Thursday, 24 April 2014

Reaching for Mars

Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings, SAIC

Below I've listed a few of the resources and ideas that I've found so far concerning the colonisation of Mars. Elsewhere, if you look hard, you'll find better lists (with prettier pictures too) but this is my handful of data and perspective on the subject.
Here are some organisations actively involved in research or with the stated aim of establishing a colony on Mars. (It's easy enough to search Facebook for Mars groups for yourself, and some of them are fairly sane too.)
Its founders include Robert Zubrin, an innovative rocket scientist formerly at Martin Marietta, a visionary speaker and writer. His practical ideas ended up being too far ahead of the establishment, so he resigned and founded his own company. Now NASA and virtually the whole space exploration movement acknowledges that his 'Mars Direct' plan is basically where it's at. 
The Mars Society has established two simulated Mars bases, one in Utah, one in the Canadian Arctic. Volunteer scientists go and stay there to do real research relating to Mars.
Their mission statement includes the following:
 The purpose of the Mars Society is to further the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.
SpaceX: Space Exploration company with sights set on colonising Mars.
SpaceX's visionary owner, Elon Musk, is a daring billionaire. It's said that big money hates taking risks - thus, nearly 50 years after the first Apollo moon landing, humans-in-space still consists of a few people hanging out in low Earth orbit. And the rockets and hardware in use now are based on '60s designs. Really.

Enter Elon Musk and his 3000+ employees. They've gone through the design of rocket launchers with a magnifying glass to find out how to make it cheaper to build and fly rockets to orbit. And they're well on the way to making the world's first fully-reusable rocket launch system. (No, the Space Shuttle wasn't fully reusable. Only the winged beast was; the boosters and external tank weren't truly reusable).
What does this have to do with a Mars colony? Obviously to get there you need to launch a great deal of equipment - and some people - from Earth to orbit. That's actually the most expensive part. SpaceX is lowering the cost per kilo of launching to Earth orbit by innovating, testing and flying new things. Right now their engineers are developing the Raptor rocket motor which will be powered by methane and oxygen. So far, most heavy-lift motors use hydrogen and oxygen. But hydrogen's very hard to store long-term, and methane can be manufactured fairly easily on Mars (or it can even be found and used on many asteroids).
What is more, Elon Musk has strongly expressed his vision to 'make humanity a multi-planetary species' by building a large and lasting colony on the Red Planet. He plays his cards close to his chest, so there aren't many details available and there's plenty of speculation, such as this 'fan art' concept of SpaceX's Mars colony Ship:

I expect you've heard of this one so many times already. Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, wanted to go to Mars as a boy after watching an early Mars probe on TV. Now he's an entrepeneur, recruiting thousands of potential Mars colonists for a one-way trip to begin a colony there. He admits he doesn't have the team-building personality to make a good crew member, so he won't be going himself, at least not at first.
Here is their own list of web links related to their grand scheme: be continued!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Progress on Mars Writing

Told you I'd be gone for a while. It's a long way to Mars and back!
So far I have a mass of notes (or should that be a mess? Yes, it should.)  Topics include:
·         Private space corporations
·         Asteroid mining
·         Mars remote sensing research
·         Astrobiology
·         Which universities do postgraduate research in astronautics?
·         Mars One
·         The large body of Mars fiction, from 1880 to the present
Almost nothing of the story is written beyond note form. Here's a snippet of what could be an interlude in the form of Facebook-type messages:
RichK31  3hrs . Richmond, Virginia
great day!! at last broadband to my door again! it been long time. now I can play WoW. 12 months offline whew!
doktahoo 3hrs . Cape Town
Had it last week. still slow tho
Mleonor 2hrs . New York
Anybody heard news from MarsOne yet?
Mick Major 2hrs .
They say a webcast or tweets 1pm EST but even on broadcast TV no news for months
Mleonor 2hrs . New York
No news good news? Mars One management has gone pretty quiet the last year or two of the crisis
Mleonor 55mins . New York
Everybody – what were you doing when M1 first landed? Memories?
Abdul Basit 48mins . Dar Assalaam
missed it in hospital sick just my bad luck
RickK31 33mins . Richmond, Viriginia
I watched it on my ol' iPhone I was trekking across Colorado terrible signal out there just me an the coyotes was that really 5years ago
Mleonor 31mins . New York
5 yrs 4months 13days 17hours. We threw a big party that day. The apartment was crazy packed. Ran out of pizza. Totally awesome when they stepped onto the surface. We screamed ourselves hoarse and didn't hear their historic words. The day Paulo died the next year I cried solid 48 hours.
Mleonor 13mins . New York
If M1 didnt make it if theres no signal or theyre gone I dont know what ill do