Having ‘space’ within space seems to be a critical bottleneck in manned space exploration, second of course to cost-effective round trip travel. Regarding the latter, the various recent private initiatives are certainly making progress, though like anything groundbreaking, there remains a long road ahead.
Once we get there, what are we going to do?
Answering this question will be the driving force behind how new platforms are designed and developed to accommodate the more remote exploration and research. For instance, if the objective is to conduct science experiments that might contribute to terraforming, then there will be a lab designed for such experimentation. If the objective is to mine minerals from the surface of Mars, then a lab will be designed for that. Knowing the mission objective is needed – in all types of exploration – to ensure tangible and measurable results are delivered.
Regardless of the mission, the issue of meeting basic human needs remains at the forefront. People require food, water, and shelter. These are all problematic at various scales. Let’s take on shelter for the discussion point of this Blog.
The guys that got it right are Bigelow Aerospace and their concepts for inflatable habitation. The basic premise is that a lightweight pre-purpose built space can be packed up and sent to space where it can be deployed/expanded and then provides the essentials for that space. It could be a lab, living quarters, a bathroom, or sleeping quarters. With this portability and modularity, a remote field station can be setup rather quickly for a specific purpose, and likewise recovered and transported as and if needed.
In space, we need this space. Humans will need protection from the environment, a place to rest, to plan, and to provide basic human needs.When the first humans set foot on Mars, they are going to need a place to set up camp, and one can almost guarantee it will be a portable inflatable habitat. Further, when those people venture away from the base station, they will almost certainly want and need to set up camp such that exploration can be carried out away from the base station. THe last thing we need are Martian couch potatoes!
In the ocean, we also need this space. Given our lack of it, today’s manned diving excursions are really nothing more than short visits – just a tease into the vast space right here on Earth that we have yet to assimilate with. As I’ve written about numerous times, it would only seem logical to solve these problems here on Earth and reap the benefits for our own survivorship [and of the Planet] to learn more about how to do it on Mars.
And yet, our ideas of Ocean Space habitation are even far-fetched for most. To me it’s quite simple – situation and need.
The situation – the Blue Planet and subsequently the human race is in trouble.
The need: create space which is sustainable at both large and small scales, which will ensure our sustainability here on Earth, and beyond.