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How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/16/2007 10:05 AM

How to terraform Mars

A few months ago I wrote an article on CR4 expressing the idea that NASA and Star City should use nuclear fission to drive large heavy objects into space. This is included later. If this idea is accepted, then the othrwise impossible becomes a simple case of current engineeing practice and development. I understand large Japanese Companies are also thinking of the future in space and the devlopment of Mars. Current thinking is to set up large industrial bases on the planet giving out greenhouse gases, a process which would take a massive initial investment (may trillions of dollars) with little or no immediate return and take thousands of years to produce a habitable atmosphere and climate. However with fission propelled vehicles new alternatives become possible. The idea is quite simple: take whatever is necessary to terraform the planet out of the asteroid belt. It is believed that all necessary solid carbon dioxide and ice is contained within the asteroid belt but there is no current and never will be any chemically-powered rocket powerful enough to take large bulks of materials from the belt and impact them on Mars. With a fission reactor this becomes possible. The fuel for this reactor is the asteroid itself: a percentage of the ice and carbon dioxide solids are heated up and expelled from a nuclear reactor at high velocity, taking the asteroid out of the belt and turning it into a comet with a trajectory impacting it on Mars itself. Thrusters would be needed to control the rotation, pitch and yaw of the asteroid but when on a collision course with Mars the reactor could move on to the next lump of ice and CO2. The trouble is that a chemical rocket could never have enough power to lift such a heavy reactor into space. If this concept is accepted then positive results could be gained within say, 150 – 200 years, if not sooner. The idea would of course need to be accurately modelled and implemented but I believe the concept is viable with current computing power to produce a robotic fission drive. The following article outlines how such a heavy object could be launched into space and sent to the asteroid belt within a reasonable timescale.

How NASA and Star City have it wrong

A few yers ago on the Discovery Channel a tv programme outlined how NASA had thought about using nuclear explosions to place large objects into Earth orbit in the 1960's. J.F.Kennedy was horrified at this as he strongly suspected that it would start WWIII due to the "arms race" and ordered that only chemical rockets should be used. However, the political situation has changed considerably since then and the Russians and Americans are working together in space, so the idea could possibly be resurrected.

The idea is quite simple: develop a saucer-shaped vessel with cannons round the perimiter capable of firing small nuclear shells ( say 25ktonnes TNT) underneath it.At the base of this "flying saucer" it is proposed that a large heavy blast shield be used for a number of reasons

It would provide a heat shield so it wouldn't simply burn up

It would provide a necessary radiation shield so as to protect the occupants

It would provide a buffer given the correct suspension system so that the entire "saucer" doesn't shake itself (and it's occupants) to destruction.

The idea was to fire 25Ktonne shells 4 times per second below this saucer and use the blast off these shells to propell the object upwards until it reached Earth orbit

The beauty of this idea is that weight and size (unlike chemically driven rockets) is no longer a problem .In fact the bigger and heavier the vessel is, the more efficient it becomes.

The problem in the 60's was radiation leakage into the environment; however since the development of the neutron bomb (which fits into a tank shell) it should be simple to devise a shell which has the nuclear blast with reduced radiation instead of the radiation with reduced blast. Power requirements are no problem whatsoever.Take some heat from the blast shield to power a turbine and generator.

Because weight is no longer a problem the blast shield and entire structure could be made of iron or steel, with a skin thickness of an Earth-bound ship, say 5-10mm.In one fell swoop something the size of the Space Station and weight of a submarine could be sent into orbit a once.

Astronauts would have better protection from space radiation because of the thickness of the skin,

and a trip to Mars with a constant acceleration of 1G would take a matter of weeks instead of a minimum 6 months each way, and no space sickness or depression symptoms associated with it.

Obviously chemically powered landers would need to be used for any Earth or Mars landings, but their size and weight should be insignificant. A "saucer" would never be able to return to Earth, because the blast shield would be too radioactive, so to send it safely out of the way a collision course with the Sun is recommended when the base blast shield is expended.

The cost of such a vessel could be around the same as that of a nuclear powered submarine, which any major power can afford, yet it could mean that nuclear arsenals could be transformed into some use.

Hope this sparks some interest and I would be interested to read some responses.

E-mail bestofbritish2u2@aol.com

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Guru
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#1

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/16/2007 1:13 PM

One big issue would be fault modes. It could be catastrophic if something went wrong with a craft loaded with nuclear weapons.

That has been one big issue with nuclear technology in space. Getting it there safely is statistically a liability that no one wants to take. Even small quantities of nuclear material are almost impossible to launch into space.

However, a nuclear powered space craft for planetary exploration would be a great thing if it wasn't for the liability ir represented to the Earth (getting it into orbit safely and keeping it from returning to Earth).

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Guru
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/16/2007 4:06 PM

No, no, you're not listening - you simply explode a 25kT neutron bomb under the thing every 1/4 second for the 10 minutes or so that it takes to get to orbit. That's just 2400 small neutron bombs (60 megatons total) raining radioactive fallout over the Earth. I can't think of a single reason why we shouldn't do this.

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Guru

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/17/2007 12:21 AM

Here's another reason: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Excepting of course the massive pollution incurred in making the bombs. Quoting an interesting email I got for why women live longer than men: "How drunk would you have to be to think that's a good idea?"

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/17/2007 2:14 AM

This sounds just like the idea a few decades or more ago for propelling ship in intersteller travel. Maybe it was Nova...when what's his name (the BBillions and BBillions and googleplexes fellow) was the host. Never heard of it as a launch boost idea. With one, no fallout; with the other all kinds of fallout, and EMP...sounds preposterous to be take seriously

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Guru
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#5
In reply to #4

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/17/2007 3:55 AM

Was that the Orion program?

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Guru
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#6
In reply to #5

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/17/2007 8:56 AM

Nuclear pulse propulsion (or External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion, as it is termed in one recent NASA document) is a proposed method of spacecraft propulsion that uses nuclear explosions for thrust. It was first developed as Project Orion by DARPA, after a suggestion by Stanislaw Ulam in 1957. Newer designs using inertial confinement fusion have been the baseline for most post-Orion designs, including the famous Project Daedalus and the less well-known Project Longshot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion

All of these projects were designed for interstellar flight, not for lift-off from Earth.

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Guru
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#7
In reply to #6

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/17/2007 9:55 AM

Here's an fun video of the Orion concept of a trip to Mars. Notice the nukes engage after clearing Earth atmosphere:

http://www.nuclearspace.com/gallery_orion_movie.htm

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Anonymous Poster
#8
In reply to #6

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/17/2007 12:21 PM

Whatever happened to Daedalus son Icarus - sounds like even the proposers don't think it's a good long-term solution.

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Guru
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#9
In reply to #8

Re: How Mars Could Be Terraformed

01/17/2007 1:02 PM

Probably cost versus return on investment.

Neat concept.

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