Colonization and terraforming of a galaxy is a hard and complex process that can be managed only by an advanced civilization. This process will happen slow (as humans spread across the Milky Way) or fast (as an intergalactic empire decides to annex a new galaxy). Unlike the classical colonization of planets, moons or solar systems, a galaxy will require much more advanced methods, complex planning and a more developed infrastructure. In many parts, the process can be fully automated.
Research phase Edit
For a fast colonization, the research phase will be done to the entire galaxy. However, if a civilization expands slowly, it will annex solar systems one by one, then will expand to larger areas of space.
One major problem is that the real shape and structure of a galaxy is not the one you see. As light travels with a fixed speed, all stars you see are actually older. Many of the shiny stars are short-lived. Since light needs sometimes billions of years to reach us, majority of distant O - type stars and B - type stars no longer exist. Also, new stars have formed in places we don't quite know. During the research phase, many automatic, fast moving spaceships have to travel throughout the galaxy, to carefully map its real structure. Given the huge size of a galaxy, the process will require a huge number of ships. All data must be gathered together and fast.
Once we know the real position of existing stars and we have an idea about the solar systems that inhabit the galaxy, we can focus on the next stage of the project. The galaxy can be divided into different areas:
- Residential areas. They consist of safe solar systems, mostly stable M - type stars, K - type stars and G - type stars. In those areas, there must not be risks or a nova, supernova or that Red giants might explode. No large nebula should be nearby. The planets should be compatible for terraforming and would offer good conditions for settlers.
- Luxury residential areas. They will be smaller and will consist of isolated solar systems, probably in the galactic halo. Again, the hosting stars must be stable and planets, after terraforming, should provide the best climate patterns.
- Trade areas. These places will be large trade zones, at the intersection of major trade routes. The area must be safe from any nebula, safe from impacts and in a cold place. No risks of an exploding star or radiation will be accepted. The best place should be in interstellar space.
- Trade routes. We see now on Earth that we have a significant percent of land used for ground transportation, but we also have certain passage routes on water and on air. Inside a galaxy, there are many hazards for spaceships: space debris free floating, radiation of many types, nebulas and not only. Even pirates might appear at some point. A network of galactic transport routes will be needed.
- Industrial areas. Given the huge size of a galaxy, we can sacrifice certain areas. There will certainly be solar systems Where terraforming is impossible: around Black holes and not only. There, industrial corporations can build in peace, without pressure from ecologist movements. These places will manufacture many of the goods required by the economy.
- Mining areas. There will be places rich in minerals. Given the huge size of a galaxy, it is possible that somewhere there will be systems with huge concentrations of heavy metals. Terraforming would be very hard, if not impossible.
- Agriculture areas. We might think that the best place for agriculture is a planet in the Habitable Zone around G - type stars. However, even on Earth, now, a large number of plants are cultivated in greenhouses and have their roots inside a soup of minerals and fertilizers. In space, we could see large agricultural corporations building space stations in orbit around stars, growing crops and even animals. In agricultural areas, industrial activity would be restricted.
- Restricted areas. There certainly will be restricted areas: prisons, military camps and research facilities. Such areas will be in a larger number in a dictatorship.
- Protected areas. Some places will be protected as reservations. This will include:
- Indigenous reservations (as found in the USA to protect the Amerindians) - to protect colonies that have formed earlier in the galaxy and preserve their way of life.
- Wildlife reservations - they will include terraformed planets that will not be inhabited, to protect Earth-based flora and fauna.
- Alien reservations. If Alien life is found at some point, it must be protected. Human activity must not interfere and must not endanger alien life forms. If intelligent alien life forms are to be discovered, we must also set as protected land a larger area of space. If the civilization has evolved up to space exploration, we can try to establish diplomatic contact.
- Places with no economic value. There certainly will be areas where terraforming will prove too expensive, where no industrial development will be possible and were various dangers will make every human activity very hard. For example, places close to a star with high risk of going supernova, dense nebulas, areas close to quasars or void places in space.
- Touristic areas. There will certainly be places for recreation.
The galaxy will be divided in large areas (like the nucleus, its arms and the galactic halo), each one further divided into smaller regions, also divided into much smaller zones. Each of these zones will divide its land into the areas listed above.
Early colonization phase Edit
Once the master plan is completed, colonization will start. The galaxy will need a huge freight dock and a capital city. This is the place where all will start. Then, the major trade routes will be designed from the capital to the entire galaxy.
From this point, depending on the form of government, there will be different approaches:
Capitalist development Edit
In this model, the state divides land through auctions to developers. Virtually all the space can become divided between land barons. Then, developers will terraform planets on their own expense, creating residential places for all citizens and luxury planets for the rich. In industrial areas, companies and corporations will buy, but most often will rent land or space.
In this model, the state will not need to invest much. It will only need to manage trade routes and commercial areas, which will be made possible through auction fees at the beginning, later through taxes.
However, the system has one major disadvantage, that there will not be, at least at the beginning, citizen owners. Everybody will rent a home, a land, a place, but nobody will own its parcel or home.
Dictatorship development Edit
The future might bring to power many dictators and many of them will force all their resources into territorial expansions. For them, the colonization of a galaxy will be more a question of who is first. They will immediately develop a network of galactic routes, then they will built military facilities, to make sure nobody will take their land. Then, they will start mass colonization of their people into the new land and industrial development.
As shown by history, inside a dictatorship, the way development is made is not always what an economy needs.
Natural development Edit
Another way of development is based on a system where the state does not invest much. The state builds galactic trade routes and finances the terraforming of some planets, then settlers move in and each one tries to build its own way of life.
Advanced colonization Edit
As population and industrialization of a galaxy increases, many things will change. New planets will be terraformed. Terraformed planets will appear also in industrial areas, because people will want to live closer to where they work. The galaxy, as a whole, will be home to many more people then a solar system. It can host quadrillions of people.
Giant cities Edit
A galaxy, as a mega-state, will rise problems that today we don't even think about. A big city would have trillions of people and no natural ecosystem can support such a large population on a single planet. The city will need to bring its food, air and water from elsewhere and also to take out all garbage, sews and used air. Such a giant city will probably not be placed on the surface of a planet, but rather in space. Even if it will be out in the Kuiper Belt, heat from all the bodies inside and all the electronics combined will be huge, since everything will be compacted. The city will need to cool itself.
Increased consumption Edit
As civilization progresses, daily life becomes more luxurious. The standard of life increases and this comes with an immediate increase in resource consumption. In the middle ages, people used to wash clothes in the river. Later, with the invention of chemicals, people started to use them. Then, as washing machines became more affordable, almost everyone purchased one. As technology progressed, washing machines started to do more things, but each time this happens, it comes with an increased consumption of resources: both raw materials and energy.
Now, let's think about the life a citizen will have in the days galaxy terraforming will become possible. We can only speculate. Their apartments will be larger. All furniture will be interactive, able to change its properties (shape, color, texture and other features) based on vocal command. They might have, inside their apartment, a personal greenhouse, a pool and a room with modifiable gravity. About their media access, it will be far beyond what we can think.
Also, their homes will consume more energy, since everything will be controlled by a computer: luminosity, air ionizing, temperature, moisture and composition and not only. Automated machinery will make home fast food and automated vehicles will bring food and other goods to the house.
Talking about personal cars, which will fly for sure, they will be automated, computer controlled, able to travel at far greater speeds and traveling longer distances. This will automatically come with an increase of energy consumption.
New technology will also require new materials, that will result in an increased demand on rare minerals and also a higher energy consumption.
It is easy to see that a giant city will rise problems beyond anything we see on Earth. Since no ecosystem can sustain life of trillions of people, the city will be dependent on transport systems, to bring in food, air, water, energy and all the goods and to take out carbon dioxide, garbage, excrements and heat. It is questionable if a solar system can support such a big city. Even more, as seen on Earth, cities tend to group and form a megalopolis. Just imagine a whole solar system, hosting a quadrillion of people. All goods will be brought from other solar systems and also all what they produce must be taken away. What a fleet of interstellar cargo ships will be needed for that?
In a colonized galaxy, the amount of goods needed for a single person is far greater then the amount of goods needed for a colonized planet. Around large cities, many things will have to be brought from other solar systems. And this will need to be done fast.
It is speculated that traveling faster then light is possible by altering the fabric of space. We don't know for now if this is possible. If it is, then maybe we can build pathways through space, where vehicles could travel faster. These new cosmic highways will be very long and will request maintenance. Maybe, a complex network will cross the galaxy and will reach the vicinity of each terraformed solar system.
As one can see, the increased demand of energy will be far beyond anything that current technology can support. Scientists will come with new technologies. They will start to drain power from stars and black holes. Such a technology is unknown now. Given the huge need of energy in a colonized galaxy, there will be no other way to gain enough power. Extracting energy from a star might be possible with the use of huge magnetic currents, with artificial gravity or by altering the fabric of space. In any case, once we extract heat from a star, it will contract, increasing internal pressure and forcing itself to produce more energy. This will affect plasma currents inside the star. The results can include solar flares, irregular solar cycles, sunspots, less light on hosted planets and even a supernova, if everything gets out of control.
Energy will need to be transported. But how could be possible to send energy from a star to another solar system, to industrial centers and residential areas? Maybe the only possible solution is also by altering the fabric of space and creating interstellar wires. This could send energy from an exploited star to a city located thousands of light years away.
The largest source of energy inside any galaxy is the central supermassive black hole. It could be possible, with the help of a magnetic system or by altering the fabric of space, to allow energy to escape from it. However, this comes with a great risk. An active supermassive black hole is a quasar and a quasar can have the power to destroy a whole galaxy.
As shown above, no planetary biosphere can support the population of a future megacity. The population of a colonized galaxy will be far greater then today Earth, probably reaching quadrillions of people. And all of them will consume far greater resources, including raw materials and energy. The energy needed to transport all the goods is also huge. There is no way to know how high will be the costs. My personal point of view is that the consumption of lighter elements (like phosphorus, sulfur, nitrogen) will rise 20 times per capita. The consumption of rare earths and rare minerals will rise 100 to 1000 times per capita. Food consumption will not increase too much, since people will eat probably the same. However, the fact that they will need not only food, but also air, water and also all their dejections to be token away, will result in much more energy consumption, together with other resources used to build machinery needed for all this. My personal guess is that energy consumption will increase up to billions of times per capita.
The greatest consumption of resources will be in transportation and energy production.
One can see the effects on the environment this huge energy and resource consumption will have.
Many planets and huge asteroid belts will be used for mining. Mines will change the face of many planets forever. Some of them might be completely mined. After extracting the required mineral, all what remains from the targeted celestial body is a huge deposit of fine-grinded sterile material. Dead and useless, it will remain as a reminder of our passing through time.
We see now the huge amounts of garbage human civilization is producing. Garbage is accumulating in huge deposits. Will this happen in the future? Yes, for sure. Some parts will be recycled, but certainly not all. But how much garbage can come from a megacity? And what hug storage facility will be needed to get rid of it? Most probably, it will be sent to uninhabited planets, thrown into stars, into giant planets or even black holes.
We produce huge amounts of industrial waste, including many toxic chemicals and radioactive waste. This will certainly happen in the future. Our toxins will be dropped into the atmosphere of giant planets. More toxic materials will be thrown into stars. And the most toxic things of all will be sent to black holes. However, given the huge amount of industrial waste we will produce, we will severely damage the dumping sites. We could see that not only the entire surface of a sacrificed planet has become a dumping site, but the mass of the planet has increased significantly and this is affecting the equilibrium of the solar system.
The result of large scale mining is that some planets will lose mass, some might end-up mined completely. Sterile will be deposited in so large amounts, that it might form artificial planets. Also, planets sacrificed to become dumping sites will increase mass. This will cause disequilibrium in a solar system, unstable orbits and collisions.
Extracting energy from stars has also many risks. Stars can become unstable. Changing their internal plasma currents will result in solar flares, sunspots and irregular solar activity. Extracting a large amount of energy will decrease temperature inside the star. As a result, matter will compact and the star will decrease in size. Increased pressure will bring more heat to the core, increasing the rate of nuclear fusion. As this happens, the star radiates less light. It also becomes variable and might send large doses of X rays. Energy extraction from a star can have many unknown effects. It might be possible to force the star go supernova.
Still, the most unknown factor and probably the most devastating is the effect galactic highways and galactic energy wires will have on the fabric of space. Nobody knows this. And since space and time are connected, what would this mean? Can we make a rupture in space-time structure? Interesting question.
Automatic colonization Edit
A civilization that attempts colonization of a whole galaxy certainly has lots of experience in terraforming and industrial colonization. There are many planets of many types. However, given the size of a galaxy, at some point, all planets fit into certain categories. For each category, there will be a protocol or scheme for development.
Let's suppose that there are 1000 protocols, 400 for terraforming and 600 for industrial development of a planet. Since we will have to deal with millions of planets, we will build automated spaceships, 1000 models, 400 equipped with all they need for terraforming and 600 with the needed tools to start industrial development. All these ships are built in automated factories, they operate completely automated and are guided by a central computer which designs the process and sends a ship towards each type of planet.
Then, other ships come and build the galactic infrastructure and the first solar stations to produce energy.
Special conditions Edit
Not every galaxy is the same. Some are different and require a different method for colonization. Also, inside a classic galaxy, the core, the arms and the galactic halo behave different. please take a look a the following pages: