On Pony Sizes And The Space Program

Ponies are small.

If you want proof of their genetic engineering origins, Equestrian ponies sizes are a good hint.  The average pony is about four feet tall, which puts them in the size and weight categories of St. Bernards and similar dog breeds.  Alicorns are coming up on five to six feet in height, but this is a rare thing.  Which makes the fact that they’re sapient is odd, but their brains are built more…compactly than the evolution-driven brains that humans have.  This leads to odd problems when their brains go wrong…but, usually a pony that has one of the various mental issues can be talked down and helped.  Or, at the very least, the damage can be fixed.

Ponies are also pretty darned tough.  Injuries and issues that would be fatal or crippling to a human merely results in long hospital stays, a Dope Slap, and strict instructions to Not Do That Again.  Radiation, poison, baked bads…it’s a good thing that ponies have a proper vomit reflex and they heal very well, even before the advent of nanotechnology.

Why does this matter for discussing the Equestrian space program?

To steal a Bill Cosby line, “I told you that story so I can tell you this one.”

When the Equestrian space program began in 1009 ANM (and took off very quickly in 1018 ANM when the entire solar system changed), the most apt description of the program could be summed up as “very Kerbal with fewer, but more impressive, explosions.”  One of the very Kerbal things that the Equestrian did was built was Orion Drive spaceships.  Now, these were reasonably sized ships, usually  launched into space from Equestria then supported by SSTO rockets or the steady development of space plane technology.  When the Equestrians built the first orbital elevator, Orion Drive ships would be decommissioned and replaced by fusion torch drive ships, later ending with the development of gravity drive technology.

But, in that brief moment between the first Orion ship and orbital elevators, there was Sky Crasher.  The ultimate proof that when ponies go nuts, they go nuts.

Sky Crasher was designed to be a massive cargo lifter, designed to heft truly epic cargoes to orbit and around the Equestrian system.  To give you an idea of how massive the cargo lift they expected, the primer charge (used to start an Orion ship’s drive plate, because starting an Orion drive with a full power drive charge will ram the shock absorber pistons into the ship proper) in a standard Orion drive was rated at ten kilotons.  Sky Crasher would have used a primer charge of three hundred kilotons.  The full-powered drive charge was a six hundred kiloton two-staged propulsion charge.

(To give you an idea of how powerful this is, the W87 warhead on the  Minuteman missile comes out at about 300-475 kilotons, and aren’t built for propulsion.)

Development work went as far as the building of the main drive plate before somebody in the Ministry of Space went “what sort of an insane idea is this?!?” and canceled the program.  But, in that brief moment between authorization and cancelation, they expected to launch major payloads.  The one completed drive plate would be sent to Canterlot and the entire Engineering campus of Canterlot University would be built around it.  Engineering students would have to calculate the fluid dynamics of the water fountain cycling from the center of the plate.

With Enough Printer Paper…

The laser jet printers-ten of them so far-hadn’t stopped whirring the moment she brought the first USB stick back.

Sunset Shimmer…no, Princess Sunset Shimmer looked at the room near the Mirror of Worlds that Princess Celestia and Princess Cadence had set up.  From floor to ceiling was piles of text books, reference works, rolls of blueprints, and thousands upon thousands of USB drives that she had made recordings of, well, everything from Earth.  Ponies came from the printers and took another pile of printed notes to be bound, organized, and indexed.

“And, they don’t know how to use magic?”  Princess Celestia asked.

“The other Twilight Sparkle is trying,” Princess Sunset Shimmer said, twitching her new wings in frustration.  These had appeared the first time she had come back through the Mirror to Equestria.  “She’s got some theories, but she doesn’t want to make it public because…”

“I don’t think humans are that irresponsible,” Princess Cadence interrupted.  “They seem to be a decent species, for omnivores that don’t have magic.”

“She doesn’t want to take that risk,” Princess Sunset Shimmer replied.  “And, to be honest, I can’t blame her.  I was human for the last seven years and humans have such a range in comparison to ponies that it’s terrifying.  Greater range for nobility-and a greater range for atrocities.  I’ve read in their histories things that would make King Sombra vomit to consider doing.  And, he practiced blood magic.”

“So, what are your plans for the next time you go back?”  Princess Celestia asked, curiously.

“Same as before,” Princess Sunset Shimmer nodded at the piles of paper that grew, coming out of the printer.  “Bring diamonds to Earth and sell them, use the money to get more reference materials.  We really need to bring more ponies into this,” she noted.  “Dreamers, innovators, and ponies that can think.  Just the improvement to steam engines and the idea of organized agriculture alone is going to change the face of Equestria.”

“And, I want you think ahead,” Princess Celestia noted.  “On both sides of the Mirror.  We can bring innovations that we’ve created here, and make their world better.  And, as the technology improves there, we can make use of that ourselves.”

Princess Sunset Shimmer thought about this for a moment.  “A new court for Equestria?”

“I’m thinking of something larger,” Princess Celestia replied, her eyes thoughtful.  “Twilight Sparkle’s newest student might Ascend soon, and I am tired of some of the deference that alicorns get just because of what we are.  I’m going to create a whole new branch of government.  I’m calling them ‘Ministries’, and the first three are going to be formed on the backs of three alicorns.  The first is the Ministry of Love, and we’re going to help ponies to find what they want and what they love, and help them to be happy.”

“Auntie,” Princess Cadence started to object, “I’m way too busy trying to bring the Crystal Kingdom into the current century, let alone take on another task like this.”

“I expect your job to be more managerial than ‘hooves on’,” Princess Celestia interrupted gently.  “By providing the Ministries with alicorn leadership, I think it’ll cut through a lot of the deference and conservatism that our little ponies have.  The second Ministry is going to be the Ministry of Magic, and I’m giving that one to Twilight Sparkle.  She’ll find new ways to use magic, and if she can cooperate with the other Twilight Sparkle on the other side of the mirror, we can create greater wonders.

“And, finally,” Princess Celestia said, turning to face Princess Sunset Shimmer.  “The third Ministry that I’m going to create is the Ministry of Innovation.  You’re going to find the dreamers, the innovators, and the ponies that can think; and show them everything here, in one form or another.  We’re going to avoid the worst parts of the Industrial Revolution here on Equestria and bring ourselves closer to the stars.”

Princess Sunset Shimmer stood stock still, eyes wide open for a moment.  “That’s…a major task.”

“Nothing less for one of my greatest students,” Princess Celestia replied.

The printers continued to hum, spitting out page after page.

Trope A Day-Precrime Arrest

Precrime Arrest-When you have a massive database of potential behaviors, access to 24/7 surveillance (both public and private), live logging, powerful enough AIs, and a whole bunch of sensors, you can do this, easily.

Except that the moment you do this, you’re in violation of the Covenant.  Very specifically, the Right To Free Will clause, which highly prohibits this kind of tracking for both government and private individuals.  This presents issues with the Ministry of Love, which regularly has to scale back portions of the Friendster system that helps ponies and others find people that would like and love them.  Mostly because the database and tracking software starts to find ponies that are about to do horrible things, and they have to walk a fine line between “letting it happen” and “accidentally informing the right authorities.”  So far, most of the decisions being made are in the “accidentally informing” category, because no-one wants to have some pony with mental issues commit suicide.  Worse yet, they have to keep scaling back because the systems keep getting better at finding these things before they happen.  And predicting the reasons why.  Or catching Changeling infiltrators.  Or spies.

There’s serious talk about calling another Convention to amend the Covenant to allow for this kind of thing, as long as there is no direct, active interference in free will.  The proposed modifications would alter the Right To Free Will article so that the tools can be used in a careful and legal manner.  You can be warned, you can be offered help…but, ultimately your decisions are your own.

The same problem happens in the Griffin Moot, which has a much more developed system (and fewer restrictions on database access) and the Imperial Zebra government keeps a close eye on their own version of the system.  Highly adverted in the Senate and Minotaur Republic, which takes paranoia about loss of free will to extreme levels.  Even proposing this kind of thing opens you up for all sorts of lawsuits and more “passive” shunning behaviors among the minotaurs.

Trope A Day-Can’t Argue With Alicorns

Can’t Argue With Alicorns-Something which most alicorns hate with a passion.  Most ponies find it very hard to argue directly with alicorns, with a hesitant passive-aggressive “well, I don’t want to impose” being the best most can do.  For a lot of ponies, it’s worse.  Ask Princess Cadence about what it took for her to get the Crystal Ponies to not worship the ground she walked on, and watch her have several bottles of very potent alcohol to help her forget again.  This particular trait of ponykind might be genetic, it might be memetic, it might be cultural…and something that six hundred years of work has only managed to get down to “well, they aren’t worshiping us as deities now.”

There is one particular exception to this, and the alicorns use this little trait as hard as they can.  Ponies will argue with alicorns-in defense of “their” alicorn.  This is the reason for the Ministries, twenty six independent parts of government run by one of the twenty-seven alicorns in existence.  By having an alicorn that is in charge, the ponies in the Ministry will fight to defend “their” alicorn from all the other alicorns…most of the time.  Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, in charge of the Day and Night Courts respectively, also make use of this in allowing for arguments and the management of the Equestrian government.

All the other races have absolutely no problem with saying “screw you, alicorns,” except they usually don’t.  Mostly because the weakest alicorn can take out warships from the surface-individual annoyances can easily be made to vanish in a puff of greasy smoke.