# In a world without electricity, can we still go to space?

A weird question. But let me define "a world without electricity":

It's not that we haven't discovered electricity. But rather, electricity doesn't work anymore. Nothing conducts electricity.

Electricity enables so many things in our modern world. If one day the fundamental property of it changes and it ceases to work, can we still go to another planet? What are some possible ways?

Edit:

Organisms will also be affected biologically if electricity doesn't work. So for this question I'm only asking in the scope of metals or metaloids losing conductivity.

• Electricity "not working" would result in people (and all other animals) dying, so the trivial answer is "no" but I don't think that is what you intended. Either you would need animals to somehow function without electricity, or you would need an explanation for why people can't use electricity in the same way biology does. – Tom Anderson Apr 7 '15 at 6:46
• Right, I should have clarified that better. By "nothing conducts electricity", I meant things that have characteristics of metals. – Cygnus Apr 7 '15 at 6:55
• removing electrical conducivity from materials, even if you leave biological beings aside, would turn all metals into noble gases, unable to bond in metallic solids – Mindwin Apr 7 '15 at 13:11
• @Cygnus Trust me, it's way easier to just say "We never knew how to make our own electricity". – cst1992 Mar 31 '16 at 9:11
• Also, would your electricity-less world rid the Earth of its magnetic field? – cst1992 Mar 31 '16 at 9:18

If the lack of electricity simply means that we cannot get current to go through wires or do not have access to cathode ray tubes, some important things need to change in a rocket: the Computer and the Controls.

# Mechanical Computer

There is such a thing as a mechanical computer. Ideally, this type of computer would undergo the shrinking process which electrical computers have. Astronauts relying on mechanical computers may need to carry lookup tables with many needed calculations already figured out. Mechanical computers were actually the computational device of choice for a long time, until vacuum tubes became more readily available.

You could also get lucky and develop biological circuits, but that could be quite difficult to develop. In fact, us real-world humans are only toying with the idea. Loosing electricity may give us the impetus to develop these.

# Mechanical Controls

Such a rocket ship would need mechanical controls. Gears and springs would still work in low-gravity, but are quite heavy. Extreme metallurgy, ceramics, or plastics would be needed to make such a craft functional. It is, at least, theoretically possible have a rocket use purely mechanical processes to guide itself.

# Chemistry

Some chemical reactions do not really fall under the purview of "electronics." While it is true that electrolysis of water is the process of choice to yield the favorite liquid fuel ($H_2$ and $O_2$) for many rocketeers, you could use plenty of other fuels. There is a short list here of various fuels you can use, and you need not use electrolysis to obtain all of them.

While you do need a spark to get the fuel going, you can always use steel against magnesium like many fire starters do. It would be a simple thing to do so, and can be relatively lightweight.

Given that you can work around your computational and control problems without electricity, most of the other things which go on a rocket do not need electricity to function. Things such as the heat shield, windows, and so on can be made without electricity, albeit in much more difficult ways.

Nota Bene: Electricity simply "not working" does many, many terrible things. For instance, the action potential our nerves use falls under "electricity working." This means all animals would have the reaction time of plants, which are known for not reacting to stimuli quickly. I would suggest re-thinking how much "electricity" you wish your world to have. Taking a hard look at what type of story you want to tell or your audience is critical here.

• Thank you so much for the thorough response. I clarified my question better. For my story, I actually have most organisms in the world go into a coma state due to this strange phenomenon. Some people have immunity and are trying to leave the current planet. – Cygnus Apr 7 '15 at 7:14
• A mechanical computer would have great difficulty to be reduced in size, and although it is still possible, the amount of effort sending this stuff into space implies that the gravitational pull would have to be significantly reduced or an equally exponential amount of energy dedicated into sending it into space. – Neil Apr 7 '15 at 10:26