Basically, it's a question about creating maps or diagrams.

In particular, we on Earth are used to maps showing variation over distance & location. The problem with space that is everything is moving. Distance and location are constantly changing. In fact, other things such as travel times and $ \Delta V$ requirements also change over time.

How do we "map" such things to make them simple for a a future planetary system inhabitant, novel reader, or gamer to understand? How can we quickly and easily show which destinations are worth going to and how much it will cost to go there?

I've seen number of different approaches taken and each of these has provided unique insight into various aspects of interplanetary travel.I wanted to see if there are other perspectives that I haven't seen that might prove to be equally valuable.

Since this could be a very open-ended question I'll put some bounds on it:

  1. I intend to use it as a map to convey settlement/colony potential.
  2. It should include ease of reaching destination (it may use any units delta V, energy, etc.).
  3. It should include the expected resources available at different locations.

You do not need to provide the map itself (but that would be nice). Although I do intend to apply it to our Solar System, I'd like the rules used to make it so I can use it for others too.

I consider a settlement a habitat which is not originally intended to be self-sufficient. I consider a colony a habitat which is intended to become self-sufficient.

I'm providing some Solar System diagrams that I found especially enlightening:

Interplanetary Transport Network
(If you can get to the L1, L2, or L3 point of a body, then you can access anywhere in the solar system. It will cost you very little fuel but a huge amount of time) Interplanetary Transport Network

Solar System $ \Delta V$ Requirements for Hohmann Transfers (minimum energy direct)
(If your cargo doesn't have the luxury of being able to wait years, decades, or centuries, then you need to try a more direct approach. This costs way more fuel but takes a lot less time) Solar System $ \Delta V$ Requirements

Nomograph for Brachistochrone Travel (constant acceleration)
(This chart identifies requirements to make a constant acceleration trip - this takes much less time than the Hohmann Orbit Transfers) Nomograph for Interplanetary Travel

Compositional Mapping of the Solar System's Asteroids
(Asteroids are commonly listed as prime candidates for colonies, but what will we find in them?) Compositional Mapping of the Solar System's Asteroids

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    $\begingroup$ In this case a 2D map wouldn't suffice since knowing the position in spatial dimensions requires 3D and even that probably still aren't good enough we will need to introduce time factor so your map should be tracing every trajectory of every astronomical objects plus man-made if you will therefore instead of map you probably want an holographic altas. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jun 25, 2015 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ Definitely going to want an animated digital map at the very least. You could show each trajectory and $ \Delta v $ requirements in real time. As for 3D, on a map of the solar system, I don't think it would be necessary, all the planets are on the orbital plane. Transfers to different asteroids vary, so they would have to be calculated on a mission-to-mission basis. $\endgroup$
    – amziraro
    Jun 25, 2015 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ Related question on meta. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 25, 2015 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ That's possibly a collection of the most helpful information I've ever seen in a Worldbuilding question. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 25, 2015 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ I was going to recommend the map from the board game High Frontier boardgamegeek.com/image/814205/high-frontier?size=large then I saw one of your links was to Winchell Chung's site where I heard of it, so you presumably have too. And on reading more of your post, it's inadequate. AFAIK it covers energy states, but not time-varying requirements. (I haven't played the game, so if anyone has and can offer more information...) $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2015 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


The answer to your problem is a bit tricky, since what you're asking for and what you need are two different things.

The information that you mention, like travel times, resources, and distances is useful, but encoding it all as a single map would produce complicated and hard-to-understand graphics.

What you want is to separate the data from the presentation.

If you have a database of the heavenly bodies' mass, relative distances, resources, and so on, you would then use astronomical calculations to crunch that information into usable info; you ask the computer how long something would take, and it would show you only what you asked for.

You could even specify how you would want the information presented; as a series of charts showing the most efficient methods, routes overlaid on a star chart, or even verbal descriptions for the visually impaired. More elaborate visualizations could show the actual motion of bodies over a sped-up period of time, or "ghosts" of where things will be vs. are currently.

To sum up, you don't necessarily want a map; you want a mapmaker.


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