This image shows an artist’s illustration of a futuristic space station. Kind of copied Deep Space 9 there. China wants to build a 0.6-mile long spacecraft. (Image Credit: ParallelVision/Pixabay)
China has big and ambitious space plans! The country invited Chinese researchers to study how they can build a mega-sized 0.6 mile-long spacecraft in orbit. This concept is part of the National Natural Science Foundation of China’s call for scientists to submit research proposals for future space exploration and long-term crewed missions. The outline describes the massive spaceships as "major strategic aerospace equipment for the future use of space resources, exploration of the mysteries of the universe, and long-term living in orbit."
China’s scientists would also research new, lightweight designs to limit the number of construction materials that must launch into orbit. At the same time, they need to ensure that equipment won’t sustain damage or break during the process. The entire study is expected to run for five years, costing $2.3 million. Researchers should also ensure the structures’ controllability, limiting altitude drift, deformation, and vibration while it’s assembled.
“[Such a spacecraft] is a major strategic aerospace equipment for the future use of space resources, exploration of the mysteries of the universe and staying in long-term orbit,” the outline reads. It also states that, due to its large size and weight, the modular spacecraft would need to launch multiple times rather than in a single flight while assembling the massive structure in space.
While it sounds like science fiction, the project may still turn out to be a success. After all, as history indicates, it’s possible to build large space structures in orbit, proven with the International Space Station. China has already made progress with its Tiangong space station. The first module, home to four Chinese astronauts, is already in orbit. Soon enough, other modules and crew members are expected to follow. When it’s complete, the entire Tiangong space station could have a mass of 100 tons.
Speaking of gigantic spacecraft, it would cost $1 trillion to build a real Starship Enterprise. However, that price could be reduced if it’s spread out over twenty years. Although it would be the same size as Star Trek’s fictional ship, this one would feature a 1.5-gigawatt nuclear power plant, a contra-rotating ring that stabilizes the ship, and artificial gravity in the crew quarters. Unfortunately, such an undertaking like this wouldn’t be achievable. That’s because the entire ship would need to be powered by antimatter.
Humans wouldn’t be capable of producing sufficient amounts of antimatter, so we wouldn’t have it unless extraterrestrials visited and provided the antimatter at no cost. Antimatter would need to be produced in a large particle accelerator with subatomic particles, one by one. This would be exceedingly expensive as one gram of antihydrogen costs an estimated $62.5 trillion. Four grams alone would cost an estimated $241 trillion, which means that almost every human life on Earth needs to work full-time to produce antimatter, putting us all at risk of starvation.
That aside, I do hope a large ship is produced. One that acts like a mobile space station where scientists can journey and study other places. Maybe someday post pandemic...
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