Jupiter is the largest planet of the Solar System, but because of the many challenges it represents, it’s not a very interesting planet for habitation. Jupiter might, however, offer interesting resources and many of its moons might be habitable places.
Jupiter is a huge gas giant. It has a mass that is over 317 times the mass of the Earth, and its diameter is approximately 140 000 kilometres, which is 11 times more than the diameter of the Earth. Jupiter can be clearly seen at the night skies of the Earth, despite the long distance between the two planets.
Jupiter doesn’t have a surface, as it consists of many different layers of fluids and gases. Jupiter has a solid inner core, which is surrounded by a layer of liquid metallic hydrogen. Over this layer, there is a huge ocean, which consists of oxygen and hydrogen. Over the hydrogen ocean, Jupiter has a thick atmosphere, that is over 1 000 kilometres high.
Jupiter has a strong magnetic field that protects it from solar winds, but also produces strong radiation belts around the planet. The magnetic field has effects almost on the orbit of Saturn. The strong radiation belts caused by the magnetic fields can be problematic when trying to colonize the planet or its moons.
Orbit and rotation
When counting from the Sun, Jupiter is the fifth planet in the Solar System. Its located beyond the asteroid belt, about five times as far from the Sun than the Earth is. One orbit around the Sun takes Jupiter approximately 12 years. Its axel isn’t heavily tilted, so there isn’t noticeable seasons, though because of the structure of Jupiter, they wouldn’t have a great effect, in any case.
Of all the planets in the Solar System, Jupiter is the fastest to rotate around its axle. One day in Jupiter only lasts around 10 hours. As Jupiter consists mostly of fluids and gases, its parts rotate asynchronously. Because of the fast rotation, Jupiter has a noticeable bulge around its equator.
In addition to Jupiters large hydrogen and helium resources, moons are an interesting factor when considering colonization of Jupiter. Jupiter has 67 moons, and many of those would work as places for human habitats. Especially the four largest moons, Europa, Ganymede, Io and Callisto are possible targets for colonization.
Atmosphere of Jupiter consists mostly of hydrogen and helium. There are also small quantities of other elements, such as methane, ammonia and water. Because Jupiter doesn’t have a surface, the boundaries of atmosphere are hard to define. In any case, the atmosphere is huge. The atmosphere has a giant red spot, that Jupiter is also known for.
Sun doesn’t have a large heating effect on Jupiter because of the large distance of these two bodies. Jupiter is able to produce some heat by itself. There are different areas in the atmosphere, that have different temperatures. The lowest temperatures are about -150 °C and they can be even as high as 700 °C.
Even though Jupiter and Earth have some distance between them, the travel to Jupiter wouldn’t be unbearable long for humans. It took six years for Galileo probe to reach Jupiter, but the newer New Horizons probe reached Jupiter in only two years. With the advancements in technology, the travel will be possible in even shorter periods of time.
Jupiter will be very hard to colonise because of its strong gravity, radiation belts and lack of surface. Jupiter could be used to harvest resources, but permanent habitats there would be unlikely. Instead of Jupiter, its moons could serve as bases for future colonizers.
One possibility could be to build floating habitats on Jupiter. The strong gravity of the Jupiter might be a problem, that is impossible for humans to survive on. Also, Jupiter has strong winds, and the hydrogen the atmosphere contains would react dangerously with oxygen, if a leak would happen in the base. Therefore, Jupiter is not really suitable for human habitats.
Because Jupiter is located quite far from the Sun, energy from the solar power would be quite low. The bases built on Jupiter or nearby should be powered in other ways, possibly with nuclear power. If fusion reactors can be developed in a working state, Jupiter contains a lot of helium-3, which could be used to fuel them.
The Earth and Jupiter are not exactly nearby, so communication signals will take some time to be delivered. When the two planets are the closest, the messages will be delivered in just over half an hour. When the distance is the greatest, the messages will take almost an hour to be delivered.
Jupiter might be an important source for resources in the future. Jupiter consists mostly of hydrogen and helium. Hydrogen could be used for many purposes, such as terraforming Venus. Helium-3 might be valuable in the future, as it might be used as fuel in fusion reactors.
Jupiters strong gravity creates a problem. Because of the gravity, transporting resources away from Jupiter, or even collecting them, might be impossible or very expensive. In the future proper ways to harvest the planets resources might be found, but currently it seems quite impossible.
If we’re considering to harvest resources from Jupiter, it should be noted, that many of the resources it offers can also be found from elsewhere. Therefore, Jupiter might be the last place we are harvesting resources from, if other places offer the same resources in an easier environment.
Jupiter contains a lot of helium and hydrogen. Jupiter might be an important source for resources in the future, but because of its lack of surface, building permanent human habitats there might be impossible. The strong gravity of Jupiter might pose a problem, as it makes collection of resources more expensive.
The moons are an interesting feature of Jupiter. Many of them resemble small planets, and they contain most elements required for life. Therefore, the moons might serve us as places for permanent habitats.