How to turn an asteroid into a space station: David Jensen’s detailed plan

We all know that the idea of turning an asteroid into a space habitation station has been around for a long time. However, this concept has always seemed distant in relation to modern technology, so it has not received the attention it deserves over time.

But if you’re retired and interested in exploring space habitation stations, developing a detailed plan to turn an asteroid into such a station could be a great way to spend your time.

And that’s exactly what David W. Jensen, a former technical staffer at Rockwell Collins. He has published a 65-page paper detailing an easy-to-understand, relatively inexpensive, and feasible plan to turn an asteroid into a space habitation station.

A full examination of the details of this article is beyond the scope of this article, but we can review the highlights. Dr. Jensen breaks the discussion down into three main categories – choosing an asteroid, choosing a style of habitation station, and mission strategy (i.e., which robots to use). Let’s look at each of these in order.

Asteroid selection focuses on which asteroid would be the best candidate for becoming a space habitation station. The selection takes into account factors such as the composition of the asteroid, its proximity to Earth (and “delta-V”, i.e., how much energy it takes to reach it), and its overall size.

After a relatively detailed selection process, Dr. Jensen chose one asteroid as a good candidate – Atira. This S-type asteroid has an entire class of asteroids named after it. Atira is about 4.8 km in diameter and even has its own moon, a 1 km diameter asteroid that closely orbits around it.

It was not the closest potential asteroid; its closest approach is about 80 times the distance to the moon. However, its orbit is stable in the “Goldilocks Zone” of our solar system, which will help stabilize the internal temperature of the future habitable station.

So what type of habitation station should it be? Dr. Jensen looked at four common types – “dumbbell,” sphere, cylinder, and torus. One of the most important considerations is gravity, or “artificial gravity” caused by centrifugal force. Dr. Jensen mentions the negative effects of living in low gravity for long periods of time, necessitating the use of some sort of artificial substitute.

But the station must be spinning to produce centrifugal force. Atira is already rotating slightly, but part of creating a space living station would be to rotate the asteroid itself at enough speed to accurately mimic the gravity that humans feel on Earth.

Dr. Jensen is also looking at many other considerations for choosing a specific type of station, including the forces it would exert on the material it would be made of (he suggests anhydride glass as a potential structural element), how much material would need to be on the outer shell to protect it from radiation and micrometeorites, and how much living space it would contain inside.

For the latter consideration, he suggests adding several floors to the structure, greatly increasing the total living space inside the station.

He eventually settled on a torus as the ideal type of living station, and then proceeded to calculate the total mass of the station, how to support the interior wall with massive columns, and how to distribute the floor area. All of this is important, but how exactly do we go about building such a massive behemoth?

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