#93 March 1996
Section 18.104.22.168.093.of the Artemis Data Book
A Space Frontier Tech Demo Program
Ideas for low-budget, 2 yr.-feasible demonstrations of technology items
that will be needed or useful on the Martian Frontier.
[* The following suggestions by no means exhaust the possibilities and readers are encouraged to think of, pre-brainstorm, and report to MMM of other neat doable projects that will help bring home to all of us, veteran space enthusiasts and general public alike, the concrete doability of space pioneering on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere in the Inner Solar System. ]
The goal is to produce a motor vehicle engine for use on Mars that will burn fuel and oxidizer derived from Mars' atmosphere and whose combustion products will return to the atmospheric gasses from which they were derived. Two fuel combinations are possible: "Carmonox" engines will burn carbon monoxide (2 CO +O2); "Methanox" or "Oochie" engines will burn methane (O2 + CH4). Methane is the more powerful fuel and will be the fuel of choice if reasonably salt-free water can easily be produced from permafrost taps.
The GOAL of this tech demo is not a vehicle chassis suitable for Martian terrain, but an engine that can be used in any such vehicle: car, truck, coach, caterpillar, etc.
START: There are now any number of experimental methane burning vehicles already on the road. REPLACE the carburetor with bottled oxygen and combine with the methane in an INTERNAL COMBUSTION cycle, not a rocket motor.
AND DEBUG. DEMO at ISDC '98 Milwaukee.
The density of Martian air at average surface levels is equivalent to the atmospheric pressure on Earth at 125,000 ft., an altitude that can be reached by a balloon-mounted platform. DESIGN, BUILD, and FLY an unpiloted airplane to and from such a platform - at or during ISDC '98 Milwaukee.
Paul Swift of the Ontario Space Society (ISDC '94 Toronto) has expressed an interest in taking up this challenge.
Meteorburst communications which bounce messages off the electronic debris trails of incoming meteors high in the atmosphere have been used successfully for over-the-horizon communications by long distance trucking companies. The devices never have to wait more than a second or two before finding a suitable placed meteorburst.
Because these events occur high up, this system also should work well on Mars, as a reliable backup to a more expensive to deploy and maintain satellite communications system. DESIGN, BUILD, and FLY such a system, again aboard a balloon-hung platform at an altitude of 125,000 feet.
Can shielding be manufactured by a sebatier reactor from atmospheric components on Mars? If so, a small nuclear thermal power plant could enshield a telerobotically landed Mars habitat module or complex without disturbing the boulder-strewn and possibly permafrost-hardened soil all around the campsite.
One possibility, in theory, is DiNitrogen Pentoxide, N205, which is a white powder throughout the whole range of Martian ambient temperatures. It is dangerously chemically unstable, however. A much safer product would be simple carbon (graphite) dust, powder, or crystals.
DESIGN, BUILD, and DEBUG a sebatier reactor device to start with a Mars-like atmospheric mix and end up with such an inert thermal shielding powder. Make note of any potentially useful atmospheric byproducts produced in the process. DEMO at ISDC '98 Milwaukee.
Traversing Mars boulder-cluttered strewn-fields will be slow going and impede easy, frequent, and timely travel between outpost sites on Mars by wheeled vehicles or legged walkers. A hovercraft which could skim over such routine obstacles at speed would open up the planet like nothing else could. Mars' low atmospheric density, however, makes a traditionally designed hovercraft infeasible. If the weight of such a vehicle, with cargo and fuel, could be partially (say 90%?) compensated by hydrogen aerodynamically-styled buoyancy bags, perhaps such vehicles could work. Hydrogen is safe to handle on Mars where there is no free oxygen to speak of.
DESIGN, BUILD, TEST, and DEBUG a scale model Mars Skimmer. DEMO at ISDC '98 Milwaukee.
Unlike a "greenhouse" which maintains terrestrial plants under Earth-normal ideal growing conditions in less than ideal climates, a "redhouse" would be pressurized with relatively pure Carbon Dioxide, CO2. BEGIN with the hardiest plants known on Earth, lichens and other tundra plants; plants that thrive in the high altiplano of the Andes, and at the tree line of other high altitude areas; plants that thrive in desert conditions; plants which survive intense cold.
The eventual goal of "redhousing" will be to breed ever hardier and hardier hybrids which someday may take hold and survive outdoors on a Mars where human intervention has succeeded in meeting them halfway by raising the carbon dioxide atmospheric pressure and ambient temperatures.
For ISDC '98 Milwaukee, the goal is simply to DEMO a redhouse chamber with controls capable of varying the pressure and temperature.
The Game Plan: Gather a group with the right mix of expertise, brainstorm a design, proice the materials and tools you will need, and make a presentation to potential corporate sponsors.
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto