Are Iconic SciFi Space Habitats Actually Possible?

Terry Olaes

I Used to be the [H] News Guy
Joined
Nov 27, 2006
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Gizmodo asked MIT research fellow/doctoral candidate Sydney Do if space habitats featured in popular sci-fi shows are scientifically possible. Tl;dr - that's no moon, it's a space station.

There are three things you need to keep in mind when considering any type of human habitat in space, according to Do: location, function, and size. Those three criteria greatly influence what is and isn’t possible. So I whipped up a few scenarios from science fiction to put to the test.
 

Quartz-1

Supreme [H]ardness
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May 20, 2011
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If I wanted or needed to build something the size of the Death Star, I'd take an existing object and build onto and into it..
 

sfsuphysics

I don't get it
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Jan 14, 2007
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Lets see ask guy from prestigious school, MIT, check.
Call him a doctoral candidate, sounds fancy, even though he hasn't even gotten his PhD, check
He's going for PhD in Aero/astronautics, so that must mean he's an expert on everything space related, check.

I stopped reading when he started talking about greenhouses on Mars. The guy may be right, be he is in no way any sort of expert on how plants grow to really be focusing on that aspect of it.
 

sfsuphysics

I don't get it
Joined
Jan 14, 2007
Messages
14,028
If I wanted or needed to build something the size of the Death Star, I'd take an existing object and build onto and into it..
Exactly, get yourself an asteroid, that's big, but not too big (don't want to fight it's own gravity) and simply carve out the empty space inside. Of course then you can call it a Rock Star! :D
 

arentol

2[H]4U
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Jun 15, 2004
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2,712
"Simple" (compared to taking resources from earth, or trying to do "normal" mining of asteroids) way to decrease the expense for most of these projects...

First build a large number of giant mirrors in space, set to reflect sunlight wherever you like in the solar system.
Then set up a collection and final-focusing system of mirrors close to the asteroid belt. Grab a mostly metal asteroid and start it spinning. Point the mirror array at the asteroid to melt it. Because it is spinning the materials in it will naturally separate, with lighter elements falling away first. Once the light elements are all gone stop heating and spinning it and let it congeal back into a large metal ball. This can then be moved to the area where you are building the station to supply raw materials.

Even faster version... Make sure it is a very large nickel-iron asteriod and once it is turned into a ball drill a hole to the center and put a clean nuke in it. Seal the hole and blow up the nuke. If everything is done and calculated right the ball will expand considerably leaving a large hollow sphere that you can build inside of.
 

pxc

Extremely [H]
Joined
Oct 22, 2000
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tl;dr all (superficially) analyzed structures are unfeasible to build based on current technology.

No duh. I want my 2 minutes back.
 

Dew

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
3,813
"Simple" (compared to taking resources from earth, or trying to do "normal" mining of asteroids) way to decrease the expense for most of these projects...

First build a large number of giant mirrors in space, set to reflect sunlight wherever you like in the solar system.
Then set up a collection and final-focusing system of mirrors close to the asteroid belt. Grab a mostly metal asteroid and start it spinning. Point the mirror array at the asteroid to melt it. Because it is spinning the materials in it will naturally separate, with lighter elements falling away first. Once the light elements are all gone stop heating and spinning it and let it congeal back into a large metal ball. This can then be moved to the area where you are building the station to supply raw materials.

Even faster version... Make sure it is a very large nickel-iron asteriod and once it is turned into a ball drill a hole to the center and put a clean nuke in it. Seal the hole and blow up the nuke. If everything is done and calculated right the ball will expand considerably leaving a large hollow sphere that you can build inside of.
I too enjoyed the Troy Rising series. Unfortunately, John Ringo doesn't appear to be planning a fourth book because he wrote himself into a corner in the last book.

He pumped his asteroids full of water and heated them with the mirror array.
 

jedijeb

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 16, 2009
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131
To move the asteroid I like the idea used in the book "Rip Foster, Ride the Grey Planet".

They discover an asteroid that is made mostly of Thorium, which they use as nuclear fuel for their ships. To move the asteroid into Earth orbit, they cut holes into the surface and detonate atomic bombs which then act as propulsion since in the deep hole the force is expelled as a jet and that causes a directed momentum in the direction desired.

Of course they do get one slightly wrong while they are making close approach to the Sun for the slingshot to Earth which gets very exciting, but I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to read it.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20147

For a book written in the late 50s it has some really good ideas about advanced propulsion and space travel, just ignore the fact that all computer data is printed out instead of displayed on a monitor :)
 

Geef

Limp Gawd
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Aug 5, 2009
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Have any of you read the book 3001 ?
If you have not this might give you a reason to go back and read 2001, 2010, 2061, and then finally 3001.

In that future they have ships that go out into different parts of the solar system and grab large asteroids that are mostly ice and then pull them towards Venus because at that point in the human civilization they are planning on making Venus another earth type world in the future.

I really like this idea and Arthur C Clarke is pretty good at making a good story about the future, except of course you'd probably have to mentally change the years in your mind since the books were made a long time ago and you might have to think of the book 2010 as 2100 in real life years. :)
 
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