Monday, January 24, 2011
Earth by and large is a fairly good place to call home, and we've managed to make do in some fairly inhospitable parts of the planet thanks to clothing and housing and all the other tricks we've come up with. In spite of all this, however, the majority of the surface area of our planet is not and will never be settled by humans. Most of it because the surface is covered by water or ice:
Jupiter: Europa is by far the most interesting Jovian moon, and Ganymede and Io are also fairly well-known. Callisto, however, is almost never mentioned. Strange indeed, considering that Callisto is the most human-friendly of the four Galilean moons. Or more precisely, it's the only moon of the four we could live on without dying from radiation. So while Europa is the most interesting of the four, if we were to ever set up shop in the system, any long-term settlement of the area would likely be done on Callisto even if we spent most of our time more interested in the other moons nearby.
Ceres: Ceres is a bit of an odd case, as even the announcement that the tiny planet seems to have more water than all the freshwater on Earth doesn't seem to have ignited much interest in even imagining a manned mission there. Though Ceres is farther from the Earth than Mars, it is actually an easier target to get to and back from with any degree of frequency as launch windows to Ceres are much more frequent. This video shows why this is the case:
The similarity between the orbits of Earth and Mars actually means that it takes the Earth that much longer to finally pull ahead and eventually sneak up on Mars from behind again. Luckily Dawn is on its way and will be there in 2015, and the first high-res images we obtain of Ceres may finally bring about the realization that there is a whole other planet in between Mars and Jupiter, even if it has the prefix dwarf.