Easier way to get to Mars and back to moon...

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by cosmictotem, Feb 3, 2016.

  1. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Getting to Mars and back to the moon could be much easier if, instead of doing it as a single mission, we create "supply lines" between Earth and our destination.

    These supply lines could be composed of mostly floating biospheres which, harness the sun's energy to create many floating Eco-systems arranged in a long line reaching the moon and then Mars.

    All along these supply lines people live and work. Once a supply line was established between Earth and the moon, for instance, getting to the moon would simply be a process of sending people from Earth to the closest point of the supply line and having them follow the line, (skip from biosphere to biosphere) all the way to the moon.

    If something happened along the way, there would be no need to panic since the supply line would be composed of thousands of redundant and always nearby biospheres which always available space transports can dock and ferry people to and from along the line.

    And, of course, the same thing could be done in the example of Mars, with perhaps some alteration to account for the distance from the sun.

    Since the supply lines themselves would essentially function as planets, in a sense, themselves, there would also be no rush while transiting to the moon or Mars. You could take your time as you transited the supply line since life sustaining resources and safe harbor would always be available at any point along the supply line.

    Moreover, this plan would require many people in space to keep in working operation and so spur a space economy as well as ring in serious colonization of space.

    Sending one mission here or there is not going to change much because the next mission would be just as risky without a supply line. But the construction of supply lines actually gives us a real project in space with an eventual real payoff. And it would payoff in multiple areas. 1.) it would firmly establish permanent human colonies in space. 2.) The influx of humans in space would create a space economy. 3.) it would make transiting to the moon and Mars infinitely safer. 4.) once in place, the biosphere supply lines can get resources from two sources, the resources they generate themselves and any resources we care to send up from Earth to them. 5.) if resources are being created in space, that means an economy would develop going from space to Earth because people would want to buy things that said Made in Space on them.

    And the great thing about it is, it's a safe way to get to Mars. As the construction of such a line would begin at the closest point to Earth in space, we could simply build our way to Mars without ever leaving behind a direct tether to Earth and its life sustaining resources. In other words, we kill two birds with one stone: on the way to Mars, we get a supply line with a permanent human colony in space and all that entails. That means going to and coming back from Mars or the moon is as easy as jumping from one river stone to another, instead of trying to make it all in one great and risky leap.

    So the first step in building these supply lines is to get serious about farming in space. We need to build floating mega farms in space that can supply food to space colonists. Plants, of course, can generate oxygen that can be used to sustain the biosphere Eco-system, as well. We will need to create whole Eco-systems and habitats in space.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    It's a good idea. So is the idea of a Moon base as a stepping stone.

    One problem is that we're not very good at creating workable biospheres yet. A more important factor in the short term is that creating biosphere stepping stones would be a very costly exercise.

    There are also technical difficulties with the idea. For one, the planets orbit the Sun at different rates, and so would a line of biospheres placed between Earth and Mars. After a short time, that line would be out of alignment and you might have to wait months or years for things to realign into a favorable position in order to take the next step.
     
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  5. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    I suspected that there would eventually be an alignment issue. Perhaps the biosphere's might be scattered in such a manner that would always leave them within "arms length" of each other? That would probably require more of them and again, run into your cost objection.

    Although, it would be costly, there wouldn't have to be a timeframe on construction as having half a supply line for a while, would be better than none. In other words, we could take our time building it as funds became available. You could even say the ISS is the first point in that line. A second "ISS" only a little further out would be point two and so on…

    And remember, half a supply line while although it wouldn't be the full highway to Mars…it would be a space colony, which would be an achievement in itself...

    Also, if a space economy could be developed around it, it could perhaps offset some of its own expense after a while?

    More importantly, I think the proposal posits realistic goals with real returns. What is sending one mission alone to Mars and back going to get us but risks? It's a stunt, not any kind of plan or solution to the difficulties of space exploration.

    Maybe we can't create perfect biospheres but we know how to grow plants from sunlight (or artificial light), water and minerals. Maybe we might have to supplement resources grown in space with those from Earth a little but we know how to grow plants. It's not a big technical mystery for us. I'm sure we can figure it out. And if figuring out biospheres is all we have to do to get to Mars or the moon in an infinitely safer manner, I'll take that over trying to get there without the convenience and added assurance of a space supply line.

    Btw, do you know of anyone who has made this proposal to NASA or any other space administration?
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    I disagree. Getting into orbit is more than half the battle. Once you have done that, then just go where you want to go. It is cheaper, easier and safer. Building "many floating Eco-systems arranged in a long line" would take decades, and would take resources away from doing the missions you want to do in the first place. (Plus which, of course, there is no way to have them "arranged in a long line" between Earth and wherever you wanted to go.)

    However, there are some intermediate steps that might be feasible. One is a cycler, which is a ship that shuttles on a minimum energy orbit between your destination and Earth. (For example, between Mars and Earth.) Once you start it on its orbit, it takes very little energy to continue on that orbit. A mission from Earth takes off, docks with the cycler as it passes by Earth, carrying fuel and food for the mission. Astronauts live in it while it returns to Mars. At Mars it aerobrakes, the mission lands, then takes off and rendezvous with the cycler again. The cycler then uses its engines (and the fuel brought by the crew) to return to Earth.
     
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  8. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Sounds like a great idea except for the hundreds of trillions of dollars it would cost.
     
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  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Am I missing something?

    Mars moves with respect to the Earth-Moon system and has a completely different orbital period. The distance varies between 56,000,000 km and 400,000,000 km when they are at opposition.

    How is it possible even in principle to set up a long line of biospheres between them?
     
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  10. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    The best idea , to me, would be finding a faster way to get to Mars. It now takes 9 months to a year to get there so by reducing the time to go there it would be better than having "supply lines". If they could get there in 4 months or less it would be the way to go. Eventually a faster way to travel through space will be found but will it be sooner than later?
     
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  11. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    No it would require a great deal of energy continuously, to cycle back and forth between Earth and Mars as without that energy expenditure the "cycler" would be orbiting the sun in an elliptical orbit, with perigee of approximately Earth's 1AU and apogee of about Mar's average distance from the sun.

    Not only that, but note that the line between the cycler's apogee and perigee, is fixed in space. That line does NOT revolve around the sun as both Earth and Mars do. - Very rarely would both earth be near the perigee and Mars be near the apogee at the correct* time. (Wild guess: less than once every 100 years.) For example, Earth would equally often be on the other side of the sun from the cycler's perigee as be near the cycler's perigee, and same lack proximity, most of the time is true for Mars.

    On those rare occasions when earth and Mar are near the cycler's perigee/apogee, at the necessary times, it is highly unlikely that the cycler will be near either and almost certainity not at one then the other with half the cycler's orbital period later. ( Wide guess at how often a one way transfer would be possible without great energy expenditure as implied by your suggestion: Once every 5,000 years). That is because you need: (1) Earth near cycler's perigee; (2) Mars near the apogee, half the cycler's period later; (3) the cycler to be making half of its orbit (between perigee and apogee) when Earth and Mars are also there for transfers.

    * Half the cycler's period later.

    The above is what happens if the cycler does not continuously expend energy.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
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  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    You should read a novel called Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes. It is a proposal for a continual orbital transfer system between Earth and Mars wrapped in a fictional story of ancient alien presence on Mars.

    It seems to be called the Aldrin Orbital Cycler System.
     
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  13. brucep Valued Senior Member

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    It should be a multi country project so we can use that money to stimulate multi economies.
     
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  14. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    If you're going to talk cost, why go to Mars at all?

    Think about it this way:

    As Stephen Hawking said, we have to spread humanity beyond the planet if we are to survive as a species in case of a catastrophic event. If we can make biospheres work in space, we can create a permanent human presence in space beyond our one planet. If some of humanity is spread out along a long supply "line" when and if a comet or asteroid strikes the Earth, that will prove to be a great investment.

    Additionally, a supply line can provide something a presence on a planet, whether Earth or Mars can't: people can avoid some incoming catastrophic space events by simply moving to different points along the supply line. On the other hand, if a planet is struck by a comet, there is a better chance the destruction might engulf the whole planet.
     
  15. brucep Valued Senior Member

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    The idea of self sustaining space stations is appealing. But for this project I agree with billvon. So far the resources put into self sustaining biosphere research has been pretty weak. I agree you that this research should be very important. Especially if we get serious about manned space travel. It boils down to whether we have the will to do it. There's a bunch of excuses why it's not a good idea. One of the main ones is it will cost a lot of money. The whole world could get a piece of that action. I'm an idealist on the economic aspects of such a project. Jobs and everything that goes with it. Give the European Union a chance to get off the austerity bandwagon. You must have read Heinleins 'Farmer in the sky'.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
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  16. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Safety, when you're millions of miles from help, is still a serious consideration and can mean the difference between a temporary inconvenience and a catastrophic failure. Apollo 13 so nearly failed despite winning "half the battle".

    Decades doesn't sound very long when you consider it took hundreds of years to properly settle North and South America. The colonization of space is a long term process.
     
  17. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Again, I will mention this is the colonization of space. It will cost money. I'm sure the colonization of the Western Hemisphere was thought to be a cost prohibitive and lengthy activity before they actually did it.
     
  18. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Will definitely check that out. Thanks!
     
  19. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Awesome, all we need is the full GDP of 800 more countries!
     
  20. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Great point: We shouldn't.
     
  21. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    So you're okay with the human species being relegated to one place in the Universe?
     
  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Who was it that said
    i.e. we're not ready to send humans to Mars.
     
  23. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Yes. It's not fun, it's not sexy, but it's reality. It's something you should become ok with.
     

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