Space Colonization (space settlement, space humanization, space habitation) is autonomous (self-sufficient) human habitation outside of Earth. It is a long-term goal of national space programs.
The first space colony may be on the Moon, or on Mars. Ample quantities of all the necessary materials, such as solar energy and water, are on the Moon, Mars, or near Earth asteroids.
The NASA Lunar outpost, providing a permanent human presence on the moon, is at the planning stage. There is an ongoing development of technologies that may be used in future space colonization projects.
Building colonies in space would require access to water, food, space, people, construction materials, energy, transportation, communications, life support, simulated gravity, and radiation protection. It is likely the colonies would be located by proximity to such resources. The practice of space architecture seeks to transform spaceflight from a heroic test of human endurance to a normality within the bounds of comfortable experience.
Transportation to orbit is often the limiting factor in space endeavours. To settle space, much cheaper launch vehicles are required, as well as a way to avoid serious damage to the atmosphere from the thousands, perhaps millions, of launches required. One possibility is the air-breathing hypersonic spaceplane under development by NASA and other organizations, both public and private. There are also proposed projects such as building a space elevator or a mass driver; or launch loops.
Compared to the other requirements, communication is easy for orbit and the Moon. A great proportion of current terrestrial communications already passes through satellites. Yet, as colonies further from the earth are considered, communication becomes more of a burden. Transmissions to and from Mars suffer from significant delays due to the speed of light and the greatly varying distance between conjunction and opposition — the lag will range between 7 and 44 minutes — making real-time communication impractical. Other means of communication that do not require live interaction such as e-mail and voice mail systems should pose no problem.
The relationship between organisms, their habitat and the non-Earth environment can be:Organisms and their habitat fully isolated from the environment (examples include artificial biosphere, Biosphere 2, life support system)
Changing the environment to become a life-friendly habitat, a process called terraforming.
Changing organisms to become more compatible with the environment, (See genetic engineering, transhumanism, cyborg)
Cosmic rays and solar flares create a lethal radiation environment in space. In Earth orbit, the Van Allen belts make living above the Earth's atmosphere difficult. To protect life, settlements must be surrounded by sufficient mass to absorb most incoming radiation. About five to ten tons of material per square meter of surface area is required. This can be leftover material (slag) from processing lunar soil and asteroids into oxygen, metals, and other useful materials, however it represents a significant obstacle to maneuvering vessels with such massive bulk. Inertia would necessitate powerful thrusters to start or stop rotation, or electric motors to spin two massive portions of a vessel in opposite senses. Shielding material can be stationary around a rotating interior. Hull-metals can also be magnetized to provide additional protection without adding mass.
See also: Space Colonization
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