So, we have all seen movies and TV shows that are set in outer space – but just how ‘out of this world’ are these movies and TV shows?
Here, we are going to talk about how we would be able to survive on an asteroid – we will talk about how and why this could become a possibility.
Colonizing The Asteroid Belt
Here’s the thing, there are actually a lot of reasons as to why we might want to colonize the asteroid belt.
However, the main reason why we would want to colonize the asteroid belt is so we could mine it for precious materials.
That’s right, dissimilarly to the Earth, asteroids have a lot of valuable metals that are on the ground.
When it comes to the Earth, it is true that these valuable materials will tend to be buried underground – asteroids are not like this.
In addition to their mining properties, asteroids could also be used as a means of expanding our knowledge of space.
Defining The Asteroid Belt
So, the asteroid belt is assumed to be the last part of a planet, and it orbits the sun, somewhere between the planets Mars (4th from the sun) and Jupiter (5th from the sun).
Although asteroids can come from anywhere in the solar system, and in fact, from beyond our solar system in certain instances, the asteroid belt is the primary source of asteroids we here on Earth concern ourselves with.
Asteroids come in three different categorizations: they can be stony, or they can be carbonaceous, or they can be metallic.
Asteroids also range in mass. Some are around the mass of a small cabin, while others can be absolutely gigantic!
Asteroid Mining: Is It A Serious Investment?
You might be super surprised to know that asteroid mining is a pretty serious investment, in fact, there are already companies who are trying to get the ball rolling in the field of asteroid mining.
If all goes to plan, they might be able to start mining these space rocks by 2025.
Now, does that mean that we’ll be retiring to a nice, quiet home on an asteroid in our lifetimes?
No, not exactly. Mining an asteroid is difficult enough. So, it is true that colonizing an asteroid is basically impossible.
The Challenges Of Surviving On An Asteroid Belt
As you would expect, inhabiting and surviving on an asteroid belt comes with its own challenges – and one of the main problems that would be encountered is radiation.
The radiation on an asteroid belt would be hitting the colonized parts of the belt, and this kind of radiation would be solar radiation along with Jupiter’s radiation belt and there would also be cosmic rays too.
What exactly are cosmic rays? Well, these are high-energy particles, and they are usually just made up of protons or of higher energy nuclei.
So, how aren’t we affected by cosmic rays on Earth?
Well, this is because the atmosphere will work hard to absorb the rays that are the most dangerous to us.
Without some sort of shield, possibly made out of ice or water, we simply couldn’t survive on an asteroid, as the radiation would constantly whiz through us causing a whole host of instantaneous health issues.
In addition to this, the absence of gravity can be just as problematic from a health standpoint.
This can be evidenced through the example of astronauts, who have to do regimented exercises whilst in outer space – yet they still have health problems.
This is because they have spent so long floating around in space. What does this mean for inhabiting the asteroid belt?
Well, this means that any kind of prolonged asteroid survival and inhabitation will require some kind of synthetic gravity just so that this can be eradicated.
In fact, whether low gravity was harmful to the human body or not (which it is), we’d still need to synthesize it in order to make an asteroid our home.
What About Having Power?
The obvious power source to use in outer space is solar, but here’s the thing, the asteroid belt is a long way from the sun, much further away than the Earth, meaning that even state-of-the-art solar panels will be unable to collect much energy.
The panel arrays would need to be ridiculously big in order to pull in enough power to assist even a very small inhabitation.
This issue centers around the Inverse Square Law, which states that if you are twice as far away from the Sun, then you will find that you can only have a quarter of the energy incoming from an area of solar collecting panels.
What Happens In An Emergency?
The problem with colonizing an asteroid belt is that it is pretty far away.
That’s right, even in space, you might have to resort to coming back home.
If there was some kind of emergency, it would be pretty tricky to just zoom back home and deal with it.
In fact, the moon is a lot closer to where the asteroid belt is in comparison to Earth.
For this very reason, any kind of asteroid survival would have to be a closed ecosystem.
This is so that it could be self-sustaining, as Earth is too far away to be of any use in a time-sensitive situation.
How Can We Avoid Asteroid-Based Extermination?
It is true that sixty-five million years ago, an event occurred in history that changed the way that we viewed the landscape of the Earth.
The thing is, with this event, there was absolutely no way to anticipate it.
This event was an asteroid heading towards the earth. Or, it might have even been several asteroids.
This event really altered the course of the millions of years of evolution – and it was also something that changed the makeup of our atmospheric conditions too.
After this event happened, one thing became especially clear.
We really needed to step it up and be prepared for something like this again.
Ultimately, being prepared is all about anticipating when this will happen.
There have been some close calls, but through researching the structure of meteorites, scientists can expand their knowledge on just how to redirect an incoming asteroid.
Overall, it is true that constructing some kind of survival on an asteroid could be possible.
However, this is something that does come with pretty daunting obstacles for engineers.
It is more plausible that asteroids could be mined not on location- so this would involve the help of networks that are automated and this could also involve the assistance of drones.
A viable option that would be able to assist this would be to construct a foundation on Mars, and this could definitely be utilized for organizing the asteroid mining structures.
Here’s the thing, planets are the preferred spot for supervised substructures – and this is because of their gravity, and it is also because of their atmospheric assist, but this does not take away from the fact that we could actually colonize an asteroid.
However, as far as we can tell, an asteroid would not be the best place to live on…
It is true that for this to be a remotely viable option, the benefits of making this move would have to really overpower the problems.
Right now, we are not quite there yet.
We might get there in the future, but as it stands, we have not got the amenities to be able to suitably and sustainably colonize an asteroid.
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