued for singing it in their backyard or chuck e cheese, call me
            water is dirty in the ground, costs money to clean it. clean water always cost money
            go make your own character, people do it every day
            people have been paying patent royalties for decades. nothing new is made in a vacuum. get over it. part of doing business. that's why we have standards based patent pools

            lots of us old people did a lot of work over the years to ge

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              No, it is illegal to perform it in public.

              Water is clean in the ground. Well water is often not treated at all before consumption. Go out to the country and talk to people who have wells.

              There are many OS that are FREE.

              You appear to need a new keyboard, your shift key is broken.

    • What exactly is "greater" about Oz, other than the weather/beaches? I wouldn't actually want to live in Australia or the USA. Maybe Canada.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:20AM (#44497033)

    Think about this: for less than the cost of the war in Iraq, or for three F-35 development programs, or any number of measures, the war machine is incredibly expensive.

    War on Earth seems to be holding us here.

  • Stuck?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omega Hacker (6676) <omega@nOSpAM.omegacs.net> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:21AM (#44497049)

    I just totaled up the net "worth" of the top 25 people on Forbes 2013 billionaires list, and I got $839.8 billion. Not quite sure how $828.11bn is out of reach if certain people were sufficiently motivated, when it only takes the top 25. Now, if we were talking about something that cost $10 trillion or so, then I might consider it functionally out of reach, as that probably surpasses the net worth of the top several thousand.

    • by alen (225700)

      not to bring reality into this, but a lot of rich people rarely retire. they are always looking for new business opportunities.

      spending their money to go live out a life of perpetual vacation is not something they would do

      • Agreed, I'm just pointing out that the "capital" absolutely exists on this planet, if enough of it is concentrated in just 25 people to achieve the task. Not saying they would personally, but debunking the implication that "it can't be done, it's too expensive".

        • by alen (225700)

          most of this capital is not real money

          most of the net worth of the ultra rich is in stocks, bonds and lots of other paper they would have to sell for cash money. but there is almost not enough cash money to pay for all of their "net worth"

          on paper Bill Gates might be worth $30 billion but its all MS stock. if he sold all of it today the value would drop to the point where he might get 1/3 of it. his worth is from the dividends MS pays. not like he has $30 billion in the bank.

          same with tim cook and others wh

          • Re:Stuck?? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by niado (1650369) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @11:11AM (#44497673)

            most of this capital is not real money

            most of the net worth of the ultra rich is in stocks, bonds and lots of other paper they would have to sell for cash money. but there is almost not enough cash money to pay for all of their "net worth"

            on paper Bill Gates might be worth $30 billion but its all MS stock. if he sold all of it today the value would drop to the point where he might get 1/3 of it. his worth is from the dividends MS pays. not like he has $30 billion in the bank.

            same with tim cook and others who get paid hundreds of millions of $$$ on paper but its 95% restricted stock options they can't turn into cash for many years if ever

            but if you were to build a space station, the people building it and supplying the materials would want to be paid TODAY. IN CASH. real money. you would have to find people to lend you the money to buy the bonds to pay for this thing at 5% or more in interest which would mean $50 billion per year in interest payments

            When the ultra-rich need liquidity, they usually just use credit. When you have 30bn in investments you can get huge amounts of cash on short notice, at very low interest and with extremely favorable repayment terms.

            If Bill Gates wanted to just say "screw it I'm out, heading to an orbital space station to swim in dollar bills for the rest of my life peace noobs" or whatever, of course he wouldn't suddenly cash in all his stock and watch the value plummet. He would borrow whatever cash he needed while slowly selling off his stock and other (extensive) investments to pay back the cheap loans.

            If the top 100 ultra-rich all got together and wanted to do something like this, they certainly could. These people are experts at handling and moving gargantuan sums of money very efficiently.

      • by bkr1_2k (237627)

        But building and owning a "playground" for other rich people to invest in or spend their money on most certainly is something they do. This would be more of an investment than a retirement, at least for the people who initially fund it.

    • Re:Stuck?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:33AM (#44497211) Homepage Journal

      Global private wealth is about $50 trillion. The top thousand could handle $800 billion without exhausting their resources.

      The problem is the economic instability it would create, as so much of the world's production capacity is devoted to a vanity project useless to 99.99999% of the population. Plus there is the fact that wealth is only as real as everyone else believing it is yours. Something like this would spawn a global class war, and rightly so.

      • With a sufficiently militarized police forces and scaling up of the prison industrial complex this shouldn't be a problem.

      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        The problem is the economic instability it would create, as so much of the world's production capacity is devoted to a vanity project useless to 99.99999% of the population. Plus there is the fact that wealth is only as real as everyone else believing it is yours. Something like this would spawn a global class war, and rightly so.

        From where comes the economic instability? First, people don't think in terms of percentage of the world's production capacity. Second, who do you think is going to build this thing? At least at first, a large space station for the super-rich would be a huge jobs project. A lot of the people you might expect to be against such a project would be strong proponents and among the first to line up for jobs.

        Of course, once the thing is built and those jobs are gone and maintenance depends on cheap labor and

      • The problem is the economic instability it would create, as so much of the world's production capacity is devoted to a vanity project useless to 99.99999% of the population.

        The gross world product in 2012 was something like 85 trillion US dollars. If you built the whole thing in one year, it would represent about 1% of the global economic output. Even if we assume (incorrectly) that we just took the $800 billion in cash and then set it on fire, a 1% bite out of GWP falls into the category of "slowed economic growth", rather than "unmitigated global catastrophe".

        In practice, the project wouldn't happen in one year. For a space-based engineering project of unprecedented sc

      • by swb (14022)

        I would think a large-scale project like this would contribute to economic growth, not instability or stagnation, much like wartime economics helped pull the US out of the depression.

        It's not like a bunch of rich people are going to magically transform $900 billion into a space station. It would take millions of workers directly working on the project and millions more working indirectly for suppliers, raw materials, etc.

        A project like this won't happen, but I've often thought it would make sense to have a

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      And large corporations control far more money than that.

      Convince a government or two that for on-going national security your leaders need to be someplace safe from terrorists and opposing views, and they'll throw money at it too.

      You don't think Wall Street couldn't come up with the capital to make sure our overlords aren't whisked away? They'll just find a way to transfer more money from us to them. Fox News and the Republicans would be the first to agree with this, because it's all about corporate profi

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      Not to say they'd be in the poor house, but if all the top 25 people decided to drop their entire fortune into something like this that "worth" would drop top 1% of what it is now and the companies that they are invested in would go under.

      As Bill Gates put it, "I am forever tied to Microsoft."

      http://money.howstuffworks.com/richest-person1.htm [howstuffworks.com]

    • @Omega Hacker - "Now, if we were talking about something that cost $10 trillion or so, then I might consider it functionally out of reach, as that probably surpasses the net worth of the top several thousand."

      When you consider that the elite banker class controls the printing of money, nothing would be out of reach for them if they wanted it. For instance, they propped up the bankrupt US economy for the past 5 years - a project that has cost much more than $10 trillion in "quantitative easing" money (of w
  • by Lairdykinsmcgee (2500904) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:25AM (#44497101)
    According to Wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbes_list_of_billionaires [wikipedia.org], the 1,426 billionaires in 2013 have a combined net worth of $5.4 trillion. So those people could afford to build 6 of these structures and an additional one about half its size (assuming the cost to size ratio is linear).
  • $190.8 billion in 1975 dollars (the equivalent of $828.11 billion today). Looks like the ultra-rich are stuck on Earth for the time being

    The estimated total net worth of the Forbes 400 (400 wealthiest USAians) last year was 1.7 trillion USD. And that's just the top Americans. Throw in some Russian tycoons, Middle East oil sheiks, European industrialists, assorted media tycoons from around the world, and include corporate resources they control in addition to personal assets, and that second statement (we

  • silly premise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:27AM (#44497131)

    the ultra-rich are risk adverse, they already have a planet with resources, nice places to live, and serfs / two-legged product

  • $190.8 billion in 1975 dollars (the equivalent of $828.11 billion today). Looks like the ultra-rich are stuck on Earth for the time being.

    Last September, Forbes wrote: "The combined net worth of the 2012 class of the 400 richest Americans is $1.7 trillion."

    So why exactly are the ultra-rich stuck on Earth? 400 private citizens from a single country could band together and build this thing and still not spend even HALF their money.

    • What? Spend principle? Are you insane?

      When it can be paid for out of earnings, they might consider it.

    • Actually, I looked a little closer at the Forbes 400. It seems that, due to nature of wealth distribution, it would only take 50 people.

      Yes, that's right. The wealthiest 50 private citizens from the United States alone could have funded this project last year. Their net worth totals 829.9 billion USD. And that was last year, before the 20% stock market surge of 2013. They could've funded this project and still had 1.8 billion USD left over for hookers and blow.
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      You are confusing wealth with money.

    • by alen (225700)

      this is not cash but stocks, bonds and other investments they can't just sell to turn into cash

      chances are they have lots of their own debt they use to live financed by the interest and other payments they get from their own wealth

  • ... but you wouldn't want to live there. The cost of transporting the essentials of a rich person's life -- all the food, the drinks, the furniture, the disco balls, the fast cars, the drugs -- would surely exceed the cost of building the station itself. However, a space station that la riche can visit once a year, like a month in the Riviera only in space, now that would work. Plus, what's the point of being ostentatious if there are no peasants to impress? Better to have a least some people you can lock

  • Nine metric tons? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pikewake (217555) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:34AM (#44497225)
    The article states that it would take nine metric tons of material to shield a single torus. The table in the original paper says 9.9 Mt. That's megatons, not metric tons. Slight difference...
  • by Thor Ablestar (321949) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:34AM (#44497229)

    The only problem of Elysium is the necessity to loft lots of cargo. May be, INITIALLY loft lots of cargo since after they begin mining Moon for titanium, hydrogen (poles) and oxygen they will not be in short supply of main expendables. And I see at least 2 methods for it that should work using our existing knowledge base: Skylon and Nerva.

    Then they will have one of 2 problems for their choice: either they will have lots of everything except energy (I mean colonization of systems of gas giants) or they will have energy and nothing else (nearer to Sun than Earth). And I don't know any method to resolve this dilemma.

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:43AM (#44497329) Homepage

    Looks like the ultra-rich are stuck on Earth for the time being.

    If each of the 1226 billionaires in the world [wikipedia.org] chipped in $675 million, you could build that $828 billion dollar space station, and they'd each still have at least $300 million to be super wealthy on the station.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:48AM (#44497377) Homepage

    Seriously. Rich people could definitely come up with $1 trillion if they really wanted to. So if they wanted to, they could definitely hire a bunch of engineers and scientists to make them their paradise in the sky, and then say "So long, suckers!"

    Why don't they? Probably because they would rather have lots of minions around to boss - otherwise, what's the point of being rich?

  • Astroid: "An astroid is a particular mathematical curve: a hypocycloid with four cusps. Astroids are also superellipses: all astroids are scaled versions of the curve specified by the equation".

    How, pray tell, are we going to mine one of those? Would it really kill the editors to run things through a spell checker? Would it, really?

  • "$828.11 billion"?

    That is not outside the realm of possible. The U.S. spent more than that in Iraq for a lot less effect.

    I suspect the real price needs another zero. And then you're talking relatively impossible,

    Oh, and current technology would not permit this to be self-sufficient. We still need minions down here. I'll be looking for work sending stuff up, ans there will always be that need in my lifetime.

  • by mapuche (41699) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @11:22AM (#44497823) Homepage

    Just remember the bank bailout. I can imagine a scenario where a space station is financed by the tax payers' money and then privatized for peanuts.

  • by pluther (647209) <pluther@usaGAUSS.net minus math_god> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @01:10PM (#44499243) Homepage

    $190.8 billion in 1975 dollars (the equivalent of $828.11 billion today). Looks like the ultra-rich are stuck on Earth for the time being.

    You realize this is almost the exact amount (only a few tens of billions of dollars off) that the ultra-rich in the United States alone gave themselves from our tax money just over five years ago?

    The only thing lacking in building such a space station is vision, not resources.

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