A guest post by Joseph Friedlander
The New Horizons Probe is rapidly approaching the Pluto/Charon system.
The fainter one is Charon, the brighter more massive one Pluto.
The two are tidally locked, with a period of 6 days, 9 hours and 17.6 minutes.
(No actual menace to the North American Continent should be inferred from this picture 🙂 )
Here is something most familiar in binary asteroids– a space station in the exposed barycenter would literally (and accurately) perceive that the system was revolving around it. One imagines that self-centered people who like to think the world (or better yet multiple worlds) revolves around them might be drawn to that particular duty station.
The Moon and Earth’s center of gravity is within the Earth.
The Solar System’s center of gravity is within the sun.
But Pluto and Charon have that exposed barycenter between them. Besides the obvious to a teenage mind Death Star like applications for battlestations that could rake (up to half) the surface of both worlds, there are also theoretical space station applications.
For example, you could melt essentially unlimited amounts of raw material and it would stay put, ideally sorted by density, without need to maintain the orbit. All the mass in the Pluto system would be shepherding it for you. It would be a fantastic place for a shipyard– glossing over the yet more fantastic difficulties of getting out there and colonizing the place.
( If you had engines that could withstand 5 million Kelvin nozzle temperature (yes, 5 million) you could routinely reach the place in 6 months. Yet I do someday expect Pluto colonization because as Poul Anderson pointed out long ago, a heat sink is a valuable resource on a big enough scale)
I imagine an exposed barycenter in the asteroids at the Jovian-Solar L5 point
would have far more immediate engineering uses— it might be interesting to write an article on the uses of such an exposed barycenter someday. You could build a space colony around an exposed asteroid (or moon) moved to the barycenter and domed over. But we digress from the mission.
KEY DATES OF MISSION
January 19, 2006 Launch
February 28, 2007 Jupiter flyby/gravity assist
July 14, 2015 Closest approach to Pluto
7:49:57 a.m. EDT (11:49:57 UTC) on July 14, 2015
Note that this July marks 50 years of detailed space probe results from the planets that include pictures. Before the summer of 1965, it was possible to fantasize about civilizations on Mars, lost cities on less survivable planets, and so on.
50 years ago that changed forever. Craters everywhere, and a solar system empty and awaiting Man’s colonization. (NASA image).
General details of Pluto’s system
Joseph Friedlander is a thinker in the pattern of Herman Kahn or David South, who takes a theoretical construct and reduces it to detailed scenarios for action, with an emphasis on the immediately achievable and the practical that can be settled for in the very near term as a foundation for greater achievements later on.
Joseph has a degree in business, certificates in computer aided design, tool and die work, information science, and other technical areas and wide background familiarity with astrophysics and chemistry.
His reading is wide-ranging (some would say encyclopedic). Among his favorite authors are those who concentrate on the links between industry, government and military, society and prosperity, in particular Jane Jacobs, Seymour Melman, Herman Kahn, and Kevin A. Carson.
Joseph is an inventor and consultant who writes and speaks often on space industrialization and settlement as well as future industrial possibilities on Earth and the ways these things could change our lives. He is a member of the World Economics Association.
He authored In Praise of Large Payloads for Space, Joseph Friedlander’s Thoughts Inspired By Alexander Bolonkin’s Writings On How To Catalyze Innovation And Technical Progress, Hyperwealth and Alternative Futures, Tyler Cowen’s “Great Stagnation” — Joseph Friedlander Perspective and Thoughts on Related Subjects, What was the best way to use the Saturn V to reach the Moon — in retrospect?, A summary of Dr. Bruce Cordell’s 21stCenturyWaves.com Maslow Window Model, and The Friedlander Cold Crown — A Cold Trap For The Lunar Poles — Solid Oxygen For Lunar Capture And Export.
Read his LinkedIn profile.