07 August 2013

Terrific article on Elysium and Space Colonies (lots of cool pictures!)

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http://www.space.com/22229-space-station-colony-futuristic-technology.html Incredible Technology: How to Build a Space Station Colony by Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer | August 05, 2013 12:42pm ET From the article: While a self-sustaining space station colony might be a long way off, scientists are still working to design and perhaps even build a space station that goes beyond low-Earth orbit. "It extends the capability of humans to be out in space away from Earth," Paul Bookout, project manager of the concept demonstrator for Deep Space Habitat at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said of building a space station in deep space. "For example if you could go to a near-Earth asteroid and you had a habitat out there, you could stay extended periods of time … and do research on the asteroid, bring samples back in, continuing work out there instead of trying to bring small samples back to Earth." "The premise is totally believable to me," Mark Uhran, a former assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, said of the movie. "When I took a look at the Elysium station, I thought to myself, that's certainly achievable within this millennium." "It's clear that the number-one challenge is chemical propulsion," Uhran told SPACE.com. "We learned an Incredible Technology: How to Build a Space Station Colonyby Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer | August 05, 2013 12:42pm ET 78 45 11 Share15 An artist’s depiction showing the exterior of Bernal Spheres space colony from space colony summer studies conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. The Bernal Sphere is a point design with a spherical living area for a population of 10,000. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Rick Guidice View full size image Life in a space colony would be different from life on Earth. Gravity might be a thing of the past, everyone could drink distilled urine, and a whole generation of Earthlings may grow up without ever having set foot on the surface of the planet. At the moment, those ideas are still firmly set in the realm of science fiction, but in the next 1,000 years, new technologies could be developed that would enable humanity to colonize space. While a self-sustaining space station colony might be a long way off, scientists are still working to design and perhaps even build a space station that goes beyond low-Earth orbit. [See Photos of NASA Space Colony Designs from the 1970s] "It extends the capability of humans to be out in space away from Earth," Paul Bookout, project manager of the concept demonstrator for Deep Space Habitat at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said of building a space station in deep space. "For example if you could go to a near-Earth asteroid and you had a habitat out there, you could stay extended periods of time … and do research on the asteroid, bring samples back in, continuing work out there instead of trying to bring small samples back to Earth." An artist’s depiction of a construction crew at work on the Bernal Spheres colony from space colony summer studies conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Don DavisView full size image"Elysium" — a new science fiction film about a world in which only the rich and powerful can live in a seemingly utopic space station orbiting Earth — is the newest in a long line of movies dealing with the science of space living. "The premise is totally believable to me," Mark Uhran, a former assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, said of the movie. "When I took a look at the Elysium station, I thought to myself, that's certainly achievable within this millennium." How to build a station Engineers and researchers need to overcome a few major obstacles before a sustainable space station colony is a viable possibility, Uhran said. "It's clear that the number-one challenge is chemical propulsion," Uhran told SPACE.com. "We learned an incredible amount with [the International Space Station] and we demonstrated that we have the technology to assemble large structures in space. What we need are rockets that can get material out of the Earth's gravity well and deliver it to whatever location the future space station is assembled." The supplies needed to create the space station don't necessarily have to come from Earth, Uhran said. Asteroids and other planetary bodies like the moon could provide elements needed to build the station. However, moving the heavy supplies to their proper place in orbit from any cosmic hub would still be a challenge for current propulsion systems. Engineers will also need to create a closed-loop life-support system that can recycle most of the materials used in the colony to make the space station sustainable indefinitely. Currently, the International Space Station operates at about a 70 to 80 percent closed loop system for water.

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