Place: Solar System. High orbit of the planet Earth. The orbital settlement, the number of personnel is 25 thousand people, is controlled autonomously by the governor, has no subordination to other states, is registered in the UN as a supranational extraterrestrial entity.
Perhaps when you read a similar description, images of extraterrestrial colonies formed by cinema appear before your eyes. These are some outposts of human civilization, constantly reflecting attacks of cockroach-like aliens, people inhabiting the colonies, it is completely armed to the teeth of the military in latex uniform and galactic chevrons. Solid heroism and self-sacrifice on exoplanets of little use for human stay and traveling on combat battleships, bristling with laser guns and annihilators. Not the most inspiring image of the future!
And what if the images drawn by science fiction writers are far from reality and the development of mankind will take a completely different path? You could suggest that you dream up on this topic, but existing projects and developments in the space industry clearly show the way in which a person will leave his “cradle”, as KE Tsiolkovsky put it. And in this near future, there are alien colonies and orbital settlements. But their functions, as you might guess, are not at all military. Research, experiments, the development of space industries and the repatriation of technologies and products to the Earth – this is a common logical chain of development of human presence outside the Earth.
What do we know about orbital settlements and planetary colonies? In the near future, the lunar colonies of Russia, the USA, China, Japan and ESA (European Space Agency) will be built and will begin to function on the horizon for 10–20 years, and construction of large high-orbit international stations with the ability to live and work on them from a few hundred to several thousand people. What are the main objectives of these objects? Well, apart from traditional disciplines such as astrophysics? The main idea of the development of extraterrestrial settlements is the development of new space technologies that are impossible on Earth due to gravity and the atmosphere. These two giventies, which are extremely important for life on the planet, paradoxical as it may sound, are certain inhibiting factors for the technological revolution.
What space can help in this case? Let’s look at just a couple of examples of how space will have a decisive impact on technological progress and how solutions obtained outside the Earth will return to our planet and change the quality of life of each of us. So let’s start with breakthrough biotechnology.
Aggressive environmental conditions in space (weightlessness, for example) have a strong effect on terrestrial plants and simple life forms, such as bacteria, protozoa, flat worms, etc. Scientists have found that because of their short life cycle and active adaptation, these life forms can, in a very short time, start producing substances unusual for them on Earth. In the experiments on the ISS, some new substances developed by plants have been identified that have unique properties and can be used to make substances of drugs. But the capabilities of the ISS are extremely limited, as we know, therefore, the rapid development of biotechnology can be expected only on large-scale space objects equipped with large laboratory and production complexes.
The beneficial properties of the substances described above can be modified and enhanced by genetic engineering. The created hybrid organisms, or chimeras, will produce in orbit in industrial quantities the compounds, which can immediately be used to produce substances and, possibly, finished dosage forms. The purpose of such developments is the desire to defeat such terrible ailments as malignant tumors, diseases of the cardiovascular system, AIDS, the consequences of injuries and wounds and so on.
Another strategic goal of biotech and space medicine will be research aimed at increasing the duration of human life. Already now, it has been proven that weightlessness has a surprising effect on a special protein (telomere), which holds together the ends of human chromosomes and does not allow them to “unwind”. It is the unwinding of chromosomes that occurs during the aging of the organism. Also, weightlessness interferes with the process of the so-called “methylation” of chromosomes, which also leads to wear and tear on the body. A small decrease in the activity of the so-called catabolic hormones, in particular, of the thyroid hormone, which speeds up the metabolic processes in the body and “speeds up life”, has also been revealed. It is necessary to isolate this beneficial effect, isolate it from the negative effects of weightlessness, and transform it into a technology for increasing life expectancy. We are now at the very beginning of such research. It is precisely the orbital settlements that will be able to create the conditions for systematic and successful work in such important areas of medicine.
Surely you’ve heard of space mining. This is mining of minerals on asteroids and other planets with the help of special robotic complexes. Cosmos is an endless source of elements and compounds, the stock of which on Earth is extremely limited and finite. This explains the extreme high cost of rare metals such as California, rhodium or tantalum, for example. These elements are incredibly in demand in modern microelectronics or medicine, but their use is limited by the above factors. And what if space mining can solve the problem of the availability of rare elements? This will make it possible to completely change the entire existing structure of production, consumption and prices for raw materials and products from these elements. Revolutionary changes will affect the availability of everything that will be made from space metals, for example,
Another example is the extraction of the helium isotope, which is abundant on the moon and its use in terrestrial nuclear energy. Delivery to Earth of this fuel, which can provide almost perpetual power generation, will completely change the ecological landscape on Earth. Humanity will be able to abandon thermal power, which is the main pollutant of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. And each person will get access to cheap and environmentally friendly electricity and significantly reduce the cost of it.
In this short review it is impossible to touch on all aspects of the future associated with the development of technology in extraterrestrial settlements. But already today it is obvious that mankind intends to take its first decisive step into deep space and use its unique capabilities to fundamentally change its life. This is the beginning of the quantum transition to a qualitatively new stage in the development of our civilization!
Space views and mental travels
Surely, many of us have seen reports from the ISS, where international crews are in fairly close “interiors”, play tennis on three square meters of the mess-room and move along narrow corridors of research compartments. The working and living conditions of cosmonauts cannot be called comfortable, they are more than spartan. And what about the first orbital stations when space ergonomics were just beginning to think and Balasheva sketched the first space interiors?
Large orbital settlements, or orbital cities, alien colonies, designed for several thousand people, naturally, create conditions for their inhabitants, like the earth. Artificial gravity in orbit (where it is needed), spacious residential, public and laboratory-production spaces create all the conditions for productive work and good rest. The conditions of stay will be as close to earthly as possible to reduce the stressful effect of space factors and the limited area of the station, despite its enormous size.
Such objects, of course, will be created for research and production activities and stay on them is not associated with entertainment purposes (for this purpose, orbital hotels are created for space tourists). Therefore, it is important to understand how the practical activities of the population of such cities and colonies will take shape.
The level of automation and robotization of routine processes in such settlements will be very high. By themselves, orbital cities and alien colonies are by default the pioneers of technology and are at the forefront of progress. Therefore, they will use the most modern and innovative means of automation, which will be further improved in space laboratories. This is what will allow people to free up their time and energy for more productive intellectual work and creative thinking. Improving mental processes, memory and the development of the superpowers of all crew members or colonies are tasks of full-time social engineers. The basis of such processes was the recently proven property of the human brain – neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to develop and recover from injuries in an adult state. Earlier it was claimed that after the end of growth the brain only degrades and the nervous tissue is not capable of regeneration. It is neuroplasticity that will become the basis for the development of supernormal abilities of each crew member or colonist. Also, the work of a social engineer is the selection of the most appropriate task for each person in accordance with the identified and developed abilities within the global mission of an orbital settlement or an alien colony. Individual self-improvement processes will be inextricably linked with new education. It is planned to create an Orbital University, where people will not only study completely new specialties and sciences,
The development of superpowers will allow in the near future to get a whole generation of people with superpowers. Unlike the heroes of the Marvel universe, superheroes of the future will be able to make mental journeys by the power of the intellect, without leaving the orbital city body, communicate with the information structures of the cosmos and receive whole layers of information previously hidden from man. The development of such abilities will allow the formation of techniques that can be applied on Earth and will be available to everyone.
Currently under development to create a neural interface – a kind of hybrid of man and computer. We are talking about implanting electronic transforming devices into the human brain, with the help of which, for example, paralyzed people are able to perform movements by electronic-mechanical prostheses, imagining them mentally. But, at the same time, there are also methods of controlling living organisms through neurointerfaces. Such experiments have already been carried out in the 20th century. Some companies have planned for the coming years the release of microchips for implantation into the brain of healthy people to improve memory, speed and possible telepathic communication with each other. So, there is a danger of direct penetration into the human brain with the purpose of controlling it, instilling certain thoughts and ideas, imposing consumption of certain goods and services.
The theory of neuroplasticity, underlying the mental development of man in space, proves the need to use human internal resources without interfering with microelectronics in the structure of the brain. Risks when creating neural interfaces exceed their effectiveness. It is also clear that it is enough to remove the chip or turn off the controlling computer, as the skill or ability will be lost, since they are not organically developed and consolidated. In the language of science fiction, such cyborg can become an obedient and comfortable living weapon in the hands of unscrupulous people or corporations.
That is why, on board the orbital cities and in space colonies, the role of self-development is so great by creating the most comfortable conditions for this, and this is what social engineering of the future does.