Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mini-industry on Mars

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When we go to Mars we need to take the industrial revolution with us...a scaled down version of industry that can deliver a range of products.

With that in mind, this demonstration of what can be achieved with scaled down machines and simple solar power, is very interesting:

From the Popsci article:

"Markus Kayser’s Solar Sinter Project takes the desert’s two most abundant resources, sunlight and sand and puts them to work manufacturing glass objects. Kayser loads the sand into a solar-powered 3-D printer where it serves as the raw material for glass.

In a process that’s fascinating to watch, concentrated sunlight replaces the laser typically found in 3D printers, melting sand (instead of resin) in patterns to form an abstract sculpture or, more usefully, a bowl."

I think this type of machine - scaled down, marrying robotic technology with human oversight  -  is just the sort of thing the first humans on Mars need to bring with them. Although the amount of solar radiation available on Mars is nowhere the intensity of the Sahara, reflectors could be used to concentrate the solar power and achieve furnace-like temperatures.  The production of the bowl at the end of the video shows that useful objects can be produced.

Of course, I am not suggesting that the Mars pioneers would take exactly this type of machine, but it shows that small scale smelting could take place and that a variety of objects to be used in the kitchen, in farm areas, or in exploration could be produced.

I think on Mars the pioneers would probably take with them small furnaces to use in conjunction with solar power.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Musk to Mars

I have always considered that Elon Musk - founder of Space X - has never given up on his original objective of reaching Mars. That was what drew him into the space business in the first place - when he discovered that NASA couldn't deliver his Mars Greenhouse project to the surface of the Red Planet. It was then he decided to create a business dedicated to developing cheap access to space.

Perhaps over the last few years discretion has led him to limit his pronouncements on Mars (he might not have wished to highlight NASA's deficiencies with aggressive Mars advocacy), but now we see a shift on the back of a series of commercial and launch successes. Take a look at this article for instance -

As the article says "Musk thinks that humans can set foot on the red planet within the next 10 to 20 years."

So, let's be clear - the fast track to Mars is not some idle speculation. This guy knows what he's talking about - we can get there within a couple of decades if we are serious about the project.

We now can see where the Falcon 9 Heavy and the Dragon fit into the grand strategy.  The Falcon 9 Heavy can lift significant tonnage into orbit. In orbit, a transit vehicle to Mars can be assembled and the Dragon could be the basis for a lander craft.