LIFE IN SPACE – 2
We haven’t conquered space. Not yet. We have sent some 20 men on camping trips to the moon, and the USA and the Soviet Union have sent people to spend restricted lives orbiting. Earth. Several trips have been made into space to show that ordinary (non- astronaut) scientists can live and work in space – for a few days only. 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. It is only in fiction, and in space movies, that people spend long periods living more or less normally deep in space. But in about a decade – say, by the year 2010 – this may have changed. There could be settlements in space where adventurers would lead normal lives.
The idea of a space settlement seems like science fiction – but it is not. It is based on plans produced by efficient people: engineers and scientists, headed by Gerard O’Neill of Princeton University. These people are keen on space research, of course, but they are not dreamers. The settlement is a large wheel, a tube more than 400 ft in diameter bent into a ring.
The wheel spins gently once a minute. It is this gentle circular movement that makes this settlement different from the space shuttles, because the spin produces a force that feels like gravity. Every space trip has shown that the human body needs gravity if it is to continue functioning normally. 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 weightlessly around.
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 one place on the moon has 14 days of sunlight followed by 14 of night, which makes agriculture impossible and means solar energy cannot be used. In the settlement, which floats in permanent sunlight, the day-length is controlled by a huge mirror about a mile in diameter. This mirror floats weightlessly above the ring of the settlement.
The sunlight is constant during the ‘daytime’, so farming is far more productive than it can be on Earth. The aim is to provide a diet similar to that on Earth, but with less ‘fresh meat. The farms will be arranged in layers with fish ponds and rice paddies on the top layer; wheat below; vegetables, soya, and maize on the lower layers. The population of the settlement is fixed at about 10,000 people.
In this way, farm output can be accurately planned: about 64 square metres of vegetables, fruits and grains will be needed for each person, and just over five square metres of grass land. The place where the people live won’t look very different from modern small towns on Earth, and this is deliberate. Science fiction films show only huge glass tower blocks, but real-life space settlers won’t want these.
Throughout history, settlers have tried to put up buildings like the 5ones they left behind, because these are familiar. Space settlers will do the same. And where would the settlement be? “At L5, of course,” say the experts. This reference describes a point on the moon’s orbit around Earth, equidistant from the 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 intend to settle in space have formed an L5 society. And the members are not at all impractical eccentrics.
A. Line 55, ‘the two bodies’ refers to .
B. Mark the best choice.
1. To spin (line 19) means to .
a) live in a wheel of over 400 ft in diameter
b) turn around a central point
c) be different from other space shuttles
d) produce a force similar to gravity
2. Lines 30-31, The moon is inhospitable’ means it is .
a) an ideal place for settlers
b) a location that already exists
c) unsuitable for a settlement
d) not easy to find its location
3. Line 43, ‘farm output’ is .
a) what is produced on a farm
b) an agricultural settlement area
c) accurate planning on a farm
d) the amount of grass land for each person