Exploring the Outer Planets and Space Outside Our Solar System
Moons of Outer Planets Via the Asteroid Belt
Here examine the possibilities for colonization of the moons of the outer planets of our solar system beyond the resource rish Asteroid Belt and Inner Planets. The Asteroid belt will provide industrial way-stations for exploring the Outer Planets and the space outside our solar system.
Jovian Moons: Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede
Recent missions over the last couple decades have revealed more than 170 moons in our solar system. In 2019, Jupiter was discovered to have seventy-nine (79) moons.
One of Jupiter’s four (4) Galilean moons, Europa, is habitable here in our solar system, so it should be investigated for life. The Artemis Project plans to colonize Europa. Igloos would be used to drill down into Europa’s ice crust and explore any sub-surface ocean. Human habitation is possible in Europa’s air pockets. NASA’s HOPE (Revolutionary Concepts for Human Outer Planet Exploration) studied future exploration of our solar system and discovered Europa may conceal a liquid ocean beneath its frozen surface. Callisto was specifically targeted due to its distance from Jupiter’s harmful radiation. A surface base on Callisto could provide fuel for further exploration of our solar system. Three of Jupiter’s (3) Galilean moons, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto have abundant volatiles for further colonization efforts. A stormy ball of mostly hydrogen and helium, Jupiter has alternating east and west winds. In the Great Red Spot of Jupiter winds hit 400 miles per hour.
Moons of Saturn: Titan, Enceladus, and Others
One of Saturn’s moons, Titan is a prime locale for colonization since it is the only moon in the solar system to have a wealth of carbon-bearing compounds and a dense atmosphere. Titan has ice water, large methane oceans and an abundance of all elements needed to support life. Like Neptune, Saturn has winds over 1000 miles per hour. Saturn’s majestic rings may be shattered icy remains of moons or comets. President of Pioneer Astronautics Robert Zubrin calls Titan the “most hospitable extraterrestrial world within our solar system for human colonization.” The Cassini orbiter landed the Huygens probe on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, in 2005. NASA’s 2026–34 Dragonfly autonomous drone project will use the heavy dense atmosphere to fly around the very cold (-300 Fahrenheit) terrain and return high resolution geologic images and seismic readings. Scientists want to know how the geologic becomes biologic.
Enceladus is a small icy moon orbiting close to Saturn. It has ice and water vapor geyser-like plumes in its southern polar region shooting hundreds of miles into space. If it indeed contains water, it joins Europa as a prime place to search for life and establish colonies. Saturn’s large satellites Rhea, Iapetus, Dione, Tethys, and Mimas also have volatile reserves. The moons of Saturn and Jupiter are not ripe for terraforming necessary for preservation of human life.
Uranus with its 27 moons and blue methane atmosphere spins on a 98 degree axis so it rolls instead of spins around the Sun.
Like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the winds on Neptune reach 900 miles per hour. Still, Freeman Dyson claims within a few hundred years human civilization will have relocated further out to the Kuiper Belt. The Belt has 70,000 bodies larger than 100 km. Eris, made of methane and ice, is the largest known body in the Kuiper belt.
NASA’s New Horizons launch in 2006 is the first mission to Pluto and its moons Charon, Hydra, and Nix. It closely approached Pluto in 2015 to study surface composition and temperature and push deeper into the little understood Kuiper Belt (2016–20). The European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission (2004) investigated whether life on Earth was seeded by an oxygen-bearing comet like Gerasmienko (2014) or ancient Kaaba in Mecca. On January 3, 2019, New Horizons contacted minor contact binary planet Ultima Thule beyond Pluto.
Further from the Sun into the trans-Neptunian region, the Oort cloud has as many as a trillion long-period comets. The Oort Cloud is believed to be a spherical cloud of icy bodies orbiting and enveloping our solar system 2–19 trillion miles from our Sun.
Outside the Solar System: Prospects for the Future
There are several hundred billion possible colonization star targets beyond our solar system. We will probably reach Alpha Centauri star system by 3000 AD and alien life if found may be more primitive or more advanced. Many star systems are a hundred thousand times farther than the planets in our solar system. The only way of reaching these stars is by near or faster than the speed of light travel requiring centuries or millennia. Just exploring the volume of space in our Milky Way galaxy would take millions of years and would probably involve a generation starship filled with humans, other species, embryos, and seed packs placed in cryonic suspension in a futuristic interstellar Noah’s Ark.
The Voyager I launched in 1977 is still 10 years from interstellar space, 6,000 years from the inner edge of the Oort cloud, and 12 billion miles from the Sun. Voyager I has gone further than any human-made object. Since 1995, over 200 planets have been discovered around other stars.
Current propulsion systems cannot yet reach outside our solar system. Unmanned and generational voyages are possible despite technological and economical challenges. An interstellar ship akin to a space habitat could reach sub-relativistic speed with additional propulsion capabilities and independent energy generation.
Scientists and hard science fiction writers propose a few hypothetical star ship concepts. A slower than light generation ship could take decades or centuries and could go thru numerous generations before completion of its mission. In a sleeper ship, the crew could be placed in suspended animation or hibernation until the crew reaches journey’s end. An embryo carrying interstellar starship (EIS), which is smaller than a generation or sleeper ship, transports human embryos or DNA in frozen or dormant state. A nuclear fusion or fission powered ship such as an ion drive could travel one-way trips to nearby stars during a human lifetime.
Freeman Dyson proposed using, like nuclear rockets, nuclear explosions to propel a starship to other stars. Solar power beams would permit a light sail to high speeds. Nuclear propulsion might be used to stop. Light sail could be used for acceleration and fusion electric could result in deceleration.
Interstellar travel at near-relativistic speeds is not yet feasible and it would not stop space colonization even if it was not possible. Future technologies could still take us outside this solar system. Large planet size masses of energy or faster than light speculative Alcubierre drives may allow for superluminal travel under current physics if such a drive is possible.
There are at least 2 trillion other galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Galaxies are a million times farther from each other than stars. Intergalactic travel requires millions of years or a speculative faster than light propulsion method like the Alcubierre drive. Intergalactic travel is not in principle impossible. The Breakthrough Starshot project is sending tiny nanotechnological star ships into the Alpha Centauri system by directing light beams at solar sails instead of onboard engines for acceleration. That will take at least 30,000 years.