Hardware Ready Musk Starcraft Upgrade Focus on Improving Human Survivability


[Abstract] SpaceX has some experience in life support systems. Its new manned spacecraft, Crew Dragon, aims to send astronauts to the International Space Station. However, life support for short-range orbital travel is very different from the life support needed to sustain people’s lives for weeks or months in space.
SpaceX Starcraft Prototype
Technology news October 5th, according to foreign media reports, Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, the US space exploration technology company, has made four presentations on the Starship and its launch vehicles, but all of these updates are focused on the external specifications of the hardware. Musk made little mention of the technology needed to maintain human survival and health on spacecraft. But if the spacecraft is to be used to send people to space destinations such as the moon and Mars in the near future, it will require relatively rapid development of such subsistence technologies.
For any spacecraft or rocket, the size of the interstellar spacecraft proposed by Musk is absolutely impressive. It is speculated that the interstellar spacecraft will be over 50 meters high and 9 meters in diameter. In the latest introduction of Chichi Chichi, Mask claims that the final version of the spaceship and rocket will be able to launch 150 tons of payload into the earth orbit, comparable to the capacity of the Saturn V, the manned lunar landing. This means that when put into use, the interstellar spacecraft will become the most powerful combination of spacecraft and rocket in the world.
But if SpaceX wants people to live on spaceships for a long time, things will be much more complicated. The life support system increases the weight and complexity of the spacecraft. Astronauts need places to exercise and sleep, places to breathe air, places to drink water. If the interstellar spacecraft program helps to launch the Moon base proposed by Musk many times, the higher radiation environment on the Moon will require more advanced shielding forms.
All these problems will become more prominent when astronauts are sent to Mars, the destination of the Musk Dream. Because of the distance, astronauts will not be able to get supplies in a few years, and their communications with the Earth will be delayed. Radiation will become more serious, and it is not clear how this will affect the human body. Dorit Donowell, director of Translational Research Institute for Space Health, who works with NASA, said: “it is very naive to think that we can send people to Mars in the next ten years. In fact, we need at least 10 years or more to make astronauts comfortable in space travel.
Musk had previously talked about life support and human health in his Starship Speech, but only in passing. In a recent speech, the SpaceX chief executive was asked two times about what kind of life support system the Starship would use. “I don’t think it’s very difficult to do that compared to the spacecraft itself,” Musk said. The life support system is very simple.
Complexity of subsistence system
Life support system includes all the basic things that human beings need to survive from the earth. John Cover, deputy director of NASA’s international space station life support system, said: “anything that allows astronauts to survive and operate and maintain environmental safety is a real life support system.” John Gap said. The most basic need is the atmosphere. Life-support systems must provide people with the right mixture of gases to breathe and remove carbon dioxide from the air before it accumulates to dangerous quantities. Appropriate temperature and atmospheric pressure must be maintained. Astronauts will need drinking water and appropriate wastewater treatment schemes.
SpaceX already has some experience in life support systems. Its new manned spacecraft, Crew Dragon, aims to send astronauts to the International Space Station. However, life support for short-range orbital travel is very different from the life support needed to sustain people’s lives for weeks or months in space.
First, oxygen and water can be provided in limited containers during orbital travel, just enough to deliver people to their long-term destinations. However, on the International Space Station, people stay there for months at a time, and “regeneration” systems are in place to provide things like oxygen and water, which means they are recycled in a closed-loop system. Urine and sweat are recycled and reverted to drinking water, while some water is decomposed into oxygen and hydrogen in the electrolysis process so that people can breathe.
Musk introduces the upgrade details of the interstellar spacecraft
Musk did say that the life support system on the interstellar spacecraft would be “renewable”. However, life support systems are often heavy and complex, and may even change the way the spacecraft operates. Understanding how to ensure people’s safety in emergencies is also critical. “Once you start talking about putting astronauts on a spaceship, you need to start talking about dangers and how they happen,” Gap said. He also said astronauts could be injured or killed if problems arose. Therefore, a considerable amount of work must be put in place.
Musk claims that people can fly into space in an interstellar spaceship as early as next year, which means that installing life support systems should be the top priority in the coming months. This technology is already in existence, so it is possible for them to carry out the plan according to the ambitious schedule. But SpaceX does not have much written experience in regenerative life support systems, and life support systems on manned dragon spacecraft are not regenerative. Even so, no human has actually flown on its new aircraft.
Survival on the Moon’s Surface

If SpaceX hopes to establish a permanent base on the moon, things will become more difficult. First, the longer people stay away from the earth, the more time they will be exposed to space radiation and galactic cosmic rays. These are high-energy particles far away from the sun or outside the Milky way, which can penetrate skin and other materials and cause damage to biological tissues. Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field help protect us from most radiation, but in outer space and on the moon, that protection disappears.
Because the time spent by Apollo astronauts on the moon is so short, their radiation has increased only slightly. Living on the moon will be exposed to higher levels of radiation, and if the sun has large-scale solar flares, it may send large doses of radiation to the moon. Donoval believes that NASA and researchers suspect that high levels of radiation may cause damage to the central nervous system and affect brain function. But in the end, we don’t know the exact impact because we haven’t sent people into the deep space for a long time.
Dono Will pointed out: “we do not know anything about radiation. This is really my concern. The way NASA handles a lot of radiation has been predicted, trying to prevent people from crossing certain boundaries. That’s how they deal with it. But I don’t know if this will work. I think we have seriously underestimated the impact of radiation.
In reality, radiation shielding will be needed, and the stainless steel shell of the Starship may not be enough to protect the astronauts for a long time. Experts suggest lining lunar habitats with water or ice to reduce the impact of these particles, but some elements in cosmic rays, known as heavy ions, may even penetrate them. Maybe the best option is to create a habitat covered with lunar soil, but this will require a lot of excavation and construction equipment. In his latest presentation, Musk hinted that SpaceX might do the same. But if this is the case, it will take a long time to prepare ahead of any moon city.
Art Rendering of Building Lunar Base with the Help of Interstellar Spacecraft
Phil Metzger, a US planetary physicist, explains: “you have to put forward all these very basic architectural problems.” After you ask the basic questions, you say,’OK, these technologies are mature. We can start building flight hardware, but other technologies are not mature yet.
If the lunar base needs to be self-reliant, mining equipment will also become critical. Resupply missions to the Moon will be much more difficult than those that deliver supplies to the International Space Station in Earth orbit, because the transit time of the Moon is only a few days. Astronauts at lunar bases will need to rely on resources around them, such as building soil and water ice that could be used for drinking and converting into fuel. All the equipment for mining these resources can be carried to the moon by interstellar spacecraft, but it is not yet clear what they will look like since no one has actually operated such equipment on the moon.
“On Earth, it may take 20 years to build a mine, but it’s on Earth,” Metzger said. And when you talk about building mines on the moon, it’s more difficult, especially because we don’t know much about the resources there, and we have almost no experience in mining operations in that environment.
Pending issues
There are many other problems to be solved. First, experts do not know whether humans can survive and maintain health in the low gravity environment of the moon. Our bones and muscles have become accustomed to the gravity of the Earth, but these tissues may degenerate faster on the Moon, because the gravity of the Moon is only one sixth of that of the Earth. Exercise can alleviate this situation, but researchers do not know if this is enough or what new equipment support is needed.
There is also the most basic comfort that people need to consider. Lighting and chair angle design during launch may affect people’s feelings and behavior. Musk once said that 100 people would be sent to the interstellar spaceship, each with about 10 cubic meters of living space. “Especially in the case of zero gravity, it’s actually quite a lot of space,” he said.
But overall, this may not be enough. Prolonged space travel will have a negative effect on people’s mental state. Dono Will said: “behavior is a major problem. You can’t always predict how people will react when they are away from the earth without direct communication.”
These problems are just the tip of the iceberg. More problems need to be solved just to build a lunar base, not to mention sending people to Mars indefinitely. Eventually, once the spaceship is developed, SpaceX can choose to solve these problems, but when people really fly to the moon or on the spaceship, it will last for a long time. Donovil said: “we are trying to make commercial development to make people feel more comfortable in space travel technology, but they haven’t done it yet. They are still working hard to solve the big problem of how to bring them to space destinations.”
Musk said that only 5% of SpaceX resources are currently used to develop interstellar spacecraft, which may explain why launch vehicles are the only focus. However, to some extent, the survival and health problems facing mankind will need to be solved as soon as possible. (Tencent technology review / golden deer)