## Introduction

While the prior page was more about colonization motivation and methods, this page is more about good planets, hell-hole planets, scouting good planets, and changing hell-hole planets into good planets.

## Galactic Neighborhood

First off, galactic empires tend to be spherical. This is because they generally start from a point (the homeworld) and expand in all directions like blowing up a balloon.

Which means they are subject to a sort of cube law. This means if the radius of an empire expands a teeny-tiny bit, the volume of the empire will expand lots and lots. Specifically if the radius doubles the volume will increase about eight times (23). This is because the equation for a volume of a sphere is 4/3 πr3, but the dramatic increase in volume is not obvious by just eye-balling the equation.

If you are mapping your empire, you will need to figure some sizes. If you decide upon the empire's radius and want to know how many stars and stars with Terran-type planets, use the rules of thumb:

Nstars = Rly^3 * 0.01

NhStars = Rly^3 * 0.0022

where

• Rly = empire radius in light years
• Nstars = number of stars
• NhStars = number of stars with human habitable planets

If you decide upon the number of stars in the empire and want to know it's radius:

Rly = cubeRoot(Nstars * 97)

Rly = cubeRoot(NhStars * 464)

(If your calculator does not have a cube root button, you can use the "Xy" button instead. Type in the number, hit Xy, type in 0.333333333 then hit the equal button.)

Note: the above equations are based upon the work of Jill Tarter and Margaret Turnbull. They were not trying to figure out which stars could host a human habitable planet. They were trying to figure out which stars could host a planet that was not so hideously uninhabitable that no possible form of life could live there. In other words, many of these planets could host alien life forms but would quickly kill an unprotected human being. The equations were derived by me using an analysis of the Habcat database, and thus could be wildly inaccurate. If you can find better figures, use them, but these are better than no figures at all.

If my slide rule isn't lying to me, this works out to an average distance between adjacent stars of 9.2 light years, and an average distance of 15.4 light years between adjacent habitable stars.

## Galactic Survey

This section has been moved here.

## Colonizable Worlds

If your first-in scouts have given you the luxury of lots of human-habitable worlds to choose your colony sites from, naturally you will pick the ones closest to being paradise planets.

If you are really outta luck and all the planets range from miserable hell-holes to utterly uninhabitable you have roughly five options:

Which option you chose will depend upon just how badly do you want to have colonies. If you just want some show-planets so you can claim you have an honest to Asimov interstellar empire, well, there are cheaper ways to get some status. However if the Blortch Hegemony has decided to exterminate the human race lock, stock, and laser emitter; well, you might have no choice but to ensure that our species does not have all its eggs in one basket.

### Hostile Planets

If one is dealing with near-future colonization of the non-shirtsleeve planets of the solar system using weak chemical rockets, the difficulties are overwhelming. It is vastly easier to colonize hypothetical human-habitable garden worlds around other stars using handwaving faster than light starships (because the author said so).

But if you are hell-bent on establishing a settlement on a non-shirtsleeve planet, there are basically four options:

• Dome Colony: people live inside air-tight domes with shirtsleeve environments and only venture out while wearing a planetary exploration suit
• Terraforming: through massive planetary engineering over hundreds of year alter the entire freaking planet into a shirtsleeve environment
• Pantropy: through genetic engineering breed a new species of human for which the hostile planet's existing environ is a shirtsleeve environment. The more extreme the environment of the hostile planet, the more of a challenge it will be to breed something that can live on it
• Somaforming: through some outrageously advanced technology transform the body of a Terra-normal human being into a creature that can live on the hostile planet

The sad fact of the matter is that it is about a thousand times cheaper to colonize Antarctica than it is to colonize Mars. Antarctica has plentiful water and breathable air, Mars does not. True, the temperature of Mars does occasionally grow warmer than Antarctica, but at its coldest Mars can get 50° C colder than Antarctica. In comparison to Mars, Antarctica is a garden spot.

Yet there is no Antarctican land-rush. One would suspect that there is no Martian land-rush either, except among a few who find the concept to be romantic.

#### Dome Colony

As a general rule colonists like places with breathable atmospheres, so they don't immediately die upon stepping out of the transport spacecraft. Unfortunately, if there are no starships, the only naturally occurring place like that in the solar system is Terra. Everywhere else is a non-shirtsleeve environment, the colonists will have to build and maintain a large pressurized volume to live in.

This might be a purpose-build operation that is part of a grand plan to colonize the place. Or it might be unplanned, usually by some organization establishing some kind of base; then as other bases and boomtowns spring up nearby, the entire establishment morphs into a colony. As previously mentioned: the main difference between a base and a colony is that the members of a colony do not expect to ever leave.

Functionally a colony on an airless world is a space habitat that is sited on the ground instead of floating in orbit. Structurally they will be different. A ground based colony will have access to lots of local resources that a space colony will have to import. In other words: a space colony will probably be constructed out of metal shipped in, while a ground colony will be a series of underground tunnels.

Why? Because radiation from galactic cosmic rays (GCR) and solar proton storms is not healthy for children and other living things. It heinously expensive to ship radiation shielding to a space habitat under construction, but planet-based naturally-occurring lava tubes are practically free.

Planets with no atmospheres will need to build underground for radiation protection. Not counting Terra, Venus and the Gas Giants, the only planets with appreciable atmospheres are Mars and Titan. The Mars Radiation Environment Experiment discovered that the pathetic Martian atmosphere would let through enough radiation to expose the colonists to 73 milliGrays per year (mGy/a, where "a" {per annum} = 8760 hours = 365 days). On Terra people suffer about 0.4 mGy/a from GCR, and close to zero from proton storms. Translation: the Martian atmosphere is not going to do diddly-squat to protect the colonists from deadly radiation sleeting from the sky, so you'd best build the colony underground anyway. Or pile lots of Martian dirt on top of the buildings. Titan got lucky, it actually has a denser atmosphere than Terra.

Old illustrations of lunar colonies liked to depict them under transparent domes, because the artist did not know about the radiation hazard.

Since all the living spaces have to be pressurized and otherwise equipped with life support, they will be limited and the colony will feel cramped. Much the same as any underground building or rabbit burrow. Cubicles will be minuscule, and the connecting corridors will be narrow. If the colony is lucky enough to have the luxury of connecting corridors. Since pressurized volume is at a premium the cubicles may wind up doing double duty as corridors, with the associated loss of privacy.

#### Terraforming

Terraforming is using planetary engineering to make a planet's environment more like a prime vacation spot on Terra, or a least one where an unprotected human being won't instantly die.

It generally takes hundreds to thousands of years for the process to be complete. It also requires access to incredibly large amounts of advanced technology, planetary-sized stocks of raw materials, and an energy budget comparable to all of Terra combined.

Martyn J. Fogg wrote the definitive book on the topic, sadly out of print. His web page has lots of terraforming information.

In some science fiction colonists on Mars want to make the planet shirt-sleeve habitable. However, the martian colonists commonly chafe under the heavy-handed rule of Terra or have recently concluded a bitter revolutionary war of independence. So patriotic martians are loath to use the term Terraforming. Instead they'll use a term like "habitablization" or something planet-neutral like that. Such a term will also be needed if Terra's climate changes such that it is no longer habitable.

Technically, when aliens try to transform a planet's environment into something that their species finds comfortable, the proper term is Xenoforming. Which is a kind of parochial term, but being more specific brings the same mess as apohelion, apohermion, apogee, aposelene, apoareion, apojove, and apochron. Astronomers soon gave up and adopted the generic term apsis.

Xenoforming or Terraforming a world inhabited by sentient beings is considered to be attempted genocide, biological warfare, or at the least very rude. Extreme moralists go to the point of only allowing terraforming on planets that are totally lifeless. Examples include Sir Arthur C. Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, and sort of in Roger Zelazny's "The Keys to December". Examples of terraforming used as biological warfare can be found at the above link.

##### Terraforming Venus

Other than Terra, there are no shirt-sleeve habitable planets in the solar system. On any of the other planets or moons, if you step outside wearing only ordinary clothing you will die hideously in a minute or two.

The two other terrestrial planets in the solar system's circumstellar habitable zone are Mars and Venus.

Scifi authors initially focused on Mars; since you could see canals, seasonal changes, and other home-like features. Unfortunately, the closer you got, the worse Mars looked. Space probes got near enough to see that canals were an illusion, there were lots of lunar-like craters, the seasonal changes were continent-wide dust storms, and the atmospheric pressure was barely more than pure vacuum. Scifi authors reluctantly stopped writing stories about scantily-clad Martian princesses, tentacled alien invaders looking for higher-class real-estate, Martian odysseys; and moved on.

Venus initially looked like a planet shrouded in a permanent pea-soup fog. Ah, the scifi authors figured the planet is obviously in the grip of global steamy swamp climate. No doubt full of dinosaurs, everybody's favorite monster. We can write lots of scifi adventures set on this planet. After all, the astronomers were calling the planet Venus more or less Terra's "sister planet", right?

Some scifi authors even postulated some kind of planetary parallel development. You start with a planet that is lifeless but fertile. Life develops, and progresses through the age of dinosaurs up to the the age of Man. Then the planet eventually becomes old and worn-out: a arid desert inhabited by a dwindling tribe of decadent aborigines. Under this theory, the planet Mercury is still in the lifeless phase, Venus is in the dinosaur phase, Terra is in the age of man, and Mars is at the desert phase. A few minutes of logical thought will show this theory is utter hogwash.

Then space probes got close to Venus and exploded this view as well. Atmospheric pressure at the surface was 92 times that of Terra, i.e., strong enough to implode your spacecraft like a cheap beer can. Atmosphere was also practically pure carbon dioxide, utterly unbreathable if you wanted to live. Temperature was even hotter than Mercury, despite the fact Mercury was quite a bit closer to the Sun. Venus had a surface hot enough to melt lead.

So scifi authors gave up writing about habitable extraterrestrial solar system planets. But wait!

In the 1930 scifi classic Last and First Men, science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon wrote about future humans concerned about the immanent fall of the Moon wiping out all life on Terra. Since there was no other habitable planets in the solar system to evacuate to, they would have to make one. Mars did not have enough of an atmosphere, but Venus did. True, the atmo was mostly carbon dioxide, but adding a huge amount of plant life would fix that. In 1941 Jack Williamson (the Dean of Science Fiction) coined the catchy term "terraforming", and popularized it in his stories. He invented a few other terms as well, such as "genetic engineering", but I digress.

Other authors were quick to pick up on the implications. Venus might not be habitable now, but it may be a unique fixer-upper opportunity. The result would be a new virgin habitable planet fully as large as Terra. One could terraform Mars as well, but you would have to be constantly replenishing the atmosphere as it escaped the puny gravity. A habitable Venus would allow scifi authors to write about alien planets without having to invent a faster-than-light drive first. As a bonus, the new planet would allow writing scifi stories using much the same plot as standard pioneer cowboy stories (minus the native Americans).

In 1955 Poul Anderson wrote The Big Rain, an impressive short story about the massive project to terraform Venus. This story, like Last And First Men, postulated using living organisms to make the atmosphere breathable. But Anderson was thinking more in terms of mutated bacteria, since those multiply much faster than plants with leaves.

And in 1961, Dr. Carl Sagan proposed a real-world project of actually terraforming Venus by adding blue-green algae into the upper atmosphere. Perhaps he was inspired by the science fiction stories. Alas later, when the huge amount of carbon dioxide in the Venusian atmosphere became clear, Sagan came to the conclusion that blue-green algae would not work. They would drastically increase the amount of oxygen in the air, while covering the entire surface with a deep layer of highly flammable carbon. One spark would start a planetary fire, burning all the oxygen and carbon back into carbon dioxide and setting the project right back to square one.

##### Transplant Ecosystem

Colonists are going to want to grow local food they can eat, the native plants and animals can be unsuitable as food in so very many ways. Since plants and animals depend upon a circle of life, terraformers will have to transplant a minimal but viable Terran ecosystem that is self-sustaining. And try to avoid importing anything that is a threat to said ecosystem, such as potato blight. Just on general principles you want to avoid a monoculture to prevent a repeat of the potato famine.

And of course also import useful things that are not food, such as Bamboo.

There are some science fiction novels where aliens invade not by full-blown terraforming but simply by introducing alien hyper-invasive species to alienoform the Terran ecosystem (the functional equivalent of introducing xenomorph-bunnyrabbits to Australia).

##### Loser Ecosystems

A common concept in science fiction is a planet with an ecosystem that is either more advanced or less advanced that on Terra. TV Tropes calls it Evolutionary Levels. As the link makes clear, it is pretty much utter hogwash. Yet the concept persists, because it's a trope. Try to avoid this trope if at all possible.

#### Pantropy

If changing an entire planet to suit human colonists is out of the question, the next best thing is changing the colonists to fit the planet (much cheaper as well). This is done by extreme genetic engineering, James Blish coined the term "pantropy". This can go beyond humans engineered to handle slightly hotter or colder temperatures: it can theoretically lead to engineering "people" with totally different biochemistries, breathing methane and having bones composed of water ice.

This appears in James Blish's Pantropy series, Roger Zelazny's "The Keys to December ", Charles Sheffield's Proteus in the Underworld and Olaf Stapedon's Last and First Men.

Understand this is not taking a person and giving them a treatment to transform their bodies into something that can breath methane and survive sub-sub-zero cold. This is about genetically engineering their as yet unborn children. You take a person's germ cells into the lab, and genetically engineering the living daylights of the the cells so they will grow into a child that can breath methane and survive sub-sub-zero cold. Maybe someday Mommy and Daddy can wear a space suit and visit their offspring, happily walking around in their shirt-sleeves on a planet that would instantly kill an unprotected standard human being. In other words, the treatment create mutants. Since the aim was colonizing the planet, the mutations are designed to breed true in the mutant's offspring. The pantropy techs are creating an entire new species.

Taking an already born person and transforming their bodies so they can live on a hostile planet is called Somaforming.

#### Somaforming

Soma means "the parts of an organism other than the reproductive cells." Somaforming is a scifi term meaning to alter a person's body after they are born. Altering a person's body before they are born is more "pantropy" than "somaforming". Usually somaforming can be reversed or changed again, pantropy is permanent.

There are a few older science fiction story about transforming an already-born standard human into something else for purposes of settling an inhospitable world, but nowadays that seems far fetched. In The Impossible World they have the miracle drug "adaptene". In Farthest Star they have teleportation by duplication. But the duplicate can be "edited" e.g., a water breather can be transformed into a air breather. And in Enchanted Village I guess the astronaut can adapt into a life form suitable for the Martian village because the village is, well, enchanted.

Obviously for purposes of settlement, pantropy is superior. Because a somaformed person's children are going to be Terra-normal people, making it real hard to increase the settlement's population. Chances are that a somaformed woman's womb will be a lethal environment to an embryo. And somaforming a person's entire complement of germ cells is a daunting task.

However this technique would come in handy for humans temporarily visiting a hostile environment. Say, for planetary explorers just for the duration of their visit. Or for living in a spaceship in free fall, with all the maladies it inflicts upon the standard human body.

There are other uses in scif for somaforming, besides colonizing inhospitable planets.

In Charles Sheffield's Proteus series, somaforming can be used instead of surgery to medically heal injuries and correct congenital defects. Eyesight can be corrected, lost limbs regenerated, all sorts of diseases can be treated. In fact pretty much anything medical can be cured with somaforming, so doctors and conventional medical practices are illegal.

More controversially, somaforming could also be used for sex reassignment therapy or related matters. From a "technology changing society" standpoint: just imagine how paranoid racist people would become if somaforming could perform changes such as, say, changing the color of one's skin…

## Boom Town

A "gold" strike in an asteroid belt, a large industrial operation, or the establishment of a military base in a remote location may create a "boomtown". The sudden appearance of large numbers of asteroid miners or enlisted people is an economic opportunity for entrepreneurs to sell them whiskey, prostitutes, gambling, tattoo parlors, and other hard to find luxuries at inflated prices.

Not to mention simple supplies and tools, also at inflated prices. Remember, in the California Gold Rush of 1849, it was not the miners who grew rich, instead it was the merchants who sold supplies to the miners.

Civilian entrepreneurs may find it expedient to connect their ramshackle spacecraft together to make impromptu space stations or to stabilize part of the ground to make an impromptu landing field. For an amusing look at the development and economy of a boomtown watch the movie Paint Your Wagon. Then simply transpose the situation from the North American frontier into the asteroid belt.

But remember that boomtowns can wither away into ghost towns overnight, if mineral strike dries up or the military base is closed. This is called a "bust".

### Refugee Camp

A Boom Town is a site that (temporarily) fills up with people who are attracted to something wonderful at the site. A refugee area is a site that fills up with people who are running away from something awful.

Asylum seekers and refugee are running away from people who are killing them. They are sometimes placed in sites called Refugee camps.

Hobos are running away from their poverty. They would travel by stowing away on railroad freight trains. Sites near train junctions are called hobo jungles. Their they wait for the next train, or use as a place to stay while they obtain money or food by performing odd jobs.

If the housing is made of flimsy temporary materials the site can be called a Tent City. Formal tent cities are constructed by the authorities, informal tent cities are made by the refugees. Keep in mind that the failure of a flimsy temporary tent is an annoyance, while the failure of a flimsy temporary space habitat can kill large numbers of refugees.

A town created out of scavenged materials is a Shanty town. These can be constructed as such from the start, or be the result of a formal or informal tent city that has existed for too long. These too can kill many people if the jury-rigged life support system fails.

An example of an official refugee camp is The Dipple in Andre Norton's CATSEYE.

An example of a Hobo Jungle is the Okie Jungle in James Blish's SARGASSO OF LOST CITIES. The spacegoing cities of CITIES IN FLIGHT gather in the sargasso for reasons that have less to do with physics and more with economics. The antigravity Okie cities are sort of the migrant laborers of the galaxy. The stellar currency is based on germanium, some idiot figure out how to synthesize it and inadvertenly obliterated the economy of the entire galaxy. Since everybody is now broke, the flying cities cluster in what is basically an interstellar hobo jungle.

Of particular interest to science fiction writers is the combination of refugee camp and spacecraft. Presented for your approval is the refugee camp / shanty town / hobo jungle that formed in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic coldcocked the entire cruise industry. Now, imagine this happening in a science fiction future with spacecraft instead of ocean liners.

Something vaguely similar to the cruise ship shanty towns can be found in the scifi movie Titan A. E.

Evil aliens destroy Terra. The pathetically few survivors flee in starships that have to be frantically jury-rigged to be generational ships.

Later some starships rendezvous in the less desirable regions of the galaxy, where there are no alien empires with notions about finders-keepers. They welded themselves together into ramshackle makeshift space stations called "drifter colonies." The welding was done with a total disregard for OSHA compliance, so the drifter colonies tend to resemble an explosion in a junkyard.

Here humanity ekes out a pitiful existence, at the bottom of the galactic status hierarchy. They become the homeless refugees of the galaxy, living as laborers for various alien empires or huddled in the slums of the drifter colonies.

## Ghost Town

A ghost town is the abandoned skeletal remains of a space or planetary station that was formerly a boomtown. This happens when whatever money source that was fueling the boom dries up. The boom has gone bust.

### Example: Depot into Story Plot

For the science fiction author writing about a solar system future, things like orbital propellant depots might be more than just the background of the story. With a little effort, they can help a bit with the plot as well. A good way to start is to remember "everything old is new again", that is, find a historical analogy and set it in the science fiction future. Keeping in mind that current events are "historical" as far as the future is concerned. Here is an example:

This is an article from Medium.com magazine, about how self-driving trucks are going to decimate the economies of small towns in suddenly non-strategic locations.

To transpose this situation into one's science fiction future, you have to look for analogies. Cargo spacecraft are obviously trucks, orbital propellant depots are gas stations. The positioning of the depots is like Route 66, optimized for the spacecraft and destinations. The small towns are boomtowns that grew up around the depots, maybe even growing into orbital colonies.

Then we transpose the historical events:

1. Orbital propellant depots are established so as to allow cheap chemical rockets access to transport goods too and from points in the inner solar system. This is the network of automobile gasoline stations on Route 66.

2. boomtowns spring up to relieve spacecraft crews of accumulated flight pay burning a hole in their pockets.

3. The boom-towns grow into Star-Towns, maybe even becoming a full orbital colony. The gas stations on Route 66 have become small towns.

4. Now some disruptive technology throws a monkey wrench into the works.
Historically it was the network change of switching from Route 66 to the national highway system, bypassing the gas station towns.
Currently it is the self-driving trucks that need less gasoline, and certainly do not need sleeping motels, restaurants, or brothels.
In our science fiction future, the network can be changed by, say Beams-Я-Us setting up routes for cheap laser thermal rockets. The self-driving trucks are similar to the advent of nuclear rockets (requiring less propellant) or unmanned rockets (requiring no sleeping, fancy food, or prostitutes).

5. Deprived of their revenue stream, the boom-towns and orbital habitats start dying, becoming ghost towns like Glenrio, Texas.

Such an emotionally-charged situation can drive a science fiction story plot.

The locals are going to be very angry at whoever invented the disruptive technology which doomed their town. An employee of Beams-Я-Us who is stupid enough to visit such a dying boom-town is likely to get beat up in some dark corridor, maybe even suffer a tragic air-lock "accident."

Hot-heads living in the town might be tempted to stage something drastic in order to draw media attention to their plight. Terrorist actions are easy when one has access to so many concentrated forms of energy.

On the street, it is "rats deserting a sinking ship" time. Desperate individuals will do almost anything to board a spacecraft bound for someplace better. On the other hand, squatters with nowhere else to go will move into abandoned habitats.

The local government will be frantic to find a new revenue stream. If they cannot find a legal one, the solar system underworld has lots of illegal ones.

And of course there will be a few stubborn crazy-coot old-timers who refuse to leave, haunting the empty modules.

In my effort to transpose the situation, I had to play fast and lose with some inconvenient particulars. Master Artist William Black's pointed out a few items I swept under the rug. But the point is the technique of finding analogies allowing one to transpose a past or current situation into the future. Try reading a few historical or current news items with this in mind and see what you can come up with.

## Space Colony

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### Space Colony Fates

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### Space Colony Problems

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#### Air Is Not Free

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#### Lurkers

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#### Society Rules

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#### Three Generation Rule

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#### Death by Civil Unrest

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#### Technological Decline

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### Sample Space Habitat

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### Asteroid Bubble

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### Tensegrity

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## Solar System Colonization

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### Mercury

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### Venus

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#### Sol-Venus Lagrange Points

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### Cis-Lunar Space

#### Terra Orbit

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##### Terra-Luna Lagrange Points

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#### Luna

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#### Near-Terra Asteroids

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### Sol-Terra Lagrange Points

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### Mars

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### Sol-Mars Lagrange Points

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### Asteroid Belt

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#### Ceres

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### Jovian System

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#### Sol-Jupiter Lagrange Points

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### Saturnian System

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#### Titan

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### Uranian and Neptunian Moons

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#### Neptune Trojans

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### Trans-Neptuian Objects

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## Interstellar Colonization

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## Atomic Rockets notices

This week's featured addition is SPIN POLARIZATION FOR FUSION PROPULSION

This week's featured addition is INsTAR

This week's featured addition is NTR ALTERNATIVES TO LIQUID HYDROGEN