The Orbital Cylinder

Mediterranean Orbital Cylinder
Mediterranean Orbital Cylinder

The mother sighed, and the engineer spoke.

“First, you must locate an asteroid. Understand its structure, its composition. Preferably, it must be big, without much ice. You must know if it has metals or not. If it has, extract them. You must dig and dig until you extract the last bit of metal from it.”

“Mom! I asked you how is wine made, and you’re talking about asteroids!”

“That’s why I’m telling you this! Listen first, it’s part of the process.”

"Alright, what’s next?

“You then repeat this process once more.”

“And then?”

“You repeat it once more. Five times, ten times. More asteroids, more metal.”

“Fifty times?”

“A hundred times! After that you must smelt the metal, form strong alloys, and build the thousands of pieces that make up the space habitat. Then you carefully assemble the cylindrical shell using countless drones and under strict supervision. Then, the nuclear reactor is installed and using a powerful motor the cylinder is put into motion. That’s when gravity appears.”

“¿Like a giant wine bottle? I don’t understand how all of this has to do with wine.”

“I’m not done yet. You will soon understand.”

“Alright. Continue mom.”

“Right, now it comes the most difficult step of all. The maintenance, purification, and climate remediation systems are installed. That’s where all the waste that the ecosystem can’t filtrate goes through. The drainage and ventilation networks, the maintenance corridors, and the supervisor computer are built and installed. The celestial screens, the artificial sun and the climate generators are placed.”

“What’s a climate generator?”

“It’s what creates the air currents, temperature, and humidity required for turning this place into a mediterranean paradise. Can you feel the wind?”

“Yes.”

“Do you feel the breeze?”

“Yeah…”

“It’s thanks to the climate generator.”

“What else?”

“And then all of that metal, tubes, sensors, mechanisms and computers are covered with a waterproof layer, an then with several meters of soil, fertilized with organic matter, shaped following the rhythm of expert landscape artists’ plans. Hills and valleys are sculpted, and the streams and lakes are filled with water. Air is pumped to create a pleasant atmosphere, thousands of trees are brought from nurseries and placed with surgical precision. Wild seeds are released, along with flowers, weeds, spores, swarms of insects, and birds. Farms are built, towns, silos, barns, pathways, crop fields and wooden cabins. Finally you have the necessary ingredients: The climate, the landscape, the soil and the water to be able to grow grapevine and make wine.”

“Is that all?”

“Of course not. The last step is the most complicated, so long it never ends. You must take care of the landscape, of the water, of the air, the plants, the soil, and the animals. You must take care even of the systems that keep this place working. Check them every day, again and again, even if everything is working as it should. The only way to ensure that the wine is the best of all, is treating this place like your own daughter.”

She paused to take air and remember the complexity underneath the habitat’s simple life. She saw the butterfly drinking nectar from one of the flowers, unable to comprehend what it took to bring her here.

“Did that answer you question?”

“No at all. I wanted to know about the fermentation process.”

The question was simpler than she had thought.

“You should’ve told me that before.”