I have always dreamt of being an astronaut travelling through space. I have read a good number of books on space and our universe. The other day my uncle gifted me a set of books on the universe and several aspects of becoming an astronaut. It was a holiday and I read about outer space the whole day and imagined myself thrusting through space. I felt really great thinking of my becoming an astronaut and propelling through space. That night as I fell asleep I had the most wonderful chance ever - travelling through space as an astronaut!
I found myself at the space research centre. I was asked to go for a training session by an officer where I was dressed as an astronaut and had to listen to a whole lot of instructions. The officer then led me to a place where there was a huge rocket. I was amazed at its gigantic size. I was then asked to enter the cockpit along with the rest of the crew. I soon realized that I was the captain of the spaceship. In a moment the final countdown began and soon the rocket jet propelled into the air towards outer space. I was on an expedition to the Mars.
Soon the rocket left the earth's atmosphere and I was feeling light as ever. I realized that there was less gravity than on the earth. It was a great experience to find myself floating in the air. But the conditions inside the shuttle were so adjusted that we could ground ourselves at will. It was a magnificent sight to view our planet earth from space. The earth looked blue because of three-fourth being water. As we moved on we could see the moon that looked like a planet itself, but reflected the light of the sun. We kept moving ahead and could see many stars located very far from us. I was already some light years away. As we moved on I could see several other galaxies at a distance. I wondered if life existed on those planets. I also saw some meteors pass us by. The Asteroid belt could be seen from a distance as well. Soon I saw our shuttle reaching the planet Mars. It was 'red' just as I had studied in the books and it was beyond description. I did not have the words to express it. The space shuttle was about to land and my attention focused on the surface of the Mars. There was some kind of a storm on the planet. I was wondering whether I would meet the first speck of life on Mars…. when suddenly I heard someone reminding me - It's time to wake up, time to get ready for school!
Well! That was the end of my exciting sojourn. For a moment I thought I had already become an astronaut flying in space. That journey into space in my dream will always be memorable.
© Arked Infotech 2015
The starship Enterprise has got to be one of the most beautiful fictional spacecraft ever created. But imagine beaming aboard (and I bet many BBC Future readers have) and living there. At first the pristine corridors, groovy minimalist furniture, view screens and food replicators would seem impossibly exciting.
However, after a few months, I suspect the sterile interior with its lack of pictures, plants and human clutter would begin to get you down. What starts out resembling a futuristic utopia, soon feels like being trapped in Ikea on a wet Sunday afternoon. What they never show you on TV are the long queues for the holodecks to escape from the unrelenting neatness and cleanliness of it all.
While the Federation may be a few years in the future, long duration spaceflight is already a reality. People routinely spend six months in space at a time and, next year, two astronauts are set for a year-long mission to the International Space Station (ISS). When they get there, they will find the interior decor also leaves a lot to be desired, packed as it is with consoles, wires, ducts and equipment.
View image of (Nasa) (Credit: Nasa)
“The inside of the ISS is incredibly sterile,” says Rachel Armstrong, newly appointed professor of experimental architecture at Newcastle University in northeast England. “It’s like living inside a plastic box.”
Armstrong is an advocate of making our habitats beyond the Earth – space stations, craft, colonies and starships – much more like our existing giant starship, the Earth. “For us to go beyond mere survival and spend any time in space, we have to learn how to thrive beyond our home planet,” says Armstrong, “and that means thinking of our habitats ecologically.”
But this is about much more than having a few pot plants around the place or a few lettuce leaves growing in a sealed incubator. Her point is that on Earth we rely on a delicate and balanced ecosystem to support us. This includes the billions of bacteria that line our gut to help us digest food, the plants we eat and the trees that supply us with oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide; functions that need to be artificially sustained in space.
“Other than jumping off the Enterprise to visit a lush planet to pick up some resources, there is no notion of biodiversity or ecology in Star Trek,” says Armstrong. “The idea that we’re going to spend any amount of time in space without any ecological fabric that will promote our survival, it’s a very challenging concept.”
View image of (Rachel Armstrong) (Credit: Rachel Armstrong)
Ultimately Armstrong imagines giant floating biomes drifting through the cosmos. Self-sustaining organic spaceships with fields, lakes and mountains, similar to ones I’ve written about before in this column. However, so far any attempts to create large-scale successful closed biological systems on Earth have failed.
To cut a long, and somewhat depressing story, short the most ambitious – the Biosphere 2 project, a giant greenhouse complex in the Arizona Desert – ended when oxygen levels dropped, pest species such as cockroaches proliferated and the “crew” fell out with each other. This is why Armstrong differs from many starship dreamers in her desire to start small, to see these ideas implemented in stages.
Take one of the most complex systems on the ISS, for instance, the toilet and urine processing system. This $250m device makes boldly going a costly undertaking, using a technologically advanced filtration system to recycle human waste into drinking water.
The same process happens on Earth for a lot less money. When we drink tap water – particularly in urban areas – there is a good chance it has already passed through several other people before us. Most of the “cleaning” of that water has been carried out by bacteria or plants in the natural environment – such as a river – or by cultures of bacteria in sewage treatment works. Armstrong advocates a similar adoption of biological systems in space.
View image of (Project Persephone) (Credit: Project Persephone)
“If we start to think about the processes that take place in a spaceship interior, then we can start to design differently,” she says. “It could be a colony of bacteria, a bit like we have in a sewage farm, fitted to the ISS to convert waste into useable products.”
These would have the additional benefit of making the space station a more attractive place to live. “We can imagine these being bubbling, flowing, tubes or tanks that are situated around the wall spaces,” says Armstrong. “Already this is starting to be a visually interesting environment – creating an aesthetic experience that makes us feel good.”
‘Life and machines’
Water is also an excellent radiation shield and, as an added benefit, these bubbling tubes could be used to protect astronauts from dangerous cosmic rays or solar storms. Armstrong also envisages growing tanks of algae – fed with sewage and sunlight – that could be harvested for food.
Even if they never get fitted to a space station, these are concepts that potential Mars or Moon colonists will need to think about. If humans have any chance of sustaining civilisation beyond a generation on another world, without constant supplies from Earth, then they will need to develop organic systems that work in extraterrestrial environments.
View image of (Colin Marquardt/Wikipedia) (Credit: Colin Marquardt/Wikipedia)
“By working together with life and machines,” says Armstrong, “we’ll get a much better insight into the systems we need to establish for us to live beyond the Earth.”
So when, in 2151, the real starship Enterprise sets out on its maiden voyage, its interior may look very different to how we imagine it today. Instead of featureless corridors, they might be lined with bubbling tubes of algae. There will be grass, instead of carpet, on the floor and trees will grow on the bridge. Just watch for falling branches when the Klingons attack.
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