Imagine waking up every morning, excited by the mere fact that you are living a hundred million miles away from your home planet, Earth. You slowly ease out of bed, being very careful not to jump too high lest you bump your head against the ceiling (a minor setback of living within reduced gravity).
After briefly enjoying a few hops in a third of your weight, you slip on your gravity suit (due to doctors orders), feed the pigs and dream about someday actually seeing a Martian sunrise from your underground outpost, instead of going above ground at night due to radiation.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the awe inspiring red planet.
Despite the fact that this potential reality may not look too exciting, it is one many governments on Earth would be content with, as they would rather have their astronauts bored to death than “microwaved” via solar radiation.
While some may argue that anti-radiation drugs and portable magnetic shields would allow us to roam the red planet at will (as well as any other radiation safe world), both of these items may increase the overall cost of solar outposts, which may encourage tax payers to grumble about the price tag.
Even though most colonists would probably prefer a “wall of lead” (or even aluminum) around them, launching the material from Earth (or mining via the asteroid belt) may prove to be very costly, especially when one adds taxes to the final bill.
Water ice on the other hand seems to have placed its finger prints on every solar world save four (Mercury, Venus, Luna aka Earth’s moon and Io) and would provide a far cheaper means of securing our foothold upon these semi-hostile worlds.
Although using water as a cheaper alternative may sound reasonable to some people, using glass may not. After all, would it not be easier to simply use thick, translucent plastics instead of heavy glass?
While plastic does have its advantages over its older friend, it may be easier to create glass off world, mainly due to the fact that silica, one of the main ingredients of of sand (or quartz if you live on Earth) can be used to “easily” create glass on other worlds.
On Mars silica is present within the soil, while on other worlds such as Callisto, and Ganymede, silicon is contained within the crust, respectively. This may be true of the other worlds orbiting Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, although NASA will have to confirm this with future probes (and hopefully rovers).
While water and glass may help provide an inexpensive way of shielding colonists from harmful rays, scientists could also grow radiation eating fungi within the watery walls. This would provide further protection, especially if a lunar colony operates within its host planet’s radiation belt.
Even though it would probably be wise for off world settlers to also carry portable magnetic fields and anti-radiation drugs with them, they would only have to seriously consider using them if they were going to travel well outside the protection of their base, or if they received warning of an impending solar storm.
Aquarium homes may not be the “end all” solution for us dwelling in the heavens, but they could allow humans to actually raise their kids upon the surface of other worlds (beholding their beauty), instead of below it.