A classic Big Dumb Object is discussed in Short Sharp Science: a space elevator combined with a maglev launcher to propel prospective lunar colonists into orbit:
The lunar elevator doesn’t actually reach the regolith. Instead, the elevator ribbon ends 10 kilometres shy of the lunar surface so that no lunar mountain peaks hit the end, or terminus, of the orbiting elevator.
So how do astronauts make that 10 km jump to the elevator’s dangling tail? Easy: as the terminus passes overhead, they are fired in a magnetically levitated train along a track that’s been laid across the lunar plain and which gradually eases upwards to become vertical.
If they are fired at just the right time – and I wouldn’t like to be the person specifying or writing the software to do that, they are caught by some kind of robotic grappler at the terminus, which attaches the train to the ribbon.
One thought on “Maglev + space elevators + Moon = Big Dumb Object”
I know this idea has merit, and I understand that the solar system could be quite open to slingshotting with rotating skyhooks, spaceships and colony vessels being flung left and right, grabbed up from railguns like mail cannisters through airtubes.
However I find the sometimes surreal implications of what freefall environments may have in terms of mass architecture are far more alien than we conceive of right now. The above examples are the first iterations of zero gravity mass architecture and industry. However we are all landlubber and flatlanders speculating about the tempestuous oceans beyond our current reach and imaginations.
Imagine if I (being the fairy godmother again) forces a few thousand well-stocked, well trained people into these conditions and had them survive for a few centuries, locked off from terrestrial support, resources, logistics and moral support. Completely cut off, with all the requirements for a colony, but little immediate potential to do fundamental science other than to survive. Death tolls would be high, but damn, what kind of design choices would a few hundred such civilizations come up with in a few centuries. How diversified would these colonies become if created in splendid isolation?
How much weirderer would they be than we currently envision?
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