Universe Guide

Living in Space

Wouldn't it be nice to live in space ? One day we might be able to find out, may be not in my generation, but maybe the next, who knows. Already we have a select few people who have managed to live the dream as they have lived on board one of the following Russian space station 'Mir', American 'Skylab' or led 'International Space Station'. One of the things that we will need to create before long term living in space is achieved is the area of gravity. Astro/Cosmonauts live in zero gravity, they floats around like fish do in water.

Skylab was an American short-term project that enabled the NASA to carry out experiments on human physiology and see if we could survive in space. The results were encouraging. It was plagued by problems from the outset when a meteor shield was deployed earlier than it should have been. It was decided to continue with it before bringing it back down to Earth, burning much of it up in the Earths atmosphere.

Mir was the Russian equivalent of the Skylab project. It was launched nearly 7 years after Skylab in the middle of the eighties. It was only meant to be up there for a set amount of time but stayed longer than for what was originally planned. One man had the unenviable position of staying on board whilst the revolution from Communism to Democracy was taking place in Russia. Helen Sharman is the first Briton to have visited the station which since then, Doctor Michael Foale has done so.

Scientists carried out an experiment some many months ago when they built a domed world in a desert miles away from any civilisation. Their experiment was to see if people could cope in the same sort of conditions on another world. They had carefully selected the people using all manor of tests. However, the project failed,due in part to the peoples personalities. They soon got bored with one another causing the social cohesion to break down. If we are going to have people living alone in far off places then these situations would have to be resolved.

At present we can get to the moon in a day and a half travelling, which is equivalent in terms of time to a journey from London, England to Auckland, New Zealand and half way back. We would be able to amuse ourselves on the journey but to visit Mars would take over six months one way. The space ship would have to be very large in order to have enough fuel to get to the planet and back in time. The planet contains ice at the north and south poles which could be broken up and used to support us whilst we are there. The first planned mission to Mars is being thought out as we speak but its start date has not yet been set. The participants to the project is the United States then France and Russia. China might join the project along with Japan. It would be surprising if the British government were to join the project given its reluctance in the past to do space related work. In Space unlike on Earth, you wouldn't be able to just open the door and drive home. During the flight, would the occupants be conscious or unconscious. In the first set of journeys, they would be conscious so that they would be able to react quicker. It would be highly dangerous if we put people into space and not have a human in control.

The planet we get to will probably be unsuitable straight off. We might need a little converting to make it suitable for us to live on like we do on earth. The important thing would be that the planet has an atmosphere, one in which we can either breathe or convert. Converting Venus is a no-go because the planet is too violent and hot. Mars is in a different situation, it has an atmosphere. It just needs converting if we are not going to be restricted to living in dome like worlds. The first thing would be to send carbon-dioxide converters to the planet to make it breathable. The ice at the poles would be broken up rather than transporting water from Earth. It would be an immense and costly job. It would need to be looked at careful as the resources on Earth would not be able to cope with the sheer number of people on the Earth.

Why settle for the Moon or Mars, why not venture deep into space, to another world or even galaxy. The nearest galaxy is in Andromeda and getting there would be near to impossible if it can be done. To give you some idea of how far away the nearest star is. Imagine the Sun is shrunk to the size of a pinhead. The nearest star would be four miles away in comparison. No planet has yet been discovered around Alpha Centauri so it would be pointless to visit it. If we were able to visit another star where would we go ? We have not yet found a sun that contains a rocky planet for us to survive on. Since the gas giant that circles the star '51 Peg' was discovered, we have found many gaseous planets. Our technology has not yet been able to find rocky planets. There is a theory going round that rocky planets orbit closer to their star than the gaseous ones. I do not sign up to this theory as it is based on our solar system which is just one. When you look at the planets that have been found, you will see that they orbit at different distances to their stars. There are some planets that zoom round their planets in a week, sometime much much longer. We can determine which stars have giant gaseous planets by looking at our Sun. When Jupiter orbits the Sun, it pulls the star off centre which is what astronomers look for when looking out for planets, those that are pulled off their centre. In our solar system, we have nine planets, five ( Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Pluto ) are rocky and the rest ( Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus ) gaseous. If that theory held, Pluto would be much nearer to Earth than it is now. There is also the matter of the kuiper belt, an area which surrounds our star at the farthest reaches of our solar system containing asteroids. It is believed up until Charon, Plutos' moon that Pluto was not a planet but an asteroid taking into account its size and its erratic orbit. There are times during its orbit that brings the planet in closer than Uranus.Enter your thoughts about journeying into space below and comment on other peoples view without being offensive. Do you think we will colonize the planet.

Terraforming another planet

When we find another planet and move to it such as Mars, we'd probably have to terraform the planet so that it was environmentally sound for us. We couldn't live on Mars, we'd have to terraform it, we'd have to change the atmosphere to oxygen, send algae over to convert the poisonous gas to something more breathable. With Mars, we'd have to warm the planet up so that we'd be able to breathe.

Another problem with Mars is that there is no magnetic field to protect from the Sun's radiation which would when give us cancer if we didn't have the right level of protection. We'd be better off moving to an extrasolar planet (exoplanet) that is already suited to our needs. Venus is same size as Earth but its environment is toxic and highly pressurised and terraforming that planet might be just too near impossible to do.

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