Looking to make a fresh start amongst the stars? Here are a few options and today we are counting down our picks for the Top 10 Places for New Human Colonies In Our Solar System. For this list, we’re looking at planets, moons and dwarf planets orbiting our sun that could potentially be colonized in the future.
Number 10: Mercury As the closest planet to the sun, colonizing Mercury would be complicated but not an insurmountable task. A big problem is that temperatures get up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and down to -290 degrees at night.
It’s been suggested that a Mercury colony could be a mobile one that slowly travels the globe, keeping itself in the transitional space of land caught between night and day known as the “twilight belt.”
Though continuously chasing the sun would be impossible on Earth, Mercury’s rotation takes about 58 days, meaning that the colony could move very slowly and still remain in the safe zone. In the twilight belt, Mercury’s daytime temperature drops to one more comparable to that of Earth.
Number 9: Uranus In the name of humanity’s future, let’s leave the butt jokes out of it. This overlooked ice giant might not rank highly on the list of planets we are anxious to colonize, but if we were to make the effort, a settlement on Uranus could yield substantial rewards.
The planet is rich in Helium-3, a rare substance on Earth that has been proposed as the ideal fuel for interplanetary travel. In Uranus’ atmosphere, the gravity is only 89% that of Earth’s. This has led experts to put forth the idea of floating mining facilities, suspended by hot air balloons or some other mechanism. For more permanent living arrangements, the moons of Uranus would serve well.
Number 8: Triton Speaking of moons, here is one with a lot of potentials. Triton is the largest of Neptune’s moons and the only surface around the planet that offers any sort of solid ground on which to set up a colony.
In terms of why we would want to live there, it shows signs of major geothermal activity and a possible subsurface ocean likely composed of water or ammonia. It’s the coldest body in our solar system, but between the combined resources offered by both it and Neptune, heating wouldn’t be an issue.
There is some concern about the nitrogen geysers that dot the moon’s surface, but hey, no one said that colonization would be easy.
Number 7: Callisto Ice giants like Uranus and Neptune and gas giants like Jupiter are difficult to colonize directly. Whereas Uranus’ gravity allows for colonies suspended in the atmosphere, Jupiter’s unforgiving atmosphere, staggering winds and powerful gravity wells make that sort of approach impossible. Enter Callisto.
The fourth and furthest of the Galilean moons from Jupiter, it’s appealing because it is subject to the least radiation of its peers, like Ganymede. Add to that the presence of water ice and its overall geological stability and you can understand why it has been deemed humanity’s best home base for exploring the outer solar system.
NASA actually has a detailed outline for a theoretical manned mission to Callisto.
Number 6: Ceres/The Asteroid Belt The asteroid belt might sound like an unappealing place to call home, but give it a chance -it might just make you rich! It offers mining possibilities that are honestly hard to quantify in the monetary sense – the word “quintillions” tends to get thrown around though.
Humanity could set up mining stations on any number of larger asteroids, but Ceres, a dwarf planet located within the asteroid belt is the obvious choice. The water ice present is more than adequate to support a sizable colony. Ceres’ small size largely rules out terraforming and artificial gravity would likely be necessary, as would a solution for radiation. Still, it’s very much within the realm of possibility.
Number 5: Venus is a very interesting candidate for colonization in that it is both blessed with appealing features and burdened by some incredibly harsh ones. Venus is similar to earth in size and, by extension, has comparable gravity.
Unfortunately, the planet’s surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead. It’s also frequently subjected to sulfuric acid rain and home to numerous volcanoes. As such, it’s been suggested that Venus be colonized not on its surface. Instead, humans could establish floating habitats in the Venerian atmosphere, an environment that has been described as “paradise.”
This isn’t the only option though. One strategy involves the construction of an artificial mountain, but arguably the most appealing option is terraforming the planet.
Number 4: Europa Though it might not be as practical as its neighbour Callisto, the smallest of the Galilean moons is without a doubt one of the most exciting bodies in our solar system. Europa has fascinated the scientific community due to the presumed presence of a liquid water ocean.
The surface of the moon is covered in water ice, which is more than enough to support a colony of any size that we could reasonably build. Of all the bodies in our solar system, Europa’s ocean has arguably inspired the greatest hope for finding extra-terrestrial life; and the best way to find it is with a permanent research settlement. Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, is similarly enticing.
Number 3: Titan Second only to Ganymede in terms of size, Titan offers a lot in terms of potential for colonization. Unlike earth’s Moon, Titan boasts a significant atmosphere, making it one of the few entries on our list today that has a built-in solution for the ever-present issue of radiation.
Unfortunately, the outlook is less positive in terms of gravity and proximity to Earth. That being said, its presumed methane lakes offer up a bountiful energy source, which would go a long way in terms of heating and oxygen production.
Fun fact: that low gravity paired with high atmospheric density would enable human flight with a simple set of wings.
Number 2: The Moon We have discussed a number of moons, but as far as Earth is concerned, there’s only one. Here’s why Earth’s natural satellite is such a candidate for our first off-Earth colony. First, it can be travelled to in a matter of days. Proximity to the sun covers energy needs.
Water ice has been found at the poles, so we have got that covered. That just leaves the lack of atmosphere and the accompanying problems of radiation, lack of breathable air and the frequency of small meteorites. But numerous functioning models have actually been presented. Really… we just need someone to foot the bill and to figure out the long-term impacts on human health.
Number 1: Mars With Earth’s Moon literally at our doorstep relative to other bodies in our solar system, why would we choose to fixate on Mars? Well, to put it simply, it presents certain opportunities that the Moon does not. The Martian atmosphere, though far from perfect, is a much better foundation for terraforming and it already provides far better protection from radiation and meteors than the Moon’s.
The planet’s size also gives it a closer gravity to earth’s own, though the two are by no means the same. Arguably the strongest case for colonizing Mars over the Moon, however, is that as a distinct planet, it offers far more opportunity for significant scientific discovery.