“The final and absolute test of good government is the well-being and contentment of the people – not the extent of Empire, or the abundance of the revenue and the trade.”
– Alfred Russel Wallace
Because of the size and large population of The Outpost, the economy is inextricably linked with the social structure. Despite its immense size, The Outpost can be compared to a ship at sea ‒ not a passenger ship, but a working ship where everyone on board is crew.
Once we make that determination, a number of conclusions must be drawn. Every crew member requires their own quarters, food, and medical care. Education is to be provided for all crew members and their families. This is not to say that The Outpost would be a welfare state. Everyone on The Outpost is crew, and each needs to contribute to the general society in some way.
This does not mean that everyone must be a scientist or engineer. In an isolated society of several million individuals, all aspects of civilization must be nurtured. Artists and musicians, for example, also contribute to the health of their society.
How will all these people be compensated for their work?
In every society throughout history, individuals have strived to gain benefit based on their skill or knowledge. Any society that refuses to recognize that striving is doomed to failure.
Looking at the very beginning of mankind, the most skilled flintknapper would barter his stone arrowheads to a hunter for meat and furs. For most of human history, barter of item for item was the primary way of acquiring goods. Even today, bartering is still popular.
As society became more complex and crafts advanced, it became more difficult to barter for the great variety of available items. What if the person didn’t want what you had? A universal system of barter was needed ‒ one that was not product-specific.
Coinage was born. For centuries, the value of coins was based on the intrinsic value of gold and silver. Coins had the advantage that they could be exchanged for anything. No longer would a craftsman have to find someone who had what he wanted, he could be paid by anyone and purchase what he needed. A better craftsman could demand a higher price for his higher quality goods.
Capitalism was born, along with guilds that tried to ensure the quality of goods. Obviously, the master of a craft could demand higher compensation than an apprentice. In most societies, the market itself set the value of goods. An apprentice might be free to ask the same price as the master, but his lower quality goods would not sell. Some guilds still exist today. One example is the Knifemakers Guild in the United States, which ranks its members according to their demonstrable level of skill.
Money in modern society has become an abstract concept. Few people today are paid in cash, and in fact, cash does not represent a fixed value. A US dollar no longer represents a fixed amount of precious metal, such as the old silver certificate did, but instead is now a Federal Reserve Note. Though not noticed on a day-to-day basis, the value of a dollar changes with time as factors such as inflation affect it.
Most people today are paid by checks, a piece of paper that represents an amount of cash. A bank can convert the check to cash or deposit it into an account that can be drawn on. One can also take out temporary loans for future repayment as with credit cards. At this stage of our economy, computers are required to keep track of transactions and balances.
The value of the unit of currency ‒ whether you call it dollars, credits, or wingdings ‒ should be fixed within a society. This is to prevent inflation or speculation. A fixed monetary value might not work on a planet, but is a necessity within a self-supporting, isolated habitat.
Payment for work should be on the basis of skill, not the nature of the job. In many cities in the U.S. today, a sanitation worker could be paid more than a teacher. This is absurd. Both jobs are necessary for a healthy society. Both are vital. The pay scale should reflect that.
In a society such as The Outpost where education, even advanced education, is free to all, the cost of education should not be a determinant of remuneration, although perhaps the number of years of study required might be.
It is also necessary to point out that most of the so-called blue-collar jobs would be performed by robots or computers on The Outpost.
Once the basic Factory Ship is established, The Outpost will be constructed by a self-replicating robotic system capable of acquiring asteroidal materials, and manufacturing and assembling the structure. The primary initial investment would cover the factory ship and its attendant support units.
Once the first few modules are constructed, a percentage of the space could be leased (not sold, because The Outpost’s governing body would retain ownership of the entire structure) to various entities such as research labs, industries, and tourist venues. This income could help finance the development and infrastructure of The Outpost.
The design, development, construction, and operation of The Outpost will be one of the greatest projects ever undertaken by Humanity. What steps can be taken to bring it from a fantastic dream to reality?
As pointed out in other articles, many of the developments necessary for The Outpost are already taking place. They are not, at this time, being developed specifically for The Outpost; however, they will be applicable to it. Progress in robotics, artificial intelligence, biology, rocketry, and dozens of other fields will combine in the construction and operation of The Outpost.
The biggest question is: How will such a massive project be financed? In addition, how can the financial development be structured so that The Outpost can be governed by its citizens free from external pressures?
I would suggest that the best way would be to establish a Development lnstitute to coordinate and direct the generation of technological, social and financial systems for The Outpost.
There could be different levels of membership, from corporate and government sponsors to individual supporters. Some of the advantages of membership would be the future possibility of participating in The Outpost’s development. Those who are early supporters would be eligible for additional benefits after The Outpost is constructed. The Institute itself would be nonprofit; however, any technology developed could be commercialized with profits being directed back into the Institute. After The Outpost is built, such funds could help support its mission.
While there would inevitably be social and economic differences between people, it is important to prevent the tremendous economic disparity that exists on Earth today with some individuals having more wealth and power than many countries, and millions who can barely survive. Perhaps a scaled tax on income could level the field somewhat.
The Outpost would be a new society functioning in a location and with a structure that is totally new to humanity. The old norms will not suffice in this new environment. We cannot just build The Outpost, bring in people, and let things develop. We have to have a plan, and the time to begin planning is now. We are looking for suggestions, which you can email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever looked up into the night sky and wondered about the moon? You’re not alone. All around the world and throughout our history, many people have observed the various phases and appearances of the moon. This celestial object we know where to find, but most of us can’t touch, inspires beautiful works of art (see our Creative Space for one) and writing. A celestial object is something we can observe in our sky or outer space, through the use of tools such as telescopes. What are some questions you have about the moon?
We can think of endless questions about the moon, but how can we start to answer them? We can find out some answers from observing patterns in the moon’s appearance and behavior over time, with telescopes or even the naked eye. However, that still leaves many other questions unanswered. Another way scientists have looked for answers to some of our questions is by studying samples of material taken from the moon’s surface.
Our first collection of lunar material came from an Apollo mission in 1969. Did you know that “between 1969 and 1972 six Apollo missions brought back 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust from the lunar surface” (NASA)? When we describe something as lunar, it comes from or describes the moon. It’s hard to imagine the moon’s size based on what we can see of it from Earth, but there’s a lot more where that lunar material came from! The moon weighs around 7.35 x 1022 (73,500,000,000,000,000,000,000) kilograms, or 1.62 x 1023 (162,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pounds. Our Earth weighs about 81 times more than that! Check out this article to read more about the size of the moon. See the Education Spaces on our July and November 2020 newsletters to learn more about the Apollo missions!
After 1972, astronauts haven’t gone back to the moon to harvest more materials to bring back to Earth. Because of this limited supply, everyone who gets to study the lunar material in-person has to treat it very carefully. Ten years later, a geochemist (a scientist who studies the rocks, minerals, and chemicals that make up Earth) from New Zealand named Brian Mason got a special delivery: “When [NASA] sent him an unusual specimen from Antarctica, Mason quickly recognised its resemblance to material collected by astronauts. Its distinctive iron–manganese ratio later confirmed that it came from the moon – blasted free by some gigantic impact, and subsequently captured by the Earth’s gravity” (Sutton). This meteorite, a bundle of material that comes from space and lands on Earth, was the first of several that scientists identified as being from the moon. These have been kept for study as well, along with the lunar material collected on the Apollo missions.
Over the years, scientists have examined and re-examined the samples of rock and soil from the moon. Using computer technology to study the moon material, they have been able to make educated guesses about how our moon was created. One highly supported theory is that “the Moon could have been formed from the debris resulting from the Earth being struck a glancing blow by a planetary body about the size of Mars” (NASA). In other words, maybe a planet-sized object crashed into Earth one day and the planetary material that got chipped off of Earth from that event became our moon.
Scientists have been able to figure out the elements the moon is made up of (including iron, silicon, and oxygen), around when its crust was formed (around 4.5 BILLION year ago), and evidence that meteorites hit the moon, just from studying the moon material gathered from those early Apollo missions (Sutton and NASA)! Interestingly, lunar samples are made up of different materials based on what part of the moon they came from. Did you know that our moon also used to have active volcanoes on it (Redd)?
We haven’t had astronauts land on the moon since the 1970s, but NASA is aiming to get funding so that humans can visit the moon again by 2024. Dozens of probes have been sent to orbit or land on the moon between the 1950s and the present, and have sent important information back to Earth to help us learn more about the moon’s history and what it’s made out of. Only a few have come back with samples of moon material. The most recent successful mission of this kind was when China National Space Administration (CNSA)’s spacecraft Chang’e 5 sent a return capsule containing around “4.4 lbs (2 kg) of lunar material” (Mann) back to Earth. This made China the third country to make a successful trip to and back from the moon with samples, after the USA and former Soviet Union.
These newest moon samples are thought to be much younger than the ones collected during the Apollo missions, based on the area of the moon they were collected from. The more recent samples are estimated to be about 1.2 billion years old, compared to the 3-billion-year-old ones from the Apollo missions. They all sound very old, don’t they? However, studying these younger samples can help us learn about another time in our moon’s history we don’t have information about yet. The success of this mission can also help other space organizations improve the planning of their own trips to the moon and elsewhere (Mann). Hopefully, NASA’s next trip to the moon will go just as smoothly!
For More Information
Mann, A. (2020, December). China’s Chang’e 5 mission: Sampling the lunar surface. Space.com.
NASA. (n.d.). Lunar Rocks and Soils from Apollo Missions.
Redd, N. T. (2017, September 28). What is the Moon Made Of? Space.com.
Sharp, T. (2017, October 28). How Big is the Moon? Space.com.
Sutton, M. (2019, July 15). What is the moon made of? Chemistry World.
When noteworthy or memorable people pass on, it’s common to mourn them with an obituary where we outline their life and accomplishments. If this tradition were commonly extended to objects, news outlets around the world would publish remembrances for the Arecibo radio telescope.
The Arecibo radio telescope was a massive telescope and centerpiece of the Arecibo Observatory, an astronomy facility in Puerto Rico. The observatory was initially the brainchild of Professor William E Gordon from Cornell University (National Science Foundation). In the 1950s, the professor wanted to study the Ionosphere, the collective name for the parts of Earth’s upper atmosphere where there are a particularly large number of electrically charged atoms and molecules (To learn more about Ionosphere, check out the link here). The U.S. Air Force, under the professor’s guidance, built the observatory in Puerto Rico, completing construction in 1963. The observatory was under the management of the American school Cornell University before the role was taken by the University of Central Florida. The school managed the observatory for the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1970, after which they managed it for the National Science Foundation (Cornell University 1997).
The Arecibo radio telescope is made of several parts. The two main parts most obvious to the eye are a 900-ton receiver that hangs suspended by massive cables 500 feet over a 1,000-foot-wide reflector dish. Attached to the platform is the Gregorian dome structure, a huge attachment as tall as a four-story house that holds secondary reflectors (Acevedo 2020). The Arecibo telescope was the largest in the world for 53 years, only surpassed in 2016 when China built the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST).
The Arecibo telescope has accomplished quite a lot in its life. To name just a few: In 1974, the telescope transmitted the first intentional message to extraterrestrials (National Science Foundation). This message carried basic information about Earth and humans to any extraterrestrials who might have an ear – or antennae – to the ground on the lookout for life. In 1981, the telescope made the first radar maps of Venus’ surface, and in 1992 it discovered the first exoplanet (National Science Foundation). To learn more about exoplanets, you can check out NASA’s page about them here.
In August and November of 2020, the telescope cables began to fail. On August 4th, a support cable on the suspended platform slipped from its socket (Bartels 2020). This put increased strain on the remaining cables supporting the platform. This was bad, but it could be repaired.
Any repair options the U.S. National Science Foundation was considering unfortunately became unviable after November 6th, when a second primary cable snapped (Bartels 2020). In addition to putting even more strain on the remaining cables, this made the telescope much more dangerous to repair, and the Observatory was then slated to be withdrawn from service. Finally, on December 1, the structure collapsed entirely. The remaining cables suspending the platform snapped, sending it crashing down into the 1,000-foot-wide receiver dish (Bartels 2020).
This is a devastating loss to astronomy. The Arecibo telescope was the largest radio telescope in the world, and another such telescope can’t be made just anywhere. In addition to its many discoveries and use in space research, the Arecibo telescope and observatory were incredibly valuable as a research facility, for experienced astronomers and those just entering the field alike. The telescope was also a notable tourist attraction for Puerto Rico, with 90,000 visitors and native islanders visiting the observatory every year (Acevedo 2020).
The Arecibo radio telescope had a relatively short life, but it was still a good one. While we had it, it helped us reach out to stars and lifted our voices up into the night. It educated us, providing knowledge we’ll use for years to come. Only time will tell if a similar telescope will be rebuilt in the observatory, but for now we can appreciate what we had. Goodbye, Arecibo radio telescope – you will be missed.
For More Information
Acevedo, N. (2020, December 02). Puerto Rican scientists, shattered by collapse of Arecibo Observatory, push to rebuild. NBC News.
Bartels, M. (2020, December 03). Terrifying footage shows collapse of Arecibo Observatory’s massive radio telescope. Space.com.
Cornell University. (1997, June 19). Some facts (and a little history) about Arecibo. Cornell Chronicle.
Hand, E. (2020, December 01). Arecibo telescope collapses, ending 57-year run. ScienceMag.org.
National Science Foundation. (n.d.). History. Arecibo Observatory.
Witze, A. (2020, November 19). Legendary Arecibo telescope will close forever – scientists are reeling. Nature, Vol. 587, 529-530.
The Outpost will be a society of several million people isolated from Earth. Despite that isolation, the citizens aboard would have access to all the cultural and educational advantages of any city on earth.
It has been estimated that using modern data storage, the sum total of human knowledge could be stored in the volume about equal to a city bus. In addition, artwork could be reproduced, and statuary and artifacts could be scanned and 3D printed.
Much of the information that will be available on The Outpost is being digitized today. Many museums and libraries are already taking these steps with their collections.
The Gutenberg project (named after Johannes Gutenberg, who developed the first practical printing press in 1440) is attempting to digitize and make available to everyone, for free, every book in the public domain. It is already a vast treasure trove of both popular and obscure books.
There are many ongoing projects such as Google Earth that can be included in The Outpost’s database.
With all these resources available, students could visit the great museums of the world, explore the oceans, forests and caves, hear talks by the best professors, learn from the finest artists, authors, and musicians, and more. The educational resources available to every student on The Outpost would exceed those that are now only available to the wealthiest on Earth.
As genetic manipulation advances, it will become possible to recreate animals and plants from a recording of their DNA. The Outpost would then be able to store the genetic diversity of the planet. DNA can be recovered from many museum specimens. No, not dinosaurs. Unfortunately, dinosaur DNA has completely degraded over many millions of years. However, the dodo and the Passenger Pigeon could live again.
Botanical diversity could be maintained and preserved on The Outpost. In many places on Earth, there are seed vaults where seeds are kept at low temperatures as insurance against extinction and loss of diversity. This is a sensible idea, but there are risks. Several years ago, the largest seed vault located in Spitsbergen, Norway came close to a catastrophe when climate change caused the permafrost in which it was located to partially melt, flooding the entrance. Fortunately, the staff was able to protect the stored seeds. A duplicate seed vault off-planet on The Outpost would be cheap insurance against such a disaster.
All the modules of The Outpost would have a high level of interconnectivity making all of this knowledge readily available to everyone aboard. Advances in artificial intelligence would make data searches simple and efficient.
There would be no students left behind because they couldn’t afford to enter the best schools. With education and educational resources free and available to all, learning could become a life-long pursuit. Every person could advance as far as their interests and curiosity would take them.
For More Information
Daher, N. (2020, March 2). You Can Now Download 1,700 Free 3-D Cultural Heritage Models. Smithsonian Magazine.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault. (2020, January 6). In Wikipedia.
Movie Review: “Over the Moon”
by Roxanne Lee
Three of my most fervent interests are mythology, science, and animation. I love the three in any combination, and when all three are present in a piece of work, I have to check it out. If it’s a skillful combination, like the film Over the Moon most certainly is, then all the better.
Over the Moon is a 2020 animated musical movie currently streaming on Netflix. The film is a co-production, produced by Pearl Studio, a Chinese production company, and Netflix Animation, an American animation company. It stars Cathy Ang as Fei Fei, a young girl in China mourning the loss of her mother. When her father introduces her to the woman who will soon become her stepmother, Fei Fei devises a plan to keep the pair apart, travel to the moon and prove the existence of the moon goddess Chang’e to her father, to show him an example of true lasting devotion.
If you’re short on time, I’ll cut to the chase; Over The Moon is a delightful adventure about family and healing for all ages, and I highly recommend it for everyone, children and adults.
Admittedly, the movie is light on any hard science. Fei Fei is able to construct her own rocket and launch it using tracks for a maglev train, and her ship is also able to reach space (though I’m willing to give that some slack, since at this point moon-magic starts to get involved). The film is not concerned with lunar science, but it is still a valuable expression of cultural and personal relationships with the moon. In addition to being a heart-warming story, the film is an incredibly well structured retelling and exploration of Chang’e’s legend. The story is thousands of years old, with many variations, but I consider the film a good starting point for those still new to the story. It’s straightforward and explains the concept in the opening in a way anyone unfamiliar with the tale (like me) will be able to understand.
The legend of Chang’e is an old story, and many different versions of the story have been told. This is just one version; A long, long time ago, the Jade Emperor ruled the heavens, and he had ten grandsons. His grandsons took turns as the actual sun, warming the Earth and the people. One day, all ten lit the sky as suns at the same time, scorching the Earth and making it uninhabitable. To stop the damage, a legendary archer named Houyi offered his services to the Jade Emperor. With his bow, Houyi shot down nine of the ten suns, saving the Earth.
To reward him, the Jade Emperor gave him a pill of immortality that would turn him into a god. Houyi hesitated, because taking the medicine would separate him from his wife, Chang’e.
Here the story varies – in some versions, Houyi’s apprentice tried to steal the pill and to stop him, Chang’e eats it. In others, Chang’e takes the medicine to leave her husband. In yet another version I’ve heard, the couple received two pills, and Chang’e consumed both, sending her past the heavens and landing her on the moon.
The main commonality between all versions of the story, and one present in the Over The Moon version, is that Chang’e is stuck on the moon, separated from Houyi. Because Chang’e is immortal, she and Houyi can never be reunited, even after he dies. Chang’e is one of the elements celebrated in the Mid-Autumn festival, also called the moon festival, which is the event much of the animated movie centers around. (NOTE; I’m not 100% sure about this parts accuracy)
(Fun fact – This past November, China launched a venture called Chang’e-5 that successfully collected moon rocks and soil and brought them back to Earth in December. The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is also called Chang’e Project).
I was especially impressed by the film’s ability to weave two different stories together and have them support each other. Fei Fei’s story intentionally parallels Chang’e’s in the film, as they both have to learn to deal with grief and being the person left behind when a loved one dies. That Fei Fei’s story mirrors a folktale reinforces why folktales, mythology, religion, and stories in general are so important to us in the first place – they reflect our pain and humanity, and offer guidance, even if only to say that we aren’t alone in our suffering.
If this still isn’t enough to recommend it, Over The Moon is just a great piece of art. It is co-directed by two former Disney animators, Glen Keane and John Kahrs. John Kahrs worked on a slew of classic animated movies like Ratatouille (2007), Tangled (2010), and Frozen (2013). Glen Keane is an animator who worked on, amongst other films, the Disney Renaissance films of the 1990s. He worked on such classics as Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992) as a supervising animator.
In addition to the visuals, the music talent is also incredibly impressive. The songs and score come from composer Steven Price. In the English language version of the film, Chang’e is played by Philipa Soo, an actress and singer best known for playing Eliza Skyler in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton.
It’s a wonderful movie, and I highly recommend checking it out while it’s still on Netflix. (Though, be warned – it is a tear-jerker. Watching it again for this review seriously made my eyes water).
Around the Cosmos
In spirit of the moon, reader Darleen Pfingsten shares her latest art with us.
Show us your creativity of bringing science and art together! Submit your art to email@example.com.
Quote of the Month
“The bounds of human knowledge have been so far extended that new Vistas have opened to us in directions where it had been thought that we could never penetrate, and the more we learn the more we seem capable of learning in the ever-widening expanse of the universe. But the more we realize the vast possibilities of human welfare which science has given us, the more we must recognize our total failure to make any adequate use of them.
With ample power to supply to the fullest extent necessary, comforts, and even luxuries for all, and at the same time allow ample leisure for intellectual pleasure and aesthetic enjoyment, we have yet so sinfully mismanaged our social economy as to give unprecedented and injurious luxury to the few, while millions are compelled to suffer a lifelong deficiency of the barest necessities for a healthy existence. Instead of devoting the highest powers of our greatest men to remedy these evils, we see the governments of most advanced Nations arming their people to the teeth, and expending much of their wealth and all the resources of their science in preparation for the destruction of life, of property, and of happiness.”
– Alfred Russel Wallace
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