Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Aquarium Homes For Mars (And Other Radiation Worlds) Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
(Article inspired by Clark Lindsey of Hobby Space)

Imagine waking up every morning, excited by the mere fact that you are living a hundred million miles away from your home planet, Earth. You slowly ease out of bed, being very careful not to jump too high lest you bump your head against the ceiling (a minor setback of living within reduced gravity).

After briefly enjoying a few hops in a third of your weight, you slip on your gravity suit (due to doctors orders), feed the pigs and dream about someday actually seeing a Martian sunrise from your underground outpost, instead of going above ground at night due to radiation.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the awe inspiring red planet.

Despite the fact that this potential reality may not look too exciting, it is one many governments on Earth would be content with, as they would rather have their astronauts bored to death than "microwaved" via solar radiation.

While some may argue that anti-radiation drugs and portable magnetic shields would allow us to roam the red planet at will (as well as any other radiation safe world), both of these items may increase the overall cost of solar outposts, which may encourage tax payers to grumble about the price tag.

Instead of reducing astronauts into future cave dwellers, why not enclose these future space homes within thick layers of glass and liquid water?

Of the many materials used to protect humans from radiation exposure, lead, aluminum and water are probably the "easiest ways" shield our fragile bodies from the wrath of the Universe.

Even though most colonists would probably prefer a "wall of lead" (or even aluminum) around them, launching the material from Earth (or mining via the asteroid belt) may prove to be very costly, especially when one adds taxes to the final bill.

Water ice on the other hand seems to have placed its finger prints on every solar world save four (Mercury, Venus, Luna aka Earth's moon and Io) and would provide a far cheaper means of securing our foothold upon these semi-hostile worlds.

Although using water as a cheaper alternative may sound reasonable to some people, using glass may not. After all, would it not be easier to simply use thick, translucent plastics instead of heavy glass?

While plastic does have its advantages over its older friend, it may be easier to create glass off world, mainly due to the fact that silica, one of the main ingredients of of sand (or quartz if you live on Earth) can be used to "easily" create glass on other worlds.

On Mars silica is present within the soil, while on other worlds such as Callisto, and Ganymede, silicon is contained within the crust, respectively. This may be true of the other worlds orbiting Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, although NASA will have to confirm this with future probes (and hopefully rovers).

While water and glass may help provide an inexpensive way of shielding colonists from harmful rays, scientists could also grow radiation eating fungi within the watery walls. This would provide further protection, especially if a lunar colony operates within its host planet's radiation belt.

Even though it would probably be wise for off world settlers to also carry portable magnetic fields and anti-radiation drugs with them, they would only have to seriously consider using them if they were going to travel well outside the protection of their base, or if they received warning of an impending solar storm.

Aquarium homes may not be the "end all" solution for us dwelling in the heavens, but they could allow humans to actually raise their kids upon the surface of other worlds (beholding their beauty), instead of below it.

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  1. Hi Darnell,
    Nice posting! Thanks for the links.

    Glad you like the aquarium analogy. I think it offers a good contrast to the dark, cramp "submarine" stereotype for what living in space would be like.

    Life will certainly be tough for the early pioneers but we space settlement advocates need to emphasize that the second or third generation habitats (whether in-space or on a given planet/moon surface) will start to become genuinely livable places. They will become roomier (including some large open common areas) and sunlight can be made abundant via light piping and large windows as with this water tank idea.

    Your blog is building up a nice set of resources about space settlement. Keep up the good work!

    - Clark

  2. Hey Clark!

    Thanks for visiting! While the first colonies will probably be underground (or near a cave), I think finding ways to live above will determine the success of a future colony.

    After all people like to view both the sun and the stars, and withholding either could drive future Martians away from the red planet, instead of committing themselves to live upon it.



You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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