Food from Mars in Three days
do you see when looking at the moon?
The above is the Deep Space 1 spacecraft, before it flew its 3-year mission that ended in 2001. NASA's High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) project is currently developing a new high-power electric propulsion system for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) spacecraft. The developed HiPEP ion thruster is currently the most powerful inert gas ion thruster ever built. Early tests in 2004 demonstrated power levels of 40 kilowatts and exhaust velocities in excess of 90 kilometers per second (over 200,000 mph).
Sure, this is too slow for manned missions to Mars.
But it is a start!
Yes, we will go to Mars, and we will do it, because the technological innovation that drives it will enrich our world in the immediate timeframe more than anything we have going for us. It will force us to uplift our living on Earth to such an elevated level that our human potential becomes increasingly realized. This means upgrading our productive capabilities to such power that quality housing can be produced at such so low a cost in automated processes that they can be given away for free as an investment of society into itself, with education and science following a similar manner.
Then, what about Mars? Mars is 35 million miles distant at the closest encounter, and since the Earth and Mars are orbiting at different speeds, those close encounters occur only ever 2 years. The long travel times getting to Mars make it impossible to get there and back before the two planets drift too far apart from each other. A travel time of 3 to 4 days would make a manned Mars mission possible. However, for such a three-day transit to be realized, a spacecraft would have to accelerate to 2 million km/hrs (555 km/sec - the speed of the solar wind) and decelerate back to zero before arrival.
Can we do this?
The answer is yes.
Three days to Mars
Here is how this can be done:
The principle is easy. #1 - We create a new space shuttle that inexpensively lifts heavy objects into Earth orbit to a transfer station. #2 - We build a Moon shuttle with ion engines that can get us to the moon in three to four hours. #3 - On the Moon, we build a space port and a research city where we develop the helium-3 fusion engine. #4 - We build a planetary exploration shuttle and plant the flag on Mars. And it is all quite 'easily' done.
#1 - The new space shuttle would not have a rocket engine. The last time we went to the moon we burnt more than 2,500 tons of fuel and had to discard most of the spacecraft on the way and back. That's wasteful. We have new technologies available. We can launch a shuttle from a maglev sled at a speed 700 km an hour, fast enough for an air-breathing ram jet to become efficient that would be nuclear powered with a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) that is light, save, simple to operate, and delivers very high heat (650 degrees C) to power the engines. Powered without burning fuel, and assisted with electrostatic ionization and acceleration, the SCRAM jet engines would takes us to the edge of the atmosphere where the ion engines become efficient. The shuttle would simply be nuclear powered throughout, requiring no chemical fuel, and would land intact for immediate reuse. LFTR-powered aircraft will likely be one the early general benefits from the shuttle program, and revolutionize air travel.
#2 - The Moon shuttle would likewise be powered with an ion engine, or several of them. Ion engines function only in a vacuum environment. They use very little fuel, but lots of electric power. Again, the LFTR provides that. The last time we went to the moon it took 3 days to get there. This can be shortened to a 6 hour trip. With engines that produce an exhaust speed of 200,000 km/hr the 400,000 km distance to the moon doesn't seem that much anymore.
#3 - The Moon base is needed for many things. One critical need is to develop the helium-3 powered crossfire type nuclear fuser that appears to be theoretically possible, but only in a vacuum environment. It would accelerates ionized helium-3 atoms from multiple directions for a fusing collision.
Helium-3 is an atom of two protons, one neutron, and two two electrons. Helium-3 fusion happens when two helium-3 atoms are forced together with such a great energy that their kinetic action overpowers the electro-static repulsion by the protons' electric charge. When this barrier is broken, one of the atoms will capture the other's neutron and thereby become a fully complete noble helium atom. The remainder will fission and form two normal atoms of hydrogen. When this fracturing takes place, of one of the atoms, the rebounding nuclear force, and the protons mutually repelling force, will become invested into the freed-up, fissioned-off, parts. This becomes expressed in the form of kinetic energy. Since in the helium-3 fusion the fissioned off parts are protons, which are the 'owners' of the surrounding electrons, the fissioning should produce three new atoms (two hydrogen atoms and a helium atom) that are propelled by this combination of high-energy forces to very high speed.
The million dollar question
The unanswered million dollar question is, whether the fissioning energy is low enough so that the electrons remain attached to their protons and form fast moving hydrogen atoms that are useful for spacecraft propulsion. If the fission-energy is so great that it overcomes the binding force of the electrons, then the protons effectively become cosmic rays and are of no use for spacecraft propulsion. High-speed protons simply pass through everything. They pass through the atoms of the structure of the spacecraft without touching anything. Their electric charge repels them from other nuclei and repels other electrons at close distance. Thus, the million dollar question is if the fashioned of protons will retain their electrons or break their bond and escape them and become cosmic rays. A definite answer will likely only be found by conducting helium-3 fusion experiments in the vacuum of space.
On Earth helium-3 fusion is difficult to achieve, because the dense composition of our air inhibits kinetic acceleration to fusion velocities. Other types of fusion are futile for helium-3, because of the negative ratio of the high repulsion-force of the protons in helium-3 atoms relative to their mass. It presently takes a million times more energy to produce helium-3 fusion on Earth than the fusion gives back. However, in the vacuum of space, the needed kinetic acceleration can be carried out, which promises more useful results, and might get us way past the break-even point. This type of fusion should work, because helium-3 is itself the product of this type of fusion, the most basic type of fusion, in which also the cosmic rays originate. The evidence for this lays amply on the ground.
A practical helium-3 crossfire fuser for space propulsion might involve 48 helium-3 ion injectors in a double-star configuration, arranged in a similar manner as the NIF laser fuser. For a space propulsion system, the equivalent of the NIF's target chamber would then be the spacecraft's thruster nozzle. In this case, the output from the helium-3 fusion, in the form of high velocity atoms, would furnish an extremely high engine-exhaust speed that would be a thousand times faster and more energetic than that of the best ion engines built to date, possibly enabling spacecraft speeds up to 1000 Km/sec, matching the top speed of the solar winds.
The resulting enormous kinetic momentum would easily meet all of our most ambitious space-propulsion need. With this propulsion, we might get to Mars in three days or less. The moon, which has huge deposits of helium-3 (and also of thorium for the powering of liquid thorium fission reactors for electricity production on spacecraft) lends itself most naturally to become the perfect interplanetary gas station. The supporting Moon city would, of course be powered by thorium fission nuclear power as well. Far down the line of time, by gaining experience with the helium-3 crossfire fuser, it might become possible to develop a system that even works in the upper regions of the Earth's atmosphere, low enough to become effective before the shuttle's ram-jets cut off. A pica laser might aid the fusion ignition in this boundary zone.
If the answer to the million-dollar question is in the negative
That is, if the helium-3 fusion produces cosmic rays instead of fast moving hydrogen atoms, then one more option remains, which is to utilize the principle by which the solar winds are accelerated, the principle of electrostatic repulsion (and attraction). A giant double-layer grid might be created, creating an artificial plasma sheath with an ultra-high voltage potential being applied between its two layers. With its electric field acting on the surrounding plasma in space, a propulsion system should be possible that produces the required speed to get to Mars in three hours.
Again, the experiments for this type of space propulsion can only be carried out in the actual environment of space, for which the moon offers itself as a perfect platform.
One way or another
The end-result would likely be that a non-stop shuttle from Earth to Mars with a three-day transit time would become possible. Also, with this kind of speed becoming possible, we would no longer depend on the Earth-Mars opposition to come around for a launch window. We would no longer have to wait two years for the next window to launch a spacecraft across the shortest possible distance, but would simply catch up with Mars wherever it would be and get there within a reasonable time, even across the worst-case distance. Of course, a moon shuttle build on this basis would get us to the moon within minutes, definitely before an traveler's coffee would have cooled that he or she might have in hand with, a snack, in preparation for the business to be conducted at the Moon City, which would likely be many-fold. Traveling to the Moon would likely be on the basis of a regular bus service, since the weak gravity on the Moon (16% of that on Earth) would likely require frequent staff rotation from Earth. The building of rotating circular cities in orbit around the moon, with artificial gravity by centrifugal force, might also be a possibility to enable a significant human presence on the Moon, for it to serve as a space port to the solar system.
#4 - Mars might become a perfect base for very distant ventures, such as exploring the asteroid belt (only 4 days distant). or even just exploring the science of life itself on the nearby planet Mars that offers itself as an ideal laboratory for exploring the potential of plant-energy dynamics in a high carbon atmosphere and an environment with a significantly higher cosmic-ray penetration.
The human being requires a combination of eight essential amino acids in a perfectly balanced form that is typically only available in animal proteins, but not in plants in the required combinations. Thus, on Earth, a 2-step nourishing process is required, a kind of energy step-up, from plats, to animals, to humans. Plant cultivation in the high-energy environment on Mars may enable the development new plat species that reduce mankind's nourishment to a 1-step process. Thus, Mars could be a highly valuable food pantry for the Earth, which also would definitely be of great value in the coming Ice Age environment.
Mars might be changed from brown to green.
The most valuable aspect of building a base on Mars would be most certainly for the purpose of exploring the science of life itself on a planet that offers itself as an ideal laboratory for advancing not only our scientific knowledge, but also our productive capacity. Mars could become our major breadbasket and be in operation before the next Ice Age cooling devastates agriculture on Earth. Mars is suited for this. It possesses an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide with a surface pressure of roughly 0.6 percent of that on Earth, enough for plant-nourishment in greenhouse operations, for which the entire planet would likely be glassed in and be covered thereby with an artificial atmosphere, imported to it from different places.
Without a deep atmosphere, the solar-heat intensity reaching the surface of Mars is sufficiently intense to sustain normal plant growth, with perhaps small amounts of artificial light added.
Since Mars has no oceans, its land area is actually quite substantial, just slightly less than the land area on Earth. Its day is similar in length to ours. It is 24.622 hrs, with similar seasons. The critical factor for human beings, the 24hr day, is thereby met.
However, the year on Mars is longer (687 days), and the 'seasons' are more pronounced. Its tilt-axis is 25.19 degrees (Earth is currently 23.439281°) Also, its surface temperature is colder (average −46 °C, high −5 °C with the deepest cold being −87 °C). For the Earth, the number are significantly higher (average 14 °C, high 57.7 °C, and the deepest low −89 °C) Of course, these factors are not of critical significance for heated greenhouse operations. Mars has a gravity 0.38 times that of the Earth, which makes it inhabitable, though frequent crew rotations with people from Earth might be required, or people living in rotating cities in space that provide artificial gravity. Mankind is biologically matched to the environmental conditions of Earth. Gravity is a critical factor that affects our biological system.
Mars is also not too distant to be out of reach for communications with the Earth. The one-way communication delay, due to the speed of light, ranges from about 3 minutes, when Mars is at at closest distance to Earth, to 22 minutes at the largest possible distance. None of these factors are significant enough to pose any critical problems for the colonization of Mars as a resource base for enriching mankind's living on Earth.
The more crucial factors are atmospheric composition (Mars compared with Earth)
Large amounts of nitrogen, water, and oxygen need therefore to be brought in, or be manufactured on site. But this too should pose no great problem for the limited needs posed by greenhouse operations. Nitrogen exists in some minerals, and may be present in this form on Mars. It may also exist dissolved in water, if water exists on Mars in underground 'oceans'.
Water on Mars has been long speculated to exist, though its existence has never really been confirmed. NASA 2004. The presence of water on Mars has supposedly been confirmed by NASA in 2008/9. Read more at NASA.gov. Radar probling suggests that there is a large presence of water under the surface, possibly deep under the surface. A 100% certainty is hard to obtain, since all the visible ice on Mars is known to be largley frozen CO2.
Ultimately it doesn't matter if water does, or does not not exist on Mars. If it doesn't exist, it can likely be manufactured or be brought in from Earth or other planets. The Earth can easily supply the small needs for greenhouse operations on Mars. Also large quantities of water do exist in the solar system apart from the Earth. One such place is the dwarf-planet Ceres that is known to be totally covered in Ice and probably has 'oceans' below its ice. It is located a mere 180 million Km from Mars. In addition, water can be brought in from the rings of Saturn that are made up of water ice in the form of a field of ice chunks that is 40 km deep and is extending right around the planet in a near infinitely large field. This source is a mere 1200 million Km distant from Mars. There is certainly no shortage of water in the solar system. Sure, a lot of water is required to grow food. Typically it takes 100 tons of water to produce a ton of biomass, though 99% of the water becomes recycled in pressurized greenhouse operations.
Also we face the same situation with nitrogen. If nitrogen does not exist on Mars, it can be brought in from the Earth, but also from Saturn where it may be more easily obtained. Saturn's moon Titan has a thick atmosphere that is composed 94% of nitrogen - more than we'll ever be able to use.
The missing oxygen on Mars should not pose a problem either. The initial oxygen might be brought in from the Earth or be produced by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. After that, oxygen is typically produced by the plants themselves, out of CO2, which is plentiful on Mars, though its atmosphere is thin. Should more CO2 be needed, Venus would help us out with that, which has an atmosphere that's 95% made up of CO2.
For metals and minerals, if there is anything that Mars does not have, we can likely get those also from Earth, or from the 'nearby' asteroid belt, a field of collision debris located in a giant ring 350-500 million Km distant from Mars. Over 200 asteroids larger than 100 km in size are known to exist in the belt, while a survey in the infrared wavelengths shows that the main belt appears to have 700,000 to 1.7 million asteroids of a diameter of 1 km or more. The four largest objects in the belt, Ceres, Vesta, Pallas and Hygiea, account for half of the belt's total mass, with almost one-third accounted for by Ceres alone. The belt consists primarily of three categories of asteroids: a C-type of carbonaceous asteroids, a S-type of silicate asteroids, and a M-type of metallic asteroids, all conveniently sorted out for us. Even then, the total mass of the belt is nevertheless estimated to be just 4% of the mass of our Moon. The belt is thinly spread over a vast area.
The bottom line is, that there is nothing basically standing in the way of Mars becoming an efficient food pantry for Earth, especially during the coming Ice Age period, that is if we fail in preventing the next Ice Age on Earth from happening. Creating universal indoor agriculture on Earth in preparation for the coming Ice Age is also possible as a means for maintaining an assured food-production capability for mankind when the resuming Ice Age climate disables the current outdoor agriculture in most places on Earth. It appears however, that importing the needed food from Mars, might be a more-efficient way to go. Most likely both options will be implemented simultaneously, just for the 'fun' of it.
Mars might serve as a critical laboratory for us, for yet another reason. Like the Earth, it is an electrically charged planet with huge electric power flowing around it that is freely available to be utilized. It presents drives very large meteorological phenomena. A fraction of this power would meet all of our energy needs on Marse. On Mars this electricity flowing in from space powers the huge dust-devils that are so common there, and also the dust storms that the thin and cold atmosphere lacks the power to otherwise enable, but which electric activity can easily produce. On Earth we have similar hugely powerful actions happening in the form of twisters and hurricanes, even Electric Katrinas. We are afloat in a sea of absolute electric power that obsoletes all forms of electric power generation that we presently utilize on Earth. The less complicated environment on Mars would likely furnish us there a useful laboratory environment for exploring the technological aspects involved in the practical utilization of the galactic plasma electricity.
While the presence of water on Mars is uncertain, the presence of vast supplies of electricity is definitely widely evident, with enough of a power resource available from space to power the entire Mars colonization project and whatever industrial development efforts we might want to carry out there. The entire planet is electrically charged, with enormous electric phenomena happening all the time. Our tapping into this galactic electricity supply, shouldn't pose much of a problem, and the utilization of it would likely be one of the first priority items. Our developing this technology on Mars would give us a good basis for doing the same on Earth, which is likewise electrically charged. We are afloat in a sea of power that pervades and surrounds the entire solar system and is generally more concentrated in the area of the inner planets that the Earth and Mars are a part of. Access to galactic power is one of the factors that enables the Mars colonization as a practical option for mankind.
With Mars being 1.5 times as distant from the Sun than the Earth, it receives just under half the solar light intensity. This difference in solar light-intensity is easily made up by Mars lacking a deep atmosphere that blocks a large portion of it. Whatever else is needed can be supplied supplemental, with electric lighting, utilizing the already available, highly efficient, LED technology that can be tuned to any desired light frequency. Supplemental agricultural lighting would thereby be concentrated into the narrow bands of color in which the chlorophyll is most efficient. Nor do we know yet the chlorophylls absorption limits in terms of light intensity, or know the optimal CO2 and nitrogen concentrations, and whatever else most efficiently advances the daily growth cycles of plants, if indeed the terrestrial night-day cycles are required at all for efficient plant growth if it is scientifically regulated.
A plant also needs sulfates and phosphates that are water-soluble and are thus easily eroded from the soil. Most of these would have to be manufactured or be brought in from Earth.
With all these many factors considered, which are all within reach to be implemented, the colonization of Mars will likely be happening on a much faster pace than we yet imagine, because the challenge is of a type that matches the human dynamics and productive potential. Once the imperial roadblocks become removed that have stood in the way of human progress for millennia already, a whole new dimension of productivity on Earth will begin, that will make such far-off ventures as the colonization of Mars for the extended benefits on Earth, become common place.
Am I dreaming? No. The colonization of Mars has a real potential. And getting to Mars will likely be rather easy in the not-so-distant future with something like the cross-fuser propulsion system or direct electric populsion. Getting to Mars in three days might even be accomplished via a non-stop Mars shuttle, directly from Earth. And that's not dreaming either. Instead, assuming that the Mars colonization won't happen, is definitely an act of dreaming.
Mars: an electrically charged body in an electric universe
Mar 11, 2010 Mars Lights and Lightning
Mar 08, 2010 Martian Auroras
Sep 30, 2008 Mars in Miniature
Jun 20, 2008 The Search for Water on Mars Continues
Jun 19, 2008 Martian Skylights in the Laboratory
May 15, 2008 Sulfurous Mars
Apr 28, 2008 Martian Water Features
Feb 06, 2008 The "Gullies" of Russell Crater on Mars
Feb 12, 2008 The "Gullies" of Russell Crater on Mars(2)
Jan 14, 2008 Mars or Earth the Devils are Electrified
Dec 27, 2007 The Martian Polar Vortices
Nov 08, 2007 Mars' South Polar Dark Spots and "Geysers"
Nov 06, 2007 "Dalmatian Spots" of Mars' South Pole
Nov 05, 2008 Martian Ripples
Oct 25, 2007 Martian Dust Devils—Prediction Confirmed
Oct 23, 2007 Martian Global Warming
May 01, 2007 Victoria Crater on Mars
Dec 27, 2006 Etched Mars
Aug 22, 2006 Missing Air of Mars
Aug 10, 2006 "Festoons" Add to Martian Mysteries
Aug 07, 2006 Electricity Alters Martian Soil
Jul 24, 2006 The Baffling Martian "Spiders"
Jul 26, 2006 The Baffling Martian Spiders (2)
Jul 28, 2006 The Baffling Martian Spiders (3)
Jan 09, 2006 On Mars Things Only Get More Weird
Jan 05, 2006 When Dust Storms Engulf Mars
Oct 03, 2005 Lightning Strike on Mars
Sep 26, 2005 Martian Butte and Crater
Sep 19, 2005 Mars Bears Witness
May 31, 2005 Mars Rover Gets Miraculous Cleaning
May 16, 2005 Message of Valles Marineris
July 09, 2004 Mars Dust Storms
July 05, 2004 Olympus Mons
Go to the associated page: Cosmic Rays
Published by Cygni Communications Ltd. North Vancouver, BC, Canada - 2010 Rolf A. F. Witzsche