Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Thursday, February 16, 2006


OUTPOST: A human settlement established in a remote, sometimes hostile region distant from the home culture or surroundings. I’m going to go ahead and add to that definition and also label them as “a foothold on permanent human occupation” of that distant region.

Sometimes it is instructive to look around and see where we have established our human outposts. I’m only going to count outposts established off the land areas. Therefore, I am unfortunately going to skip McMurdo Station in Antarctica. While those folks are genuinely remote and even cut off seasonally, they still breathe the same air I do.

SPACE OUTPOSTS: The most dramatic of all the space outposts are, unfortunately unmanned and have been for 34 years. They were, of course, the six lunar manned outposts manned only for a few days at most. There is only one manned space outpost – the International Space Station. Although no one has stated it, this outpost is ostensibly manned permanently and; if all goes well, will always harbor a manned presence until it is de-orbited. There are no plans for burning up the station at the present time.

OCEAN OUTPOSTS: There are currently three – all situated within 15 miles of one another – in the waters near and offshore Key Largo, Florida. The most complex of the three is the Aquarius, owned and operated by the US Government. It sits in a beautiful area in about 40 feet of water. It is not permanently manned, however, and is not really considered an outpost in the true sense, because it is used as an offshore laboratory with no permanent presence in the past or planned. But we’ll throw it in since the examples are so few. The second is an underwater hotel in a enclosed bay in Key Largo called the Jules Undersea Lodge. It is very plush as habitats go and even features room service. It sits in about 30 feet of water and is not manned permanently and cannot be in its current configuration. Next door (about 50 feet away) is the MarineLab habitat. It is manned daily and managed by Aquanaut Chris Olstad, probably the world’s first and only (as close as we can get) true off planet settler-for-life. The MarineLab is tended by Chris every day and often times he sleeps there in support of missions or upkeep. But, again, it is not permanently manned and there are no plans for that.

Sadly, that’s the entire inventory. For the most part, mankind is still stuck hard and clinging to dry land. Of the four off-land outposts, only one is really an "outpost" in the strict definition of being permanently manned. But even it is a tenuous presence, at best, offered the rather dubious guarantees from one political wind to the next. Can we do better? Yes, and we will - if we wish to survive as a species.

Sketch from NEXUSTRIDENT website.