Avatar Movie Valkyrie Antimatter Rocket Design is a Real Design

The Second Avatar movie will surpass $2 billion in box office. The start of the first Avatar movie showed the Valkyrie Antimatter rocket design. This was an actual antimatter rocket design. The first Avatar movie made almost $3 billion in box office. The second movie should be able to reach $2.5 billion and could go higher as the first movie had exceptional late release earnings. James Cameron’s biggest hits just keep rolling with repeat viewings of Titanic and Avatar.

A startup did try to generate antimatter to catalyze fusion reactions. However, Positron Dynamics business failed, despite solid science and technology. Positron Dynamics was trying to use Krypton isotopes to generate positrons. They wanted to breed more Krypton isotopes. They sidestep the issue of antimatter storage, which is one of the biggest problems. We can make tiny amounts antimatter but cannot store what we make. It would take 10 school buses of volume at the Brillouin limit to trap 1 microgram. They were slowing the positrons that are generated. Krypton 79 isotope generates hot positrons. They were using a system to moderate (slow) the positrons so they can be used.

The Valkyrie Antimatter rocket design was designed to be a far lighter structure for the antimatter rocket than prior designs. The interstellar spaceship that is used in the Avatar movie story is based upon the Valkerie Antimatter Starship designed by Charles Pellegrino and Brookhaven physicist Jim Powell

The Interstellar Vehicle Venture Star (ISV) is one of ten interstellar spaceships used for the looping Earth – Pandora supply chain. It kind of looks like a space station, and that’s because it was designed to operate only in deep space; shuttle-like ships called Valkyries (so the 0.7 light speed spaceship has a real design called Valkyrie but they use the Valkyrie name for th shuttles in the movies.) are the vehicles that actually land on Pandora’s surface. As stated in the movie, the trip between Earth and Pandora takes more than five years, so each Venture Star carries a substantial amount of cargo and over 100 passengers, plus four crew members who also hit the sack in cryosleep for the entirety of the trip.

The Venture Star covers the 4.37 light years of distance between Earth and the Alpha Centauri system in an expected timeframe of 6.75 years – an initial acceleration takes place for about six months, reaching 0.7 times the speed of light.

There have been other lighter-weight antimatter sail designs. Light weight means less antimatter is needed to reach mission speeds.


Dr. Pellegrino served as a scientific consultant on James Cameron’s Avatar movie. The interstellar vehicles seen in the film are based on the designs of Pellegrino and Powell’s Valkyrie rockets, fused with Robert L. Forward’s designs.

Project Valkyrie at wikipedia

Instead of a solid spacecraft with a rocket at the back, Valkyrie is built more like a train, with the crew quarters, fuel tanks, radiation shielding, and other vital components being pulled behind the engine on long tethers. This greatly reduces the mass of the ship, because it no longer requires heavy structural members and radiation shielding.

Initially the Valkyrie’s engine would work by using small quantities of antimatter to initiate an extremely energetic fusion reaction. A magnetic coil captures the exhaust products of this reaction and it is expelled with an exhaust velocity of 12-20% the speed of light (35,975-58,900 km/s). As the spacecraft approaches 20% the speed of light more and more antimatter is fed into the engines until it switches over to pure matter-antimatter annihilation. It will use this mode to accelerate the remainder of the way to .92 c. Pellegrino estimates that the ship would require 100 tons of matter and antimatter, with an undetermined excess of matter to ensure the antimatter is efficiently burned, although another calculation suggests that to reach a speed of .92 c and decelerate afterward Valkyrie would require a mass ratio of 22 (or 2200 tons of fuel for a 100-ton spacecraft).

The chief feasibility issue of Valkyrie (or for any antimatter-beam drive) lies in its requirement of quantities of antimatter fuel measured in tons. Antimatter cannot be produced at an efficiency of more than 50% (that is to say, to produce one gram of antimatter requires twice as much energy as you would get from annihilating that gram with a gram of matter). Since a half a kilogram of antimatter would yield 9×1016 J if annihilated with an equal amount of matter, this quickly adds up to enormous energy requirements for its production. To produce the 50 tons of antimatter Valkyrie would need would require 1.8×10^22 J. This is the same amount of energy that the entire human race currently uses in about forty years.

This may be solved by creating a truly enormous power plant for the antimatter factory, probably in the form of a vast array for solar panels with a combined area of millions of square kilometers. Alternately the antimatter-fusion hybrid drive the Valkyrie uses to accelerate up to 0.2 c would require much less antimatter and, with an exhaust velocity of 30-60,000 km·s-1, still compares quite favorably with competing engines such as the inertial confinement pulse drive used by Project Daedalus or Project Orion (nuclear propulsion).

Charles Pellegrino’s website has more information

The engine is simply a magnetic coil, which generates a magnetic field, against which particles from the matter-antimatter reaction zone are bounced. The magnetic field (and hence the coil), is propelled forward by the bounce. The coil then pulls the rest of the ship along on a string, much as a motorboat pulls a water skier. A pulling rather than a pushing engine eliminates most of the structural girders that would not only, by their mere existence, add unwarranted mass, but would multiply that mass many times over by their need for shields and cooling equipment, and by added fuel to push the added fuel . . . leading to a chain reaction of design complications. . .and to an engine that burns hotter, but which cannot afford to push the giant to even a significant fraction of lightspeed. By contrast to what has traditionally become known as the large, slow-moving ‘space ark’ approach to interstellar flight, Valkyrie becomes a low mass speedboat

Valkyrie is the ultralight of rockets, consisting mostly of naked magnetic coils and pods held together by tethers. Indeed, it can best be summed up as a kite (with magnetic field lines instead of paper sheets) that flies through space on a muon wind of its own creation. Valkyrie’s fuel stores (both matter and antimatter combined) are estimated at slightly less than half the mass of the rest of the spacecraft, or about one hundred tons. technology. The Valkyrie will have a maximum cruising speed of 92 percent lightspeed.

A suggested approach is made for the generation of the antimatter, but there are several ways advanced technology could be used to produce a lot of antimatter. The Valkyrie has some similarities to the Vasmir.

Mr. Pellegrino’s response to Adam Crowl:

On Valkyrie, the lower mass of material you were quoting was for up to 10%c – much lower than the mass for giants like Daedalus, and other such nonsense. The mass of propellant is kept low because up to about 10% c you can go with the lower exhaust velocities of antiproton-triggered fusion.

In any case, the antiproton triggered fusion system, scaled down to Valkyrie Mark II, is wonderfully practical for getting around the solar system at a mere 750 km/sec. (this velocity would eventually be practical for Project Spaceguard: the kinetic force of merely ten Toyota masses impacting a comet or asteroid at this velocity (diameter 1/4 mile) would completely “dust” the object.

In answer to original question, for a true, Valkyrie Mark III (requiring direct proton-antiproton annihilation after 15%c), interstellar crewed mission, the propellant mass would of course exceed the ship mass. After 92%c, the excess becomes too extreme.

Mark III Engine

Mark III is quite simple, actually. Temperature regulation in the antimatter pods will control how fast or slow antihydrogen white flake is permitted to evaporate. As the evaporated antihydrogen leaves the magnetic bottle, and is guided toward the magnetic gun barrel of an atomic accelerator, the atoms are ionized and stripped of their positrons. The positrons are simply ejected into space (for, if allowed to react with electrons, they will produce powerful gamma rays while providing essentially zero thrust). The antiprotons are accelerated to approximately 750 kilometers per second, and when they arrive at the reaction zone, behave somewhat like slow relativistic bombs (mark this as an oxymoron, albeit an essential one). At this velocity, the antiprotons pass like ghosts through beryllium windows, hardly noticing that they have passed through anything at all. They detonate when they reach (‘and stick to’) the hydrogen nuclei behind the window (including deuterium, and possibly traces of tritium), and by carefully controlling the number of antiprotons reaching the hydrogen (by regulating evaporation rates in the antimatter pods), and hence controlling the temperature of the hydrogen target, the result becomes a finely tuned fusion reaction – in effect, an antimatter triggered hydrogen bomb that, instead of exploding, merely glows, at any rate one wants it to glow.

That glow is in fact a spray of (for our purposes) reasonably massive charged particles, among them helium nuclei. Just as the antiprotons shooting in through the beryllium window fail to notice that a container wall exists, any fusion products shooting out (at the still relatively slow velocity of 12 to 20 percent lightspeed), depart like beams of light exiting glass. The particles then bounce off the ship’s forward magnetic field, giving away their energy as thrust.

As the ship’s speedometer begins to climb above twelve to twenty percent the velocity of light, fusion ions, though more massive than the products of straightforward proton-antiproton annihilation, decline significantly in propulsion efficiency. To push the Valkyrie to a higher fraction of lightspeed, higher exhaust velocities are needed. At this point, the Mark III reaction mix depends less and less upon fusion, until ultimately it shifts purely to proton-antiproton pairing. At this point, the less efficient reaction (which sheds low mass particles at high speed), has become the more efficient reaction, if for no other reason than it is our only choice.

The reaction products, traveling at high relativistic speed (the speed we want to get our rockets up to) consist of elementary particles called mesons. Each meson has a mass intermediate between a proton and an electron. It is essentially a proton fragment gone so relativistic (read ballistic) that it is at once a particle and a wave, and some of its quarks and gluons have dispersed into the universe as energy (read, massless photons and neutrinos). The matter-antimatter spray produces three varieties, or ‘flavors,’ of pi-mesons.

1. Neutral pi-mesons comprise thirty percent of the proton-antiproton reaction products. They decay immediately into gamma rays.

2. Positively charged pi-mesons, traveling near the speed of light, decay into positively charged mu-mesons (muons) and neutrinos after flying, on average, only twenty-one meters. The muons last several microseconds (almost two kilometers) before decaying into positively charged electrons and neutrinos.

3. Negatively charged pi-mesons behave the same way positively charged ones do, except that the resulting muons and electrons are negatively charged.

The charged pions and muons are the particles we want, and preferably we want the innermost fringes of the engine’s magnetic field (or magnetic pusher plate) to reach within twenty-one meters of the reaction zone, so that it can steal whatever thrust the pions have to contribute before a significant fraction of them have decayed and shed some of their energy as useless neutrinos.

The BBC also has a page with information on the Valkyrie

Avatar Movie Spaceship Backstory

Here is the link to the ISV Venture Star page on the Pandorapedia

Antimatter Tutorial Video

NASA Antimatter Production Paper

28 page pdf – Antimatter Production for Near-term Propulsion Applications G.R. Schmidt, H.P.Gerrish and J.J. Martin

The development of antiproton Penning traps has progressed extremely well over the last 10 years. The PS200 experiment trapped over 10^6 antiprotons for periods of hours. This is seen as a means of soon being able to confine up to 10^12 antiprotons with transfer to a remote site for periods of many days. Synergistic Technologies of Los Alamos, NM is currently developing a magnetic degrading spectrometer which will simply and inexpensively decelerate antiprotons into such portable traps. In this case, a more efficient decelerator section will be required to achieve production rates equivalent to ~1 microgram per year. Antiproton decelerators which accomplish this do exist (e.g., at CERN), and in the case of FNAL would cost about $10 million to construct.

1980’s a RAND Corporation study of antimatter production – antimatter production capacity of 0.1 to 1 gram per year could be achieved with a new machine costing $3 to $10 billion.

31 thoughts on “Avatar Movie Valkyrie Antimatter Rocket Design is a Real Design”

  1. Valkarie supporting a direct ground landing via NASA SkyCrane style drop was really pushing things though (even with the stated positive thrust to weight ratio), what with the intense backscatter from the atmosphere should have been frying the payloads. They sort of cheat here with the winch out of the pod/dropable skyscraper, but that cable should have been much longer to begin with and the ship should have had a longer spine to begin with right? I imagine for cinematic purposes having a shorter spine made visual sense though.

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  2. Yes, positrons and antiprotons are things, but surely the jaw flapping nerdsplaining attempts to explain why we don’t see it or it is ‘out of balance’ are totally worthless and should be disregarded, as should any extrapolated uses for something we cannot touch, let alone contain.

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    • The observation of an exception to a rule (negative proton) has become another groupthink loop digging a rabbit hole to an eventual Nobel Prize like the neutrinos that didn’t show up when good money was spent to detect them (aka oscillation) you and how gravity waves now give ‘evidence of neutron star mergers every day’ ,because that explains the feather tickling the ‘detector’.

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  3. “It would take 10 school buses of volume at the Brillouin limit to trap 1 microgram”

    Please stop use school buses as a scientific unit of volume. This practice takes away the credibility of the articles. It’s not even useful for people totally unfamiliar with SI units. Here in Europe, we don’t even have school buses to my knowledge and I have no idea what the volume is.

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    • I agree. Every time someone describes something in terms of “12.75 metric schoolbuses” or “the same distance as from Mungana to Aeroglen” or “as tall as a very tall Indricotherium” it just adds another round of confusion to the story.
      These may be very familiar sizes to the author, but there is a reason we have adopted universal world wide system of units. It’s because nobody outside your local social subgroup is aware of whatever obscure simile you’ve come up with.

      In the rest of the planet, nobody knows if a “school bus” is the same as a normal bus or what? The one that is on The Simpsons looks like a design from the 1950s.

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  4. I am sorry although I have followed rocket designs like this my entire life but lately it is overshadowed by the knowledge that UAP’s are real. All effort should be directed at figuring out how they work, why waste money on at best NAFAL tech when we know that FTL (effectively) is apparently/likely possible?

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    • It seems they do exist, but if the military say don’t know what they are, it’s probably true.

      We believe they are living beings from another planet, onboard shiny Star-Trek like ships.

      But what if they are something weirder still? space borne life forms, multiversal lice, etc?

      In any case, we shouldn’t stop our own progress waiting for the solutions to fall from the sky. We need to do all the required steps to earn whatever they might have.

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      • But we (supposedly) have crashed UFO (UAP)’s and according to some sources recovered fully intact/functional ones. If that is correct than most of our efforts should be directed toward reverse-engineering such. Spending 100’s of billions or maybe even trillions developing an anti-matter powered rocket seems a waste of money/resources.

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        • They may have no payload.

          Let’s say ETs got here a long time ago. They slowly built up enough infrastructure that they are able to beam power to what I call a sky cursor.

          Now, that sky cursor pantographs across using beamed energy like you can pantograph a writing head…where it is wood that holds everything together.

          But that cursor in the sky is just like the cursor on your screen—it is NOT a vehicle in and of itself.

          So even if UFOs that zip about are real—they need not be starships!

          That’s good. It might mean they aren’t as advanced as they want you to think.

          Hell, give me two statite solar sails with lines that cross in an X…I put a windlass at the intersection with a dangling nanothread between…and merely by having the two statites tack towards or away from each other…I can look like a religious figure ascending on a nano-thread the natives can’t see—and they will sacrifice their ores to me without my having to send screaming marines.

          No antigravity or FTL needed.

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          • “No antigravity or FTL needed.”

            Well firstly there are (allegedly) intact physical craft that have been recovered and examined. Setting that aside what conceivable known tech (beamed power or otherwise) could cause a solid physical craft to go from ~60K feet to 200 feet in less than a second? No exhaust no heat/energy signature from said craft from the enormous about of energy it would take to do so by conventional means. This behavior was observed and recorded as part of the report given to Congress.

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          • Physicist Jack Sarfatti thinks he can explain the Tic-Tac UAP movements by a derivative of the Alcubierre Warp drive metric.

            Metamaterials & TicTac UFO Construction • Jack Sarfatti

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0wLOTSZ8h0

            Full interview:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qciOLpM5yFg

            Post Quantum Mechanics of Conscious AI • Anti Gravity Warp Drive • TicTac UAPs • Dr. Jack Sarfatti

            The reason for the extremely high energies required is because in the original metric in the equation that equates input energy to “space warping” the term in the denominator is “C 4th power”. Usually shown as the speed of light in a vacuum (~3 X 10 8th power) raised to the 4th power. It would take an insane amount of energy (mass of the planet Jupiter coverted to energy) in the original equation to produce much “space warping”. Sarfatti believes that in a properly engineered meta-material the speed of light is many orders of magnitude lower yielding a low energy warp drive which is what he believes power the Tic-Tac UAP’s.

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      • They could even just be holograms. No radar signature, acceleration doesn’t bother them, they can just disappear at will? Sounds like someone’s testing a hologram generator and there literally are no UAPs in that they’re illusions rather than a nonexistant phenomenon, the people behind them are just tapping into some existing “lore” to obscure their activity.

        There were rumours of something similar but incredibly basic being tested in Desert Storm, back then. If there were any credibility there, we’d have had 30 years to improve on the tech.

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        • “They could even just be holograms.”

          They can be tracked on radar (as well as infra-red detection) that’s how the navy/gov knows about them. Also tracked/detected underwater; called “fast movers” by the navy. They (the government) has known they are real for decades and are finally coming clean. According to Luis Elizondo (and others) he says he has heard on good authority that they also have recovered craft.

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          • The point, the entire point, or UAPs or UFOs is that first letter: U.
            Unidentified.
            We don’t know what they are.

            I’ve seen a UAP. This doesn’t mean I’ve seen an alien space ship. It means that I saw something in the sky that I can’t identify.
            The reason they changed from U. Flying Object to U. Aerial Phenomena is to emphasise that nobody even knows if they are physical objects.

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            • “The reason they changed from U. Flying Object to U. Aerial Phenomena is to emphasise that nobody even knows if they are physical objects.”

              I thought that it was established in the report(s) given to Congress that the objects are real physical objects; that point was addressed at the hearing(s) as well. Not necessarily alien but that isn’t the primary point. The main point is that these craft are exhibiting flight characteristics far beyond are current state of the art as far as propulsion technology. We should be utilizing every effort to figure out how they work, alien or otherwise. These vehicles are far beyond rocket technology anti-matter or otherwise they operate by different principals. And if we have actual recovered vehicles to study so much the better. Be they alien or “otherwise” make little difference as far as the imperative to trying to figure out how they operate.

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  5. If a private company from a civilization of 20 billion people could produce enough antimatter to send an expedition of 100 people to the nearest star at 70% c, then you should NOT be having an energy crisis and you should have enough energy to undo any environmental damage to Earth.

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    • Well, yeah. If you’ve got the tech to reach Alpha Centauri in under a decade, there is essentially nothing that could be there that would be worth the trip.

      In the first movie, it was “unobtainium”, apparently a room temperature superconductor, that is pretty plentiful on Pandora, as you can see from the topography; Rock arches following flux loops, huge chunks of land flux pinned up in the air. What the hell IS this stuff, that it can’t be synthesized more efficiently than spending, what, a few thousand tons of energy to get a ton of it back to Earth? Some sort of primordial particle that only forms under big bang conditions, is plentiful on Pandora, and nowhere to be found in the Solar system? Absurd!

      In the second movie, the McGuffin is an anti-aging drug found in a tiny gland in the middle of the brain of intelligent whales. It’s a COMPOUND, for goodness sakes! Synthesizing it is harder than interstellar travel? But never mind that, how in the world did they discover it? That’s doubly absurd; The unobtainium is at least obvious from one look at Pandora topography.

      It’s just an excuse for why the evil u-mans are slaughtering intelligent beings, just like the unobtainium.

      Then there’s a side plot about how they’re planning on colonizing Pandora because Earth is becoming uninhabitable. What, from the waste heat of manufacturing antimatter? And interstellar travel is easier than building a billion O’Neill colonies?

      I mean, it’s a visual spectacle, and I enjoyed it immensely, but at the same time it’s the idiot plot of all idiot plots.

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          • When Avatar came out it was widely, and with good reason, regarded as the most spectacular bit of cinematography yet made. As big an advance on Lord of the Rings as that was on say Jurassic Park, or even Star Wars.

            The reason Avatar didn’t produce a series of blockbuster sequels like those others did is that those earlier movies had writing that was more advanced than a particularly pedestrian Captain Planet cartoon episode. They had lines of dialogue that people remember and quote. They had characters that anyone remembers the names of.

            So, no, the fundamental back stories of the McGuffins are full of holes and don’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny. Nothing else in the movie does either.

            If I HAD to come up with reasons that it would be cheaper to mine something from another planet than synthesise it I guess I could…
            – Unobtainium contains, either pure or a compound of, some exotic element with atomic number 144. All attempts to synthesise it in reactors either fail, or chew up so much energy that it really is cheaper to mine it in another solar system.
            – The anti aging drug being a complex biological compound can be much more difficult to replicate. Especially if the detailed story is that they need enough to do studies so that they CAN develop synthesis tech. That’s exactly the sort of detail that I let slide because it’s precisely the subtle distinction that in real life your front line workers (i.e. the characters in the movie) will either not quite understand or just gloss over when they discuss the matter.
            – Throw in there that “earth dying” could well have factors that are both beyond even the depicted level of engineering, and yet not discussed by characters in the movie. Say… the sun is also going into an unstable period, and or there is conflict between different groups of humans about how/what/whether changes should be made to the Earth’s biosphere.

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            • Yeah, Avatar ripped off Ferngully. A 90s animated movie featuring a Dan Dare character initially siding with a exploitative company, getting into the lives of a faery group protecting a forest, by being magically miniaturized (instead of body swapped), then siding with them for fighting and driving the evil white man away.

              Storytelling is always derivative, but Avatar never was a shining beacon of original literary work, and its narrative premises fall off if you think about them a little.

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              • There’s been dozens of children’s TV shows with same basic plot. I don’t think there has been a mining venture appear on screen since the 1980s where it wasn’t a case of
                – The miners were the bad guys
                – The natives/hippies/wildlife or combination of same were the good guys.
                – They end up defeating the bad miners and slightly raising the price of a commodity for the rest of the world.

                Maybe the last movie where the miners were the good guys was… Mad Max 2?

                I’ll admit that it was a bit of a twist adding a dose of good old fashioned “white saviour” where the civilized man proves to actually be better at everything than the natives, even better at being a native once he went through a learning process. Haven’t seen that sort of Edgar Rice Burroughs stuff for a while.

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            • The thing I found unlikely about the anti-aging drug was the actual discovery, more than the synthesis being difficult. (Though given their mad biological skills, that, too. You can’t clone the gland?) You’re not going to stumble across something like that. While the unobtanium was dead obvious with one look at Pandora terrain. And kudos to them in making the terrain reflect its presence like that.

              Having a hard time seeing how some primordial particle/element would be THAT plentiful on Pandora, and basically absent in the Solar system.

              Well, an idiot plot with incredible production values. Just wish he’d pick some old super-good SF novel, like maybe Sundiver, and apply those skills to making a movie. There’s so much material out there that would make a good movie!

              But they needed a plot that made the u-mans the evil bad guys, I guess. It was mandatory in Hollywood.

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          • They said it was paying for the doctor’s science and that is why he drank so much, given what they were having to do to obtain it. It was never stated that they were paying for the whole trip.
            If it was all about the fountain of youth serum, why would they set up all of these land-based and land-locked massive colony centers?
            They said specifically Earth was dying was the reason for them coming there. The General told that to Quaritch

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