3 Unbelievable Space Projects: Science Fiction to Reality

Previously confined to the realm of science fiction, there are some space projects that look as if they may become a reality.


terraformed mars

Terraformed Mars. Credit: Ittiz

Terraforming is a method of changing a hostile environment – the atmosphere, topography and ecology of a planet – to resemble the Earth’s biosphere and make it habitable for humans. It is now the subject of serious research. Scientists believe that if life once was possible on Mars, it would be valuable to understand what caused the planet to become as cold and lifeless as it is today. This knowledge could then be used to terraform Mars into a habitable planet. The implication is that if scientists could engineer an extreme greenhouse effect on Mars, they could reverse some environmental processes on Earth. The problem is that Earth processes are still poorly understood and Mars observations are only in their infancy.

Moon Elevator

space elevator

Space Elevator. Credit: Science NASA

A Moon, or lunar, space elevator, involves a cable that would run from the surface of the Moon into space. Also called a moonstalk, it would be built with its centre of gravity at an Earth-Moon Lagrangian point, or in a geostationary orbit. There are five Lagrangian points in the Earth-Moon system where a small orbiting object remains stationary relative to both the Earth and the Moon. The distance from the Earth side of the Moon to the first Langrange point is 56,000 km. The elevator would require a 1,000 kg counterweight 26,000 km from this point for balance. The elevator could transport people and materials between space and the lunar surface and provide a soft landing in the process. It would consist of cables made from M5 fibre, a high-strength synthetic material developed by Akzo Nobel, a Dutch chemicals company. This cable could support 100 cargo vehicles, each weighing 580 kg. Material could be sent from Earth to a space station in geostationary orbit and then along the lunar elevator to the Moon’s surface.

Mining Comets

The concept of mining comets for water, food or minerals originated in the notion that the Earth will deplete its own natural resources. Increasing costs of mineral extraction and a limit to the quality of recycled materials will drive prices for commodities to unsustainable levels. At this point, people will search for these materials in space. Comets consist of water, volatiles such as carbon dioxide, gaseous and solid hydrocarbons and ammonia and silicate minerals. The main challenge is to design a space vehicle that can achieve a high enough speed to land on the comet, perform the mining and raw-material processing and have the power, fuel and speed to return to Earth with a huge payload.

Share this with the Universe!


Jack is the content manager of planets.org.uk and is a keen amateur journalist. After completing a degree in astronomy from Newcastle University, Jack went on to develop this website out of his passion for space.