Hello, Thorpe here. Just wanted to say a few words about how some things might be done in the future, especially when we move out to the asteroids.
In the early days of the automobile (Take a look at that well-known Michael J. Fox’s movie: Back to the Future), gas stations would often have a small team of men who would dash out to a visiting car, wash the windshields, check the oil, check the tires, and even offer a soft drink or cup of coffee for a small fee. Naturally, the main profit was in the gas the motorist would purchase, and possibly another quart of oil if the attendant told you that you were a mile short. For the younger readers, yes, I do remember. I think it happened every time, by the way.
Sailing ships and ports. Space ships and colonies. There are parallels throughout history, for men tend to translate what was successful in place to another, no matter where. Here on earth, as commercial development and trade increases, we have often seen small little fishing villages expand into great shipping ports. It will be the same among the asteroids. Grim, hardscrabble toeholds will increase in size as their viability becomes greater, and their commodities become more specialized (ore from mining operations, farm produce, manufactured goods) and then shipped out and paid for (Currency and trade is a whole different discussion).
As the size and diversity of the colony increases, so will visiting traffic. Namely, ships and their crews. This is another historical parallel. This will spark even more commercial flexibility, as the colony offers shore side amenities, ranging from a stroll through a shady tree park to a set of cafes and restaurants serving fresh salads and fresh-cooked meat.
Another amenity that could occur while the ship is docked is a full-fledged, thorough flushing of the visiting ship’s air, water, and sewage systems. It would be a courtesy for the visiting ship, and an even trade for the colony. The colony would get a few tons of a product easily made into fertilizer for its agricultural areas. The ship would receive a full load of fresh air and fresh water. Maybe even scented fresh air (pine or ocean salty), to make the next few days more pleasant and variable as the ship proceeds to its next destination.
This is not an impossible dream. A colony grows, not only in numbers and size, but in volume as well. As oxygen and water is unlocked from the rocks and ice of the parent asteroid, the tunnels will expand a long way beyond the original cramped, narrow passageways and mining shafts. Becoming large, airy, and expansive. It would also be offering a perception of open spaces almost like back on earth. In other words, the colony could boast having plenty of air, and fresh water tumbling down in brooks and small ponds. All of which making the needs of a ship puny by comparison. To put it simply, the volume of air and water given to the visiting ship would be a minimal cost to the host, and of great benefit to the visitors.
It has long been known that there is no such thing as a free lunch (An old Heinlein saying). This would be especially true in space. On the other hand, by offering ‘free’ or low-cost inducements for a ship to come by, there could be a considerable return of revenue by the willingness of the crew members to spend some of their own money while visiting. After the cargo is loaded and unloaded, it is not at all impossible to for the Skipper to grant some free time ‘ashore’ for the crew before departure.
While we’re on the subject of shore-side leave, we may speculate a little bit more on what a few more amenities of the town, or the colony, are likely to be. Of course it is well known that stories on the subject are rife with the detailed descriptions of saloons, bars, bawdy houses, and the like. Indeed, at some of the larger settlements, it’s quite possible that will be the case.
However, it may not always be so. Due to content of scale and size offered by a colony, many shipboard services can be enhanced on a grand scale while visiting. For example, instead of shipboard quick, short showers for hygiene, a luxurious hot, soaking bath could be had. Perhaps even a dip in one of the nearby ponds. Instead of the gray metal walls of a shipboard dining area, a little restaurant with wooden floors and a thatched roof would be pleasant. With well-stocked streams and ponds nearby, renting a simple fishing rod and catching a fresh trout to be cooked would be of immense enjoyment to a crew member.
On a fully developed or advanced colony, there could be nature hikes, along meandering along the full length of the colony’s perimeter with flowers, ferns, and even trees to break the monotony of the walk. With local birds, wildlife (Even if it’s only a few rabbits), and casual residents for conversation, such a stroll would be a long remembered diversion for a spacer.
Bicycles and reserved trails would certainly not be impossible, either. Ordinary bikes are mechanically simple, robust, and easy to manufacture. By the way, any bicycle enthusiast will tell you that they are versatile, useful machines for transportation and human power in their own right. They would be valued items in a large colony anyway.
Of course, all of this would not be solely dependent on a simple amenity such as recharging your air tanks, but it would make a big difference in deciding where your next stop is going to be. And for how often, for that matter. With a million or so rocks out there, there could well be a colony on many of them. Each one of them glad for a visit from a ship, especially a paying ship. Something to think about as we all roll into the future and continue onwards out into space.
This is Thorpe, signing off for now.