How to turn an asteroid into a new land for mankind in 12 years? Dr. Jensen explains


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Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 08 August 2023, at 10:58 am PDT

If you are interested in researching space habitats, turning an asteroid into a rotating space habitat might significantly use your time. The idea of transforming an asteroid into a space habitat and making it habitable has been around for a while, but it has received little attention due to technological limitations. However, David W. Jensen, a retired Technical Fellow at Rockwell Collins, recently released a 65-page paper on the arXiv preprint server detailing an easy-to-understand, relatively inexpensive, and feasible plan to turn an asteroid into a space habitat.

Dr. Jensen's report breaks down the discussion into three main categories: asteroid selection, habitat style selection, and mission strategy. Asteroid selection involves identifying the best candidate based on its composition, proximity to Earth, and size. After thoroughly selecting, Dr. Jensen chose Atira, an S-type asteroid with a 4.8 km diameter and its orbiting moon. Although Atira is not the closest potential asteroid, its stable orbit in the "Goldilocks zone" of our solar system would help stabilize the internal temperature of the habitat, it would eventually become.

Dr. Jensen considers four types of space station habitats - "dumbbell," sphere, cylinder, and torus.

The author discusses the concept of a torus as an ideal habitat and delves into calculations related to station mass, supporting the inner wall, and floor space allocation. However, the main question remains: how do we construct such a massive structure?

According to Dr. Jensen, self-replicating robots are the answer. The report's third section outlines a plan to utilize spider robots and a base station that can replicate themselves. The importance of only sending the most advanced technical components from Earth and using materials from the asteroid to build everything else is emphasized, from rock grinders to solar panels. While the plan seems theoretically coherent and sensible, the claims seem almost impossible.

Dr. Jensen suggests that a "seed" capsule containing four spider robots, the base station, and enough advanced electronics to build 3,000 more spider robots could be sent for only around 8.6 metric tons. This weight is well below the capacity of even a modern-day Falcon Heavy. Once the capsule reaches the asteroid, no further input from Earth would be necessary, at least in theory.

The cost and time estimates are even more impressive. Dr. Jensen estimates that the entire program would cost only $4.1 billion, a far cry from the $93 billion NASA plans to spend on the Apollo program. Furthermore, the space habitat that would be created would provide 1 billion square meters of land that did not exist before, at a total cost of $4.10 per square meter. Dr. Jensen also believes the construction project could be completed in as little as 12 years. However, filling the habitat with air and water and regulating its temperature would probably take longer.

These costs and timelines are well within the personal wealth levels of billionaires interested in space exploration, such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. If Dr. Jensen's ideas are even partially feasible, with further technical development, the next billionaire space competition could be to build the world's first artificial gravity space habitat, which would be quite a spectacle.

The paper has been published here.

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