Playing Outside


Howdy, all space buffs and Futurists!  The name’s Clyde, Clyde Belshe.  I love my job as an astronaut, and like everyone else, I have an eye for the future, but my telescope’s a little bent, for I see some things differently.

Take kids, for example. Children and young adults (OK, ‘Teenagers”), they’re going to be out there, too.  When we really start moving out into space and building colonies, children are bound to show up.

What are they going to do?

Playing and causing mischief, of course.

But here’s the rub:  A lot of adults don’t realize the fact that the Young Adults (YA for short) of every colony, every settlement ever made, provide the cutting edge for local exploration, taming, and future development.

Throughout history and in every culture, new settlements have been discovered by explorers and scouts: a fertile plain or forest where two rivers meet,  a good, sheltered cove where fishing boats can be constructed, launched, and sheltered,  a mountain range where hidden valleys, well-watered by snow run-offs and rich silt from the mountains themselves.

After the discoveries, the settlers come, with their children.  When not doing chores, they want to play and explore.

Many a young backside has been warned by an angry parent for climbing a nearby cliff.  Many more are swatted for splashing in streams, climbing trees, indulging in reckless games, and playing with fires.

Unfortunately, there’s reason.  Exploring can be dangerous as well, and explorers and settlers have sadly acquired much tragedy for their children along the way.  YA types have often been killed from falling off cliffs, drowning, crashing, work accidents, and learning shortfalls.  Carelessness is often part of a YA’s make-up.  A space environment is supremely unforgiving.

On a lighter note, let us forget how many YA types wander in the deep woods and far fields and happen to encounter one another.

Unsuitable family.  Stranger.  Poor with no prospects.  Off with his head or run him out of town.  Confinement for the shameless lass and it’s off to a convent or an early marriage to a prosperous neighbor.  –Doesn’t matter if he’s older.  He’ll settle her down.  Story-tellers will forever have a living to be made off of this.

It will be the same in space.

Let’s take a colony wheel, a mile in diameter and a couple thousand feet thick at the rim.  To get an earth-like gravity, you will have to spin it.  At the outer edge, it’s going to be moving along at roughly 450 to 500 miles per hour.  If you let go while working on the outside rim, you’re in launch mode.

There are other hazards and conditions as well, beyond the usual dangers of radiation and cosmic rays.

There will be clusters of asteroid boulders nearby, brought in by the rock slingers for processing into building materials and useful volatiles.  More rocks as left-over bits or slag will be placed further out, for defense obstacles and anchor points for radio masts and solar reflectors.  Some of them spinning, some of them tumbling, and some just drifting quiet and sedately.

Good for YA types?

You bet!

First is the speeding rim of the colony itself. Yes, there are the farms, factories, homes and parks within, sealed against outer space and with its own atmosphere within.  But that’s all inside.  Outside is where there’s action.

Speed appeals to YA types.

Along the rim will be a host of attachment rings and anchor points.  Maybe even some crude scaffolding.  One step, and you’re off at 450 miles an hour!

Snag a nearby rock that’s loaded with illuminated rings for you to grab with your cable and catching hook.  The cable could be a bungee-cord device to slow down your momentum.  –Or you could use the momentum to sling you on to the next rock.

-Obstacle race, anyone?

Within the colony will be machine shops and hangars (The small ones can be called garages).  Quite possible it is to build a small ‘runabout’ vessel to earn its keep by shuttling between settled rocks being nudged or broken up by the miners on board.

A little bit of fine-tuning (probably illegal), and you have a racer.  Who’s first to that beacon out there?  Setting up a bubble tent or ‘RV Trailer’ hitched to a rock for a little bit of private mining or farming (not necessarily food crops).

For that matter, there is the outer surface of the colony wheel as well.  As you get closer to the center, the spin is lessened as you get closer.  Interesting games and races can be devised from this.

However, how can this be the cutting edge?

For one thing, as you play, you get more familiarity with the environment.  A spacer YA will be able to move about and work far more easily than an earth-born.  There are useful possibilities for many team activities.  First team to get out to a distant rock, set up a giant solar reflector, and boil a rock gets a prize.  First team to corral a flock of small rocks into a small, useful cluster gets a prize.  First team to lasso a stray (Ok, ‘maverick’) rock, brand it, and sling it into a holding area gets a prize.  First team to set up a ‘camp’ with heat and air gets a prize.

Let us not discount marksmanship as well.  Tagging a distant rock with an explosive (small, of course) marker with your own ID will call for skill in aiming.

Rocket launcher or cross bow?   Shooting meets, my friend.  For that matter, a plentitude of tiny bits of rock, fist-sized will be floating around.  Take a line, add a pouch to the middle, and you have a sling and ammo that any shepherd boy from five thousand years ago would recognize.  With bodily spin momentum, drifting, and bouncing between rocks, a YA type will develop an entire set of reflexes and body skills that can only be guessed at today.  However, this is all absolutely necessary for the future exploration and development outside.

However, there will also be young backsides warmed as well.  –Just like back on old Earth.  And YA’s will also meet, and there will be angry parents off on a hunt.

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