"Off Earth" by Erika Nesvold - space settlement hatchet job?

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Keith Lofstrom

Aug 20, 2023, 1:57:33 AMAug 20
to Power Satellite Economics
I am currently attempting to plow through stellar
astrophysicist Erika Nesvold's 2023 book "Off-Earth :
Ethical Questions and Quandries for Living in Outer Space"

I haven't made it far through the book - the mis-statements,
slanders, and angry ignorance are overwhelming. It may stem
from her asking early-stage space entrepreneurs dumb questions
about century-scale consequences, i.e. "how will you protect
worker's rights in a space colony?", asked of an experimental
rocket engine designer.

Anyway, her guiding thesis seems to be "space colony advocates
are hiding evil things". No, we mostly don't write about what
we haven't learned yet. This is a mirror image of what some
"conservatives" write about "evil woke liberals", and may
similarly result from mind-rotting text messaging overdoses.

In reality, in 2023, and in spite of much confidence expressed
on this list and in our published literature, I suspect we
have a VERY vague (and perhaps absurdly incorrect) notion of
what a space habitat will be, and who (or what) will inhabit
it. Or how we will make it. Or how it will pay for itself.

Personally, I am eager to learn how WRONG we are, WHILE we
learn how to "do it right", then learn to "do it" EVEN BETTER.

How we assign the best chairs on the promenade deck comes
MUCH later. FIRST, we must discover MANY technical icebergs,
and steer well clear of them.

You may find Dr. Nesvold's book in a public library, as I did.
I don't want a personal copy sharing the same shelves as my
hundreds of other technical space books ... unless it gets a
whole lot better in the subsequent chapters.


For example: Dr. Nesvold's only O'Neill "quote" in the book,
found on page 110 of the year 2000 third trade-paperback
edition of "The High Frontier", also found on page 237 of
the 1978 Bantam pocket paperback:


Nesvold: ... While he admitted that some of these experiments
would likely fail, "may succeed, and those independent social
laboratories may teach us more about how people can best live
together than we can ever learn on Earth, where high technology
must go hand-in-hand with the rigidity of large-scale human

The quote-mark-delimited fragment is the viewpoint of a
FICTIONAL space colonist, one of many different fictional
viewpoints in Chapter 11, "Homesteading the Asteroids",
not necessarily O'Neill's personal opinion.

Good scientists accurately express their opinion. GREAT
scientists express (and attribute) the opinions of many,
especially conflicting opinions.

I can see why that quote might aggravate a careless reader.
I can see why an academic astronomer doesn't want enormous
solar arrays orbiting though her star field. O'Neill's grand
vision was a thought experiment, not shaving large batches of
data until the residue resembles pre-formed academic theories.

When and if we try to deploy classical SSPS, we will be beset
by THOUSANDS of angry astronomers. Prudence dictates building
MANY accessible, very very good space telescopes first.


I started writing some notes here, mostly to blow off steam:


My notes are intemperate, perhaps actionable. If you don't
want to read "intemperate", wait a week for me to cool down
and re-edit my web page ... or until I find something less
snarky and ignorant elsewhere in Dr. Nesvold's book.


Instead I will write notes from a dozen other books on my
"just read" pile.

Not germane to SSPS: I was deeply moved by Slavomir Rawicz'
1956 ghost-auto-biography "The Long Walk - The True Story
of a Trek to Freedom". I hope to verify it with independent
sources. One year, four thousand miles on foot from a
Soviet Gulag near Yakutzk. South though Mongolia, China, and
Tibet to British India. Hiding from Soviets, crossing the
Gobi Desert with seven companions ... then five. Four
arriving in India as hallucinating walking skeletons.

By comparison, inaccurate opinionated space books are a
"walk in the park".

Keith L.

Keith Lofstrom kei...@keithl.com
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