We have reached a level of consumption that is more than our planet can sustain naturally. Our population keeps on increasing and the Earth’s resources keep on depleting. Beyond Earth colonization might still be somewhere between science fiction and speculative research, but there will come a time when it will be the only hope for humanity and our home planet. Already a lot of possibilities are being discussed which could help us colonize other planets in the solar system and maybe one day planets of other solar systems as well. Here are the top 10 possibilities of beyond Earth colonization.
The Moon is by far the most realistic opportunity for beyond earth colonization. We’ve been there already so we know that it can be done. Research is being done on how to build permanent bases on the Moon that can later turn into colonies of emigrants. The obvious benefits are the proximity to Earth and low escape velocities that can facilitate frequent transportation of material and men. The lack of elements such as nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon and the long term effects of low gravity are some of the concerns that need to be addressed.
Mars is also one of more popular places for space colonization as it is very similar to Earth and has a lot of elements necessary for life in its crust and atmosphere. It is also believed that Mars might have supported life once and there could still be some life in some parts of the planet. Terraforming of Mars could make it possible to have an atmosphere thick enough so that humans could survive outside of pressure vessels but it’s still a long way into the future.
Venus is a planet very similar to Earth in size and shape but its atmosphere is very hostile and it is impossible to colonize its surface. But there have been discussions about building floating habitats that float high in Venus’ atmosphere where the pressure and temperature is suitable for life. The atmosphere of Venus contains sulfuric acid clouds which can be used to extract water.
An interesting idea is to colonize the asteroids. There are large bodies in the asteroid belt such as the dwarf planet Ceres that can become a base for space exploration. The large number of asteroids in the asteroid belt means the availability of all elements necessary for colonization. Some asteroids that have a near earth orbit can also house space habitats that are built when the asteroid passes by. There has been talk about building thrusters into the asteroid surface to help steer it to avoid collisions with planets.
The moons of Jupiter have a lot of potential to be colonized. The moons such as Europa, Ganymede and Callisto have been considered for building bases or for colonizing as they have enough necessary elements required for colonization. Europa might even have life in the seas under the thick ice sheets. Ganymede has a magnetic core which protects the surface from solar radiation.
The moons of Uranus namely Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon and the moon of Neptune, Triton all offer possibilities for beyond Earth colonization. They all have frozen water and other elements that will be required for such an operation. The distance and extreme cold of the outer solar system are the problems that will need to be dealt with.
It’s not just the moons of the gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn that can be colonized but it might be one day possible to colonize the gaseous surface of these planets themselves. The idea is to build floating cities that will use hydrogen balloons to suspend large masses in the atmosphere at roughly Earth gravity.
Another novel idea is to build space habitats that can orbit around Earth or any other planet or even around the Sun. These will be large ships that have their own atmosphere and even artificial gravity. Such habitats can be placed at Lagrange points in the Earth-Moon system. Lagrange points are specific points where the gravities of two objects match each other so as to form a gravitational balance point.
If our own solar system wasn’t enough one day we could travel to other parts of our galaxy and even to other galaxies. Since the distance to travel is so large we could use the idea of generation ships. These will be large ships much like space habitats which house a large population of humans. The idea is to sustain a large enough population for the large number of years it will take to reach other solar systems. Once there we could search for habitable planets and start colonization. A sleeper ship would be similar to a generation ship but the human passengers would be in hibernation or suspended animation for most part of the journey.