Colonization of Pluto

Pluto

Pluto is one of the farthest objects in our Solar System. Pluto is a cold and distant place, so plans for colonization of Pluto haven’t been well defined. In the future, Pluto may be used as a waypoint for humankind before entering other solar systems, but this might be hundreds or thousands of years away. Earlier, Pluto was classified as a planet, but according to the current definition, it is a dwarf planet.

Properties

Physical properties

The diameter of Pluto is under 2 300 kilometres, which is only about 18 % of the diameter of the Earth. Plutos surface area is about 3.5 % of the surface area of Earth. Pluto weights about 18 % of the weight of our Moon, which gives it a surface gravity just over 6 % of that experienced on surface of Earth.

Pluto most likely has a large core, which is composed mainly of rock. Plutos mantle, which is on top of the core, is contains mostly frozen water. The crust of Pluto is composed mostly of frozen nitrogen with small amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, in addition.

Orbit and rotation

Pluto orbits the Sun only once in 248 years. Its orbit is very elliptic, and at times it is closer to the Sun than Neptune is. At its farthest position, it is about 50 times as far from the Sun than the Earth is. At its closest position, it is about 30 times as far. Pluto rotates around its body in approximately 6 days and 9 hours.

Moons

Pluto has five known moons. Largest of the moons, Charon, is quite large when compared to the size of Pluto. Pluto and Charon can be considered as a twin dwarf planet because of the large size of Charon. The concept of twin dwarf planets hasn’t been yet clearly defined, so because of this, Charon is commonly referred as a moon of Pluto.

Geology

Plutos crust is composed mostly of frozen nitrogen. The colour of Pluto varies widely, and it is one of the most colourful objects in our Solar System. The surface of Pluto has signs of meteorite impacts and movement of the glaciers.

Atmosphere

Pluto has a very thin atmosphere. The atmosphere consists mostly of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. Because of the Plutos weak gravity, he atmosphere rises almost to 300 kilometres high. The thin atmosphere has no practical effects for colonization of the dwarf planet.

Climate

Pluto is a very cold place. The average temperature on the surface of Pluto is only approximately -240 °C. The highest temperatures measured are only about -230 °C, and it can get as cold as -250 °C. Therefore, the people colonizing Pluto should be well insulated from the coldness around them.

Colonization

Transport

Because of the distance, traveling to Pluto takes a lot of time. For example, it took over nine years for the New Horizong probe to reach Pluto. With this speed, it would take almost 20 years to do a return-trip to Pluto, which may be too long for humans. With the advance in rocket technology, the trip could be done faster, hopefully in a few years.

Habitats

Because the composition of Pluto is not that well known, and plans haven’t been made yet, it’s hard to define the best possible type of habitat for colonizing Pluto. It’s possible that the habitats could be dug under the surface of Pluto, or well insulated surface habitats could be used.

Energy

Solar power is basically useless on Pluto. The best way to satisfy the energy needs of the settlers would be to bring along a small fission reactor, which could be fueled by resources brought from Earth. If the other planets in the vicinity have been colonized when we reach Pluto, it might be possible to build a fission reactor and bring the required fuel from Neptune, for example.

Communications

Because of the great distance, real-time communications from Earth to Pluto are not possible. When Earth and Pluto are on the closes position, the messages will be delivered in about four hours. When Pluto is far from the Sun, it might take about six hours for a single message to be delivered.

Resources

There are no known resources in Pluto, that are not also available elsewhere in the Solar System. If humankind some day conquers the space, Pluto might serve as an waypoint before heading farther and farther in to the Universe. We might also find some interesting resources from Pluto, when examining the dwarf planet more thoroughly.

Summary

Pluto is a distant dwarf planet, which the humankind will not be colonizing in a long time to come. Pluto doesn’t hold any resources that we couldn’t find elsewhere. It is a distant place, which will be hard to colonize. Our Solar System has more interesting objects regarding to colonization, but it is well possible, that also Pluto will be colonized at some point.