A group of researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute proposed a permanent "megasatellite settlement" orbiting Ceres, a huge asteroid and dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The enormous human habitat could act as a base for further exploration of the cosmos and could be built using materials mined from Ceres itself, Futurism reports.
Proposing a human habitat orbiting Ceres
Fans of the popular sci-fi novel and TV series "The Expanse" will be no strangers to the concept of a human habitat orbiting Ceres. The fictional universe of the show and novel revolves around humanity's first off-world colony, Ceres Station, orbiting the dwarf planet.
In an example of reality imitating fiction, researchers proposed a megastructure orbiting Ceres, citing the dwarf planet's abundance of nitrogen, a substance that could enable the creation of an Earth-like atmosphere.
In their paper, uploaded on arXiv this week, the scientists detail their proposal for a disc-shaped megasatellite composed of smaller spinning satellites. These, in turn, would be attached to each other via magnetic tethers.
In order to generate artificial gravity similar to that of Earth, the scientists propose spinning the massive structure around Ceres. The habitat would have to achieve a full rotation around the dwarf planet in just 66 seconds to maintain its artificial gravity.
A megasatellite structure connecting us to the stars
For transport around the megastructure, the researchers propose Maglev train-like vehicles to easily link the habitat and keep the human colony connected.
The researchers also propose a space elevator to transport materials up from Ceres, and a set of massive cylindrical mirrors that would reflect sunlight onto the habitat at the same time as shielding it from submeter scale meteoroids.
One great benefit the researchers state Ceres has over Earth is that there are no natural disasters, and there is plenty of space for humans. The settlement could also act as a base from which humans could explore the far reaches of space.
“The motivation is to have a settlement with artificial gravity that allows growth beyond Earth’s living area, while also providing easy intra-settlement travel for the inhabitants and reasonably low population density of 500/km2,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
The sci-fi-emulating proposal might just act as a stepping stone, literally and figuratively, towards humanity achieving interstellar travel.