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Humanity has long since established a foothold in the Artic and Antarctic, but extensive colonization of these regions may soon become economically viable.
If we can learn to build self-sufficient habitats in these extreme environments, similar technology could be used to live on the Moon or Mars.
The average temperature of the Antarctic coast in winter is about –20 °C.
As if this weren't enough, the region suffers from heavy snowfall, strong winds, and six-month nights.
How can humanity possibly survive in such a hostile environment?
Modern technology and construction techniques may soon permit the long-term, self-sufficient colonization of such extreme environments.
The most efficient way to generate heat from sunlight is, of course, the well-known "greenhouse" effect.
Given a transparent or translucent roof, any structure can hold onto the energy of sunlight long enough to transform it into heat.
Glass works well for this, but glass is heavy and expensive to transport.
In a recent article submitted to arXiv.org, Bolonkin and Cathcart have designed an inflatable, translucent dome that can heat its interior to comfortable temperatures using only the weak sunlight of high latitudes.
While many details remain to be worked out, the essential concept is sound.
To improve the energy efficiency of the structure, they propose adding multiple insulating layers, aluminum-coated shutters, and a fine electrical network to sense damage to the structure.
The dome would be supported entirely by the pressure of the air inside, which can be adjusted to compensate for the added buoyancy caused by high winds.