Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I respectfully disagree on some points

What should Mars One astronaut candidates be studying in preparation for the mission?
There are two key things they need to learn. First, they need to learn survival, and second they need to learn to do scientific exploration.
Survival is their primary, if not only, objective. They can rent a comfortable room to a scientist that arrives after they've done that. Nothing should distract from survival other than survival in style (Pournelle, 1970s.)
Survival includes how to maintain equipment to stay alive. It’s just like a camper preparing for a camping trip…you have to know how to use the stove, the first aid kit, all that sort of stuff. When you are on Mars you are living in a little bubble of Earth. If that bubble bursts, you’re dead in minutes. So the number one requirement is to keep that bubble intact and safe.
Survival means creating an environment that is not fragile but is forgiving. Equipment on mars from earth should be emergency backup only. They should have at least two chemists in the first team. Two others should be machinists. Survival on mars requires gaslight era technology and all colonists should have a fundamental understanding of the principles of life support so they can make what they need from local resources. Give them trenching rovers to build shirtsleeve mansions and malls. Bubbles they don't need.
The number two issue is water and food supply, which is already a problem occasionally on the space station. Water may get contaminated by bacteria, for example. So the crew has to watch water and food supply to be sure it is not compromised, because if the water becomes infested with bacteria, you can’t just throw it out and get a new batch. So water and food are the next issues.
Water, oxygen and power are linked. Insufficient power is the biggest issue. Industry requires more than just for life support. Each martian should be able to produce three times their own personal needs. They will need to know how to preserve food (easy on mars) like country folks.
Whatever [power] is being used must be maintained and operated.
Each individual should have more personal power than they require. They start with solar panels and batteries (Lithium from earth, Nickel–metal hydride made on mars) then 3D print methane and stirling engines to turn martian built generators (kids can build a generator given the parts and instructions) so let's add an electrical engineer to the first team. Later a can do nuclear engineer for a backyard reactor (martians will have a rational understanding of radiation not found on earth.) Plus a 3D printed wire extruder with insulated coating bath. The machinist and chemist know how to make that work.
...the point is that all the things we take for granted, from the air we breathe to the power coming out of the wall socket, those things can’t be taken for granted on Mars.
Yes, which gives them a perspective missing on earth.
The crew’s success is a function of themselves, not their technology.
YES. A thousand times yes. This is why personal property ownership is so important. Without that, everyone is subject to demoralization.

Actually, I believe we do not disagree that much.


hanelyp said...

A methane engine presumes a supply of methane and O2, chemicals not readily available on Mars without some energy input. If this engine drives the prime electrical system, the supply of fuel needs to come from some other source. Are you thinking methane from biomass as a side product of a greenhouse supplying food?

ken_anthony said...

Hi Hanelyp,

Methane and oxygen are abundant on mars, but of course it requires energy and equipment to extract and store.

A methane engine is not a primary source of power. It is a backup when the sun is down and batteries are low. A reserve you can tap into if needed.

Also it is a means of concentrated power for industrial use.

You extract it from the environment using solar panels. So obviously you need more panels than just that required to provide life support.

On earth it take energy to drill and refine gas but that doesn't prevent us from using it as a convenient energy source.