I apologize if I continuously ask different questions about different concepts for stories.

It’s just that I can never make up my mind on what to write, and sometimes, my ideas change.

But anyway, I’m a little off topic, so I should get to my question.

Here’s some context.

Basically, I’ve been inspired lately by stories in the sword and planet genre, such as A Princess of Mars and Pirates of Venus.

So I decided to make my own story similar to them, set on the planet Pluto.

I know that Pluto is uninhabitable in real life, but in this world it has a breathable atmosphere, and supports life, yet is still extremely cold, having an average tempature of -60 degrees Celsius.

It’s basically like Hoth from Star Wars.

The dominant species on the planet is similar to humans in both appearence and biology, which means that they don’t have fur or blubber of any kind to provide insulation.

My question is, how could a human like species survive in such an inhospitable environment?

  • $\begingroup$ probably, live on Pluto can be only in natural or artifical undeground caves - because Pluto is too small to support any stable atmosphere long enought for live to evolve on it $\endgroup$
    – vodolaz095
    Feb 12, 2020 at 3:59
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Inuit people survived (and still do today) in a slightly more hospitable environment. However, they did not evolve in that environment. Our ancestors lived in nice, warm Africa - they culturally adapted over millenia to their current environment. Note that average -60C is MUCH colder than any aborignal human culture has ever lived in. Also note that the dearth of food in a frozen waste means a very sparse population...not much adventuring when you spend most of your time hunting to survive and very rarely meet others. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Feb 12, 2020 at 4:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Forget the humanoids, what about vegetation? It can't be water based; it'd freeze. It can't photosynthesise using CO2, because that'll be frozen for a lot of the time, too. If your plants have weird alien biochemistries (and they clearly need to), why don't the animals? If the animals have different biochemistries, they probably can't eat the plants, so what do they eat? Also, what do they drink? The water is all frozen, and it is very energetically unfavourable to melt enough for survival. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2020 at 9:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How is your planet going to hold onto a decent atmosphere if it's only the size of pluto? $\endgroup$
    – levininja
    Feb 13, 2020 at 19:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How are you going to grow any food on this planet? There has to be sunlight for photosynthesis, or else the entire food chain doesn't exist. And if there was sunlight, then why is it so cold? $\endgroup$
    – levininja
    Feb 13, 2020 at 19:11

3 Answers 3


There are a few things to consider in a harsh environment like that. Most of them would have to do with the sun being little more than the size of a big star from earth.


This would be your main concern. You need energy for pretty much everything, especially when counteracting an environment so hostile. That being said, most "Green" options would be unavailable. You have no large bodies of water, so water energy is out of the question. You have no atmosphere so wind energy is out too. And since the sun is little more than a bright star, solar is out as well. Meaning you would entirely need to depend on natural resources. With the lack of (ancient) fauna, fossil fuels would also be non existent.

The only fuels available to you would be the Plutian variety of coal or other flammable natural resource at low-tech, or nuclear at high-tech. I'm no expert on Pluto's composition, so I'm not sure which natural resources would be available.

One possibility would be growing renewable resources along with food production. However much energy would be needed for this as well, and it would be a delicate balance without anything to spare.

Another would be to use natural heat from Pluto's core for energy. But this would be extremely high-tech, and I can't comment on how this could work in practise.


Related to energy, surviving on a planet that is constantly -60 at best is no mean feat. People will need to evolve to adapt to low temperatures, but couldn't do too much with evolving a lower core temperature, as we wouldn't be able to lower it below freezing point for a start. They would mostly need to live in artificially created domes or caves that hold heat. These would need to be heated sparingly to conserve energy, and they would be spaceship-like conditions. With the difference being that Pluto's ground could pull more (heat) energy out of the settlement than space would. They wouldn't get out much to explore, as the harsh environment (even with proper protection) would hurt them quite soon. You could have an underground series of tunnels for transport, and they wouldn't see much of the sky in any case.


Lacking all natural sources of water, to survive on Pluto you would need large amounts of water brought in from wherever these aliens came from. This would be a rare resource, and much of it would be needed for food production and consumption. The size of the settlement(s) you could have would be directly related to the amount of water they are able to bring in, or have available.


Any food production would need to be in enclosed spaces, with no chance of losing water into the ground. These spaces would need to be heated as well, to prevent the crops freezing. Most likely you would need vegetables and the like, and perhaps some livestock, although that would be rare.


Obviously related to energy, the surface of Pluto would be as dark as night at all times. Little sunlight gets there, and with the lack of a moon reflecting the sun at night as well, a dark moonless night is the most you'll get. So your people would evolve to function in low-light environments, but would still need artificial light sources all the time.

  • $\begingroup$ The mountains of pluto are made of water ice, so water is not a problem. There is lots of methane to be found, but the problem is the lack of oxygen to burn it. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Feb 12, 2020 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave, I can't find any sources that confirm if the mountains are made of water, but it is theorised liquid water may be under the surface. This would increase the ease of survivability quite a bit. Especially since OP states in his world an atmosphere is present. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Feb 12, 2020 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ I was just working from wikipedia [1], which states is as a fact. The referenced article [2] indicates it is not certain, but that is the current theory. [1] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto#Geology [2] nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/11/… $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Feb 12, 2020 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I seem to have missed quite some interesting new theories about Pluto's surface. I suppose I have some reading to do, and I might come back and revise my answer. Anyway, thanks for sharing @Dave! $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Feb 12, 2020 at 16:13

In order to make your world inhabited it would be necessary to have a warmer environment for evolution to take place in. I don’t think that a warm blooded human like creature would evolve in an atmosphere of -60 degrees C. So two options:

The human like creatures were from off planet and landed there or where dropped off there and have adapted by using warm clothing etc.

The human like creatures evolved in an area of the surface where there was a lot of volcanic heat perhaps caused by tidal heating from a large satellite. They then ventured further away from this warm area into the cold. Perhaps the warm area remains or perhaps it eventually stopped, moved or became too unstable to support life.

One major problem would be the lack of light at the distance of Pluto, photosynthesis is a nonstarter. The only option is a biome based on chemosynthesis. That might work, but I can’t help but feel the human like creatures you are after would be very unlikely to evolve on this very alien low gravity, low light chemosynthetic world.


Build an enclosed space colony and provide a suitable environment within it, like in a moon base or space station.

  • $\begingroup$ Considering the "xenobiology" tag, I feel like the question is asking for biological adaptations to Pluto's environment instead of technological ones. This doesn't seem to answer the question. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 14, 2020 at 0:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .