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This question is inspired by Could a species develop the tech necessary to land on their own moon without comprehending light?

Consider following scenario: a civilization of alien tricksters abducts 10,000 people from Earth and put them on an Earth-like planet that has a moon, very similar to ours. Those people are tasked with making a successful expedition to that moon. For extra stimulus, let's say there is a portal there that leads back to Earth, and people are told where exactly this portal is located. The catch is that all of those 10,000 people are blind. Not suddenly blinded, but been blind at least for while and adapted to it.

Also, alien tricksters use some advanced technology (indistinguishable form magic) that ensures that people's descendants also stay blind (at least until they are teleported back to the Earth).

10,000 abductees have a good head start. They have:

  • houses, infrastructure, supply of food and basic necessities sufficient for 10 years;
  • well-stocked equivalents of Wal-Mart (hypermarket), Home Depot (home building/repair supply) and Best Buy (large computers and electronics store);
  • a library that contains all modern scientific and engineering textbooks (Braille and text-to-speech versions) and periodicals, plus a full copy of Wikipedia;
  • the continent they reside on contains all minerals that modern human civilization consumes;
  • in addition, they are provided with seeds and live domesticated animals (cows, sheep, chickens, dogs, cats) that can breed;

Also:

  • every abductee has a college degree or possesses a skilled trade (all random);
  • all people know a common language to speak;
  • all people start as healthy in childbearing age;

But:

  • the colony does not have any industrial or scientific equipment - only the items available in general stores.

Would this colony of blind people be able to build a spacefaring civilization, or moon will forever be out of their reach?

P.S. There is no timeline for the colony for achieving this goal, but there's assumption that descendants who would finally do this must still be genetically humans.

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    $\begingroup$ Do the know the moon exists? If they don't, there's no reason they will notice it is there until someone starts theorizing possible reasons for tidal patterns. $\endgroup$ – Jared K Jul 19 '18 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ We can't see radio rays. We know they exist, how to take pictures of them, how to make assessments of distance, etc. $\endgroup$ – ifly6 Jul 19 '18 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ If you want science-based answers then get rid of evil magic and replace it with e.g. genetic engineering or a lot of people will simply suggest you're handwaving so why bother with science at all (or similar). If however you want the people returned to Earth to regain their sight then simply use an advanced piece of technology called a "hood". Our Moon is typically capitalized as a name whereas "moon" with a lower case can be any planet's natural satellite, and it's potentially confusing in your text where you've two moons one of which is the Moon. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jul 19 '18 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Of course they can do it, if they will manage, well, that's questionable for any group of 10k people. Do you have reason to believe that a random group of 10k people will have no issue with that task? I mean all that an answer can say is: it's harder, but not impossible. Given enough time... I don't get the question. I would get it if you specified a time frame, but then it becomes unanswerable. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 19 '18 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander: you did actually set a deadline. Your question, as asked, says that 10000 blind people are put onto a planet, and that those people are given the task of building and flying a rocket. Not people 50000 years in the future! That would add a whole new complexity to the question, hinted at in one answer basically saying that the children of the original 10000 (those that survive beyond year 11), will not care about Earth and probably won't care about the project. As time goes on, people will care less and less. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jul 20 '18 at 23:37
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Given the parameters of the question, I would say NO, a colony of blind people could not build a space ship and land it on the moon.

I would hazard the guess that a colony of 10000 college educated and skilled blind people will most likely starve inside a year without a lot of external help. And they'll probably die of disease or injury a lot quicker than even that!

Once the Walmart grocery department runs out of food, you're basically asking 10000 people who can't see and almost certainly don't know how to farm to begin a large scale agriculture project, just to support themselves. Raising cattle, whether for beef or for dairy, is an intensive labor. First of all, you have to be able to see where your herd is in the pasture. You have to be able to see to plough the fields and work the machinery. Farm machines are dangerous enough for people who can see! I wouldn't be surprised if you end up with a couple dozen amputation injuries. Which means you'll need surgeons and nurses to put injured people back together again. Oh, right, no one in the colony can see...

No industrial or scientific equipment means you're asking 10000 blind people to create an entire industrial pyramid just to support the basic colony, to say nothing of the colony's basic goal. No industrial equipment means no production of anything not present when the colony is founded. It means no ability to build or repair infrastructure. Going back to the farm, it means no harvesters, no milking parlours, no tractors, no refrigerators, no grain elevators. In the community, it means no snowplows and no back hoes, no trash trucks and no recycling centers. It means no machines to fix downed power lines and no machines to build or fix computer components. Your 10000 blind people are going to have not only design but build all of those things just using the stocks on hand in the local hardware store.

No industrial equipment means no way to design, model, test, build prototypes and ultimately make a functional rocket. You don't just go down to the hardware store and buy a rocket pilot's chair. The windows department will not have the components required to make a viewport. Saturn V rocket motors can't be bought in the lawn and garden department!

And so forth!!

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer, however, the colony has "supply of food and basic necessities sufficient for 10 years". $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 19 '18 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ Okay. They'll starve within eleven years. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jul 19 '18 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ I see, you are very pessimistic about ability blind people to farm. There are indeed problems with raising regular grain (like wheat) and husbandry, but there are possible solutions to them by making compromises with productivity. Vegetable farming is mostly free of such issues. Blind people can raise potatoes and corn, all without tractors, and provide well for themselves. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 20 '18 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the question specifies that the colony has cows and sheep. I wonder: how familiar are you with farming operations in general? I also wonder if you realise how broad the technical & resource pyramid has to be in order to support the construction of a rocket. Yes: I am pessimistic about the ability of blind people to do what you're asking! This wasn't part of the question, but if it's any consolation, my answer would be every bit as pessimistic for 10000 random sighted people as well. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jul 20 '18 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ It's not just knowing how to tend cows and sheep. You have to be able to see the pastures and where your flocks and herds are when not in the barn. If you're blind and stumbling around the countryside trying to locate your animals, you're very likely to get hurt. You'll either die out away from home or people stumbling about trying to rescue you will get hurt. Basically what I'm getting at is that your premise is so stacked against these people that they really have no chance to win home! I mean, we're talking about tending cows and haven't gotten close to putting a rocket ship together yet! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jul 21 '18 at 1:39
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I doubt very much that you can get 10.000 people with no visual problems to build a rocket in 10 years.

The cost of the Apollo program is estimated to be US$ 107 billion by 2016 standards.

Divide 107 billion between 100.000 (10.000 people for 10 years) and you get $1.070.000 / person*year.

Since I very much that the average people involved in the Apollo program1 made that much, this gives you a rough estimate of the difference of effort.

You do not need only the engineers. You need also the people who will mine the raw minerals, who will produce the fuel, who will build the factories to refine the minerals and create the components and the tools.

And on top of that, you do not have economies of scale. For the Apollo program, if you needed some aeronautic expert, you could hire one from the existing aeronautic industries. If you needed a mineral, probably it was extracted cheaply because it was used elsewhere and there was that expertise. Here, you have to form your engineer, start your mining operation from the ground on. This is a "sunken cost" that is not even considered in the US$ 107 billion figure, and can easily be the most important in your setup.

Once your supplies end (or presumably way before that) you need to divert a lot of people to farming, producing clothing, medicines, etc. You simply will have no spare manpower for building rockets.

And then, of course, it is the issue that the Apollo program produced just a few tens of rockets. At 5 people for rocket, you would need 2.000 rockets to send all your people home, not one rocket.

TL;DR: No way this can work in a reasonable time scale.


1And here I am not talking only about the NASA guys, but also the people involved in producing the tools and parts and everything, from the extraction of the mineral from the ground upwards.

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Well, as I see it, the mission CAN succeed, but it would take more than one generation. I'll elaborate:

All people have degrees, so they have the KNOWLEDGE needed. They also have knowledge storage, however, you didn't specify if knowledge is stored in a way they can CONSUME it. Is it audio? Brail? It would be easier if they can access it. if they can't, its useless. Regardless, since they all have degrees at least some are physics, engineers and mathematicians. Some are also teachers. However, as I understand it they were not BORN blind, so while adapted, they are not as adept as people who are blind from birth. This means they would find it difficult to perform menial work, to mine, to sew, to grow plants and tend cattle and so on. I do not think they would be adept enough to be able to build and test the shuttle needed in one generation. they would first need to build the tools with which they will be able to code the "brain" of the shuttle, the sensors needed to guide it in lack of eyesight and so on.

So, What they would do is this: The first generation would invest all their time in learning how to perform the work needed to preserve what they have, would start the infrastructure and develop the routines needed for the guidance of the shuttle, and preserve life enough to grow the next generation. When they have children, which will be blind from birth, they will invest their time in passing all that knowledge to them, as well as educating them in the knowledge needed for building the shuttle. These children, by being born blind would learn to thrive in the environment they were given much faster and would be much more suited to building the shuttle. They would be able to make the trip and return to earth, and if not them, then the next generation.

The only problem I see with that is that they would not WANT to leave for earth. While their parents had attachments on earth, family, memories, a need to go back and a craving to regain their sight, the children would not know sight, would not have any pressing need to go back to earth, where their sight might be more of an impediment than blessing because they would be so unused to it, and would have to integrate themselves back into a foreign society.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I added clarification about Braille and text-to-speech for consuming the library. Colonists could be either born blind or became blind at some point in their lives, the point is that they all have at least basic level of adaptation. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 19 '18 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ They have "knowledge" --- but is it the right kind of knowledge? A quick search revealed that NASA does indeed have a blind rocket scientist (at the Marshall Space Flight Center). That leaves 9999 people with education and skills other than rocketry. A degree in math or physics doesn't mean you're going to be any good at designing, building, flying, safely landing a rocket. The vast majority of those 9999 people are still going to be needed for tasks other than actually building a rocket. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jul 19 '18 at 22:03

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