How to Settle the Solar System

Space is marvelous but hostile. If humans intend to be spacefaring, we must identify and overcome major obstacles before colonizing our solar system. Some think asteroid mining may be a launching pad towards expansion. Others think we ought to terraform Mars is to make humanity’s second home. We asked Carl L. DeVito, an associate professor emeritus at the University of Arizona who writes extensively on the mathematics of space exploration, for his thoughts on the subject.

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Where is the most suitable place for human settlement in the solar system?

I think we will construct an astronomical facility on the “dark side” of the Moon. This will most likely be automated but some provision for visiting astronomers will have to be made.

What are the difficulties of colonizing other planets in the solar system?

The conditions on the rocky planets are too harsh for human habitation in the foreseeable future. Mercury has extreme temperatures and no atmosphere. The pressure of Venus is about 90 times what it is here, and the temperature there is about 480 degrees Celsius. Mars is cold and dry and has only a tenuous atmosphere. There is no way we can make a colony there self-sustaining.

What is the prospect for humans expanding into the solar system?

I think human expansion will take place but not by colonizing the other planets. I expect that we will begin by mining the asteroid belt for commercial purposes. To do that, we will need to build a space habitat for the miners. The international space station has given us experience in building habitats in space. If the mining proves successful, we will build more elaborate, eventually self-sustaining, habitats. I think this is how we will move off planet.