Posted by on June 7, 2021

President’s Column

Civil Action on the Outpost

In previous articles, I presented proposals for a criminal justice system for a large space habitat such as The Outpost. In this article, I will explore the civil rather than a criminal justice system.

Civil action is primarily about money, property, or actions. One party can sue another for financial compensation for wrongful action. They can sue for return of property. An example is a landlord suing to evict a tenant. A wrongful action suit could be a restraining order to prevent demolition of a historic building. There are many thousands of variations on these themes — far too many to go into here.

The main problem with civil actions is that cash is king. A standard joke among attorneys is “how much justice can the client afford?” There is unfortunately a lot of truth to this. Suppose, for example, a large corporation damages your house. You have the right to sue for damages. They have a large legal department to fight for them. You can represent yourself. That would not be to your advantage. The law is highly complex. Another attorney joke is “whoever acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.” You are well advised to pay for an attorney. She will charge you for time spent preparing the case, time talking with you on the phone, filing fees, and additional charges for every court appearance. The corporation, knowing that your resources are limited, will seek to maximize your costs — for example, by constantly adjourning the case so that your lawyer has to show up each time and you get additional charges. Their strategy assumes that the expense will force you to terminate your suit or settle it. If you proceed and lose, the expenses can leave you destitute.

The ultimate result of this is that there are two standards of justice: one for the wealthy and another, far more limited, for the less affluent. How can this inherent injustice be eliminated?

The first step would be to have a system similar to Legal Aid that would provide legal services to litigants. This could be based on some form of financial means test to determine the degree to which the cost of proceeding with an action would harm the party involved.

Another serious question is how to prevent frivolous lawsuits. Actions can be started just to harass others. Therefore, before an attorney is assigned to a case, there could be an impartial committee that will review the allegations. The committee might also attempt to resolve the case with arbitration. If arbitration fails and the committee determines that the case has merit, an attorney could be assigned. If the committee decides that the case has no merit, the suing party has the right to proceed on their own.

It may happen if one party has a valid defense while the other does not. In this case, the fact that one party would have to incur the expense of a lawyer or proceed on their own will generate pressure to resolve the issue.

In courts in the United States, a justification for the lack of court-appointed attorneys in civil actions is based on the fact that anyone can represent themselves in court. Since a civil matter does not result in the loss of freedom, which a criminal matter would, there is no requirement for guaranteed representation. This is a false dichotomy. While a loss in a civil case will not result in the restriction of personal freedom, it can leave a person financially destitute. The consequences of this are that people of lower means are often reluctant to challenge unjust actions against a person or organization with far greater resources. This is a form of injustice that is inherent in the way courts are presently structured.

As we determine what form of social structure The Outpost needs to develop, it is imperative that we are guided by the principle of ensuring the greatest equality and freedom for all regardless of financial resources.

Barry Greene

Educational Space

Orbital Resonance and Mean-Motion Resonance
by Roxanne Lee

Jupiter, and a few of its many, many moons (Source: NASA).

As we explore space and make plans for the far future when we may live there, we will need to understand gravity. By understanding it, we understand how we can live, where we can travel, and how we travel. It’s even important to study the parts of gravity that don’t seem immediately important. One such aspect of gravity in space we’ve been studying for hundreds of years, and still have much to learn about, is orbital resonance.

Orbital resonance is a phenomenon observed in satellites and other orbiting objects (Peale). Satellites are objects, whether naturally occurring or human-made, that orbit a planet or star. To learn more about satellites, you can check out the NASA link here, or the High Frontier Outpost article about satellites written for World Space Week here. Some objects in space have one satellite, while others have several. One place to see this difference is in moons. Earth has one moon that orbits on a path. Other planets have more moons – Jupiter has 79! The sun itself has multiple satellites, as all of our planets and their satellites orbit the sun. When objects have multiple satellites, sometimes the orbits those satellites take can form observable patterns.

Orbital resonance occurs when two or more orbiting satellites exert periodic gravitational pulls on each other (UCSB). This happens when the orbital period of two or more satellites has a ratio of small whole numbers, like 1:2 or 3:2. Let’s examine the 1:2 orbital ratio a little more in depth. Imagine a planet that has two moons, moons A and B. If the moons have a 1:2 orbital ratio, that means for every rotation moon A makes, moon B makes 2.

 A 1:2 orbital resonance. (Source: University of California, Santa Barbara)

Because this is a ratio of two close whole integers, the moons will periodically align with the planet they rotate. When two orbiting bodies are simple integer ratios of each other, then a mean-motion orbital resonance is occurring. Resonance with small integer ratios also means that the periapsis are nearly the same (UCSB). Periapse is when the orbiting objects are closest to what they’re orbiting. When orbits have close integers, satellites will also have periodic gravitational effects on each other, often leading to more stable resonance structures (Jiang).

Illustration of Periapsis, when the center of mass of orbiting object is closest to what it’s orbiting, and its opposite, apoapsis, when center of mass of orbiting object is farthest away from the object it’s orbiting (Source: Wikipedia).

Pierre-Simon Laplace did much of the early research on orbital resonance. Laplace (1749-1827) was a notable French mathematician and scientist who spent the majority of his life making significant scientific advancements, not only in astronomy, but also in other fields like statistics and physics (Hankins). Laplace studied, amongst other things, the stability of orbits, and he published work about orbital resonances.

It’s okay if you’re still a bit confused – it’s a complicated topic! 

Orbital resonance is a concept that’s sometimes easier to see in action than explained. There is a brilliant example of orbital resonance in action on this page here, created by data scientist Matt Dzugan. His page shows several orbital resonance structures in motion. In addition to being educational, the examples are incredibly beautiful in their own right.

One example of orbital resonance is Laplace resonance. A Laplace resonance is when orbiting bodies exhibit two consecutive 2:1 mean motion resonances, creating a 4:2:1 ratio amongst three orbiting satellites. The most famous example of this is with the Galilean moons of Jupiter – Io (1:1), Europa (2:1), and Ganymede (4:1) (UCSB). As Laplace was the first one to point out this relationship, the resonance was named after him. 

Jupiter and its Galilean moons. Its moons exhibit a Laplace resonance, which can be seen in motion by going to the associated link below (Source: The Planetary Society).

To see a Laplace resonance in action, you can check out The Planetary Society’s page here. At the link, there’s a picture at the top of the page of Jupiter and its Galilean moons. You can watch them rotate, and see instances when they periodically align. 

Orbital resonance is common in our solar system, and may be just as common in others, considering the sheer number of planets and orbiting bodies out there. It is essential to know about other worlds and moons, and what they might be like; orbital resonance is the reason that the oceans and Europa are actually still liquid. We know a lot about it, far more than we once did, but there is still much farther to go before we fully understand it. The continued efforts of people from all walks of life, from NASA to small organizations like High Frontier Outpost, will be essential to learning more about this space that could one day be our home.

For More Information

Encyclopedia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Orbital resonances.

Hankins, T. L. (2006, September 1). Pierre Simon Laplace, 1749-1827: A Determined Scientist. Physics Today.

Peale, S. J. (1976, January 1). Orbital resonance in the solar system. NASA/ADS.

Jiang, Y. (2007, December). Physics in Orbital Resonance. Professor Robert B. Laughlin, Department of
Physics, Stanford University.

Mean-Motion Resonances in the GJ 876 Extrasolar Planetary System and the Galilean Satellite System of
Jupiter. Department of Physics University of California, Santa Barbara.

The European Southern Observatory. (n.d.). Orbital resonance. Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A).

Closing Words

A Proposal for Mars
by Barry Greene

Mars is a dangerous place. Living on Mars has been compared to living in the Arctic with the additional hazards of lower gravity, and unbreathable air, super fine dust, and radiation. Getting there is worse. Going to Mars, as presently imagined, would be a months-long trip at zero gravity with constant exposure to significant radiation.

We know the dangers of zero gravity. They include bone loss, a weakened immune system, changes in the heart and other organs, and numerous other physiological changes.

Beyond the shelter of Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, an astronaut will be constantly exposed to cosmic and solar radiation. The level of cosmic radiation is relatively constant. The solar radiation is not. It tends to vary in an 11-year cycle. We are now just getting out of the solar minimum phase and will approach solar maximum later in this decade. This is extremely dangerous for our astronauts. A solar storm can disrupt communications, play havoc with sensitive equipment, and expose astronauts to intense ‒ possibly lethal ‒ levels of radiation. If we are going to establish a human colony on Mars, it is imperative that we have a way to deal with these conditions while traveling there.

I will assume that the flight to Mars we are considering will utilize the SpaceX Starship as the means of transportation.

The SpaceX proposal, as it now exists, would have a crewed vehicle rendezvous in orbit with a tanker in order to refuel. This would require two launches from Earth to orbit. The main cruise ship and the refueling tanker ship. I would add three more for a total of 5 launches. The additional three launches would be as follows.

First: a second vehicle. This would be primarily an unmanned Cargo Carrier. It would contain what could be described as a “safe room.” This would be a small room with life support. It would be surrounded on all sides by cargo and supplies. The mass of this material would provide a higher degree of radiation shielding than in the main spacecraft. Having a redundant spacecraft wouldn’t exactly hurt either.

Second: another tanker launch to refuel the cargo vehicle. This could be eliminated if the cargo craft was to remain on Mars.

Third: a cargo launch bringing to orbit the disassembled components of a long tubular truss. This would connect both spacecraft and allow the assembly to be rotated around its center of mass. The rate of rotation could be calculated to simulate Martian gravity, which is about one-third that of Earth.

The truss would be designed so that a spacesuited astronaut could safely move between vehicles. There could be a cable connecting the two craft inside the truss. A small motorized carrier on the cable would allow an astronaut to hook on to it and rapidly move between the two vehicles.

In the event of a solar storm with heavy radiation, the main craft could be rapidly evacuated to the safe room on the cargo ship. This would protect the astronauts until the radiation decreased.

Current proposals are to create a viable colony on Mars. In that case, there would be more than one such flight. This leads to a number of interesting possibilities.

As the ships disengage from the truss in order to land on the Martian surface, the truss could be inserted into orbit. It could become the foundation of an orbital station. Additional flights would add to the structure, which could expand into a large habitat over time.

As fuel is produced on the planet, one or more of the spacecraft could become ground to orbit shuttles with a space station acting as a transfer point.

I believe that the greatest threat to a human colony on Mars is the one that is rarely mentioned, probably because there is nothing we can possibly do to correct it. The problem is gravity. Martian gravity is 38% that of Earth. How will the human body respond to that over time? We don’t know. The first astronaut to go to Mars will be experiment number one.

A colony needs children to become self-sustaining. Can a healthy fetus develop in Martian gravity? We don’t know. If the fetus comes to term, will the child develop normally? Again, we don’t know. That child’s life, health, and development will also be an experiment.

We evolved in Earth’s gravity. A billion years of evolution shaped us for our world. Can we thrive on another world so different from ours? It may not be possible. This does not mean that we must give up our dreams of other worlds. A wise plan always contains contingencies.

If we cannot live on Mars, we can do what humanity has always done when facing hostile conditions. We have lived on boats in Asia, in igloos in the Arctic; we have made our homes of mud and sticks, of steel and stone. If we can’t live on the planet, we can use the planet for our industry, our resources, and we can live in space. In space, we can simulate Earth’s gravity with rotation.

An Outpost-type habitat constructed in Martian orbit would provide terrestrial conditions necessary to support human life. Mars itself would be the industrial base supporting the families in orbit.

Around the Cosmos

Space Activism

Creative Space

Toby Ord digitally restores some of the most jaw dropping shots of Earth as seen by only 24 humans.

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Space Holidays

  • Space Day – June 17-18, 1928: Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.

Quote of the Month

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Amelia Earhart


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