Author Topic: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony  (Read 7490 times)

Online spacenut

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Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« on: 02/09/2016 04:42 PM »
I want to see what you guys think of an O'Neal type colony at L1 or even L2 to take advantage of the moon as well as earth's resources.  My idea would be a large rotating cylinder for 1g, maybe even 0.5g.  This could be used for space colonization, manufacturing, even food production for the colony to make it fully independent of Earth. 

It could be used for experiments in lower g or even zero g at it's center.  It could have manufacturing capabilities to capture moon regolith that could be launched using an electromagnetic rail system, then picked up by a tug to bring back to the colony.  It could initially be built from earth, with manufacturing capabilities to expand the station or build an identical one nearby.  It could be used as a drop off station for people traveling to and from Mars, and to and from earth. 

What do you guys think? 
« Last Edit: 02/13/2016 10:44 PM by Chris Bergin »


Online spacenut

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #2 on: 02/09/2016 05:15 PM »
Yes, that would be a start.  My thinking would be a much larger space city or colony with artificial gravity.  It could manufacture lox made from moon regolith, ball bearings in zero g, or crystals in zero g.  It could grow it's own food.  It could trade goods made from lunar regolith with travelers going from earth to Mars, etc. 

Anyway, like this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O%27Neill_cylinder


Offline whitelancer64

Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #3 on: 02/09/2016 05:18 PM »
The problem is the cost to build it in the first place. Where's the ROI?
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Offline IRobot

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #4 on: 02/09/2016 05:32 PM »
AFAIK, the O'Neill cylinder had some center of mass stability issues/or complex rotational components could arise and a torus shape was therefore more advisable, although I can't find a good reference for that comparison at the moment.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #5 on: 02/09/2016 05:41 PM »
AFAIK, the O'Neill cylinder had some center of mass stability issues/or complex rotational components could arise and a torus shape was therefore more advisable, although I can't find a good reference for that comparison at the moment.

Here is an article about that effect:

Watch: WTF is going on with this object spinning in zero gravity? - ScienceAlert
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online spacenut

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #6 on: 02/09/2016 06:09 PM »
whitelancer64, the same could be said for Musk's Mars Colony idea.  It could or maybe cost even less than a Mars colony.  It would be close to home in case of a medical or other emergency.  If at L1 it would have some protection from asteroid impact from the moon.  It could even be built in LEO, but at a gateway it might be more beneficial. 

The O'Neal cylinder doesn't have to be designed like a T handle.  It could be a sphere or even a large flywheel.  Then there are always correction thrusters. 

Some reasons I think something like this could or should be built:

1) Test variable gravity conditions on the human body, plants and animals.
2) Fuel depot
3) Zero G manufacturing
4) Transfer station for those going to/from earth, moon, Mars or other locations. 

And, if designed properly and large enough, self sustainable like a Martian colony. 

It could be built using SLS, BFR, or even FH with Raptor upper stage but more slowly.  It also might be more appealing for governmental funding that Mars and less expensive. 
« Last Edit: 02/09/2016 06:22 PM by spacenut »

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #7 on: 02/09/2016 06:29 PM »
whitelancer64, the same could be said for Musk's Mars Colony idea.  It could or maybe cost even less than a Mars colony.

You aren't justifying the ROI by saying "it will cost less than something else we don't know the cost for...".

And for SpaceX, their fundraising has a very specific goal - to make humanity multi-planetary.  Now maybe they won't find enough interest to sustain that effort, or maybe they will.  Entirely unknown at this point.  But they have a very simple goal that has an easy to understand ROI.

But for this proposal, an O'Neal colony here in local space, you still need to find a funding source.  And to find funding, you need to have some sort of ROI so investors understand where their money is going and how to measure success.

Quote
It would be close to home in case of a medical or other emergency.

Isn't the goal to NOT have to leave the O'Neal colony?  That everything you need to live your life will be there, including medical facilities?

Quote
If at L1 it would have some protection from asteroid impact from the moon.  It could even be built in LEO, but at a gateway it might be more beneficial.

I've spent some brain cycles thinking about how to build a rotating space station, and it's pretty obvious to me that it's a massive effort.  And one that will only happen if/when the cost to move mass to space drops dramatically.  I think we have the materials to build such a structure in space, but it's going to be costly.  And I'm not sure I could come up with a good enough ROI to justify such an effort, even though I would love to see it happen.  Maybe it's a chicken n' egg situation...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online spacenut

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #8 on: 02/09/2016 06:33 PM »
Yes, and I was also thinking a rotating spaceship for deep space travel say to Ceres, the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, or further.  Rotating gravity and self sufficiency might be necessary for long distance space travel, unless we get warp drive.  Again, L1 might be the best place even to build it, starting with the rotating gravity station/city, then adding propulsion and nuclear power for deep space travel.   

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #9 on: 02/09/2016 08:10 PM »
I want to see what you guys think of an O'Neal type colony at L1 or even L2 to take advantage of the moon as well as earth's resources.  My idea would be a large rotating cylinder for 1g, maybe even 0.5g.  This could be used for space colonization, manufacturing, even food production for the colony to make it fully independent of Earth. 

It could be used for experiments in lower g or even zero g at it's center.  It could have manufacturing capabilities to capture moon regolith that could be launched using an electromagnetic rail system, then picked up by a tug to bring back to the colony.  It could initially be built from earth, with manufacturing capabilities to expand the station or build an identical one nearby.  It could be used as a drop off station for people traveling to and from Mars, and to and from earth. 

What do you guys think? 

Honestly it will take a very robust and extensive space infrastructure to accomplish this. Everyone was well aware of this during the '70s and much discussion was undertaken on how to finance and support this space infrastructure. The consensus ended up being there wasn't any "killer ap" that lent itself to building either the infrastructure or the colonies. There was no actual business case, (Space Solar power was assumed but never really managed to reach a point where it was sustainable) for the infrastructure and even less of one to "justify" building the colonies and even the advocates eventually admitted that there was no clear cut "case" for building such colonies with the technology and knowledge we had. (SPS was admitted to be a tagged on "justification" by O'Neil since the entire focus of the study at the time was the colonies themselves)

This hasn't really changed much but the original argument of going from one gravity well to another to "live" still makes sense. NO place in the Solar System other than Earth is really amiable to colonization, and every place has drawbacks and conditions that are going to require extensive and expensive systems to maintain human life. In the end the "choices" end up being how much infrastructure can you afford to build and maintain and where is the "best" place to build that infrastructure?

All arguments on the exact details aside, (come on you folks can do it :) ) engineering a habitat where you can control ALL the variables is the most efficient system even though its also the most expensive to build. From that point you're simply arguing details on easing the engineering and financing situation, but THE basic fact is you HAVE to have a robust and extensive "space" based infrastructure system to build "space colonies" where as the system requirements go 'down' as you settle for less and less control of the variables.

Truth be told, we "L5-ers" are to blame about a great many misconceptions and assumptions about "space colonies" which were known, but down-played at the time to generate more "appeal" for the concept. The whole "O'Neil" cylinder concept was known to be flawed as O'Neil and his students found numerous issues during the study that were never resolved. To correct these problems the designs went through the Bernal Sphere to the Stanford Torus but eventually everyone pretty much ignored the flaws and "assumed" a way would be found to engineer the structure somehow.

Once you move away from the 'great-indoors' assumptions, (which still plague off-Earth colony design I will note :) ) and towards more pragmatic concepts things get easier and somewhat less costly to design. (The "great-indoors" is the idea that people will go nuts really fast if they realize they are "inside" all the time which is debatable in and of itself but mostly not true as long as you properly design the indoor space to be "people" friendly and keep it "warm and inviting" rather than "sterile and mechanical") One suggestion was using TransHab/Bigelow modules for individual "living space" with each being placed in an overall structure that contained and supported them and tied them into various power and life support systems. Having some sections of the structure and some modules configured for various tasks allowed the colony to be less "ISS" like while avoiding the mega-engineering requirements. It's not the "great-indoors" but then again it doesn't need to be either.

Justification and financing are tricky, much more tricky. As noted the original concept used a tacked-on justification of Space Solar Power which was a very "70s" thing due to the energy crisis but in reality wasn't actually considered "viable" by folks who ran the numbers. In the end it came down to costs and efficiency. While it was "more efficient" to build SPS (and therefore the colonies) with non-Earth based resources a more detailed study would show that IF one assumed the costs-to-LEO had dropped (which is the only way to make the required infrastructure affordable) then the cost of Earth based resources dropped significantly as well.

In other words to get the required infrastructure in place to build the colonies (and/or SPS) then the cost-to-orbit per pound had to drop significantly enough to actually make it LESS (not more) likely extensive off-Earth infrastructure (such as space colonies) and resources would be as cost effective.

But then again it's NOT about "cost-effectiveness" and ROI either because NONE of them work out to be viable, not Mars, not the Moon and not "Space Colonies" either. It's pretty much always been about getting people off-Earth and moving them (and resources) around in space with a financial function tacked-on "since we're there" anyway.

A killer ap, or guaranteed ROI source would be nice and I don't expect anyone to stop looking for one but, really, its about getting people off-Earth and building an off-Earth transportation and support infrastructure because IT is required for everything else but not something that has an obvious and clearly visible utility from "our" point of view.

Chicken and Egg indeed :)

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Offline sdsds

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #10 on: 02/09/2016 08:16 PM »
L1 might be the best place even to build it

Yes it might. Or it might turn out that equatorial LEO was the best place for it. Before someone seriously got started on either, they would have to perform a trade study showing why their location was "best." Because the difference between LEO and EML-1 does make a difference. And even the difference between EML-1 and a lunar DRO makes a difference, etc.
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Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #11 on: 02/09/2016 08:30 PM »
What has more mass? Everything launched to orbit to date, or one O'Neal colony.

We are just not there yet...
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Offline sdsds

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #12 on: 02/09/2016 08:45 PM »
What has more mass? Everything launched to orbit to date, or one O'Neal colony.

Yes, and what's really daunting is the realization of how little has been launched to orbit from the surface of the Moon! If the construction materials have to be sent from Earth getting anything like an O'Neill colony in the lunar vicinity looks really difficult.
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #13 on: 02/09/2016 09:03 PM »
Let's say you can throw 200 tons to Mars transfer orbit (Δv 4.3 km/s) ala BFR/BFS. You can throw more to L4/L5 (Δv 4.1 km/s) and even more to L1 (Δv 3.77 km/s) or L2 (Δv 3.43 km/s). The best estimate of the mass of an O'Neill Colony is "millions of tons" which certainly sounds daunting. You're looking at about 5000 launches. At one launch per week that'll be 96 years of construction. You'll need a fleet of vehicles to get it done in a more reasonable timespan (say, a decade) and obviously reusability is imperative.
« Last Edit: 02/09/2016 09:14 PM by QuantumG »
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Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #14 on: 02/09/2016 09:12 PM »
What has more mass? Everything launched to orbit to date, or one O'Neal colony.

We are just not there yet...

Again, who says it has to be an "O'Neil" colony? :)

Yes, and what's really daunting is the realization of how little has been launched to orbit from the surface of the Moon! If the construction materials have to be sent from Earth getting anything like an O'Neill colony in the lunar vicinity looks really difficult.

To be honest the main reason most work focused on "L" locations was the "fact" that the majority of all materials came from the Moon.

L1 might be the best place even to build it

Yes it might. Or it might turn out that equatorial LEO was the best place for it. Before someone seriously got started on either, they would have to perform a trade study showing why their location was "best." Because the difference between LEO and EML-1 does make a difference. And even the difference between EML-1 and a lunar DRO makes a difference, etc.

LEO or GEO were usually given little thought due to the whole "great-indoors" thing where giant mirrors would be used to bring "natural" sunlight inside, so if it was in LEO the "day/night" cycle would be impossible to work with. So obviously it can't be in LEO... Significantly circular logic :)

GEO was where you had your SPS (and parts for the colonies) construction shacks so to avoid debris problems you didn't want to clutter up GEO with colonies... Again, circular logic because your making basic assumptions that lock you into pre-determined outcomes.

The main difficulty with doing "trade" studies is what your expected outcomes are, but generally what happens is someone will "trade" based on one or more assumptions as to the eventual outcome and that drives what "trades" are better than others. On the gripping hand if you don't have any assumptions to start off with you pretty much end up finding that nothing comes out better in the trade :)

Randy
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
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Offline sdsds

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #15 on: 02/09/2016 09:23 PM »
The main difficulty with doing "trade" studies is what your expected outcomes are, but generally what happens is someone will "trade" based on one or more assumptions as to the eventual outcome and that drives what "trades" are better than others. On the gripping hand if you don't have any assumptions to start off with you pretty much end up finding that nothing comes out better in the trade :)

I think we're in total agreement here.

For me what a "successful" trade study really does is force into view the implicit assumptions in a proposed plan....
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Offline nadreck

Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #16 on: 02/09/2016 10:08 PM »
As has been pointed out the location of a space born settlement would be dictated by the activities carried out. Based on the size and activities, then you determine what resources you need. If tourism (including retirement community in the concept of tourism) is the major activity then a convenient LEO orbit accessible from where ever tourists launch from.

If you want a depot and spacecraft final assembly plant that gets the bulk if its input material from Earth then putting it in LEO also makes sense, however in this role the most massive input resource will be propellant (as it is a depot) and that suggests to me that going equatorial would have the most bang for the buck.

If you want a micro gravity manufacturing facility and its bedroom community then you probably want to got to high LEO where orbital decay is not an issue so that you don't have to interrupt micro gravity processes with regular reboosts, or if the input materials come from somewhere other than Earth, then maybe L1,2, 4 or 5 (and they might reduce the risk of collision with space debris).

In terms of using input materials for a depot or manufacturing facility that come from somewhere other than Earth then you need some facilities where the materials come from, as well as your space based settlement. Then you have to really examine why have two facilities and not just the one where the materials are.


It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline alexterrell

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #17 on: 02/09/2016 10:18 PM »
I want to see what you guys think of an O'Neal type colony at L1 or even L2 to take advantage of the moon as well as earth's resources.  My idea would be a large rotating cylinder for 1g, maybe even 0.5g.  This could be used for space colonization, manufacturing, even food production for the colony to make it fully independent of Earth. 

It could be used for experiments in lower g or even zero g at it's center.  It could have manufacturing capabilities to capture moon regolith that could be launched using an electromagnetic rail system, then picked up by a tug to bring back to the colony.  It could initially be built from earth, with manufacturing capabilities to expand the station or build an identical one nearby.  It could be used as a drop off station for people traveling to and from Mars, and to and from earth. 

What do you guys think? 

Recent research indicates that colonies outside of LEO, designed for long term habitation, need shielding levels of about 10 tons per m2. That means a 200m diameter colony is going to mass a bit under 2 million tons (inlcuding solar panel;s, manufacturing units etc), about 98% of which is shielding. That could have a complement of 2,000 people or so.

This is going to need a base on the moon to provide the resources. Hoiwever, an alternative is to build a similar structure inside a small asteroid. Two in particular make sense: Phobos and Diemos. All shielding is there in the form of regolith. In addition, you get to colonise Mars.


Offline Oli

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #18 on: 02/10/2016 12:00 AM »
However, an alternative is to build a similar structure inside a small asteroid.

I find that rather unpractical. First you have to dig a big enough hole to fit in a rotating station, then you must make sure the rotating station never ever comes in contact with the asteroid (or any rock that breaks loose), meaning you have to fix a non-rotating part to the asteroid somehow. There's also the question of how to get rid of the excess heat inside an asteroid.

« Last Edit: 02/10/2016 12:01 AM by Oli »

Online sanman

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Re: Alternative to Mars, an O'Neill colony
« Reply #19 on: 02/10/2016 12:56 AM »
Radiation seems to be the main problem - without it, then it might be very attractive to build out in space, away from gravity wells and their associated energy-barriers. At least planets provide better protection against radiation.

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