Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Space Colonies

I have long thought that the space colonies that make the most sense are giant spinning cylinders located off of planets. I was therefore very excited to find this article from NASA saying essentially the same thing:

The best place to live on Mars is not nearly as nice as the most miserable part of Siberia. Mars is far colder, you can't go outside without a space suit, and it's a months-long rocket ride if you want a Hawaiin vacation. The Moon is even colder at night, and it's literally boiling during the day. By contrast, orbital colonies have unique and desiraable properties, particularly 0g recreation and great views.

Much greater growth potential. The Moon and Mars together have a surface area roughly the size of Earth. But if the single largest asteroid (Ceres) were to be used to build orbital space colonies, the total living area created would be approximately 150 times the surface area of the Earth. Since much of the Earth is ocean or sparsely inhabited, settlements built from Ceres alone could provide uncrowded homes for more than a trillion people.

Interstellar travel seems impractical due to long travel times. But what if you lived in space settlements for fifty generations? Do you really care if your settlement is near our Sun or in transit to Alpha Centuri? So what if the trip takes a few generations? If energy and make up materials for the trip can be stored, a stable population can migrate to nearby stars. At the new star, local materials and energy can be used to build new settlements and resume population growth.
I suspect we would want to mine asteroids and moons. But the advantages of living in deep space over any other object in the solar system are huge.

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