China is reportedly investigating how to build a massive space craft up to 0.6 miles or about 1 kilometer long! The question now is if this is feasible and if so, what would be the use for this massive spacecraft?
National Natural Science Foundation of China
The project is reportedly part of a much wider call for research proposals from the official National Natural Science Foundation of China, a particular funding agency that is managed by China's Ministry of Science and Technology. A certain research outline posted on the official foundation's website described enormous spaceships as "major strategic aerospace equipment" for the future use of particular space resources, exploration of the universe's mysteries, and even long-term living in orbit.
According to the story by LiveScience, the foundation reportedly wants scientists to conduct research into certain new lightweight design methods which could reportedly limit the amount of construction material that would have to be lofted into orbit. This also includes new techniques for safely assembling these massive structures in space.
NASA on Massive Spacecraft
If funded, the feasibility study would reportedly run for a total of five years and have a $2.3 million budget. The project might actually sound like science fiction but Mason Peck, NASA chief technologist, noted that the idea isn't actually entirely off the wall. The challenge is also a question that is more of engineering than fundamental science. In other news, the FAA is now suspending Virgin Galactic after billionaire Richard Bronson's "dangerous" mission.
Peck is currently a professor of aerospace engineering at Cornell University and notably told LiveScience that the problem would be described not as insurmountable impediments but rather a problem that focuses more on the scale. The biggest challenge, according to Peck, would be the price task due to the massive cost of launching these objects and materials into space.
ISS in Comparison
The ISS, which is about 110 meters wide at its widest point as per NASA, costs roughly $100 billion to build according to Peck. it was noted that constructing something that would be 10 times bigger would then strain even the most generous national space budget.
A lot currently depends on what particular kind of structure the Chinese want to build. The ISS is reportedly packed with equipment and is reportedly designed in order to accommodate humans. This will significantly increase its mass. China is also planning to make its very own Ingenuity-like Mars rover.
Peck noted that if they are talking about something that is simply just long and actually not that heavy, it would be a different story. Building techniques could reportedly help reduce the total cost of getting a whole behemoth spaceship into space.
The conventional approach would reportedly be to build components on Earth and then simply assemble them like Legos in orbit, according to Peck. 3D-printing technology could actually turn compact raw materials into certain structural components of some much larger dimensions in space.
A reportedly even more attractive option would be to source the raw materials itself from the moon, which already has low gravity compared to Earth. This would mean that launching materials from its surface into space could actually be easier, according to Peck.
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Written by Urian B.