Space War

  By Shamus   Oct 4, 2006   17 comments

Buck Rogers
This Criminally Weird post reminded me of this post from Den Beste about how space warfare might really work. (The very short version: Probably not as colorful, exciting, or as interesting as in the movies.)

One thing about this that really kills the drama of space warfare is that fact that even if we had energy shields and phazor-beams and neutronium rays and quantum torpeoes and whatever other ridiculous gibberish space heroes use to battle space villians, people still wouldn’t fight in space because there is just no reason to do so.

We would need some sort of resources to fight over. The other planets in our solar system are worthless from a strategic standpoint. What if some rogue nation launched fleet and declared that they owned all of the space from here to Jupiter? Meh. Who cares? If they claimed Venus, what would we do? Fine, it’s all yours. We won’t intrude on your space. Have fun funding the forces to patrol it. For no reason. Humans aren’t any more likely to fight over space than they are to fight over Antarctica. Less, in fact, since fighting in space would require all new technologies and tools and would be preposterously expensive.

(And of course, claiming planets is pointless. I never understood why Star Trek portrayed the bulk of Earth’s defense as being positioned on Mars. That’s only useful if Earth and Mars happen to be on the same side of the Sun, and the bad guys go to the extra trouble of passing by Mars on the way in, instead of entering at some other angle. In defense of Starfleet, the bad guys do exactly this. They always blast their way past Mars Defense on the way in to Earth. Very sporting of them, really.)

Buck Rogers
Before space warfare is possible we would need something worthwhile to do there.

Personally I think we should take the Starcraft route: First we build huge orbital platforms. Then we load up the platforms with valuable resources. Presto! Now we have something over which we might wage war. Then we can build fleets and fight over the resources on the platforms. It’s a bit of a hack, and it is still unclear who would restock the platforms after each battle, but it might get the ball rolling. Perhaps the UN would be willing to do the restocking.

It’s either that or wait for aliens to invade. I’m beginning to worry that I might not get to pilot a spacefighter or even a mech before I die.

17Just 17 comments.


  1. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    Maybe humans would start fighting in space so we don’t have as many civilian casualties. and we wouldn’t be making a big mess of our own planet. It’s like when your mom tells you to play with your nerf guns outside so you don’t break a lamp or something.

  2. Ubu Roi says:

    Why send the resources to space to fight over, when they’re already there? Strip mine Mars, now!

  3. Shamus says:

    Strip mine Mars? What is on Mars that you would mine?

  4. Pixy Misa says:

    Light rare earth elements. Neodymium, that kind of thing.

    Actually shipping the stuff anywhere… that’s a whole ‘nother story.

    I suspect Ubu Roi was just proposing it on general principles though. Sometimes you gotta take a stand.

  5. What’s the point of having a spaceship if you can’t say “Mr Sulu, lock and fire phasers!”?

  6. some kid says:

    Asteroids might have resources like metal ore to fight over in the distent futur when we use up all our metals on earth building our war machines. Orbital weapon platforms may also lead to conflict. building on Skeeves theory, every nation could have a champion to fight for them in space so instead of having huge land wars we would have few in ship to ship combat.
    So unless people learn to stop fighting we will end in a space war someday.

  7. MOM says:

    Very useful post. Why should space wars remain in the world of fantasy? I remember when moon landings were thought to be fanciful dreams that would never become reality. But with some hard work on the part of scientists and engineers and visionary political leadership from JFK, science fiction became science fact. I’ sure mankind can collaborate on this dream and make fun and exciting space warfare as common as the nightly news.

  8. Shamus says:

    And mechs! I want to pilot a mech!

  9. Will says:

    Ye Gods! I don’t remember that post sounding nearly so incoherent when I wrote it.

    I did later find a cracked executable to allow Prophecy and Secret Ops to work in Win2k, but it wasn’t long after that I (finally) dumped my old Voodoo 3000 card. Prophecy was developed primarily for Glide, and Direct3D just didn’t work as well (yet).

    It is very sporting of all the sci-fi villains to right zip past our long range defenses on Mars rather than attack from perpendicular to the planetary plane. Sometimes TV/movie types forget there’s a third dimension to take advantage of when attacking. This isn’t a sea battle transplanted into space.

  10. David V.S. says:

    Why fight in space? The same as at sea: piracy.

    When people start traveling in space then we will be putting resources in space: people, and the ships they travel on.

    It may be that some day the most dangerous part of traveling to another planet is the potential to be intercepted by slave-traders or pirates wanting your ship’s metal/food/isotopes/etc.

  11. some kid says:

    And where there are pirates there are people to hunt them!

  12. Wonderduck says:

    You can never stop the Dread Space Pirate Westley!

    I have ‘faith’ in the human race: if we ever get to where space travel is regular and commonplace, we’ll figure out some reason to fight amongst ourselves.

    We’ve always done so, and just because we’ve got more THERE there, I’m thinking we always will.

  13. Pixy Misa says:

    Anyone else read Piers Anthony’s Bio of a Space Tyrant series? (Not that I recommend it.)

    In the first book, there’s about a 10:1 ratio of pirates to legitimate space traffic.

  14. Some other guy says:

    Don’t forget that the Russians had a fully-operational battle station in the 70s.

    From http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/spaceguns/

    “Well, guess what–Salyut 3 had a machine gun. The station had a 23 mm rapid-fire cannon mounted on the outside, along the long axis of the station “for defence against US space-based inspectors/interceptors”. Combat engagements would have been leisurely by Star Wars or fighter jet standards, since the only way to aim the cannon was to point the entire station at the target, using its attitude gyros. A periscope connected to a visor on the main control panel allowed drawing a bead on the intended target. ”

    Apparently, they have still managed to conceal existance of the mechs and the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

  15. Paladin109 says:

    I call copyright infringement, since that idea has already been used before…

    (and yes Shamus the champions did use mecha)

    *doesn’t want to openly admit to watching “G Gundam”…shhhh*

  16. Max says:

    What about H3 on the moon? I’d wager China and the US were willing to fight over this in a couple of decades =)

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