Conceptual Design and Illustration by Aldo Spadoni
Editor's note: In a February 2008 Internet chat, Larry Niven wrote enthusiastically about his
collaboration on "The Niven Project" and Aldo Spadoni's detailed visualizations of spacecraft from his stories.
Previous plans to include a CD of the art with Niven's collection Scatterbrain had fallen through. We are
proud to present that portion of The Niven Project relating to Known Space; most of the images below make their
Internet debut here. The descriptive text is also by Aldo Spadoni.
Science Fiction author Larry Niven needs no introduction. In his stories and collaborations, he has created some of
the most imaginative and advanced spacecraft concepts ever conceived.
Aldo Spadoni is an aerospace engineer and conceptual designer, specializing in the realistic design and visualization
of future technology. He is President of Aerospace Imagineering, a consulting firm specializing in advanced technology
conceptual design and visualization for the aerospace and entertainment industries. Larry and Aldo have been collaborating
to visually bring to life the wonderful spacecraft and other advanced technological concepts, as described in Larry's
stories. Aldo develops the detailed designs using aerospace industry systems engineering principles. For more information
about the Niven Project, please contact us at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.#
Lying Bastard 3-View
The Lying Bastard
[Spoiler alert: Ringworld] Pierson's
Puppeteers, a race of advanced aliens, were fleeing the galaxy after discovering that the
galactic core had exploded and a deadly wavefront of radiation would reach
Known Space in approximately 20,000 years. Their entire planetary system was enroute to the Magellanic Clouds at high sublight velocity. The migration was passing close to a macro-engineered artifact of terrifying proportions. A survey of this planetary system was required to assess the threat to the migration. A survey team consisting of a Puppeteer, two humans, and a Kzin was assembled. They would require a specialized and powerful spacecraft to complete this dangerous mission.
The Lying Bastard, so named by Louis Wu, one of the human members of the expedition, was constructed around a General Products' No. 2 indestructible spacecraft hull about 91 meters in length [see
General Products hull]. This fusion and reactionless
thruster powered starship represents the state-of-the-art in 29th Century spacecraft technology. The Lying Bastard is seen here transiting the upper atmosphere of the Ringworld at hypersonic speed. The spacecraft is protected by a force-field generated sonic fold, which glows from superheating as the Lying Bastard rams through the atmosphere. Note that this is a hypothetical scene, since the Lying Bastard was zapped by the Ringworld's meteor defense system before entering the atmosphere, burning off all of the ship's equipment external to the General Products hull.
Colony Slowboat Starship, from A Gift from Earth
The Planck is a fusion/fission-propelled starship configured as a great circular flying wing, 55 meters in length. It is capable of direct planetary ascent and descent. The Planck carried the first human expedition to the
Tau Ceti star system, colonizing the planet,
Plateau. The Planck travels through interstellar space at relativistic velocity. Here it is seen passing through a particularly dense region of space along its route. The hull glows from ionization effects and friction with the tenuous dust and gas of the interstellar medium. Normally, a large hydrogen fuel balloon would occupy the open space at the front end of the ship. This configuration provides radiation protection for the crew as well as propellant for the long voyage.
Planck at High Sublight
Planck over Plateau
The Planck Discovers Mt. Lookitthat
The Planck has entered the Tau Ceti system, only to discover that the target world has a poisonous Venus-like atmosphere. The Planck is seen here transiting the upper atmosphere of the planet and discovering
Mt. Lookitthat, a massive plateau that projects 40 miles up into the thankfully habitable region of the atmosphere; thus the planet was named "Plateau". Several of the now famous waterfalls are visible on the plateau.
The Long Shot at the Galactic Core
from "At the Core"
[Spoiler alert: "At the Core"] The Long Shot is a special purpose spacecraft built by the Puppeteers to demonstrate the new Quantum II Hyperdrive technology. Beowulf Schaeffer, piloting the Long Shot, discovered the galactic core explosion that resulted in the
Puppeteer migration to the Magellanic clouds. The Long Shot is seen here emerging from a dense region of dust and gas between the galactic spiral arms. The jewel-like galactic core is visible, as well as the spreading core explosion. The explosion is so bright that stars silhouetted in front of it appear black. Note that this scene is true to the description in the story, "At the Core". The presumed appearance of the core region of the galaxy has evolved considerably since the story was written.
Long Shot at the Core
Long Shot schematic
Long Shot on Triton
The Long Shot on Triton
Several hundred years after the galactic core expedition, Long Shot sits on a vast frozen plain on the surface of
Triton, Neptune's larger moon. Louis Wu, accompanied by
Nessus the Puppeteer, gets his first glimpse of the huge spacecraft. The Long Shot will carry the Ringworld exploration team on the first leg of their journey, out to the Puppeteer
Fleet of Worlds. The other two members of the Ringworld exploration team, Teela Brown and Speaker-To-Animals, can be seen in the distance standing near the base of the giant spacecraft.
[NOTE: The text actually states the Long Shot was landed on "Nereid, Neptune's larger moon." However, Triton is the larger of the two moons known in 1970, when Ringworld was published. Icy, spherical Triton also seems a much better setting for the icy plain where the Long Shot rested than does rocky, lumpy Nereid. Therefore, the artist has placed this scene on Triton. —Editor]
from "Neutron Star"
[Spoiler alert: "Neutron Star"] The Skydiver is a custom spacecraft built by the Puppeteers to accomplish the second flyby of the neutron star BVS-1, hopefully without killing the crew this time around. The Crashlander,
Beowulf Schaeffer, is blackmailed into piloting the expedition. The General Products #2 Hull is a wasp-waisted slender cylinder 91 meters long and 6.1 meters in diameter, sharply tapered at both ends. Larry envisioned a simple, very specialized vehicle sort of like an X-plane. It is designed specifically, but rather hastily, to complete the neutron star flyby. Skydiver features an
aerospike propulsion system, with a ring shaped exhaust nozzle, and a large eyeball-like turret mounted laser cannon on top, located immediately behind the lifesystem. Skydiver is seen here departing the We Made It system, on the first leg of its journey to the neutron star, BVS-1. Beowulf Schaeffer is at the controls. We Made It's odd axis of rotation causes seasonal hurricane-force winds that sandblast the planet's surface. We Made It's algae oceans are visible on the surface.
Probe inside No. 1 GP hull
General Products #1 Hull
from Fleet of Worlds
The smallest of the four types of GP hulls, the No. 1 hull is a globe about the size of a basketball. This hull type is used in large numbers by the Puppeteers for probes. Shown here is a typical multifunction electromagnetic probe configuration.
Beyond Known Space:
More art from "The Niven Project"
From Footfall, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (not a Known Space story): The Michael is a battleship whose nuclear propulsion was inspired by Project Orion. Detailed plans for the ship can be found here.
The Michael, from Footfall