Once again we list some interesting science news items, we believe are relevant for future orbital space settlements. Continue reading Science round up 3
Talking about and referring to Lagrange points can be confusing, since there are Lagrange points in every system in which one celestial body orbits another. So when talking about Lagrange point colonization, one need to specify which system he is referring to.
Republic of Lagrangia is in favour colonizing the 4th or 5th Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. Since it’s quite cumbersome to repeat this phrase all over again, we will from now on simply refer to these points as SEL-4 or SEL-5, with SEL standing for Sun-Earth Lagrange point. This system allows us also to easily refer to other Lagrange points: SML for the Lagrange points of the Sun-Mars system, or SJL for the Sun-Jupiter system.
The Main Asteroid Belt (MAB), or simply the Asteroid belt, consists of those asteroids which orbits are between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. These asteroids are called main belt asteroids (MBA).
There are also asteroids outside the MAB. Those asteroids which orbits are (at least partially) within the orbit of Mars are called Near Earth Asteroids (NEA).
Trojan asteroids are asteroids which have been trapped into a system’s L4 or L5. Most famous are the Jovian Trojans, but also Martian, Neptunian and Terrestrial Trojans have been discovered. Especially the last are of particular interest, since a population of Terrestrial Trojans will provide the mineral resources needed to build space habitats and for export to Earth.
At this moment the existence of one Earth Trojan Asteroids has been confirmed, but scientists believe more Earth Trojans should exist.
A space habitat is a space station designed for hosting a permanent population of a substantial size. Space habitats, also known as space settlements, are located in free space as opposed to colonies on or under the surface of a celestial body. When we talk about space colonization, we mean the creation of space habitats.
No involvement with Lunar or Mars colonies
There are a lot of organizations devoted at the colonization of the Moon and/or Mars, we will not participate in their efforts. We do not see any benefit of the establishment of human settlements on the Moon and our red neighbour. Both celestial bodies have the disadvantage of their low gravity, which is bad of human health. But on the other hand the gravity of these bodies great enough, to give them a high escape velocity. Mars has an escape velocity which is about half Earth’s (which is 11 km/s) and the Moon’s is about a fifth, where the escape velocity of asteroids is close to zero.
Escape velocity is of great concern for space colonists, because in order to reach this velocity energy is needed. Reducing energy requirements is saving money, which improves the economical credibility of space settlement programs. When we realize that there are no resources on the Moon or Mars we cannot find on near earth asteroid or comets, we see that it makes no sense to establish colonies on the Moon and Mars.
In fact all resources we can find on Mars and the Moon, are delivered there by asteroids. Some people will cite the (presumed) lunar reserves of helium 3 (a proposed fusion fuel) as a reason for Lunar colonies. We, however, believe that there is no need for helium 3 as an energy source in the Inner Solar System. If the Outer Solar System will be colonized helium 3 extraction from Uranus makes more sense.
This post was originally published on blogspot.com on June 6, 2012
In this post I will provide more clarity about our position that man should colonize the Lagrange points of the Earth-Sun system (in this post I simply use the term Lagrange point in order to refer to these).
In two earlier posts I discussed the arguments the colonization of the moon and Mars. Contrary to what most people tend to believe, many space colonization advocates do not support the colonization of these two particular objects. Why? First concern is gravity, in order to stay healthy people need gravity. And since we know that the Moon’s gravity is far too low, and that of Mars is also likely too low, it would be a better idea to use man-made structures, known as space habitats, which provide artificial gravity through rotation.
But gravity is not the only objection for the colonization of objects, one of the most important issues is natural resources. The Moon lacks many resources essential for life, especially hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. The Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), however, are expected to posses nearly all elements we need to maintain a high-tech civilization and also easier to reach in terms of energy consumption (for a more detailed discussion see here).
Energy consumption and energy efficiency are very important issues. Since the Lagrange points require less energy to reach than the Moon, it also mean that it would require less fuel to launch a space craft. Less fuel, means less costs. This also implies that returning valuable resources to Earth, will out compete lunar mining activities. Therefore an asteroidal colony has a greater economic viability than a lunar colony in the long run.
Another concern is less technical, but probably more important, is politics. Since the Moon is generally considered to belong to all humans, setting up a lunar colony and mining operations is very likely to become subject of much controversy. Although it’s technically true that this whole common heritage of mankind bullshit, also applies to asteroids, but I expect that most people will not get any strong feelings about a bunch of mere rocks.
Although most NEAs are not located at the Lagrange points, they can easily be reached from there. Further some planetary scientists that so-called Earth trojans might exist, until now the existence of only one such object has been confirmed, see here for more. Some space advocates propose bring NEAs into earth orbit. I don’t believe this will be a good idea, due to the increased risks an asteroid impact, but it could be a nice idea to bring some valuable asteroids to the Lagrange points, if there are no usable Earth trojans.
Although the Lagrange points are easier to reach in terms of energy consumption, the distance between them and the earth is still huge and as a result travel time is in the order of months instead of days in case of the Moon. This both an advantage as a disadvantage, the latter no need an explanation, but the former does. In case of a conflict with one of the major terrestrial powers, a sovereign moon colony will be an easy prey for a military intervention, while Lagrange point colonies are able to detect such mission months in advance and thus they will be able to act accordingly. Particle beam weapons will made it possible to destroy a hostile space craft within hours after detection, without the need of launching an interception missile. So we can conclude that colonies based at the Lagrange points can more easily obtain and maintain their political independence than any lunar colony.