Titlu referat: Life in space
Nivel referat: liceu
LIFE IN SPACE
We haven’t conquered space. Not yet. We have
sent some 20 men on camping trips to the Moon, and the USA and Russia have sent
people to spend restricted lives orbiting the Earth.
All these are marvellous technical and human
achievements, but none of them involves living independently in space. The
Russians need food and even oxygen sent up from Earth. And they
haven’t gone far into
space. It is only in fiction, and in space movies, that people spend long
periods living more or less normally deep in space.
But in a couple of years this could have
changed. There could be settlements in space that would house adventurers
leading more or less normal lives.
The picture on this page shows where the
settlers would live. It seems like science fiction – but it’s not. It is based on plans produced by
hard-headed people: engineers and scientists, headed by Gerard O’Neill of Princeton University, summoned
to a conference by NASA. They are space enthusiasts, of course, but they are
The settlement is a gigantic wheel, a tube
more than 400ft in a diameter bent into a ring just over a mile across. The
wheel spins gently once a minute. It is this gentle rotation that makes this
settlement different from the Lunar modules that took man for the first time to
any non-terrestrial soil, because the spin produces a force that feels like
gravity. Every space trip has shown that the human body needs gravity if it
isn’t to deteriorate, and
gravity also makes normal activities possible. Nobody would want to live for
long in a space settlement where everything – people and equipment and the eggs they
were trying to fry – moved
With gravity, life in space can be based on
our experience on Earth. We can have farming and factories and houses and
meeting-places that are not designed by guesswork. The need for gravity is one
of the reasons for building a space colony, rather than sending settlers to an
existing location such as the Moon or the planets. The Moon is inhospitable.
Its gravity is tiny – and
any place on the Moon has 14 days of sunlight followed by 14 of night, witch
makes agriculture impossible.
In the settlement, which floats in permanent
sunlight, the day-length is controlled. A gigantic mirror about a mile in
diameter floats weightlessly above the ring of the settlement. It reflects
sunlight on to smaller mirrors that direct it into the ring, through shutters
that fix the day length.
The sunlight is constant during the
‘daytime’, so farming is productive to an extent
which can be reached on Earth only occasionally. The aim is to provide a diet
similar to that on Earth, but with less fresh meat.
The farms will be arranged in terraces with
fish ponds and rice paddies in transparent tanks on the top layer; wheat below;
vegetables, soya, and maize below that.
The population of the settlement is fixed at
about 20,000 people: farm output can be accurately planned. Research reports
suggest that about 44 square metres of vegetables will be needed for each
person, and just over five square metres of pastures.
The picture here shows where the people will
live. It doesn’t look very
different from the modern small towns on Earth, and this is deliberate.
Science-fiction films feature vast glass tower blocks and subterranean warrens,
but real-life space settlers won’t want these. Throughout history, settlers have tried to put up
buildings like the ones they left behind, because these are familiar: space
settlers will do the same.
And where would the settlement be?
‘Why’, say the experts, ‘at L5, of course’. This reference describes a point on
the Moon’s orbit around the
Earth, equidistant from Moon and Earth, where the gravitational forces of the
two bodies balance. (The L stands for Lagrange, a French mathematician who
listed a number of ‘balance’
points). Those who are interested to settle in space have formed an L5
Liviu Burlacu (11D).
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