The Science of TerraGenesis: Sky Farms

Tech Dive: New Age Sky Farms

When it comes to colonizing and terraforming a new planet, those that are carrying out the heavy lifting and leg work need to eat. The land, especially that of Mars and beyond, might not be suitable for farming, and it might not be suitable for a long time to come. That’s where the Sky Farms of TerraGenesis come in. 

The strain put on an ecosystem is at it’s peak when civilizations look to support the people within it. This has to become priority number one. Well, once you have breathable air and water… ok so maybe priority number 3… and then there’s the heat levels… and radiation. Well, no-one said that terraforming would be easy did they?!

Supporting the human population of a colony isn’t straight forward. However, thanks to incredible scientific advances in both hydroponics and zero-G biology the human race is able to look beyond the ground when it comes to growing crops.

Hydroponics and Sky Farms

Image of growing plants - sky farms

Hydroponics enable farmers and scientists to harvest nutrients from water and a mineral solution rather than soil, allowing plants to grow in different environments than previously thought possible. Not only that, the water usage is incredibly decreased. Consider that in traditional farming it takes nearly 400 liters of water to grow just 1kg of tomatoes. When using hydroponics this number is drastically reduced to a mere 70 liters of water. This research was initially powered by those in NASA but has been grasped by the various factions of TerraGenesis in their terraforming missions.

Zero-G Farming

The International Space Station provided a great platform for researchers to understand how zero-g conditions affected plant growth, in the same way that it affects human life. Zero-g farming isn’t just about the lack of gravity either. Plants have a hard time in space, especially due to the lack of sunlight, which they need for fuel through photosynthesis. Artificial lighting can replace this, but to maximize efficiency specially designed LEDs need to be used. 

As an interesting aside, research into sky farms allowed scientists to uncover a unique device that’s function takes ethylene and converts it into CO2 (carbon dioxide) and water. This could be spectacularly important for lengthy journeys into space.

In order to facilitate the colonisation of a whole planet, or even just a colony for starters, terraformers will need a vast network of these sky farms in orbit. The resource cost might be high, but what price can be put on a well fed workforce? 

Sky farms will become incredibly useful during times when water on the surface of the planet isn’t accessible (as it’s frozen) or isn’t available at all. At least for those in the initial terraforming missions, sky farms might well be the only access that they have to get fresh produce in the dark, forbidding world that they’re looking to inhabit.

The Science of TerraGenesis: Orbital Surveyor

Searching out new resources with the orbital surveyor.

Selecting a new colony site isn’t as easy as looking out of the window of your ship and picking a spot at random. There is a whole lot more to it than that. Getting onto the surface of a planet or celestial body to see whether a spot is useful for a colony is both a costly and potentially dangerous mission. Therefore, scientists have developed the orbital surveyor. The terraformer’s way of surveying from a distance.

In order to find the perfect site there are a number of factors that need to meet a set criteria:

  • The land needs to be large enough to support the colony
  • It needs to be flat enough for structures to be built
  • There need to be sufficient natural resources nearby
  • There needs to be room for expansion as the colony grows

And that’s just for a start. The list goes on. The orbital surveyor, thankfully, delivers reams and reams of information based intricate readings taken through scans of the planet. These scans are carried out by a satellite that maps, graphs and details the surface and below.

Note that it’s not just the topography that is measured but, through powerful laser, UV and newly discovered technology, what lies beneath the surface can be discovered too. That means that valuable natural resources ranging from potential water sources to precious metals and fuel can be surveyed. That means that the guesswork is taken away from mining. It means that terraformers can all but guarantee they’re digging in the right spot to harness what lies beneath.

Terraforming isn’t cheap work, digging for raw materials and precious metals allows factions to create a steady stream of credits to enable purchases of more and more impressive technologies. That makes the positioning of your mines all the more important. Position it over an empty patch of ground and you’ll be digging for nothing, pick the right site, using the orbital surveyor and you’ll be digging in paydirt before you know it.

The orbital surveyor isn’t just a useful resource for mining processes but also useful for understanding how the world that you’re terraforming will change and alter as the terraforming process moves forward. Increases in heat and radiation might lead to the melting of ice caps. That melting will lead to rising sea levels. If you’ve not checked the height of your settlement or outpost correctly using the orbital surveyor then you could be in hot water (literally) before you know it. 

The orbital surveyor will be one of the first tools that you’ll use in your terraforming arsenal, but it certainly won’t be the last. Master this tool and you’ll be building suitable, safe outposts and fruitful, functioning mines.

The Science of TerraGenesis: Soletta

Bringing the heat with Soletta.

Heat. It’s a bit of a problem when it comes to creating new colonies and terraforming new worlds, you can’t have too much and you can’t have too little. Thankfully, scientists have created Soletta.

Soletta is a marvel of technological achievement. It allows previously uninhabitable worlds to become habitable, it can change the surfaces of whole worlds and can unlock the potential they may have. Thanks to advanced artificial intelligence and dynamic sensors, Soletta is able to manage and adjust to create the perfect temperature for life not only to exist, but thrive on previously alien worlds.

How does Soletta work?

Earth, our home world, happens to be in the perfect position for life to exist. A few fractions closer or further from the Sun and our planet would look very different. This, therefore, hugely impacts how we can terraform other planets in our solar. Take Venus for example, whilst it’s a prospect for terraforming, the surface temperature is vastly higher than that on Earth and therefore requires cooling. Somewhere like Mars, being further from the sun, requires the opposite.

Soletta works by either dampening or amplifying solar radiation to decrease or increase the energy coming from the Sun. If you were to stand on the surface of a newly terraformed world and looked up, Soletta would appear as a huge circular array of solar sail style mirrors. They are aligned to focus or deflect sunlight which may have been focused or just missed the planet.

The name of the satellite stems from science fiction, namely the works of Kim Stanley Robinson and the work Aurora. Soletta was built, in this instance, to aid the terraforming process on Mars at the start of the 22nd Century.

For a piece of technology this impressive, you can expect to part with a fair piece of capital. Soletta certainly doesn’t come cheap, in TerraGenesis you can expect to pay 50,000,000 credits but the freedom over temperature control that it allows is worth it. 

Implementing Soletta

Reflecting vasts swathes of heat across a planet’s surface, or deflecting it, can have dramatic effects. Therefore, it is strongly suggested that you consider the impact that Soletta will have on your whole ecosystem and the colonists within it.

If you have a reasonably stable water supply but use Soletta to increase the planet’s temperature you can expect a fair percentage of that to be evaporated and the stock to be depleted. The same can be said for the opposite, cool the surface too much and the water supply will freeze at the planet’s extremities. 

It’s worth considering the other buildings that raise or lower local temperature. Take for instance if you have an Aerostat Platform, it would first cause your temperature to drop, but once the gap between current and temperature becomes too big Soletta’s percentage change becomes stronger and rise the temperature, which narrows the gap and reduces Soletta effectiveness, in a negative feedback loop.

The Science of TerraGenesis: Planetary Defense Network

The Planetary Defense Network, your guard against the perils of space.

The Planetary Defense Network is there to save you and your colonists lives. That is a pretty dramatic way of putting it but is also exactly what it does. Whichever faction you choose to be part of, when terraforming a new world you will want to make sure to invest in this device.

Over 65 million years ago Earth was minding its own business. Happily going about its day with a whole world of fauna, oceans and dinosaurs. That was until a humongous asteroid impacted the surface and changed the course of Earth’s history for ever. The dinosaurs and other life on Earth hadn’t invested in a Planetary Defense Network. Sure, the technology wasn’t there, nor was the concept of space… but if they had invested in one they’d still be here today.

The Planetary Defense Network defends the world you’re terraforming from rogue asteroids, meteors and other dangerous threats to the surface from the depths of space. At the basic level the system tracks and monitors threats as they get near to the terraformed world. At the more engaged level, should a threat be more direct and potentially damaging to your world the planetary defense network will intervene and neutralise the problem.

Ever since 2016 teams of scientists and astronomers have kept a weathered eye on the skies and space around Earth, watching for life threatening celestial issues. When a potential issue is spotted it is logged and then monitored. As of 2019, that catalogue sits around 15,000 logged potential issues, with roughly 1500 added each year. That’s just for Earth, that doesn’t include newly terraformed worlds, worlds which are potentially in an even more dangerous position.

Whilst the Earth bound monitoring system was a useful beginning the question was always asked, “What would happen if one was on an imminent collision course with Earth?”. The answer was pretty grim reading… mankind essentially became extinct.

If you’re after some slightly worrying reading head over to NASA’s own Asteroid Watch website. They regularly post about inbound objects, their size, how close they’ll get to Earth and even the date that they’ll pass. The handy approximate size chart measures in house, bus or plane sizes. Their podcast also shares thoughts such as “What would happen if an asteroid hits the Earth?” and other happy questions. Now if that doesn’t fill you with existential dread then nothing will…

Thankfully, that dread and fear is something of the past for those colonising and terraforming new worlds. With an investment into a Planetary Defense Network your faction and colonists can rest assured that their world is safe. At least from asteroids.

The Science of TerraGenesis: Space Elevator

Space Elevators: Going Up?

View from a planet - space elevators

What if strapping yourself to a massive rocket, starting a huge explosion and hoping for the best wasn’t the only way of getting into space? What if you were able to use a device that essentially resembled an elevator and caught that into space instead? Seems a whole lot more convenient and safe? Meet Space elevators!

Space elevators in TerraGenesis enable travel to and from the surface of the planet that your faction is terraforming with ease. 

What Are Space Elevators?

They are essentially exactly what they say they are. They’re elevators that take people and cargo to and from space. The general idea is that they have an orbital station port that is a semi-permanent structure in space and a long, traversable cable that allows you to travel up and down aligned at the equator of the planet. 

This piece of technology, whilst astronomically expensive to initially build, will create a far more cost efficient and environmentally sound method of traveling to space. The initial cost comes from the huge scale of the device. When created, the space elevator will be the largest structure that humans have ever created. It’ll need to be able to reach geostationary orbit, or 35,786km in altitude. That’s a lot of cable.

This isn’t a new concept either. In fact, the idea was first hypothesised back in 1895 by Tsiolkovsky. He proposed the idea that this structure would be built under compression, meaning it supports its weight from below.

Since around 1959, ideas began to spring forward using the concept of tensile structures and centrifugal forces that work together to keep the structure in tension thanks to a counter weight deep in orbit and an anchor on the surface. Whilst this is, thanks to the high gravity levels, is problematic on Earth, on bodies with lower gravitational forces the idea has more potential.

Space Elevator: A Physics Problem

Thanks to the gigantic size of the space elevator there are a few physics issues, that we won’t dive deep into, that need to be overcome. These include:

  • Ensuring that, what for all intents and purposes is, a massive stick tethered to the surface doesn’t collide with anything.
  • The cable is able to maintain straightness
  • The cable is able to hold it’s own weight
  • The cargo is able to sustain the immense G forces it would undertake whilst moving both vertically and horizontally under differing gravitational forces.

These issues are still theoretical in concept in the 21st century, but scientists are investing time, money and effort into finding a solution to these issues. Thankfully, in TerraGenesis, the factions have overcome these problems and have successfully created space elevators to aid and enable further colonization and terraforming of future, distant worlds.

The Science of TerraGenesis: Lagrange Academy

The height of education at the Lagrange Academy

The Lagrange Academy is your terraformed world’s leader in education and development. In fact, more often than not it literally leads the world, but more on that later. The Lagrange Academy is an investment in your people, your scientists, your greatest minds and your faction as a whole.

This orbiting institution is accessible to only the greatest and most elite minds available but is also large enough to educate vast swathes of those people at once. They’ll be able to look down on the terraformed world beneath them from a fixed L4 Lagrange point in orbit. This might seem like a platform for solely scientists but that’s not the case. Public servants, entertainers, law makers, and even those regular citizens who reach the highest levels of education are able to work at the Lagrange Academy.

Through their education and development, these minds will be able to guide, craft and develop your whole factions culture and process. What used to be a traditional, set and fixed set of traditions can become a fluid, changeable culture.

Why Lagrange?

The name might sound like it’s simply named after a founder but there’s considerably more to it than that. A famous physicist and astronomer, Lagrange spent years developing an understanding of how objects orbit planetary bodies and other nearby celestial bodies too. Through this research he began to understand and then gave his name to a series of fixed orbit points.

The Lagrange points, put simply are points in the space around a planet where satellites are able to stick at a fairly fixed point between two different bodies. Take the example of Earth and the Moon. There is a certain point between the two bodies where their gravitational pull will be cancelled out and the satellite in question will remain at a fixed location in orbit, getting no closer or further from one of the other. 

The L4 point, where the Lagrange station is situated is an interesting case. Considered to be one of the most stable orbit points, the Langrange station and achieves this through a particular position whereby it orbits the larger of the two bodies slightly in front of the smaller body. In our example above the satellite orbits Earth slightly before the Moon’s orbit. This is where the motto of the Lagrange Academy, “Literally leading the world” comes from. 

Lagrange Academy Application

In TerraGenesis, the Lagrange Academy removes any cost to changing your culture. This means you can alter the economy style, eco-policies, governmental strategy and planetary values at the drop of a hat. Does that mean that you should? Well, of course you can alter this to your needs, but be wary of the ramifications. Large adjustments can seriously destabilise your world. For instance, your eco-policy can drastically reduce the number of habitations that your world has, leading to massive population shortages.

The Lagrange Academy allows a dramatic amount of freedom without cost, but should always be used with a calculated approach that its members would celebrate.