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Picture a setting similar to that of many fantasy works: a relatively low level of technology among the general population, lots of manual labor, agriculture or hunter/gatherer society, and that most people are generally content with the way of life. Note that this particular world does not have magic.

Now consider that in the world just described, there's also space travel by means of technology (in other words, not too dissimilar from what we are doing in our real world as of today) on some non-negligible scale.

Also assume that the general population is fully aware that such space travel is going on, and are generally either indifferent to it, or actively support it.

Now consider that space travel is, on the whole, freakishly expensive.

How can I explain, in-universe, that the general population doesn't revolt against the space program of their world?

If desired, you may assume that the whole planet, as well as any other planets that may possibly harbor life and are reachable by their spacecraft, is largely similar in terms of lifestyle and technological capability. You may also freely assume the opposite, should you prefer to do so. Please specify early in your answer which approach you take.

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  • $\begingroup$ in those societies you can get away with a lot just becasue the king/emperor said so. just look at what the roman emperors got away with. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 19 '16 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ This question highlights a major problem with secondary creation High Fantasy trilogies. Their complete lack of a space program. Just the thing to make Middle Earth really interesting. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 20 '16 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ If the civilization is expanding, chances are it will want to explore; "accepted and supported" are easy to justify. But the circumstances are a stretch. Rocket science requires so much knowledge in other fields (aeronautics, astronomy, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, geophysics, radiology, robotics, thermodynamics, and more) that it is nearly impossible for your civ to have a "relatively low level of technology" yet discover a means to get to space. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 20 '16 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra Note that I didn't say that the civilization has a "relatively low level of technology". I did say that there is "a relatively low level of technology among the general population". That's not necessarily the same thing. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 21 '16 at 6:48
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Ah, that clarifies, thanks. Now you must determine why the population doesn't have access to the above fields of science - still plausible, just tricky $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 21 '16 at 6:52
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This is not too dissimilar to our world. The nations with the typical fantasy setting levels of technology and the rest are the equivalent of the Third World. Their First World nations are their equivalents of the USA and the USSR which do have major space programs.

This is something like the world as seen from Africa or Asia in the 1960's when the Space Race was at its height. The people on those continents were well aware of space activity. They couldn't do anything about it because it wasn't in their jurisdictions and lay outside the power of their citizens to influence it.

A space travel being freakishly expensive, well it is, isn't it? That's why is the province of the Big Boys of the First World.

What is the in-universe explanation for there not being a revolt against space travel. There could be a Cold War between Gondor and Mordor. The Space Race is one version of their sabre rattling. Also, as explained above the typical fantasy setting nations against the ones launching spacecraft.

Since your world has life in other planets, this is significant difference from the Cold War space race. It is also likely to be something that will rally the global population of this world to support space travel. This also may depend on whether that extraplanetary life is a threat to your world.

From a historical point of view, this is a world where there has been greater divergence between the so-called developed and underdeveloped parts of the world. Their equivalent of the Third World has lagged a long way behind, while their First World has gone much further down the high technology road and into space. This isn't too extraordinary a scenario.

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Make it a ruse - an offering to the gods.

I'm reminded, strangely, of the Minotaur.

Every seven or nine years (accounts differ), seven boys and seven girls were sent from Athens to Crete in tribute to King Minos, and were promptly devoured by the beast, until Theseus defeated it. From the perspective of the Athenians, fourteen people went aboard a ship went somewhere far away, and were never heard from again (well, it was known that they died, but apparently nobody normally confirmed this).

Apply this to your world.

Every so often, people are chosen as sacrifices to the gods, who happen to live in a space station in low orbit around the planet (the people don't know it's a space station; they just see the rockets leave). There are other people to go with them as security, so to speak, but they always come back alive and well. The space gods are happy, and everyone lives.

However, the rockets are in fact carrying whatever the elite need them to carry, and the people who supposedly go on the rocket in tribute never fly to space, but are instead brought somewhere else, or possibly killed, depending on how dark you want this to be. It's all a ruse. A conspiracy. But as whoever's controlling this can show, if the people fail to make a payment - the rocket explodes, nobody is picked as tribute, etc. - bad things happen. Really bad things. Take your pick of any man-made disaster you can think of in such a primitive society.

People will pay what they need to make the gods happy. There's a reason many cathedrals, mosques, temples and the like are so nicely decorated.

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We have examples of societies that spent large amounts of their wealth on voyages, such as China's treasure fleets, Egypt's circumnavigation of Africa, besides the European voyages. It appears that Columbus's first voyage cost the society at the time something similar to a rocket launch does today. The expense isn't going to be the biggest problem, whether it is an empire mandating that space exploration happens, wealthy merchant-princes looking for profits, or a religious demand there are options as to who is paying for the expedition.

Where the problem comes is the technology necessary to build a space ship. If the space ships are being built on the planet then that would necessitate a lot of knowledge of metallurgy, chemistry, and so forth that both require a large labor pool and would lead to better farming technologies. I don't know how with a internally built spaceship one justifies the lack of chemical fertilizers, highly efficient plows, so forth. Perhaps if space exploration were mandated by a semi-divine emperor with the construction being carried out in monasteries and the empire otherwise has a relatively large and cheap workforce for farming and manufacturing. HDE's suggestion makes sense in that regards.

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First explain how a civilization has this technology. This is quite simple really the technology is what's left over of a previously Advanced civilization stories of how to use the space traveling technology are passed down via oral tradition and there are Specialists that know how to use it but they don't know how to reproduce the technology. They don't and they know how to repair it ( fortunately equipment is well-designed it doesn't need repairs and won't for a thousand years) they just know the controls, this would explain El they could be a hunter gatherer Society and still used space travel.

How to explain the expense. Well they may not know how to create the spacecraft they can remember how to make the fuel. Fortunately this fuel is made from plants and is simple to make even with hunter gatherer technology ( have no idea how this would be but what you say it is) so the expense is that most of the food is been used to power the spacecraft rather than being eaten by the people. Why haven't people revolted? Well unless the expense gets so high that the people themselves are starving I don't see this as being a problem the average peasant gave away 90% of crop to the Lord only keeping a little bit for himself to feed him and his family and trade.

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I think you just make it acceptable. Did you see Firefly? There were whole planets of people scraping a life from very little, who were perfectly comfortable with space ships and so on. These people might never make it off their world, but might have worked for someone or sold produce or minerals to a someone who did use that technology.

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