The Space Studies Institute has announced The Great Enterprise Initiative, a research and development project to advance the permanent human settlement of space.
Details were announced April 13 by SSI president Gary Hudson speaking at the Space Access 2012 conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Great Enterprise Initiative includes the develop of two laboratory facilities aimed at advancing critical technology and science for long-term human residence in space.
One of the laboratories will be terrestrially based. E-Lab’s mission will be to prove out the closed-cycle environmental systems necessary for long-term space habitats. The focus will not be on developing individual systems but integrating a full-scale “system of systems” to support life for years on end? E-Lab will probably located at Mojave Air and Space Port, although the final location will be dependent on donor interests.
The other laboratory will be ina space, coorbital with (but not physically attached to) the International Space Station. G-Lab will explore the unanswered question of what level of gravity is necessary for long-term health and biological development. Currently, the only data points are from Earth (1 g) and orbital missions (0 g). Apollo missions to the Moon were too short to provide meaningful data. The shape of the curves between those two data points is currently pure speculation. G-Lab will be orbiting centrifuge facility designed to fill in some of the missing intermediate data points. This information is crucial for the design of future space habitats as well as long-duration deep-space exploration missions.
G-Lab might have a permanent crew of scientists, like ISS, or it might be human tended. Details will on the results diet future design studies and the success of fundraising efforts. Development schedule also depends on the success of SSI fundraising. In the best case, G-Lab could be in orbit by 2017
For more details, see the Space Studies Institute website.