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 idea of carrying out an asteroid drill sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but this is science fact!
As a general rule, people like to be prepared for every eventuality and NASA are no different- welcome to a world where there’s such a thing as an asteroid drill! For most of us there’s already enough to worry about in normal life without planning how to deal with large, hurtling lumps of molten rock as well, but it’s the job of agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency to puzzle out these interplanetary problems. Is a huge asteroid strike on earth likely? Luckily, no. But is it impossible? Not at all!
It’s a scary prospect
The phrase ‘asteroid drill’ is a bit of a scary one, but what does it actually mean? Well the various space agencies around the world want to simulate what would happen if the planet were hit by a huge asteroid thrown into our atmosphere from space. They’re not just thinking about the lumps of rock that regularly burn up in the atmosphere, they’re nowhere near terrifying enough. They’re thinking about something that would wipe out a city the size of Tokyo!
The focus is on simulated information-gathering, for example finding out very quickly where and when the asteroid is likely to land. Communications are also key, with governments having to cooperate to potentially evacuate millions of people from a likely strike zone. The more you learn about asteroid drill, the more you hope that this all remains hypothetical and never happens for real!
What have asteroids ever done to us?
Obviously you wouldn’t want to be hit by a falling asteroid, but are they really such a big deal? Well depending on the size, potentially yes. In rural Siberia in 1908, a huge explosion spontaneously flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest. The culprit was eventually found to be a huge asteroid that burnt up on entry into our atmosphere, turning it into an air-borne bomb. The miraculous fact that no one was hurt is only down to the fact that no one lived there! Imagine that happening over a populated urban area nowadays…it doesn’t bear thinking about.
Of course, we can’t really talk about cataclysmic asteroid events without giving a shout out to the dinosaurs as well. The leading theories on their disappearance all stem back to a huge asteroid strike on earth that led to mass extinction. It’s a good job NASA and friends are working on a plan then, just in case it happens again!
Time is of the essence for asteroid drills
It would be tempting to imagine that we would spot any sinister-looking asteroids years in advance, giving us lots of time to prepare our defenses, but that’s not necessarily the case. NASA considers that we may only have days or even hours to formulate a response if a threatening object is spotted late, so it’s critical that everyone knows what they’re doing right from the start.
Even if we have time to prepare however, it’s still a good idea for them to get some practice in. It would take quite a while to evacuate a city like LA or London if they were the likely landing sites after all!
Try not to worry TOO much…
Scientists identify 150 or more ‘Near Earth Objects’, or asteroids, every month. Not many of them actually enter our atmosphere, and even fewer are large enough to cause a problem. There are some bigger objects on the horizon though, and scientists are currently tracking a rock that could potentially be on a collision course with earth in about 10 years’ time.
That’s why asteroid drill is so important though, and why we shouldn’t be starting a mass panic just yet. Maybe that rock will come our way, and maybe it won’t. But you should sleep easier knowing that some of the best minds on the planet are working hard today to keep us all safe tomorrow!
When I first got wind of “No Man’s Sky” just weeks before its release in 2016, I jumped onto the caboose of that hype train and rode those glorious tracks into 18 quintillion procedurally generated sunsets.
On release day, my coworkers picked up the highly anticipated title and decided to stream it for 24 hours straight — that’s how excited we all were for it — but by hour 2 we’d already lost interest; by hour 4 were so sick of the game we couldn’t bear to look at it anymore.
We could place blame on the unfulfilled promises that lead to the overwhelming hype, such as lack of multiplayer, but a game doesn’t need such a feature to succeed if it’s good on its own. And while “No Man’s Sky”, on paper, had everything it needed to appeal to just about anybody — unique mechanic, beautiful graphics, and, of course, zooming through space discovering things — it was just missing… something.
As I watched the title struggle for two years, I promised myself that I’d give it another go when it released a multiplayer option — out of principle, of course. So when “No Man’s Sky” NEXT came out, I finally caved and bought a copy of my own, jumping back on the hype train’s newfound tracks once again. Surely, adding multiplayer and the other promised features will fix this game, right? All rights have been wronged, and we can all play in peace now, right? Right?
Booting the game up two years later, I was still met with some same critiques along with a few new ones. I’m still a random explorer with a damaged ship and space amnesia, but now I have mini-objectives that, if not fulfilled, will result in death. Each mini-objective is barely explained, and understanding the controls seems to be a privilege, not a right. Nevertheless, I persisted, and managed to get off the first planet…
…only to immediately land on a nearby moon and start another tutorial.
In a game that boasts endless exploration in the vastness of space, it’s frustrating to focus on something comparatively insignificant as my character not dying. Additionally, while discovering flora and fauna has to be my absolute favorite aspect of the game, there doesn’t seem to be much of a purpose to it besides gaining some credits. Am I furthering in-game knowledge of a certain species, or is this just for shits and giggles? And what’s up with the mining, AKA 300% of the game (with the remainder being not dying of course)?
Giving up on Story Mode, I boot up a new game on Creative instead. As I take a few snapshots of the nature that surrounds me and feed a few organisms, I’m reminded why I lost interest so quickly. I wanted to explore this procedurally generated universe, but with more purpose. I wanted to chart the stars with other players and look back on all our accomplishments on a shared map as we populated it with new worlds. I wanted to be a passive observer on some planets but actively settle others. I wanted to find flourishing alien civilizations mixed in with the lesser-evolved life forms.
Maybe that was too much to ask, but when a game promises something like infinite worlds, it’s easy to believe that the sky’s the limit when it comes to adding features.
Perhaps it’s this selling point that ends becomes one of its weaknesses. 18 quintillion planets sounds cool, but is it necessary? I keep hoping to run into another player’s base or some bustling city just by happenstance, but the universe is too impossibly big for that to be statistically plausible.
Then again, there is a beauty to the overwhelming sense of loneliness this provides. Through all the ferrite dust mined, the sentinels avoided, the flora discovered, the fauna named, the bases built and the worlds visited, I’m obstinate in my goal to not only find a connection, but find meaning. What is the purpose of building a glorious home base, only to constantly travel many light years away from it? Why am I naming all of these animals if no one else is around to take value from my discoveries? Why bother pioneering through each planet if I can’t even map them? And why is my motivation to continue to eke out an existence in this infinite universe with no clear direction?
Why is this game exactly like life? Why are we here, what is our purpose, and what keeps us going as we climb over the next hill or jet off to the next world?
As I feed carbon to a strange creature and it starts to follow me, purring, I sit down and survey my base. I take a snapshot as the now friendly alien dances around me, seemingly without a care.
Playing with the lighting controls, I settle on a welcome stillness in the air, and as the sun rises over the horizon, I’m met with the beauty that can only come from a calm morning, a planet yet to awaken after a restful night. I take a photo to immortalize this feeling of “being in the now” and post it to social media, although I know no one will feel the joy I suddenly feel from this moment.
It seems silly, but in that one fragment of time, when everything was still and I could pause to take the beauty in, I was reminded of what I felt was initially missing.
“No Man’s Sky” spoke to me in a way that only a fresh dawn can, and it healed me, if even for a little while. It reminded me to take in the beauty that is all around us and appreciate the small things that the universe throws our way. We may be lost in the desolate vastness of space, searching for meaning, but we’re always given casual prompts to stop and reflect on the beauty that is all around us.
So, to Sean Murray and the team at Hello Games, a congratulations is in order — thank you for making such a beautiful game (but let’s work on that shared in-game map, eh?).