A strange new study suggests living inside asteroids

Scientists have proposed what may be the most outlandish concept yet for colonizing space – living inside asteroids.

In a new paper, University of Rochester experts suggest dumping an asteroid, increasing its spin, to create artificial gravity, and filling it with buildings.

Covering the chosen asteroid in a flexible mesh bag made of carbon nanofibers, they say, will stop the cumulus from collapsing as it orbits.

The team admits that their concept is “largely theoretical” and that it would require “engineering capabilities that don’t exist at the moment.”

In a wild theory paper, Rochester researchers imagine covering an asteroid in a flexible mesh bag made of lightweight, high-strength carbon nanofibers as the key to creating human cities in space.

Photograph of the rotating cylindrical habitat covered with solar panels.  Inside is a thick layer of asteroid and regolith debris that acts as a radiation shield.  Underneath the solar panels is a strong, rigid bowl that prevents debris from being blown out.  The habitat is rotated about its longitudinal axis to generate gravity on the inner surface

Photograph of the rotating cylindrical habitat covered with solar panels. Inside is a thick layer of asteroid and regolith debris that acts as a radiation shield. Underneath the solar panels is a strong, rigid bowl that prevents debris from being blown out. The habitat is rotated about its longitudinal axis to generate gravity on the inner surface

How will it work?

The asteroid will be spun in some way to create artificial gravity. This process will inevitably lead to the asteroid crashing.

Bits of asteroid debris will roll outward, expanding the bag of carbon nanofibers enveloping the asteroid.

When the bag reaches its maximum extent, the carbon nanofibers will snap taut, capturing the expanding debris.

As the debris settles on the bag, it will produce a layer thick enough to protect against radiation for anyone living inside. The rotation of the cylinder will create artificial gravity on the inner surface.

“Our paper lives on the edge of science and science fiction,” said study author Adam Frank of the University of Rochester.

We’re taking a sci-fi idea that’s been very popular lately – in TV shows like Amazon’s The Expanse – and offering a new path to using an asteroid to build a city in space.

“Based on our calculations, an asteroid 300 meters in diameter a few football fields across could be expanded into a cylindrical-shaped area of ​​about 22 square miles — roughly the size of Manhattan.”

The team took inspiration from the O’Neill cylinders, a concept for a space settlement proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill in 1976.

Spinning space cities consist of two connected cylinders rotating in opposite directions.

The cylinders would rotate fast enough to provide artificial gravity on their inner surface but slow enough that the people living in them would not experience motion sickness.

Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, who own Blue Origin and SpaceX respectively, have referenced O’Neill cylinders in their vision of future space habitats.

But the Rochester team says getting the building supplies needed from Earth into space to build these materials would be very difficult and expensive.

“Our proposal is likely to be less costly and engineering-wise than building a classic O’Neill habitat,” they say in their paper.

The team was inspired by

The team took inspiration from the “O’Neill cylinders,” a concept for a space settlement proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill in 1976 (pictured)

O'Neill's cylinder would consist of two opposite cylinders rotating in opposite directions, both providing artificial gravity

O’Neill’s cylinder would consist of two opposite cylinders rotating in opposite directions, both providing artificial gravity

Different types of space rocks

that asteroid It is a large piece of rock left over from impacts or the early solar system. Most of them are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.

a comet It is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them far from the solar system.

a meteor It is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere as the debris burns.

This same wreck is known as a meteorites. Most of it is so small that it just dries up in the atmosphere.

If any such meteorite reaches Earth, it is called a meteor.

Meteors, meteoroids, and meteoroids usually originate from asteroids and comets.

So they turned into asteroids – rocky bodies orbiting the sun, leftovers from the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago.

Scientists estimate that there are about 1,000 asteroids larger than a mile across in our solar system alone.

A 2019 study led by Thomas Mindl at the University of Vienna suggested that a hollow asteroid with a central cylindrical cavity could rotate on its axis to achieve artificial gravity similar to Earth’s.

But this paper did not take into account a potential problem: that the asteroids’ hollow rocks would not be strong enough, so they would crack and disintegrate as they orbited.

Most asteroids aren’t even solid rocks, but rather “rubble piles” — collections of loose rocks, stones, and sand held together by the weak mutual gravity of space.

So the new study proposes covering an asteroid in a flexible mesh bag made of lightweight, high-strength carbon nanofibers — tubes made of carbon, each just a few atoms in diameter.

The bag would encase and support the entire spinning mass of the asteroid debris and habitat within it, while also supporting its own weight as it rotated.

Covering the carbon nanofibers will be solar panels, which will power the habitat.

Experts say the asteroid’s outer layer will provide a natural shield against deadly cosmic radiation from the sun.

Furthermore, a habitat built on an asteroid has implications for interplanetary transport – meaning that an asteroid colonizer could act as a spaceport.

Frank told MailOnline that the asteroid’s orbit will be rotated to create artificial gravity using rockets.

“The asteroid can be rolled by installing rocket engines in the bulk of the rubble pile and firing them perpendicular to the surface,” he said.

Asteroids are rocky bodies orbiting the sun, leftovers from the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago (artist's impression)

Asteroids are rocky bodies orbiting the sun, leftovers from the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago (artist’s impression)

The team has not identified a suitable asteroid, though the project has been referred to as “Home Bennu” after the asteroid about a third of a mile wide.

Colonizing parts of space and making them habitable may be the only way to save humans from eventual extinction on our planet.

At some point in the future, humans could corrupt the Earth beyond repair by plundering its entire resources, or set it on fire through greenhouse gas emissions.

“If humanity really wants to become a space-faring species, it must have places to live and work,” the experts say in their paper published in the journal Frontiers in Astronomy & Space Science.

While our study clearly relies on engineering capabilities that do not currently exist, our results indicate that the underlying physics for turning small asteroids into human habitats is possible.

SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, is working on the Starship launch vehicle that would once take humans to the Moon and Mars and colonize them.

SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, is working on the Starship launch vehicle that would once take humans to the Moon and Mars and colonize them.

SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, is working on the Starship launch vehicle that would once take humans to the Moon and Mars and colonize them.

Musk’s entertaining 2017 paper, “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species,” outlines his company’s vision for living on Mars.

“History will split in two directions,” Musk says in the paper.

“One way is that we stay on Earth forever, and then there will eventually be an extinction event.

“The alternative is to become a space-bearing civilization and a multi-planetary species, and I hope you’ll agree that’s the right way to go.”

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Sorry Earthlings: Our Sun will become a red giant in about 5 billion years before shrinking into a tiny white cap

The Sun is only 4.6 billion years old during its approximately 10 billion year lifetime.

When the hydrogen fuel in the star’s center is depleted, nuclear reactions will begin to move out into the atmosphere and burn the hydrogen in the atmosphere surrounding the core.

As a result, the outer part of the star begins to expand and cool, making it redder.

Over time, the star will turn into a red giant and grow to more than 400 times its original size.

As it expands, the red giant planets swallow some of their near-orbiting planets. In the case of the Sun, this would mean the fiery end of all the inner planets of our solar system, which may also include Earth.

But don’t worry – this won’t happen for another 5,000,000,000 years.

Once it swells into a red giant, it engulfs the inner planets and burns the Earth’s surface, then sheds its outer layers, leaving the sun-exposed core as a slowly cooling white dwarf.

This stellar cinder would be incredibly dense, packing much of the Sun’s mass into a ball roughly the size of Earth.

Source: European Space Agency/National Schools Observatory

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