The first stop is an earth satellite: the colonies on its surface would become a kind of staging post for future missions to Mars and other places in deep space. The most ambitious plan is from SpaceX, which hopes to colonize the Red Planet by 2050. But even now, before translating these ideas into reality, scientists and engineers are trying to understand what future lunar habitats and Martian ecosystems might look like.
According to the Inverse edition, the sustainability of these space cities can be provided by rather unusual technologies, below are three of them.
The words "space colony" paint in our imaginations a picture of futuristic cities, consisting of modern buildings and streamlined structures. Even some of the mock-ups of such cityscapes from Blue Origin or SpaceX show that they appear to people to consist of glass buildings and impressive steel structures. But in reality, future buildings on the Moon and Mars may be completely different.
NASA's myco-architecture project presents a prototype technology that uses mushrooms to literally grow houses in space.
The idea is that future settlers do not take all the building materials with them on space travel, but can create a compact habitat from mycelium, which is the vegetative body of mushrooms.
After humans land on Mars, they can grow useful objects and structures by adding water and allowing the mushroom to grow.
Lack of oxygen on the Moon will become a big problem for future colonists: an important resource will be needed not only to stay on the satellite, but also to refuel the oxygen tanks of interplanetary rockets.
To solve this problem, an installation was created that will make it possible to produce oxygen from lunar dust.
So far, the prototype uses a lunar dust simulator - regolith. The process is as follows: the material is placed in a metal basket, adding an electrolyte - calcium chloride. The mixture is then heated to 950 ° C, which however does not melt the material itself. Further, a current is passed through the mixture, as a result of which oxygen is released from the dust, and the salt is transferred to the anode.
The prototype of the facility is currently at the Laboratory of the European Center for Space Research and Technology in the Netherlands.
How many times have many of you enjoyed watching movies about space exploration? Or what dangers are encountered there, problems arise, or, conversely, discoveries? Personally, we are constantly. Space theme is one of the most beloved in cinema. And, at times, regret arises that he was born quite a bit earlier than the time when all this would have been a reality, and all that remains is to re-watch your favorite films again and again.
But we hasten to reassure you! Not everything is so bad, in fact. And for us, young people, there may still be a chance in the near future to experience all the delights of cosmic life, which is now available only to a select few. And even more so for our children. One has only to open his eyes a little and be convinced of the incredible progress that the space industry is making at the moment. Indeed, for those who were born in the 70s and 90s, the space industry was in a kind of stupor. The Cold War, no matter how bad it was, still had a significant positive impact on the development of research and development in this area. And after that there was only a period of stagnation. And we all have already lost all hope that someday we will live on Mars.
But things are changing now. The development of private commercial astronautics is in full swing. Flights are getting cheaper and the world is already seriously talking about cosmotourism and the use of space for private business. What does it say, tickets are on sale for SpaceShip Two for years to come! Humanity is already without any doubt looking into the future of space, where there will be reconnaissance missions, study and landing on other planets, mining and production of resources in space. Everything that we saw in the films gradually becomes reality.
Of course, in Russia so far all space exploration belongs to the state and only small subcontracts are sometimes given to private commerce. However, this will change in the future, like the whole world. Pay attention to how many new professions have appeared over the past two decades in all areas of our lives? Computers, robots, new technologies, etc. The same prospects await space. After some time, space will begin to be actively explored by various companies and private organizations, and vacancies such as "Looking for a geologist to explore deposits on Mars, a contract for 5 years" will become quite a natural phenomenon. Therefore, we bring to your attention a number of professions of the future, personnel for which, according to the assumptions of leading experts in this field, need to be trained already now.
Specialist in the design of structures in open space (near-earth stations and stations on the Moon and asteroids).
Over the past half century alone, more than a dozen orbital stations have changed in space. Some of them were very small and consisted of 2-3 modules. Some are simply huge, like the ISS station, which is now sweeping across the dark sky as a bright star. Just imagine: its length is over 100m! The Chinese station has been in orbit for 4 years already, and soon, according to plans, Russia will separate from its own orbital home. Well, it's not worth talking about the number of satellites in orbit, because there are thousands of them.
Orbital commercial tourist flights are planned to start by 2020. And after a while, flights to the ISS will also be carried out. But this station is scientific and, although tourists still visit it, it is mainly scientists and engineers who live there with specific goals. Therefore, it is not surprising that for a long time there have been talks and projects of tourist space hotels are being developed. And this, of course, will require a completely different infrastructure and specialists.
All these technological structures, like everything else in our world, also have a shelf life and cannot work forever, how regrettable it is. As practice shows, just throwing unnecessary parts into space is not the best idea. Every year the danger of damage to satellites and stations in near-earth orbit by space debris increases more and more. And in the same way, the number of launched vehicles is growing every year.
So we can confidently assert that in the very near future there will be such a profession as "Designer of the life cycle of space structures", which will directly solve this problem and make its own additions to the design decisions of the developers regarding the subsequent disposal and reassembly of spacecraft, or to solve these problems on the spot, based on the technologies and components available to him. Such a profession will be most relevant for inhabited stations on the moon, other planets and even asteroids, where it is quite problematic to deliver new materials and spare parts.
Such a specialist will face serious tasks and the need to make important decisions, because in many respects the further life path of not only the stations themselves, but also the people will depend on them. Of course, new 3D printing technologies and reusable materials make the task much easier. But this specialty is in any case outstanding and will require a number of important qualities from a professional. Such a person will need an understanding of technologies in many related industries, systems thinking, the ability to organize and systematize their work, accuracy and frugality, serious programming skills and, of course, knowledge of languages. So, if you see such qualities in yourself, you can safely take note of this most interesting profession.
Even if this specialty is still being formed in the field, and will appear approximately by 2020, but now you can get a basic education in order to become such a designer in the future. Objectively, a specialist in such a field should have broad engineering skills and good erudition. Here you need to be a specialist in everything, and not just a narrow professional in a specific industry, in order to be able to solve problems associated with any equipment at the stations.
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Thriving startups, from razor blade deliveries to electric cars, are showing us that almost anything can make money right now. The spheres that were for humanity the realization of the surplus product - science, art, sports - have long been a source of profit. This fate did not pass by and astronautics. What space offers, what it cannot offer, and who earns in it - in our today's material.
At the very beginning of the space race, the ball was ruled by two countries - the USSR and the USA. Culture, ideology, and languages aside, the fundamental difference between them lay in the economic model. The United States was and remains a stronghold of capitalism, a stronghold of a market economy and other terrible words. The USSR was the first and main planned economy in the world. The essence of the conflict is who owns the means of production: for the capitalists, these are individuals, citizens. They determined how much, how and what to produce, how to sell it later, and at what price. In a planned economy, all the burdens of planning were borne by the state. And this could not but be imprinted on astronautics.
The concept of "private space" in the meaning of "a segment of business that makes money on space projects" is valid only for Russia. In the United States, all space is, one way or another, private. The large companies Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics are privately owned, but the vast majority of orders come from the US government. But here you have to understand that, unlike our RSC Energia and the SPC im. Khrunichev, they arose as a private initiative of individual businessmen. The same Boeing is not limited to the production of spacecraft, its main activity is aircraft.
These giants of the market, who live off orders from the US Department of Defense and NASA, are usually separated from the concept of "private space". A funny metamorphosis took place with this phrase - not the one who has the means of production in private hands became private in space, but the one who works for the mass market.
The second stage, after large state-owned companies, are private companies, but not tied to government orders. Organizations such as Virgin Galactic, Deep Space Industries, Blue Origin, SpaceX and others are located here. However, SpaceX is not so simple. Elon Musk's company really started out as a rocket startup and private initiative. But soon SpaceX won a number of profitable tenders from NASA, "pumped", expanded and is in no way inferior in volume to space businessmen from the first cohort.
The third layer of private space is small start-up companies that are still looking for investors, and either did not enter the market, or came out in a limited way. Basically, they produce satellites, with a small dimension. Among such companies there are many enthusiastic scientists. Examples of similar startups: Rocketlab, SkyBox, Planet Labs.
This is the case in the United States. In Russia, everything is much smaller and worse.
The overwhelming majority of space projects in our country are carried out by large state-owned companies created in Soviet times. These corporations are well-known: RSC Energia, NPTs im. Khrunichev and Roskosmos at the top of the entire pyramid. This way of managing space exploration has its origins in the Soviet Union and in the economy that we talked about in the first paragraph. It is quite possible that the refusal to privatize these companies in the 90s preserved our astronautics in at least some form. But the lack of private initiative, like those companies that occupy the second tier in the United States, do not allow us to "catch up and overtake America." Simply put, we have neither Russian SpaceX nor Russian Elon Musk.
In 2004, the private spacecraft SpaceShipOne, built by Bert Roothan, was sent into space and landed safely back to Earth. This historic event was enough to win the $ 10 million prize and help convince the public that the era of space tourism has finally arrived. Now that more than 15 years have passed, budding space tourists are on the verge of making their dreams come true. This pleasure, of course, is not cheap, but many live according to the principle of "here and now" and would easily go into space even tomorrow. But you don't fly with the first airline you come across, do you? And space tourism should be treated even more responsibly.
Several companies are already ready to take your money
Earlier this year, the SpaceX Crew Dragon successfully ferried NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to Earth after flying to the International Space Station (ISS). None of the private spacecraft have put humans into orbit before. But unlike SpaceShipOne, which was the only ship built specifically for the award, there are several Crew Dragon models, each designed to be reusable.
It looks like an exciting era of space tourism is about to begin. Private companies are already competing to sell travel to space tourists in private spacecraft. Let's see who promises to send the first tourists into space in 2021.
SpaceShipOne has been retired after three successful space missions, but its legacy lives on in Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Unity. Like its predecessor, the Virgin Galactic rocket plane is launched from a specially designed aircraft and then climbs to 80 kilometers. That's enough for Virgin Galactic pilots to earn the astronaut title.
True, other scientists define the boundary of space through the so-called Karman line, which is located at an altitude of 100 kilometers above the surface of our planet.
Virgin Galactic spacecraft cockpit interior
Virgin Galactic's goal is to become "the world's first commercial space line," eventually offering scheduled flights from a launch site in southern New Mexico. The company plans to begin scheduled flights in early 2021, with Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson becoming the first non-professional pilot to fly a Unity spacecraft.
According to the latest estimates, the wealth of Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, has exceeded $ 150 billion. The last time a private person had a larger fortune back in the 16th century, it was Jacob Fugger Jr., a man who made his capital by methods inaccessible in the modern world, and who even started with a large fortune acquired by the labor of his ancestors. In fact, Bezos is the richest man of all who made his money in a competitive economy.
When he founded Cadabra in July 1994, which was renamed Amazon a year later, he had almost nothing but an idea. The tables collected from the doors were indeed in his office - from lack of funds. It got to the point that the main investors in his company at first were his middle-aged parents, who saved these funds for old age.
The idea behind Cadabra/Amazon was also minimalistically simple. Bezos, who emerged from the IT environment, visited a site in May 1994 that measured the growth in Internet use by users in its first year of existence. After seeing the 2300% annual growth figure, the entrepreneur thought that sales in this environment would grow rather quickly.
He took mail-order sales as a model, when the buyer selects what he needs in the catalog. At the time, such sales had little impact on books. To choose, it would be necessary to send too thick catalogs to potential buyers, that is, incur high costs. Bezos decided that online sales should start where competing methods are bad - and books were the best solution here. The thick catalog of books was expensive to mail out, but inexpensive to post on the Internet.
Then exactly the same model was applied by Bezos in all areas where he “entered” from Amazon. His company was initially looking for a niche in which it would have an advantage that all other players in the market lacked. This is a fairly general business approach - eBay has also attempted to find unique advantages. His electronic auctions also took advantage of features that only the Internet could provide. Other players in the e-commerce market were also looking for their unique advantages. So what allowed Bezos to survive the dot-com crash and create a company that is incomparably larger than eBay?
Amazon has always distinguished itself from typical companies of the dot-com bubble era by the thoughtfulness of the chosen market niches and the models of their conquest. And the main reason why the growth of Bezos's company always outstripped competitors like eBay was a fundamentally different philosophy that lay behind his development strategy. It's about the notorious regret-minimization framework (the term of Bezos himself). Within its framework, he imagined himself as an 80-year-old self, looking over his past life and highlighting the main and the secondary in it. A quick profit from an 80-year-old position meant nothing. And the opportunity to grow the company to the limits that others could not reach meant almost everything. So much so that even the risk of bankruptcy (Bezos entered the market with almost no funds of his own) looked small against this background.
"The strategy of minimizing regrets" helped the future billionaire not only to decide on the risk of starting a business without large own funds. She also prompted him to constantly reinvest the money received from the business in its further development. If we compare the same eBay and Amazon in terms of business profitability, we will be shocked. eBay was profitable literally from day one - its founder Pierre Omidyar only got into this business because he immediately brought him money. And Bezos's company showed its first quarterly profit only in 2001, and only $ 5 million. Amazon's first profitable year was in 2003 - six years after the IPO and almost ten years after the launch. Moreover, Amazon did not show stable profit afterwards, remaining at a loss for several years in a row (then Elon Musk applied exactly the same development strategy in the case of Tesla). At first, gross profit was spent on organizing trade in other goods, such as electronics. Then the money began to go to the development of the Amazon cloud service.
By 2016-2017, however, signs began to emerge that Amazon was nearing growth limits on all fronts. Markets were either taken over by it (as in the US) or controlled by very powerful local competitors like Alibaba. The cloud service also stopped growing as quickly as it could before. As a result, by 2017, there are not many directions for reinvesting gross profit. And in the fourth quarter of 2017, the company showed a profit of $ 1.86 billion - the same as in all the previous 14 years.
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