Engineers from the University of Colorado Boulder are collaborating with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for another project that will make humans a "better space-faring species."
According to Denver Post, this will be a robotic space station as big as a camper van that will park on an asteroid to become the latest outpost for interplanetary exploration of humankind.
Why Build an Asteroid Outpost?
The team plans to launch the space station in 2028 when Venus and Earth align, as it will require momentum by going around Venus and reach the asteroid that is about 350 million miles away. They hope to uncover the beginnings of the Solar System and where water could be present to allow future interplanetary travel.
CU engineer and program manager Pete Withnell said that water enables life for humans, but its presence on the Moon, Mars, or any planet in the Solar System could also enable future human exploration in space beyond Earth.
He added that any scientific understanding that humankind could have regarding its environment, including the Solar System, will make humans a better space-faring species as it will allow humans to leave the planet someday when Earth becomes a hostile place to live.
But as of now, what the cube will be measuring on the asteroid is not yet fully set. The team said that it would be loaded with antennae, sensors, solar panels, and infrared technology that will be used to analyze the rock and measure the temperatures of the asteroid.
UAE Space Agency chair Sarah Al-Amiri said that they hope their joint project with the engineers from CU will help create a private sector in space science. This is not the first time that engineers from both parties have also collaborated in designing UAE's Amal (Hope) Mars spacecraft that was launched in February 2021.
Setting Up an Outpost in an Asteroid
Setting up a space station on an asteroid is not an easy feat. As Science Alert reported in 2019, it will take a lot of preparation, like making sure that the asteroid where humans plan to set up an outpost is not in any danger of splitting apart. If it is indeed a stable and hard asteroid, then building a space station might be possible.
That would also mean that it would involve asteroid mining since there is a good chance that these rocks and other Near-Earth Objects could give resources that humans could use in their interplanetary exploration instead of relying solely on the resources of Earth.
The asteroid would need to be carefully monitored as it is mined in case its rotation would affect the space station and put it in danger of falling apart.
"If we find an asteroid that's stable enough, we might not need these aluminum walls or anything, you might just be able to use the entire asteroid as a space station," Thomas Maindl from the University of Vienna told New Scientist.
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