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Living in space possible, needs further research

Living in space has been romanticized in the media for decades and would be a huge advancement for mankind, but there are many challenges to overcome before it becomes reality. 

Haym Benaroya, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said permanent life in space would provide many challenges for engineers in creating habitable environments. 

The engineers would have to create an atmosphere to protect people from radiation and allow them to escape from the vacuum of outer space, as well as protection from space objects like meteorites, he said.

Countries with space programs all over the world are working hard to get more people into space, including India, China, Russia and the United States. It is difficult to determine who will be the first to establish permanent life in space, he said.

“If I had to imagine our future in the solar system ... I would say that we will send people to space and have small cities where thousands of people will be living there permanently," Benaroya said. "We will have all kinds of industry, facilities, research programs and educational activities.”

In addition to the engineering challenges, there is a huge financial cost to establishing permanent outer space life. Propelling a ship out of the Earth's atmosphere is extremely expensive, so many new developments need to be funded to improve the process, he said.

Technology will also be needed to take large numbers of people into space, keep them alive in low gravity environments and provide them with oxygen, he said. Physiological concerns, such as preventing the loss of bone density in the low gravity environment, also need to be overcome. 

Financial status will not determine who will go to space, but rather the intellectual stature of the person, he said.

“Permanent residence on spaceships will be more based on knowledge," he said. "Because it is so expensive to get people to space, each person will have to have certain skills (and positions) like pilots, engineers, pharmacists, and doctors.”

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