lies: personalspaceshow: Overture is a massive ship, 448…



Overture is a massive ship, 448 meters in diameter and 1,100 meters long. She’s the only ship like this in existence, and it took a concerted effort to build her. 

Now we’re talking. :-)

We get to see the pusher plate, yay! And more of that curved-arm thingy that does who-knows-what!

Excuse me; I’m going to need to go stare at this for a while…

Sparing the dashboards of long-suffering followers by putting my latest thoughts about Overture below a cut.

As I previously discussed, I’m pretty sure the curved-arm thingy is Overture’s radio antenna for talking to Earth.

Lately I’ve been thinking about another aspect of the ship’s design. Overture accelerates (and presumably decelerates) by setting off nuclear bombs beyond the drive plate at the bottom of the ship. They set off a bunch of them, one after another, a few seconds apart. But there’s a problem: The force of those explosions pushes the ship all at once, which causes too much acceleration for the crew to withstand. Those abrupt pulses must be converted to smooth acceleration via some sort of shock-absorbing mechanism.

At first I thought the shock absorber would be down near the drive plate. But looking at that part of the ship, I don’t see anything that looks like one.

Today, though, I realized that it would make more sense to put the shock absorber at the other end of the ship, up near the crew quarters, where it can be easily accessed and maintained. And there’s a great candidate for it up there: That massive tapered central hub that receives the long mast extending up from the drive plate:


I can imagine the mast sliding up through that hub when a nuke explodes, with some kind of braking mechanism being used to transfer momentum to the crew quarters. Then the hub would climb back up the mast using some kind of energy-consuming process (electromagnetic induction?). You’d probably try to engineer it so the initial braking stored energy, with that energy then powering the second, “climbing back up” phase. Like regenerative breaking in an electric car, only on a slightly (ahem) larger scale.

Looking at the top of the central hub in the overhead image, I don’t see anything that looks like a place where the mast would exit, but maybe it has a cap that we’re actually seeing here:


I’m still trying to wrap my head around the concept of Overture’s mission and how it would be experienced by the crew. With 25 years per shift and 1200 years to their destination, there are 48 shifts, and nearly 200 astronauts, each of whom has volunteered to be frozen for all but 25 years of the flight. Later shifts would be emerging into a world many hundreds of years in the future from their pre-cryosis perspective. But technologically they’d be flying the same (now ancient, by contemporary Earth standards) ship. In a way it’s like technological progress would stop for the crew on Overture, since they would be cutting themselves off from developments back home, other than what they could acquire via radio.

But would the crew evolve in step with Earth culturally? Would they try to use the materials on Overture to match the latest fashions they see in videos from Earth? Would their language evolve in step with changes back home? I imagine later shifts would face significant culture shock in trying to make sense of what they were seeing in the transmissions. Earth would become less and less real to them, their friends and loved ones dead and gone, the culture and language evolved until they were barely recognizable…

Would it draw them closer to their fellow crewmembers, who would share their Rip van Winkle experience and would be, after all, the only people they would interact with directly throughout their 25 years on watch?

I wonder, too, about the passing of the baton between crewmembers with corresponding responsibilities: commander to commander, doctor to doctor, botanist to botanist, engineer to engineer… You spend 25 years dealing with just three other people, none of whom share your background, then have a brief time during which you finally get to talk shop with someone who understands you.

Jeff Lipschitz, the first engineer, would have had a special role, one that subsequent engineers (until the last one) would not have had: firing the nuclear pulse drive. The Expanded Universe content the show creators have been including in the Kickstarter updates included a seriously cool mention yesterday of Lipschitz preparing to fire the first nuke as Overture completed its gravity-assist maneuver at Jupiter.

I wonder what that would have looked like. I love the fact that Tom and the other creators of the show care enough to make the technology of Overture believably complex, so that things like the communication antenna and the ship’s shock-absorber mechanism don’t necessarily jump out at first glance, but are instead visual anomalies, their form dictated by the actual engineering demands of the ship, rather than being dumbed-down versions more immediately recognizable but ultimately less interesting.

My favorite storytellers have always been those willing to carry their world building beyond the point where a less-obsessive creator would have stopped. I dig that obsession. I want to live in those richly imagined worlds. The more I see of Personal Space, the more I look forward to spending time there.

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Tags: closer..., world-building, science fiction, personal space show, overture, generation ship.

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