Introduction

The space environment is so inconvenient for human beings. There is so much that one has to bring along to keep them alive.

Life Support has to supply each crew member daily with 0.0576 kilograms of air, about 0.98 kilograms of water, and about 2.3 kilograms of (wet) food (less if you are recycling). Some kind of artificial gravity or a medical way to keep the bones and muscles from wasting away. Protection from the deadly radiation from solar storms and the ship's power plant and propulsion system. Protection from the temperature extremes in the space environment. Protection from acceleration. Medical support. And then there are the psychological factors.

Recently John Lumpkin and I were allowed the rare privilege of submitting questions to NASA astronaut Captain Stephen G. Bowen a couple of questions about life in the space environment.

Me: My main interest are those details about living in a space environment that are "surprising", that is, not intuitively obvious to us earth-bound folk.

Captain Bowen: The most surprising thing is how quickly you adapt to being in the microgravity environment. In addition to floating around the rest of the body adapts pretty quickly (after about 4 days all systems are good). The fluid shift resolves and you lose the puffy face in week. The ISS crewmembers say at about the 6 week point it feels normal to live in space (consequently it takes 6 weeks before earth feels normal). Other than that it takes a while to realize that you can't just put things down and instead of looking down for things you lose you have to look all around.

John Lumpkin: I guess I'd be curious about the little things of life in freefall. Stuff he has to get used to in terms of eating, sleeping, changing clothes, moving around, and so on. Is it easy to hit your head on things? To fly into other people? What are some things that work on Earth but don't in freefall ... Particularly things most people might not think of? This sort of thing makes nice color for antigrav-free science fiction stories.

Captain Bowen: One of the interesting things once you do get adjusted in space is how you think you know how to float and translate. On the Shuttle your never very far from anything so you get really good in a couple days. Once you dock to the ISS however, it is huge. You quickly realize that your not that good and it takes a while to get good at translating 40 feet or so without bumping off the walls (experiments, cables etc...) with different body parts (feet, head, back...) Additionally you can actually try and get yourself into a position where you are stationary and can't reach anything -that is an interesting feeling since swimming in air to get someplace is very inefficient. Other interesting things - you can eat your tea with chopsticks, you can sleep in any configuration, and since dust and debris don't fall it all collects on the intakes of the fans (for the most part but it is odd to watch such things just floating about). One night the ISS bell floated down from the ISS to the middeck of the Shuttle (right past me) without anyone noticing till we woke up the next morning.

John Lumpkin: The Russian/Chinese philosophy on spacecraft design is to make the re-entry capsule small, allowing for less of the total launch mass to be devoted to re-entry protection. This frees up mass for use in the non-re-entering work module, allowing greater capability there. The US philosophy, for both Apollo and Orion, is to put the entire crew area within the re-entry capsule. I understand the advantages to the Russian/Chinese approach -- what compelling advantages are there to the US approach?

Captain Bowen: I've not been a part of the design work. My one input was to get rid of windows. Both Apollo and Orion while more spacious are actually not designed for long term living. Apollo had the additional space once the Lunar module was attached and Orion will have a docked module launched separately for transit to the Moon. For shorter missions (such as going to the ISS) you won't need the extra space. Orion is really sized for launch and reentry of 6 suited astronauts with a specific blunt body shape. We also don't have the same size restrictions the others have for astronauts. Everything else is squeezed around the seats, and for the moon the crew size is reduced to provide more room. I really haven't thought about the size relative to Soyuz other than Soyuz is really tight.

John Lumpkin: How hot can you make that coffee in a microgravity environment? How hot is the food? Do you sleep better (microgravity) or worse (noise) in orbit? How much time do you spend on maintenance? How well do international partners get along in space? Do the people in space get along better than the two ground stations (US and Russia)?

Captain Bowen: The pressure on the ISS and Shuttle are 14.7 just like here. Although the Hubble mission will be at 10.2 for its entire mission for EVA reasons. The hot water does get really hot. The convection oven is pretty hot as well. I averaged about an hour more sleep on orbit than on earth. We all get along really well. The ISS crews train for years with their crewmates and we've all worked with them as well. Some of the ESA and JAXA and CSA astronauts are permanently stationed in Houston. The Cosmonauts we see in Russia and occasionally as they pass through Houston. Yes I think we get along better in space - but then again we know each other better than the ground teams do.

LONG NUCLEAR SUBMARINE CRUISE EFFECTS?

What are the psychological and physiological effects of being on a long cruise in a nuclear submarine? To clarify, not effects of exposure to radiation, but lack of sunlight and fresh air.


RUSSELL CANTY, ENGINEER, MILITARY OFFICER

Ok lets break this apart into a few catagories.

No exposure to sunlight:

     The most immediate and obvious implication of no exposure to sunlight is Vitamin D deficiency.
     Most submariners take Vitamin D supplements underway with them to prevent the negative effects of a lack of Vitamin D. The Eggs and Milk on board are usually Vitamin D fortified as well to help offset the lack of sunlight.
     The more subtle psychological side effects of no exposure to sunlight have to be combined with the constant exposure to nothing but fluorescent lighting for up to several months at a time. These two particulars don't bother most submariners as they are all psychologically screened in advance.
     To clarify more on that last point, while there are exceptions (I have met many athletes in the submarine service) there is a larger representation of people who tend to prefer indoor activities. The most popular hobbies of submariners tend to be books, video games, board/card games, movies (both obscure and mainstream) and learning (many submariners take distance learning courses or learn new languages or tradeskills).

Long work hours and rotating shifts

     Without the sun to guide your internal clock, combined with 18 hour days, time can almost become irrelevant underway. Due to space restrictions on manning, a submarine mans a nominal 3-section watch rotation with 6 hour watches. This means that the typical submariner works on an 18 hour day schedule. This may seem quirky, and it kind of is. However, after 2-3 days of this 18-hour schedule it becomes second-nature, and without the sun to guide you, time of day is irrelevant.
     What all the documentaries and other sources don't get into (due to lack of personal experience with this) is the fact that the people that do all the planning and operations do not work the 18-hour watch rotation. These include the Captain, XO, Chief of the Boat, and if they're lucky the Department Heads and Senior Chiefs. These guys plan out an operational schedule on a 24 hour clock, so the 6 hours of your 18 hour day that are allotted to sleeping/relaxing are filled with drills and/or training about half of the time.
     I know this is hard to imagine, and it is, and only until a person undergoes this process for a few months do they really begin to appreciate its ups and downs.
     Down sides are fits of sleep. You might work for 24-36 hours at a stretch with only breaks to eat a 30 minute meal once every 6 hours, and no time to sleep. But when that odd day comes around (happens once every 3 normal days) your allotted 6 hours of rest and relaxation fall onto that mid-shift (midnight to 0600) and you can usually get a solid 6 hours of sleep down to make up for the previous 2 days of working straight.
     Up sides are that the worst shift (midshift) is distributed evenly across the 3 sections so that no one section is getting excessively cycled more than the others. Also, the shorter 6 hour watches are easier to focus during than a longer 8 hour shift that surface ships usually employ.
     The lack of sleep really grinds people down, and many guys find themselves waking up several times throughout their first few nights at home.
     Words cannot express the feeling that you get when you lay down and know that you will not have to wake up in over 6 hours.

Fresh Air

     There are a large number of air contaminants that the air filtration system on a submarine are not equipped to remove. These are forbidden and are all taken off the submarine just prior to deployment.
     Common air contaminants underway are:

     CO2: Caused by personnel breathing. Higher activity levels cause this to rise much faster (ie during drills or casualties, or when the entire crew is awake and active for some reason). This is removed by Monoethanolamine scrubbers. MEA or "Amine" absorbs CO2 when cold, and releases it when hot. This peculiar property of the fluid is used to strip CO2 out of the atmosphere and send it overboard.
     CO: Caused by combustive process with hydrocarbons. This is primarily the ship's Diesel which is run anywhere from daily (on a diesel submarine) to once every few months (nuclear submarine). Cigarette smoke also produces small amounts of CO, however smoking is now not allowed on board United States submarines, as many of the other air contaminants linger in the air and are not effectively removed by the ship's air regeneration system.
     CO is removed by the ship's "burners" where they are combined with Hydrogen in an auto-catalytic process to produce CO2 and water. The CO2 is removed by the scrubbers and sent overboard.

     H2: Hydrogen gas is produced only by the batteries, and is removed in the burners along with CO.

     Oxygen is produced by running high electrical currents through pure water adulterated by a "caustic" electrolyte. The Hydrogen produced by this process is pumped overboard and the Oxygen is released into the submarine to be breathed
     There are few if any negative effects of submarine atmosphere on human's respiratory systems. In fact, people with minor allergies such as hay-fever demonstrate no allergy symptoms while underway due to the sterile environment.
     Amine, diesel fuel oil, lube oil, and diesel exhaust permeate the inside of a submarine and let off a very pungent "submarine" smell. Words cannot describe, it must be experienced. These are not harmful to humans though and merely release a strong foul odor.

Roy Gilbert, I worked on a submarine for 3 years

     PSYCHOLOGICAL: The submarine force screens out people who cannot deal with stress or tight quarters, and there is a certain amount of self-selection. Submarine duty can be stressful, but it can also be tedious for long periods. For me personally, the most marked effects for my colleagues was an ability to deal well with stress and boredom -- and a strong propensity for gallows humor. Like any small office or organization, team members have to learn how to work well together, and put up with each others' indiosyncracies.

     PHYSICAL: This was more interesting. Lack of exposure to sunlight makes you very pale (duh); it is very hard to get exercise in tight quarters; and your skin begins to smell like diesel fumes because of the diesel generator that every submarine has onboard.
     The air is highly purified — nuclear submarines can make their own air by electrolyzing seawater, and there is someone monitoring the composition of the air 24 hours per day. Except for the diesel stink, it is as pure as it gets. In fact, after being submerged for a couple of months, when you suck in "fresh" air with the submarine snorkel mast, it tends to have a gnarly putrid odor. Your nose adjusts in a few minutes but it can be overwhelming at first.
     The most interesting effect to me was a loss of ability to perceive distance. When I came home after a long deployment, I found driving very difficult for a few days because I had a tough time judging the distance to other cars.
     Submariners are generally sleep-deprived with rotating shifts, but most of us developed a life-long ability to sleep whenever we need to. If you see a submariner on a long flight, you can be sure that he can fall asleep right at takeoff.

Don Bishop, Spent many years aboard subs and sub support vessels

     You will develop an extreme longing for the feel of sunlight and a fresh breeze. The lighting on a sub is flouro and is dim (at least it was to me). You would begin to develop a closed in cramped feeling and at times the sight of another person was the last thing you wanted. And of course the smell. Don't now how to describe it. It has to be experienced. After a few days under way you don't notice the smell you become nose blind, but just before turnover to the other crew you would cram all your gear into your bag and seal it up. You would take it to wherever you called home and split for R&R. Since you had just worked 14 weeks without a day off the Navy owed you 14 weeks worth of Saturdays and Sundays or 28 days. Free and clear only required to check in once a week to verify you still lived. After R&R it was time to open "The Bag" and do the laundry. The smell cannot be described it has to be experienced. A mixture of JP5 jet fuel, synthetic lube oil, dead marine life, body odor, foot odor, body waste odor, and ammonia. These are just the major contributors. When you open the bag that smells hits you in the nose with the force of a sledge hammer. Try the Vicks trick it helps.
     Now I don't know if everyone had this issue. The longest line of sight that could be seen was 95 feet down one of the compartments port passageway. After 12 - 14 weeks of this I had difficulty focusing on objects in the distance and my depth perception was way off I would find myself stopping 5 car lengths from the car ahead of me at traffic lights. It would take a couple of weeks for this to clear up.

Acceleration Protection

The bottom line seems to be the acceleration should be limited to 4g or less if you want the astronauts capable of using their hands on controls, and limit it to 17g while sitting down or 30g while lying flat to prevent serious injury to the astronauts. But only for less than 10 minutes or so, see graph below for details. This is usually not a problem unless you are dealing with a torchship. Conventional spacecraft cannot accelerate at that rate for much longer than 10 minutes before their propellant tanks run dry.

Note that the piloting controls will need to be specially designed to be used under 4gs, you ain't gonna be able to do fussy fine control when your arms weighs 20 kilograms each.

In the science-fictional role playing game Universe, people with enough money can have an "internal gravity web" surgically implanted. This is a series of strong nets anchored to bone that support the internal organs. It allows the person to undergo accelerations larger than 2.5g indefinitely with no ill effects.

Acceleration Positions
NameCoordDescriptionVerticularAssessment
Transverse forces supine+GxLying on your backEye Balls InRecommended high acceleration position
Transverse forces prone-GxLying face downEye Balls OutSecond-best high acceleration position
Positive longitudinal+GzSitting with head above heartEye Balls UpThird-best high acceleration position
Negative longitudinal-GzStanding on your headEye Balls DownReally stupid
ENVIRONMENT OF MANNED SYSTEMS

The relative position or orientation of the subject is of prime importance in determining tolerable levels of gravitational or acceleration force, or "g force.' As the g force is gradually increased, certain effects are observed.

Figure 5 shows the time-tolerance relationships for positive longitudinal forces and for transverse forces (either prone or supine, prone being the position of lying face down and supine being the position of lying on one's back).

For the transverse position, human subjects in Germany during World War II were subjected to 17 g's for as long as 4 minutes reportedly with no harmful effects and no loss of consciousness. The curves indicated for very long periods of time are extrapolations and are speculative, since no data are available on long-term effects. Col. John Stapp, Air Force Missile Development Center, has investigated extreme g loadings, up to 45 g's, sustained for fractions of a second; These are the kind of accelerations or decelerations that would be experienced in crash landings. For these brief high g loadings, the rate of change of g exceeds 500 g's per second.

As a matter of interest, the beaded line on the figure indicates the approximate accelerations that would be experienced by a man in a vehicle designed to reach escape velocity with three stages of chemical burning, each stage having a similar load-factor-time pattern. This curve enters the critical region for positive g's. Most individuals would probably black out and some would become unconscious. However, for individuals in the transverse position, this acceleration could be tolerated and the individual would not lose consciousness.

TABLE 1.
Gross effects of
acceleration forces
Effects:g's
Weightlessness0
Earth normal (32.2 feet/second)1
Hands and feet heavy;
walking and climbing difficult
2
Walking and climbing impossible;
crawling difficult; soft tissues sag
3
Movement only with great effort;
crawling almost impossible
4
Only slight movements of arms
and head possible
5
Longitudinal g's, short duration
(blood forced from head toward feet):
Effects:g's
Visual symptoms appear2.5 - 7.0
Blackout3.5 - 8.0
Confusion,
loss of consciousness
4.0 - 8.5
Structural damage,
especially to spine
18 - 23
Transverse g's, short duration
(head and heart at same hydrostatic level):
Effects:g's
No visual symptoms or
loss of consciousness
0 - 17
Tolerated28 - 30
Structural damage may occur> 30 - 45
NATURAL AND INDUCED ENVIRONMENTS

a. Upward Acceleration Effects (+ Gz) (In Seated Posture)

1 Gz
Equivalent to the erect or seated terrestrial posture
2 Gz
Increased weight; increased pressure on buttocks; drooping of face and body tissue
2.5 Gz
Difficult to raise oneself
3 - 4 Gz
Impossible to raise oneself; difficult to raise arms and legs; movement at right angles impossible; progressive dimming of vision after 3-4 seconds; progressive tunneling of vision
4.5 - 6 Gz
Diminution of vision; progressive blackout after about 5 seconds; hearing and then consciousness lost if exposure continued; mild to severe convulsions in about 50% of the subjects during or following unconsciousness, frequently with bizarre dreams; occasionally paresthesias, confused states, and rarely, gustatory sensations; no incontinence; pain not common, but tension and congestion of lower limbs with cramps and tingling; inspiration difficult; loss of orientation of time and space for up to 15 seconds post-acceleration

b. Downward Acceleration Effects (- Gz) (Standing On Head )

-1 Gz
Unpleasant, but tolerable, facial suffusion and congestion
-2 to -3 Gz
Severe facial congestion; throbbing headache; ori-gressive blurring, , or graying, or occasionally reddening of vision after 5 seconds; congestion disappears slowly; may leave petechial hemorrhages, edematous eye-lids
-5 Gz
Five seconds is limit of tolerance rarely reached by most subjects

c. Forward Acceleration Effects (+ Gx) (Lying On Back)

2 - 3 Gx
Increased weight and abdominal pressure; progressive slight difficulty in focusing and slight spatial disorientation, each subsiding with experience; 2 Gx tolerable for at least 24 hours; 4 Gx tolerable up to at least 60 minutes
3 - 6 Gx
Progressive tightness in chest, chest pain; loss of peripheral vision; difficulty in breathing and speaking; blurring of vision, effort required to maintain focus
6 - 9 Gx
Increased chest pain and pressure; breathing difficult, shallow respiration from position of nearly full inspiration; further reduction in peripheral vision, increased blurring, occasional tunneling, great concentration required to maintain focus; occasional lacrimation; body, legs, and arms cannot be lifted at 8 Gx; head cannot be lifted at 9 Gx
9 - 12 Gx
Breathing difficulty severe, increased chest pain, marked fatigue, loss of peripheral vision, diminution of central acuity, lacrimation
15 Gx
Extreme difficulty in breathing and speaking, severe viselike chest pain; loss of tactile sensation, recurrent complete loss of vision

d. Backward Acceleration Effects (- Gx) (Lying Prone)

Similar to those of + Gx acceleration with modifications produced by reversal of the force vector. Chest pressure reversed, hence, breathing is easier; pain and discomfort from outward pressure toward restraint harness manifest at 8-Gx; forward head tilt cerebral hemodynamic effects akin to Gz; feeling of insecurity from pressure against restraint.


LEVIATHAN WAKES

"Alex, how long?" Holden asked for the third time in ten minutes.

"We're over an hour out. Want to go on the juice?" Alex said.

Going on the juice was pilot-speak for a high-g burn that would knock an unmedicated human unconscious. The juice was the cocktail of drugs the pilot's chair would inject into him to keep him conscious, alert, and hopefully stroke-free when his body weighed five hundred kilos. Holden had used the juice on multiple occasions in the navy, and coming down afterward was unpleasant.

"Not unless we have to," he said.

(ed note: if the apparent body weight is 500 kg, I figure the acceleration is on the order of seven gees)


Q: What is in the juice they take on the Roxinante (sic), and what is it doing?

DANIEL ABRAHAM: What it's doing is controlling blood pressure and the elasticity of blood vessels to try to keep you from stroking out. That's the big thing it's doing. The hardest thing about long, sustained high-G burns is that humans aren't used to them. So, it's something that will make sure that your blood pressure stays high enough so that you're getting blood all the way to your brain and that you're remaining elastic enough that you don't just pop like a balloon.

(ed note: there is also a second form of the juice that includes a sedative. This puts you to sleep for either hibernation or to knock you out for the duration of the burn. The first type of juice includes a stimulant to keep you from blacking out.

The writers of the TV version of The Expanse forgot to include the juice, but actor Cas Anvar thought the concept was cool and got it added in.)

From LEVIATHAN WAKES from The Expanse by "James S.A. Corey" 2011.

Acceleration Couches

An acceleration couch is a chair that will hold an astronaut in relative comfort under several gs of acceleration. The Apollo crew's acceleration couches only had to protect the crew from a maximum of 4gs on lift-off, and about 7gs during reentry.

In The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the couches had a built-in "relief tube" (i.e., a rudimentary urinal) for use during prolonged periods of multi-g acceleration. For various reasons military crews were all stag, no women allowed.

Flotation Mattress

If you have a torchship, and it is going to accelerate at more than one g for longer than a few minutes, the crew is going to need special couches to lie in. Otherwise the g forces will cause severe injury or even kill. A standard Apollo couch just ain't gonna cut the mustard. You are going to need something more fancy.

The next step up is an advanced waterbeds or flotation mattress. The astronaut lies on a big flexible plastic bag full of water. The water automatically conforms to the contours of the astronaut's body.

In Robert Heinlein's Sky Lift and Double Star these are called called "cider presses" for sarcastic reasons. The water mattress is the fruit and the astronaut is the piston.

In The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle the flotation chairs were supplemented by a few motorized acceleration couches used by damage control parties who had to move around during high gs. Such mobile couches also appeared in Joe Haldeman's The Forever War.

THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE

     He called Bury instead.
     Bury was in the gee bath: a film of highly elastic mylar over liquid. Only his face and hands showed above the curved surface. His face looked old—it almost showed his true age.

     "Yes, of course, I didn't mean personally. I only want access to information on our progress. At my age I dare not move from this rubber bathtub for the duration of our voyage. How long will we be under four gees?"
     "One hundred and twenty-five hours. One twenty-four, now."

     He called Sally's cabin.
     She looked as if she hadn't slept in a week or smiled in years. Blaine said, "Hello, Sally. Sorry you came?"
     "I told you I can take anything you can take," Sally said calmly. She gripped the arms of her chair and stood up. She let go and spread her arms to show how capable she was.
     "Be careful," Blaine said, trying to keep his voice steady. "No sudden moves. Keep your knees straight. You can break your back just sitting down. Now stay erect, but reach behind you. Get both the chair arms in your hands before you try to bend at the waist—"
     She didn't believe it was dangerous, not until she started to sit down. Then the muscles in her arms knotted, panic flared in her eyes, and she sat much too abruptly, as if MacArthur's gravity had sucked her down.
     "Are you hurt?"
     "No," she said. "Only my pride."
     "Then you stay in that chair, damn your eyes! Do you see me standing up? You do not. And you won't!"
     "All right." She turned her head from side to side. She was obviously dizzy from the jolt.

From THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
SKY LIFT

     “How high, sir?”
     Berrio hesitated. “Three and one-half gravities.”
     Three and a half g’s! That wasn’t a boost — that was a pullout. Joe heard the surgeon protest, “I’m sorry, sir, but three gravities is all I can approve.”
     Berrio frowned. “Legally, it’s up to the captain. But three hundred lives depend on it.”
     Kleuger said, “Doctor, let’s see that curve.” The surgeon slid a paper across the desk; Kleuger moved it so that Joe could see it. “Here’s the scoop, Appleby—”
     A curve started high, dropped very slowly, made a sudden “knee” and dropped rapidly. The surgeon put his finger on the “knee.” “Here,” he said soberly, “is where the donors are suffering from loss of blood as much as the patients. After that it’s hopeless, without a new source of blood.”
     “How did you get this curve?” Joe asked.
     “It’s the empirical equation of Larkin’s disease applied to two hundred eighty-nine people.”
     Appleby noted vertical lines each marked with an acceleration and a time. Far to the right was one marked: “1 g—18 days” That was the standard trip; it would arrive after the epidemic had burned out. Two gravities cut it to twelve days seventeen hours; even so, half the colony would be dead. Three g’s was better but still bad. He could see why the Commodore wanted them to risk three-and-a-half kicks; that line touched the “knee,” at nine days fifteen hours. That way they could save almost everybody, but, oh, brother!
     The time advantage dropped off by inverse squares. Eighteen days required one gravity, so nine days took four, while four-and-a-half days required a fantastic sixteen gravities. But someone had drawn a line at “16 g—4.5 days.” “Hey! This plot must be for a robot-torch — that’s the ticket! Is there one available?”
     Berrio said gently, “Yes. But what are its chances?”
     Joe shut up. Even between the inner planets robots often went astray. In four-billion-odd miles the chance that one could hit close enough to be caught by radio control was slim. “We’ll try,” Berrio promised. “If it succeeds, I’ll call you at once.” He looked at Kleuger. “Captain, time is short. I must have your decision.”
     Kleuger turned to the surgeon. “Doctor, why not another half gravity? I recall a report on a chimpanzee who was centrifuged at high g for an amazingly long time.”
     “A chimpanzee is not a man.”
     Joe blurted out, “How much did this chimp stand, Surgeon?”
     “Three and a quarter gravities for twenty-seven days.”
     “He did? What shape was he in when the test ended?”
     “He wasn’t,” the doctor grunted.

     The ship was built for high boost; controls were over the pilots’ tanks, where they could be fingered without lifting a hand. The flight surgeon and an assistant fitted Kleuger into one tank while two medical technicians arranged Joe in his. One of them asked, “Underwear smooth? No wrinkles?”
     “I guess.”
     “I’ll check.” He did so, then arranged fittings necessary to a man who must remain in one position for days. “The nipple left of your mouth is water; the two on your right are glucose and bouillon.”
     “No solids?”
     The surgeon turned in the air and answered, “You don’t need any, you won’t want any, and you mustn’t have any. And be careful in swallowing.”
     “I’ve boosted before.”
     “Sure, sure. But be careful.”
     Each tank was like an oversized bathtub filled with a liquid denser than water. The top was covered by a rubbery sheet, gasketed at the edges; during boost each man would float with the sheet conforming to his body. The Salamander being still in free orbit, everything was weightless and the sheet now served to keep the fluid from floating out. The attendants centered Appleby against the sheet and fastened him with sticky tape, then placed his own acceleration collar, tailored to him, behind his head.

     The room had no ports and needed none. The area in front of Joe’s face was filled with screens, instruments, radar, and data displays; near his forehead was his eyepiece for the coelostat. A light blinked green as the passenger tube broke its anchors; Kleuger caught Joe’s eye in a mirror mounted opposite them. “Report, Mister.”
     “Minus seven’ minutes oh four. Tracking. Torch warm and idle. Green for light-off.”
     “Stand by while I check orientation.” Kleuger’s eyes disappeared into his coelostat eyepiece.

     When the counter flashed the last thirty seconds he forgot his foregone leave. The lust to travel possessed him. To go, no matter where, anywhere go! He smiled as the torch lit off.
     Then weight hit him.
     At three and one-half gravities he weighed six hundred and thirty pounds. It felt as if a load of sand had landed on him, squeezing his chest, making him helpless, forcing his head against his collar. He strove to relax, to let the supporting liquid hold him together. It was all right to tighten up for a pullout, but for a long boost one must relax. He breathed shallowly and slowly; the air was pure oxygen, little lung action was needed. But he labored just to breathe. He could feel his heart struggling to pump blood grown heavy through squeezed vessels. This is awful! he admitted. I’m not sure I can take it. He had once had four g for nine minutes but he had forgotten how bad it was.

     Joe then found that he had forgotten, while working, his unbearable weight. It felt worse than ever. His neck ached and he suspected that there was a wrinkle under his left calf. He wiggled in the tank to smooth it, but it made it worse.

     He tried to rest — as if a man could when buried under sandbags.
     His bones ached and the wrinkle became a nagging nuisance. The pain in his neck got worse; apparently he had wrenched it at light-off. He turned his head, but there were just two positions — bad and worse. Closing his eyes, he attempted to sleep. Ten minutes later he was wider awake than ever, his mind on three things, the lump in his neck, the irritation under his leg, and the squeezing weight.
     Look, bud, he told himself, this is a long boost. Take it easy, or adrenalin exhaustion will get you. As the book says, “The ideal pilot is relaxed and unworried. Sanguine in temperament, he never borrows trouble.” Why, you chair-warming so-and-so! Were you at three and a half g’s when you wrote that twaddle?

     The integrating accelerograph displayed elapsed time, velocity, and distance, in dead-reckoning for empty space. Under these windows were three more which showed the same by the precomputed tape controlling the torch; by comparing, Joe could tell how results matched predictions. The torch had been lit off for less than seven hours, speed was nearly two million miles per hour and they were over six million miles out. A third display corrected these figures for the Sun’s field, but Joe ignored this; near Earth’s orbit the Sun pulls only one two-thousandth of a gravity — a gnat’s whisker, allowed for in precomputation. Joe merely noted that tape and D.R. agreed; he wanted an outside check.

     His ribs hurt, each breath carried the stab of pleurisy. His hands and feet felt “pins-and-needles” from scanty circulation. He wiggled them, which produced crawling sensations and wearied him. So he held still and watched the speed soar. It increased seventy-seven miles per hour every second, more than a quarter million miles per hour every hour. For once he envied rocketship pilots; they took forever to get anywhere but they got there in comfort.
     Without the torch, men would never have ventured much past Mars. E = Mc2, mass is energy, and a pound of sand equals fifteen billion horsepower-hours. An atomic rocketship uses but a fraction of one percent of that energy, whereas the new torchers used better than eighty percent. The conversion chamber of a torch was a tiny sun; particles expelled from it approached the speed of light.

     “Oh, there’s one thing I don’t understand, uh, what I don’t understand is, uh, this: why do I have to go, uh, to the geriatrics clinic at Luna City? That’s for old people, uh? That’s what I’ve always understood — the way I understand it. Sir?”
     The surgeon cut in, “I told you, Joe. They have the very best physiotherapy. We got special permission for you.”
     Joe looked perplexed. “Is that right, sir? I feel funny, going to an old folks’, uh, hospital?”
     “That’s right, son.”
     Joe grinned sheepishly. “Okay, sir, uh, if you say so.”
     They started to leave. “Doctor — stay a moment. Messenger, help Mr. Appleby.”
     “Joe, can you make it?”
     “Uh, sure! My legs are lots better — see?” He went out, leaning on the messenger.
     Berrio said, “Doctor, tell me straight: will Joe get well?”
     “No, sir.”
     “Will he get better?’
     “Some, perhaps. Lunar gravity makes it easy to get the most out of what a man has left.”
     “But will his mind clear up?”
     The doctor hesitated. “It’s this way, sir. Heavy acceleration is a speeded-up aging process. Tissues break down, capillaries rupture, the heart does many times its proper work. And there is hypoxia, from failure to deliver enough oxygen to the brain.”
     The Commodore struck his desk an angry blow. The surgeon said gently, “Don’t take it so hard, sir.”
     “Damn it, man — think of the way he was. Just a kid, all bounce and vinegar — now look at him! He’s an old man — senile.”
     “Look at it this way,” urged the surgeon, “you expended one man, but you saved two hundred and seventy.”

From SKY LIFT by Robert Heinlein (1953)
DOUBLE STAR

A hand grabbed my arm, towed me along a narrow passage and into a compartment. Against one bulkhead and flat to it were two bunks, or "cider presses," the bathtub-shaped, hydraulic, pressure-distribution tanks used for high acceleration in torchships. I had never seen one before but we had used quite convincing mock-ups in the space opus The Earth Raiders.

There was a stenciled sign on the bulkhead behind the bunks: WARNING!!! Do Not Take More than Three Gravities without a Gee Suit. By Order of— I rotated slowly out of range of vision before I could finish reading it and someone shoved me into one cider press. Dak and the other men were hurriedly strapping me against it when a horn somewhere near by broke into a horrid hooting. It continued for several seconds, then a voice replaced it: "Red warning! Two gravities! Three minutes! Red warning! Two gravities! Three minutes!" Then the hooting started again.


I looked at him and said wonderingly, "How do you manage to stand up?" Part of my mind, the professional part that works independentiy, was noting how he stood and filing it in a new drawer marked: "How a Man Stands under Two Gravities."

He grinned at me. "Nothing to it. I wear arch supports."

"Hmmmph!"

"You can stand up, if you want to. Ordinarily we discourage passengers from getting out of the boost tanks when we are torching at anything over one and a half gees — too much chance that some idiot will fall over his own feet and break a leg. But I once saw a really tough weight-lifter type climb out of the press and walk at five gravities — but he was never good for much afterwards. But two gees is okay — about like carrying another man piggyback."


She did not return. Instead the door was opened by a man who appeared to be inhabiting a giant kiddie stroller. "Howdy there, young fellow!" he boomed out. He was sixtyish, a bit too heavy, and bland; I did not have to see his diploma to be aware that his was a "bedside" manner.

"How do you do, sir?"

"Well enough. Better at lower acceleration." He glanced down at the contrivance he was strapped into. "How do you like my corset-on-wheels? Not stylish, perhaps, but it takes some of the strain off my heart.


At turnover we got that one-gravity rest that Dak had promised. We never were in free fall, not for an instant; instead of putting out the torch, which I gather they hate to do while under way, the ship described what Dak called a 180-degree skew turn. It leaves the ship on boost the whole time and is done rather qulckly, but it has an oddly disturbing effect on the sense of balance. The effect has a name something like Coriolanus. Coriolis?

All I know about spaceships is that the ones that operate from the surface of a planet are true rockets but the voyageurs call them "teakettles" because of the steam jet of water or hydrogen they boost with. They aren't considered real atomic-power ships even though the jet is heated by an atomic pile. The long-jump ships such as the Tom Paine, torchships that is, are (so they tell me) the real thing, making use of F equals MC squared, or is it M equals EC squared? You know — the thing Einstein invented.


Our Moon being an airless planet, a torchship can land on it. But the Tom Paine, being a torchship, was really intended to stay in space and be serviced only at space stations in orbit; she had to be landed in a cradle. I wish I had been awake to see it, for they say that catching an egg on a plate is easy by comparison. Dak was one of the half dozen pilots who could do it.

From DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein, 1956
NIGHTRIDER

Flush with the bottom deck were two acceleration couches like a pair of waiting sarcophagi, arranged almost as a "V," heads quite close together about half a metre in from the entrance hatchway, feet further apart. There was a strip of the padded deck between the two couches down to mid-thigh level, then they were seperated by an intrusive part of the solid structure that kept the crew module from collapsing at maximum gee. The flight centre was a split space, a tomb for twins, featureless except for the human shaped deep indentation in each couch, and a pair of fiat and silvery screens in the slightly sloped ceiling an arm's reach above. There were no littering control interfaces, no running readouts.

There was a handle under the upper hatch rim. When pulling gee you went in feet first and then pushed yourself legs extended into the waiting couch. In free fall it was easier—you swung in feet first and steered yourself straight down the narrow slot that belonged to you. Sandra went in first, sliding to the right. The lighting came on, triggered by Nightrider.

She dug her heels into the couch recesses before letting go of the handle inside the hatch, then with ankles gripped by the couch, she had enough purchase to slide her hands into the arm troughs and wriggle neatly into place. Getting into the couch was one of the few things that was easier when pulling gee—getting out was easier in tree fall. You fitted perfectly into the couch, flush with the padded floor. Its quilted material completely covered over your arms and legs, lapped round your sides, cupped your head so that you could only hear through the built-in earphones. Nothing pressed against you, it was like floating in a dry fluid, but the couch held you. It was essentially a water bed, an immersion tank. A layer of water a mere centimetre thick circulated around you, kept you hovering sweetly between cool and warm. The water layer could have been a millimetre thick if it wasn't for the risk of localized pinching of the immersion film because of a creased overall or a tensed elbow. Afloat was afloat. And afloat meant immunity to Nightrider's maximum ten gee.

At 10g acceleration the weight of nine additional breast­bones pressed upon your breastbones, an almost unnoticeable load. But ten times your Earth weight—your evolutionary designed weight—crushed your spine and pelvis into whatever you lay on, tugged your cheeks into your ears, clamped your tongue asphyxiatingly against the back of your throat, stressed your ribs almost until they snapped. If you were lightly muscled from your bone strength, and above all cardiac fit, then it probably wouldn't kill you unless sustained for too long, but you would pass out, which would make you useless. But immersed in a bed of incompressible fluid like water, be it only a suspending centimetre layer, the weight on your back was turned into evenly distributed pressure over your whole body. And because the human body, apart from a few air spaces, is essentially a water volume, then despite a weight gradient form breastbone and abdominal muscle to spine, the internal pressure was evenly distributed. The physical distress was largely cancelled out, you functioned the way you should.

Arms enclosed in the couch, Sandra slipped her fingers into the concealed gloves and touched the key pads, one for each hand. Each pad had five keys, you talked into it by pressing with fingers and thumb in varying patterns. All five at once meant "activate" and "space." You could talk with the left hand, with the right hand, or allegedly with both at once, holding two distinct conversations with the computers. She had yet to meet someone who had been proved to be able to do that.

She swung her arms a little out to the side, the only movement accommodated by the couch, and found the joy-stick trigger grip on the left, the attitude ball control on the right. Those were the controls for manual manoeuvring, and they would never be used. Normally you just lay there and told Nightrider what to do. Otherwise you talked instructions into a key pad and then let the computation run the manoeuver...

From NIGHTRIDER by David Mace (1985)

Liquid Breathing

In the real world, liquid breathing is a technique with applications to ultra-deep ocean diving. Past a certain depth the water pressure will crush a diver's lungs into pulp. But since fluid is incompressible, filling the lungs with fluid instead of gasous breathing mix will provide protection. They do not quite have the technique ready for commercial use, yet, but they are working on it. A gentleman named Arnold Lande patented a liquid breathing scuba suit in 2010.

You can see this in the movie The Abyss. The bit with the man is special effect, but the part with the rat is real.

Since multiple gravities of acceleration stress the internal organs much like water pressure, fluid breathing could provide acceleration protection as well.

LIQUID BREATHING

Liquid breathing is a form of respiration in which a normally air-breathing organism breathes an oxygen-rich liquid (such as a perfluorocarbon), rather than breathing air.

Perfluorochemical (perfluorocarbon) molecules have very different structures that impart different physical properties such as respiratory gas solubility, density, viscosity, vapor pressure, and lipid solubility. Thus, it is critical to choose the appropriate PFC for a specific biomedical application, such as liquid ventilation, drug delivery or blood substitutes. The physical properties of PFC liquids vary substantially; however, the one common property is their high solubility for respiratory gases. In fact, these liquids carry more oxygen and carbon dioxide than blood.

In theory, liquid breathing could assist in the treatment of patients with severe pulmonary or cardiac trauma, especially in pediatric cases. Liquid breathing has also been proposed for use in deep diving and space travel. Despite some recent advances in liquid ventilation, a standard mode of application has not yet been established.

Proposed uses

Space travel

Liquid immersion provides a way to reduce the physical stress of G forces. Forces applied to fluids are distributed as omnidirectional pressures. Because liquids cannot be practically compressed, they do not change density under high acceleration such as performed in aerial maneuvers or space travel. A person immersed in liquid of the same density as tissue has acceleration forces distributed around the body, rather than applied at a single point such as a seat or harness straps. This principle is used in a new type of G-suit called the Libelle G-suit, which allows aircraft pilots to remain conscious and functioning at more than 10 G acceleration by surrounding them with water in a rigid suit.

Acceleration protection by liquid immersion is limited by the differential density of body tissues and immersion fluid, limiting the utility of this method to about 15 to 20 G. Extending acceleration protection beyond 20 G requires filling the lungs with fluid of density similar to water. An astronaut totally immersed in liquid, with liquid inside all body cavities, will feel little effect from extreme G forces because the forces on a liquid are distributed equally, and in all directions simultaneously. However effects will be felt because of density differences between different body tissues, so an upper acceleration limit still exists.

Liquid breathing for acceleration protection may never be practical because of the difficulty of finding a suitable breathing medium of similar density to water that is compatible with lung tissue. Perfluorocarbon fluids are twice as dense as water, hence unsuitable for this application.

Examples in fiction

  • Joe Haldeman's 1975 novel The Forever War describes liquid immersion and breathing in great detail as a key technology to allow space travel and combat with acceleration up to 50 G.
  • The James Cameron film The Abyss features a character using liquid breathing to dive thousands of feet without compressing. The Abyss also features a scene with a rat submerged in and breathing fluorocarbon liquid, filmed in real life.
  • In the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the cockpits of the titular mecha are filled with a fictional oxygenated liquid called LCL which is required for the pilot to mentally sync with an Evangelion, as well as providing direct oxygenation of their blood, and dampening the impacts from battle. Once the cockpit is flooded the LCL is ionized, bringing its density, opacity, and viscosity close to that of air.
  • The aliens in the Gerry Anderson UFO series use liquid-breathing spacesuits.
  • In the movies Mission to Mars and Event Horizon, a character is depicted as being immersed in apparent breathable fluid before a high-acceleration launch.
  • Ben Bova's novel Jupiter features a craft in which the crew are suspended in a breathable liquid that allows them to survive in the high pressure environment of Jupiter's atmosphere.
  • In the EVE Online Universe, pilots in capsules (escape pods that function as the control center for the spacecraft) breathe an oxygen rich, nano-saturated, breathable glucose-based suspension solution.
  • In Scott Westerfeld's sci-fi novel The Risen Empire, the lungs of soldiers performing insertion from orbit are filled with an oxygen-rich polymer gel with embedded pseudo-alveoli and a rudimentary artificial intelligence.
From the Wikipedia entry for LIQUID BREATHING

      While I'm not sure how the solution using levitation would work, I'm focussing on surviving some more of the acceleration, independent of that, and propose how to handle some problems that may be relevant even with levitation available.
     Part of the problem that's killing us is that the body contains compressible parts, which will collapse.
     The problem is the air, and we should get rid of it. That's easy, because there are prooven commerial systems for breathing liquids available already.
     Sounds a little like scifi, maybe, but seems to work — after getting used to breath a liquid, that is.
     It's used for diving in deep areas of the sea under high pressure, wehere pressurized air does not work. You's breath perfluorocarbon, with some oxygen disolved in it, of course. This creates a pretty uniform pressure in the body during acceleration, which is slightly disturbed by inhomogenous density of the body.
     This seems to actually work up to 20G with perfluorocarbon, and even above 20G if a liquid of more similar density to the body could be used.
     Apart from making the body incompressible (after filling some other parts with liquids), the original purpose of liquid breathing may help us too — it is related to exchanging oxygen in the lung depending on pressure.
     As we now can stand the pressure that is caused by the acceleration, it may help us actually get oxygen into out blood if we should find a way to breath.

comment by Volker Siegel (2014)
THE FOREVER WAR

(ed note: this is pretty much handwavium, but interesting idea)

The acceleration shells were something new, installed while we rested and resupplied at Stargate. They enabled us to use the ship at closer to its theoretical efficiency, the tachyon drive boosting it to as much as 25 gravities...

...The medic came by and gave me my shot. I waited until 1950 and hollered to the squad, "Let's go. Strip down and zip up."

The shell is like a flexible spacesuit; at least the fittings on the inside are pretty similar. But instead of a life support package, there's a hose going into the top of the helmet and two coming out of the heels, as well as two relief tubes per suit. They're crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder on light acceleration couches; getting to your shell is like picking your way through a giant plate of olive drab spaghetti.

When the lights in my helmet showed that everybody was suited up, I pushed the button that flooded the room. No way to see, of course, but I could imagine the pale blue solution—ethylene glycol and something else—foaming up around and over us. The suit material, cool and dry, collapsed in to touch my skin at every point. I knew that my internal body pressure was increasing rapidly to match the increasing fluid pressure outside. That's what the shot was for; keep your cells from getting squished between the devil and the deep blue sea. You could still feel it, though. By the time my meter said "2" (external pressure equivalent to a column of water two nautical miles deep), I felt that I was at the same time being crushed and bloated. By 2005 it was at 2.7 and holding steady. When the maneuvers began at 2010, you couldn't feel the difference. I thought I saw the needle fluctuate a tiny bit, though.

The major drawback to the system is that, of course, anybody caught outside of his shell when the Anniversary hit 25 g's would be just so much strawberry jam. So the guiding and the fighting have to be done by the ship's tactical computer—which does most of it anyway, but it's nice to have a human overseer.

Another small problem is that if the ship gets damaged and the pressure drops, you'll explode like a dropped melon. If it's the internal pressure, you get crushed to death in a microsecond.

And it takes ten minutes, more or less, to get depressurized and another two or three to get untangled and dressed. So it's not exactly something you can hop out of and come up fighting.

From THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman (1975)
ANTARES VICTORY

      The initial invasion force included the ten heavily armed, high-acceleration speeders of Mercury Force’s Alpha Squadron.  The squadron would jump as a group into the unknown on the other side of the foldpoint.  If they found the foldpoint unguarded, nine of the ten would immediately began accelerating toward Eulysta’s second foldpoint, the one leading to the agricultural system of Carratyl.  The remaining speeder in the formation would jump back to the nebula to report to the fleet, before returning to Eulysta and beginning a long stern chase to catch its fellows…
     …The ships of Mercury Force were specially built and crewed for this one purpose.  Their crews were young, average age 22, and in superb physical condition.  They had to be.  Most of the journey would take place at up to ten gravities, and even submerged in liquid-filled acceleration tanks, the stress would take its toll on the human body.  It would also be hard on the engines.  Like cartridges in an old-fashioned chemical firearm, their cross-system dash would use up the speeders’ propulsion systems.  They would need overhauling before they could fight again…
     …“Are your people ready, Captain Parsons?” he asked the too-young face on one of his screens.
     Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Victor Parsons looked out at him and nodded eagerly.  His lips did not move.  With every cavity in his body filled with oxygenated fluid to allow him to withstand the coming acceleration, speech was impossible.   Nevertheless, a computer generated voice replied, “Ready to stomp some Ryall tail, sir.”
     “Just make sure your designated scout jumps back here the nanosecond his engines are charged.  I don’t relish sitting here in the dark without knowing what faces me any longer than I have to.”
     “Understood, Admiral.”
     “Good luck, Captain.  Give them hell!”
     “Hell it is, sir.  Mercury Asgard, out.”…

     …Lieutenant Sean Parker floated in a pool of oxygenated fluid and stared at the instruments inside his tank.  At his side, blue-tinged blood flowed through a clear umbilical cord away from his combat suit, while bright red blood flowed back through the return line.  Both lines were attached to a socket just above his left hip, and from there to his circulatory system.  Parker was not breathing.  He could not.  His lungs contained the same heavy fluid in which he was submerged.  In fact, all of his body cavities were filled with oxygenated fluid.
     “Mercury Squadron.  Report status.”
     The words in his ears were delivered in the perfect contralto tones that marked the voice that produced them as computer synthesized.  Like Parker, the speaker, his squadron commander, lay submerged in an acceleration tank, her lungs filled with oxygenated fluorocarbon, and unable to make a sound.  Her words were produced by the small inductive pickup mounted behind her right ear.  The pickup monitored the output of numerous electrodes that had been carefully implanted beneath her skull amid the valleys of her cerebral cortex.
     It was the surgically implanted enhancements, along with the long training to use them properly, that marked the elite flight crews of the Mercury Squadrons, the high acceleration craft whose mission it was to seize enemy foldpoints before the Ryall could spread the alarm.
     “Mercury Climber, ready for jump,” Parker replied, using his own implants to search among the prerecorded responses.  He had adjusted his personal simulated voice to a deep baritone to distinguish it from those of his three crewmates.”…

     …Alpha Squadron had spearheaded the invasion of Eulysta, but would not be going along this time.  They had worn out their engines during the mad dash across the system, and until overhauled, were little more than intrasystem scooters.
     This time, the duty and honor fell to the remaining three squadrons in the Mercury Force.  Beta, Gamma, and Delta Squadrons would race across the Carratyl System to the Carratyl-Spica foldpoint.  Nor was the force made up solely by armed speeders this time.  Gamma Squadron including three destroyers modified for high acceleration attack.  In addition to having engines and reaction tankage approximately quadruple the normal size, Mercury Force vessels mounted surprisingly heavy armament for ships of their class — proving that engineers can do wonders if their designs are not required to last beyond a single battle.
      “Mercury Force, ready to jump, Fleet,” came the report from Captain Danvers aboard Mercury Rocket.”
     “Very good, Mercury Force.  Your advance scouts may start charging their generators.”
     “Beta Squadron.  Begin charging your generators.”
     “Climber, acknowledges,” Parker sent.  Then on the ship’s intercom, he said, “This is it.  Strap down, it may be a bumpy ride from here on out.”
     The joke brought the requisite (and synthesized) chuckles.  Floating as they were in their acceleration tanks, with their lungs and intestines filled with the vile tasting, worse smelling fluid, they had no need to strap down.  In fact, Mercury Climber could run into a small planet at atmospheric aircraft speeds, and assuming his tank remained intact, Parker would survive the crash.  The cushioning volume of acceleration fluid would protect his internal organs against accelerations fifty times standard gravity, and impacts even higher.
     He just wished it weren’t so uncomfortable.  Worse than the surgeries and the endless hours training his body to control the implants, was the constant feeling that he was drowning.  Nor did he look forward to the spate of coughing that would be required to empty his lungs of the fluid once they secured the foldpoint and were able to de-tank…

     …On her screen, a chronometer display was clicking off the seconds to the moment when it would be their turn to begin deceleration.  She was not looking forward to that.  In order to cut off the bogey, they would be going in at twenty gravities, and even then, would not slow down to system escape velocity before they reached the foldpoint.  It was going to be one quick shot and then a long ride to infinity unless a tanker caught up with them.
     The fluid in which she floated would theoretically protect her up to hundreds of gravities.  Technology had not yet caught up with science.  In truth, the twenty gravity capability of the engines was also the physiological limit of the crew, and possibly a little above the limit.  Twenty gees would cause damage and would prematurely age her — how much, she couldn’t guess.  Elizabeth didn’t fear dying.  Her nightmares came when she saw herself as a broken down old lady of 28.
     However, as an ancient philosopher once said, “No guts, no glory.”  So, Elizabeth willed the acceleration alarms to sound in each of the tanks and said, “Okay, pull up your socks, people.  Here we go!”
     With that, she ordered engines to full power.  In seconds, her whole body was being squeezed as though in a vise.  Her vision went gray and then cleared, as the pumps increased the internal pressure in her tank to compensate.  However, there was blurriness to her peripheral vision that told her this condition was not good for her.

Handwavium Anti-Acceleration

Foreseeably science fiction has several choice examples of acceleration protection constructed out of pure handwavium. They are amusing but I wouldn't take any of them seriously.

Common scifi names include acceleration compensator, deceleration compensator, inertial compensator, deceleration equalizer, and drive compensator. Sometimes scifi misuses the term "inertial damper" which has a very different and very mundane meaning, the proper term is Inertial Negation.

David Gerrolds notes that the inertial dampers in Star Trek TOS would render impossible all those scenes where the valiant bridge crew of the starship Enterprise get jolted out of their seats. They would not be affected any more than shaking a piece of amber containing fossilized insects would jolt the bugs.

In addition to the drives mentioned here, there is also the broad classs of carrot-on-a-stick drives. These avoid killing the crew by high acceleration by virtue of using handwavium paragravity for acceleration. Since gravity (or paragravity) accelerates all the atoms of of both the ship and crew evenly, the crew will be in free fall regardless of how massive the acceleration is.

Anders Sandberg has an impressive scientific survey of theoretical techniques on his blog here


With the exception of Charles Sheffield's "Balanced Drive." It is more unobtanium, we can't build the blasted thing but it does not break any of the laws of physics (it is really really hard to make a disk one hundred meters in diameter and one meter thick with the mass of Mount Everest). It sure looks like a handwavium carrot-on-a-stick drive, but it isn't.

MOMENT OF INERTIA

      When the ship was explained to me, I decided that McAndrew didn't really see round corners when he thought. It was just that things were obvious to him before they were explained, and obvious to other people afterwards. I had been saying "inertia-less" to Mac, and he had been just as often saying "impossible." But we hadn't been communicating very well. All I wanted was a drive that would let us accelerate at multiple gees without flattening the passengers. To McAndrew, that was a simple requirement, one that he could easily satisfy—but there was no question of doing away with inertia, of passengers or ship.
     "Take it back to basics," said Wenig, when he was showing me how the Dotterel worked. "Remember the equivalence principle? That's at the heart of it. There is no way of distinguishing an accelerated motion from a gravitational field force, right?"
     I had no trouble with that. It was freshman physics. "Sure. You'd be flattened just as well in a really high gravity field as you would in a ship accelerating at fifty gee. But where does it get you?"
     "Imagine that you were standing on something with a hefty gravity field—Jupiter, say. You'd experience a downward force of about two and a half gee. Now suppose that somebody could accelerate Jupiter away from you, downwards, at two and a half gee. You'd fall towards it, but you'd never reach it—it would be accelerating at the same rate as you are. And you'd feel as though you were in free fall, but so far as the rest of the Universe is concerned you'd be accelerating at two and a half gee, same as Jupiter. That's what the equivalence principle is telling us, that acceleration and gravity can cancel out, if they're set up to be equal and opposite."
     As soon as you got used to Wenig's accent, he was easy to follow—I doubt if anybody could get into the Institute unless he was more than bright enough to explain concepts in easy terms.
     I nodded. "I can understand that easily enough. But you've just replaced one problem with a worse one. You can't find any drive in the Universe that could accelerate Jupiter at two and a half gee."
     "We cannot—not yet, at any rate. Luckily, we don't need to use Jupiter. We can do it with something a lot smaller, and a lot closer. Let's look at the Dotterel and the Merganser. At McAndrew's request I designed the mass element for both of them."
     He went across to the window that looked out from the inside of the Institute to raw space. The Dotterel was floating about ten kilometers away, close enough to see the main components.
     "See the plate on the bottom? It's a hundred meter diameter disk of compressed matter, electromagnetically stabilized and one meter thick. Density's about eleven hundred and seventy tons per cubic centimeter—pretty high, but nothing near as high as we've worked with here at the Institute. Less than you get in anything but the top couple of centimeters of a neutron star, and nowhere near approaching kernel densities. Now, if you were sitting right at the center of that disk, you'd experience a gravitational acceleration of fifty gee pulling you down to the disk. Tidal forces on you would be one gee per meter—not enough to trouble you. If you stayed on the axis of the disk, and moved away from it, you'd feel an attractive force of one gee when you were two hundred and forty-six meters from the center of the disk. See the column growing out from the disk? It's four meters across and two hundred and fifty meters long."
     I looked at it through the scope. The long central spike seemed to be completely featureless, a slim column of grey metal.
     "What's inside it?"
     "Mostly nothing." Wenig picked up a model of the Dotterel and cracked it open lengthwise, so that I could see the interior structure. "When the drives are off, the living-capsule is out here at the far end, two hundred and fifty meters from the dense disk. Gravity feels like one gee, toward the center of the disk. See the drives here, on the disk itself? They accelerate the whole thing away from the center column, so the disk stays flat and perpendicular to the motion. The bigger the acceleration that the drives produce, the closer to the disk we move the living-capsule up the central column here. We keep it so the total force in the capsule, gravity less acceleration, is always one gee, toward the disk."
     He slid the capsule along an electromechanical ladder closer to the disk. "It's easy to compute the right distance for any acceleration—the computer has it built-in, but you could do it by hand in a few minutes. When the drives are accelerating the whole thing at fourteen gee, the capsule is held a little less than fifty meters from the disk. I've been on a test run in the Merganser where we got up to almost twenty gee. Professor McAndrew intended to take it up to higher accelerations on this test. To accelerate at thirty-two gee, the capsule must be about twenty meters from the disk to keep effective gravity inside to one gee. The plan was to take the system all the way up to design maximum—fifty gee thrust acceleration, so that the passengers in the capsule would be right up against the disk, and feel as though they were in free fall. Gravity and thrust accelerations will exactly balance."
     I was getting goose bumps along the back of my neck. I knew the performance of the unmanned med ships. They would zip you from inside the orbit of Mercury out to Pluto in a couple of days, standing start to standing finish. Once in a while you'd get a passenger on them—accident or suicide. The flattened thing that they unpacked at the other end showed what the human body thought of a hundred gee.
     "What would happen if the drives went off suddenly?" I said.
     "You mean when the capsule is up against the disk—at maximum thrust?" Wenig shook his head. "We designed a safeguard system to prevent that, even on the prototypes. If there were a sign of the drive cutting off, the capsule would be moved back up the column, away from the disk. The system for that is built-in."

     The Dotterel worked like a dream. At twenty gee acceleration relative to the Solar System, we didn't feel anything unusual at all. The disk pulled us towards it at twenty-one gee, the acceleration of the ship pulled us away from it at twenty gee, and we sat there in the middle at a snug and comfortable standard gravity. I couldn't even feel the tidal forces, though I knew they were there.

From MOMENT OF INERTIA by Charles Sheffield (1980)

Handwavium acceleration protection includes:

TAU ZERO

The proper adjustments being made, Leonora Cnristine raised her acceleration a few days later.

It would make no particular difference to the cosmic duration of her passage. In either case, she ran at the heels of light. But by decreasing tau ( tau = 1/gamma ) faster, and reaching lower values of it at midpoint, the higher thrust appreciably shortened the shipboard time.

Extending her scoopfields more widely, intensifying the thermonuclear fireball that trailed her trailing Bussard engine, the ship shifted over to three gravities. This would have added almost thirty meters per second per second to a low velocity. To her present speed, it added tiny increments which grew constantly tinier. That was in outside measurement. Inboard, she drove ahead at three gee; and that measurement was equally real.

Her human payload could not have taken it and lived long. The stress on heart, lungs, and especially on body fluid balance would have been too great. Drugs might have helped. Fortunately, there was a better way.

The forces that pushed her nearer and nearer to ultimate c were not merely enormous. Of necessity, they were precise. They were, indeed, so precise that their interaction with the outside universe — matter and its own force fields — could be held to a nearly constant resultant in spite of changes in those exterior conditions. Likewise, the driving energies could safely be coupled to similar, much weaker fields when the latter were established within the hull.

This linkage could then operate on the asymmetries of atoms and molecules to produce an acceleration uniform with that of the inside generator itself. In practice, though, the effect was left incomplete. One gravity was uncompensated.

Hence weight inboard remained at a steady Earth-surface value, no matter how high the rate at which the ship gained speed.

Such cushioning was only achievable at relativistic velocities. At an ordinary pace, their tau large, atoms were insufficiently massive, too skittish to get a good grip on. As they approached c, they grew heavier — not to themselves, but to everything outside their vessel — until the interplay of fields between cargo and cosmos could establish a stable configuration.

Three gravities was not the limit. With scoopfields fully extended, and in regions where matter occurred more densely than hereabouts, such as a nebula, she could have gone considerably higher. In this particular crossing, given the tenuousness of the local hydrogen, any possible gain in time was not enough — since the formula involves a hyperbolic function — to be worth reducing her safety margin. Other considerations, e.g., the optimization of mass intake versus the minimization of path length, had also entered into computing her flight pattern.

Thus, tau was no static multiplying factor. It was dynamic. Its work on mass, space, and time could be observed as a fundamental thing, creating a forever new relationship between men and the universe through which they fared.

From TAU ZERO by Poul Anderson (1970)
DANGER IN DEEP SPACE

"In the first place," began Astro, "hyperdrive was developed by Joan Dale back at the Academy. And it's so blasted simple, I get mad at myself for not thinking of it first!"

"Uhhh," snorted Alfie. "I respect your great talent on the power deck, Astro, but I would hardly compare myself with Dale!"

"Shut up!" barked Astro. "You'll see how simple it is! Hyperdrive is based on the idea that the thrust of the rockets acts in the exact same way on all the atoms inside the spaceship. So you can have as much thrust as you want and no one will feel a thing. Even if the ship were to accelerate a million times faster than the gravity of the Earth you wouldn't feel a thing, because all the atoms inside would be pushed along at the same time!" Astro sat back triumphantly.

(ed note: the actual principle you use to accomplish this is left as an exercise for the reader…

It also flips the bird to Einstein since it allows the spacecraft to exceed the speed of light, somehow.)

From DANGER IN DEEP SPACE by Carey Rockwell (1953)
SKYLARK THREE

"I submit, in the hope that you will keep your promise, since there is no alternative but death," and the awful creature, still loosely held by the attractors and carefully watched by DuQuesne and Loring, fairly tore into the task of rebuilding the Osnomian power-plant into the space-annihilating drive of the Fenachrone—for he well knew one fact that DuQuesne's hurried inspection had failed to glean from the labyrinthine intricacies of that fearsome brain: that once within the detector screens of that distant solar system these Earth-beings would be utterly helpless before the forces which would inevitably be turned upon them. Also, he realized that time was precious, and resolved to drive the Violet so unmercifully that she would overtake that fleeing torpedo, now many hours upon its way—the torpedo bearing news, for the first time in Fenachrone history, of the overwhelming defeat and capture of one of its mighty engines of interstellar war.

In a very short time, considering the complexity of the undertaking, the conversion of the power-plant was done and the repellers, already supposed the ultimate in protection, were reenforced by a ten-thousand-pound mass of activated copper, effective for untold millions of miles. Their monstrous pilot then set the bar and advanced both levers of the dual power control out to the extreme limit of their travel.

There was no sense of motion or of acceleration, since the new system of propulsion acted upon every molecule of matter within the radius of activity of the bar, which had been set to include the entire hull. The passengers felt only the utter lack of all weight and the other peculiar sensations with which they were already familiar, as each had had previous experience of free motion in space. But in spite of the lack of apparent motion, the Violet was now leaping through the unfathomable depths of interstellar space with the unthinkable acceleration of five times the velocity of light!

From SKYLARK THREE by E. E. "Doc" Smith (1930)
QUEST BEYOND THE STARS

      Is that your idea?” Otho yelped unbelievingly. The android’s slitted green eyes were wide with amazement. “You must be spacestruck, chief. That point in the galaxy where the Birthplace is located is thousands of light-years away!”
     “How would we ever get there?” Grag chimed in. “Our Comet may be the fastest ship in the System, but its rockets would never take us across all those millions of millions of miles. Even at the fastest speed it would take centuries!”
     “Not if we used the vibration-drive we experimented with last year,” Curt retorted. “You remember — Simon and I designed it to propel the Comet by the reactive push of high-frequency electromagnetic vibrations projected from a drive-ring at the stem of the ship. We calculated it would build up velocities many times the speed of light.”
     “You calculated, yes,” replied Otho significantly. “But you didn’t dare try the vibration drive once you had it built, lest living creatures couldn’t stand such acceleration.”
     “Otho is right, lad,” rasped the Brain. “We had to give up the vibration-drive because our first tests showed that the acceleration necessary to build up to velocities faster than light would first ‘black out’ brains, then crush vital organs and finally pulp bodies.”
     “I know,” Captain Future admitted impatiently, “but you must remember that I figured out a way to overcome that objection, by throwing our bodies into a stasis of force that would protect them completely from the acceleration pressure. Before I could build and try out such a stasis projector, the case of the Magician of Mars broke, and I’ve not had a chance since then. But I’m sure it will work. And with it, we’ll be able to force the ship to speeds so many times the velocity of light that we can fly across the whole starry universe.”

     In the days that followed, the matchless scientific ability of the four Futuremen focused unceasingly upon the task of preparation. The deft skill of Otho with tools, the un-human strength and precision of Grag, the supreme technical knowledge of the Brain — these were the instruments unerringly wielded by the genius of Curt Newton.
     The underground hangar of the Comet was the chief scene of activity as the long lunar evening waned to night. The four heavy cylindrical generators of the vibration drive were installed in the cabin of the streamlined space-ship. The terbium drive-ring was fitted around the tapering stern of the craft, just forward of the tail rocket-tubes, and linked to the generators by coaxial cables.
     Captain Future himself labored upon the stasis projector. It was the very heart of their plan, for without its shield of force their bodies could not for a moment withstand the stupendous acceleration they meant to exact of the ship. He recessed the projector beneath the control-room floor, so that it showed only the fiat silver disk from which the protective force would emanate.
     “It seems to work perfectly,” Curt declared when he had tested the stasis effect. “We’ll soon know if it doesn’t work,” Otho muttered. “The pressure will splash us all over the ship if the stasis breaks down.”
     The Brain said nothing. But Curt read from his silence the doubt that still haunted Simon’s mind.

     Curt’s hand moved to the switches of the vibration drive. “All ready,” he said calmly. “Stand by.”
     “We’ll know in a few minutes whether the protective stasis works,” muttered Grag. “Feeling jumpy, Otho?”
     “What are you trying to do, you perambulating junkpile, scare me?” Otho demanded belligerently.
     Curt closed the switch. The great generators back in the cabin began throbbing in a low murmur that mounted to a loud drone.
     A dim blue force flooded the whole interior of the ship. It emanated from the silver floor-disk of the stasis projector, which was designed to go into operation automatically when the drive was turned on.
     The pervading blue force of the stasis had a strange effect upon the Futuremen. They felt as though submerged within a dense, superelastic medium, a force that tended to “fix” every atom in the ship, should cushion them against acceleration.
     “Stasis seems okay,” Captain Future murmured. “Here goes.”
     He shut a switch that turned the propulsion vibrations back into the drive-ring. The Futuremen, cradled in their stasis of elastic force, felt almost no pressure. But the pointers on the accelerometers leaped as though suddenly gone mad. The Comet, under the terrific reactive push of the vibrations streaming back from its stern, was being flung forward through outer space at a velocity nobody in the System had ever before attained.
     “One quarter light-speed already,” Curt muttered, reading the meters. “Half-light-speed now — Lord, what acceleration! And the stasis is working perfectly.”
     “It seems that my fears concerning it were groundless,” admitted the Brain. The Comet, within an unbelievably short time, was traveling faster than light itself toward the distant star-clouds of Sagittarius. Yet its velocity continued steadily to build higher. To the eyes of the awe-stricken Futuremen, they seemed hardly moving. The glittering star-streams and nebulae and clusters bunched in Sagittarius seemed as far away as ever. For the first time, Curt Newton and his comrades realized the truly awful immensity of the universe into whose great depths they were flying on their desperate and perilous quest

From QUEST BEYOND THE STARS by Edmond Hamilton (1942)
MACROSCOPE

(ed note: The Macroscope is a UN project that can tune into an alien galactic broadcast. Unfortunately the main signal gives you a quick symbolic message that forces your brain to think things it cannot, resulting in a fried brain. The last victime was a scheming corrupt US senator. As the senator's poltical plots collapse the UN mandates that the macroscope be destroyed.

Ivo turns out to be partially immune to the alien "destroyer broadast". He and a few others embark upon a desperate ploy to save the macroscope. They detach it from the space station and attach it to an open-cycle gas core nuclear rocket named "Joseph". As they flee, they discover they are being chased by a remotely-controlled UN rocket, armed with a laser.

Joseph could escape with a prolonged 10 g acceleration burn, but this would kill everybody on board. Ivo uses the macrosope, trying to avoid the destroyer broadcast and tune into another alien channel and learn a method to protect themselves from the acceleration)

      "Other programs. They're like radio stations, only all on the same band, and all using similar symbolic languages. You have to fasten on a particular trademark, otherwise only the strongest comes through, and that's the destroyer."
     "I follow." Groton. "It's like five people all talking at once, and it's all a jumble except for the loudest voice, unless you pay attention to just one. Then the others seem to tune out, though you can still hear them."
     "That's it. Only there are more than five, and you really have to concentrate. But you can pick up any one you want, once you get the feel for it."
     "How many are there?" Afra.
     "I don't know. I think it's several thousand. It's hard to judge."
     They looked at him.
     "One for each civilized species, you see."
     "Several thousand stations?" Afra, still hardly crediting it. "Whatever do they broadcast?"
     "Information. Science, philosophy, economics, art — anything they can put into the universal symbology. Everything anybody knows — it's all there for the taking. An educational library."

     "Yes. Several stations carry high-acceleration adaptors. But the intergalactic program has the only one we can use now. We don't have facilities for the others."
     "One is enough," Afra said.
     "But it's rough. It's biological."
     "Suspended animation? I suppose if we were frozen or immersed in protective fluid — "
     "We don't have a proper freezer, or refrigerated storage tanks," Groton said. "We can't just hand bodies out the airlock for presto stasis. And who would bring us all out of it, when the time came? Though I suppose I could adapt a timer, or set the computer to tap the first shoulder."
     "No freezing, no tanks," Ivo said. "No fancy equipment. All it takes is a little time and a clean basin."
     Afra looked at him suspiciously, but did not comment.
     "What are you going to do — melt us down?" Groton.
     "Yes."
     "That was intended to be humorous, son."
     "It's still the truth. We'll all have to melt down into protoplasm. In that state we can survive about as much acceleration as Joseph can deliver, for as long as we need. You see, the trouble with our present bodies is that we have a skeletal structure, and functioning organs, and all kinds of processes that can be fouled up by a simple gravitic overload. In a stable situation there is no substitute for our present form, of course: I'm not denigrating it. But as protoplasm we are almost invulnerable, because there isn't any substantial structure beyond the molecular, or at least beyond the cellular. Liquid can take almost anything."
     "Except pouring or splashing or boiling or polluting," Afra said distastefully.
     "I said it was rough. But the technique is guaranteed."
     "By a culture three million years defunct?" Afra asked.
     "I'm not sure it's dead, or that far away. It might be one million — or six."
     "That makes me feel ever so much better!"
     "Well, I guess it's take it or leave it," Ivo said. "I'll have to show it to you in the macroscope, then you can decide. That's the only way you can be keyed in to the technique. I can't explain it."
     "Hold on here," Groton said. "Are you serious? About us dissolving into jelly? I just can't quite buy that, fogyish as I may be."
     "I'm serious. Its advantage over the other processes is that it eliminates complicated equipment. Any creature can do it, once shown how, and guided by the program. All you need is a secure container for the fluid, so it doesn't leak away or get contaminated, as Afra pointed out. Otherwise, it's completely biologic."

     "It is a kind of mutual contract," Ivo explained at some point. "It isn't just a matter of you seeing it; it has to see you. Not the cell-model; that's only a visual aid. The program. So it is able to key in on your cells, your body and your mind for the — transformation, once you understand and agree. You have to agree; you have to want it, or at least be acquiescent. So it can set up an individual program. This is like a delicate surgical operation, and it is the surgeon." It occurred to him that he was using a lot of simile in his discussion of the macroscosm — but there were no direct terms for it. As the universe was greater than the solar system, so the universal knowledge was greater than man's terminology.
     "Three million years old," Afra said. "I can imagine a human doctor, or an alien one, or even a robot. But a beam of pseudo-light…!"

     Groton was using the optical system again. "I have a metallic reflection. That UN ship is right on course. We'd better act soon or resign ourselves to capture. How long does a melting cycle take?"
     "Not long for the breakdown, as I understand it," Ivo said. "But the reconstitution — several hours, at least, and it can't start for at least a day, for some reason. So it could be a couple of days for the complete cycle."

     Afra lay within her basin, and the others stood by while Ivo positioned the projector directly overhead. This was nothing more than the large macroscope screen; once a person had been primed — that is, introduced to the broadcast — the existence of a certain situation and frame of mind triggered a beam of light originating within the alien channel. This bypassed the computer; it was direct contact with intergalactic science.
     Groton had somehow produced five man-sized containers. Ivo suspected that they were pirated chemical tanks sliced lengthwise. Afra, in hers, was lying in several inches of clear sterile water, spread out so that the beam could catch an entire side at once. That was all they had to do.
     Was it a horrible demolition he aimed at her? How could he be sure that this was not after all another destroyer, as Groton had suggested; more subtle than the first, set to catch the few who circumvented the first?
     Afra looked up at him. "You believed in it before. It takes a couple of minutes to warm up," Afra said. "Stand back."
     Inevitably the seconds passed. He could not stop them. "Joseph!" (the spaceship they are traveling in) he exclaimed. "Who will pilot it, while — ?"
     "Eight hours from now the macroscope computer will jump the engine to a full ten G's acceleration and modify our course accordingly," Groton said. "We have taken care of the programming. What did you think we were doing while you slept?"

     A flash; the projector came on. A thin yellow light bathed Afra's body, making it oddly sharp; the flesh tones stood out deeper than in life, the hair brighter, the irises, as the eyes dropped closed, a clearer blue. It was as though some famous painter had enhanced the predominant hues.
     He knew that this was only the surface manifestation. It was the cell that counted, that the beam was seeking out and rendering individualistic. The bulk of the radiation was invisible, acting within her substance, setting up unusual relations, breaking down lifelong bonds. A change was beginning — one unlike any experienced by the human form before.
     The epidermis — the outermost layer of the skin — dissolved. The reddish tones of the dermis intensified as subcutaneous fat departed, and out of the flowing protoplasm rose the intricate venous network, all over her body. Arms, legs, torso — it was a though she had donned a loosely knit blue leotard that was now falling apart.
     Ivo looked at Afra's face, but saw it relaxed. She was unconscious, and had probably been knocked out by the first impact of the radiation. He was glad of that.
     The skin was melting from her head, too. Body hair had gone immediately, leaving her nude and bald. Now there was a great blue branching tube descending from her forehead. It hooked into the streaming eye, crossed the cheek, and finally disappeared under the jaw muscle on its way to the throat. Whitish nerves splayed across the side of her face from the region of the ear, weaving between and through brownish muscles, and almost under the ear-hole was a tapioca mass of something he couldn't identify. Into his mind came the word "parotid," but it meant nothing to him. Upon the dome of the skull bright arteries interwove with veins and nerves, making a tripartite river gathering toward the ear.
     Already these superficial networks were eroding under the beam from space, merging with the runoff from the liquefying muscular structures. The cartilage of the nose was coming into sight and, gruesomely, the naked eyeballs. Ivo turned his gaze aside, afraid of being sick, and concentrated on the legs and feet.
     These were hardly more comforting. Skin, surface nerves and veins had gone together with much of the avoirdupois, but tendons and arteries remained, and the bulk of the great limb muscles. Slowly these diminished, and in the front of the lower leg the bone appeared, a lighter-colored island rising from the runoff. Above it the patella — the kneecap — already floated free, and it fell with a slow splash into the burgeoning fluid in the trough. Below, the incredibly long, thin foot-bones showed, loosening as the connecting ligaments yielded.
     Individually, the phalanges folded and toppled, toe-bones no more, and lay scattered in the rising sea of protoplasm. The original water Afra had lain in was no longer visible at all; the meltoff covered it. The little bones were slow to dissolve completely, and he wondered whether the process would ever finish. Perhaps the action would continue after the beam desisted, the liquid eating away at the pockets of resistance for hours and even days. That would be one compelling reason for the minimum time limit; the reconstitution could not safely proceed until all components had been processed and made available to the organism.
     At last the skeletal outline lay bare, half-submerged in brown liquor.
     Ivo followed the direction of Groton's absorption and discovered that it was the head, or perhaps the throat or thorax. The progression here had continued alarmingly. The skull was bare of flesh and vein, the ears and nose were gone; eye-sockets were empty; teeth bulged loosely from bare jawbones, gaunt in the absence of cheek or gums. If the brain itself had been affected yet, this was not apparent behind the enclosure of the fissured skull.
     But it was the neck that appalled. Here the dissolution had been more selective. It was the first evidence he had that this was not merely a melting of flesh as the conveniences of surface and hardness dictated. Fat and muscle and tendon were largely absent, but the internal jugular vein remained beside the large red carotid, servicing the brain. The small offshoots of both had been sealed over, so that they were now direct tubes. What modification of the alien program had dictated this astonishing precaution?
     Either the distant civilization had anticipated human physique and function to an impossible extent, or the program was of such versatility and sophistication that it automatically adapted to any living system. Already it had reduced the solid portion of Afra's bodily mass by half, without killing her. This was surgery beyond man's capacity, performed without physical contact — yet it was only an incidental portion of galactic or intergalactic knowledge.
     Ivo had not allowed himself to realize how complex an organism the human body was in detail. He had thought of it melting as an ingot of steel might melt in a blast-furnace; as ice cream might dissolve in sunlight; as a bar of soap might liquefy in a basin of warm water. Ridiculous! He understood now that long before the bones of the legs surrendered their calcium, the brain would die — unless precisely protected. The velocity and order of the process were critical, if life as it had been were to be preserved.
     The great spiral-banded trachea also remained intact, and air continued to pass through it. The pipe terminated at what had been the larynx, now a funnel opening upward. His gaze followed it back down to the thoracic cavity, still enclosed by the circling ribs. Though Afra's breasts were long since gone along with all other superficial processes, the important muscles of her chest were present and functioning, maintaining the circulation of air within. He could tell by the pulsing of the adjacent arteries that the heart continued its operations, too.
     The melting seemed to have halted at this stage, in this region, and he did not see how it could resume safely. The hands, arms and shoulders were deteriorating bones, all flesh taken; the head and neck had been stripped of expendable appurtenances. If the chest muscle went, the lungs would stop and the brain would drown, deprived of its oxygen; if the brain went, the remainder of the body would cease to function and would suffer damage before the slow melting could complete the job. The system had to function as a unit until there was no unit to function — a paradox.
     Beatryx was staring at the abdomen, her hand unconsciously clutching at her own. Ivo looked there — and regretted it.
     The reproductive system, like the sensory organs, had been among the earliest to go. The abdominal cavity was open, pelvic musculature absent, the guts exposed. Ivo could not have told from what he saw to which sex the carcass belonged. Above the bleakly jutting hip-bones the action was well advanced: bladder and uterus melted, large and small intestine puddled along with the digestive refuse within them. Only the two large kidneys remained, and their arterial and venous connectors, their wastes evidently dissolving as they formed. Stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, duodenum — all of it flowed away into the common sewer, leaving the vertebrae bare.
     Had these remains ever been a person? This mass of eroding bones immersed in a deepening pond of sludge?
     It was not over. Unsupported, the skull canted, causing all three observers to jump, and from its hollow earhole and empty lower eye-socket the gray-white fluid, trickled heavily. Ivo realized that the optic nerves had left their tunnels through the solid bone, and now the brain itself was dissolving. First the frontal lobes? Or one hemisphere only?
     Simultaneously there was a breakthrough in the chest cavity. The membranes lining the ribcage on the right had let go and run off; the lung collapsed, so that there was air under the bones. The muscles on that side melted, showing those ribs, and underneath them the hollow section remaining. Within this beat the heart, centered rather than situated to the left as he had thought, still pumping the red blood up the huge aortic artery toward brain and kidneys, and the blue blood up the pulmonary artery to the lungs for oxygenation. Similarly massive veins brought it back from its travels, now considerably circumscribed. Lymph nodes dotted the area, and tiny vessels enclosed the heart itself, and the nerve trunk remained leading into the skull. That, apart from the bones and minimal tissue, was all.
     The kidneys went; the second lung collapsed; the heart beat momentarily longer, then ceased. If death were the destined conclusion of this chain, it had come at last.
     Yet the process continued. The last muscles fell, the heart sagged and opened, the blood ran out as protoplasm. The skeleton lay amidst its liquid flesh, defunct.
     The beam from the projector shut off.
     Ivo looked at the other two. They looked at him. No one spoke.
     Fifteen minutes passed, and the slow action did not halt. The ridged vertebrae hung loose within their settings; the ribs sagged. Wherever the dull fluid touched, it dissolved, though it would be long before the skull and hip-bones finally disappeared.
     As the fluid became still, light from the chamber struck the surface and refracted through the forming layers, some of it reflecting back eerily. It was as though a ghost flickered where the girt had been.
     Groton stood up unsteadily. He walked to the long basin, bent over, and placed its cover upon it, cutting off the reflection-spirit. Carefully he pulled it over to the side, set it beside the prior melt, and anchored it securely to the deck. He had removed it only a few feet, since the compartment was small, but it seemed to Ivo like a tremendous distance. It was amazing how far one could adapt to the space available, so that cubic yards became as great, subjectively, as cubic rods.

     And it was, he realized now, the only way he could follow Afra. If the UN caught them now, the macroscope would be taken away, and the vats of protoplasm would, in the course of months, gradually deteriorate. A year was about the limit, for shelf-life, as he understood it. After that, reconstitution could become ugly.

     The alien beam melted down functional flesh and reduced it to quiescent cells that required little nourishment, surviving during their estivation largely upon their internal nutrient resources. The reconstitution would re-create the original individual — along with all his memories. All of it had to be in the cell — the lifetime of experience as well as the physical form. Only if that experience, right down to the most evanescent flicker of thought, were recorded in the chromosomes, the genes, or somewhere in the nucleus, of every tiny cell of the body — only thus could the complete physique and personality be restored.

(ed note: About a day later the ship had escaped the UN vessel with prolonged 10 g acceleration. Then the broadcast reforms the tank of liquified Ivo back into a human being.)

     "…come." Ivo opened his eyes.
     He was lying in the container, uncovered, bathed in lukewarm water. He felt fine. Even his hand was whole again.
     He sat up, shook himself dry, and donned his clothing. Then he brought over the next coffin, able to tell by its weight and his own that gravity was 1 G, and removed the cover.
     Inside was an attractive, vaguely layered semifluid. No bones showed. He withdrew.
     The beam came on, illuminating the jellylike substance. The protoplasm quivered, but nothing obvious happened at first.
     Patience, he told himself. It worked before.
     Gradually a speck developed within its translucent upper layer; a mote, a tiny eye, a nucleus. It drifted about; it expanded into a marble, a golf-ball. It opened into a flexing cup that sucked in liquid and spewed it out through the same opening, propelling it cautiously through the medium. The walls of it became muscular, until it resembled an animate womb perpetually searching for an occupant. Then the spout folded over, sealed across the center, and became two: an intake and an outgo. The fluid funneled through more efficiently, and the creature grew.
     It lengthened, and ridges along its side developed into fins, and one hole gravitated to the nether area. Patches manifested near the front and became true eyes, and it was a fish.
     The fins thickened; the body became stout, less streamlined. The fish gulped air through an ugly, horrendously-toothed mouth and heaved its snout momentarily out of the fluid, taking in a bubble of air. It continued to grow, and its head came into the air to stay. Its near eye fixed on Ivo disconcertingly. Now it was almost reptilian, with a substantial fleshy tail in place of the flukes, and claws on well-articulated feet. The mouth opened to show the teeth again, fewer than before, but still too many. It was large; its mass took up half the fluid at this stage.
     Then it shrank to the size of a rodent, casting off flesh in a quick reliquefication. Hair sprouted where scales had been, and the teeth became differentiated. Ratlike, it peered at him, switching its thin tail.
     It grew again, as though a suppressant had been eliminated. It developed powerful limbs, heavy fur, a large head. The snout receded, the eyes came forward, the ears flattened onto the sides of the head. The limbs lengthened and began to shed their hair; the tail shriveled; the forehead swelled.
     It was beginning to resemble a man.
     Rather, a woman: multiple teats assembled into two, traveling up along the belly to the chest. The hairy face became clear, the muscular limbs slim. The pelvis broadened, the midsection shrank. The hair of the head reached down; the breasts swelled invitingly.
     Goddess of fertility, she lay upon her back and contemplated him through half-lidded eyes.
     Age set in. Her middle plumpened; her fine mammaries lost their resiliency; her face became round.
     The beam cut off.
     "Is it over, Ivo?"
     The reconstitution had not been as alarming as the dissolution, but it had had its moments. Worst was his impression of awareness throughout. The entire evolution of the species recapitulated in —
     He checked the time.
      — four hours. It had seemed like four minutes.

From MACROSCOPE by Piers Anthony (1969)
DULY COMPENSATED

      Acceleration compensators make me feel that way. THere's almost certainly nothing wrong but it doesn't feel that way.

     Acceleration compensators are a necessary piece of (usually) handwavium technology in any story where the spaceship is only there to get you to the story (fast!) While the FTL dingus keeps trips between stars from taking decades or centuries the acceleration compensator let's your ship accelerate rapidly allowing you to speed about like a bejeebus without turning your characters into dramatically unappealing pancakes salsa or film depending on your engine of choice.

     As an offside, one gee of acceleration will feel like you never left Terra and get you to Pluto in two weeks! Acceleration compensators are for the truly impatient who have to get to Pluto NOW!

     Anyway if your ship is pulling 2-4 gees you could probably squeak by with powered exoskeletons, high tech water beds, and meds. Any higher than that and you probably need to invent a way to freeze the humans solid and defrost them after the really hard maneuvers are done. This probably is not an optimum solution for fighter pilots and some others.
     In most science fiction acceleration compensators are assumed, especially if the spacecraft is laid out like a boat. While artificial gravity holds you to the deck, acc-comp keeps you from slamming into a wall when you put it in drive. Some drives, like the Alcubierre Warp Drive, do not actually accelerate the ship and don't need acceleration compensators for the long range journeys. They might still need rockets to enter orbit and land but this sort of thing is handled by mere humans even now without compensators.
     But say you want to blow all your delta vee at once? If you have a ship that has 500 kps delta vee you could blow it all to get to say the moon in 12.8 minutes (double the time if you want to slow down). Unfortunately the human body only can take 2-3 gees for any length of time. Accelerating to 250 kps at three gees would take over two hours and deceleration equal time and making the trip at 1 gee would take 4 hours. So acceleration compensators really don't start looking good till we have space opera style drives operating at least at tens of gees with very high maximum velocities.

     What could be some limits of compensators? Limits make characters act all inventive by sticking problems in their way.

NO COMPENSATORS - NO GRAVITY
The drive affects the entire ship somehow keeping everything in free fall. This has its own set of problems as astronauts discover everyday. Some ships spin some section of their ships to create a gravity effect.
STASIS TUBES
Compensators operate over a very limited area, say one (very expensive) compensator will affect about 3-4 cubic meters. In this case we have something like the stasis tubes in Forbidden Planet that protect the occupants from some kind of deceleration on exiting FTL flight. The rest of the time they make due with strapping in and using a gentle gee acceleration.
SINGLE AXIS
Acceleration compensators are aligned with the thrust of the ship. Gees from lateral thrust will be fully felt and fast maneuvers to evade danger might throw people about.
YOU CAN'T BUTTER TOAST ON BOTH SIDES
Due to power configurations or whatever fancy double talk you invent you can have acceleration compensators or artificial gravity on but not both at once. If you're screaming along at five gees then you're in free fall.
PERCENTAGE
Acceleration dampers don't reduce the effects of acceleration by a fixed number of gees but a percentage. A fifty percent compensator will make two gees feel like 1 gee. A ship with this sort of compensator will be laid out like a building with decks at a right angle to the axis of thrust.
GRADIENT
The effects of the compensator quickly fall off the further you are from the compensator. Designing a ship is a delicate balance of sticking components as far from the compensator as they can stand. Moving against the axis of acceleration might be quite nauseating or result in unconsciousness at higher accelerations (like combat conditions). The bridge and living areas might be built on top of the compensators or fuel tanks if sloshing fuel is a concern. These ships will probably be built with decks at right angles to the direction of thrust.
MICRO TREMORS
Compensators vary just a little in their effects and it's enough to cause nausea in people especially when making hard maneuvers.
From DULY COMPENSATED by Rob Garitta (2017)

Suspended Animation

The ability to put crew members to sleep for months at a time would be an awfully convenient thing to have. Such crew members would use air and food at a much reduced rate and would not be prey to interplanetary cabin fever or space cafard.

Hibernation or "cold-sleep" would mimic what bears and squirrels do in the winter. The crewmember would sleep and breath slowly. Food would be administered by an intravenous pump or the body's internal fat could be used. The crew member still ages, abet at a slighly slower rate.

Suspended animation, cryo-freeze, or cryogenic suspension is more extreme. The crewmember is frozen solid in liquid nitrogen. They do not breath, eat, nor age. Special techniques must be used to prevent the ice in the body's cells from freezing into tiny jagged knives shredding the organs. This is naturally more dangerous than mere hibernation. It is generally used for slower-than-light interstellar exploration, or to put a crewmember with an acute medical condition into stasis if the ship cannot arrive at a hospital for some months.

Hibernation was shown in the movies Alien, Doppelgänger, 2001 A Space Odyssey, and 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

In Doppelgänger the astronauts spent the three week trip plugged into a "Heart Lung Kidney" machine via veins in their wrists. This kept them oxygenated, fed, and sedated into a deep sleep for the entire trip.

In William Tedford's Silent Galaxy, interplanetary fighter pilots would sometimes find themselves out of fuel and on trajectories that would take years to return to a spot where they could be rescued. They would use hibernation to stretch their consumables and to sleep the time away.

Poul Anderson noted that there is probably a limit to how long a human will remain viable in cryogenic suspension (in other words they have a shelf-life). Naturally occuring radioactive atoms in the body will cause damage. In a non-suspended person such damage is repaired, but in a suspended person it just accumulates. He's talking about this damage happening over suspensions lasting several hundred years, during interstellar trips. This may require one to periodically thaw out crew members and keep them awake for long enough to heal the damage before re-freezing them.

Hibernation and suspension is often encountered in SF novels where large numbers of people have to be shipped, e.g., troop carriers, slave ships, and undesirable persons shipped off as involuntary colonists to some miserable planetary colony. Some passenger liners will have accomodations of First-class, Second-class, and Freeze-class (instead of Steerage). There is often a chance of mortality associated with hibernation and suspension. In some of the crasser passenger ships there will sometimes be a betting pool, placing bets on the number of freeze-class passengers who don't make it.

NARCOSAMINE

He took out the little syringe, already loaded with the carefully prepared solution. Narcosamine had been discovered during research into animal hibernation: it was not true to say -- as was popularly believed -- that it produced suspended animation. All it caused was a great slowing-down of the vital processes, though metabolism still continued at a reduced level. It was as if one had banked up the fires of life, so that they smoldered underground. But when, after weeks or months, the effect of the drug wore off, they would burst out again and the sleeper would revive. Narcosamine was perfectly safe. Nature had used it for a million years to protect many of her children from the foodless winter.

From CHILDHOODS END by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Space Torpor

SpaceWorks Engineering is working on a cold-sleep system for a NASA mission to Mars. You can read their report here. This is for a cold-sleep/hibernation system, since we are no where near knowing how to do full suspended animation.

Having the astronauts pass the journey in cold-sleep has many benefits, but the most remarkable one is the huge payload mass savings. In the table below, the habitat module from the NASA Mars Design Reference Architecture (DRA) 5.0 study is compared to the same module using cold-sleep technology. The mass savings is a whopping 52% !

Mass Comparison
ITEMDRA 5.0
(kg)
Torpor Hab
(kg)
Delta
(%)
Structure2,0801,170-44%
Crew
Accom
3,9601,400-65%
Environ Control
Life Support
3,8502,419-37%
Thermal Management1,210750-38%
Power System6,2403,420-45%
Avionics280280-
EVA Systems840840-
Mass Growth
Allowance (30%)
4,6902,660-43%
Additional
Spares
4,5502,500-45%
Crew560560-
Total Transit
Habitat Mass
28,26015,990-43%
Food
(Return+Outbound Trip)
5,4801,620-70%
Food
(Contingency)
7,6002,250-70%
Total
Consumables Mass
13,0803,870-70%
TOTAL MASS IN LEO41,33019,860-52%

The report lists the following benefits:

  • Reduction in required amount of consumables
  • Reduction in required pressurized living space volume
  • Elimination of many ancillary crew accommodations (galley, kitchen, exercise equipment, entertainment, etc.)
  • Reduction of psychological challenges for crew

And the Hab Module mass savings can be used to increase payload, increase delta V, expand launch windows and mission options, increase radiation shielding, reduce the number of heavy-lift launches, reduce number of on-orbit assembly operations, increase subsystem mass margins (to improve redundancy, reliability, and safety).

The report focuses on Therapeutic Hypothermia (temperature-based hibernation) as the method of choice to induce cold-sleep. Mostly because it has actually been used medically to treat ailments such as cardiac arrest, ischemic stroke, traumatic brain injury, etc. Chemical/Drug-based (hydrogen sulfide or activating adenosine receptors) and Brain Synaptic-based hibernation are much less mature technologies. The report assumes that therapeutic hypothermia can be advanced to the point where the astronaut's metabolism can be reduced from normal to somewhere between moderate and significant reduction (but not to actual total metabolic stoppage), for periods of many months. Black bears and some rodents can do it, so we know it is possible.

Cooling mechanisms:

  • Invasive: cooled intravenous fluids, e.g., CoolGard 3000Rtm with IcyT catheter by ZOLL Medical
  • Non-invasive: evaporative gases in the nasal and oral cavity, e.g., RhinoChill Systemtm
  • Passive: conductive cooling (and rewarming) with gel pads placed on the body, e.g., KOALA Systemtm

All three methods are low mass, low power, and easily automated.

The astronauts will be fed by Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), which means fed intravenously. The nutrient fluid is a mixture containing lipids, amino acids, dextrose, electrolytes, vitamins, and trace elements; all the essential nutrients needed for a human body to function.

  • Delivered via a tunneled central venous catheter or a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC)
  • Administered through pump or gravity IV, usually given at around 50 ml per hour with supplemental maintenance fluids.
  • Bypasses the usual process of eating and digestion; digestive tract is inactive.

There are some medical challenges to solve, such as blood clotting, bleeding, infection, electrolyte imbalances, fatty liver, liver failure, bone demineralization, hypo/hyper glycemia, bile stasis, and others. The chosen method must have little or no long-term effects, no effects on crew functional abilities, and there should be some protocol for an accelerated warming/wakeup in case of emergencies




Old Astronaut Syndrome

There are some maladies that afflict people who spend prolonged periods in microgravity, exposed to space radiation, and exposed to radiation from nuclear propulsion. These could be characteristic signs of space traveling old-timers.


Maladies from Microgravity

The most obvious effect of microgravity is the astronaut's muscles atrophy and the shedding of calcium by their bones (1% to 1.5% per month, like osteoporosis). Being weak with brittle bones isn't lethal but presumably the astronauts at some point want to return home to Terra and still be able to walk. Science fiction literature is full of mandatory exercise to combat this, with "exercise credits" awarded for time spent under acceleration and in centrifuges. NASA astronauts on the International Space Station have to exercise two hours a day for this reason. Some astronauts (or colonists of low gravity planets and moons) might require man-amplifier prosthetics in order to walk under a full Terran gravity.

Naturally such space osteoporosis can lead to kidney stones, the agony of which is the closest a male will ever come to the sensation of giving birth. Space osteoporosis can also be combated by exercise.

Astronaut's eyes are especially vulnerable. Recently NASA made the horrible discovery that exposure to microgravity for six months or longer causes permanent damage to the eyes, similar to idiopathic intercranial hypertension. There is some evidence that this is due to enzyme polymorphisms that increases astronaut vulnerability to bodily fluid shift in free fall.

Astronauts may appear to be older than they actually are, because microgravity accelerates aging.

And a science fictional favorite is the microgravity adapted astronaut who when on Terra has a tendency to let go of glasses of water in mid air, expecting them to float.


Maladies from Radiation

The two main effects of radiation on an astronaut are [1] cancer and [2] death by radiation sickness. You are unlikely to encounter an old astronaut suffering from [2] unless you like to visit graveyards. But the probability is high that most old astronauts will have undergone treatment for cancer at one time or another. Probably several times. NASA tries to avoid this by ensuring that there are no old astronauts. NASA has strict career limits on astronaut radiation exposure.

Secondary effects of radiation are skin ulceration and blindness due to cataracts scarring. High-mass, high-charged (HZE) cosmic rays might accelerate the development of Alzheimer's disease. Radiation also lowers the immune system (chromosomal aberrations in lymphocytes), but it can recover.

Atomic rocketeers on board an atomic rocket will also without fail have a package of potassium iodide tablets on their persons at all times. Why? If the reactor core is breached, the mildly radioactive fuel and the intensely radioactive fission fragments will be released into the atmosphere. While none of the fission fragment elements are particularly healthy, Iodine-131 is particularly nasty. This is because ones thyroid gland does its level best to soak up iodine, radioactive or not. Thyroid cancer or a hoarse voice from thyroid surgery might be common among atomic rocket old-timers. The tablets prevent this by filling up the thyroid first, before the Iodine-131 arrives. The instant the reactor breach alarm sounds, whip out your potassium iodide tablets and swallow one.

Miscellaneous other Maladies

Astronauts who eat more than fifty grams per day of spirulina algae from your closed ecological life support system run the risk of developing gout. That could be Old Poor Astronaut Syndrome.

Old astronauts might have deformed fingernails due to space suit gloves.

Old astronauts might tend to become alarmed when they feel a breeze. To an astronaut, moving air means you have a hull breech.

Old astronauts might dislike hissing noises. To an astronaut, such noises means your spacesuit has sprung a leak.

Old astronauts might be anal-retentive about having every object either in its holder or tied down. In a spacecraft, unexpected acceleration converts any free-floating object into a deadly missile.

Old astronauts might tend to become alarmed of the building or vehicle they are in shudders. Because spacecraft never shudder unless they are lifting off from a planet's surface or about to disintegrate into fragments.

In Larry Niven's "Known Space" series, belters do NOT perform any hand gestures at all. This is because Niven's belters fly in very small spacecraft called "singleships". The habitat module is only slightly larger than a coffin. Which is also the control cabin, i.e., there are controls on almost every surface.

BELTERS DO NOT GESTURE

"You noticed a habit of mine once. I never make gestures. All Belters have that trait. It's because on a small mining ship you could hit something waving your arms around. Something like the airlock button."

"Sometimes it's almost eerie. You don't move for minutes at a time."

From THE WARRIORS by Larry Niven (1966)
SPACESUIT HISS

      Meyer towed Drake toward the airlock. He helped his captain inside, and then waited for the traditional thumbs-up signal before closing the door.
     “Ready, sir?” Drake heard over his radio.
     “Depressurize, Chief.”
     “Depressurizing now. Good luck, Captain.”
     “Thanks.”
     Drake’s suit ballooned around him as the pressure in the airlock dropped to zero. He stood in the crouched stance typical of a man in a pressure suit; listening intently for the sound every spacer dreads most — the ear-popping hiss of an air leak. He heard nothing but his own breathing and the gentle hum of his backpack ventilation unit.

WIND

The city side of the airlock complex had been designed with tourists in mind. One whole wall was made up of huge view windows that canted in from the ceiling toward the floor, overlooking Amundsen SubBubble, affording a splendid vista of the bustling city below.

Except now the view windows were shattered heaps of glass on the ground and jagged knife-edges sprouting up from window frames. A sooty wind swept into the overlook chamber.

The city below looked like a war zone. Smoke billowed up from at least three separate fires, only to be caught in a violent wind that flattened it into the sky blue ceiling of the bubble. Wind.

Nothing scared a Conner more than a leak. Lucian forced the worry from his mind. Either the repair crews were handling it or they weren’t.

From THE RING OF CHARON by Roger MacBride Allen (1990)
FEAR OF SHUDDERING

      "Well, I can't think of any more excuses for monopolizing you, Miss Newton, so I suppose I'll have to take you back. Believe me, I've enjoyed this more than you can realize—I've...."
      He broke off and listened, every nerve taut. "What was that?" he exclaimed.
      "What was what? I didn't hear anything?"
      "Something screwy somewhere! I felt a vibration, and anything that'd make this mountain of steel even quiver must have given us one gosh-awful nudge. There's another!"
      The girl, painfully tense, felt only a barely perceptible tremor, but the computer (obsolete term for a person whose job is to do mathematical calculations), knowing far better than she the inconceivable strength and mass of that enormous structure of solidly braced hardened steel, sprang into action. Leaping to the small dirigible look-out plate, he turned on the power and swung it upward.
      "Great suffering snakes!" he ejaculated (obsolete term meaning: to utter suddenly and briefly; exclaim), then stood mute, for the plate revealed a terrible sight. The entire nose of the gigantic craft had been sheared off in two immense slices as though clipped off by a gigantic sword, and even as they stared, fascinated, at the sight, the severed slices were drifting slowly away. Swinging the view along the plane of cleavage, Stevens made out a relatively tiny ball of metal, only fifty feet or so in diameter, at a distance of perhaps a mile. From this ball there shot a blinding plane of light, and the Arcturus fell apart at the midsection, the lower half separating clean from the upper portion, which held the passengers. Leaving the upper half intact, the attacker began slicing the lower, driving half into thin, disk-shaped sections. As that incandescent plane of destruction made its first flashing cut through the body of the Arcturus, accompanied by an additional pyrotechnic display of severed and short-circuited high-tension leads, Stevens and Nadia suddenly found themselves floating weightless in the air of the room. Still gripping the controls of the look-out plate, Stevens caught the white-faced girl with one hand, drew her down beside him, and held her motionless while his keen mind flashed over all the possibilities of the situation and planned his course of action.

From SPACEHOUNDS OF IPC by E. E. "Doc" Smith (1931)
FEAR OF SHUDDERING 2

      That was when the meteorite hit the spaceship head on. Almost dead centre.
     The automatic lasers did not stop it. The outer, armoured hull barely slowed it down. It ripped its way through eighteen diflerent compartments before burying itself deep in the cargo in the centre of the drum-shaped ship.
     On its destructive course it passed through the main control-room, killing Captain Kardyd and twelve other officers and men. Sixteen passengers also died, in sudden exploding agony, and the main water tank was ruptured.
     It was very bad indeed.

     Lieutenant Donald Chase was stretched out on a bunk in the sick bay when the meteorite hit, reading a thick book entitled Bone Deterioration in Low Gravity Environments. The metal frame of his bunk vibrated, shaking the book, and for a few instants he ignored it.
     Then the significance of what had happened struck him. Vibration! There are no shocks or sudden jars in a spaceship moving through a vacuum. He dropped the book and jumped to his feet just as all the alarms sounded at once.
     A blaring horn hammered at his ears and the red emergency light blinked madly. An amplified recording thundered out, replacing the sound of the horn.

     ‘SPACE EMERGENCY!! THE HULL OF THIS SHIP HAS BEEN HOLED. THE SHIP IS LOSING AIR. THE AUTOMATIC DOORS ARE NOW CLOSING BETWEEN COMPARTMENTS. FOLLOW SPACE SURVIVAL DRILL.’

From SPACESHIP MEDIC by Harry Harrison (1970)
THE OGG-NAT WAR: PROLOGUE

     When the first interplanetary war broke out in 2178, we didn't call it what the history books do now. The Interplanetary Civil War (Terran name) and The War of Martian Interdependence (Mars' preference) were latter fictions to gloss over the root of the conflict.
     No, we called that war, The Ogg-Nat War—or Nat-Ogg, depending on your side.

     The first extra-Terran colonists were volunteers. They had to be. The mid-21st Century brought freefall and shallow gravity wells to hundreds, then thousands, of colonists serving double duty as test subjects on the human body's response to low gravity. And natural selection demanded its due.
     Roughly 80% of humans who permanently settled on the Moon or Mars, fell seriously ill within 20 years of arrival. Theoretically, we could've treated many of the ailments, but stem cells and genetic repairs had their limits. Some of the more serious conditions could only be treated on Earth, which could itself prove fatal. The remaining healthy 20% were forced by circumstance to either break backs to support the colony, or let their fellow colonists—colleagues, friends, spouses—die on a strange world.
     If you ever wondered how "malapert" became synonymous with "disaster" or "massacre," look at a map of the Moon's south pole, and look for the tallest peak. There you'll find the site of the first off-world riot—and a memorial to the 117 people who perished, many of whom were already near death. The riot started with a demand for better health care, and ended with the explosive decompression and collapse of two of the base's four domes.

     Which is why, in 2061, the first Low Gravity Genomic Survey was conducted. We discovered which genes improved survival and quality-of-life when you are no longer Earthbound. By 2080, gene therapy before long-term space travel was as routine as immunizations were for international travelers the century previous—if not nearly as frequent.
     The last unmodified resident of the Moon died in 2093. Jessica Dumas, a survivor of the Malapert Base Riot, was a medic by trade, and a mountain climber by passion. Without those skill sets, she probably would have asphyxiated like the other victims of the dome collapses. Instead she saved her skin—mostly. Burn scars and rosacea plagued her, yet she refused treatment. As she often explained, "I want people to see and understand."
     Dumas became a political activist, her energies focused on improving the health of the off-world colonies. She also popularized "Selenian" as a collective noun for Lunar colonists, as pushback against the derogatory use of "Loony" by Terrans. When she died at age 59 from cancer, she was mourned by three worlds.

     In 2137, the last unmodified Martian, 106-year old Jeferson Schefer, died at Arsia Caverns Hospital. Schefer was also the last living participant in the Low Gravity Genomic Survey—and had 86% of the genes identified as useful to survival off Earth.
     It's often rumored, although easily debunked, that Schefer's genome was the basis for all low-g gene therapies. Some opponents of human genetic modification called Schefer, "Adam Sans Eve." In reality he was a botanist remembered on Mars mostly for cultivating Elysium hazel and other Mars-adapted evergreens. On Earth, however, he's sometimes mentioned along with Henrietta Lacks as an example of unethical medical research, despite Schefer's frequent public defense of the Survey.

     Great care was taken to keep ethics above-board. But that didn't stop accusations from The Light, an ostensibly interfaith conservative think tank, that low-gravity gene therapies were "eugenics." Nor did it help that some of the changes, such as increased brain blood flow to combat hypoxia, tended to make for slightly happier and more imaginative humans.
     If you put a Terran, a Martian, and a Selenian in the same room, you wouldn't notice any glaring differences in overall morphology. Martians and Selenians often had slightly larger heads, due to genes that slow the fusion of cranial sutures during development, to help offset fluid shift. They also tended to slighter, more androgynous builds. Nonetheless, their bodies were well within Terran body norms.

     But personality-wise, there tended to be starker differences.
     Martians and Selenians were... weird. They prefered oblique strategies and independent thinking, but also tended to increased intimacy and bonding. On worlds where survival was tenuous and sustainability a dream, people began to drop the dogmas of Earth life that separated Us from Them. Every person counted in the effort to make these new worlds into homes. Bigots weren't welcome anymore.
     Back on Earth, the climate was becoming more perilous, with flood and famine taking its toll. People were clinging to whatever could give them comfort, including the idea that humanity had sinned by modifying the sacred genetic code and leaving the world we were intended to live and die upon, and that was the true cause of their calamities, rather than the abundance of carbon dioxide.
     Before long, to admit that you had spent any time in space, for any reason, was enough to be labeled an augment and be accused of offending the natural order. Even if you could somehow prove that you were a "natural" human genetically. Even if such a concept truly existed.

(ed note: so in the Ogg-Nat War, the Oggs were the Augmented Martians and Selenians, while the Nats were the Natural Terrans)



     "What's you doing up here, Lucky? I thought you were on your way down to LEO Base in the Edison with Ross."
     "I was, except I didn't think Ross was in fit shape to drive," Lucky explained.
     "What's wrong, Ross?"
     The astronaut looked pained. "Had a dizzy spell during preboost checkout, and this redheaded broad, who's a big fan of yours, insisted I come and give you some business."
     "Are you still dizzy?"
     "A li'l bit." Ross' speech was thick and slurred.
     "You didn't bust Rule Three, did you?"
     "No, Doc—nothin' alcoholic in the last twenty-four hours. Just like the rule says. Why's everybody think I'm drunk or somethin'? Dammit, gettin' so nobody around here trusts me anymore!"
     There was no alcohol on Jackson's breath. "What'd you have at your last meal?"
     "Nothin'. Not hungry. Hey, can I use your lav? I gotta take a leak bad." He pushed off in the direction Tom pointed to.
     Lucky looked at Tom with concern. "Tom, I've never seen Ross this way before. It wasn't just the dizziness. We all get a little disoriented every once in a while. If it had been just that, I would've boosted with him. But not when he's in this condition."
     "I agree with you, Lucky." Tom turned to Jackson as the astronaut floated back from the lavatory. "Ross, do you have an alternate to take your flight?"
     "Sure!"
     "Okay, I'm admitting you to sick bay here for a checkup."
     "Hell, Doc, I'm all right! Just give me something for this dizziness and for my upset stomach, and I'll be good as new!"
     "You're nauseated? Stomach hurts?"
     "Yeah. Don't ground me, Doc! I've never failed my physical!"
     "I'm not grounding you, Ross. I want to check you to find out if there's anything wrong with you. If there isn't, you'll get a clean bill from me. Okay?"
     "Yeah, okay, but I'm getting damned tired of everybody pickin' on me! Jeez, I've got more time in space than any of you! I'm not gonna run off at the ears and do somethin' that'll kill me or anybody else!"
     "I know you're not. Dorothy, let's get urine and blood samples from Ross. And give him ten milligrams of prochlorperazine IM to take care of his nausea and stomach cramps."

     Tom left Jackson in Dorothy's watchful care and went to the GALEN terminal. He called up Ross Jackson's medical records.
     The former NASA shuttle pilot was forty-seven years old. The record showed he had never varied from the medical norm during his entire flying career with the Air Force, NASA, or, now, SpaceLift, Inc. Tom went back through thirty-one years of medical records to Ross' initial FAA Third Class physical exam as a student pilot. There was nothing in the man's background that would lead Tom to suspect anything abnormal.
     Was his problem something that resulted from thousands of hours spent in zero-g—the first symptoms of some syndrome that hit old-timers in space, something that would limit mankind's ability to live in space for long periods?
     Tom gave that possibility a low priority. He knew many strange maladies affected human beings. He refused to jump to conclusions until Dave Cabot finished the urine and blood analyses and came up with some concrete data on which to base a diagnosis.

     Dave was getting good at body-fluid lab work-ups. He was mastering the new tricks he had had to work out for handling liquids in weightlessness, using surface-tension effects and wetting characteristics to their fullest extent to control the liquids. It took him less than an hour to compile the complete data.
     And it didn't make sense to Tom.
     There was a slight electrolyte imbalance, but nothing beyond what he saw every day in the analysis of his staff's physiology.
     The work-up showed a slight hypoglycemia, which might presage the onset of diabetes mellitus but which was not reflected in the urine sample. Tom had thought about this possibility. Ross was of the age when the disease could manifest itself. But the other symptoms weren't present. And the man said he hadn't eaten recently, which could also explain the low glucose level in the urine sample as well as the low blood-sugar level.
     Ross couldn't be suffering from anorexia. By reputation the astronaut was something of a trencherman, and he did have difficulty keeping his body mass under control. Ross showed no tendency toward obesity; he just liked to eat well.
     Serum calcium level was 12.1 milligrams per hundred milliliters—high, but not beyond what Torn saw occasionally, usually that was because of calcium resorption in the blood resulting from calcium loss in the bones.
     Urine PH normal. Everything within normal range except for the usual suppression of steroids and increases in primary hormone levels associated with orbital living.
     "Damn!" he swore under his breath.

     Tom keyed the terminal and fed in the blood and urine data. He then typed in the observed symptoms and called for a probable diagnosis.
     As usual, GALEN was fast. Almost as quickly as he had hit the RUN key, it flashed its answer across the screen:

FIRM DIAGNOSIS NOT POSSIBLE WITH DATA PROVIDED. DIAGNOSIS ONE OF THREE POSSIBILITIES: 1. ADDISON'S DISEASE, BUT DATA INDICATING INCREASED PIGMENTATION OF THE DERMIS AND DISCOLORATION OF ORAL AND NASAL MUCOUS MEMBRANES NOT PROVIDED. 2. HYPER-CALCEMIA, BUT DIAGNOSIS REQUIRES CONFIRMATION THAT Q-T INTERVAL OF ECG IS SHORTENED. 3. DIABETES MELLITUS, EXCEPT URINALYSIS DOES NOT TOTALLY SUPPORT THIS AND THEREFORE POSSIBILITY MUST BE CONSIDERED REMOTE. PLEASE PROVIDE ADDITIONAL DATA FOLLOWING POSSIBILITY NUMBER GIVEN ABOVE. STANDING BY.

     "Dorothy, warm up the ECG," Tom called.
     Ross revived at this and understood what Tom was talking about. "Oh, no, Doc! Not my heart! I haven't got chest pains! I've got gut pains."
     "Don't worry, it's not your heart, but I have to check your ECG to confirm a diagnosis," Tom tried to reassure him.
     In less than five minutes, Tom had the answer.
     "There it is: shortened Q-T interval on the electrocardiogram." He showed the printout to Ross.
     "What's that mean, Doc?" The anxiety in the astronaut's voice penetrated the lethargy that the relaxant drug had caused.
     "Hypercalcemia. I'd call it the Ancient Astronaut Syndrome. You've been in weightlessness more than anyone else in GEO Base, Ross. All of us are suffering from some decalcification of our bone mass because our skeletons aren't supporting the weight of our bodies. The calcium is resorbed into the cellular fluid and then into the blood serum. You're reacting in a textbook manner to the fact your body's having trouble getting rid of the excess calcium being poured into your system from your bones."
     "Will it ground me?" Ross asked
     "I won't ground you, Ross, because I can treat this syndrome," Tom told him. "It's no more incapacitating than any endocrine imbalance, and it can be treated and controlled. People are flying airplanes all over the world with hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, hyperuricemia, and a whole list of other endocrine and metabolic disorders. Chemotherapy solves their problems and permits them to function normally. I'm going to do the same for you and put you on fifty milligrams of prednisone every day; you'll just have to take a pill every time you have breakfast. You're the first case of hypercalcemia I've seen in space. Frankly, you're going to be a guinea pig for the rest of us. For right now, I want to keep you here under observation for twenty-four hours—just to make sure I'm right. Then I'll clear you to flight status, but only for a single mission to LEO Base and back. You've got to report back here for a quick test every time you hit GEO Base. Understood?"
     "Roger your last, Doc! Hey, thanks. I know doctors who'd ground me for less than this." Relief was evident in his voice. "Doc, you can use me as a guinea pig any time you want," Ross said.

From SPACE DOCTOR by Lee Correy (G. Harry Stine) 1981

...but had warned him against exposing his skin to the Sun. That way he could get a very serious and uncomfortable burn. According to Mercer, the only space-tanned astronauts were the ones who appeared in TV plays. Real spacemen avoided the Sun, and if one of them got burned, it was a mark of sheer carelessness. A good spaceman learned to control himself as well as his ship, Mercer had said, and keep his mind busy and alert. Space was a very beautiful, but a very lonely and dangerous place, if one did not keep control.

From LIFEBOAT by James White (1972)

The door opened and the man who'd been missing everything came in. He had one leg, the right one; one arm, the left; and one eye, also the left. He looked to be fifty years old, and there were pale patches in the dark tan on his face and the back of his hand. His hair was patchy, steel grey what there was of it. "O'Grady, this is Mister Shipton," Wiley said. "I'm counting on you to see that he doesn't kill himself. He'll have Hoff's quarters."

"Aye aye, Skipper." O'Grady's voice was cheerful. I couldn't help staring at him, and he saw that. He grinned like a thief. "Don't let the horror show throw you, Mister Shipton. I can still get around." He gestured toward the airtight door.

He was right; he had no trouble getting around. He hopped in arcs that didn't take him far off the deck and carried him in long flights down the corridors to land just in front of the airtight doors every fifty meters or so. We went a long way, around turns and down ramps, until I was thoroughly lost. "If this is the Chief of Staff's office and quarters, why is it so far from Commander Wiley's?" I asked.

"Planned that way. We have a blowout, don't want to lose the whole top layer in one whump, do we?"

I got the picture.

Just in case I hadn't, though, O'Grady chattered on. "Lots of ways to do yourself in. Like me. Got my leg caught in an airtight as it was slammin' for a blowout. Got an arm caught in the hammer mill. That one could of happened on Earth, maybe, except it was being off the deck and no way to move that made it happen.

From BIND YOUR SONS TO EXILE by Jerry Pournelle (1976)

Drop Sickness

Space Adaptation Syndrome aka "drop sickness" is a kind of motion sickness caused by weightlessness. Outer space sea-sickness, so to speak. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and an inability to care about anything but your own private world of pain. The joke is drop sickness makes you feel like you are going to die, and you are actually looking forwards to it.

The French term for seasickness is "mal de mer" so in his Venus Equilateral stories George O. Smith thought it would be cute to call spacesickness "mal de void."

About half of new astronauts suffer from drop-sickness when they first travel into space. Of those who suffer, 50% have mild symptoms, 40% have medium, and 10% have severe. The most severe that NASA ever recorded was that of Senator Jake Garn in 1985. They jokingly use the "Garn scale", where 1.0 Garn is the worst.

Drop sickness usually goes away after two to four days exposure to free fall. Occasionally there is a relapse, which can happen at any time. When suffering from drop sickness, be careful not to rapidly turn or shake your head. This will make the fluid in the inner ear slosh and make things much worse.

Novice NASA astronauts do not take motion-sickness medication on their first trip into orbit. It is considered better for them to be miserable for a day or two but actually adapt to become immune. This is also the reason NASA never schedules EVAs for the first two days of a mission.

Having said that, NASA astronaut always put on a transdermal dimenhydrinate anti-nausea patch when suiting up in a space suit, because throwing up inside a suit can be fatal. A little dramamine is much better than suffocating to death in a vomit-filled helmet.

Drop sickness can be avoided if the spacecraft or station has artificial gravity, though that creates more problems.


In a couple of Robert Heinlein novels free-fall newbies are issued "sick-kits." These are cloth barf bags that strap over your mouth. In other novels spacecraft with large numbers of passengers are equipped with vomit vacuums that stewards use to suck blobs of vomitus out of the air before they splash on something or somebody.

In some old science fiction novels the writers like to pull that tired old joke. The protagonist is offered an anti-drop-sickness pill before lift-off, and they decide to be all macho and decline the pill. Which results in projectile vomiting hilarity. Except in Arthur C. Clarke's Islands in the Sky, the port officials make quite sure that the young protagonist takes all his pills.

What is so funny about a man being dropsick? Those dolts with cast-iron stomachs always laugh — I'll bet they would laugh if Grandma broke both legs.

I was spacesick, of course, as soon as the rocket ship quit blasting and went into free fall. I came out of it fairly quickly as my stomach was practically empty — I'd eaten nothing since breakfast — and was simply wanly miserable the remaining eternity of that awful trip. It took us an hour and forty-three minutes to make rendezvous, which is roughly equal to a thousand years in purgatory to a ground hog like myself.

I'll say this for Dak, though: he did not laugh. Dak was a professional and he treated my normal reaction with the impersonal good manners of a infight nurse — not like those flat-headed, loud-voiced jackasses you'll find on the passenger list of a Moon shuttle. If I had my way, those healthy self-panickers would be spaced in mid-orbit and allowed to laugh themselves to death in vacuum.

Despite the turmoil in my mind and the thousand questions I wanted to ask we had almost made rendezvous with a torchship, which was in parking orbit around Earth, before I could stir up interest in anything. I suspect that if one were to inform a victim of spacesickness that he was to be shot at sunrise his own answer would be, "Yes? Would you hand me that sack, please?"


"Dak?" I said as he signed off.

"Later," he answered. "I'm about to match orbits. The contact may be a little rough, as I am not going to waste time worrying about chuck holes. So pipe down and hang on."

And it was rough. By the time we were in the torchship I was glad to be comfortably back in free fall again; surge nausea is even worse than everyday dropsickness.

From DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein, 1956
I DON'T NEED NO STINKING DROPSICK PILL 1

(ed note: Mercer is the doctor/steward on a passenger NTR spacecraft headed for the Jovian moons)

"The passengers are settled in, sir," said the darkhaired one. "All have been given medication, but you might keep an eye on Mr. Saddler and Mr. Stone, who may be trying to prove something—I think they palmed their capsules."

Mercer nodded without speaking.


"Are you comfortable, Mr. Saddler?" Mercer said pleasantly to the next in line; then he stopped. This was one of the tough guys who had not taken his medication. Mercer stared at the man's face without really seeing it while his mind sought in vain for a pleasant and friendly way of telling him to take his and-nausea pill and not be a fool. By the end of the allotted minute Mercer still did not have the answer, and he saw that the passenger's face was becoming apprehensive and that he was refusing to meet Mercer's eyes. Suddenly he wriggled sideways in his straps so that he could reach his breast pocket.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled, "I nearly forgot to take my pill."

"It can happen," said Mercer pleasantly, "in the excitement."


The next couch was empty, for the very good reason that it was his own. Beyond it was the one belonging to Stone, the other passenger suspected of missing out on his pre-takeoff medication. Mercer tried the blank stare on him that had worked so well with Saddler, hoping that the man's guilty conscience would do the rest, but Stone simply stared back at him. Maybe his conscience was clear. Mercer had to be content with clearing his throat loudly and slipping a plastic bag between the other's chest straps where Stone could reach it quickly.


Mercer spent the time checking that the vacuum cleaner under his couch was handy and worrying about the period of weightless maneuvering, which would begin when they went into Earth orbit. Both the book and his instructor had painted awful pictures of weightless nausea running wild. It could become critical, they had said, a chain reaction, which could spread even to those who had taken medication, and the job of clearing the air was difficult and distasteful. An incident like that was the one thing guaranteed to sour the whole voyage.


Someone grunted and gave an odd-sounding cough. Mercer swung around to see the passenger called Stone rapidly filling his plastic bag. Stone had been a little late in getting the bag to his mouth, and some of the material was drifting above his couch where the next surge of acceleration would send it flying all over the place. With his feet still held by the webbing Mercer unclipped the sucker from the underside of his couch and went after the stuff, pulling it into the small but powerful vacuum cleaner and leaving in its place a fresh smell of pine trees and heather. Then he helped Stone until he was quite finished, sponged his face and produced a water tube and an anti-nausea pill.

"Sorry about that, Mr. Stone," he said drily, "but there are some people who seem to need double the usual medication."

As he swallowed it, Stone had the grace to blush.

From LIFEBOAT by James White (1972)
SICK-KITS 1

The ship's loudspeaker blatted out, "All hands! Free flight in ten minutes. Stand by to lose weight." The Master-at-Arms supervised the rigging of grab-lines. All loose gear was made fast, and little cellulose bags were issued to each man. Hardly was this done when Libby felt himself get light on his feet — a sensation exactly like that experienced when an express elevator makes a quick stop on an upward trip, except that the sensation continued and became more intense. At first it was a pleasant novelty, then it rapidly became distressing. The blood pounded in his ears, and his feet were clammy and cold. His saliva secreted at an abnormal rate. He tried to swallow, choked, and coughed. Then his stomach shuddered and contracted with a violent, painful, convulsive reflex and he was suddenly, disastrously nauseated. After the first excruciating spasm, he heard McCoy's voice shouting.

"Hey! Use your sick-kits like I told you. Don't let that stuff get in the blowers." Dimly Libby realized that the admonishment included him. He fumbled for his cellulose bag just as a second temblor shook him, but he managed to fit the bag over his mouth before the eruption occurred. When it subsided, he became aware that he was floating near the overhead and facing the door. The chief Master-at-Arms slithered in the door and spoke to McCoy.

"How are you making out?"

"Well enough. Some of the boys missed their kits."

"Okay. Mop it up. You can use the starboard lock." He swam out.

McCoy touched Libby's arm. "Here, Pinkie, start catching them butterflies." He handed him a handful of cotton waste, then took another handful himself and neatly dabbed up a globule of the slimy filth that floated about the compartment. "Be sure your sick-kit is on tight. When you get sick, just stop and wait until it's over." Libby imitated him as best as he could. In a few minutes the room was free of the worst of the sickening debris. McCoy looked it over, and spoke:

"Now peel off them dirty duds, and change your kits. Three or four of you bring everything along to the starboard lock."

At the starboard spacelock, the kits were put in first, the inner door closed, and the outer opened. When the inner door was opened again the kits were gone — blown out into space by the escaping air. Pinkie addressed McCoy.

"Do we have to throw away our dirty clothes too?"

"Huh uh, we'll just give them a dose of vacuum. Take 'em into the lock and stop 'em to those hooks on the bulkheads. Tie 'em tight." This time the lock was left closed for about five minutes. When the lock was opened the garments were bone dry — all the moisture boiled out by the vacuum of space. All that remained of the unpleasant rejecta was a sterile powdery residue. McCoy viewed them with approval. "They'll do. Take them back to the compartment. Then brush them — hard — in front of the exhaust blowers."

From MISFIT by Robert Heinlein (1939)
SICK-KITS 2

      From a building just beyond the platform two steel skeletons ran vertically down the face of the two-thousand-foot cliff. They looked like open frames for elevators, which one of them was. The other was a guide for the testing car during the drop down the cliff.
     Matt crowded up to the rail and leaned over. The lower ends of the skeleton frameworks disappeared, a dizzy distance below, in the roof of a building notched into the sloping floor of the canyon. He was telling himself that he hoped the engineer who had designed the thing knew what he was doing when he felt a dig in the ribs. It was Tex. “Some roller coaster, eh, Matt?”
     “Hi, Tex. That’s an understatement if I ever heard one.”
     The candidate on Matt’s left spoke up. “Do you mean to say we ride down that thing?”
     “No less,” Tex answered. “Then they gather the pieces up in a basket and haul ‘em up the other one.”
     “How fast does it go?”
     “You’ll see in a mom — Hey! Thar she blows!”
     A silvery, windowless car appeared inside one guide frame, at its top. It poised for a split second, then dropped. It dropped and dropped and dropped, gathering speed, until it disappeared with what seemed incredible velocity—actually about two hundred and fifty miles per hour—into the building below. Matt braced himself for the crash. None came, and he caught his breath.
     Seconds later the car reappeared at the foot of the other framework. It seemed to crawl; actually it was accelerating rapidly during the first half of the climb. It passed from view into the building at the top of the cliff.

     His own test group was mustered next. He and his fellows were conducted into the upper building, where a cadet explained the test: “This test examines your tolerance for high acceleration, for free fall or weightlessness, and for violent changes in acceleration. You start with centrifugal force of three gravities, then all weight is removed from you as the car goes over the cliff. At the bottom the car enters a spiraling track which reduces its speed at deceleration of three gravities. When the car comes to rest, it enters the ascending tower; you make the climb at two gravities, dropping to one gravity, and momentarily to no weight, as the car reaches the top. Then the cycle is repeated, at higher accelerations, until each of you has reacted. Any questions?”
     Matt asked, “How long is the free fall, sir?”
     “About eleven seconds. We would increase it, but to double it would take four times as high a cliff. However, you will find this one high enough.” He smiled grimly.
     A timid voice asked, “Sir, what do you mean by ‘react’?”
     “Any of several things—hemorrhage, loss of consciousness.”
     “It’s dangerous?”
     The cadet shrugged. “What isn’t? There has never been any mechanical failures. Your pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and other data are telemetered to the control room. We’ll try not to let you die under test.”

     Presently he led them out of the room, down a passage and through a door into the test car. It had pendulum seats, not unlike any high-speed vehicle, but semi-reclining and heavily padded. They strapped down and medical technicians wired them for telemetering their responses. The cadet inspected, stepped out and returned with an officer, who repeated the inspection. The cadet then distributed “sick kits” — cloth bags of double thickness to be tied and taped to the mouth, so that a person might retch without inundating his companions. This done, he asked, “Are you all ready?” Getting no response, he went out and closed the door.

From SPACE CADET by Robert Heinlein (1948)

Boredom

Several SF novels point out the dangers inherent in cooping up people in a tin can surrounded by vacuum for months at a time. They will be prey to "space cafard" (i.e., deep space cabin fever, what the French Foreign Legion called "the beetle").

It can be even worse if the tin can is a little too cramped.


The only solutions seem to be [a] put them in the suspended animation freezer, [b] drug them, or [c] keep them busy, busy, busy! (a bi---, er, ah complaining spacer is a happy spacer) The first officer can assign some worthless busy-work, like a once daily nose to stern ship inspection for micro-meteor holes.

One might think that the same problem would be faced by the crew on a military submarine, but as it turns out the analogy is inexact. Christopher Weuve says: A long submarine mission is six months, and keeping people sane is an issue, solved in part through over-work (which I think helps in the short run) and very careful screening.

A more constructive approach (for officers) is a huge stockpile of study-spools and daily home-work in such topics as higher mathematics, astronavigation, and nuclear physics. Plus other non-space related subjects just to keep the mind flexible. There will also be an active schedule of cross-training, e.g., the astrogator learning how to maintain an atomic drive unit. You never know when knowledge of a job outside of your specialty could prove vital in an emergency.


The sergeant in charge of the enlisted men will have to know when to turn a blind eye to the home-made moonshine "still" hidden on Z deck and the floating poker and dice games. Gambling and rocket-juice will combat boredom.

As will other forms of recreation. In the anime Planetes, they recognize the fact that having male and female crew members cooped up in close quarters for weeks at a time can cause certain tensions. When stocking a spacecraft for a mission, one officially required item is a selection of erotic magazines. This allows the crew members to take care of the problem in solitary fashion. Fornication among the crew is generally aways a bad idea. There will be all the problems common to office romances, with the hatred turned up to 11 by stress of living in such confined quarters.


Last but not least is locally hosted internet games (local because a latency of 24 minutes makes real-time games impossible). However, such games might be restricted to cooperative games. Competitive games are too vulnerable to Griefers. If you have a bunch of crew whose nerves are already on edge due to living in a sardine can for the last eight months, the last thing you want is some sociopath deliberately enraging everybody. Tempers will flare while blood and body parts accumulate on the air intakes.

The other danger is internet games that are a little too immersive. Given the the choice between the real world of sensory deprivation inside the spacecraft and the fantasy world full of adventure and excitement, the crew might lose touch with reality. This was the topic of Poul Anderson's The Saturn Game.

CROSS TRAINING

     Once the handful of novels have been read, the drama tapes have been run to death in the display tank, the music tapes have been played to boredom, once the lies have all been told and the card games have faded for lack of a playable deck, Climber people turn to studying their vessels. To what we call cross-rate training, the study of specialties other than their own.

     The days become weeks, and the weeks pile into a month. Thirty-two days in the patrol zone. Thirty-two days without a contact anywhere. There are three squadrons out here now, and the newly commissioned unit is on its way. Another of the old squadrons will be leaving TerVeen soon. It'll be crowded.
     No contact. This promises to become the longest dry spell in recent history.
     The drills never cease. The Old Man always sounds the alarm at an inconvenient time. Then he stands back to watch the ants scurry. That's the only time we see his sickly smile.
     Hell. They're breaks in the boredom.
     This is oppressive. I haven't made a note in two weeks. If it weren't for guilt, I'd forget my project.
     I think this is our forty-third day in the patrol zone. Nobody keeps track anymore. What the hell does it matter? The ship is our whole universe now. It's always day in here and always night outside.
     If I really wanted to know, I could check the quartermaster's notebook. I could even find out what day of the week it is.
     I'm saving that for hard times, for the day when I need a really big adventure to get me going.

From PASSAGE AT ARMS by Glen Cook (1985)
STUDY

It takes over 12,000 hours, nearly 18 months Earth time, and there's not much to do on the way. (ed note: Terra to Asteroid Belt) I kept telling myself it wasn't so bad. I had it easier than those poor blokes on sailing ships ever did. They had storms and scurvy and they were wet all the time. They had the sea, but I had all the stars in the universe, rivers of stars, stars without number, and no atmosphere to get in their way.

But the old sailors tired of the beauties of the sea, and it wasn't long before I was sick of the stars.

We had other compensations. I had my choice of more than a hundred programmed learning courses I could take. Foreign languages, ancient history, higher math for amusement; I got a master's in engineering for professional work; I studied up on mining and manufacturing in space. It was all there, anything I wanted. Information stored in holographic chips doesn't mass very much, and if there was anything else one of us wanted they'd beam out a program from Earth. They even sent ball games and movies.

There was also the work. Nothing on the ship was automated. Any job that a human could do, we did for ourselves. Of course we could get clever and build automatic systems, and we did, but that took up time. The ships are designed that way. Space Industries doesn't want its people going stir crazy on the way out. They have too much money tied up in us. Coming back they wouldn't care...


Then there was privacy. We didn't have much. Each of us had a compartment about the size of a bunk. The partitions were as thin as they could make them. No soundproofing. If we wanted quiet, we wore earphones. Not earplugs — there were times when we needed to hear what was happening and hear it fast. Otherwise we wouldn't live to enjoy the privacy.

From BIND YOUR SONS TO EXILE by Jerry Pournelle (1976)
BAD GAMBLING

Since we were falling free in a 24-hour circular orbit, with everything weightless and floating, you'd think that shooting craps was impossible. But a radioman named Peters figured a dodge to substitute steel dice and a magnetic field. He also eliminated the element of chance, so we fired him.

From DELILAH AND THE SPACE-RIGGER by Robert Heinlein (1949)
HOBBIES 1

Once the ship was in flight and set on course, there was little which had to be done to keep her so. Krip had early shown me that her crew did not lack occupation, however. Some of them created with their hands, making small things which amused them, or which they could add to their trade goods. Others busied their minds, learning from their store of information tapes. So did they labor to keep the ship from becoming their prison also.

From EXILES OF THE STARS by Andre Norton (1971)
HOBBIES 2

"Yes," Harkaman pounced on that last. "I know of at least forty instances, on a dozen and a half planets, in the last eight centuries, of anti-technological movements. They had them on Terra, back as far as the Second Century Pre-Atomic. And after Venus seceded from the First Federation, before the Second Federation was organized."

"You're interested in history?" Rathmore asked.

"A hobby. All spacemen have hobbies. There's very little work aboard ship in hyperspace; boredom is the worst enemy. My guns-and-missiles officer, Van Larch, is a painter. Most of his work was lost with the Corisande on Durendal, but he kept us from starving a few times on Flamberge by painting pictures and selling them. My hyperspatial astrogator, Guatt Kirbey, composes music; he tries to express the mathematics of hyperspatial theory in musical terms. I don't care much for it, myself," he admitted. "I study history. You know, it's odd; practically everything that's happened on any of the inhabited planets has happened on Terra before the first spaceship."

From SPACE VIKING by H. Beam Piper (1963)
VIRTUAL REALITY GAMES

(ed note: in the story astronauts keep from being bored out of their skull by participating in something called "psychodramas." Nowadays we call them "virtual reality games")

Was nothing saner possible for them? Perhaps not.

If we are to answer the question, we should first review some history. When early industrial operations in space offered the hope of rescuing civilization, and Earth, from ruin, then greater knowledge of sister planets, prior to their development, became a clear necessity. The effort must start with Mars, the least hostile. No natural law forbade sending small manned spacecraft yonder. What did was the absurdity of as much fuel, time, and effort as were required, in order that three or four persons might spend a few days in a single locality.

Construction of the J. Peter Vajk took longer and cost more, but paid off when it, virtually a colony, spread its immense solar sail and took a thousand people to their goal in half a year and in comparative comfort. The payoff grew overwhelming when they, from orbit, launched Earthward the beneficiated minerals of Phobos that they did not need for their own purposes. Those purposes, of course, turned on the truly thorough, long-term study of Mars, and included landings of auxiliary craft, for ever lengthier stays, all over the surface.

Sufficient to remind you of this much; no need to detail the triumphs of the same basic concept throughout the inner Solar System, as far as Jupiter. The tragedy of the Vladimir became a reason to try again for Mercury, and, in a left-handed, political way, pushed the Britannic-American consortium into its Chronos project.

They named the ship better than they knew. Sailing time to Saturn was eight years.

Not only the scientists must be healthy, lively-minded people. Crewfolk, technicians, medics, constables, teachers, clergy, entertainers, every element of an entire community must be. Each must command more than a single skill, for emergency backup, and keep those skills alive by regular, tedious rehearsal. The environment was limited and austere; communication with home was soon a matter of beamcasts; cosmopolitans found themselves in what amounted to an isolated village. What were they to do?

Assigned tasks. Civic projects, especially work on improving the interior of the vessel. Research, or writing a book, or the study of a subject, or sports, or hobby clubs, or service and handicraft enterprises, or more private interactions, or—There was a wide choice of television tapes, but Central Control made sets usable for only three hours in twenty-four. You dared not get into the habit of passivity.

Individuals grumbled, squabbled, formed and dissolved cliques, formed and dissolved marriages or less explicit relationships, begot and raised occasional children, worshipped, mocked, learned, yearned, and for the most part found reasonable satisfaction in life. But for some, including a large proportion of the gifted, what made the difference between this and misery was their psychodramas.


(ed note: the problem is, after eight years of playing the same Dungeons & Dragons type fantasy role-playing-game, the astronauts have lost touch with reality. When they arrive at Iapetus, instead of exploring like cautious professional astronauts, they rush ahead like the foolhardy devil-may-care personas from their game. Disaster ensues.)

From THE SATURN GAME by Poul Anderson (1981)
VIRTUAL REALITY GAMES 2

Nature is good for us. Scientists are still working out the technical details, but so far evidence indicates that seeing sunlight, trees, and other green stuff helps your mental health.

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of forests in space, and that sucks for the future astronauts we'll send to Mars and back. They'll spend about two years cooped up in a spacecraft with no option to stroll through a meadow or feel the sunshine on their skin, and that could wear on their psychological states.

Former astronaut Jay Buckey wants to see if virtual reality can help. The Dartmouth physician and his team have sent Oculus Rift headsets deep into the Arctic to test whether exposure to nature through virtual reality can help improve mood and stress levels.

When it comes to deep space exploration, "The more tools you can give people to maintain a good psychological state, the more successful the mission is likely to be," Buckey tells Popular Science.

His team has sent the virtual reality headsets to a military station in Alert, Canada. Located 500 miles from the North Pole, Canadian Forces Station Alert is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world.

"People who live in this Alert station, they do well but it's dark all the time and it's very cold outside," says Buckey. "So it's a small group of people living in a confined space all the time. It's not like you can go out for a walk in the woods."

With the arrival of the Oculus Rift headsets, the Alert inhabitants will have the option to explore two categories of virtual scenarios. The first category includes a 360-degree view of a filmed environment—for example a spot on a beach, or a view of the mountains of New Hampshire or the Irish countryside. The views are photographical, so they look highly realistic, but viewers can only see the environment from one spot.

By contrast, viewers can actually move through the second scenario, "Virtual Wembury." This is a simulation of a lovely seaside town in the UK, and though it's computer-generated, users can navigate through it and explore.

Buckey's team is interested in seeing which type of environment users prefer, and how that affects the user's mood and stress. The experiment will last until March.

If the tech works, the team hopes to eventually test these virtual green spaces on the International Space Station as well.

Coffee

In Anne McCaffrey's novel Dragonsdawn it states that the first two things human colonists always do on a new world are:

  1. Find something that can be turned into booze
  2. Find a substitute for coffee

Here on Terra coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and there are many who cannot fully wake up and do work until they've had their morning cup of java. Particularly the various branches of the military. There are many who say that the US Navy runs on coffee. Furthermore it is hard to exaggerate the effect coffee houses had on merchant trading and shipping. Ship-owners, merchants, and insurance houses made deals in the coffee houses over cups of "the new black liquor from Turkey".

In a science fictional future, spacecraft crew may be forbidden tobacco to avoid death by asphyxiation but you can bet your last rocket they will have some sort of caffeinated beverage.

But since science fiction authors can't resit using the old Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp" trick, they will have all sorts of strange names for coffee in a desperate attempt to convince the reader that they are not in Kansas anymore. Occasionally in science fiction you will find species of deadly hyper-coffee with extreme effects.

In The Beast Master they drink Swankee, King David's Spaceship has Chickeest, the Sten novels have Caff, Warhammer 40K has Recaff, the Wheel of Time novels have Kaf, The Pern novels have Klah, and the Helmsman saga has Cvcesse. In Derelict for Trade they have Jakek which is a syntho coffee substitute the crew makes do with when times are lean.

More realistically the previously mentioned human colonists will find that coffee refuses to grow on their new world so they will frantically have to find a replacement. Authors are fond of having new colonists complain about how disgusting the local ersatz coffee is and how they miss the real stuff. Second and subsequent generations of colonists have never tasted honest-to-Joe coffee so they are satisfied with the substitute as long as it has plenty of caffeine.

ANTARES DAWN

The Admiral spoke a few quick orders into thin air. A minute later, a steward in a white coat entered with a tray bearing four cups of coffee — actually, an (Planet) Altan substitute that many of the Founders had found unpalatable.

PASSAGE AT ARMS

      The Captain wasted little time on us. He spoke with the courier briefly. The courier opened that huge case and passed over a kilo canister. The Captain handed him some greasy Conmarks. They were old bills, pre-war pink instead of today’s lilac gray. The courier shoved them inside his tunic, grinned at me, and went outside.
     “Coffee,” he explained. And, “A man has to make hay while the sun shines. A local proverb.”
     My glimpse inside the case had shown me maybe forty more canisters.
     It was an old, old game with Fleet couriers. The brass knew about it. Only their pets received courier assignment. Sometimes there were kickbacks. My companion didn’t look like a man whose business was that big.
     “I see.”
     “Sometimes tobacco, too. They don’t raise it here. And chocolate, when I can make the contacts back home.”
     “You should’ve loaded the boat.” I didn’t resent his running luxuries. Guess I’m a laissez-faire capitalist at heart.
     He grinned. “I did. Can’t deal with the Captain, though. After a while one of the sergeants will notice that nobody has patrolled that part of the plain lately. He’ll make the sweep himself, just to keep his hand in. And I’ll find a bale of Conmarks when I get back.” He hoisted his case. “This’s for special people. I sell it practically at cost.”
     “Conmarks ought to be drying up out here.”
     “They’re getting harder to come by. I’m not the only courier on the Canaan run.” He brightened. “But, s**t. There had to be billions floating around before the war. It’ll come out. Just got to keep refusing military scrip.”

     More than once the Commander tracked me down and asked me to accompany him to the wardroom.
     He makes a ritual of our visit. First he gives Kreiegshauser a carefully measured bit of coffee. Just enough for two cups. There’s been no regularly brewed real coffee since we learned we’d be on beacon-to-beacon patrol. What we call coffee, and brew daily, is made with a caffeine-rich (planet) Canaan bush-twig that has a vague coffee taste. That’s what the Commander drinks during his morning ritual. After yielding his treasure, the Old Man stares into infinity and sucks the stem of his tireless pipe. He hasn’t smoked in an age. The old hands say he won’t till he decides to attack.

From PASSAGE AT ARMS by Glen Cook (1985)
THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE

Sally snared a cup of coffee from the steward. She was learning to drink Navy coffee, which wasn't like anything else in the Galaxy.


When the room was empty he poured a large glass of wine. It was poor quality stuff brought in after the blockade, but he hardly noticed. Wine was officially forbidden on Levant, which meant that the hordes of wine sellers foisted off anything alcoholic on their customers, even wealthy ones like the Bury family. Horace Bury had never developed any real appreciation for expensive liquors. He bought them to show his wealth, and for entertaining; but for himself anything would do. Coffees were a different matter.


But Buckman liked to talk, and Bury at least had the time to listen. MacArthur was a beehive these days, frantically busy and crowded as hell. And there was room to pace in Bury's cabin.

Or, Bury speculated cynically, he might like Bury's coffee. Bury had almost a dozen varieties of coffee beans, his own grinder, and filter cones to make it. He was quite aware of how his coffee compared with that in the huge percolators about the ship.


     "We must study them." Bury's Motie sipped contemplatively at his dirty water, "We spoke of coffees and wines. My associates have noticed—how shall I put it?—a strong cultural set toward wines, among your scientists and Navy officers."
     "Yes. Place of origin, dates, labels, ability to travel in free fall, what wines go with what foods." Bury grimaced. "I have listened, but I know nothing of this. I find it annoying and expensive that some of my ships must move under constant acceleration merely to protect a wine bottle from its own sediments. Why can they not simply be centrifuged on arrival?"
     "And coffees? They all drink coffee. Coffee varies according to its genetics, soil, climate, method of roasting. I know this is so. I have seen your stores."
     "I have much greater variety aboard MacArthur. Yes and there is variety among coffee drinkers. Cultural differences. On an American-descended world like Tabletop they would not touch the oily brew preferred in New Paris, and they find the brew of Levant much too sweet and strong."
      "Ah."
     "Have you heard of Jamaica Blue Mountain? It grows on Earth itself, on a large island; the island was never bombed, and the mutations were weeded out in the centuries following the collapse of the CoDominium. It cannot be bought. Navy ships carry it to the Imperial Palace on Sparta."
     "How does it taste?"
     "As I told you, it is reserved for the Royal—" Bury hesitated. "Very well. You know me that well. I would not pay such a price again, but I do not regret it."
     "The Navy misjudges your worth because you lack knowledge of wines." Bury's Motie did not seem to be smiling. Its bland expression was a Trader's: it matched Bury's own. "Quite foolish of them, of course. If they knew how much there was to learn about coffee—"
     "What are you suggesting?"
     "You have stores aboard. Teach them about coffee. Use your own stores for the purpose."
     "My stores would not last a week among the officers of a battle cruiser!"
     "You would show them a similarity between your culture and theirs. Or do you dislike that idea? No, Bury, I am not reading your mind. You dislike the Navy; you tend to exaggerate the differences between them and you. Perhaps they think the same way?"
     "I am not reading your mind." Bury suppressed the fury building in him—and at that moment he saw it. He knew why the alien kept repeating that phrase. It was to keep him off balance. In a trading situation.
     Bury smiled broadly. "A week's worth of good will. Well, I will try your suggestion when we are back in orbit and I dine aboard MacArthur. Allah knows they have much to learn about coffee. Perhaps I can even teach them how to use their percolators correctly."

     The night before, the dinner party conversation had somehow turned to coffee, and Bury had lost his usual bored detachment when he spoke at length on the subject. He had told them of the historic Mocha-Java blend still grown in places like Makassar, and the happy combination of pure Java and the grua distilled on Prince Samual's World. He knew the history of Jamaica Blue Mountain although, he'd said, not its taste. As dessert was ending he suggested a "coffee tasting" in the manner of a wine tasting party.
     It had been an excellent ending to an excellent dinner, with Bury and Nabil moving like conjurors among filter cones and boiling water and hand-lettered labels. All the guests were amused, and it made Bury a different man somehow; it had been hard to think of him as a connoisseur of any kind.
     "But the basic secret is to keep the equipment truly clean," he had said. "The bitter oils of yesterday's coffee will accumulate in the works, especially in percolators."

     It had ended with Bury's offer to inspect MacArthur's coffee-making facilities the next day. Cargill, who thought coffee as vital to a fighting ship as torpedoes, accepted happily. Now he watched as the bearded Trader examined the large percolator and gingerly drew a cup.
     "The machine is certainly well kept," he said. "Very well kept. Absolutely clean, and the brew is not reheated too often. For standard coffee, this is excellent, Commander."
     Puzzled, lack Cargill drew a cup and tasted it. "Why, that's better than the stuff the wardroom gets."
     There were sidelong glances among the cooks. Cargill noticed them. He noticed something else, too. He ran a finger along the side of the percolator and brought it away with a brown oil stain.
     Bury repeated the gesture, sniffed at his finger, and touched the tip of his tongue to it. Cargill tasted the oil in his hand. It was like all the bad coffee he had ever swallowed for fear of falling asleep on duty. He looked again at the percolator and stared at the spigot handle.
     "Miniatures," (alien beasties who improve machines but can destroy a starship) Cargill growled. "Take that damned thing apart."
     They emptied the machine and disassembled it—as far as it would go. Parts made to unscrew were now a fused unit. But the secret of the magic percolator seemed to be selective permeability in the metal shell. It would pass the older oils.
     "My company would like to purchase that secret from the Navy," said Bury.
     "We'd like to have it to sell. OK, Ziffren, how long has this been going on?"

From THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1974)

Space Booze

RocketCat sez

I've got news for all you teetotaler out there. Agriculture may have brought the rise of civilization, but archaeologists have found evidence that making beer pre-dated making barley bread by three thousand freaking years! Agriculture was not invented so people could have food, it was so people could have beer.

We've been enjoying booze for twelve-thousand years, we ain't gonna stop any time soon.

Yeah, since then we've invented an alarming number of controlled substances, but as long as they stay controlled they will be hard to come by in rocketpunk outer space. It's gonna be real hard to make a meth lab in a spaceship without anybody noticing. Plus all the added fun if it explodes, emits toxic fumes into the limited atmosphere, or sets the ship on fire.

But as long as you can make crude hooch by simply leaving a bottle of apple juice on the radiator, alcohol will be part of space culture. It is just too easy to make. And any fool can make a moonshine still that uses vacuum instead of heat. Especially since there is an infinite supply of vacuum, right outside the hab module. The interplanetary internet will have lots of easy-to-follow tutorials.

Hopefully any idiots who venture into dangerous areas while plastered will merely cop a Darwin Award for themselves without taking along any innocent bystanders. If they just manage to kill or seriously injure others while remaining unscathed, I'm sure the surviving crew will be willing to give Darwin a hand. The survivors will just tell the first officer that it was a tragic airlock accident.

While most illegal drugs and other controlled substances are rather difficult to manufacture in the space environment, good old alcohol is relatively easy. After all, convicts manage to make Pruno in prison; even with limited access to raw materials, workspace, and privacy from prison guards.

In most cases, the actual production of alcohol from sugar is done by yeast cultures. These cultures are almost impossible for the authorities to keep out of the hands of illegal brewer-masters of contraband alcoholic beverages. In the case of making wine, the yeast can be conveniently found already living on the grape skins.

And if the CELSS is using yeast to make single-cell protein, there is no way to prevent moonshiners from obtaining a supply. In 2015 the Australian government was considering making the national staple food Vegemite a controlled substance (inspiring howls of outrage). Apparently home-brewers in remote areas were purchasing Vegemite in bulk and using it to make moonshine. After all, the main ingredient of Vegemite is leftover brewers' yeast extract (not baker's yeast, brewers' yeast). In Australia there has already been a ban on Vegemite in prisons since the 1990's for the same reason. Controlling it outside of prison is going to be an uphill battle.


Needless to say, becoming drunk in an inherently dangerous environment such as deep space is a quick way to get yourself killed. In the US the legal drunk driving limit is 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (other nations have different standards). A rule of thumb is that one standardized "drink" = one hour = no exceptions (that is, if you had three drinks, wait three hours before driving). For private airplane pilots, the rule of thumb is Eight Hours Bottle To Throttle.

In the U.S. (wet) Navy, drinking alcohol is not allowed while aboard a ship (since the passage of General Order No. 99 in 1914), and off ship it is forbidden if the person is on duty or under-aged. In the U.K., which has a tradition of a daily rum-ration for sailors, crew is limited to consume no more than 35mg of alcohol per 100ml when they are on safety-critical duty (same as the U.K. drink-drive limit). For U.K. naval crew handling weapons the limit is 9mg per 100ml. The U.K. Armed Forces Act of 2011 prohibited the consumption of more than five units of alcohol 24 hours before duty and no alcohol was to be consumed in the 10 hours before duty.

In Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion series of science fiction novels the CoDominium navy and marines have no regulations against drinking alcohol, even on duty. But there are severe penalties for rendering oneself unfit for duty (penalties up to execution by firing squad). When deployed, CoDominium marines were commonly given a daily wine ration of half a liter per person.


Wine

A "wine" is an alcoholic beverage produced by yeast converting the sugar in fruit juice into ethanol. At some point the ethanol level rises high enough to kill off the yeast, halting production. This limits the proof of wines, usually 9%–16% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 18—32 proof.

A fortified wine is a wine with the alcohol content increased by adding some distilled spirits (generally brandy, which is distilled wine). If the brandy is added before the wine fermentation is completed the resulting fortified wine will be sweet. This is because the brandy kills off the yeast before all the sugar is consumed. Fortified wines can be up to 20% ABV (40 proof).

Some anthropologists have a theory that wine was discovered by some cave-man who took a drink out of a puddle full of rotting fruit.


Beer

A "beer" is an alcoholic beverage produced from grain, usually barley or wheat. First the grain is "malted": germinated in hot water, then dried. The malting process creates enzymes which can convert starch into sugar.

The malt is mixed with hot water to create what brewers call "wort" but we can call "yeast food." This allows the enzymes to convert the starch in the grains (which yeast cannot eat) into sugar (which yeast will merrily convert into alcohol). See "saccharification of starch".

After about two hours the malt enzymes has converted most of the starch into sugar, and the wort is boiled to get rid of some of the water. After the wort is cooled, it is put in a fermenter along with hungry yeast. The yeast put on their bibs, whip out their knives and forks, and start gobbling sugar while excreting ethanol. Beer is generally 2%—12% ABV (4—24 proof).

A "malt liquor" is a beer made by adding sugar, corn, or other adjuncts to the wort in order to increase the alcohol content (above 6% or 12 proof). The extra yeast food means more alcohol.

Note that when traveling, if the bacterial content of the local water is questionable, it is much safer to drink the local beer instead of the water. Use beer to brush your teeth as well. An ancient Egyptian tomb inscription boasted about the dear departed's generosity by saying "I gave bread to the hungry and beer to the thirsty".

Some anthropologists have a theory that early man invented agriculture not to increase the supply of food, but to increase the supply of beer.


Distilled Spirits

Since people have a tendency to be min-maxers, they looked for ways to increase the ethanol levels in their product. The tried and true method is to use a distillery rig, aka a moonshine "still". Such items have to heat up the source alcoholic beverage using fire, but in space the abundantly available vacuum can be used instead.

John Reiher notes that you do NOT want to use a vacuum still on beer or any other mash containing hops. One of the essential hop oils, Myrcene, has a boiling point of 63.9° C, which is under alcohol's 74° C. If you're not careful, you'll end up with very hoppy ethyl alcohol (i.e., incredibly bitter).

The basic idea is to remove water from the booze, thus increasing the relative percentage of alcohol. Conventional stills take advantage of the fact that water and alcohol have different volatility. That is, ethyl alcohol boils at a much lower temperature than water.

You boil the wine or mash at a temperature (78°C) which vaporizes the alcohol but very little of the water. Then you send the alcohol vapor through a condenser to turn it back into liquid. The alcohol drips out of the condenser into a jug. The condenser is that copper spiral tube (the "worm") you see on classic moonshine stills. Copper is used because it absorbs sulfur-based compounds which would otherwise make the product taste like skunk juice.

The products of a still are called distilled beverage, spirit, liquor, or hard liquor. Typical distilled spirits are about 40% ABV (80 proof), extreme stuff is 75% ABV (150 proof), Everclear grain alcohol is about 95% ABV (190 proof) which is close to being rocket fuel.

Whiskey and the like are made with pot stills where there is lots of water in the vapor sent to the condenser. After two distillations whiskey has a 70% ABV. Moonshine is made in moonshine stills, with very little water in the vapor. It has a 95% ABV, almost suitable for use in a Rocketdyne RS-88 rocket engine.

There are many kinds of distilled spirits. A "brandy" is distilled wine. A "whisky" is distilled from grain mash (like beer's barley or wheat) except whisky can also be made from corn or rye. You can think of whisky as distilled beer without being utterly wrong. A "vodka" is generally distilled from fermented potato mash, its main feature is the almost total lack of flavorings.

A more low-tech way to increase the alcohol level is to use freeze-distillation (aka "jacking"), such as in the manufacture of applejack. Alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water (this is why you can use it as antifreeze). So in the American colonial period, apple juice from the harvest was allowed to ferment into a sort of fruit beer (less than 10% ABV). Then during the winter, the juice was placed outside to freeze, or at least the water would. The frozen lumps of water were removed, thus raising the alcoholic content of the remainder (up to 40% ABV). This method might be popular on newly colonized Terran planets with a low tech base. A drawback to freeze-distillation is that (unlike conventional distillation) the process concentrates dangerous poisons such as methanol and fusel oil.

Back in the 1920's during Prohibition in the US, amateurs made Bathtub gin. This lead to the creation of many gin cocktails, as the speakeasies desperately experimented with sugary flavors to mask the vile taste of the poorly made gin. Everything old is new again. Enlisted spacecraft crew will also be eager to steal fruit juices from the quartermaster to doctor the foul product of their vacuum stills.


Alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream slowly in the stomach, but the rate can be increased if the beverage is carbonated. This is why strong people who are apparently unaffected by a shot of whisky will sometimes start to giggle if they drink bubbly champagne (carbonated wine). Beer is carbonated, but it is so weak it needs all the help it can get. Champagne has more of a kick than non-carbonated wine. And a cocktail that includes some sort of carbonated mixer is most potent of all.


Some old SF novels call space hooch "rocket juice", as a tribute to the torpedo juice from WW2. In Star Trek, Captain Kirk liked his Saurian Brandy, and McCoy was fond of Romulan ale. And of course Scotty is partial to scotch, even mixed with theragen.

Other noteable alcoholic beverages from science fiction include Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, Ambrosa, Bloodwine.

It is also possible to have an alcoholic beverage as the focus of a science fiction story. I highly recommend Golubash, or Wine-Blood-War-Elegy by Catherynne M. Valente

SPACE WHISKY EXPERIMENT

(ed note: this is a real news article)

A distillery that sent unmatured malt whisky into space to study the effect of near-zero gravity on flavour has described its findings as "groundbreaking".

Ardbeg Distillery, on Islay, sent a vial to the International Space Station in a cargo spacecraft in October 2011.

Another vial of the same whisky was kept at the distillery for comparison.

The distillery said its space samples were "noticeably different" in terms of aroma and taste.

The company had set up the experiment to investigate how micro-gravity would affect the behaviour of terpenes, the building blocks of flavour for many foods and wines as well as whisky spirits.

It has now identified "major differences" in its analysis of the two sets of samples.


Ardbeg tasting notes from experiment:

Earth sample: "The sample had a woody aroma, reminiscent of an aged Ardbeg style, with hints of cedar, sweet smoke and aged balsamic vinegar, as well as raisins, treacle toffee, vanilla and burnt oranges.

"On the palate, its woody, balsamic flavours shone through, along with a distant fruitiness, some charcoal and antiseptic notes, leading to a long, lingering aftertaste, with flavours of gentle smoke, tar and creamy fudge."

Space sample: "Its intense aroma had hints of antiseptic smoke, rubber and smoked fish, along with a curious, perfumed note, like violet or cassis, and powerful woody tones, leading to a meaty aroma.

"The taste was very focused, with smoked fruits such as prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries, earthy peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham. The aftertaste is intense and long, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke."


Ardbeg said the maturation experiment paved the way for "unprecedented flavour profiles".

Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg's director of distilling and whisky creation, said: "The space samples were noticeably different.

"When I nosed and tasted the space samples, it became clear that much more of Ardbeg's smoky, phenolic character shone through - to reveal a different set of smoky flavours which I have not encountered here on earth before."

SELF DISTILLING VODKA

(ed note: this is a real news article)

Members of Professor Sir Andre Geim's group at the University of Manchester, where graphene was first identified, were investigating the permiability of a closely related material called graphene oxide. This is graphene which has been reacted with a strong oxidising agent, making it more soluble and easier to deal with.

They created membranes made up of small pieces of graphene oxide which pile up like bricks to form an interlocked structure, and then tested how gas-proof they were by using the film as a lid for a container full of various gases.

They found that despite being 500 times thinner than a human hair, it completely stopped Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Argon from escaping, to the limits of their measurements. It even stopped Helium which, being a tiny single atom will escape from party balloons very quickly, and can even diffuse out through a millimetre of glass.

They then tried various liquids, and found similar behaviour for ethanol, hexane, acetone, decane and propanol vapour, but when they tried normal water it behaved as if the membrane wasn't there, escaping at least a hundred thousand times faster than any of the other materials. They think the water is forming a layer one molecule thick between the layers of graphene, blocking the route for everything else, but if it dries out, this gap shrinks and seals up.

To make use of this behaviour they put some vodka in the container, and left it for a few days. Normally ethanol evaporates faster than water so vodka gets weaker over time, but with their membrane, which blocked the ethanol, the vodka got stronger and stronger.

This is extremely interesting behaviour, as seperating water from other solvents is a huge part of many chemical processes. This is normally done by distillation, which takes a large amount of energy, and the process has to be repeated many times. Ethanol cannot be concentrated to more than 96% without involving poisonous solvents to remove the water, so this material has a huge potential.

(ed note: you'll have to think up a slang name for this new form of contraband. "Still-rag", "'Shine-cloth", etc. John Reiher suggests that a person running a graphene still should be called a "wiper")

From SELF DISTILLING VODKA by Dave Ansell
GRAPHENE DISTILLING

(ed note: Mr. Reiher had some observation about using graphene cloth to distill alcohol)

One side effect of this tech is booze. Because the graphene filters only let water pass through, a case of cheap 3.2% ABV beer can be "improved" to something nigh undrinkable. Undrinkable because the graphene filtration doesn't "distill" the beer, it concentrates it.

So if you take a highly hopped beer and graphene it, it becomes impossible to drink. Spacer IPA is usually around 32% alcohol and has a IBU of 240. Most folks can't drink that. Most people. There are few brave souls who will try a shot or two.

But there is a fix for that. Synsepalum Dulcificum, AKA, the Miracle Berry. Eating a berry before quaffing some Spacer IPA results in the sweetest brew you ever drank. Some folks get addicted to that.


Jacking, that's what I was thinking of. I had it happen to me once while I was living in Colorado Springs. It got cold enough that it froze the beer we had left out on the back porch nearly solid. I cracked one open and out poured this syrupy liquid. It was nasty. It was also Miller, but that's another issue.

I'd imagine all the wines, spirits, and various grain beverages would find a new life at the hands of a "wiper", AKA, the guy who runs a graphene "still".

From John Reiher in a Google+ thread (2015)
POISON BOOZE 1

(ed note: "bactry" means "bacteria factory". The bactries of chemical companies refine volatile asteroid-liquor into useful chemicals with bacterial aid.)

To: the Idiot Riggers in Habitation Module 4V and Their Damn-Fool Party Friends
Re: Your Still

Yes, I know about your still. No, I’m not going to shut you down, because if you don’t have the still I know about, you’ll just set up one l don’t know about. Or start sipping the reactor coolant.

But here are a few points you might not think of. The Flight Commander will have plenty more, I’m sure.

First, I have tested your first batch, and it seems at least one of you knows ‘shine from bactry juice, ‘cause there’s not enough methanol in it to blind you. If you’ve any damn sense at all, you’ll bring me a tester from every batch.

Second, I’m not vouching for anything else that might be in there.

Third, anyone who can’t drink rationally and hold it should come by sickbay at 1600 to hear in great and graphic detail just how fun it is to choke to death on your own aspirated free-falling fluids. There will be pictures. And should you end up in my care from anything hooch-related, you’ll get the long version, so save yourself some pain.

Fourth, my surgical oxygen does not exist to help you sober up. Anyone I catch using it for that purpose will wish they were just thrown out the airlock, especially if you find yourself needing anesthesia in the remains of your tour.

Fifth, we don’t stock enough analgesics aboard to go handing then out as hangover cures. If you can’t live with it, stick your head outside and breathe deep.

Sixth, no vomiting inside the airlock. Commander Steamweaver controls the air you breathe. That should be all the incentive you need to not get your crap in her filters.

Seventh, no vomiting outside the airlock, either. I’m running low on death certificates.

Surgeon Lieutenant Oricalcios

From ORBITSHINE by Alistair Young (2014)
POISON BOOZE 2

Four riggers showed up at the med module. Rather, two riggers towed two others. Even the two who could move didn't look very well. In spite of weightlessness, they managed to stagger.

"Sweetie, we don't feel so damned good," one told Angela as they entered the module. They rebounded from the edge of the hatch as they did so. "Kin ya give us somethin' to make us feel better? Ol' Jim here—and Al, too—passed out on us. And I'm about to pass out, if I don't heave first."

Angela managed to get a plastic bag to the man before he threw up. But the other conscious man beat her to it.

Fred was the second team member on the scene. He didn't pay any attention to the conscious men, but started checking one of the unconscious ones. "Angela, he's comatose—cyanotic or acidotic. I can't tell without a blood check. Same with the other one."

"They've all been drinking," Angela noted.

"You betcha! Hell of a party!" one of the conscious ones muttered thickly.

"Alcohol poisoning?" Angela ventured to guess.

"Nope," Fred put in. "I'll bet they got a load of orbital moonshine, and what we're seeing are the effects of methanol."

"Dr. Noels!" Angela called out, but Tom was already out of his quarters and into the med module, having been attracted by the commotion. "Possible methyl alcohol poisoning!" she told him as he came up to her.

Tom took one look and acted fast. "Get them down. Angela, Fred, start positive-displacement IVs with sodium bicarbonate on the two who've passed out! Dave, shag it out here stat! You, too, Stan!

"I need blood analysis as fast as you can get it," Tom told his med tech. "Blood-alcohol level, along with pH and electrolyte balance. Accuracy second to speed, because if it's methanol we haven't got much time. Angela, Fred, Stan, we treat for methanol poisoning first! If it's something else, it'll be less serious."

They strapped all four into med module treatment units and started the IVs.

"This guy's going fast," Stan remarked. "Acts like traumatic shock, Doc. Hypotension. BP down to seventy over forty!"

"Gastric lavage!" Tom snapped. "Get it started on the others, too. Whatever is in there, pump it out of them!" He turned to his conscious patient. "Any headache? Leg cramps?"

"Uh . . . naw—but my gut hurts somethin' terrible!" And he passed out.

"What were you drinking?" Tom asked the remaining conscious man. "Tell me fast! It could save your life!"

"Aw, we was just havin' a li'l party with some stuff Al made from raisins and breakfast cereals we took from the cafeteria. Pretty good moonshine, too . . ."

"It could be anything," Stan pointed out.

Tom didn't say a word. He was thinking. He ran through the symptoms of the various alcohol poisonings. He knew he was doing the right thing when it came to wood alcohol ingestion: sodium bicarb IV with gastric lavage. He wouldn't know whether or not to try rebalancing electrolytes until he got the blood work-ups from Dave, who had drawn his samples and was working rapidly in the med lab section of the module.

Dizziness. Discoordination. Gastroenteritis. Hypotension. But no cramps. Obviously no convulsions . . . yet. The unconscious ones were in a stupor with falling blood pressure, but the condition didn't add up to methanol poisoning.

Gastric lavage produced a brownish liquid smelling of alcohol.

"See what Dave can do with it," Tom told Angela.

The initial blood report from the comatose man showed pH in the normal range but various departures from normal in electrolytes. There was also evidence of hypoglycemia.

"All four of them can't be diabetic!" Tom muttered to himself as he looked over the scribbled note from Dave. "They'd never have gotten past the medical check at JSP! What the hell is it? I've never seen this before. Angela, have you?"

"No. Botulism, perhaps?"

"Not from a liquid as loaded with ethanol as their drink was," Tom observed. "Well, this is what I've got GALEN for!"

He pushed off to the med module treatment-bay terminal and got on line. He keyed in the symptoms and requested analysis and most probable diagnosis. The computer worked it over on Earth and shot back the sentence that flashed across the display screen: INCOMPLETE SYMPTOMATIC REPORT. CHECK FOR RETINAL INJURY AND REPORT FINDINGS.

Tom's first peek through the ophthalmoscope into the eyes of the man still semiconscious revealed normal eye grounds. He typed into GALEN: NO RETINAL INJURY. EYE GROUNDS NORMAL.

As quickly as he had finished typing that, the reply appeared: PROBABLE DIAGNOSIS: ISOAMYL ALCOHOL POISONING. SIMILAR TO ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL POISONING. INGESTION OF 8 FL OZ STRAIGHT ISOAMYL ALCOHOL PROBABLY FATAL. OTHERWISE, PROGNOSIS FOR RECOVERY GOOD. TREATMENT: GASTRIC LAVAGE, IV GLUCOSE, CORRECT DEHYDRATION, AND ELECTROLYTE CHANGES. DIALYSIS IF POSSIBLE.

"Isoamyl alcohol. Fusel oil" Tom said, snapping his fingers.

"I know these guys," Fred added. "Hard drinkers. All of them. Probably tried to smuggle hooch up but got caught. And the limited ration that Pratt permits everyone every week wasn't enough for these boozers. So old Al here—he's from Georgia—I'll bet he figured he'd make himself some moonshine instead. Ten to one, they've got a vacuum still rigged somewhere outside a convenient lock."


Oh, don't worry; we saved them. They were full of fusel oil. Why don't you put some bread in the cafeteria so anybody eke who tries this will at least be able to filter it through a loaf of bread first? Bread won't take out all the fusel oil, but it'll probably keep the concentration below the lethal limit."

From SPACE DOCTOR by Lee Correy (G. Harry Stine) 1981

(ed note: the topic is colonists on a Terran like planet being able to grow edible crops or otherwise find food)

Zachary:

Carla:
"Assuming the alternative biochemistry uses a different set, some of the 'new' ones might be interchangeable with the ones in the earth biochemistry set and those would count as nutrition. "

Not likely. The metabolism of amino acids is pretty dang specific. Breaking peptide bonds is one thing- simple chemistry. Actually utilizing the amino acids requires all sorts of enzymes, which tend to be extremely specific. Transfer RNA aminoacylation alone is probably an insurmountable barrier to building proteins with foreign amino acids.

Maybe deamination to use the nitrogen and carbon skeletons is possible. I'd have to check the books. But I doubt it. The probability of aliens using a foreign aa just similar enough to ours to screw up our aa metabolism is much higher.

Anonymous:

Without looking up details, I think what Zachary says is correct to the extent that humans are concerned. That being said, if you had a foreign stock of amino acids (for whatever reason), you could probably get bacteria to use it as a food source eventually, and get some usable product out of it that way.

If history is any indication, booze of some kind will be the first consumable product made from a foreign food source. The nutritional value, of course, depends on if the microbe in question develops proteins to incorporate the new amino acids (no good for you) or it develops proteins to break down the new amino acids into something familiar (good for you).

Rick:

If history is any indication, booze of some kind will be the first consumable product made from a foreign food source.

Does this blog get great comments, or what?

This seems entirely likely! I have only the vaguest knowledge of booze production, only that it starts with fermentation of sugars into good old ethanol. I have no idea what sugars are, but ethanol is pretty basic stuff.

Michael:

-Sugars are basically 5 or 6 ethanols linked together by the carbons in a circle (roughly).
-Starches are a whole bunch of sugars linked together in one way.
-Cellulose is a whole bunch of sugars linked together in a different way.

This is why, on Earth, one can change pretty much any plant into some kind of alcohol or another.

Rick:

I suppose the prospects for Rigellian green fuming brandy all depend on whether the local life builds its equivalent structures out of ethanol or methanol ...

(ed note: "fuming Rigellian wine" is from James Blish's Cities In Flight)

Zachary:

That being said, if you had a foreign stock of amino acids (for whatever reason), you could probably get bacteria to use it as a food source eventually, and get some usable product out of it that way.

Excellent point. If bacteria can figure out how to eat petroleum, random amino acids should be no problem at all. And the nice thing is, just using them as a carbon source is probably a lot easier than actually incorporating them into proteins.

Developing mutant bacteria strains to utilize common organic molecules would probably be the first step in terraforming a world with alien organic life. If you want to push it, we could engineer our own gastrointestinal symbiotes to digest alien molecules, a la termites.

-Sugars are basically 5 or 6 ethanols linked together by the carbons in a circle (roughly).
-Starches are a whole bunch of sugars linked together in one way.
-Cellulose is a whole bunch of sugars linked together in a different way.

This is why, on Earth, one can change pretty much any plant into some kind of alcohol or another.

Accurate, except for the first part. You could synthesize a sugar that way I suppose, but it would be a weird, overgrown sugar with no friends. The connection between simple sugars and ethanol is pyruvate. Pyruvate just so happens to be a breakdown product of many amino acids...all you need is an enterprising settler with a DIY gene tweaking kit, and xenomorphic rotgut, here we come!

Rick:

The colonists might not be able to eat the food, but at least they could drown their sorrows!

From GARDEN WORLDS, PARK WORLDS comment section (2009)
Jayne: Mmm. They call it Mudder's Milk. All the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma's best turkey dinner, plus fifteen percent alcohol.
Wash: It's horrific!
Simon: Worked for the Egyptians.
Jayne: What's that?
Simon: The ancient Egyptians, back on Earth-That-Was. It's not so different from the ancestral form of beer they fed to the slaves who built their pyramids. Liquid bread. Kept them from starving, and knocked them out at night, so they wouldn't be inclined to insurrection.
Kaylee: Wow, Simon. That's so... so historical.
From TV series Firefly episode JAYNESTOWN (2002)

We fired four of them for being drunk on the job; Tiny had to break one stiff's arm before he would stay fired. What worried us was where did they get it? Turned out a ship fitter had rigged a heatless still, using the vacuum around us. He was making vodka from potatoes swiped from the commissary. I hated to let him go, but he was too smart.

From DELILAH AND THE SPACE-RIGGER by Robert Heinlein (1949)

After about a week of one gee, Private Rudkoski (the cook's assistant) had a still, producing some eight liters a day of 95 percent ethyl alcohol. I didn't want to stop him — life was cheerless enough; I didn't mind as long as people showed up for duty sober — but I was damned curious both how he managed to divert the raw materials out of our sealed-tight ecology, and how the people paid for their booze. So I used the chain of command in reverse, asking Alsever to find out. She asked Jarvil, who asked Carreras, who sat down with Orban, the cook. Turned out that Sergeant Orban had set the whole thing up, letting Rudkoski do the dirty work, and was aching to brag about it to a trustworthy person.

If I had ever taken meals with the enlisted men and women, I might have figured out that something odd was going on. But the scheme didn't extend up to officers' country.

Through Rudkoski, Orban had jury rigged a ship-wide economy based on alcohol. It went like this:

Each meal was prepared with one very sugary dessert — jelly, custard or flan — which you were free to eat if you could stand the cloying taste. But if it was still on your tray when you presented it at the recycling window, Rudkoski would give you a ten-cent chit and scrape the sugary stuff into a fermentation vat. He had two twenty-liter vats, one "working" while the other was being filled.

The ten-cent chit was at the bottom of a system that allowed you to buy a half-liter of straight ethyl (with your choice of flavoring) for five dollars. A squad of five people who skipped all of their desserts could buy about a liter a week, enough for a party but not enough to constitute a public health problem.

From THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman (1975)

(Lysander is the prince of the planet Sparta. Blaine is the governor of the planet Tanith. BuRelock is the Bureau of Relocation, who forcibly transport undesirable people from the over populated Earth to dump them on the various colony planets.)

"We have an excellent liqueur, rum based with flavoring from the Tanith Passion Fruit, but perhaps it's a bit early in the day for something so sweet. Tanith whiskey, perhaps?"

"Thank you." Lysander sipped gingerly at the dark whiskey. "That's quite good."

"Glad you like it. Bit like Scotch only more so. Some find it strong."

"Sparta's whiskey is descended from Irish," Lysander said. "We think it's better than Earth's best. We had a master distiller from Cork!"

"Much the same story here," Blaine said. "Whole family from near Inverary. Can't imagine what they did to annoy BuRelock, but up they came; Tanith's benefit and Earth's loss. One of my predecessors set them up in the distilling business."

From PRINCE OF MERCENARIES by Jerry Pournelle (1989)

He poured a glass of moss whiskey, a native Ceres liquor made from engineered yeast, then took off his shoes and settled onto the foam bed.


An hour later, his blood warm with drink, he heated up a bowl of real rice and fake beans—yeast and fungus could mimic anything if you had enough whiskey first—opened the door of his hole, and ate dinner looking out at the traffic gently curving by.


Kate Liu returned to the table with a local beer and a glass of whiskey on her tray. Miller was glad for the distraction. The beer was his. Light and rich and just the faintest bit bitter. An ecology based on yeasts and fermentation meant subtle brews.

From LEVIATHAN WAKES by "James S.A. Corey" (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) 2011. First novel of The Expanse
BALLISTIC BREW

Ballistic Brewery, ICC to Hanth & Mallon Restaurants (Pádíäz System), ICC, greetings.

Valmiríän Oricalcios,

Thank you for your interest in our selection of fine beers for the discerning spacer palate.

To be sure that we can satisfy your requirements, let me explain to you how the Ballistic Beer process works. The initial stages of brewing are carried out in our own facilities, in your case at Gallítra Station in the Pádíäz-Solar L4 point. We take grain from the skyfarms surrounding our station, malt, kiln, mash, and sparge it. We then copper and boil the resulting wort with the unique combinations of hops, sugars, and herbs that give each of our beers their unique flavor.

When we receive your order, the selected wort is transferred to one of our Puncheon-class fermenter-tankers, along with the appropriate yeast culture, and the Puncheon is dispatched to you. The transfer orbit of the Puncheon is carefully computed to allow for the necessary weeks or months of fermentation and conditioning under thrust gravity, in order to reach you at the moment of peak flavor. Once the beer is finally racked, wood conditioning or other late-stage refinements can be imparted in the Puncheon’s final tank.

When the Puncheon reaches your station, you offload the beer by fluid transfer, either directly into your own cask tanks or for local bottling or kegging (facilities and resale licenses for either of these can be leased from us). The yeast residue remaining in the fermenter can be returned to us with the Puncheon, or retained for local use for a nominal fee. We request that you refuel the Puncheon for its return voyage as part of your payment schedule.

(Note: All of our beers are naturally carbonic. As such, you should be prepared to accept the listed associated CO2 release into your local life-support capacity. We also recommend that they be served only in non-microgravity areas and that drinkers remain in these areas for the stated effervescence interval to prevent discomfort.)

Available for immediate shipment, in the Pádíäz System, are our Callaneth’s Finest, Starlight Irdesh, Miról Lambic, Three-Axis Pale Ale, Red Rocket Red, Singularity Stout, and Oúrghaz’s Heavy, each available in 25-barrel, 50-barrel, 100-barrel, and 300-barrel shipments. We will, of course, be happy to produce any of our other beers for you given sufficient lead time.

I have enclosed for your further information more details of our beers, along with full details of technical requirements and other necessities, and payment information for a variety of order sizes and schedules.

On behalf of all of us here at the Ballistic Brewery, we hope to be able to offer you a drink soon!

Talan Kellis, Brewmaster’s Second,

for and on behalf of

Ballistic Brewery, ICC

OFFICIALLY UNOFFICIAL

“That?” Cathál glanced at the slate-blue pipe in question, then down at her slate. “Water coolant source for distillation unit 02-367, tap off main section 11-9120, return through 02-3683, automatic flow valve controlled by sector utility server #2, manual cutoff accessible via service panel 02-38.”

“Distillation unit? This isn’t a machinery section.”

“Not that kind of distillation unit. It’s a… personal still.” Seeing her apprentice’s still-confused expression, she continued. “A starshine still.”

“You have those on the plans?”

She looked at him appraisingly. “You’re new-up, aren’t you?”

“First spaceside rotation, yeah. What’s that –”

“Look around you. The hab’s maybe two-thirds, or a little more, plumbing by mass. All kinds. Potable, non-potable, gray, black, steam, rad-hot, loaded, non-aqueous – hell, we’ve got reactor lines in section one circulating liquid sodium. People around here get all kinds of upset when they find a pipe that’s not on the plans, especially if they don’t know what it’s for or what’s in it. So we have an Agreement. We agree to put all the, um, unofficial plumbing on the master plans and hook it into the control systems, and the adminisphere agrees not to bug us about it unless it causes a genuine issue.”

“And it’s still unofficial?”

“Surely. But it’s officially unofficial.”

FLATLANDER

When I was a kid, I used to stand out at the edge of Crashlanding Port watching the ships come in. I'd watch the mob of passengers leave the lock and move in a great clump toward customs, and I'd wonder why they seemed to have trouble navigating. A majority of the starborn would always walk in weaving lines, swaying and blinking teary eyes against the sun. I used to think it was because they came from different worlds with different gravities and different atmospheres beneath differently colored suns.

Later I learned different.

There are no windows in a passenger spacecraft. If there were, half the passengers would go insane; it takes an unusual mentality to watch the blind-spot appearance of hyperspace and still keep one's marbles. For passengers there is nothing to watch and nothing to do, and if you don't like reading sixteen hours a day, then you drink. It's best to drink in company. You get less lushed, knowing you have to keep up your side of a conversation. The ship's doc has cured more hangovers than every other operation combined, right down to manicures and haircuts.

From FLATLANDER by Larry Niven (1967)

Psychological Problems

And then there are mental problems. The dread spectre of space madness.

Obviously there are problems with confining too many astronauts in a too-small habitat module for prolonged periods of time with not enough sleep and practically no privacy. Add pressure from ground control to work the astronauts to death coupled with boredom and you have a real recipe for blood floating all over the module. At least in an Arctic research station a researcher close to snapping can step outside for a breath of fresh air. Not so the astronaut

Cosmonaut Valery Ryumin, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, quotes this passage from The Handbook of Hymen by O. Henry in his autobiographical book about the Salyut 6 mission: “If you want to instigate the art of manslaughter just shut two men up in a eighteen by twenty-foot cabin for a month. Human nature won't stand it.”

This was sort of hinted at by the 1999-2000 Russian Sphinx-99 experiment. This enclosed six crewmembers in a simulated space station for six months. About two months into the experiment there was a bloody fist-fight between two of the Russian crewmembers. Shortly thereafter the Canadian female crewmember (Dr. Judith Lapierre) was dragged off camera by the Russian commander and forcibly french-kissed despite her vigorous protests. In two separate incidents.


And then there is the Break-Off effect. This was first reported before the dawn of space travel, by high altitude military airplane pilots. It was a type of psychological dissociative anomaly, a feeling of detachment. Most pilots felt peaceful, a few euphoric, and about a third were panic-stricken.

It was thought this would also happen with astronauts. But in the 1970's when cosmonauts and astronauts actually started flying the problem seemed to disappear.

It wasn't until recently that it became clear the Break-Off effect did not disappear in astronauts. What disappeared was the astronauts reporting it. Astronauts are in constant terror of being grounded, so they developed a "lie to fly" culture. The last thing they are going to do is report to the flight surgeons some scary mental breakdown that will get them grounded faster than a teenage girl staying out five hours past her curfew.

During the Apollo missions, some astronauts reported how the vision of Earth as the big blue marble caused a sudden cognitive shift in awareness. They suddenly saw Earth as a fragile ball of life where national boundaries became unimportant. A writer named Frank White coined the term The Overview Effect, and wrote a popular book on the topic in 1987. You can find some quotes about the effect here.

And there are some psychologists who suspect that the Break-Off Effect and the Overview Effect are one and the same.

CULTURAL ANALYSIS

Speculation about revolutionary developments is not, however, immediately relevant to a most pressing question about human adaptation to space: How can groups of people live and work together without psychological impairment or the breakdown of social order in the space stations, lunar bases, and Mars expeditions now being planned? Psychological and social problems in space living constitute, as both Soviet and American space veterans attest (Bluth 1981, Carr 1981), major barriers to be overcome in the humanization of space.

Coping with isolation from Earth, family, and friends and with the cramped confines of a space module or station has been enough of a challenge for carefully selected and highly trained spacefarers of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. As those cosmonauts who have been “pushing the endurance envelope” the farthest attest, staying longer and longer in space provokes severe psychological strain (Bluth 1981; Grigoriev, Kozerenko, and Myasnikov 1985; Oberg 1985, p. 21).

Now life in space is becoming even more complicated as “guest cosmonauts” from many nations join Soviet and American crews; as women join men; and as physicians, physicists, engineers, and other specialists routinely work alongside traditional cosmonauts and astronauts of the “right stuff”. How will all these different kinds of people get along in the space stations of the next decade and the lunar bases and martian outposts which are to follow? What measures can be taken which would reduce stress and make it easier for heterogeneous groups of people to work efficiently and safely and to live together amicably for months or even years in these space habitats?

Among social scientists it has been primarily the psychologists (Helmreich 1983), with a few jurists, sociologists, and political scientists joining in, who have tried to address these problems of space living. However, inasmuch as among the diverse lot of people who call themselves anthropologists there are those who are intensely interested in interpersonal relations and small group behavior, it should not be surprising that anthropologists might also be attracted to work in this field. Interestingly, some recent recruits come from maritime anthropology, where they have worked on the dynamics of small-boat fishing crews.

These and other anthropologists interested in space can bring to the field a degree of “hands-on” experience in working with “real” small groups—be they fishing crews, Antarctic scientists, or hunting and gathering bands.


Here I wish to suggest two specific areas in which this cultural perspective of anthropology could be useful: (1) in addressing the problems of cross-cultural relations among heterogeneous space crews and societies and (2) in the application of cultural resources to develop models for space living.


Cultural factors should not, however, be viewed solely in terms of impediments to successful space living, for they may also constitute valuable human resources to be tapped in adapting to space. In addition to seeking to promote cultural harmony among heterogeneous space crews, we might also seek out, from the multitude of cultural traditions among the Earth’s societies, those practices and institutions which could best promote harmonious and productive life in space.

As an example, consider interpersonal problems in a space habitat. J. Henry Glazer, an attorney who has pioneered the study of “astrolaw,” warns against exporting to space communities the adversarial approach to dispute resolution based on “medieval systems of courtroom combat” (Glazer 1985, p. 16). In small space habitats, where people cannot escape from one another but must work out ways of interacting peacefully and productively, adversarial proceedings would irritate an already sensitive social field. And how could the winners and losers of bitter courtroom battles live and work with each other afterwards?

One obvious suggestion is that systems which are designed to detect interpersonal problems early and head them off through mediation should be considered for space living. Glazer, for example, calls for a new kind of legal specialist—not an adversarial advocate, but someone who settles disputes on behalf of the interests of all spacefarers on a mission. He draws his model from the Tabula de Amalfa, the maritime code of the once powerful Mediterranean naval power of Amalfi. Their code provided for a “consul” who sailed aboard each merchant vessel with the power to adjudicate differences between master, crew, and others on board (Glazer 1985, pp. 26–27; Twiss 1876, p. 11). In addition to looking to this and perhaps other maritime analogs, it is tempting to suggest that, with an eye to the more distant future of large space settlements, we also examine major contemporary societies in which harmony and cooperation is stressed. The example of Japan, with its low crime rate and relative paucity of lawyers, comes to mind—although its utility as a model for international efforts may be limited in that Japan is such an ethnically homogeneous society

Bluth, B. J. 1981. Soviet Space Stress. Science 81, vol. 2, no. 7, pp. 30–35.
Carr, Gerald Paul. 1981. Comments from a Skylab Veteran. The Futurist 15:38.
Glazer, J. Henry. 1985. Astrolaw Jurisprudence in Space as a Place: Right Reason for the Right Stuff. Brooklyn J. Int. Law 11 (1): 1–43.
Grigoriev, A. I.; O. P. Kozerenko; and V. I. Myasnikov. 1985. Selected Problems of Psychological Support of Prolonged Space Flights. Preprint of a paper delivered at the Int. Astronaut. Fed. Congress, Stockholm.
Helmreich, Robert L. 1983. Applying Psychology in Outer Space. American Psychologist 38: 445–450.
Oberg, Alcestis R. 1985. Spacefarers of the ’80s and ’90s: The Next Thousand People in Space. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.
Twiss, Travers. 1876. The Black Book of the Admiralty, Vol. 4. London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office.
From SPACE MIGRATIONS: ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE HUMANIZATION OF SPACE by Ben R. Finney. Collected in Space Resources NASA SP-509 vol 4
THE MARTIAN WAY

     Rioz said, “Haven't you ever been in space, Ted?”
     “You know I have. Why do you ask?”
     “Sure, I know you have, but you still talk like a Grounder. Have you thought of the distances involved? The average asteroid is a hundred twenty million miles from Mars at the closest. That's twice the Venus-Mars hop and you know that hardly any liners do even that in one jump. They usually stop off at Earth or the Moon. After all, how long do you expect anyone to stay in space, man?
     “I don't know. What's your limit?”
     “You know the limit. You don't have to ask me. It's six months. That's handbook data. After six months, if you're still in space, you're psychotherapy meat. Right, Dick?”
     Swenson nodded.
     “And that's just the asteroids,” Rioz went on. “From Mars to Jupiter is three hundred thirty million miles, and to Saturn it's seven hundred million. How can anyone handle that kind of distance? Suppose you hit standard velocity, or, to make it even, say you get up to a good two hundred kilomiles an hour. It would take you—let's see, allowing time for acceleration and deceleration—about six or seven months to get to Jupiter and nearly a year to get to Saturn. Of course, you could hike the speed to a million miles an hour, theoretically, but where would you get the water to do that?”...
     ...Long said, “I'm talking about Saturn, not Vesta.”
     Rioz addressed an unseen audience. ”I tell him seven hundred million miles and he keeps on talking.”
     “All right,” said Long, “suppose you tell me how you know we can only stay in space six months, Mario?
     “It's common knowledge, damn it.”
     “Because it's in the Handbook of Space Flight. It's data compiled by Earth scientists from experience with Earth pilots and spacemen. You're still thinking Grounder style. You won't think the Martian way.
     “A Martian may be a Martian, but he's still a man.”
     “But how can you be so blind? How many times have you fellows been out for over six months without a break?”
     Rioz said, “That's different.”
     “Because you're Martians? Because you're professional Scavengers?”
     “No. Because we're not on a flight. We can put back for Mars any time we want to.”
     “But you don't want to. That's my point. Earthmen have tremendous ships with libraries of films, with a crew of fifteen plus passengers. Still, they can only stay out six months maximum. Martian Scavengers have a two-room ship with only one partner. But we can stick it out more than six months.
     Dora said, “I suppose you want to stay in a ship for a year and go to Saturn.”
     “Why not, Dora?” said Long. ”We can do it. Don't you see we can? Earthmen can't. They've got a real world. They've got open sky and fresh food, all the air and water they want. Getting into a ship is a terrible change for them. More than six months is too much for them for that very reason. Martians are different. We've been living on a ship our entire lives.
     “That's all Mars is—a ship. It's just a big ship forty-five hundred miles across with one tiny room in it occupied by fifty thousand people. It's closed in like a ship. We breathe packaged air and drink packaged water, which we repurify over and over. We eat the same food rations we eat aboard ship. When we get into a ship, it's the same thing we've known all our lives. We can stand it for a lot more than a year if we have to.

From THE MARTIAN WAY by Isaac Asimov (1952)

Discworld Mine Sign

Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are satirical fantasy for thinking people. While they are comedy, many of the jokes require a bit of scientific knowledge on the part of the reader. Which explains why I find them so entertaining. My personal favorites are The Truth (the invention of the newspaper), Going Postal (post office vs the Victorian internet), and Raising Steam (the invention of the steam locomotive).

Anyway like many fantasy novels the Discworld has a race of dwarfs. They spend most of their time in cramped mines in very close quarters with other dwarfs. Things can get tense.

Much like spacers on a prolonged deep-space mission in a tiny hab module, actually. Or asteroid miners.

As a sort of social network to reduce tensions Discworld dwarves use something called "mine signs", a species of graffiti. I am wondering of the idea can be adapted to a rocketpunk universe. Imagine Banksy using Spacers Runic

THUD!

     'And talking of shapes, do you know what this means? I spotted it in the mine, and a dwarf called Helmclever scrawled it in some spilt coffee, and you know what? I think he was only half aware that he'd done it.'
     Carrot picked up the notebook and regarded the sketch solemnly for a moment.
     'Mine sign, sir,' he said. 'It means "the Following Dark".'
     'And what does that mean?'
     'Er, that things are pretty bad down there, sir,' said Carrot earnestly. 'Oh dear.' He put the notebook down slowly, as if half afraid that it might explode.
     'Well, there has been a murder, captain,' Vimes pointed out.
     'Yes, Sir. But this might mean something worse, sir. Mine-sign is a very strange phenomenon.'
     'There was a sign like it over the door, only there was just one line and it was horizontal,' Vimes added.
     'Oh, that'd be the Long Dark rune, sir,' said Carrot dismissively. 'It's just the symbol for a mine. Nothing to worry about.'

     'What are these mine signs all about?' he said. 'That Helmclever sort of drew one at me. I saw one on the wall, too. And you drew one.
     "'The Following Dark",' said Carrot. 'Yes. It was scrawled all over the place.'
     'What does it mean?'
     'Dread, sir,' said Carrot earnestly. 'A warning of terrible things to come.'
     'Well, if one of those little sods so much as surfaces with one of those flame weapons in his hand that will be true. But you mean they scrawl it on walls?'
     Carrot nodded. 'You have to understand about a dwarf mine, sir. It's a kind of—'

     —emotional hothouse, was how Vimes understood it, although no dwarf would ever describe it that way. Humans would have gone insane living like that, cramped together, no real privacy, no real silence, seeing the same faces every day for years on end. And since there were a lot of pointy weapons around, it'd only be a matter of time before the ceilings dripped blood.
     Dwarfs didn't go mad. They stayed thoughtful and sombre and keen on their job. But they scrawled mine-sign.
     It was like an unofficial ballot, voting by graffiti, showing your views on what was going on. In the confines of a mine any problem was everyone's problem, stress leapt from dwarf to dwarf like lightning. The signs earthed it. They were an outlet, a release, a way of showing what you felt without challenging anyone (because of all the pointy weapons).
     The Following Dark: We await what follows with dread. Another translation might mean, in effect: Repent, ye sinners!

     'There's the Waiting Dark that's the dark that fills a new hole. The Closing Dark I don't know about that one, but there's an Opening Dark, too. The Breathing Dark, that's rare. The Calling Dark, very dangerous. The Speaking Dark, the Catching Dark. The Secret Dark, I've seen that. They're all fine. But the Following Dark is a very bad sign. I used to hear the older dwarfs talking about that. They said it could make lamps go out, and much worse things. When people start drawing that sign, things have got very bad.'
     'This is all very interesting, but-'
     'Everyone in the mine is as nervous as heck, sir. Stressed like wires. Angua said she could smell it, but so could I, sir. I grew up in a mine. When something is wrong, everyone catches it. On days like that, sir, my father used to stop all mining operations. You get too many accidents. Frankly, sir, the dwarfs are mad with worry. The Following Dark signs are everywhere. It's probably the miners they've hired since they came here. They feel that something is very wrong, but the only thing they can do about it is sign.'

     'Captain, I'm getting a bit lost here,' said Vimes. 'I didn't grow up in a mine. Are these signs drawn because dwarfs think bad things are going to happen and want to ward them off, or think the mine deserves the bad things happening, or because they want the bad things to happen?'
     'Can be all three at once,' said Carrot, wincing. 'It can get really intense when a mine goes bad.'

From THUD! by Terry Pratchett (2005)

Social Media

On a spacecraft it might be considered a bit ghetto-like to spray-paint Dwarf Mine Signs on the corridor walls to blow off emotional steam, even if you are using Spacer's Runic. Especially if this is a military spacecraft.

A more sophisticated method to deal with crew getting cabin fever would be to use a shipboard version of social media (space twitter) sending hashtags as a reflexive meta-commentary ( #THEFOODSTINKS! ). The main thing is that the messages have to be sent anonymously. Just like graffiti.

There was something like that in Sir Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Songs of Distant Earth, called "Shipnet."

SHIPNET

(ed note: the vacuum-energy drive STL starship Magellan is making a stop-over at the interstellar colony Thalassa to renew their solid ice debris shield. During the stop-over, some of the crew figure they might as well stay on Thalassa.)

Annoyed at letting his attention stray from the immediate problem, the captain reread the message he now knew by heart:


SHIPNET: NO DATE NO TIME TO: CAPTAIN FROM: ANON

Sir: A number of us wish to make the following proposal, which we put forward for your most serious consideration. We suggest that our mission be terminated here at Thalassa.

All its objectives will be realized, without the additional risks involved in proceeding to Sagan 2. We fully recognize that this will involve problems with the existing population, but we believe they can be solved with the technology we possess - specifically, the use of tectonic engineering to increase the available land area.

As per Regulations, Section 14, Para 24 (a), we respectfully request that a Ship’s Council be held to discuss this matter as soon as possible.

     ‘So I should hope,’ Captain Bey said impatiently. ‘Have you any idea who could have sent it?’
     ‘None whatsoever. Excluding the three of us, I’m afraid we have 158 suspects.’…
     …‘That doesn’t narrow the field much,’ the Captain said, managing a bleak smile. ‘Have you any theories, Doctor?’
     Indeed I have, Kaldor thought. I lived on Mars for two of its long years; my money would be on the Sabras. But that’s only a hunch, and I may be wrong…
     ‘Not yet, Captain. But I’ll keep my eyes open. If I find anything, I’ll inform you — as far as possible.’
     The two officers understood him perfectly. In his role as counsellor, Moses Kaldor was not even responsible to the captain. He was the nearest thing aboard Magellan to a father confessor.
     ‘I assume, Dr Kaldor, that you’ll certainly let me know — if you uncover information that could endanger this mission.’
     Kaldor hesitated, then nodded briefly. He hoped he would not find himself in the traditional dilemma of the priest who received the confession of a murderer — who was still planning his crime.
     I’m not getting much help, the captain thought sourly. But I have absolute trust in these two men, and need someone to confide in. Even though the final decision must be mine.
     ‘The first question is should I answer this message or ignore it? Either move could be risky. If it’s only a casual suggestion — perhaps from a single individual in a moment of psychological disturbance — I might be unwise to take it too seriously. But if it’s from a determined group, then perhaps a dialogue may help. It could defuse the situation. It could also identify those concerned.’ And what would you do then? the captain asked himself. Clap them in irons?
     ‘I think you should talk to them,’ Kaldor said. ‘Problems seldom go away if they’re ignored.’
     Captain Bey found it distinctly unsettling, having to go about the ship’s business not knowing who — or how many — of his officers or crew were addressing him through the anonymity of SHIPNET. There was no way that these unlogged inputs could be traced — confidentiality was their very purpose, built in as a stabilizing social mechanism by the long-dead geniuses who had designed Magellan. He had tentatively raised the subject of a tracer with his chief communications engineer, but Commander Rocklyn had been so shocked that he had promptly dropped the matter.

     It was a simple question, but it did not have a simple answer: What would happen to discipline aboard Magellan if the very purpose of the ship’s mission was put to the vote?
     Of course, any result would not be binding, and he could override it if necessary. He would have to, if a majority decided to stay (not that for a moment he imagined …) But such an outcome would be psychologically devastating. The crew would be divided into two factions, and that could lead to situations he preferred not to contemplate…
     …And now his unknown petitioners were calling themselves the New Thalassans. Did that mean, Captain Bey wondered, that there were many of them and they were getting organized into a political movement? If so, perhaps the best thing would be to get them out into the open as soon as possible.
     Yes, it was time to call Ship’s Council.

     …‘And who will present the motions? We can’t expect the New Thalassans to come out into the open and plead their case.’
     ‘I wish we could have a straight vote without any arguments and discussions,’ Deputy Captain Malina had lamented.
     Privately, Captain Bey agreed. But this was a democratic society of responsible, highly educated men, and Ship’s Orders recognized that fact. The New Thalassans had asked for a Council to air their views; if he refused, he would be disobeying his own letters of appointment and violating the trust given him on Earth two hundred years ago.

     It had not been easy to arrange the Council. Since everyone, without exception, had to be given a chance of voting, schedules and duty rosters had to be reorganized and sleep periods disrupted. The fact that half the crew was down on Thalassa presented another problem that had never arisen before — that of security. Whatever its outcome might be, it was highly undesirable that the Lassans overhear the debate …
     And so Loren Lorenson was alone, with the door of his Tarna office locked for the first time he could recall, when the Council began. Once again he was wearing full-view goggles; but this time he was not drifting through a submarine forest. He was aboard Magellan, in the familiar assembly room, looking at the faces of colleagues, and whenever he switched his viewpoint, at the screen on which their comments and their verdict would be displayed. At the moment it bore one brief message:

RESOLVED: That the Starship Magellan terminate its mission at Thalassa as all its prime objectives can be achieved here.
     ‘Captain, officers, fellow crewmembers — although this is our first Council, you all know the rules of procedure. If you wish to speak, hold up your hand to be recognized. If you wish to make a written statement, use your keypad; the addresses have been scrambled to ensure anonymity. In either case, please be as brief as possible…
     …For at least a minute, nothing happened. Then letters began to appear on the screen.

002. WOULD THE CAPTAIN PLEASE GIVE THE LATEST ESTIMATE OF PROBABLE MISSION SUCCESS

003. WHY NOT REVIVE A REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE OF THE SLEEPERS TO POLL THEIR OPINION

004. WHY NOT ASK THE LASSANS WHAT THEY THINK. IT’S THEIR WORLD


     With total secrecy and neutrality, the computer stored and numbered the inputs from the Council members. In two millennia, no one had been able to invent a better way of sampling group opinion and obtaining a consensus. All over the ship — and down on Thalassa — men and women were tapping out messages on the seven buttons of their little one-hand keypads. Perhaps the earliest skill acquired by any child was the ability to touch-type all the necessary combinations without even thinking about them.
     Loren swept his eye across the audience and was amused to note that almost everyone had both hands in full view. He could see nobody with the typical far-off look, indicating that a private message was being transmitted via a concealed keypad. But somehow, a lot of people were talking.

021. APART FROM KRAKAN, WHICH THEY CANT DO MUCH ABOUT, THE LASSANS DON’T HAVE ANY SERIOUS CHALLENGES. MAYBE WE SHOULD LEAVE THEM SOME. KNR
     That would be, let’s see … Of course — Kingsley Rasmussen. Obviously he had no wish to remain incognito. He was expressing a thought that at one time or other had occurred to almost everyone.

From THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH by Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1985)

How Space Kills You

A NASA technician said "If you treat vacuum as you would poison gas you won't go far wrong."

How does space kill you? Let me count the ways. Face it, the human body was not designed to properly function in the vacuum of space. At a rough guess a person can survive space exposure as long as they are placed back inside a pressured atmosphere within 90 seconds. After that time, death might be unavoidable. You will only have about ten seconds before you become unconscious. Dr. Geoffrey Landis has an analysis here. There are some more links on the topic of explosive decompression here.

And anybody who's seen 2001 A Space Odyssey knows that a human exposed to vacuum is not going to pop like a balloon.

In order of lethality the effects are:

Ebullism
Formation of gas bubbles in bodily fluids by reduction of environmental pressure aka your blood starts to boil. Your eyes and mouth freeze due to evaporative cooling, tissue dies with loss of oxygen, entire body swells enormously, circulatory failure, muscle failure due to flaccid paralysis, lungs collapse and fill with ice.
Hypoxia
The body being deprived of adequate oxygen supply aka there ain't nothing to breath in space. Ataxia, confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, behavioral change, severe headaches, reduced level of consciousness, papilloedema, breathlessness, pallor, tachycardia, pulmonary hypertension, cyanosis, bradycardia, cor pulmonale, low blood pressure, death
Hypocapnia
A state of reduced carbod dioxide in the blood aka turbocharged hyperventilation. Transient dizziness, visual disturbances, anxiety, pins and needles sensation, muscle cramps and tetany in hands and feet.
Decompression Sickness
Dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside the body on depressurisation aka turn your blood stream into red foam like a shaken can of soda pop. Symptoms may range from rash to agonizing joint paint to death.
Extreme Temperature Variations
In sunlight at Terra's orbit the body may overheat, in shadow the body can lose heat at a rate of up to 1,000 watts.
Radiation
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet, x-rays, and energized protons can cause death by organ failure, short-term exposure may cause cancer.

If you take glass of water, and lower the air pressure, the temperature point at which the water boils is lowered as well. This is why cake mixes have high altitude instructions: the watery part has a lower boiling point/maximum temperature than normal so it takes longer to cook. If you are living in a habitat module with a pure oxygen breathing mix, the pressure will be at about 32.4 kPa (80% normal Terran atmospheric pressure). Here too the cake mixes will take longer to cook since water boils at 70° C, and your tea will always be lukewarm.

What I am leading up to is the Armstrong Limit. You see, if the pressure drops to 6.3 kPa, water will boil at 37° C. Which just happens to be normal human body temperature. The saliva will boil off your tongue, the tears will boil off your eyes. If you become so frightened that you pee in your pants, that will boil as well. The same goes for poop but that's a horrible image I just don't want to think about.

The blood will boil in your veins too, were it not for the fortunate fact that your skin will pressurize your vascular system enough to prevent that unhappy state of affairs. This is why soft suits can get away with not pressurizing your body.

Naturally astronauts will not commonly be constantly exposed to 6.3 kPa. Much more likly they will briefly encounter it as the pressure plummets to zero kPa, as all the breathing mix goes rushing out a deadly tear in their space suit or a major breech in the hull of the habitat module.

But in any event if your saliva starts to boil, be aware that you have only ten seconds to get to safety before you lose consiousness, and 80 additional seconds for your buddies to drag you into somewhere pressurized before you die. Be quick or be dead.

In addition: hands, feet, arms, and legs that are no pressurized will suffer an attack of Kittinger Syndrome. They will swell up to about twice normal size, with accompanying agonizing pain. Bringing back pressure will return them to normal, but if swollen for more than a few minutes there wil be aneurisms and hematomas.

VAC BITE

We've had our expected quota of minor industrial accidents. Cuts, bruises, contusions, a few broken bones, some cases of exhaustion because a rigger worked beyond his limits in vacuum and zero-g, a couple of burns, but nothing really serious until we ran into "vac bite."

The safety compartmentalization of the P-suits hasn't always been a safety measure, although it's undoubtedly saved many lives from traumatic abaryia (sudden loss of all pressure in one's space suit). Nobody thought about secondary effects. The cuff latch on a man's glove jailed yesterday, and the glove blew away. "Vac bite"—which is what we're calling it colloquially until I can figure out a suitable Greco-Latin term —is the result of exposure of the extremities to vacuum conditions.

The extremity—hand, foot, arm, etc.—doesn't explode; connective tissue's strong and the human skin's remarkably tough. But the extremity swells up in the Kittinger Syndrome, first experienced by Captain Joseph Kittinger during a stratospheric parachute jump back in 1960. The absence of atmospheric pressure causes vasodilation and edema, which becomes very painful. The swelling also inhibits movement. If the abaryic condition prevails for several minutes, it can cause aneurism and rupture of the capillary walls followed by hematomas. Unless there's a cut or other opening in the skin, there's little chance of blood loss. But if the abaryic condition continues, tissue's destroyed. The course of the affliction begins to parallel that of frostbite, which is the reason it got its vernacular name. It's painful as hell and immobilizes the extremity. Right now, the only way we know to treat it is with cold packs or hypothermic immersion, along with analgesics and mild diuretics. I'm thinking about the possibility of trying a hyperbaric chamber, but we haven't got one here yet. Maybe in a year or so.

No bends yet. Everyone flushes the nitrogen out of his system for thirty minutes by breathing pure Oh-two before cycling into vacuum. But if there were an explosive decompression of any of the living spaces in GEO Base or with my paramedics on an emergency, we'd get bends because we're running an oxynitrogen atmosphere.

From SPACE DOCTOR by Lee Correy (G. Harry Stine) 1981
DR. FRANKLIN RELATES A TRAGIC EXPERIENCE

"You know what the folks back home don't understand, the ones who've never left Earth, is just how dangerous space can be. Aside from incidents like this, just the everyday reality of living your days and nights in a big tin can surrounded by a vacuum."

"I remember my first time on a transport, on the Moon-Mars run. I was just a kid, maybe seventeen. A buddy of mine was messing around, and zipping through the halls, and he hid in one of the airlocks. I don't know, I guess he was gonna try to scare us or something, I don't know... But just as I got close, he must have hit the wrong button because the air doors slammed shut, the space doors opened, and he... just flew out into space."

"And the one thing they never tell you is that you don't die instantly in vacuum. He just hung there against the black like a puppet with his strings all tangled up... or one of those old cartoons where you run off the edge of the cliff and your legs keep going."

"You could see that he was trying to breathe, but there was nothing. The one thing I remember when they pulled in his body... his eyes were frozen."

"A lot of people make jokes about spacing somebody, about shoving somebody out an airlock -- I don't think it's funny. Never will."

From BABYLON 5: "AND NOW FOR A WORD".
EARTHLIGHT

      "Pegasus to Acheron," he replied. "I have three hundred passengers aboard. I cannot hazard my ship if there is danger of an explosion."
     "There is no danger, I can guarantee that. We will have at least five minutes' warning, which will give us ample time to get clear of you."
     "Very well—I'll get my airlocks ready and my crew standing by to pass you a line."
     There was a pause longer than that dictated by the sluggish progress of radio waves. Then Brennan replied: "That's our trouble. We're cut off in the forward section. There are no external locks here, and we have only five suits among a hundred and twenty men."
     Halstead whistled and turned to his navigating officer before answering.
     "There's nothing we can do for them," he said. "They'll to crack the hull to get out, and that will be the end of everyone exceed the five men in the suits. We can't even lend them our own suits—there'll be no way we can get them aboard without letting down the pressure." He flicked over microphone switch.
     "Pegasus to Acheron. How do you suggest we can assist you?" It was eerie to be speaking to a man who was already as good as dead. The traditions of space were as strict as those of the sea. Five men could leave the Acheron alive, but her captain would not be among them.
     Halstead did not know that Commodore Brennan had other ideas, and had by no means abandoned hope, desperate though the situation on board the Acheron seemed. His chief medical officer, who had proposed the plan, was already explaining it to the crew.

     "This is what we're going to do," said the small, dark man who a few months ago had been one of the best surgeons on Venus. "We can't get at the airlocks, because there's vacuum all round us and we've only got five suits. This ship was built for fighting, not for carrying passengers, and I'm afraid her designers had other matters to think about besides Standard Spaceworthiness Regs. Here we are, and we have to make the best of it.
     "We'll be alongside the Pegasus in a couple of hours. Luckily for us, she's got big locks for loading freight and passengers there's room for thirty or forty men to crowd into them, if they squeeze tight—and aren't wearing suits. Yes, I know that sounds bad, but it's not suicide. You're going to breathe space, and get away with it! I won't say it will be enjoyable, but it will be something to brag about for the rest of your lives.
     "Now listen carefully. The first thing I've got to prove to you is that you can live for five minutes without breathing—in fact, without wanting to breathe. It's a simple trick: Yogis and magicians have known it for centuries, but there's nothing occult about it and it's based on common-sense physiology. To give you confidence, I want you to make this test."
     The M. O. pulled a stop watch out of his pocket, ad continued: "When I say 'Now!' I want you to exhale completely—empty your lungs of every drop of air—and then see how long you can stay before you have to take a breath. Don't strain—just hold out until it becomes uncomfortable, then start breathing again normally. I'll start counting the seconds after fifteen, so you can tell what you managed to do. If anyone can't take the quarter minute, I'll recommend his instant dismissal from the Service."
     The ripple of laughter broke the tension, as it had been intended to; then the M. O. held up his hand, and swept it down with a shout of "Now!" There was a great sigh as the entire company emptied its lungs; then utter silence.
     When the M. O. started counting at "Fifteen," there were a few gasps from those who had barely been able to make the grade. He went on counting to "Sixty" accompanied by occasional explosive pants as one man after another capitulated. Some were still stubbornly holding out after a full minute, "That's enough," said the little surgeon. "You tough guys can stop showing off, you're spoiling the experiment."
     Again there was a murmur of amusement; the men were rapidly regaining their morale. They still did not understand what was happening, but at least some plan was afoot that offered them a hope of rescue.
     "Let's see how we managed," said the M. O. "Hands up all those who held out for fifteen to twenty seconds…Now twenty to twenty-five…Now twenty-five to thirty—Jones, you're a damn liar—you folded up at fifteen!—Now thirty to thirty-five… When he had finished the census, it was clear that more than half the company had managed to hold their breath for thirty seconds, and no one had failed to reach fifteen seconds.
     "That's about what I expected," said the M. O. "You can regard this as a control experiment, and now we come on to the real thing. I ought to tell you that we're now breathing almost pure oxygen here, at about three hundred millimeters. So although the pressure in the ship is less than half its sea-level value on Earth, your lungs are taking in twice as much oxygen as they would on Earth, and still more than they would on Mars or Venus. If any of you have sneaked off to have a surreptitious smoke in the toilet, you'll already have noticed that the air was rich, as your cigarette will only have lasted a few seconds.

     "I'm telling you all this because it will increase your confidence to know what is going on. What you're going to do now is to flush out your lungs and fill your system with oxygen. It's called hyperventilation, which is simply a ten dollar word for deep breathing. When I give the signal, I want you all to breathe as deeply as you can, then exhale completely, and carry on breathing in the same way until I tell you to stop. I'll tell you do it for a minute; some of you may feel a bit dizzy at the end of that time, but it'll pass. Take in all the air you can with every breath; swing your arms to get maximum chest expansion.
     "Then, when the minute's up, I'll tell you to exhale, then stop breathing, and I'll begin counting seconds again. I think I can promise you a big surprise. O. K.—here we go!"
     For the next minutes, the overcrowded compartments of the Acheron presented a fantastic spectacle. More than a hundred men were flailing their arms and breathing stertorously, as if each was at his last gasp. Some were too closely packed together to breathe as deeply as they would have liked, and all had to anchor themselves somehow so that their exertion would not cause them to drift around the cabins.
     "Now!" shouted the M. O. "Stop breathing—blow out all your air—and see how long you can manage before you've got to start again. I'll count the seconds, but this time I won't begin until half a minute has gone."
     The result, it was obvious, left everyone flabbergasted. One man failed to make the minute, otherwise almost two minutes elapsed before most of the men felt the need to breathe again. Indeed, to have taken a breath before then would have demanded a deliberate effort. Some men were still perfectly comfortable after three or four minutes; one was holding out at five when the doctor stopped him.
     "I think you'll all see what I was trying to prove. When your lungs are flushed out with oxygen, you just don't want to breathe for several minutes, any more than you want to eat again after a heavy meal. It's no strain or hardship; it's not a question of holding your breath. And if your life depended on it, you could do even better than this, I promise you.
     "Now we're going to tie up right alongside the Pegasus; it will take less than thirty seconds to get over to her. She'll have her men out in suits to push along any stragglers, and the air lock doors will be slammed shut as soon as you're all inside. Then the lock will be flooded with air and you'll be none the worse except for some bleeding noses."
     He hoped that was true. There was only one way to find out. It was a dangerous and unprecedented gamble, but there was no alternative. At least it would give every man a fighting chance for his life.
     "Now," he continued, "you're probably wondering about the pressure drop. That's the only uncomfortable part, but you won't be in a vacuum long enough for severe damage. We'll open the hatches in two stages; first we'll drop pressure slowly to a tenth of an atmosphere, then we'll blow out completely in one bang and make a dash for it. Total decompression's painful, but not dangerous. Forget all that nonsense you may have heard about the human body blowing up in a vacuum. We're a lot tougher than that, and the final drop we're going to make from a tenth of an atmosphere to zero is considerably less than men have already stood in lab tests. Hold your mouth wide open and let yourself break wind. You'll feel your skin stinging all over, but you'll probably be too busy to notice that."
     The M. O. paused, and surveyed his quiet, intent audience. They were all taking it very well, but that was only to be expected. Every one was a trained man—they were the pick of the planets' engineers and technicians.
     "As a matter of fact," the surgeon continued cheerfully, "you'll probably laugh when I tell you the biggest danger of the lot. It's nothing more than sunburn. Out there you'll be in the sun's raw ultra-violet, unshielded by atmosphere. It can give you a nasty blister in thirty seconds, so we'll make the crossing in the shadow of the Pegasus. If you happen to get outside that shadow, just shield your face with your arm. Those of you who've got gloves might as well wear them.
     "Well, that's the picture. I'm going to cross with the first team just to show how easy it is. Now I want you to split up into four groups, and I'll drill you each separately."

     Side by side, the Pegasus and the Acheron raced toward the distant planet that only one of them would ever reach. The airlocks of the liner were open, gaping wide no more than a few meters from the hull of the crippled battleship. The space between the two vessels was strung with guide ropes, and among them floated the men of the liner's crew, ready to give assistance if any of the escaping men were overcome during the brief but dangerous crossing.
     It was lucky for the crew of the Acheron that four pressure bulkheads were still intact. Their ship could still be divided into four separate compartments, so that a quarter of the crew could leave at a time. The airlocks of the Pegasus could not have held everyone at once if a mass escape had been necessary.
     Captain Halstead watched from the bridge as the signal given. There was a sudden puff of smoke from the hull of the battleship, then the emergency hatch—certainly never designed for an emergency such as this—blew away into space. A cloud of dust and condensing vapor blasted out, obscuring the view for a second. He knew how the waiting men would feel the escaping air sucking at their bodies, trying to tear them away from their handholds.
     When the cloud had dispersed, the first men had already emerged. The leader was wearing a spacesuit, and all the others were strung on the three lines attached to him. Instantly, men from the Pegasus grabbed two of the lines and darted off to their respective airlocks. The men of the Acheron, Halstead was relieved to see, all appeared to be conscious and to be doing everything they could to help.
     It seemed ages before the last figure on its drifting line was towed or pushed into an airlock. Then the voice from one of those spacesuited figures out there shouted, "Close Number Three!" Number One followed almost at once; but there was an agonizing delay before the signal for Two came. Halstead could not see what was happening; presumably someone was still outside and holding up the rest. But at last all the locks were closed. There was no time to fill them in the normal way; valves were jerked open by brute force and the chambers filled with air from the ship.
     Aboard the Acheron, Commodore Brennan waited with remaining ninety men, in the three Compartments that were unsealed. They had formed their groups and were strung in chains of ten behind their leaders. Everything had been planned and rehearsed; the next few seconds would prove whether or not in vain.
     Then the ship's speakers announced, in an almost quietly conversational tone: Pegasus to Acheron. We've got all your men out of the locks. No casualties. A few hemorrhages. Give us five minutes to get ready for the next batch."

     They lost one man on the last transfer. He panicked and they had to slam the lock shut without him, rather than risk the lives of all the others. It seemed a pity that they could not all have made it, but for the moment everyone was too thankful to worry about that.

From EARTHLIGHT by Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1955)

McAndrew stood at the outer lock, ready to open it. I pulled the whistle from the lapel of my jacket and blew hard. The varying triple tone sounded through the lock. Penalty for improper use of any Sturm Invocation was severe, whether you used spoken, whistled, or electronic methods. I had never invoked it before, but anyone who goes into space, even if it is just a short trip from Earth to Moon, must receive Sturm vacuum survival programming. One person in a million uses it. I stood in the lock, waiting to see what would happen to me.

The sensation was strange. I still had full command of my movements, but a new set of involuntary activities came into play. Without any conscious decision to do so I found that I was breathing hard, hyper-ventilating in great gulps. My eye-blinking pattern had reversed. Instead of open eyes with rapid blinks to moisten and clean the eyeball, my lids were closed except for brief instants. I saw the lock and the space outside as quick snapshots.

The Sturm Invocation had the same effect an McAndrew, as his own deep programming took over for vacuum exposure. When I nodded, he swung open the outer lock door. The air was gone in a puff of ice vapor. As my eyes flicked open I saw the capsule at the top of the landing tower. To reach it we had to traverse sixty meters of the interstellar vacuum. And we had to carry Sven Wicklund's unconscious body between us.

For some reason I had imagined that the Sturm vacuum programming would make me insensitive to all pain. Quite illogical, since you could permanently damage your body all too easily in that situation. I felt the agony of expansion through my intestines, as the air rushed out of all my body cavities. My mouth was performing an automatic yawning and gasping, emptying the Eustachian tube to protect my ear drums and delicate inner ear. My eyes were closed to protect the eyeballs from freezing, and open just often enough to guide my body movements.

Holding Wicklund between us, McAndrew and I pushed off into the open depths of space. Ten seconds later, we intersected the landing tower about twenty meters up. Sturm couldn't make a human comfortable in space, but he had provided a set of natural movements that corresponded to a zero-gee environment. They were needed. If we missed the tower there was no other landing point within light-years.

The metal of the landing tower was at a temperature several hundred degrees below freezing. Our hands were unprotected, and I could feel the ripping of skin at each contact. That was perhaps the worst pain. The feeling that I was a ball, over-inflated and ready to burst, was not a pain. What was it? That calls for the same sort of skills as describing sight to a blind man. All I can say is that once in a lifetime is more than enough.

Thirty seconds in the vacuum, and we were still fifteen meters from the capsule. I was getting the first feeling of anoxia, the first moment of panic. As we dropped into the capsule and tagged shut the hatch I could feel the black clouds moving around me, dark nebulae that blanked out the bright star field.

The transfer capsule had no real air lock. When I hit the air supply, the whole interior began to fill with warm oxygen. As the concentration grew to a perceptible fraction of an atmosphere, I felt something turn off abruptly within me. My eye blinking went back to the usual pattern, my mouth closed instead of gaping and gasping, and the black patches started to dwindle and fragment.

From "ALL THE COLORS OF THE VACUUM" by Charles Sheffield (1981)

Artist Nathan Hoste is doing a well-researched series called Bodies in Space on all the damage space does to an unprotected human. Warning, images may be considered NSFW.

Stupidity

Arguably the biggest killer in the space environment is Stupidity.

Larry Niven coined the phrase "Think of it as evolution in action".

CAUSAM MORTIS

“What’s retirement?”

In the inchoate years of the space age, the “old age” cause of death was abrogated in favor of more precise terms: “heart failure”, “secondary infection from weakened immune response”, und so weiter.

In subsequent years, a new cause was added: “stupidity”.

Space is hazardous to the point of absurdity. Leaking atmo? Death. Forget your transfer window? Death. Out of EVA fuel? Death. The universe is cold and dispassionate, and with better tools and equipment, the human error of incompetence increasingly–and vastly–was outstripping pure technological failure.

When the report came in of another deceased spacer, the cause of death ended up being “stupidity” more than 3/4 of the time. Did it really matter that he suffocated on his own vomited organs? No. It mattered that, due to stupidity, he ventured outside the shadow shield of his atom-ship. Did it really matter that her flesh slowly charred away, trapped by her own skeleton in restraints of melting steel? No. It mattered that she crammed her ship full of personal effects and didn’t have enough fuel to break atmo.

Death in space environments is final and harsh. And when a corpse can be recovered, exact specificity in cause is wasted inquiry, and never comfort to the bereaved.

From CAUSAM MORTIS by Ian Mallett (2016)
AND THAT'S JUST HOW WE LIKE IT

Space will kill you in any number of ways. So, in fact, will most planets that aren’t your homeworld or close copies of it.

Simple risks will kill you, if you don’t keep a weather eye on them. Radiation, vacuum, dioxide, heat. Leaks, breakdowns, inefficiencies. Not paying attention to where your air and water and other things that just magically exist for the taking downside come from, that’ll kill you, too. Carelessness, inattention, expediency, pragmatism, shortcut-taking, an excessively casual approach to maintenance procedures — all things that bring an automatic death sentence at the hands of the uncaring, pedantic universe. Incompetence, determined ignorance, and native stupidity, even more so. And indulging one’s fond delusions about the nature of reality, that’ll kill you fastest of all.

These are the reasons why many sensible people from many sensible civilizations choose not to go there.

The people who scattered habs across the entire system from Oculus to Farside, from Eurymir to Galine, from corona-scraping Salamandrine to lonely Blackwatch, on the other hand, considered these things advantages.

— introduction to Tin Cans and Checklists: The Early Days, by Aithne Silverfall

TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE

Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.

From TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE by Robert Heinlein (1973)

Atomic Rockets notices

This week's featured addition is Bimodal Hybrid NTR NEP 2

This week's featured addition is Mars Base Camp

This week's featured addition is Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage

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