Joe Haldeman essay: Peace From On High

Giant Space Settlements?  Why?

Science Fiction Grandmaster Joe Haldeman, creator of so many classics including The Hemingway Hoax, Camouflage, All My Sins Remembered and, of course, The Forever War series and Forever Peace series, has graciously given The Space Studies Institute permission to re-release his Non-Fiction essay “Peace From On High.”

This work, previously only available in the fall 1980 edition of the Baen/Pournelle Destinies book series, looks at the concepts of SSI Founder Gerard K. O’Neill from a different angle than most any other that we have seen over the years.

The Space Studies Institute is very proud to bring this insightful essay back to the public and we are sure that you will find it truly fascinating.

“Peace From On High,” from multiple Hugo, Nebula, Rhysling and Locus award winner Joe Haldeman. Now available to you, for free, from The Space Studies Institute.

Get the pdf, read the pdf.  Click here: JoeHaldeman_PeaceOnHigh_ssi

Got here on your phone and can’t read pdfs?  Click here for the online reading text page.

3 thoughts on “Joe Haldeman essay: Peace From On High”

  1. Stanley Kubrick represented the political “tabula rasa” visually in 1968. My postulation is longish and links may not work:

    How to “sell” space solar power to entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors, governments, and ordinary people after more than a half-century of developmental work? I’ve liked the Stanley Kubrick-Arthur C. Clarke collaboration as a way to do that.

    I saw the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” as a kid one afternoon with my dad at the Webb Theater (now the Webb Custom Kitchen).

    The work, which used Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” as a “first stage booster”, went through many revisions during shooting and was pieced together largely during post-production when the money was running out and Kubrick and his team labored to finish. We, the viewers, are the beneficiaries of his efforts, constraints, and vision.

    It’s interesting to note that Kubrick excised a great deal of dialog and all narration during editing, much to the consternation of technical advisor Frederick Ordway III. It’s also interesting to note that the “Dawn of Man” sequence was written and filmed last and added to the beginning of the movie.

    In the story sequence, a group of australopiths living some 4 million years ago receives a “hint” or “glimpse” of its future in the form of a black monolith and is inspired to learn how to kick it off using bones as weapons and tools. The evolutionary ball rolls. War, peace, love, hate, fear, language, lust, sex, violence, food production, politics, religion, wealth, poverty, empires, genocide, technology, revolution, evolution, etc., happen as told in oral history, books, and other movies, and which Kubrick doesn’t feel he has the time or a need to re-address.

    Jump cut to the 21st century.

    Scientists on the moon discover from whence the BIG FUTURE is made and on which the next evolutionary plateau is technologically and economically enabled. A solar-pumped black monolithic device, standing symbolically in the middle of the lunar excavation from which materials it was made, beams concentrated electromagnetic radio frequency energy into that future.

    It is providential for space manufacturing and teleoperations that the moon presents one face to Earth and does not rotate relative to it, that many tons of water ice and other useful volatiles await in permanently shadowed lunar polar craters, and, with the determination of a remarkably focused generation of homo sapiens, that fascist adventurism would be stopped in its tracks before achieving intercontinental ballistic missile and space capabilities, before laying a hand on Einstein (and Kubrick and Peter Glaser), and delivering a young Wernher von Braun, Kurt Debus, and some 1600 other scientists, engineers, and technicians to the United States for employment in the service of freedom and the development of NASA’s Launch Operations Center (now Kennedy Space Center) and the Saturn V rocket.

    In the story’s ship named for the discovery on the moon, a technologically mature and now road-worn intelligent species, chasing that future through the solar system and through terrifying physical, psychological, and existential challenges, overcomes self-doubt and gives in to curiosity. Old David Bowman, representing all of humankind, reaches toward a vision of the monolith as he takes his last breath.

    This simple act leads to renewal of species at the junction of the new evolutionary plateau. It expands life and consciousness beyond the surface of Earth into Earth-moon space, where the sun is warm, communications and power-beaming are in real-time, and commerce, new wealth generation, permanent clean energy for the nations, planetary defense, improved living standards on and off-world, and space tourism can thrive without high energy expenditures or long travel times.

    The story wasn’t particularly detailed by Kubrick at release. It was better detailed, separately, by Dr. Gerard O’Neill at Princeton University and Ralph Nansen’s working group at Boeing Corp., whose reference design for a solar power satellite was a “giant monolith” https://www.boeing.com/history/products/solar-power-satellite.page, a “flat rectangular plane of blue-black solar cells spreading over ten square kilometers of space” https://ssi.org/assets/images/slide02-large.jpg .

    The satellite solar power industry actually does put a number of people to work in high orbit because this “giant monolith” must be built primarily from extraterrestrial materials (the only way the business case can close). Of course, space-born offspring of SSP workers cannot grow up in weightless vacuum. O’Neill “rescues” Kubrick’s movie fetus with his shielded 1g free-space habitats http://ssi.org/assets/images/Ch99p302.gif which are also built from extraterrestrial materials https://i.pinimg.com/originals/98/d6/a9/98d6a960a24184489d5be132253a4f48.jpg.

    The spaceborn regard the home planet with awe. We on the ground regard the spaceborn with hope. The SSP industry, in addition to permanently solving the climate/energy problem on the surface, develops the infrastructure that captures and processes NEOs for construction materials and fuels, preventing extinction of species from asteroid and comet impact. SSP becomes the business backbone for space settlement and the springboard for more distant exploration as it protects Earth.

    The production years of “2001: A Space Odyssey” coincide with the story of radio frequency microwave wireless power transfer (WPT). William C. Brown of Raytheon publicly demonstrated WPT in 1964, the year Kubrick and Clarke began collaborating. Dr. Peter Glaser of A.D. Little Corp. made his solar power satellite invention public in 1968, the year of the film’s release (the first multi-million dollar design study led by Nansen). Both Kubrick and Clarke were very receptive to what was happening at the time on the leading edge of science and technological development in the world that had to do with humanity’s relationship to space. Kubrick read voraciously and researched heavily on these subjects. Among the sources may have been Isaac Asimov’s “Reason”, a short story published in 1941 which described microwave energy beaming to the planets from a space station.

    “Not even a big nickel-iron meteorite could produce a field (of EMR) as intense as this.” – Dr. Ralph Halvorsen’s character in “2001”

    Could Kubrick and Clarke have consulted with Glaser as he developed his sunsat idea and surmised the economic requirement for lunar construction materials? (The excitement of the Apollo program in development was in full swing at the time.) They had to have been familiar with Brown. His WPT demonstration was featured on Walter Cronkite’s TV broadcast on 10/29/1964.

    Sunsats may fly in geosynchronous orbit while, on the back of the industry, rings of O’Neill’s inverted cylindrical biospheres may take up locations in orbits around Earth-moon Lagrange points 4 and 5 and elsewhere in this solar “Goldilocks zone”. Enough potential exists in this region (along what some are starting to call the McLain Line) for the development of 1g real estate and forested wilderness, using materials mined and processed primarily outside of Earth’s gravity well, to support 1 trillion people and fauna.

    When considered in full form, these large sunsat platforms can, in tandem with their cousins in “Clarke” orbit, become “the first evidence of intelligent life (living) off the Earth…”. That line, spoken in “2001” with a pause in place of the word “living” by Heywood Floyd’s character, was one of the few that made Kubrick’s final cut. The line can also be said to arc inward to the idea that australopithecus, succeeding hominids, and farmers of every generation have lived “off the Earth” for sustenance and life and will continue to do so, so long as wars, pandemics, dictators, genocidal regimes, climate change, asteroid strikes, or other major calamities don’t prevent it.

    Sunsats can be placed in view of the sun wherever baseload electricity is needed. Was the “2001” audience treated to a sunsat demo in the outer solar system, just prior to the “Stargate” sequence? A large monolith in Jupiter space is shown being moved into an orbit, business side facing the sun, between the orbits of a few of the larger of the 79 now-known Jovian moons. A graphics odyssey follows, possibly expressive of expanded psychological, creative, spiritual, social, and political freedoms afforded by space migration and settlement.

    As regards Clarke’s later books in the series, they are different stories, not connected to Kubrick. The film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, as we know it in its final release, is 99% Kubrick. Clarke’s novel of the same name went through real-time revisions during filming and mostly accorded with Kubrick’s vision. Clarke said at a press reception before the film’s premiere: “This is really Stanley Kubrick’s movie. I acted as the first stage booster and provided occasional guidance.”

    Scientists at the US Naval Research Laboratory are currently demonstrating radio frequency microwave wireless power transfer of solar energy in space aboard OTV-6 which launched on 5/17/2020 atop an Atlas V booster at Cape Canaveral. The mission may be extended up to two years. If the experiment succeeds, SSP will be closer to realization after more than a half-century of hard developmental work begun by Brown and Glaser.

    Will the final sunsat design(s) actually be the giant blue-black monolith in geosynch described by Ralph Nansen? Not now likely, given the subsequent miniaturization of electronics and improvements in photovoltaics, semiconductors, robotics, AI, foldable/wrapable structures (Caltech), swarm concepts (Mankins), 3D printing (Relativity Space), reusable boosters, and other relevant technologies. The original 11-mile long Boeing rigid sunsat reference design has already served its purpose, however, and will remain permanently in the NASA/DOE-commissioned study schematics and in analog engineering history.

  2. Robert, you may have beat me as the writer of the longest comments on the internet :). But thank you, I took the time and read your lines and found in them some very interesting information. I am told (all the time) that the internet is for little tiny bite sized things but “space is big” and sometimes requires extra area.

    By the way, I don’t know if the system will allow you to follow this image link, but I think you would like it. It is the first Arthur Clarke Award. Presented to Gerard K. O’Neill , arranged by friend of both men, Peter Diamandis. After this marble monolith was given, as a symbol to prove to people that O’Neill and Clarke did not have any “problems” with each other’s work, the official Clarke Awards began. Kinda neat behind the scenes story.

    Gerard K. O’Neill’s Clarke Award from the SSI Library collection: https://ssi.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/gkonclarkeaward.jpg

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