Book Review: StarTram: The New Race to Space (2013)

Humanity Strikes Back!

StarTram_PicAs one of the founding participants 20 years ago of what was known as the Millennial Project—a group of idealistic “young” advocates of practical space flight and colonization led by an imaginative folk hero named Marshall Savage (who wrote the book of the same name)—I am thrilled to see this watershed book part the clouds. StarTram is an umbrella proper name for specific magnetic levitation (maglev) systems in development for convenient and inexpensive launch of freight and persons into earth orbit. Maglev launch to space was anticipated in the Millennial Project (and by others), but no one had “worked out the details.”

The authors of the book StarTram have done so. Their credentials are a perfect blend of establishment space scientist, propulsion engineer, all the other kinds of scientist and engineer, inventor, and literary visionary storyteller… with a hearty dash of childlike joy and wonder. Their passion for breaking the chains that bind us to the Third Planet shines through on every page, surpassed only by the transcendent logic of their argument that the time is now and the technology is manifest.

Maglev is the only reasonable method for “getting out there” into the Solar System to solve imminent problems for Earthlings: e.g. energy, environment, resources, and to deter foreign objects addressed to our cosmic zip code. Not to mention to exploring and inhabiting the Moon and Mars, or just having some low-g, Barbarella-like FUN in low-earth-orbiting weekend getaway pads.

StarTram is a epochal modern book of human liberation—equivalent to Renaissance scientists explaining how to set sail for the New World. Back then, if you’ll recall, not everyone in the feudalist Old World was overjoyed to see their serfs given clear directions to alternative, oligarchy-free real estate.

Today really isn’t much different: over the centuries the Medieval ownership class pretty much figured out how to climb back in the global saddle. The last thing the Syndicate, the Cartel, THEY—call it what you will—wants is millions and billions of productive people working together in freedom for an unparalleled future in the stars of health and wealth who don’t need THEM… their wars, their debt, their suffocating economics, their prisons, or their policemen pepper-spraying grandma.

So there’ll be some pushback by the Power vs. StarTram, no doubt. But how does one hold back the tide? A quick mention of two other major assets of the StarTram book: a) discussion of nearer-term alternative prospects depending on who gets their ‘stuff’ into earth orbit first and b) considering, down the road when humans can presumably announce to the Galaxy, “Hey, we’re here!” whether that is such a good idea.

Regarding item a), dominance of earth orbit will give the dominator absolute power over Earth with cheap, easy-to-target, devastating weapons; how WE handle that issue will decide whether WE make the hurdle into peaceful use of space or become a marooned, dying planet, As for b), all I can say is the authors pose brilliant, tantalizing reasons to cosmically lay low. What do YOU think?

A thousand stars.




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