Astrophysicist Pekka Janhunen, of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, developed a study for the construction of a mega-satellite of human habitat on Ceres, a dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Its objective is to present the feasibility of creating a long-term sustainable space colony with cylindrical spacecraft connected to each other and structured in a disk shape in the region’s orbit.
Each environment would have an artificial atmosphere, with conditions similar to those of Earth, and a mixture of urban and agricultural spaces. This idea, first proposed in the 1970s, is known as the O’Neill cylinder. The author’s motivation is to look for other locations for the establishment of colonies outside Mars.
According to the research, cylindrical habitats would be about 10 kilometers long and would take 66 seconds to rotate. This movement would be able to generate the centrifugal force necessary to simulate terrestrial gravity. In the case of human occupation, each of them would support more than 50 thousand people, at a population density index close to that of the Netherlands (500 / km²).
The project consists of green areas dedicated to growing crops and trees planted in a 1.5 meter thick layer of soil. To stimulate growth, huge external mirrors would have the function of directing sunlight into the installation. As for the urban part, each cylinder would be organized with a certain proximity, to facilitate the movement of people.
The operation would depend on artificial light to simulate a cycle of day and night similar to that of Earth. The inspiration in this sense comes from magnets used in the process of magnetic levitation in transport systems in Japan and in projects designed by Elon Musk. Instead of a colony on the planet’s surface, space elevators could be used to transfer raw materials to orbital habitats.
“The surface area of Mars is smaller than that of Earth and, consequently, cannot provide space for a significant population and for economic expansion. A colony in Ceres, in contrast, can grow 1 to millions of habitats,” said Janhunen to the Live Science website. He also pointed out that occupation on the surface of the Red Planet can bring adversities to human health and that the orbital lifestyle would not present the same risks.
“My concern is that children in a Mars settlement do not develop as healthy adults (in terms of muscles and bones), as Martian gravity is very low. So I looked for an alternative that would provide gravity similar to that of Earth, but also could be an interconnected world “, he commented.
The environment would be favorable for not having adverse climatic conditions and natural disasters, even in the case of possible asteroids. To avoid this scenario, the expert stresses the importance of early detection systems and the development of “radiation shields” capable of destroying small invasive bodies. In more serious situations, he suggests the displacement or permanent departure of the inhabitants.