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Ask Slashdot: Technical Advice For a (Fictional) Space Mission? 203

Posted by timothy
from the cheese-miners-revolt-over-thermostat-control dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I'm just starting to put together the pieces for a fictional story about a space mission. To put it briefly, I would like to give believability to the story: probably set a few years ahead, just enough for the launching of the first colony in the solar system, but with the known challenges posed by the current technology. Is anyone up for a little technical advice on space travel? A few quick questions: As for the destination, the moon and Mars are the obvious choices, but what else would make sense? How long would it take to get there? What could be the goals of the mission? Any events or tasks that could punctuate an otherwise predictably boring long trip? Any possible sightseeing for beautiful VFX shots? What would be the crew?"
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Ask Slashdot: Technical Advice For a (Fictional) Space Mission?

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  • by SharkLaser (2495316) on Friday December 16, 2011 @07:50PM (#38404972) Journal
    A young buy wins a tour through the most magnificent cheese factory in the world, led by the world's most unusual cheese maker. A magical journey through a cheese factory on moon.
  • I recommend Haym Benaroya's book "Turning dust to gold" for start. And my homepage too :)

  • by Ynot_82 (1023749) on Friday December 16, 2011 @07:55PM (#38405030)

    Any events or tasks that could punctuate an otherwise predictably boring long trip?

    Total immersion Video games
    Particularly Zero-G Kickboxing and Wimbledon

    • "The Gold at the Starbow's End", Frederick Pohl, 1972.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      I think weight limitations would make it hard to take a lot of recreational material up there, beyond the minimum required to live such as exercise equipment. You could read up on what the Apollo crews had to endure on the way to and from the moon, particularly the toiletry facilities which are now mercifully much better.

      The thing you can take almost an unlimited amount of is data. Videos, books, music, games and even some internet access. I'm not sure what they did on Mir and the ISS to relieve sexual tens

  • Go to the experts (Score:4, Informative)

    by MarkGriz (520778) on Friday December 16, 2011 @07:55PM (#38405036)

    Ask NASA *ducks*

    • by crutchy (1949900)
      you won't get technical advice from nasa nowadays... they just bitch about their budget woes.

      Need Another Soviet Asswhipping
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @07:56PM (#38405048)

    This place was literately made to answer your question: http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/
    The entire thing is basically a resource for hard sci-fi writers.

  • by biohazard35 (2499308) on Friday December 16, 2011 @07:57PM (#38405060) Homepage
    If you're looking for technical advice on space flight I would recommend you check out the Orbiter forums. They are the boards for the Orbiter Space Flight simulator. It may be a simulator, but is built to be extremely realistic. You can find a lot of very knowledgeable people on the boards that would probably tell you exactly what you wanted to know. http://orbiter-forum.com/ [orbiter-forum.com]
  • Make the space itself the target. Being able to live there, to have a self sustainable space colony, or a generation ship, not a way to travel to somewhere else in particular, but the destination itself, Like space 1999, without carrying the whole moon with you.

    Other interesting destinations in the solar system, like asteroid mining or exploring moons on the outer planets.
  • Apparently timothy can't spell. Unless the submitter is referencing http://www.hotelmision.com/ [hotelmision.com]. Although who would write a story about a fictional space hotel in the Sierra Madre mountains? I guess we're writing about a (fictional) (space) mountain hotel?
  • Sorry; I couldn't resist that. Maybe we'll see some interesting answers.

  • make it a long term trip + 20-40 min round trip for data / radio.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:03PM (#38405118)

    I would like to give believability to the story

    Let things break. Let things prematurely wear out due to the extremely hostile environment, extreme temperature swings, etc. Let things fail to function as advertised by the manufacturer, or some environment issue that was overlooked because of our limited experience in space. Apollo 13 may be a little too extreme but do some research on the day to day maintenance and surprises of the Mir space station.

    Look back to the original Alien movie (1979?). On the upper decks of the spacecraft Nostromo (?) officers were dealing with computers, navigation, communications, science, etc. On the lower decks a couple of guys were using wrenches to deal with the plumbing. I always thought that was a nice touch of realism. When we go to Mars the most important member of the crew will often be the mechanic.

    • by Surt (22457)

      And for the best realism, go ahead and have everyone die from minor accidents once their bones have atrophied in extended zero-g!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      On the contrary, make technology better, fewer moving/replaceable parts, focus more on the mission and reason for it instead of drowning the reader in technical details.
      In the future, humans will be either nimble hands for repairs or passengers. Pilots will be a dead breed.

      Remember that some concepts will still hold true even hundreds of years from now, if you want to explore another planet you won't build some anti-gravitational vehicle, but lots of simple drones seeded in the atmosphere, see technology to

    • by Mal-2 (675116)

      No matter what specs you settle on, the mission will be at least one (more likely two or even all three) of the following:

      • Late,
      • Over budget,
      • Under-performing.

      This is the way UNMANNED missions work. Once you factor in humans, the chances of things going according to plan slip from slim to none.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <`moc.nosduh-arab ... `nosduh.arabrab'> on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:03PM (#38405122) Journal

    probably set a few years ahead, just enough for the launching of the first colony in the solar system, but with the known challenges posed by the current technology.

    The "known challenges" aren't technological, but social (economic and political). Unless you posit some global threat that forces people to "get their act together", you'll need to set it at least a generation in the future.

    Even the certainty of a killer asteroid won't do it with this lot!

    • by migla (1099771)

      >Even the certainty of a killer asteroid won't do it with this lot!

      From a staring point of today, what would that entail? Some people would probably suddenly get very cooperative. Not the 1%, but maybe the 0.01%, and not just measured in net worth, but in power. Money is power so, the crÃme de la crÃme of billionaires would be there, of course, but also whomever (if anyone at that point, because chains of command would start to break down) who could wield political power that could put as expen

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Or, you could just have a bunch of people who are leaving for religious reasons. Some group that was zealot enough to give up earth, annoying enough that people with enough money to ship them off would pay up, but not dangerous enough to warrant extermination. Maybe something like those 'allergic to WiFi.'
    • by john.r.strohm (586791) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @12:35AM (#38406686)

      "Killer asteroid" has been DONE. "Lucifer's Hammer", Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, "Footfall", Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, "Anvil", Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle [FORTHCOMING: they're writing it right now]. "Lucifer's Hammer" is a natural disaster. "Footfall" was an alien invasion, and they started the invasion by softening the planet up with a great big rock.

      For that matter, see also "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", Robert A. Heinlein, for technical details about throwing big rocks at the Earth, from the Moon.

    • by dargaud (518470)

      The "known challenges" aren't technological, but social (economic and political).

      Right they are, but not only. For a good lead on social aspects, I recommand reading about winterover missions to Antarctica. My own site [gdargaud.net] or, must better, Big Dead Place [bigdeadplace.com].

    • by houghi (78078)

      I agree. What I dislike about the majority of SF is that it treats each planet as a country. perhaps this is a copy of a US centric view of our own world. Perhaps it is because writers are lazy and don't want to bother with that kind of realism.

      A more realistic situation would be that an other planet also has different political views spread around the planet. It will have tribes or countries with different points of view and inhabitants with different believes or at least grades of belief.

      Instead it is mos

  • by chebucto (992517) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:07PM (#38405154) Homepage

    Mining on Mars:
    - Mining underground gives 'free' protection from radiation
    - Technology of mining gives something interesting to talk about, once the spacefaring equipment has been discussed
    - Similarities between mining and space travel (seriously: both are artificial, hostile, tech-dependent environments) lets you draw parallels between what readers accept as pedestrian (yawn, a mine) and what readers see as amazing (wow, a spaceship!)
    - Dangers of mining give a realistic and easy way to introduce drama
    - The substance mined would have to be either very, very valuable on earth (basically, you'd need unobtanium), or, very valuable on Mars (basically, anything. Cost for transport from Earth = very high).
    -- So, the mine would need to operate in support of a colony. Any local metal or industrial mineral would be useful.
    -- By the same token, the mine would have to be small, because it would be supporting a new-ish (therefore small) colony

    Mining metallic asteroids:
    - Very shallow gravity well
    - Massive quantities of very pure metal, if you find the right one: pays for itself
    - Should probably be coupled with in-orbit refinery around earth, linked to a shipyard, unless there's a feasible way to bring giant hunks of stuff through the atmosphere without it burning up or destroying cities. This pushes the time forwards a few decades, at least

    • by pla (258480)
      Just to second the mining idea, you have two obvious things to mine - Water-ice (which has some very interesting and potentially dangerous properties at low pressures), and various peroxides (which readily produces oxygen, but has the down sides of counting as both caustic and explosive). Mars has both of those in abundance, and they provide the two single biggest needs a newly founded colony would have, while providing plenty of challenges and danger to exploit for the plot.
  • A few things (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:10PM (#38405182) Homepage Journal

    To make sense, a manned mission has got to have goals that cannot utilize robots. So, any mission requiring ad-hoc methods -or- environments that are hostile to computers but well within the tolerances of humans. (Medium-to-high radiation where shielding can't be used, for example. So long as the human(s) involved are willing to undertake the risks and there's plenty of donor organs, humans actually aren't too bad in such environs.)

    A good example of an ad-hoc mission would be a Mars mission that created a sub-surface colony. Most of the water is underground, the ground's a great shield against both the Martian dust storms and the hard radiation, there's plenty of subsurface methane for fuel, and we already know that there are plenty of massive subsurface caverns that can be exploited. The problem with a robot mission there is that it's also shielded from radio contact, the terrain is totally unknown and we've zero notion of how the subsurface geology will dictate what can and cannot be done. Humans don't need radio, don't care about a few rocks, and can study the geology in a way that no AI can currently handle.

    Europa, although an "obvious" choice, is problematic. You don't just need water, you need lots of other resources and Europa isn't a good candidate for supplying those in a way that an exploration can easily use.

    Once you're past the moon, fuel isn't an issue. You can slingshot to any planet with about the same fuel budget. Time is the only resource that matters. That makes the inner planets potentially more interesting as the gaps increase dramatically as you go further out. Mercury's rotation is such that you could have a short-term manned mission to the dark side without risking frying anyone and the geology there is sufficiently weird that you might well want someone on the ground.

    • by mbone (558574)

      Europa, although an "obvious" choice, is problematic.

      Yes. The radiation in the equatorial plane of Jupiter is incredibly intense. Someone who should know told me once that an unprotected human on the surface of Europa would die from the radiation before they died from vacuum exposure, which takes seconds. The Juno spacecraft has a radiation vault [nasa.gov] to protect its computer, or its lifetime in orbit would be measured in days. (Previous missions spent very little time in the equatorial plane, and could survive p

    • by khallow (566160)

      To make sense, a manned mission has got to have goals that cannot utilize robots. So, any mission requiring ad-hoc methods -or- environments that are hostile to computers but well within the tolerances of humans.

      Or a political/ideological bent that precludes robotic missions. If the political goal is "land people on Mars to show that we don't need to depend on those demon machines", then it wouldn't do to land robots on Mars instead of people, if even to scout out possible landing sites.

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:11PM (#38405196) Homepage

    A few years ahead? Space colony?
    Ehmm, have you been following what is going on in the world? I was growing up in the 80's and I remember thinking how lucky I was. I mean we had supersonic consumer jets that could fly us across the Atlantic in 3 or so hours, so by the time I would grow up we would surely have faster and more jets, so I was really looking forward for those weekends in Australia! And then the US had exciting new and reusable space shuttles which could take 7 people up at a time, do their mission and land in an airport, boy was that exciting! I could only imagine how things would be when I grew up with space stations, moonbases (just as long as the moon did not leave its orbit in 1999, if you know what I mean), humans on mars etc.
    So you know how things turned out.
    You want believable? Put first colony in the solar system at least a hundred years in the future to avoid being alive and mocked when the proposed date has passed and all we have are 30-foot wide cars, 30 angstrom thick phones, 30 inch long penises...

    • by 32771 (906153)

      "You want believable? Put first colony in the solar system at least a hundred years in the future to avoid being alive and mocked when the proposed date has passed and all we have are 30-foot wide cars, 30 angstrom thick phones, 30 inch long penises..."

      Yeah this is what it look s like.

      It's much worse though:

      http://www.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol3/pmofld1a.htm [nss.org]\

      So his Story should start like, "After an international fusion energy consortium (probably not ITER) of the western/eastern block (assume more

  • Uranus.

  • 2001 trilogy
    BBC Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets ...just two out of a slew that I can't think of right now

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:27PM (#38405350)

    Since most of the replies so far have either been disparaging or been references to other scifi works, I will do my best to actually answer your question.

    For the sake of accuracy, I am going to assume the following:

    The mission is 1 way.
    There will be no resupply operations.
    The colony must supply itself with infrastructue and supplies.

    That out of the way, here it goes.

    First, your crew must be over 500 people, and totally unrelated to each other. This is the bare minimum required for a stable breeding population. Any smaller, and you end up with an unviable population, a la the nazi eugenics colony experiments.

    Your crew cannot all be officers, administration, tech heads, et al. You positively have to include blue collar workers. Machinists, assembly workers, etc.

    In addition to this, you cannot presume to find food on the planet you are sending the colony ship to. At our distance from the nearest goldilocks planet, we can't even get a gross atmospheric spectrograph, let alone a detailed list of possible lifeforms. This means you have to not only take whatever food your mission needs for the trip through space, but also the means to produce food when you get there. Frozen domesticated animal embryos, collections of edible seeds and plantforms, etc. The works. It also means you have to take horticultural experts and farmers with you.

    In addition, there is a lot that can go wrong on such a mission. The colony ship will be in transit for over a hundred years to reach the nearest starsystem using the fastest possible forms of propulsion currently available to us. This *will* be a multigeneration voyage, and shit breaks. You have to be able to fix things and make spare parts. That means you need a complete factory and refinery complex built into the colony ship.

    In short, think of a space vessel with the combined cubic footage of new york state, comprising manufacturing, housing, environmental, and food cultivation systems, in addition to propulsion, power generation, water reclamation, and administration systems. You will be launching a small country into space. If it isn't at time of launch, it will be by the time it reaches its destination.

    The colony ship will be too large to land on the destination planet. It will need small craft to deposit transplanted lifeforms, colony site construction equipment and supplies, and ground personel on the surface. These craft need to be reusable. The colony ship would BE the supply line for the new planetary colony site. It would stay in orbit, produce and deploy any gps or com system satelite networks, and ensure the viability of the ground based colony as it develops.

    In addition to the lander craft, the colony ship would need service and resourcing craft to help keep the colony ship operational. The ship would be too large for unassisted spacewalks for repairs, so some form of space only maintenance and cargo tug craft would be necessary as well.

    This means the colony ship needs cargo bays, and docking bays, distributed around the ship.

    Due to the size of the ship, some form of internal rapid transit system for the crew will be necessary.

    The psychological integrity of the hermetically bottled colony ship population needs to be maintained. Recreational fascilities need to be available, including botanical gardens which serve no other purpose. (This means you need people to maintain them. Some bit of crossover in functionality can be possible with the horticultural experts developing new domestic plant varieties enroute in the botanical gardens.) It needs musicians, artists, poets, movie stars... the works.

    The colony ship has to contain epic shittons of water and biomass. It has to be able to reliably handle a growing population while in transit without overloading the environmental systems. It also has to be able to deflect cosmic energy for hundreds of years.

    The colony ship has to produce artificial gravity. This means it has to rotate in some fashion, as no other means of simulating gravity is currently known.

    If you are going to write a story about such a voyage, you have to explain how the earth managed to fund such an operation, and also why they did it.

    • by Random2 (1412773)

      Also, if landing on a planet, don't forget about disease and biological factors. I know Wells already covered that, but it's still an important consideration.

      Since it's a flying city, new forms of life and bacteria may appear on the ship as it progresses.

      There's plenty of crap in space, and it's very probably to be in the way of the voyage.

      Need to deal with the radiation of space' AFAIK we don't actually have a solution worked out for living for years with cosmic rays just blasting through the ship.

      Double

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        Water has a small interatomic space due to hydrogen bonding, and is mostly hydrogen.

        This makes it an ideal shielding material against cosmic rays.

        If we somehow, miraculously, manage to get past the "50 years from now" benchmark on fusion energy, capitalizing on the cosmic ray radiation to make the water into heavy water over centuries of time (reactor fuel water being isolated from life support water reserves for human consumption) you get a 2 for 1 deal.

        • by Genda (560240)

          Actually, you could easily provide all the shielding you need with as little as 3 feet of ice. Build a cylindrical craft whose outer wall is 5 meters of water ice with all the mineral salts that would be required to support all kinds of life to be brought on the mission. A powerful magnetic field further protect the craft from possible radiation storms and cosmic rays. A significant traction of the ice is heavy water for fusion reactors. A ship like this could make the trip between Earth and Mars in just a

    • by MickLinux (579158)

      Okay, the guy said current tech, sometime in the near future. So your NY-sized ship is too large. Our current tech includes our social condition.

      So what *is* feasable? How about geosync orbit, or a location at one of the Earth/Moon stability points?

      Suppose the location is just a way-station to the moon? Resupply would probably happen at the moon's surface, since the energies involved are less. Solar power would probably be generated there, too, and the most power-intensive activities would happen there

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:30PM (#38405380) Journal
    The best one would be [nasaspaceflight.com]
    But some other good sites would be :
    1) bigelow aersopace
    2) space ref
    3) The Space Review

    And that should get your started.
  • In Earth orbit, you can always go home in an emergency. Even going as far as the moon, you can manually get home (as Apollo 13 demonstrated 41 years ago, and at least in theory we've learned something since then.

    Not so in interplanetary space. You're completely on your own, with no place to run to. Therefore your crew is going to have to be extraordinarily calm and self-sufficient, able to perform emergency repairs very quickly while the emergency is unfolding around your ears, and be able to do so in a c

  • by forkfail (228161) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:57PM (#38405560)

    A boy finds out that he is actually a Martian, and that there are many Martians living amongst the humans on Earth (which they call Puggles). He also discovers that his parents were killed by an evil Martian King who wants to rule all the Martians, but whose ship crashed into an asteroid years ago during a failed attach on the protagonist's birth cache ship.

    The protagonist is taken to a special school in Area 51, where he falls in love with a Venutian girl. However, this relationship is made extremely complex, as she can't be in direct sunlight (the cloud cover on Venus prevents this). Also, in her true form, she is a horrible parasitic being who sparkles and glitters.

    Furthermore, the protagonist discovers that the one thing he has from his dead parents is a dvd containing the Bing search engine code. Strange reptilian monsters, referred to as Mozillas, are after him, trying to reclaim what is theirs.

    Eventually, things reach a climax, when, with winter coming, and his instructors with arrows through their knees due to a series of freak accidents, our hero steals an rocket ship and flies to Mars. Despite an attempt by his iHal to throw him out of an airlock, he eventually reaches Mars, where he is able to climb Mt. Olympus and destroy the One Bing, thus saving the solar system.

    The End.

    • by forkfail (228161)

      Oh - and... because this is slashdot:

      "Writing is like driving a car. Too many people doing at once leads to horrible accidents."

  • Check out Stephen Baxter's Titan. Almost exactly that scenario, and brilliantly done. If you can come close to that then I look forward to reading your work :)
  • http://www.hobbyspace.com/ [hobbyspace.com] has collected blurbs and links to just about everything space related.
    I also recommend you read "The High Frontier" by Gerald K O'Niel, and "The Rocket Company"
    by Patrick J. G. Stiennon & David M. Hoerr

  • Necessary Reading (Score:4, Informative)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning.netzero@net> on Friday December 16, 2011 @09:26PM (#38405712) Homepage Journal

    One Wikipedia article that you absolutely must read if you want to do any sort of "serious" Science Fiction involving travel in the solar system is to read up on Delta-v for travel in the Solar System. These articles are essential:

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta-v_budget [wikipedia.org]
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberth_effect [wikipedia.org]
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation [wikipedia.org]
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacecraft_propulsion [wikipedia.org]
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_travel [wikipedia.org]
    • Make sure you read up on very real "spaceship" (as opposed to spacecraft) that is being proposed by NASA engineers: The NAUTLUS-X [spaceref.com]

      Travel in space is all about energy, and you need it in heaping piles that are incredibly efficient in how that energy is used, as well as fuel sources that are incredibly dense in terms of potential energy storage for such a journey. All of this is in terms of how you get there, and to be perfectly honest there are still a whole bunch of unknowns. More importantly, there is very little if any sort of biological research that has gone into the long-term effects of partial-gravity environments, considering that the Apollo missions were mostly like weekend camping trips rather than any sort of serious attempt to stay somewhere for a substantial period of time.

      One thing that I find especially sad is that there has been absolutely no research at all to find out the physiological impacts of zero-g environments, much less partial gravity environments, upon the gestational development of a placental mammal. You hear all sort of conjecture flying about from supposedly intelligent scientists on the matter and talk of sterilization of the first participants to long-term stays elsewhere in the Solar System, but I think all of that is a bunch of hogwash as the proper answer is simple "we don't know". There might not be problems, but there might be issues too, or potential ways to mitigate the issues that come from having sex in space and producing children. Note here I'm talking even studies of mice, rats, guinea pigs, or any other kind of creature has never been studied in terms of what happens when they produce kids. Mice have gone on board the ISS, but they are intentionally kept separate and explicitly not permitted to have sex. I think this is something criminal in terms of keeping that sort of knowledge from being developed, and is to me one of the things that should have been studied years ago, particularly in light of potential plans for travel to other planets. Make a wild guess as to what happens, and know comfortably that nothing has been studied so the ideas of a 3rd grader is just as good as a PhD in terms of this particular issue.

      There are terrestrial studies (stuff done entirely on the Earth) of population groups and the minimum number of people you may need for a viable self-sustaining population. Even there, however, don't get hung up on the piddling details of what it takes to make a sustainable colony as no colony is going to be completely isolated from the rest of humanity, unless your story has an apocalyptic flavor and the isolation from the rest of humanity is part of the story itself.

      Some overlooked issues include worrying about base machines that make machines. In spite of some very interesting progress along the way, I don't see 3D printers becoming the ultimate source of tool making on Mars or somewhere else in the Solar System, and good standbys of things like a lathe, grinder, and other machine shop tools are going to be critical items to take on any sort of extra-terrestrial trip. I envision that one of the very first tasks for

  • by ukemike (956477) on Friday December 16, 2011 @09:54PM (#38405836) Homepage
    Read Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson.
  • by bmuon (1814306) on Friday December 16, 2011 @10:05PM (#38405890)

    ...about a trip to "mars". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZo36huahoI [youtube.com] Summary:

    "Presented by David D. Levine.

    In January 2010 I spent two weeks at the Mars Desert Research Station, a simulated Mars base in the Utah desert. Although the Martian conditions were simulated, the science was real, as were the isolation, hostile environment, and problems faced by the six-person crew. Although my official title was Crew Journalist, I soon found myself repairing space suits, helping to keep the habitat running, and having interplanetary adventures I'd never before imagined. My talk on the experience is profusely illustrated with photographs and has gotten rave reviews. Please see http://bentopress.com/mars/ [bentopress.com] for more information."

  • by lukeaar (1737974) on Friday December 16, 2011 @10:07PM (#38405896)
    Have a look at 'The Case For Mars' and 'Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization' by Robert Zubrin. The first bascially explains step-by-step how we can use present-day tech to send humans to Mars within a decade and goes on to explain how it would be possible to terraform the planet with Martian natural resourced etc. The second book reaches out further, exploring the idea of using Mars (for example) as a stepping stone for missions aimed outside of our solar system.
    • Have a look at 'The Case For Mars' and 'Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization' by Robert Zubrin.

      And then, once you've done so, drop 'em in your recycling bin (to prevent them from being read by others) and promptly forget their contents. Seriously, they're deeply flawed because Zubrin has a very shaky grasp on what constitutes "present-day tech". Much of what he confidently proposes as key technologies for the mission are vapor/paperware that haven't even been tested as bench prototypes, let

  • by mbone (558574)

    Deep space (outside the van Allen belts, i.e., anything but low Earth orbit) has a serious amount of radioactivity. This takes two forms

    - Solar flares (where the solar radiation suddenly increases by many orders of magnitude). These require shelters, with warning times in hours. The worst (biggest) flares could kill an unprotected human. These are most likely to occur at certain times of the solar cycle, and there might be a few a year to really worry about then.

    and

    - Galactic cosmic radiation (high energy p

  • 1. Enceladus (because it "is emerging as the most habitable spot beyond Earth in the Solar System for life as we know it")
    2. You might want to get in touch with these guys http://www.l5-series.com/ [l5-series.com] one of them worked at nasa or esa and you might be interested in the series too
  • Make it beleivable: During the journey to mars, yet another bank crisis yield US budget to its knees, and the new house decide to cut budget by yanking NASA. Your crew is on its own.
  • I suggest you read the novel A Lion on Tharthee by Grant Callin. It discusses the engineering challenges of making a self-sufficient environment to support human life far away from repair shops and spare parts. (It's just plain a fun novel too, worth reading for its own sake; you might want to start with the novel that came before it to get the full story in the correct sequence.)

    Out of print, but you can get it used through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Tharthee-Grant-Callin/dp/0671653571 [amazon.com]

    For non-fac

  • As for the destination, the moon and Mars are the obvious choices, but what else would make sense?

    For our first colony, the Moon or Mars makes sense. The Moon would be the easier choice, while Mars would be much farther away and perhaps be more interesting for that and other reasons. Ganymede or the other two big icy moons of Jupiter would be interesting too. Or maybe the first mission to establish a mining operation on an asteroid?

    How long would it take to get there?

    Depends. The Moon, a few days. Mars,

  • It has an atmosphere dense enough not to require pressure suits. With a source of oxidizers, the atmosphere could be used as fuel. It has a fluid cycle similar to Earth. Landings can be done entirely by parachute.

  • Look at Dan Brown, his books are absolutely bogus and downright wrong, but they sell. People don't want to read "real" they want stuff that works in the plot.

    Don't use page after page about how this thingie magic spins and creates normal gravity - it's there, it's done; flip of a switch and gravity is normal, smack into a small roid and your hero needs to go space walking to fix .

    Also remember to have your usual team, one black guy to sacrifice, one hotty for the hero to score, a scientist, someone plotting

  • You really are off to a horrible start. If you don't know enough about the mechanics already, you're just going to end up pulling a star trek and it won't be as believable as you want. "Pulling a star trek" is a modern version of dues ex machina, where you invent some technobabble to cause or escape the crappy lot device you constructed.

  • A few books which might be useful:

    To Rise from Earth [amazon.com] is an account of the basic physics of space travel. A few years since I've read it, but as I recall it goes over the basic concepts and destinations quite well.

    Robert Zubrin [wikipedia.org] has written two books which would be worth a look - The Case for Mars [wikipedia.org] about a practical scheme for mounting expeditions to Mars in the near term, and Entering Space [wikipedia.org] which takes a wider view within our solar system. Finally, John S Lewis' Mining the Sky [wikipedia.org] gives the rationale and pr

  • Basic question is what you mean by "colony". My personal guess is that what you will get are initially expeditions where a few humans visit, do research, leave instruments and go home. After that you get "mining camps" -- long-lived outposts where humans are based for a few years to do jobs that can't be done by robots managed from Earth. The ISS is a very minimal example of this in LEO. If the work is producing sufficient return (in science or good or whatever) then these camps gradually expand as it becom

  • The one thing that young, or new writers have a hard time understanding is how much *READING* is an integral part of good writing. Sure researching the plausibility of your invented tech in a sci-fi piece is something that great sci-fi writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and others all did, but there is also a lot of reading and research that needs to be done on how to handle the more compelling aspects of your story need to come together. Sure, the tech plays a part, but you're not writing a tech m
    • Case in point, Star Trek. The tech (in 1966) was so nonsensical and outlandish that it turned a lot of people off, until the show started getting critical acclaim and word of mouth praise for its handling of more contemporary issues of the time like civil rights and the Cold War.
  • based on asteroidal ore (1920s): http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Bernal/world/ [umich.edu]
    "Imagine a spherical shell ten miles or so in diameter, made of the lightest materials and mostly hollow; for this purpose the new molecular materials would be admirably suited. Owing to the absence of gravitation its construction would not be an engineering feat of any magnitude. The source of the material out of which this would be made would only be in small part drawn from the earth; for the great bulk of the structure wo

  • A big religious cult/group gathers enough money from followers to build a nuclear fueled multi-generational colony ship to a nearby star.

    The Mormons, for example, were told to sell all their possessions, ride a ship to America, and march across the USA to hunt for a good place to settle down away from pesky detractors.

  • At the year 2099, after the 3rd world war, and a huge asteroid impact, mankind decides to visit the most promising solar system bodies for sustaining life, in order to evaluate them for colonization.

    Make a big space station/ship, complete with rotating sections for artificial gravity, that uses nuclear propulsion to accelerate to relativistic speeds.

    The ship would have lots of people, from every kind of profession. It would also have science labs, entertainment and sport centers, even prostitutes (do not fo

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