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Imagine a species one foot tall that has a relatively large brain for its size. The species has human like intelligence and in principle the ability to build anything that we could. It lives on a world very similar to ours.

Would such a species find it easier or harder than Homo sapiens to explore space and why?

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    $\begingroup$ My KSP experience says "yes, but only by other people on youtube" $\endgroup$ – Trevor Nov 25 '19 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ "Imagine a species one foot tall" OK, done!, "Would such a species find it easier or harder than Homo sapiens to explore space" easier of course, "why" they'll just fill up on beans fly as high as the thinning atmosphere allows then light their farts to rocket that last little bit into space. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Nov 25 '19 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ Is your question just about the "last step" - between mid-XX century technology and spaceflight, or you want to consider all the possible issues facing small race from its stone age? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 25 '19 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ Specificaly the getting into space aspect, however I suppose any important differences from the Stone age on might well effect that so could be included if they are important. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Nov 25 '19 at 23:10
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Assuming their metabolism isn't far higher than their size would suggest (it has to be higher than a human's, but they ought not to need more food, water, and oxygen than a house cat at that size), they'll find it much easier than we did.

The first humans into orbit required multiple tonnes of life support and thermal protection equipment, equipment with size and mass determined by the size and mass and metabolism of an adult human. Your one-foot humans wouldn't need anything like as much space or as much oxygen/water/food per hour (even though it'll be more consumables per mass of astronauts because small creatures have higher metabolisms).

Compare Sputnik 2, which carried a dog named Laika into orbit (the first mammal to orbit the Earth): it was only about twice the mass of Sputnik 1, the very first artificial satellite. Gagarin's capsule, by contrast, was more than fifty times as heavy. And Laika was significantly heavier than your little people.

They need to carry only a fraction of the support and needing a lot less space means their capsule can weigh a lot less. Therefore, their stand-in for a Mercury spacecraft, which required a second-generation Atlas booster to reach orbit, would weigh no more than a tenth as much -- which means the rocket that launches it can also weigh a tenth as much.

To put it in technological stages, humans going into orbit had to wait until kerosene-burning rocket engines were available -- but your little people can go into orbit with two- or three-stage alcohol burners, which means they can (if they choose) go, relatively speaking, about a decade before we did -- and start building space stations with the launchers we used to put the first people into orbit.

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    $\begingroup$ For completeness's sake: Gagarin's capsule did have more mission requirements than Laika's, which probably contributed some weight. Mission requirements like "provide life support all the way down" are probably important. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Nov 25 '19 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence Then again, Gagarin only stayed up for a single orbit, while Laika lived in orbit for a couple days. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 25 '19 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ It was less than 4 years between one-way Sputnik 2 and Vostok 1, so... $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 25 '19 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ But the proposed A-9/A-4 two-stage German rocket (could have been completed by 1947-1948) could have orbited a payload large enough to carry Laika before 1950. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 25 '19 at 20:34
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Around the same

The key to reaching space is reaching escape velocity. That is the energy barrier, and once you get over it, you do need to add a bit more fuel for the person inside. We would send the equivalent weight of a human once we started sending things into space, having things a bit lighter won't help until you discover the right fuel, at which point it doesn't matter.

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  • $\begingroup$ what about scaling effects? $\endgroup$ – Slarty Nov 25 '19 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ The scaling effects are for size, not technology level. It'll be cheaper, certainly. But your question was time-based. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Nov 25 '19 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ I believe you mean orbital velocity. No spacecraft carrying humans has ever travelled faster than Earth's escape velocity. $\endgroup$ – notovny Nov 25 '19 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ Actually I met 'reaching escape velocity', thanks for noticing. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Nov 25 '19 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ You don't need to get near to Escape velocity to get to Space. SpaceshipOne's fights don't even reach orbital velocity for the lowest relatively-stable Earth orbits. The closest any humans have ever been to Escape velocity were on the Apollo Translunar injection burns, which took them up to roughly 10.4 km/s, in comparison to Earth's Escape Velocity at 11.2 km/s. $\endgroup$ – notovny Nov 25 '19 at 19:14

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