The plans were extravagant in the extreme. For centuries, the thought of creating a Dyson Sphere, that is, manufacturing an immense hollow ball around the Sun with the inner edge of the shell positioned at One AU or the exact distance of Earth’s orbit from its star was thought to be the absolute cure-all for every problem introduced on the mother planet by human beings. The inner surface area would capture one hundred percent of all generated solar energy, providing an all but inexhaustible amount of power and living space, so humanity would run out of neither.
One of the biggest drawbacks was that you’d have to cannibalize every other object in the solar system just for the raw materials, plus you would have to find a way to create the energy necessary for the manufacturing process. However, the engineering genius even to design such a fantastic structure didn’t exist among Earth’s best and brightest and probably never would.
Science fiction writer Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” might do as well. Imagine taking the “equator” section out of the Dyson Sphere and utilizing it in the same way. Not as much living space or energy capture, but still a whole lot more than simply living on the tiny blue marble called Earth.
But Niven was a science fiction writer and Ringworld was no more attainable an achievement than the Sphere.
Twenty-first century Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested that moving other planets such as Mars and Venus into the “Goldilocks” zone around the sun might be feasible, but not very feasible. However, if you could do it and provide each planet with a rotating molten iron-nickel core so it could generate a magnetic field, and terraform suitable atmospheric compositions and densities, it would give the human race three planets to live on instead of one.
The problem here is that even if you had the necessary technology to move planetary bodies to the desired locations, gravitational resonance would hurl Earth out of its orbit as you moved the other planet(s) in.
But Earth was continuing to heat up and fill up and something needed to be done. Since the industrial age, humans had always looked to their genius and innovation to rescue them from the problems they themselves had created using their genius and innovation.
Robin McKeun woke up along with five billion other human beings. It would take days for her to recover from the effects of eight-hundred years of deep hibernation. As she reclined in the resuscitation pod, she wondered what she would find when she and the rest of her colony, one of five anchored to the bottom of each of Earth’s oceans, returned to the surface.
Her grandfather William Marshall Sacks developed the initial plan, and her mother Amanda Sacks McKeun was part of the Ring of Ten, the scientists, engineers, visionaries, and financiers who were responsible for implementing the ambitious project. This was to be accomplished using a series of guided close flybys of massive asteroids, both between Jupiter and Earth and between Saturn and Venus with the goal of gradually changing the orbits of the two inner planets.
On its most basic level, the plan was simple. As an asteroid passed by its target planet, the asteroid transferred some of its gravitational energy, slowly boosting the planet to an orbit further away from the sun. Earth was getting too hot and Venus had a surface temperature of molten lead. Both planets needed to be in an orbit where they would be cooler. Gently pushing both worlds away from their central star would accomplish that goal.
A reawakened humanity would then have two habitable worlds for the price of one. The only additional engineering required was the terraforming of the Venusian atmosphere and creating an externally generated magnetosphere to protect the surface from solar radiation, both child’s play compared to the feat of moving not just one but two planets into new orbits.
“As your mother, I’m giving you the news ahead of time Robin, but in less than a week, we’ll have to make the information public, well, first we tell the three colonies to be evacuated and only later disclose what we know to those who will stay.”
“Which ones, Mother?”
“Oh don’t worry. The Arctic, Indian, and South Pacific Colonies will be saved so you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Mom, you’re talking about condemning two billion people to their deaths.”
“I’m talking about saving three billion human beings including my own daughter.”
They were communicating across a secure vid channel, Amanda being in the Indian Colony and Robin residing in South Pacific.
“What about Raul? He’s in North Atlantic.”
“Look, dear. I’m sorry about your lover, but I can only play favorites once. You’re my daughter so your colony survives. In a week, the three colonies will be informed of the situation and their populations transported to the spaceports in Delhi, Reykjavik, and Queensland to board their ark ships for Venus.”
“So what! A month after that, you’ll tell the other two colonies that they can take their chances by remaining in their undersea habitats as the Earth, forced to the outer edge of the Goldilocks zone by gravitational resonance, replaces Mars in an orbit over 140 million miles from Sol.”
“That’s about the size of it, dear. At least Earth won’t be pushed out of orbit entirely and become a rogue planet like Mars.”
“Mother, you are a cold-blooded bitch.”
“The price you pay for being one of ten people on the entire planet who decides the fate of the human race and two planets, I’m afraid. I wasn’t chosen just because I was an astrophysicist you know. The bright side is that Venus is now comfortably orbiting the sun at an average distance of 92.96 million miles. That’s just about spot on, don’t you think?”
That’s a tough one because it can go in so many different directions.
From Old French and French extravagant, from Medieval Latin extravagans, past participle of extravagari (“to wander beyond”), from Latin extra (“beyond”) + vagari (“to wander, stray”).
Interesting, but still no story ideas. I needed a topic that crystalized the meaning of extravagant.
For some reason, the idea of creating a Dyson Sphere popped into my head. After all, you’d have to consume every last bit of matter in the solar system to build one, and the primary motivation would be that you’d already extravagantly exhausted all of the resources on Earth.
But the story is too big, and Larry Niven already created and owns Ringworld, so that was out. I couldn’t find any other viable solar system spanning habitat designs in a quick Google search, but I did find the Daily News article Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson reveals man’s ability to move uninhabitable planets into ‘Goldilocks Zone’ is 100 percent possible and a piece from the Guardian called Nasa aims to move Earth, both which gave me the “core” of my story.
Oh, I had to solve Venus’s pesky “I don’t have an internally generated magnetosphere” problem using clues from this article, though I ended up making the external generators technological.
It’s difficult for me to inject “humanity” and “personality” into a saga with such a grand scope without making it 10,000 words long, but hopefully my little exchange between Robin and her mother Amanda helped a bit.
Two bad about two billion people, including Robin’s lover Raul, but I suppose that among the three billion survivors, the younger McKuen will find a suitable mate. At least that’s what Amanda thinks.