Who wants to live in an asteroid?
Imagine turning an asteroid into a rotating space habitat. While the idea has lingered for years, technological barriers kept it in the realm of fantasy. But now, a detailed plan emerges from the mind of David W. Jensen, a retired Technical Fellow at Rockwell Collins, making the impossible seem possible.
David W. Jensen recently published a 65-page paper outlining a practical and affordable plan to convert an asteroid into a livable space habitat. While fully diving into the specifics is beyond this article’s scope, we can explore the significant aspects, divided into three categories: asteroid selection, habitat style, and the mission strategy.
Choosing the Perfect Asteroid: The Case for Atira
The selection process for the ideal asteroid required consideration of its composition, proximity to Earth, and size. Eventually, Dr. Jensen zeroed in on Atira, an S-type asteroid with its moon. Though not the closest, its stable orbit in the solar system’s “Goldilocks zone” makes it an appealing candidate for transformation into a rotating space habitat.
To select the habitat’s style, Dr. Jensen examined four common types: dumbbell, sphere, cylinder, and torus. A crucial factor was artificial gravity, necessitated by the negative effects of long-term low gravity. The asteroid must be spun to the right rotational speed to create this effect, aligning with Earth’s gravity.
Structural Considerations: A Vision of Glass and Space
Among the numerous design factors, material choice played a vital role. Dr. Jensen suggested anhydrous glass as a potential element, along with the amount of material required for protection from radiation and micrometeorites. He also considered the living area, proposing multiple floors to increase overall space, eventually settling on a torus as the ideal habitat type.
How do you build such a grand structure? Self-replicating spider robots, according to Dr. Jensen. Utilizing materials found on the asteroid itself and sending only advanced components from Earth, the plan outlines building everything from rock grinders to solar panels. The entire project’s estimated weight, cost, and time frame are remarkably low, with construction done in as little as 12 years and costing just $4.1 billion.
A New Billionaire’s Game: The Space Habitat Race?
The feasibility of Dr. Jensen’s ideas may encourage billionaires interested in space exploration, like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, to consider a new competition: building the world’s first artificial gravity space habitat. It could become the next thrilling chapter in the pursuit of the cosmos.
Dr. David W. Jensen’s proposal to turn an asteroid into a rotating space habitat stands as a fascinating testament to human innovation. His paper not only brings the concept closer to reality but also may spark a new race to expand our horizons beyond Earth. His vision of space living is a beacon for the future, showcasing what humanity might achieve with determination, creativity, and collaboration.
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