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Guest: Dr. Pekka Janhunen; Topic: Dr. Janhunen's concept of a megasatellite orbital settlement around Ceres. Links to his paper will be added to this summary and the blog.
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We welcomed Dr. Janhunen back to the show, this time to discuss his paper, "Terraforming the dwarf planet: Interconnected and growable Ceres megasatellite world." You can download and read the paper here: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2011.07487.pdf. In addition, our guest has provided us with this website for additional information: http://electric-sailing.fi/ceres. We started our discussion by asking our guest about the origins of his megasatellite concept and why he was basing it on free space O'Neill cylinders for settlement. This prompted a detailed response that took us through most of the first segment of our program. This discussion was at times technical, focused on propulsion and radiation, but above all on the need to have 1 g for the settlement given no information about a human gravity prescription.
During our first segment discussion, listeners asked several email questions including the travel time from Earth to Ceres. Listeners wanted to know about the Earth-Ceres launch window and could such a voyage be done with existing chemical propulsion or would we need nuclear propulsion. Our guest talked about using SEP (solar electric propulsion), suggested chemical was fine for now, then he talked about water and O2 availability along with other resources on Ceres, the use of a Homan Transfer orbit resulting in an approximate 15 month trip to Ceres and even the use of a space elevator at Ceres. He also said radiation would be a problem but listen to how he addressed it.
We talked about alternative settlement locations including Mars, Martian moons, Venus, and may additional NEO's. Going back to Ceres, Pekka talked extensively and in detail about how Ceres would be a good location for the use of the space elevator. He made a strong case for the space elevator for this orbital space settlement. Let us know what you think about the idea by posting on our blog.
Later in the first segment I asked our guest about the market or economic demand for an orbiting space settlement around Ceres. Pekka said he had not yet gotten to the business case but listen all of what he had to say regarding the economics of such a settlement. One thing for sure, our guest pointed out the low gravity at other surface locations, including the Moon and Mars, and that humans needed 1 g. The orbiting settlement would provide 1 g and he said again that Ceres has essential resources for building out the settlement once it got started with Earth support. Achieving Earth independence at Ceres was possible due to Ceres resources and the use of the space elevator.
Doug sent in a note asking about the TRL for his concept plus he wanted to compare Pekka's concept with what Musk wants to do regarding Martian settlements. Don't miss what our guest said in response to Doug's question. Pekka then suggested a possible 15 year timeline for his Ceres project. Another listener sent our guest a question asking why we even needed an Earth like settlement in space. Don't miss how our guest answered this question.
Another question I asked our guest dealt with the enforcement of Art. 9 of the OST, Planetary Protection, possible challenges for Mars and Musk, then I asked about this regarding Ceres. Our guest said there was no mythological baggage for Ceres as there was for Mars. This was quite the discussion. As you will hear, Pekka clearly sees planetary protection and possibly science obstacles to humans on Mars though he favors humans being able to go to Mars. He did not see similar obstacles with Ceres.
We started the second segment by asking Pekka about settlement 50 miles up in the atmosphere of Venus plus the LEO equatorial low radiation orbit touted by Al Globus. Our guest was familiar with both, has been in touch with Al and had much to say about both alternatives to his proposal. He did say that he thought the LEO equatorial orbits might be a good training ground location for humans living in space settlements. Another listener suggested this concept was made to order for Jeff Bezos. The subject of settlement economics came up again.
Pekka repeated mentioning a 15 month Earth-Ceres launch window. I asked him about the feedback he has received on his paper and he said it was all positive. Listen to all of our discussion regarding the feedback issue. Ben was next up with an email asking if private sector companies could do what he was proposing. Pekka did say it was plausible but early on government funding would likely be important. In response to another question, he said a settlement like he was proposing in orbit around Ceres was equally as challenging as a Martian settlement. I asked questions about his next step, how he intended to promote the concept, and what might follow. Alan from Dallas asked if he had any feedback on his idea from NASA. He said no to the NASA question. Our guest then offered concluding comments.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Janhunen regarding his megasatellite settlement in orbit around Ceres on our blog. You can reach our guest through me or with his email address on the title page of his paper.