Physicist Pekki Janhunen from the Finnish Meteorological Institute has developed a novel idea to establish a future human colony on a planet other than the Earth, Mars or the Moon. According to the scientist from Finland, a giant satellite orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres, inside the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, could be settled. So we would not be living on the surface of a space rock itself, but on a megasatellite orbiting near it.
Ceres, with its 952-kilometer diameter, is considered the largest known asteroid in the Solar System, as well as the only planet closer to the Sun than Neptune.
Mars and the Moon are not the best places to establish human colonies, due to their extremely hostile environments. Many space scientists see difficulties and many risks associated with attempts to colonize on these planets. Astronauts face health problems after returning from low or zero gravity environments.
Scientists have long wondered how to build a large enough structure somewhere in space to house tens of thousands of people. Doing so is a huge challenge, if only because of the massive cost of building such a gigantic project. Building a colony orbiting our star raises many other issues: – How to protect the inhabitants from solar radiation? – What about gravity? – Where would this structure be located?
In his paper, Finnish physicist Janhunen suggests that Ceres would be an ideal place to put such a structure, which would make it a satellite. He notes that such an orbit would be close enough to the dwarf planet that a space elevator 636 miles long would pose no problem in transporting material from its surface to the satellite for construction and resupply.
Janhunen also believes that building a colony around Ceres would allow the dwarf planet to take advantage of its resources. Ceres has more than enough nitrogen, water and carbon dioxide to support such a venture. Janhunen also has plans for a saucer-shaped satellite – he imagines it would be more than a mile long and have thousands of interconnected cylindrical structures on the surface to house humans, as well as provide space for other needs such as agriculture and recreational spaces.
The scientist also envisions a pair of giant mirrors that harness the sun’s energy on either side of the satellite, giving the entire structure a clam-like shape. As the planet Ceres moves around the sun, sunlight would be directed to appropriate areas using special adjustable mirrors that would allow it to collect as much light as possible.
Janhunen also believes that a colony around Ceres could support a population of up to 50,000 people. He also believes that most of the satellite could be built from material found on Ceres’ surface. As he notes, gravity equal to Earth’s can be created by rotating the satellite at the right speed. The megastellite could orbit the Sun, producing enough centrifugal force to produce a gravitational constant.
There are no confirmed data yet on the actual resources that could be on an asteroid. And obtaining artificial orbital gravity is still a goal that has not been realized. Therefore, this vision, while extremely interesting, remains only in the realm of consideration for now.