Gerard Kitchen O’Neill is an American astrophysicist from the 1970s known for his many theories about space colonies. He believes that in the fairly near future it will be possible to live outside our planet. Nearly 50 years after this theory emerged, space colony projects are still in an embryonic stage.
Article recently published in the journal Frontiers in astronomy and space scienceHowever, back to this idea. In particular, it deals with the necessary means (technically and financially) to build a space colony. Led by astrophysicist Adam Frank, a group of students pondered the question for months.
Do you live on Mars? No thank you
According to the article, one of the most interesting items in the solar system to build a colony base there would undoubtedly be a near-Earth asteroid. The study quickly focused on Bennu, a 260-meter-diameter chunk of rock.
In the 1970s, O’Neill’s work had already shown that it would be easier for asteroids to conquer space than for planets. The researcher explained that for a space colony, the worst enemy is not the absence of oxygen or an atmosphere but gravity.
Taking off from Earth, Mars or Venus is much more difficult than taking off from a small asteroid like Bennu. Supply missions, which are mandatory in this type of project, will be much simpler than a moon or an asteroid. From an energy point of view, the choice of NEO also makes sense.
Unlike a planet like Earth, beno Always watered in sunlight. The night is not there. With this new environment, solar energy can be maximized, allowing the colony to be actively self-sufficient. The electricity produced will be used specifically for the formation of oxygen via the hydrolysis system.
Independent and profitable space colonies
In his conclusion, O’Neill has reached the point where space colonies will be developed so that they are “profitable” to Earth. By pushing his theory to its limits, the researcher ensures that the colony’s energy production can be greater than demand.
After autonomy is passed, a kind of trade towards the land can be established. The space colonies will then be able to sell back part of their production to the blue ball.
If all this theory is still far from reality, advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are reigniting the flame of hope. According to Adam Frank, the first experimental space colonies could see the light of day in the 1950s. And on the NASA side, the project that comes closest to this idea is building Gatea space station orbiting the moon.
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