Building Ships on Earth
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By etrigan - Last updated: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 - Save & Share - 4 Comments

There are a few science-minded folks who read on the Backporch. I would like hear your thoughts on a weighty matter that will grow very important over the coming month. Please, give me your considered opinion. Think of the physics, the economics, and the political ramifications; then let me know where you stand.


The new Star Trek movie shows a spaceship being built in a canyon. Some of the geek elite complain because this is in conflict with the Trek canon. Since the film’s existence makes it part of the canon I won’t argue that, but some believe it doesn’t make sense to build a spaceship on the surface. I disagree for the following reasons:

* the energy cost of transporting materials, either raw or in prefab parts, from the planet are the same in toto or in pieces, so gravity’s costs is meaningless
* the OSHA requirements (and real safety concerns ;) ) for space workers would be complicated by an exponential factor
* technology advances that make spaceflight possible would make it possible to pull raw materials somewhere away from a/the planet, but the cost to move those to earth orbit would be outweighed

What do you think?

Posted in Entertainment, Rants • Tags: , , Top Of Page

4 Responses to “Building Ships on Earth”

Comment from robblogg
Time April 8, 2009 at 8:22 pm

So are we ignoring the NX-01 we saw on ‘Enterprise’, the TV show as well as all the other ships we saw in the opening credits? Moonbase etc., all gone?

So, no way to build in space/on moon?

The only real question is the lift capability and cost.

If you have warp, presumably using tugs or something to pull it into orbit possibly assisted by the ships own engines isn’t an issue. So, might as well build on earth.

The problem is you are thinking in current terms, IMHO.

Comment from etrigan
Time April 8, 2009 at 9:07 pm

* “…ignoring … we saw on…” ?

yes, “part of the canon I won’t argue that”.

* “no way to build in space/on moon”

nope, didn’t say that either.

* “real question is the…cost”

that’s what i’m saying. taking parts, raw materials, manufacturing equipment, union labor plus all the red tape needed to cover safety regulations into orbit is more expensive than lifting the finished ship into space after it is built.

i’m saying it is economics.

Comment from billjank
Time April 10, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Once you’ve got warp, or anti-matter, or anything that’s capable of moving stuff up to near relativistic speed, I think it’s kind of moot where things get built. The energy budget is the big thing, but given some sort of futuristic power capable of bridging even interplanetary space in days/hours instead of years, it’s moot

Energy is the key.

Though, I’d wonder why they didn’t harvest material from asteroids. The orbital transfer energy must be tough.

Comment from etrigan
Time April 10, 2009 at 10:53 pm

So assuming that the technology to produce warp or anti-matter (changing our current understanding of physics) causes the cost of energy to approach zero, then safety would take priority, right? Cheap or free energy doesn’t impact the risk of human lives. Is there a technology that causes the same cost reduction to the endangerment of human life. I think the danger from the act of ship building would be the same in either location, so the danger of space would be a compelling argument to build on land. Also, it seems building in zero g would be more complicated.

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