Shell Worlds - An Approach To Terraforming Moons, Small Planets and Plutoids

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K. L. Roy; R. G. Kennedy III; D. E. Fields (2009), JBIS, 62, 32-38

Refcode: 2009.62.32
Keywords: Shell worlds, terraforming, ecology, atmosphere, minor planets, moons, SETI, radiation, advanced civilizations

One big problem with the traditional terraforming approach is finding planets with workable initial parameters: large enough, temperate enough, wet enough, axial spin not too fast or too slow, a magnetic field, etc. A novel method to creating habitable environments for humanity by enclosing airless and otherwise useless sterile planets, moons, and even large asteroids within engineered shells is proposed. These shells are subjected to two primary opposing internal forces: compression caused by gravity and tension caused by atmospheric pressure. By careful design, these two forces can cancel each other out resulting in a net stress on the shell of zero. Beneath the shell an earthlike environment could be created similar in almost all respects to that of Earth except for gravity, regardless of the distance to the sun or other star. These would be small worlds, not merely large habitats, possibly stable across historic timescales. Each would contain a full, self-sustaining ecology, which might evolve in interesting directions over time.

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