Ceres the main base and hub for future asteroid belt mining
NASA now has the Dawn spacecraft orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres.
Ceres has a tenth of the total water in the Earth’s oceans. The solar irradiance of 150 W/m2 at aphelion, one-ninth that of the Earth, is high enough for solar installations. The total volume of water on Earth is about 1.4 billion cubic kilometers, of which about 41 million is fresh water. If Ceres’ mantle is 25% of the asteroid’s mass, that would translate to an upper limit of 200 million cubic kilometers of fresh water (5 times more fresh water than Earth).
Ceres has about one-third the mass of the entire asteroid belt and is the sixth-largest body in the inner solar system by mass and volume. The inner solar system includes the asteroid belt and anything closer to the sun than the asteroid belt. Ceres has a round shape and a gravitational surface acceleration of about 2.8% of that of Earth. It has an area of approximately 1.9% of Earth’s dry land, slightly larger than the total area of Argentina.
It is more energy efficient to transport resources from the Moon or Mars to Ceres than from Earth. Transporting from Mars or the Moon to Ceres would be even more energy efficient than transporting from Earth to the Moon.
Ceres has a very low escape velocity (0.51 km/s) and the large amount of water on Ceres would not only be a resource for a colony’s own use, but would also be an exportable resource, providing fuel, oxygen and water for ships. passing through and beyond the main belt. This water, combined with metal structures constructed in weightlessness from asteroid materials, would allow settlers to trade raw materials and refined goods needed but not available in the main belt.
Settlement of Ceres
Colony growth will be facilitated by the use of locally or regionally available materials. On Ceres, the surface may be covered in regolith, solid rock/ice, or a mixture. A solid surface could allow for excavated structures, as well as structures built using excavated materials. A regolith surface could be used in “sandbag” type structures, or, perhaps, provide raw material (i.e. carbon) for processed forms (i.e. say carbon fiber rods and sheets). Materials available in the region include, primarily, iron and other metals from elsewhere in the main belt. A metallic asteroid 10 meters in diameter contains more than 500 m^3 of material, enough to build a tube 5 meters in diameter, with walls 2 cm thick, 1500 meters in length.
Zubrin envisions trade between the asteroid belt, Mars and Earth
While colonists could initially cope with Ceres’ low gravity (less than 3% of Earth’s) through exercises and other strategies that have been employed by astronauts in Earth orbit, in the long term, new approaches are needed. Using “doughnut trains” is one approach. Habitats above or below ground could be constructed to operate on a circular track that slopes inward, so that as the habitat moves, the occupants feel the reactive centrifugal force as if they were in an environment at higher gravity, which could be tuned to approximate the gravity of Mars, Earth, etc. The habitat would be built to cover the entire track, and thus form a continuous loop. It is similar to various orbital colony proposals, but does not need to include the entire living space: colonists can spend only half their time on the train, the rest being in low-power work environments. g elsewhere on the surface, such as in greenhouses, stores, and mines.
SOURCES – Wikipedia, Use of Ceres in Solar System Development by Zachary V. Whitten, The Economic Viability of Mars Colonization by Robert Zubrin
Brian Wang is a futuristic thought leader and popular science blogger with 1 million monthly readers. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technologies and trends, including space, robotics, artificial intelligence, medicine, anti-aging biotechnology, and nanotechnology.
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