Far-reaching plan to build an asteroid city

Well, look, they are Flag Their paper is a bit… there.

But what is a group of physicists to do when a pandemic brings the world to a halt if not work on something “highly theoretical,” as they put it? And there are few things more aptly described as Asteroid City.

Even more than that: they have an idea that they think – and the math says – could work (if we’re in a position to do so).

“Our paper remains on the edge of science and science fiction,” University of Rochester Professor of Physics and Astronomy (W Big Think 13.8 Columnist) Adam Frank He said. “We’re taking a science fiction idea that’s been very popular lately – in TV shows like Amazon’s The Expanse – and offering a new path to using an asteroid to build a city in space.”

University of Rochester researchers have found a way to build an asteroid city.

you smoke me An image in your mind, a space settlement, Bezos’ dream and the world’s catch. If you watch enough science fiction, you probably imagine a spinning mass, whose constant, precisely controlled motion creates a simulated gravity for its inhabitants.

This moving city is called the O’Neill Cylinder, named after physicist Gerard O’Neill, who designed it on a NASA bequest in the 1970s. Since its design, the O’Neill cylinder has since become among the most popular space city ideas, featured in numerous science fiction stories and even popularized by current figures of the new space age. (Jeff Bezos Rouge to use itComic sketch A rebuke from Elon Muskwho considered the idea “like trying to build the United States in the middle of the Atlantic.”)

One of the biggest obstacles to creating O’Neill cylinders was the prohibitive cost of building them. Transporting building materials — and labor — from Earth to space would be very expensive.

A partial solution could be to build an asteroid city, take advantage of the rocky bodies that are already there, build on them, and then make them spin.

“All those flying mountains orbiting the sun might provide a faster, cheaper, more efficient path to space cities,” Frank said. Its abundance and rocky layer, which can shield from space radiation, make Asteroid City an attractive candidate.

But the team found a problem with this plan, too, when it did the math: The asteroids would disintegrate well before they reach the velocities needed to keep our feet on Earth. And above all, more asteroids Less “piece of rock” than “loose pile”.

Their answer: a giant suitcase. Specifically, a giant, flexible, and lightweight mesh bag made of carbon nanofibers.

in The Bag: Frank and fellow students Peter Miklavitch, Alice Quillen, John Siew, Esteban Wright, Alex Debrecht and Hassam Askari decided to turn their attention to the problem while they were locked up due to COVID-19.

“This project started as a way for physicists and engineers to put aside mundane stresses for a while, and imagine something crazy,” said Miklavcic, first author of the study.

By performing the calculations on the various forces and materials needed to build an asteroid city with different technologies, they come up with a possible – albeit science fiction – solution.

Their answer is posted in Frontiers in astronomy and space science (Limits already!), is a giant bag.

Specifically, a giant, flexible, lightweight mesh bag made of carbon nanofibers—tubes just a few atoms in diameter—each with strength that belies its tiny size.

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“A cylindrical carbon nanotube containment bag would be very light for the mass of asteroid debris and habitat, but strong enough to hold everything together,” Miklavcic said. Miklavcic noted that carbon nanotubes are currently being developed in laboratories around the world with the aim of expanding.

The idea might look like this: You cover the asteroid in the bag. You set an asteroid to rotate to create gravity. The bag picks up the debris thrown as a result, creating a layer of rock thick enough to shield from radiation, and you’ve set yourself up for Asteroid City.

Easy read?

“Based on our calculations, an asteroid with a diameter of just a few football fields could be expanded into a cylindrical environment of about 22 square miles,” Frank said. This is roughly the size of Manhattan.

“Our papers live on the edge of science and science fiction.”

Adam Frank

Future speculation: Of course, all of this So Far from a pike it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than fantasy. But their study seems to show that building an asteroid city is of this type he Possible – though whether or not we’ll be able to try it is a different question.

“The idea of ​​asteroid cities may seem so far away until you realize that in the year 1900 no one ever flew an airplane, and yet at this moment, thousands of people are comfortably seated in chairs as they cruise at hundreds of miles per hour, miles upstream,” Frank said.

“Space cities may seem like fantasy now, but history shows that a century or so of technological advancement can make impossible things possible.”

This is amazing Article Originally published by sister site Freethink.

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