Science Saturday: Solar Station
Much like our own world, the world of Chronsylvania is full of strange natural phenomena. Every week we'll highlight an article that explores the odd, and very real, scientific properties of our universe. We'll also leave you with a writing/drawing prompt based on the article to get your creative juices flowing.
China has got some lofty goals for the future of clean energy production.
According to this week's article from Futurism (follow them on Twitter and Instagram @futurism) China is working to build a solar power station in outer space. This power plant would operate much the same as previously designed solar arrays with one clear difference: instead of being stuck on Earth's surface and at the mercy of atmospheric weather, the new power station would orbit the earth. At such high altitudes and with no cloud cover, the photovoltaic cells of the solar array could capture the energy of the Sun one hundred percent of the time.
How do the engineers on this project plan on getting all of that power back down to Earth? The answer to that problem is still being worked out, but several early proposals include beaming the energy to earth via microwaves or lasers.
Of course, a project as innovative as this is not going to launch tomorrow. China expects to have an initial test facility up and running by 2025, with further testing and construction planned through 2050. Still, that means within the next 30 years, we could be getting our electricity via laser from a power plant in outer space.
As crazy, and exciting, and sci-fi cool as that concept is, what I can't stop thinking about are the day-to-day operations of this power station once it's up and running. Will this power plant be fully automated or will it require people to live and work in orbit a la the International Space Station? How many workers will it require? 5? 50? 1500?
I guess where my head is going with all of this is the very real possibility that in the somewhat near future, entire aspects of human life, for an increasingly large number of people, just might take place in outer space.
If projects like the orbital solar power plant go well, there will be more of them, and those projects will require more people with all kinds of training. And I'm not just talking about the the highly-trained pilots and science officers needed to complete the exciting intergalactic exploration missions of Star Trek. Nor am I thinking about the semi-mystical space knights and bounty hunters waging the galacto-political battles of Star Wars and Saga.
No, I'm thinking about the men and women who will punch in and out of shifts at the orbital solar plant year after year. The miners who will trudge en masse down deep into the cores of asteroids. The plumbers and electricians and tech support people and music teachers and mail carriers and Telemarketers and dental hygenists who will spend most of their lives in outer space.
What will their lives be like? What aspects of human society would be the same in space as they are on earth? What aspects would be different?
Only one way to find out.
Pick one of the careers from this list:
This is now your career, and you do this job on a well-established, fully-operational, and sprawling space station. You came to this space station from Earth because you were sick of your old job and all of the problems that came with it. Mind-numbing routines, annoying co-workers, demanding bosses...ugh! You just had to get out of there.
You like your new work well enough, but like any job, you get stuck in a rut after a while. For a few minutes, brainstorm/sketch about what your daily routine on the space station is like. What parts are similar to life on earth and what parts are different? What parts do you enjoy? What parts do you loathe entirely?
Then, write/draw about the day some unexpected aspect of life in outer space comes along and breaks your routine.
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Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next Wednesday with a brand new page.