If you hunger for a quaint, frontier life far from the noise and bustle of modern society, then moving to Mercury might be for you. Maybe.
At first glance, Mercury appears to be the most godforsaken planet in the Solar System. But—assuming you can get there—living there might not be so bad.
One thing you and your fellow colonists won’t have to worry about is energy. You’ll have all the solar power you could ever need. In fact, you might get a little too much solar power. The MESSENGER space probe, currently orbiting Mercury, actually angles its solar panels away from the Sun to prevent overheating.
What about air and water? Turns out certain craters near Mercury’s north pole contain plenty of water in the form of ice. Colonists living in and around these craters would have easy access to that water, and they’d be able to extract oxygen from the water as well.
Water ice lies in Mercury’s polar craters, safely concealed from the Sun’s harsh glare.
Despite Mercury’s proximity to the Sun, keeping cool isn’t impossible. Thanks to a simple sunshade and a series of “diode heat pumps,” MESSENGER’s computers operate at room temperature. In fact, if you’re living inside one of those polar craters, perhaps in some sort of subterranean bunker, your bigger concern should be how to keep warm.
But is a Mercurial colony economically feasible? Well, it’s a safe bet that helium-3 will be the optimal fuel source for any futuristic, Solar-System-spanning civilization. Being so close to the Sun, Mercury has loads of helium-3, so establishing a colony there might someday be highly lucrative.
Believe it or not, some people actually want to live on Mercury. They even argue that colonizing Mercury will be easier and cheaper than colonizing Mars. I doubt that, but after all the research I’ve done for this post and the post before it, I can at least agree that colonizing Mercury isn’t as crazy as it might seem.
P.S.: One of those craters near Mercury’s north pole is named after J.R.R. Tolkien. I can only assume that in the future, any subterranean dwellings in that region will be colloquially known as Hobbit holes.
Written by James Pailly.
Visit James Pailly’s blog – Planet Pailly – for more articles about Mercury and the Solar System.