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Building a Space Ark: A Journey from Science Fiction to Reality

A linocut of a space ark. / Denis Giffeler

The concept of a space ark—a massive, self-sustaining spaceship designed to carry humanity to a new home in the cosmos—has been a recurring theme in science fiction and popular culture. From the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark to modern Hollywood epics like “Interstellar,” the idea has fascinated us for generations. But could we actually build such a vessel? What would be the technical, psychological, and ethical challenges involved? This blog post aims to delve deeper into these complex questions, drawing inspiration from various movies and books that have explored the concept.

Space Arks in Popular Culture


In the movie “Passengers,” a spacecraft called the Avalon is transporting 5,000 colonists in hibernation pods to a new planet. The journey is supposed to take 120 years, but things go awry when two passengers are awakened 90 years too early. The movie explores themes of loneliness, ethical dilemmas, and the psychological impact of long-term space travel.

“Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B” by Douglas Adams

In Douglas Adams’ “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” the second book in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series, the Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B is a spaceship filled with “useless” members of society, such as telephone sanitizers and marketing executives*. They are sent on a one-way trip to Earth, which they inadvertently destroy. The story satirizes the idea of a space ark as a solution to societal problems.

*The Golgafrinchans debated the wheel’s shape for years, only to conclude that a triangle was more aesthetically pleasing.

Other Examples

  • Wall-E“: In this animated film, a spaceship called the Axiom serves as a temporary home for humanity while Earth recovers from environmental degradation.
  • “Pandorum”: This horror/sci-fi movie features a spaceship, the Elysium, designed to carry colonists to a new world. However, the crew faces terrifying challenges when they wake up with no memory of their mission.
  • “The 100”: In this TV series, a space station called “The Ark” serves as humanity’s last refuge after a nuclear apocalypse. However, resources are limited, and tough decisions have to be made about who gets to stay.

Technical Requirements

Structural Integrity and Design

The ark’s size and structural integrity are paramount. Advanced materials like carbon nanotubes or graphene could offer the strength and flexibility required. Radiation shielding is also a significant concern, as cosmic rays pose a long-term health risk.

Propulsion Systems

Traditional chemical rockets are unsuitable for a multi-generational voyage. Ion drives, nuclear propulsion, or even theoretical concepts like the Alcubierre warp drive are more viable options.

Life Support Systems

Closed-loop life support systems involving advanced air, water, and waste recycling technologies are essential. Hydroponic and aquaponic systems could be integrated for food production, and artificial ecosystems might be necessary for psychological well-being.

Energy Sources

Nuclear fusion, if it becomes technologically feasible, could offer a nearly limitless supply of energy. Solar panels and advanced batteries could serve as secondary and emergency power sources.

Automation and Redundancy

Automation would play a crucial role in maintaining the ark. Redundant systems would need to be in place to ensure that a single point of failure doesn’t jeopardize the entire mission.

Psychological and Social Aspects

Crew Well-being

The psychological strains of extended space travel can’t be underestimated. Exercise facilities, social spaces, and even virtual reality environments could be essential for mental health.

Governance and Social Structure

A clear governance structure would be vital. Ethical considerations, such as reproductive rights, genetic engineering, and resource allocation, would also need to be codified.

Education and Skill Transfer

An educational system would be necessary for skill transfer and social stability. Virtual classrooms and AI tutors could play a significant role here.

Ethical Considerations

Selection Process

Who gets to go on the ark? The selection process would raise numerous ethical questions, from genetic diversity to skill sets to social equity.

Interaction with Alien Ecosystems

If the ark is headed to a planet with its own ecosystems, ethical guidelines for interaction would be necessary to prevent harmful contamination.


The concept of a space ark is a monumental endeavor that would require unprecedented collaboration across various fields of science, engineering, psychology, and ethics. While it may seem like a fantastical concept today, the rapid advancements in technology and our growing understanding of the cosmos make it an increasingly plausible scenario. As we continue to push the boundaries of human exploration, the idea of a space ark serves as both a beacon of hope and a sobering reminder of the challenges that lie ahead.

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Waste Management in Space: The Galactic Garbage Challenge

Ah, space. The final frontier – again. A vast expanse of stars, planets, and… trash? That’s right, folks. While we’ve been busy dreaming about interstellar travel and Martian colonies, we’ve also been leaving a trail of cosmic crumbs behind. And no, we’re not talking about stardust. We’re talking about good old-fashioned garbage. Let’s dive into the amusing, yet crucial, topic of waste management in space.

1. The Space Junkyard

Star Wars: A New Hope. Leia, Luke, Chewbacca and Han are trapped inside the trash compactor.
Star Wars™, A New Hope, © Disney

Imagine you’re an astronaut, floating gracefully in the vastness of space, marveling at the beauty of Earth from afar. Suddenly, a rogue toothbrush whizzes past your helmet. Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. Space isn’t just home to stars and planets; it’s also a junkyard for defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, and yes, even lost astronaut tools.

The issue of space debris isn’t new. Since the dawn of space exploration, we’ve been leaving bits and bobs behind. Today, there are over 500,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth, ranging from tiny flecks of paint to entire dead satellites. And while the universe might seem infinite, our immediate cosmic backyard is getting pretty cluttered.

2. The Galactic Garbage Can

So, how do we deal with all this space waste? Enter the concept of the “Galactic Garbage Can.” Okay, we made that name up, but the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Scientists have been brainstorming ways to clean up space for years. Some proposals include giant nets to capture debris, lasers to zap them out of orbit, and even space-faring robots that can repair or “cannibalize” old satellites.

But wait, there’s more! Ever heard of the “RemoveDEBRIS” mission? It’s like the Roomba of space. Launched in 2018, this satellite is designed to test various junk-catching methods, including a harpoon, a net, and a drag sail. Who knew space cleaning could be so high-tech?

3. The Astronaut’s Trash Bag

Now, let’s talk about the waste astronauts produce while living in space. We’re all familiar with the challenges of waste management on Earth (remember the last time you tried to figure out if your takeout container was recyclable, compostable, or just plain trash?). Now, imagine dealing with waste when you’re floating in zero gravity, and there’s no garbage truck in sight.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have a unique approach to waste management. First, all waste is meticulously separated. Liquid waste, like leftover coffee or, ahem, astronaut pee, is processed and purified back into drinking water. Yes, the water you drink in space might’ve once been astronaut coffee. Talk about recycling!

Solid waste, on the other hand, is packed into cargo vehicles that are already destined to burn up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. It’s like a cosmic cremation for trash. So, the next time you see a shooting star, make a wish, but also remember—it might just be a flaming trash bag.

4. The Future of Space Waste

As we set our sights on longer space missions and potential colonies on other planets, waste management will become even more crucial. Imagine setting up a lunar base and having to deal with Moon trash. Or what about Mars? We can’t just leave our candy wrappers and soda cans on the Red Planet.

Future space explorers might rely on advanced recycling systems, turning waste into resources. Think 3D printers that can use old plastic to create new tools or bio-reactors that can turn organic waste into fuel. The possibilities are endless, and the solutions might just be out of this world.

5. The Cosmic Conclusion

Space waste might sound like a topic straight out of a sci-fi novel, but it’s a real and pressing issue. As we continue to explore the cosmos, we must also take responsibility for our galactic footprint. After all, we don’t want aliens visiting our planet only to label us as the “messy neighbors” of the universe.

In the end, space reminds us of the importance of sustainability, whether we’re on Earth or floating among the stars. So, the next time you toss something in the trash, think of the astronauts on the ISS and their cosmic trash bags. And remember, in space, no one can hear you clean.

There you have it, a whimsical journey through the challenges and solutions of waste management in space. Who knew garbage could be so entertaining? Safe travels, space cadets, and always remember to clean up after your cosmic adventures 🖖🏼

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Burping in Space: The Galactic Challenges of Raising Infants in Microgravity

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to raise a baby in space? No? Well, neither did I until I had a particularly strange dream involving diapers, space helmets, and a very confused stork. But let’s get into this whimsical thought experiment, shall we?

1. The Great Galactic Burp Mystery

First things first, let’s address the elephant (or should I say, the alien?) in the room: burping in space. On Earth, when babies consume milk, they tend to swallow air, which needs to be burped out. Thanks to gravity, the air rises to the top of the stomach, making it relatively easy to expel with a gentle pat on the back. But in space, there’s no up or down. So, where does the air go?

The answer: it floats around like a lost balloon at a space-themed birthday party. This means that burping a baby in space might be a tad more challenging. Instead of the usual pat-pat-burp routine, space parents might need to perform a complex series of somersaults, spins, and possibly even a moonwalk to get that elusive burp out. 🍼

2. The Zero-G Diaper Dilemma

Now, let’s talk diapers. On Earth, what goes in must come out, and it conveniently stays in the diaper (most of the time). But in microgravity, things could get… messy. Imagine changing a diaper and watching in horror as the contents float away, creating a mini asteroid belt around your spaceship. Space parents would need to be equipped with lightning-fast reflexes and possibly a mini vacuum cleaner on hand at all times. And let’s not even get started on potty training!

3. The Milky Way Milk Bottle

Feeding in space presents its own set of challenges. Without gravity, liquids don’t pour; they blob. So, feeding a baby with a traditional bottle might result in a floating orb of milk, with a very frustrated baby trying to latch onto it. The solution? Perhaps a specially designed space bottle with a one-way valve and a mini propulsion system to guide the milk directly into the baby’s mouth. It’s like a mini rocket, but for milk!

4. Space Cribs: Not Your Average Baby Bed

A crib on Earth is designed to keep the baby safely inside. But in space, there’s no risk of the baby rolling out. Instead, there’s a risk of the baby floating away! Space cribs might look more like transparent bubbles, keeping the baby safely contained while allowing them to float and tumble to their heart’s content. And for the mobile hanging above? Mini planets, stars, and perhaps a plush alien or two.

5. First Steps or First Floats?

One of the most cherished moments for any parent is watching their child take their first steps. But in space, it’s more about the first float. Instead of baby-proofing the house for a toddler on the move, space parents would need to baby-proof their spaceship for a baby on the float. Sharp edges? Cushion them. Loose objects? Secure them. And always, always have a tether on hand in case baby decides to go on a spacewalk of their own!

6. The Social Quandary: Playdates with Little Martians?

Socialization is crucial for a child’s development. But if you’re in space, who does your baby play with? Unless there’s a space colony nearby with fellow baby astronauts, playdates might be a bit tricky. Virtual playdates with Earth babies could be an option, but there’s nothing like in-person interaction. Perhaps space pets could be the answer? A floating space cat or a zero-gravity dog could be the perfect companion for a baby growing up among the stars.

7. The Big Question: Can Babies Truly Grow Up in Space?

All humor aside, raising a baby in space presents real challenges. The effects of microgravity on a developing body are still largely unknown. Bones, muscles, and the cardiovascular system could all be impacted. And while our imaginary space baby might have some out-of-this-world experiences, they’d also face challenges that Earth babies could never imagine.

In conclusion, while the idea of raising a baby in space is filled with whimsical challenges and humorous scenarios, it also raises important questions about human adaptability and the future of space colonization. Until we have more answers, it’s probably best to keep our baby-rearing adventures Earth-bound.

But who knows? Maybe one day, “Burping in Space” will be a best-selling parenting book, and space diapers will be all the rage. Until then, we can only dream, laugh, and wonder about the infinite possibilities that the universe holds.

Disclaimer: This blog post is purely for entertainment purposes. The idea comes from a 1959 short story by Frederik Pohl, “Whatever Counts“. Please do not attempt to raise a baby in space without consulting NASA, Elon Musk, or your friendly neighborhood alien.