"Our footprints will remain": cities on the Moon, Mars and Venus

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"Our footprints will remain": cities on the Moon, Mars and Venus
"Our footprints will remain": cities on the Moon, Mars and Venus

The fact that people should become an "interplanetary species" was probably not said only by the lazy one. But how will this be done? And will it be implemented at all?

City on the moon

Is the moon the number one candidate?

Human foot first set foot on a natural satellite of the Earth back in 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on its surface. Then there were five more successful astronaut landings. In the last three, the Americans even took with them a "jeep", or rather, a large four-wheeled rover, which drove around the moon.

Half a century has passed, but the earthlings, paradoxically, have hardly made any progress in the exploration of the satellite. There are new data on its structure, new plans for flights, but that's probably all. There are several reasons for this. First, the Cold War ended, and the rivalry between the two superpowers (and the moon race was part of it) came to naught. Secondly, and this is perhaps even more important, the Moon was "pushed aside" by ambitious Martian projects.

Mars is richer in resources and more promising, if we talk about the "second home for earthlings." But on the moon, by the way, there is also something to profit from. For example, helium-3 is the lighter of the two stable isotopes of helium. It costs about $ 1,200 per liter, and is needed in nuclear power to start a thermonuclear reaction. The amount of helium-3 on the moon is estimated at 500 thousand tons, and this is according to the most conservative estimates. The trouble is that there is no need for large volumes of helium-3: scientists have not yet been able to achieve the required level of control over the thermonuclear reaction.


And yet the Moon has an undeniable advantage over Mars. It is located at a distance of "only" 384 thousand km from us. This is on average. The average distance to Mars is 55 million km. It turns out that if it takes 3 days to fly to the Moon, then the flight to Mars will last for at least 150 days, and maybe all 300 Something will happen to the Earth in the very near future.

That is why in 1989 NASA employees Michael Duke and John Niehoff proposed a ten-year project for the Lunar Oasis lunar settlement. Surprisingly, to this day it is considered almost the most realistic and elaborate, if we talk about ideas of this kind. Colonists and equipment must be delivered in thirty flights, of which half are manned. Each manned launch would deliver up to 14 tons of cargo according to plan, and an unmanned one - up to 20 tons. In total, the authors proposed to send 594 tons of cargo to the Moon in three stages.


Lunar oasis

At the first stage of nine launches, the missiles will first deliver life support systems, then people. At the final stage, it was planned to send a huge inflatable dome to the satellite, where ten astronauts could live. They wanted to fill the walls of the residential module with hydrogen: it can be extracted from the lunar regolith using electrolysis - the decomposition of a substance into its constituent parts when an electric current passes through its solution. The giant module for protection from solar and cosmic radiation had to be located in the crater: that is, most of the structure would be below the level of the lunar "soil". A permanent team was not planned. Astronauts could fly in, perform experiments, and return back to Earth. Alternation following the example of the ISS crews. In the second and third phases, the remaining equipment, solar panels, two nuclear power plants, two more inflatable living modules and several astronaut shifts would be delivered to the moon.


The only major failure of the series of landings on the moon was the third expedition with the participation of the Apollo 13 spacecraft.On April 13, a tank of liquid oxygen exploded at a distance of 330,000 kilometers from Earth and failed two of the three fuel cell batteries supplying power to the crew compartment of the command module. As a result, they refused to land, people successfully returned to Earth. Subsequently, the film "Apollo 13" was filmed about the misadventures of the US astronauts.

The price of the space settlement was also announced - by the way, it very well illustrates the "realism" of such projects. Lunar Oasis, according to calculations, would cost as much as four Apollo programs: in 2011 prices, this is approximately $ 550 billion. To be clear, NASA's entire 2016 budget was just over $ 19 billion. But Lunar Oasis, in general, is not even a city, but rather a base or a small settlement. In other words, no megalopolis on the Moon or Mars clearly "threatens" us: there is simply no money for it. Only one thing will make a person rush to explore other worlds - a global catastrophe on Earth, which will make life on the planet completely impossible.


Another famous film about the moon was the British popular science film "Moon 2112", in which Sam Rockwell played the main role. We can say that the film became a cult, despite the paltry budget for science fiction of $ 5 million.

The Martian Chronicles Mask

Mars is more often than the moon considered as an object of colonization: the red planet is more like the earth. The surface area of ​​Mars is 28.4% of the earth's, that is, slightly less than the land area on our planet. The Martian soil is very similar to the terrestrial soil. You can grow plants there, unlike, say, the moon with its abrasive dust. Mars has an atmosphere, the density of which is only 0.07 Earth's, but even this gives at least some protection from solar and cosmic radiation. In addition to everything, the atmosphere of Mars will serve well for aerodynamic braking of spacecraft.

And this is where the fun begins. Who will fly to Mars? We are not even talking about a research mission, but about creating a city on a permanent basis. The most plausible option was suggested by the American engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk - a living legend of our time. Back in September 2016, he announced the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). In fact, we are talking about a huge spacecraft for 100 (or even more) people, launched into orbit by a giant launch vehicle.


The Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) project has three main components. A launch vehicle (the most powerful of all that ever existed), a spacecraft capable of transporting goods and people, and an unmanned refueling tanker, built on the basis of the ship and outwardly very similar to it. The tanker will refuel in space and then return to Earth for a new "batch" of fuel.

Musk sees the Interplanetary Transport System as the main tool for conquering the Red Planet. “Today, a flight to Mars and life there seems impossible to us, but we must make this dream a reality during our lifetime. Anyone who wishes to go to Mars should be able to do so. I do not want to be a “bad prophet in my Fatherland,” but in the future the Earth will probably survive a catastrophe and we will die out. The alternative to this is that humanity must become a “cosmic” species,”said Elon himself. His ultimate goal is to create a millionaire city on Mars. For this, the ships will have to make several thousand flights to Mars in the next 40-100 years. In the future, such a city will become completely self-sufficient.

The plans are not without common sense. For example, there is really a lot of water on Mars. The data collected by scientists say that now its reserves in the entire cryolithosphere of the Red Planet are approximately 7, 7 × 1022 grams (77 million km³). In relative terms, this is about several times less than the Earth's. We are talking about water ice in the polar caps of the planet, ice under its surface, seasonal streams of liquid water and hypothetical reservoirs of liquid water and aqueous salt solutions in the upper layers of the lithosphere.One way or another, but to maintain the life of the colony, it should be enough. By the way, Elon also wants to produce fuel for ships on Mars.

Interestingly, the creation of a city for a million people on the Red Planet is also far from the ultimate goal of Musk. Earlier, in 2016, he proposed dropping thermonuclear bombs on the poles of the Red Planet. According to the idea, this will help warm the atmosphere of Mars and make the planet more “hospitable”. Musk took a look at this issue during the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “This is a planet (Mars, - NS) that needs repairs. First, you will have to live under transparent domes, but later it will be possible to transform it into a planet like the Earth,”said Elon. Of course, the entrepreneur did not announce any specific deadlines and a clear plan of action. In general, there are so many technical problems on the way to creating self-sustaining settlements on Mars that few people talk about the details. But there are some.

The opinion of the gaming world

NASA experts recently turned to the Canadian studio Blackbird Interactive, known in particular for the development of the sci-fi strategy game Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. NASA was asked to create an interactive model of a large settlement on Mars. Note that the action of the game itself takes place on a deserted planet similar to Mars. Perhaps that is why the specialists at Blackbird Interactive have done brilliantly. The creation was named Project Eagle. The colony is conceived to be located in Gale Crater at the foot of Mount Sharpe. The virtual model was created using information about the planet's surface, which was collected by the interplanetary station Mars Reconnaissance Orbite.


Project eagle

According to the plan, the project will be implemented at the beginning of the XXII century. The interactive model shows us vehicles, greenhouses, special "Martian" reservoirs and solar panels. In the center of the settlement there is a huge transparent dome, home for the "Martians". Several illuminated highways depart from it in different directions, along which it will be possible to move with the help of special six-wheeled rovers. In total, about 6 thousand people will live on the territory of Project Eagle. Colonists will be able to get to the planet using a special shuttle, models of which were also presented by game makers from Blackbird Interactive. Presumably, the city is conceived as a self-sustaining settlement. Here, however, one should recall the words of Stephen Hawking that technology will not be able to make a colony on Mars or the Moon completely independent of the "mother" planet in a very long time.

Arabian Martian Tales

In February 2017, during the World Government Summit held in Dubai, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Emir of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that the country plans to build a "mini-state and a kind of commune" on Mars. The project was named "Mars 2117": it is immediately clear that it will be implemented (if it will be) very soon. “The Mars 2117 project is a sprout of future scientific achievements and knowledge that we are planting today for future generations, driven by the thirst for knowledge,” the Emir of Dubai emphasized. The population of the city will be 600 thousand people, that is, it will be comparable to Washington, the capital of the United States. The city itself should consist of a main huge dome and four smaller ones, connected by "corridors". Thus, the creators want to build an artificial ecosystem, as well as protect people from radiation and Martian dust storms. The city will have everything: residential buildings, entertainment facilities, research facilities.


Mars 2117 project

Now the first, the earliest stage of the project has been launched. Within the framework of it, they plan to train personnel capable of achieving a technical breakthrough in the development of other planets. First of all, we are talking about specialists from the United Arab Emirates, but then, as it is assumed, they will be supplemented by highly qualified experts from other countries.

In general, UAE professionals have money and enthusiasm. But this, in general, is all that they have. The United Arab Emirates created its own space agency only in 2014.This year, a nanosatellite created by the UAE was launched from the Indian Satish Dhahwan Space Center using the PSLV-C37 launch vehicle. And in 2021, the United Arab Emirates wants to send the Hope orbiter to Mars. On the other hand, you need to understand that the UAE has neither its own launch vehicles, nor spaceships, nor experience in creating any of the above. Therefore, the likelihood of the "Arabian tale" being realized is negligible.


Flying city on Venus

One of the most incredible ideas in history came from NASA scientists a couple of years ago. They came to the conclusion that Venus could become the new home for earthlings. But it would be difficult to build something on its surface, to put it mildly. Let's just remember that the surface temperature of the planet can reach 530 ° C. And the atmospheric pressure on Venus is about 90 times greater than on Earth. Geological activity there is also not very conducive to the creation of a permanent settlement: frequent volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, lightning.

In addition to the Moon, Venus and Mars, some natural satellites of the gas giants, such as Europa or Enceladus, also claim the role of a hypothetical home for earthlings. But there are even more problems here. Suffice it to say that the minimum distance to Jupiter is 588 million km, which is about 10 times the distance to Mars. And the temperature on the surface of the already mentioned Europe is –170 ° C.


The first spacecraft to study Venus was the Soviet Venera-1, launched in 1961. At a distance of about 2 million kilometers from Earth, contact with the device was lost, the mission ended in failure. The first successful mission of this kind in 1962 was carried out by the American Mariner 2, which approached the planet at a distance of 34 thousand km.

But no one is in a hurry to write off Venus from the accounts, if only because it is more than a third closer to us than Mars. Within the framework of the HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operational Concept) project, in order to avoid interaction with the atmosphere of Venus, scientists propose to design huge airships that will be suspended in thick clouds at an altitude of 50 km above the Venusian surface. Conditions are relatively comfortable: 85% of Earth's gravity and a temperature peak of no more than 80 ° C.


HAVOC Project The project is divided into five phases: robotic reconnaissance, one month orbital mission, one month atmospheric mission, one year atmospheric mission, construction and settlement of a Venusian city.

Let's analyze it more actively. After arriving at the planet, a crew of two will spend a month in its orbit, and then descend to the surface. With the help of a huge airship, the habitable module will hover above the surface. The conditions on it will be similar to those of the ISS: cramped, but you can live. In a year, it will be possible to start creating a "full-fledged" city from a variety of inflatable modules floating in orbit. Of course, it will not work to resettle thousands of people to Venus overnight, but the HAVOC project can be useful from a research point of view. In addition, due to its proximity to the Sun (Venus is the second from our star), the mission will allow you to efficiently extract solar energy after installing solar panels. Then the energy can be redirected to the Earth.


In general, the chances of the HAVOC project, despite all its improbability, are much higher than the chances of creating a city on Mars or the Moon with a population of hundreds of thousands of people. It is not a fact that anyone will begin to implement the latter in the coming centuries.

In general, for an ordinary person, life on another planet will not be like life in the classical sense, but like survival. With many restrictions. So, as already mentioned, only a global catastrophe, for example, the fall of a large asteroid or a nuclear war, can force people to leave their homeworld.

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