Space Troll: Discussing the REAL future of Humanity

Solar Sails fastest way to Mars?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Source: Space.com

Photo from Space.com

I posted about this earlier on my site, but you might have heard about Gregory Benford, who is a professor of physics at UC Irvine as well as a notable science fiction author. Gregory, along with his brother James conducted an interesting experiment.
Dr. Benford and his brother James were testing a very thin carbon-mesh sail, using microwaves as the energy source for propulsion. Unexpectedly, the sail experienced a force considerably greater than predicted. They theorized that the heat from the microwave beam was causing carbon monoxide gas to escape from the sail's surface; the recoil from the escaping molecules provided what could be a useful adjunct to the propulsive force experienced by light sails.

They believe that by beaming microwave energy up from Earth to boil off volatile molecules from a specially formulated paint applied to the sail will provide enough added force to propel a spacecraft to Mars in record time. "It's a different way of thinking about propulsion," Gregory Benford says. "We leave the engine on the ground." Their research will be published this month in the journal Acta Astronautica.

I look forward towards the publication of this article. More from Space.com:
This is how it would work: a rocket would take the craft to low-Earth orbit, whereupon the craft would unfurl a 100 meter diameter sail. A transmitter on Earth would fire a one-hour burst of microwaves at it to heat it up, accelerating the craft to 60 kilometres per second. This would set an interplanetary speed record for space probes.

This might be an alternative to nuclear propulsion as that can not only be expensive but also dangerous (would you fly with a nuclear reactor strapped to your back?). The project has major undertakings though.
The plan would require a 60-megawatt microwave beam with a similar diameter as the sail that was capable of tracking the craft. The deep-space communications network that NASA uses to communicate with Mars rovers and the Cassini probe now orbiting Saturn can only output half a megawatt.

Constructing this would be a major task for NASA, but the prize could be far more rewarding than their pursuit of rocket or nuclear propulsion. Although this is a good idea, I would recommend that the "solar sail" be equipped with rockets (chemical or nuclear) in the event that they "sail off course" or in order to gain speed around a planet. Either way I congratulate the Benford brothers and look forward to their proposal towards the space community (and hopefully NASA's as well). Selah!)
2:38 AM :: ::

Darnell Clayton :: permalink

Global Warming on Mars?

Saturday, February 05, 2005
Source (Better Humans)

Believe or not many scientists think that one solution to colonizing the "Red Planet" would be through injecting synthetic green house gases that are more powerful than the regular carbon dioxide.

The approach developed by Marinova and colleagues involves artificially created greenhouse gases nearly 10,000 times more effective than carbon dioxide. Using a computer model of the Martian atmosphere, the researchers analyzed four of the best candidate gases individually and in combination.

Focusing on fluorine-based gases, which are composed of elements readily available on the Martian surface, the found that a compound called octafluoropropane produced the greatest warming alone and even more warming in combination with several similar gases.

Although I think there is personally nothing financial to gain from the Red Planet for the immediate future, these procedures could enable an "Earth Like" world on Mars for future generations. I see Mars as more of a testing ground for more glories prizes on Jupiter and Saturn's moons (the icy worlds of Europa, Mimas, Enceladus and the methane world of Titan).

Credit: NASA Glenn Research Center

From red to blue: A new proposal for creating a runaway greenhouse effect on Mars could feasibly make the planet more hospitable in centuries

One draw back to this measure though is the American public (as well as the international space lovers) may be impatient to fund such procedures and focus will most likely focus their energies on the Moon, which is probably a more practical spot since it's about 3 days journey away from our homeworld. However if these scientists are correct then implementing such procedures NOW on the red planet would be a wise investment for the future (unless of coarse hyper jumps are invented and we simply travel to more promising worlds beyond our solar system). All of the needed chemicals already exist on Mars, and although this may take several hundred years to complete it would be well worth the wait if a "Green Mars" emerged.

Last excerpt from "Better Humans:"

Adding about 300 parts per million of the gas mixture in the current Martian atmosphere, the researchers say, could spark a runaway greenhouse effect that causes the evaporation of carbon dioxide on the Martian surface. This in turn would lead to further melting, temperature increases, enhanced atmospheric pressure and a thicker atmosphere.

I've had my say about colonization, what's your view? Selah!
3:01 AM :: ::

Darnell Clayton :: permalink