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Question inspired by movies You only live twice and Moonraker:

I am Evil Overlord at his best:

I am super rich person with net worth of 32 billion US dollars. I already own island and I am making money also by selling space technologies to SpaceX and NASA (so I have knowledge about the tech)

Suppose, I want to get rid of all humans in Moonraker style: I will build huge space station on the orbit, get people there and then kill everyone else from the orbit.

Can I do it?

  • I am willing to spend all my money I have. I am also willing to go into debt, because when I will be True Evil Overlord, current money will be gone forever. So assume I have budget around 50 billion US dollars
  • I want to go to orbit as silently as possible. Preferably in a way when no one notices
  • My space station has to hold at least 201 people for at least half a year (Artificial gravity is plus, but not required)
  • Assume that there are already people working for me in space technology, so at least buying "rocket stuff" will not be considered weird
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    $\begingroup$ "Preferably in a way when no one notices" go up at night! $\endgroup$ – blaizor Apr 16 '15 at 6:22
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    $\begingroup$ @blaizor So far I thought that this strtategy is applicable only for landing on the sun ;) $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Apr 16 '15 at 6:23
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    $\begingroup$ I think 50 billion would do the trick. Much of the expense of space development is getting to the proper number of 9's for safety and reliability. I'd assume that level of concern for human life was not an issue for our super-villain. $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Apr 16 '15 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ Might be applicable: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/9383/… $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Apr 16 '15 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ @GrandmasterB, evil overlords often like to survive themselves. $\endgroup$ – Ángel Jun 13 '15 at 22:36
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Why hiding totally, while you can much easier hide in plain sight?

Present the project, present the funding you offer, for a superior successor of ISS, and as a major investor, contribute a lot to the development - experimental habitats to train moon colony crew and test prolonged space travel conditions. Make it an entirely civilian project with stuff like weapons hidden inside construction elements, backdoors in software and so on.

On one day your craft delivers the new worldwide atmospheric scanner that would let your ecological efforts better monitor biomass of Earth. You miss the little part about obliterating said biomass selectively. Your part of the crew takes over the station using the weapons on board, you arrive with the rest of the crew by routine flight, and boom...

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    $\begingroup$ As someone who develops software for a living, I'd like to point out that you're not going to be able to hide backdoors in software on a program like this. There are testers and security to get the software past, not to mention over developers who review the code. A backdoor would be found, documented, and reported. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 16 '15 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre: Not if all the testers and security are on your payroll. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 16 '15 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre: The stake is their own survival. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 16 '15 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Would the developers know what they're doing? Make the "test mode" or "maintenance override" or "emergency manual control" part of the spec. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Apr 16 '15 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Rozwel: You're taking the post-911 USA measures of security. I'm fairly sure the USA did not audit firmware of every device in the Russian module of ISS, and while Russians might have led the audit, it's quite likely their audit company was owned by a good friend of the owner of the software writing company. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 17 '15 at 0:23
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At the end of The Jennifer Morgue is the afterward essay The Golden Age of Spying which flows across a few topics, including what a "supervillian" would really be like.

(Emphasis mine)

... if they really existed, they would instantly be hunted down and arrested by INTERPOL?

Careful consideration will lead one to reconsider this hasty judgment. Criminology, the study of crime and its causes, has a fundamental weak spot: it studies that proportion of the criminal population who are stupid or unlucky enough to get caught. The perfect criminal, should or she exist, would be the one who is never apprehended — indeed, the one whose crimes may be huge but unnoticed, or indeed miscategorized as not crimes at all because they are so powerful they sway the law in their favor, or so clever they discover an immoral opportunity for criminal enterprise before the legislators notice it. Such forms of criminality may be indistinguishable, at a distance, from lawful business; the criminal a paragon of upper-class virtue, a face-man for Forbes.

When the real Napoleons of Crime walk among us today, they do so in the outwardly respectable guise of executives in business suits and thousand-dollar haircuts. The executives of WorldCom and Enron were denizens of a corporate culture so rapacious that any activity, however dubious, could be justified in the name of enhancing the bottom line. They have rightfully been charged, tried, and in some cases jailed for fraud, on a scale that would have been the envy of Mabuse, Blofeld, or their modern successor, Dr. Evil. When you need extra digits on your pocket calculator to compute the sums you are stealing, you're in the big league. Again, when you're able to evade prosecution by the simple expedient of appointing the state prosecutor and the judges — because you're the president of a country (and not just any country, but a member of the rich and powerful G8) — you're certainly not amenable to diagnosis and detection in the same sense as your run-of-the-mill shoplifter or petty delinquent. I'm naming no names (They have intelligence services! Cruise missiles!), but this isn't a hypothetical scenario.

If you develop this capability, you will not be spending all your money but making more of it. Developing an industrial scale capability of anything will be visible and expensive. But you will have overt uses for it, and success (in the cover business) is guaranteed because you will not play by the normal rules to find customers. Other multinational companies and governments will be paying you to develop these capabilities, for selfish reasons of their own (so they think) or normal contractor guaranteed-winner through politics and influence in the highest levels.

Other industries that you don't control outright will be working on your behalf, guided to that end by the influence that defines your power.

As Stross indicates, you don't have to hide your capability— just your motives and ramifications.


Alas, a huge space station is beyond your capabilities. The amount of lift needed is far too great for a crowd and their supplies. However, you don't need to get them into orbit: you need to sequester them. A portion of the secret base is fine for that.

You should think twice about killing everyone to have the world to yourselves, though. Who will maintain the infrastructure and keep you in all the modern tech and conveniences that all of you enjoy?

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50 billion dollars isn't a huge amount when it comes to space exploration, honestly you would be better off on an isolated island. If that is not possible for some reason though then your best bet would be to get involved in the existing space exploration projects.

As a major source of funding for something like the Orbital Airship you would have a lot of influence over the way technology developed. Unfortunately space elevators are still a bit far away and outside your budget.

The reason I suggest the airships is because they are about getting large amounts of mass into orbit cheaply. That would then let you create a floating hotel.

When you are ready to unleash your evil plan you just fully book the hotel for you and your minions, fly up on the regularly scheduled flights, and then begin.

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  • $\begingroup$ \$50 billion is plenty if you don't care about safety. The non-man-rated Falcon 9 will put you and 13,000 kg of supplies into orbit for only \$61 million, if you don't mind a historic 6.2% chance of dying in the process. $\endgroup$ – Mark Apr 16 '15 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JDlugosz updated the link $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jan 4 '16 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like an interesting plot idea. I don't think the structure is practical as a first line of development, but it can be made plausible to the reader. It's made to hold lots of people, so that opens the possibility of having the evil base camouflaged as a convention center. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 4 '16 at 13:39
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There's no secrecy in orbit

For historical reasons mainly related to the cold war and nuclear weapons, many governments have been very interested in monitoring space. Multiple authorities have a very good idea of all objects in orbit, multiple countries have satellite networks dedicated to monitoring launches, and it is not possible to get anything in the orbit without "everyone" noticing the location, time and size of the launch.

Furthermore, all large objects in orbit are visible even to amateurs. ISS is visible with the naked eye, and a station made for 201 people would be obviously noticeable. You can't hide it, in any orbit reasonable for such a station it will be moving over populated areas multiple times per day.

You will have to do it not in secrecy, but disguise - everyone will know that the project exists and the size of that project (and it being an order of magnitude larger project than the ISS), you can only hope to disguise the purpose.

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Seeing that you are an evil genius, you should seriously consider launching your space vehicle using the well-researched method of Project Orion.

For those not familiar with this, you launch your vehicle by using about a 1000 nuclear bombs that you drop below the pusher plate on which your spacecraft rests. There are designs for vehicles in the range of 4,000 tons to 8,000,000 tons — actually there are smaller designs too, be the price of a 4,000 ton launch is so little different from a 100 ton launch, there is no good reason to skimp as you will still need the same amount of fissile material — making micro nukes is pretty inefficient. 8,000,000 tons even more surprisingly still requires about the same amount of fissile material.

At 8,000,000 tons, you could launch a city.

Add an extra thousand nukes and design your launch vehicle so you can separate the inhabited section from the remainder and you now have the ability to destroy the earth by smashing your vehicle into the earth at high speed — and because of your dramatic launch, everyone will already know you can do it too. Plus, you can just nuke people from orbit when the moods strikes.

Orion missions that have been designed include massive launch to LEO, round trips to Mars and Saturn and one-way to Alpha Centauri — all designed in the late 50's early 60 using tech that was considered available near term back then.

On your production line, expect you nukes to cost you about 1 million each. So only a billion per thousand nukes, no need to skimp there.

Someone is going to have to do some math to see just what your can do for 50 billion or so. Given that a smaller vehicle mission to Alpha Centauri was priced at around 360 billion I think you will have some nice solutions. Though you could raise some extra capital by selling nukes on the black market too if you want to supersize your launch vehicle.

Major plus — everyone on the planet will know what a bad-ass you are. You may not even have to actually destroy the earth after all, put them all to work for a mere 10% of GDP to stay on the don't destroy list and you can live the life of fame, power and luxury you deserve. Clearly stealth is not an option using this approach — but you won't need or want it this way.

Can I reserve a spot? An evil genius needs qualified minions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sure, nuclear weapons have a dollar cost, but do you have some way to hide your nuke-producing facilities during production? Dollars won't help if your local government's military takes an interest. $\endgroup$ – PotatoEngineer Apr 16 '15 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ The question specifies "no one notices". Orion is anything but subtle. $\endgroup$ – Mark Apr 16 '15 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ I remarked on total lack of stealth in my answer. I am sure hiding the nuke production line will not be easy -- but hey, evil genius. I'm sure he is up to the task. In honesty, of course I know this would be very hard since they can detect radiation from orbit, and there are controls on centrifuges, etc. but if you can make this work, this is really only the practical way to get a large payload into orbit cheaply. $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Apr 16 '15 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ You may have to give Kim Jon Un a ride and locate your production facilities in N. Korea $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Apr 16 '15 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ Do R&D for your local government on safer & more efficient reactors. A few of your prototypes for various items get written off for not living up to expectations, and "scrapped". In reality they get moved somewhere less noticeable and you setup your own private reactor to build your bombs. $\endgroup$ – Rozwel Apr 17 '15 at 0:26

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