Can SpaceX Put A Man On Mars By 2031?

Posted by on Apr 25, 2011 in Mars, Solar Essay, Space Industry | 4 comments

SpaceX (which is short for Space Exploration Technologies) is either the most brazen company ever formed by man or America’s last great hope for expanding free civilization across the star system.

Either way the company has announced plans to conquer the red planet before 2031, which is about six years before NASA’s original plan and four years before Russia’s.

The only question is, “do they have the right stuff?”

Note: Fast forward to 13:05

“We’ll probably put a first man in space in about three years,” Elon Musk told the Wall Street Journal Saturday. “We’re going all the way to Mars, I think… best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years.” [...]

“Our goal is to facilitate the transfer of people and cargo to other planets, and then it will be up to people if they want to go,” said Musk, who also runs the Tesla company which develops electric cars. (Physorg.com)

With NASA nervous about landing anything over a ton upon Mars (let alone dealing with the side effects of cosmic radiation), one has to wonder how SpaceX plans on achieving this goal when the US government themselves are hesitant about the idea.

While SpaceX does have the fortitude to encounter Mars within our lifetime, there are at least a few problems the company will have to address if they want to see someone survive the trip towards Mars (let alone return home from it).

Exiting The Home World

Truthfully this should be SpaceX’s least difficult task, as their upcoming rocket (the Falcon Heavy) not only out performs their rivals, but their rocket is even less expensive than China’s (who usually have the cheapest price around).

While Falcon Heavy lacks the lift to help humanity break Earth orbit (let alone land on the Moon), it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company develop a Mars bound rocket within a decade (or even 15 years).

Into The (Radioactive) Black

Despite the celestial heaven’s serene appearance, the blackness of space harbors deadly cosmic radiation that can reduce an astronauts IQ to the level of a vegetable (not to mention wreak havoc upon the heart as well).

If SpaceX aspires to trek the vastness of space in order to help humanity migrate upon Mars, they will need adequate shielding to protect them from being microwaved by the universe.

Although layers of lead around the craft would suffice, it might be wiser to use magnetic shields instead which would help reduce the amount of weight SpaceX has to launch into orbit.

The private space firm might also want to ponder patients using anti-radiation drugs too, although building a radiation safe cabin (surround by lead) would be advisable.

Micro Gravity Blues

Despite the joys of weightlessness, the fact is that humans were not designed to thrive in micro gravity.

The lack of gravity can not only cause our muscles to waste away, but also weaken our bones as well. Worse, our immune system tends to slack off while at the same time provoking dangerous bacteria to become even more lethal.

While electrical shocks and omega-3 seafood could save future explorers muscles and bones (as exercise is not enough), SpaceX will need to figure out a sensible way of mimicking gravity upon their rocket lest future explorers skip landing upon Mars due to being too weak to survive Martian gravity.

Note: Do any readers have any ideas on tackling the gravity problem? Aside from spinning techniques that is.

Final Destination: Crimson Soil

Even if SpaceX finds a way to cheaply exit our homeworld and avoids succumbing to the effects of radiation and micro gravity, finding a way to safely land upon Mars will prove to be a daunting challenge.

It might be wiser for SpaceX to simply land their larger craft upon the Martian moon known as Deimos instead, and ferry astronauts to the surface using smaller space craft.

Since the red planet lacks an abundance of water in liquid form, SpaceX could use Ballutes to slow the craft down, enabling a human vessel to gently touch down upon the red planet instead of smashing into its surface.

Note: Future red planet residents might want to consider building a Skyhook (aka space elevator) upon Phobos, which could reduce the cost of landing upon Mars, as well as launching off of the crimson world.

Can SpaceX Put A Man On Mars?

Truthfully only time will reveal whether SpaceX can send a man (or woman) to Mars within the next two decades.

However if SpaceX is successful we could witness a new age for humanity, one that envisions us leaving our Earthen cradle in order to explore the solar playground around us.

Image Credits: NASA, ADAM

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Could Solar Wind Power Martian And Lunar Colonies?

Posted by on Oct 16, 2010 in Energy, Mars, Moon, Solar Essay | 0 comments

When it comes to settling our nearest neighbors, both Mars and Luna (aka the Moon) present unique challenges as far as energy goes.

Although one could always import numerous mini-nuclear reactors upon each respective world from Earth (controversy aside), it may make more sense to rely upon the fiery breathe from our Sol star.

Instead of physically rotating a blade attached to a turbine, the proposed satellite would use a charged copper wire to capture electrons zooming away from the sun at several hundred kilometers per second.

According to the team’s calculations, 300 meters (984 feet) of copper wire, attached to a two-meter-wide (6.6-foot-wide) receiver and a 10-meter (32.8-foot) sail, would generate enough power for 1,000 homes.

A satellite with a 1,000-meter (3,280-foot) cable and a sail 8,400 kilometers (5,220 miles) across, placed at roughly the same orbit, would generate one billion billion gigawatts of power.

That’s approximately 100 billion times the power Earth currently uses. (Discovery News)

Although this idea is being proposed for usage upon our home world, it might be easier (not to mention wiser) to adapt it to power future colonies upon the Moon as well as for Mars.

Even though the first explorers of Mars and Luna will use solar power to help keep the lights on, using our Sun’s solar wind could allow us to power cities without having to rely upon nuclear fuel imports from Earth.

Perfecting this technology would allow Lunar settlements to operate during the 2 weeks of darkness while Martian outposts might be able to transform one of their asteroid moons (preferably Deimos) into a gigantic power station that could help power Martian cities every few days.

While it’s skeptical that something like this would be allowed near Earth (due to the environmental consciousness of our global governments), it would make more sense when used for off world colonies upon Luna, Mars and beyond.

(via MSNBCImage Credit: NASA and the Journal of Geophysical Research – Space Physics)

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Video: VASIMR May Be The Only (Safe) Way To Reach Mars

Posted by on Mar 22, 2010 in Blog, Mars, Solar Essay, Technology, Video | 2 comments

(Image Credit: NASA)

Before we can build homes, fertilize the soil and raise up forests upon the red planet (not to mention bring our animal friends as well), we are going to have to figure out a way to safely get to Mars.

Despite the advances of chemical rockets, taking a 6 month journey to that crimson world would not only be unreasonable (as you would have to pack a lot of food and water for the journey) but dangerous as well due to space radiation.

In order to shorten the time span between the blue and red worlds, we may have to resort to Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket’s (aka VASIMR).

(video via Spaceports)

(Space.com) Future Mars outposts or colonies may seem more distant than ever with NASA’s exploration plans in flux, but the rocket technology that could someday propel a human mission to the red planet in as little as 40 days may already exist.

A company founded by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz has been developing a new rocket engine that draws upon electric power and magnetic fields to channel superheated plasma out the back. That stream of plasma generates steady, efficient thrust that uses low amounts of propellant and builds up speed over time. [...]

A mission trajectory study estimated that a VASIMR-powered spacecraft could reach the red planet within 40 days if it had a 200 megawatt power source. That’s 1,000 times more power than what the current VASIMR prototype will use, although Ad Astra says that VASIMR can scale up to higher power sources.

Although VASIMR could help shorten the trip towards Mars, future astronauts would probably still need a magnetic shield to protect them from the ravages of space radiation.

It may be wise for NASA to team up with Ad Astra in order to perfect this rocket, as it could enable us to not only reach and settle Mars within our life time, but perhaps Callisto, Ganymede and Saturn’s Titan as well.

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Terraforming Mars Impossible Due To The Sun?

Posted by on Mar 18, 2010 in Blog, Mars, Solar Essay | 5 comments

(Image: Terraformed Mars, Artist: Ittiz)

It looks like humanities hope of turning Mars into a second Earth may never translate into reality thanks in part to the red planet’s lack of a magnetic field.

Scientists have discovered that our Sun’s solar radiation may thwart all attempts at increasing the atmospheric pressure of the crimson world, which means we may never get the chance of witnessing a green Mars, let alone a blue one.

(Discovery News) Scientists have identified a sort of double-whammy solar super wave that is responsible for blowing away air from Mars and keeping its atmosphere thin, frigid and downright inhospitable for any possible future travelers.

The waves happen when one stream of solar wind is overrun and amped up by another, faster gale of solar particles. That creates a flying traffic jam of particles that slam into Mars as one large pulse. [...]

When Edberg and his colleagues compared these events at Mars to the flow of heavier atoms blowing past Mars Express, they discovered that fully a third of Martian air loss happens during the 15 percent of the time when doubled-up solar wind pulses hit the planet.

Although this means that Mars may never become a second eden (unless we can create a global magnetic field), it does not mean that humanity will never settle the planet en mass.

Future colonists will have to adapt to living within specialized biospheres (with portable magnetic shields to protect them from radiation), although doing so is probably much cheaper than terraforming the entire planet.

(via Mars News and Popular Science)

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Could ‘Peepoo Bags’ Help Fertilize Martian Soil?

Posted by on Mar 8, 2010 in Blog, Mars, Solar Essay | 0 comments


(Image Credit: Peepoople.com)

Unlike our beloved Earth, Martian soil is very hostile to terrestrial plants.

While this may not hinder our efforts to visit the red planet, it will prevent us from raising crop and planting forests upon this barren dusty world.

Fortunately there seems to be an innovative invention that may resolve this issue–although it may turn a few noses.

(Physorg.com) While efforts have been made to design inexpensive toilets, Swedish inventor Anders Wilhelmson is taking an even more low-tech approach to the problem. He has designed the “Peepoo,” a biodegradable plastic bag that serves as a single-use toilet for individuals in the developing world. After the bag is used and buried in the ground, urea crystals coating the bag sterilize the solid human waste and break it down into fertilizer for crops. Wilhelmson says that his company, Peepoople, can sell the bags for about 2 or 3 cents.

Not only would this be much cheaper than importing fertilizer from Earth, but I could also enable us to raise a few animals off world (like pigs, chickens and of course man’s best friend).

While utilizing our own waste would require the first Martians to maintain a high level of sanitization (perhaps via plasma gas?), it could be the only practical way for us to conquer the crimson world.

–Posted on my iPhone

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The 7 (Future) Wonders Of The Solar System

Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 in Asteroids, Blog, Callisto, Future, Ganymede, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Moon, Pluto, Saturn, Solar Essay, Titan, Uranus | 5 comments

solarsytemmontage

Two hundred years after the first man and woman graced the plains of Mars, humanity is still isolated to just one star system.

Despite an intense campaign by the Alpha Centauri Society, humans overall have little desire to travel between stars due to cost and technology.

Although this rowdy species has yet to claim their interstellar inheritence, they have transformed their solar playground around them, producing seven wonders that will go down in galactic history.

The Silver Stripes of Mercury

Originally conceived as a penal colony, industrial corporations decended upon Mecury after discovering large deposits of minerals and metals upon its surface.

While its close proximety to the Sun has made Mercury famous for its Magsail races, it’s the billions of solar panels that encircle the planet on the surface (in “neat” rows varying between 1-10 km wide) that make this world an engineering wonder.

The planets 100,000 residents use the energy produced during the Mecurian day to power the ores and cities on the dark side of the planet when it’s safe to work above ground (due to the Sol Star’s radiation).

The Bio Gardens of Luna Maria

terraformedmoon

(Image Credit: Daein Ballard)

Officially designated Luna Maria after the failed Lunar revolution (condemned by government and religious leaders on Earth), Luna Maria has transformed its appearence from a white barren wasteland into a “second Eden,” which now boasts 60 million residents.

After generating enormous wealth from exporting oxygen throughout the Sol System, Luna Maria has erected hundreds of thousands of enormous, interconnected biospheres upon 87% of its surface, giving Luna Maria the appearence of a miniture Earth from space.

Luna Maria’s artificial planetary magnetic field (the only one in existance due to cost) has allowed the moon to use bees instead of ants to pollinate its crops, producing gardens unrivaled throughout the star system (due to it’s 16.7% Earth norm gravity).

The Phobian Skyhook (Or Martian Space Elevator)

marsspaceelevator

(Image Credit: Steve Bowers)

After failed attempts to construct a space elevator on Earth (due to infrequent yet devestating global wars), humanity was finally able to construct a skyhook on the Martian moon of Phobos.

This engineering feat has enabled Mars to inexpensively export its vast supply of water throughout the asteroid belt and inner Sol System, bringing mixed prosperity to the 8 million residents of Mars.

While the red planet’s globacanes prevent a space elevator touching the ground from ever being built, the Phobian Skyhook is an impressive site to see when orbiting this crimson world.

The Jovian Jewel Callisto

Coruscant_guilpan

(Image Credit: Thomas Guilpain)

Originally established as a way station world during the Helium-3 rush (in which thousands sought to harvest the isotope for profit), Jupiter’s moon Callisto attracted millions of residents after being declared the safest radiation world after Earth.

Using its brother moon Ganymede as an agricultural world (due to it’s natural magnetic field), Callisto developed the means to feed its enormous population of 750 million, who built cities covering 96% of the entire surface.

Using robots to harvest radioactive materials from both Io and Europa to power its cities (as they are too dangerous to be visited by humans), Callisto brilliantly shimmers in the dark whenever it falls underneath Jupiter’s shadow.

The Beacon Towers Of Titan

Often declared as “an astronomer’s hell” due to it’s cloudy covering, Saturn’s moon Titan is considered a musicians heaven due to the richer sound that’s a result of it’s atmospheric presure and composition.

While Titan eventually became wealthy by exporting methane and ethane to the Sol System, the cloudy moon was extremly difficult to navigate as its crust rested upon a methane/ethane mix, causing it to “slightly drift” and rotate due to the worlds strong winds.

Since traditional forms of GPS were utterly useless, numerous 1.5 kilometer tall Beacon towers (beaming out intense radio waves) were constructed thoughout the moon, giving its 4 million residents a faux GPS system (making travel and commerce throughout the world a lot easier for all).

The Floating Cities Of Uranus

cloudcitystarwars

(Image Credit: Star Wars, original artist unknown)

Originally built by various Terrian corporations to harvest methane and helium-3 within the clouds of this ice giant, these floating cities soon became tourist attractions for the more affluent seeking to escape the low gravity life of lunar worlds orbiting gas giants.

These giant orbital space stations boast near Earth gravity, and mimic the daylight cycle on Earth by floating around the enormous ice giant which its residents call home.

While estimates put the total population between 80,000 wealthy souls, these floating cities are known to have hundreds of thousands of visitors pass through their space ports each standard year, many of them heading towards the Neptunian Lagrange asteroid fields.

The Plutonian Ice Bridge (aka Solar Bridge of Pluto And Charon)

Boasting no more than 50,000 brave souls, this world was originally settled upon by government scientists from various Terrian, Martian and Callistian nations seeking to conduct experiments considered too hazardous (and/or controversial) on their respective home worlds.

While the world and its smaller moon hold little value (both visually and economically), one interesting feature of this binary system is the solar bridge connecting both Pluto and Charon together.

This engineering feat was originally built to reduce the cost of travel between both worlds via rockets although conspiracy theorists have their own conclusions for its existence (none of which will be cited here).

What about Earth?

Although the human race has made great strides in establishing colonies throughout the Sol System, most of its 20 billion individuals reside on the birth planet Earth.

While Earth is still home to some of the greatest scientific discoveries known to man (and women), there are no great engineering wonders to speak of, aside from the beautiful beaches, mountains and vast blue oceans that distinguish our home world from every other sphere that orbits our star.

Update (11/24): Corrected grammatical errors. Thanks!

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