§ 6.2 Space Settlements - How Realistic in Our Near Future?
Certainly more realistic than most people realize.
Reason: large space habitats will not be blasted up from Earth. Instead, we will use materials already in space to make them, i.e., material from asteroids near Earth and/or the Moon. After all, when the settlers of America came, they didn't bring their bricks, cement, wood and all their needed food with them.
As reported in numerous engineering papers and reports, we can utilize construction materials derived from Earth-crossing asteroids and/or the lunar surface as construction materials to make habitats and large, valuable space products for use in orbit around Earth, as discussed in other sections.
The 20th century has been revolutionary beyond the greatest imaginations. Now, we are poised for another great leap.
Oxygen for habitats is abundant -- lunar soil averages 42% oxygen, chemically bound as silicon dioxide and metal oxides (just like the dirt under your feet). The oxygen can be extracted using simple solar ovens. Asteroids near Earth are rich in all life elements, as are certain permanently shadowed lunar polar craters.
Agriculture would benefit from 24 hour sunlight in orbit, no unwanted insect pests, no pesticides, and perfectly controlled weather.
Many kinds of people will be needed there -- not just engineers, technicians, and robot teleoperators, but also administrators, cooks, agronomists, doctors, nurses, sociologists, factory and construction laborers, cleaners, ... and reliable people who just do the diverse odd jobs that need to be done. It will be a business-friends atmosphere. The most important skills needed are the ability to get along with others positively, a resourceful, can-do attitude, and a willingness to do without many conveniences that one would have on Earth during the initial years in space. It may be awhile before Dominoes or Pizza Hut deliver a pizza.
Huge, spacious habitats and colonies will be located in orbits around Earth, and small outposts will be maintained at near-Earth asteroids being mined, maybe as far away as Mars' two asteroidal moons. One or more lunar bases may also be operated to supply the orbital manufacturing facilities with semi-raw materials.
The wheel colony is what PERMANENT calls a "second generation" space colony. "First generation" space colonies will most frequently be made from spent fuel tanks and tunneled-in habitats on asteroids and the Moon and will be much smaller than the wheel colony; whereas "third generation" space colonies will be much larger than the wheel colony.