Category Archives: Mars

Mars? It’s down the hall to the left…

So how do we get to Mars? (Let alone other planets or galaxies…)

Baby steps.

Baby steps that pay for themselves.

Folks crossing the Atlantic in the late 15th century weren’t doing it completely on a throw-away budget. It was largely under the prospect of trade and opportunities for colonization.

In other words, it needs to pay for itself.

So, with Mars being so far away — that’s a little tricky. And the fact that you can’t breath there. Or expect there to be any atmosphere for a stinking long time.

Again, baby steps — that pay for themselves.

I’d suggest this:

1) Build “Earth Dock”

— a bigger, badder satellite than the ISS that is a stop-off point between Earth and Mars.

Monetize it with a hotel. Tourism. “Take a vacation to the edge of space.” And this allows us to have one type of transport from Earth to Earth-Dock, and a different type from Earth Dock to Mars Dock. (more about Mars Dock below)

2) Moon Base

— this one’s somewhat optional, but a pretty good idea to expand tourism — it’s one thing to vacation just off-planet, it’s another to hit the next closest heavenly body. It’s a no-brainer that this would be a money-maker. And that helps contribute toward the next goals.

3) Mars Dock

— very similar to Earth Dock, except — duh — this one orbits Mars. This will help make travel up and down from Mars more efficient — also gives us another point of tourism, though admittedly — once you’ve gotten this far, you’re going to want to get down to the surface. Also gives the explorers/colonists “eye-in-the-sky” support that would have been more difficult without it.

4) Mars Base

— Got to start with something; can’t expect to create a huge colony overnight. Need to start with the science and tourism aspects — the science, to help us figure everything out, and again — the tourism to fund it all.

5) Mars Colony

— It’s got to happen. We’ve got to “get our feet wet” and try it. Just don’t bring any mosquitoes.

6) And Beyond

— so much advancement will be developed as “collateral damage” and “low-hanging fruit” as we work on figuring out the details in getting to Mars and Back. And just like computers and video game consoles, and iPhones, the folks working on these things will keep finding better and less expensive ways to do things and “get there.” But you’ve got to build the first “iPhone”, before you can have an “iPhone 2.” — Very much the same with space travel. We’re not very good at it yet, simply because we haven’t done a whole heck of a lot of it yet. It’s going to take the big bucks from companies like Google and Virgin. And simple outline ideas like the ones I’ve presented above. Are these original to me? Probably not — but I’ve tried to present large concepts in simple steps to help show how relatively easy this could be in the long run. Sure, there’s rocket science involved — but it’s not rocket science to suggest baby steps. Are these the best baby steps? I don’t know — but I think they are pretty straightforward and could represent a very viable path toward getting to Mars. Would love to hear your thoughts. I’ll also work on elaborating on these points a bit more in the days ahead — flesh them out a bit more, and start discussing caveats.

The Martian Calendar

Atmosphere of Mars taken from low orbit (via Wikipedia)

Atmosphere of Mars taken from low orbit
(via Wikipedia)

I often think about Life on Mars. How colonizing the planet will work. When it will happen. What it will take for it to be successful. What politics will be involved. Whether editing Wikipedia from Mars will be a pain in the neck. Stuff like that. Lots more to come on this topic.

But for today, I was thinking again about the Martian Calendar, and how it will be different from ours.

Sure, especially for the first generation of colonists, it will be difficult to leave off the conventions of “January 1st” and “February 2nd” and “December 25th.” Most people don’t think about the fact that Mars revolves around the sun a lot differently than Earth. Not as different as some of the other planets — but different enough that by the time the first babies are starting to be born on Mars, people will likely start thinking a lot more differently about the calendar.

http://www.universetoday.com/14718/how-long-is-a-year-on-mars/

A year on Mars is about 687 earth days. So, that ends up being 1.88 Earth years for every Martian year. Days are easier — a day on Mars is about 24 hours and 38 minutes — so, not too far off from an Earth Day. This will make it easier for colonists — though it *will* affect sleeping and making patterns, but really — not hard to get used to, compared to trying to live on other planets. But it will affect human beings. The first colonists will take a little getting used to it. But the babies born there will adjust more readily.

http://www.universetoday.com/14717/how-long-is-a-day-on-mars/

But there is no getting around the whole fact that the years are just pretty different.

And then it occurs to me to google whether anyone has worked through all this, yet, and it doesn’t surprise me to find a pretty extensive Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timekeeping_on_Mars

I’ve been interested in reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, but have never gotten around to it. There’s an interesting idea there — keeping to earth time, except freezing the clock at midnight for the 39 minutes that are different. I can see where that makes an interesting story element, but it really isn’t practical. Once on Mars, it will be important for the colonists to keep two clocks — one that is useful for them, and one that is useful for keeping up with people on earth.

And here’s another break — will Johnny keep track of his age by earth standards, or Mars standards. e.g., I was 27 years, 3 month, and 2 days old when I left Earth — and I have been Martian for 3 Martian years. There will certainly be a different effect on the human body. I suspect that the human being, so used to living on earth, will take at least several generations to fully adapt to life on Mars. And then, would there be any going back to Earth?

There is a really nifty conversion tool here: http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/ — you end up weighing about a third less on Mars than you do here on Earth. Seems like you’d have a pretty hard time of it going back, once getting used to it. But whose to say? Hopefully the colonists don’t end up looking like the people in Wall*E.