In the name of complete transparency, I should at the outset state that the title of this article should be “A Sci-Fi Nerd’s 10 Tips for the U.S. Space Force,” but that would undoubtedly garner far fewer clicks without the inclusion of “A Navy SEAL’s…” in the title. Alas, I am both a former SEAL and every bit a current (and proud) sci-fi nerd.
As such, I have some advice to offer the newest service branch within the United States military, the U.S. Space Force. I have acquired this theoretical experience and knowledge through decades of painstaking work absorbing the plot lines of science fiction movies, shows, books, and comics. So yeah, I am pretty much an expert in all of the struggles, conflicts, moral issues, scientific advances and limitations, and unforeseen calamities associated with humanity’s leap off its small, water-logged celestial cradle into the cold and limitless oblivion of deep space.
Every sci-fi aficionado knows, after all, that space travel, exploration, and habitation brings with it myriad dangers and challenges. From carnivorous aliens to solar radiation to the unforgiving and absolute desolation of the vacuum of space, there are plenty of ways for off-Earth life to go sideways. With that in mind, I have collected some tips derived from these fictionalized dangers, with the intent to deliver them to the Space Force for their consideration and planning purposes. All I ask in return is to be recognized as “an unofficial advisor on galactic and space-related threats.” You may send my credentials to Frumentarius, care of Sandboxx.
1. Get to work on those hyperdrive engines.
For your planned dominance of the off-Earth environment to really blast off, you are going to need a way to kickstart a spacecraft’s acceleration through the vacuum of space, such that it can hopefully reach some acceptable proximation of the speed of light. Otherwise, it is going to be like you are a turtle setting off to explore the Earth: you might make a good effort, but it will ultimately be a pointless endeavor if you are truly trying to get out there and own the galactic battlespace. The real strategic dominance will reside firmly in your ability to achieve maximum acceleration with minimal fuel load. Get on it!
2. Choose your crews carefully.
Whatever you do, put some effort into finding the right mix of humans for your extended-duration voyages. Of paramount importance is crew cohesion, and preventing conflict. They are going be together for a very long time, in tight quarters, and it would be best if they did not kill each other during the trip. The proper and considered selection of your astronauts (Astro-Guardians?) will be essential for success.
3. Beware the A.I.
Along with the human crew selected for the voyages are sure to be various artificial intelligence (A.I.) entities. These can be in enhanced/augmented-humanoid form, embedded in the ship’s computer systems, or straight-up robots. As far as I can tell, A.I. entities are necessary in some form to run ship’s systems on a daily basis, to deal with travel at extreme acceleration, or especially if the humans are in some sort of hibernation/deep sleep as part of an extended voyage (such that an intelligent program/entity needs to monitor the vessel and life support systems).
The problem is, these A.I. can start thinking for themselves, which often leads to some serious problems. Sort these issues out before the voyage begins, for crying out loud.
4. Plan for extended trips.
One thing seems certain: once the crewed vessels depart the pull of Earth’s gravity for some extended voyage of discovery, they will probably be gone for years at a time. Hell, given the travel at speeds approaching that of light, they may well not come back for decades. There is no telling what they might find out there that will require their prolonged absence. The point is, plan for this eventuality. We are talking food replicators/3-D printers, water-creation systems, plentiful oxygen supplies, replacement parts, extra space suits, and all the rest. Also, make an effort to establish, test, and troubleshoot extended communications suites so that we do not lose these crews to figurative — or literal — black holes.
5. Beware unforeseen worm holes/black holes/other disruptions in the space-time continuum.
This brings us to the danger inherent to our crews stumbling into some kind of wormhole, black hole (granted, a less likely scenario) or other tear in the space-time continuum.
If Einstein taught us anything, it was that space and time are like a sheet of paper, and if that paper gets folded somehow out there in the deep dark of space (and a pencil gets pushed through), then we could lose our spacecraft to some other far-distant point in the universe, another dimension, or some alternate timeline. I am not sure how to best avoid this problem, but at a minimum, there should be some mandatory annual computer-based wormhole awareness training available.
6. Watch out for solar radiation, meteor storms, space detritus, etcetera.
Black holes and wormholes are not the only danger out there. The sun is constantly blasting radiation out into the solar system like some schizophrenic skunk that has lost control over its scent glands. You never know when those particles are gonna come hurtling at you, ready to fry your insides.
The Space Force Astro-Guardians will no longer have the security blanket of Earth’s atmosphere to protect them and will need shielding for both their vessel and their bodies (while on extra-vehicular space jaunts). The same goes for random micro-meteors, and other destructive particles accelerating through the vacuum. Those things will punch right through you if you are not lucky.
7. Stay alert for natural resource opportunities.
Look, I hate to inject raw capitalism and energy politics into this deal, but it is a fact that there are going to be some opportunities out there for colonization and acquisition of rights to plentiful natural resources. As far as I have gathered, these can be found in asteroid belts, on distant planets, and even on comets traveling through the galaxy.
It would be a dereliction of duty to pass by these opportunities, and you should be prepared with stay-behind ownership markers, drones, or other means of conveying “Finder’s keepers!” It is your duty as Americans in the new frontier.
8. No matter what, do not remove your breathing apparatus/helmet.
Look, it is inevitable that you are going to find some distant planet, with an Earth-like atmosphere, seemingly welcoming your Astro-Guardians to remove their helmets and inhale the delicious and non-artificial air that they will have been so long without over the course of their voyage. Resist this temptation!
I have seen enough to know that microscopic organisms will invade their bodies, take root there, and nest inside of them. Unless you want them succumbing to some alien respiratory illness, or God forbid, becoming a human incubator for some extraterrestrial larvae, I suggest you make it SOP that the damn helmets stay on. No exceptions.
9. Don’t jump to conclusions upon First Contact.
Just as inevitable as finding this Earth-like planet is surely the certainty that the proverbial “little green men” will make an appearance. And no, I do not mean U.S. Army Soldiers (Zing! — Classic Space Force joke). I get it, you are the U.S. Space Force, a badass collection of galactic explorer-warriors ready to defend Earth. I appreciate that sentiment, but from everything I have absorbed through my extensive research, we humans tend to jump to conclusions, assume that aliens are hostile, and then drive them to be so through some miscalculation of their (non-hostile) intentions.
Maybe we can try to avoid this Hostile Intent Fallacy, and the resulting intergalactic war. I am just throwing it out there as a caution. If First Contact is made, let’s just try to take it as chill as possible.
10. Whatever you do, be thorough in decontamination procedures and do not bring hostiles back to Earth.
Finally, when engaged in your mission planning and concept of operations discussions, I implore you to pay more than lip service to the idea that your returning Astro-Guardians must adhere to decontamination and quarantine protocols upon their return to Earth. The last thing you want is to be responsible for the introduction to Earth of some dangerous microbe, hostile alien life, or other type of uncontrollable extraterrestrial organism that wreaks havoc on our home planet. That is a sure-fire way to lose your future funding and get your fleet of Astro-Guardians grounded, and nobody wants that.
In conclusion, I appreciate your time and the attention you will no doubt pay to these tips from a Navy SEAL sci-fi nerd. I wish you all the best in your efforts. Fair solar winds and minimal G’s!
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Feature image: For all Mankind, Apple TV