We select the main directions of the future expansion of mankind within the solar system. Where and why will the first inhabited bases appear, and where will they never be?
It would be nice to drop everything and move somewhere far away. Yes, even to the moon! It is a pity that so far humanity is only cautiously discussing the possibilities of mastering our satellite and other bodies of the solar system - and hesitantly hesitates at the door, leaving its earthly home.
These "doubts on the doorstep" are understandable. Billions of years of evolution on a cozy, comfortable planet have perfectly adapted and adapted us here, only here and nowhere else. For the scorching hurricanes of Venus and the deathly ice of Neptune - not to mention even more exotic places like Jupiter - our body is not completely ready. But we still have the technology.
With them, we have already learned how to survive in near-earth orbit, and soon we will get used to even in the distant limits. Comfortable spacesuits, comfortable modules of inhabited bases - sooner or later we will be able to do this. The main thing is to choose the right direction. Let's try to consider the potential centers of colonization for the humanity of the future. Where will the pioneers of the solar system go - and what awaits them there?
The planet closest to the Sun. There is no atmosphere, scarce reserves of water ice. Gravity at the equator: 0.38 Earth. Surface temperature: -180 to 430 ° C. Average distance to Earth: 49.4 million km Local year: 0, 24 terrestrial, day - 58, 65 terrestrial.
Colonization potential: 1/10
The eternal red-hot hell of the daytime side - and the eternal icy wasteland of the night. Dangerous proximity of the Sun - and a day lasting longer than a year. Mercury is clearly not the first candidate for colonization. However, if you think about this in principle, then you should pay attention to the circumpolar regions of the planet. According to the images taken by the MESSENGER probe, there may be some reserves of water ice here in the deep shadow of the craters.
On the other hand, it is too cold in the shade of the craters themselves - and too hot in the light. Therefore, the base should be erected somewhere in the middle, say, on the edge of one of these pits, which will allow you to somehow regulate the temperature. However, you can look at the problem through the eyes of an optimist. Lack of water allows not to fear floods, and geological activity - volcanic eruptions. Also, the almost complete absence of the atmosphere means the absence of weather with all its hurricanes and storms. But it will not be possible to do without earthquakes: the tidal forces acting on Mercury in the gravitational field of the nearby Sun literally "crush" the tiny planet, causing movements and faults on its surface.
Greenhouse effect, hurricanes, volcanoes, no water. Gravity at the equator: 0.9 Earth. Average surface temperature: from 465 ° С. Average distance to Earth: 41.9 million km The atmosphere is dominated by carbon dioxide. Local year: 0, 62 terrestrial, day - 243 terrestrial.
Colonization potential: 2/10
If in terms of size and orbital parameters Venus is called the closest twin of the Earth, then in terms of climate it is a twin, of course, evil. The temperature at which lead also melts is higher than on Mercury. Choking, dense and poisonous atmosphere and volcanic fury. Not just living - even just getting a foothold on these inhospitable shores is extremely difficult. And certainly such a task lies far beyond the technology available to us in the future.
The powerful winds shaking the upper parts of the Venusian atmosphere diminish sharply near the surface, so that the base will not have to withstand their pressure. It is hardly worth waiting for earthquakes on a planet with no tectonic activity.But volcanoes can be deadly, so if something is worth building here, then away from deep gorges and high mountains, on one of the vast plains covering two-thirds of Venus.
Despite the slightly less attraction, which, it would seem, should make life a little easier, the atmosphere of Venus is so dense that you would feel physical resistance to your every movement. If we could stand on our feet: at the planet's surface, the pressure is comparable to the pressure in the ocean at a depth of 900 m. The local settlers are not destined to see the Sun or the stars. Thick clouds forever cover the sky, making it yellow-orange during the day and hopelessly black at night. Perhaps it is worth deleting it from our plans altogether.
The body closest to the Earth. The atmosphere is absent. Gravity at the equator: 0.17 Earth. Average surface temperature: -153 to 123 ° C. The local year is equal to the terrestrial year, the rotation around its axis is synchronized with the Earth. Distance to Earth: 384 thousand km. Water ice reserves.
Colonization potential: 9/10
We understand what is happening on our natural satellite better than anywhere else: flights to the Moon began in 1959, when the Soviet spacecraft first looked at its reverse side. Let's not forget that since 1969 people have been on the Moon several times, some of them even managed to spend several days here (in a cramped descent module). And practically no one doubts that the Moon will become the first outpost of mankind outside the Earth.
The moon will also allow solving some useful technological and scientific problems. Here you can get oxygen, water and rocket fuel to launch more distant missions. Here you can deploy thousands of square meters of solar panels, receiving significant amounts of energy (there is no talk of futurological projects for the extraction of helium-3 for futurological thermonuclear stations). Powerful telescopes can be installed on the Moon, tourists are ready to come here … However, this does not mean that life here will be raspberries.
Countless topographic, mineralogical, temperature and other images of the lunar surface have shown that there is no ideal place to build a base on a satellite. Day and night on it last two weeks, and the temperature difference between them exceeds 250 degrees. To minimize its dangerous influence, it is better to settle closer to the south lunar pole, where temperature changes are not so sharp - it is rather stable cold here, on average around zero Celsius.
In addition, water was found in these areas - mainly in the form of ice, scattered under the surface of the lunar soil. These supplies for future settlers will not be superfluous at all. The Moon has practically no atmosphere, so special protection from the winds is not needed, but "moonquakes" do occur. The nature of this seismic activity is still a subject of debate, but there is no doubt that occasionally the magnitude of such events can reach not weak 5, 5 on the Richter scale.
But the short distance to the Moon is extremely beneficial: it is quite within the power of even modern manned astronautics, and communication signals come here with an almost imperceptible delay. It is hardly surprising that the first serious lunar base projects emerged back in the 1950s. Both American and Soviet "lunograds" of that time resembled rather deeply defended military bases with nuclear energy sources. Today's developers do not think so militarist - and more cautiously.
The first stages of the exploration of the Moon and the construction of an inhabited shelter, apparently, will be carried out by robots. Construction technologies through 3D printing are considered the most promising for this. The material will be the local regolith, which is 21% silicon minerals. By the way, it also contains up to 13% iron, 7% aluminum and 6% magnesium - they will also be useful to future inhabitants of the moon.
A planet more similar to Earth than others. The atmosphere is weak, the main component is carbon dioxide. There are reserves of water and dry ice.Gravity at the equator: 0.38 Earth. Surface temperature: -126 to 20 ° C. Local year: 1, 88 terrestrial, days are almost equal to terrestrial. Average distance to Earth: 77.8 million km
Colonization potential: 7/10
If life on modern Mars does not exist, soon it may well appear here. Already today it is the most well-studied and most "mastered" planet after the Earth: the first soft landing on it took place in 1971, when the Soviet automatic interplanetary station "Mars-3" arrived here. And although the domestic cosmonautics since then has not boasted of such successes, Mars has been explored and is being explored by numerous probes, including several rovers. And in the 2030s, NASA plans to send a manned expedition here. Several private initiatives are also considering similar projects, although their ideas seem rather far from reality.
The landing site of future colonists is still unknown, but from this point of view, areas of low northern latitudes are promising. The fact is that the axis of rotation of Mars, like that of the Earth, is tilted relative to the orbital plane, so there are changes of seasons, although they last almost twice as long. However, the orbit of Mars is much more elongated than that of our planet. And so it turns out that the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet turns out to be turned away from the Sun at those moments when Mars is farthest from the star. And vice versa: as it approaches the Sun as close as possible, Mars turns out to be turned towards it by the southern hemisphere. Therefore, the summers are noticeably hotter here, and the winters are much colder than in the north.
In general, the first thing the first colonists of the Red Planet should prepare for is the whims of its weather. The average temperature here is -60 ° C, but it can fluctuate within wide limits, changing dramatically in a matter of days. Such drops, in turn, feed powerful dust storms that sometimes cover vast expanses, and occasionally almost the entire planet.
These winds are unlikely to knock the pioneers of Mars off their feet or damage the base: the atmosphere here is too thin and weak (its density is only 1% of the earth). But the smallest dust remains swirling for a long time, easily penetrates into any cracks and is capable of dazzling cameras, shortening electronic contacts, leading to overheating of microcircuits and a strong decrease in solar energy production. However, even a rarefied atmosphere is better than none. Its density is sufficient for small, bead-sized, micrometeorites to burn up in the fall. Larger ones, of course, will have time to fly to the surface, but they are relatively rare.
Mars is also favorably distinguished by the absence of volcanic and tectonic activity: one should not expect natural disasters here. However, the main problem of the Red Planet is not earthquakes or even cold, but radiation. The Earth's global magnetic field deflects myriads of dangerous particles that continually bombard us from space. Even people working on the ISS still remain under this "magnetic umbrella" - and those few who have ever flown to the Moon and back spent too little time in flight (moreover, they were lucky not to meet the powerful ejection of the Sun on the way). There is no magnetic field on Mars, the atmosphere is weak, and people will be left alone for a long time with deadly cosmic radiation.
This problem must be solved even before the first settlement on Mars is built. It is shown that already on the way to the Red Planet, people can "collect" a dangerous amount of radiation, so the ship itself must be reliably protected from it. Building a secure base on Mars could be easier than that. The gravity of the Red Planet is almost three times weaker than the Earth's, and not so heavy equipment is required for heavy work.
The largest object in the main asteroid belt. The atmosphere is absent. Gravity at the equator: 0.028 Earth. Surface temperature: -106 ° C. Local year: 4, 6 terrestrial, day - 0.38 terrestrial. Average distance to Earth: 429 million km
Colonization potential: 3/10
If corporations and business start to run the future development of the solar system, then the dwarf planet Ceres will easily become one of the "Klondikes", where many will immediately rush to. The asteroid belt is considered one of the most promising "storehouses" in space: there is enough water and the most valuable minerals. And about a third of the mass of the asteroid belt falls on Ceres. What's more, current estimates suggest that more fresh water may be hiding under its surface than on Earth - albeit in the form of ice. A small, but still noticeable gravity gives at least some opportunity to work and move along it, without constantly clinging to something securely fixed.
Again, it is worth noting the absence of the atmosphere, which, on the one hand, requires the constant use of artificial respiration systems, and on the other hand, makes it possible to forget about many of the cataclysms associated with its presence. The axis of proper rotation of Ceres is almost perpendicular to the plane of the orbit, and you can not expect seasonal changes here. On the other hand, during short local days, the temperature changes very sharply - from crazy (-73 ° С) cold during the day to incredible (-143 ° С) at night.
The fourth largest of Jupiter's moons. Gravity at the equator: 0.13 Earth. Average surface temperature: -240 ° C. Extremely weak oxygen atmosphere. Average distance to Earth: 628.3 million km Local days - 3, 5 earthly.
Colonization potential: 4/10
Leaving the asteroid belt and moving on, we will find ourselves in that part of the solar system where giant planets such as Jupiter reign, which has a mass greater than all other planets combined. The gravity of such giants is so powerful that it also holds the lightest gases - hydrogen and helium. Therefore, they are distinguished not only by a deadly attraction, but also by a very dense, thick and exuberant atmosphere. The only surface available here is the metal core, which is hidden very deep inside. Anyone who dared to land here would be crushed by the colossal mass of atmospheric hydrogen at enormous pressures and temperatures.
In a word, it is difficult to imagine what would allow us to arrange an inhabited base on Jupiter or Saturn, and why it might be needed. But the large satellites of the giant planets are much more attractive places. For example, Callisto contains large reserves of water ice, is characterized by low radiation levels and geological stability. But Europe is even more interesting: here the water can be liquid. An entire warm ocean can be hidden under the mighty ice on its surface.
Despite all the fuss around Mars, it is this moon of Jupiter, and not the Red Planet at all, that may indeed be a refuge for extraterrestrial life. An irresistible urge to find it already today attracts the developers of automatic and manned missions to Europe. However, even robotic vehicles in Europe are still a dream, and no one seriously thinks about a permanent base. It is therefore difficult to find well-founded landing site designs. Most likely, the leading hemisphere of the satellite is suitable for the settlers - the one that is oriented forward along the course of its movement around Jupiter and where the radiation is weaker.
It is easy to imagine how fantastic the views will be for the local colonists. Deadly black in the absence of an atmosphere, the sky, on which the huge disk of Jupiter, is 20-30 times larger than the moon from the Earth. And mighty multicolored hurricanes on it. Although all this is promised only under the condition of extremely low temperatures, weak, but still noticeable and frequent "icequakes" - and dangerous geysers of icy water, which here and there burst out of the cracks.
The largest satellite of Saturn, 1.5 times the size of the Moon. Gravity at the equator: 0.14 Earth. Average temperature: -180 ° C. Average distance to Earth: 1278 million km Nitrogen atmosphere, about 1.5% methane. Local days - 7, 2 earthly.
Colonization potential: 3/10
Despite the breathtaking distances and difficulties associated with the possible life of a human colony on Titan, we give him a "three" in our "colonization potential" - for perspective. “If you are flying to the far reaches of the solar system and you need to make an emergency landing, hurry to Titan,” one astrobiologist quipped. Indeed: this satellite is the only one on which there is definitely a liquid, an atmosphere and clouds, rains fall, rivers flow, and the seas are lapping on the coastal ledges.
True, all this is sheer deception: in the terrible cold of Titan, the water here is not water, but liquid methane. It evaporates and forms clouds, precipitates and merges into the oceans, spread out among the hills of water ice … In general, everything is like ours - and everything is not so. The dense atmosphere provides good protection from radiation, while neither "titanium quakes" nor powerful hurricanes have been recorded here. The founders of the base should consider only the possibility of strong summer thunderstorms in the circumpolar regions of the satellite.
Moreover. If we settle here, we will need a spacesuit not to compensate for the absent atmospheric pressure - it is slightly more than usual - but only to protect us from the cold and to breathe oxygen. Perhaps, the spacesuits of the inhabitants of Titan will be equipped with membranous wings: with weak gravity and a dense atmosphere, they will be able, by jumping, to effectively hover a noticeable distance.
The largest satellite of Uranus. Gravity at the equator: 0.04 Earth. Local year: 84 terrestrial, days are 8, 71 terrestrial. Average surface temperature: -203 ° C. Average distance to Earth: 2,714 million km The atmosphere is absent.
Colonization potential: 1/10
Of the nearly three dozen known satellites of Uranus, only Titania can offer any noticeable gravity at the surface - almost 4% of what we are accustomed to on Earth. Unfortunately, so far only Voyager 2 has visited the Uranus system in the mid-1980s, and we have little to say about it. As he flew by, it was winter in Titania's northern hemisphere, covered with long darkness, and only part of the southern hemisphere was open. And if at the equator the day is replaced by night in accordance with the diurnal cycle, then the regions near the poles of the satellite remain illuminated or hidden by the shadow for half of the local year, which lasts more than 80 of our years.
Judging by the Voyager 2 images, it is full of craters, complex landscapes, canyons, one of which stretches for more than 1500 km - there is something to see. But there is no atmosphere, which means there is no changeable weather. It's just all the time and it's very cold here. We do not know Titania and her neighbors well, so there is nothing to speculate about suitable conditions for establishing a base here. It is possible that cryovolcanism exists on this moon of Uranus, possibly "moonquakes" due to tidal forces.
The largest moon of Neptune and the seventh largest in the solar system. Gravity at the equator: 0.08 Earth. Average temperature at the surface: from -235 ° С. Local year: 164, 8 terrestrial, day - 5, 88 terrestrial. Extremely rarefied atmosphere. Average distance to Earth: 4,347 million km
Colonization potential: 1/10
Like Titania, Triton only visited Voyager 2: he reached the Neptune system three years later. In other words, we know little from Tritone and, by and large, we are not too interested in him. The surface of this satellite is composed of rocks and solid nitrogen, from under which weak streams of nitrogenous vapors are knocked out. It can be assumed that they will not be dangerous for construction here, but this is just an assumption.
As on Titania, the circumpolar regions of Triton are illuminated by the distant Sun or remain in the shadow for six months - local, of course, lasting more than 160 of our years. However, whether summer or winter - it is always very cold here: Triton is the coldest body in the solar system known to us.
Kuiper belt dwarf planet. Gravity at the equator: 0.06 Earth. Average temperature at the surface: from -230 ° С. Average distance to Earth: 6,090 million km Local year: 247, 7 terrestrial, day - 6, 38 terrestrial. Extremely rarefied methane atmosphere.
Colonization potential: 2/10
Having lost its status as a full-fledged planet in 2006, in 2015 Pluto became everyone's favorite: it was first visited by an artificial probe. And although data from the New Horizons mission has just begun to arrive on Earth, we know about Pluto and its satellites, perhaps much more than about Triton and Titania. We now even have rough maps of the distant dwarf in our hands. Perhaps one day it will become the last "metro station" that will cover the solar system - here people will change to "trains" going far to nearby stars.
However, if someday an inhabited settlement appears here, his life will be difficult. For whatever you take on Pluto, everything presents a problem. It takes about 4.5 hours for radio signals from Earth to travel only in one direction - however, this is only during those periods when Pluto is close to us. Due to the highly elongated orbit, this time sometimes increases to 6.5 hours. For the same reason, average temperatures fluctuate - if the difference between "very, very" cold (about -220 ° C) and "very, very, very" (below -230 ° C) is significant for you.
But if these changes may seem unimportant to you, then they greatly affect Pluto's atmosphere. When "warming", methane quickly sublimes from the solid to the gas phase, forming a weak but noticeable atmosphere with a pressure 300 thousand times weaker than ours. And although theoretical calculations show that winds here can reach speeds of 360 km / h, this is hardly dangerous for a future base. Moreover, during long winters, methane ceases to sublimate, and even such an unreliable atmosphere at Pluto disappears.