Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Population Explosion

Soyuz launch

The resident human population in space just doubled. A Soyuz transfer craft successfully went into orbit carrying a Belgian, Canadian, and Russian to the International Space Station, where they will join the current crew of three. It will take them about two days to rendezvous and dock to the station. Thenceforth the station will have a standing crew of six.

If the space population continues to double every nine years there will be some 6000 people in space by 2100. (And 12 million by 2200, but let's restrain ourselves to this century!)


Anonymous said...

That doubling of space population every nine years presuposses that things remain the same for the rest of the century. We'll just have to wait and see, but I think the basics of surface to orbit transportation will change dramaticly over the next few decades.

Rick said...

No, you slipped. :-) A regular doubling is a geometric growth rate, and implies smoothly increasing progress - like Moore's Law for computer tech. By the 2090s we'd be sending up an average 150 additional people each year, on top of those who simply replaced returnees, or went up for short stays. Perhaps a thousand people per year going up altogether (and 850 returning), and something like weekly passenger service. Which starts to look a lot like the classic image!

In practice things will probably go more in spurts and pauses, much as they have in the first 50 years of space travel.

Anonymous said...

That growth rate reminds me of the early days of European settlement in North America. A temporary settlement here, a temporary settlement there, a failed attempt to build a permanent settlement, another failed attempt to start a colony, someone figures out how to stay alive long enough to have kids...

Next thing you know the Indians are wondering where the Hell all these white men came from. It's probably for the best Earth doesn't have any immediate neighbors.


Rick said...

Very true. For most of the 17th century the whole thing looked very marginal - then by a century later we were not only ethnically cleansing the Indians, we were giving a headache to Whitehall.