The cultural significance of water cannot be underestimated. Important for health and hygiene, of course, our relationship with water has never been entirely practical. Water holds a significance to the human psyche such that some have even speculated on some marine origin to the human species, in ironic contrast to our known origins as creatures of the African plains where open bodies of water were often a source of danger. All the great civilizations of antiquity have been characterized by their control and use of water, the ability to bring water great distances and into the individual home or to use it for decorative fountains and waterfalls or in large communal baths key signs of their sophistication. Long ago the shower superseded the bath as the most practical means of cleansing the body. Yet we have yet to abandon the bath, it remaining a fixture in most modern homes and elaborated upon in the form of hot tubs and communal baths in spas and resorts. And while swimming pools have always been a ridiculous extravagance in most communities, we could not abandon them either. Practical or not, the desire for the experience of immersion is so powerful we have carried it with us everywhere and will likely carry it to space.
Residents of Aquarius in particular, from which the first space settlers of Asgard are likely to come, will be accustomed to a very intimate relationship to water. We are, after all, talking about marine colonies where OTECs would generate such copious amounts of fresh water that their artificial garden landscapes and indoor open spaces will be resplendent in water features, their recreational bays will feature lake-sized floating swimming pools, and public and private baths and small pools will be common throughout the habitat. Scuba diving and many other forms of in-water sporting activities would be ubiquitous skills and important training for working in space, those same recreational bays equipped with artificial reef gardens as elaborate as the gardens above water as well as facilities specifically designed for astronaut training. And aquariums will very likely feature everywhere as a common form of decoration, some likely achieving huge scales. It’s almost unthinkable that these people, living and growing up in such an environment, would not desire to maintain this intimate relationship with water in space, as impractical as that may very well be. Water recreation will also likely be extremely desirable for tourism facilities given the novelties of water in a microgravity environment. Pools of some sort will be expected for the large space hotel or resort.
But water is a problem in microgravity. It simply doesn’t physically behave the way it does in a gravity environment and complex contrivances are often needed to contain and transport it. Today handling water or storing it in any large volume is sufficiently complicated in space that it’s just not done at all, leaving astronauts to commonly only take sponge baths and, if lucky enough to be aboard a station, use showers once a week. Space agencies don’t typically give much thought to quality of life for astronauts because mission lengths are small and astronauts are expected to be able to ‘rough it’ in the name of god, country, and science. But for habitats people would actually live in indefinitely, this most certainly would not be acceptable. And if space tourism should prove a very important economic engine for space development, novel in-space counterparts to the traditional resort swimming pool will most certainly be expected.
In the microgravity environment surface tension dominates the behavior of water, though is a weak force relative to inertia for large fluid masses. Water beads when splashed and tends to accumulate in spheres or domes that adhere to some objects and surfaces (and are repelled by others) rather than filling spaces and conforming to their shape. Mixtures tend to separate not in layers by specific gravity as they do under gravity but in spherically concentric forms. The human body would have no buoyancy in water as on Earth, requiring swimmers make active effort to keep from being enveloped in large water masses or keeping their heads out of its volume so they can breath.
Many space scientists, enthusiasts, and visionaries have speculated on the design of baths and swimming pools in space but no definitive concepts have emerged because there simply is no adequate experience with large fluid volumes. There simply haven’t been spacecraft or habitats big enough and most fluid dynamics research in space has been concerned with tiny volumes of fluid. Most speculations have been concerned with the large orbital swimming pool as a recreational facility for large habitats and are based on the quite likely strategy of employing some form centrifugal artificial gravity.
Perhaps the most key technology in the development of such things in space will be efficient pumping systems superior to today’s limited technologies. With this technology systems based on the active control of water masses become possible. For instance, a simple tub may be based on a spherical or dome-shaped container –perhaps based on flexible materials— that ‘fills’ from the center and with open circular portals for immersion that ‘drain’ from their perimeter. Large spherical masses of water may be managed by using axial anchor structures. These would use pumps in their axial poles to vacuum water that drifts a certain distance from the center and return that water to the axial nexus at the center. The poles would also feature handholds and radial ‘seating’ bars. Outer chamber walls surrounding such structures would electrostatically repel droplets and sweeping air jets would push them toward the center. Electrostatic potential may also be used as a means of fluid containment. Also with efficient pumping technology would come simpler alternatives to rotating structures for centrifugal containment. Water jets could be used to establish steady currents in water masses to maintain a centrifugal force. Surface tension would keep the water in a lenticular mass when not rotating.
These ideas are very speculative, of course, and this is an area open to a great deal more research and potential design innovation and invention. It is ironic that one of the more fundamental aspects of human life remains so little explored in the space context, but that will most certainly change in the near future.
- Urban Tree Housing Concepts
- Asgard Digitial Infrastructure
- Carrier Pallets
- WristRocket Personal Mobility Unit
- RocShaw Personal Mobility Units
- Pallet Truck
- ZipLine Tether Transport System
- MagTrack Transport System
- SkyGarden and SkyFarm Systems
- Meat Culturing
- Microgravity Food Processors
- Solar Sails
- Plasma and Fusion Propulsion