Thursday, October 28, 2010

Building the first generation of buildings on Mars.

The initial exploration of Mars will be in Mars habitats sent from the earth.

An early mars hab. Mars society. 
Search mar hab for more. 
However there would in all likelyhood only be four or five such missions. Once a good site is found with the prerequisites for colonisation a real base would be built from mostly Martian materials. Those prerequisites are a deposit of water ice or underground water, Iron or Aluminium ore, good rock for building or aggregate production and some nitrates.

Then an industrial module or two with the capacity to make structural materials would be sent to the colony site. Carbon fibre and carbon composites may prove cheaper and easier that metals. Carbon dioxide provides abundant carbon. Plastics can be made from CO2. 

So the question is what structure to build? Most think domes but domes have their disadvantages.

Image from
Domes have lots of round corners that boxy furniture and things don't fit into, Its hard to stack radiation shielding in a dome and you need some shielding to shut out the natural cosmic ray flux. 

There is another little known problem: While Mars is cold the structure will have a lot of heat sources inside it so there will be a heat dissipation problem. Domes are good at keeping heat in due to their low surface area to volume ratio. A box is good for getting rid of that heat without expensive equipment.

I believe the best early first generation buildings will be multi-story box like structures. Like this:
This structure has several advantages. Most surfaces are rectilinear so replacing panels and windows is easy. There are ample windows for natural Martian light to enter. There are views of the farm domes and the landscape beyond. Reducing any claustrophobia risks.  
The Martian radiation flux is cosmic rays so its a vertical flux. As a consequence only the roof needs to be shielded. If you make the building multi-story then one square meter of shielding shelters many square meters of living space. The shielding would be just rock or gravel, ~2-3 tons per square meter of roof. Far more than most domes could handle. The main structure would be reinforced concrete or reinforces polymer bonded aggregate with carbon fibre or iron reinforcing.
This structure has several other features.
Viewed from above you can see that the buildings stand on a central base,or shared ground floor, that allows shirt sleeves access from section to section. The buildings are segregated so if there is any pressure breach or fire in any building people can escape to the other sections. Behind the building are several tanks for spare oxygen and other chemicals that are kept clear of the main structure for safety and temperature control. The greenhouses are less shielded because plants are less vulnerable to this radiation.

If you really like domes you can add them;

You could even add playing fields etc in them:

In the above structure we have a playing field. Short exposures to the cosmic ray flux is safe; it happens to you every time you fly on the earth. This sports dome doubles as a place to stitch together large plastic pressure structures. The brown boxes in the fore ground are chemical and heavy industrial plant units segregated from the main structure for safety reasons. To the side you have a mine and on the left in the distance you have the spaceport with its big white fuel tanks.

This Mars base has several kinds of farming. The university dome in the fore ground has planters and grasses on any available area to feed people and animals. This includes planting on the roof tops. Most activities are indoors within the buildings. The elliptical domes hold fields for grains, pulses and vegetables. There is a multi-story vertical farm behind the university with hydroponic and airponic fruit and vegetables. Most people and some livestock live in the three remaining tall buildings. Some things will be boringly the same as on earth; there is a cell phone tower on the ridge behind the buildings.

These structures would be built unpressurised. With pressure tight balloon like structures added to each floor and pressurised double glazed widows added to the out side. This gives the structures emergency redundancy. Essentially a plastic balloon in a box with internal panelling protecting the pressure balloon from knocks and wear and an outer shell to keep the sharp Martian dust away. 

Eventually another technology will be used where suitable. These are low world houses. Roofed valleys with normal looking farms and suburbs. That however is many decades away. 

I've written on low world houses here:

It may be possible to terraform Mars but these technologies will make it habitable without much fuss.
Most of my illustrations are done partly in Second Life and worked up in gimp. Some were on display within Second Life but sadly that Space Destiny's sim is now gone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Banked track Magnetic levitation based artificial gravity

We can make space station that simulate the earth's gravity using centrifugal force. Generally for maximum comfort the centrifuge needs to be limited to 1 RPM and that leads to a diameter of about a mile (1.6 km). These are thus very big structures with a lot of material mass. OK in the zero gravity of space but you can't stand one on end on the moon.

There is a way to put a centrifuge on the moon or an asteroid. This is to use basic railway technology to create centrifugal gravity. The centrifuge is a train with multiple carriages running around a track 1.6 km in diameter and as close to perfectly circular as possible. Either the track is banked or the carriages are built at an angle so that the centrifugal forces combine with the low gravity of the moon or planetoid to produce approximately one g.
The blue is the track with a large dome adjacent to it for low gravity recreation and some food and oxygen production. The Dome is stadium sized.

Each carriage would be as spacious as a large train carriage. Some would be gyms for maintaining muscle tone and bone density by exercising in normal earth gravity. Some would be medical and maternity facilities to ensure normal recovery and normal pregnancies. Some would have apartments and hotel suites. In a well established base there may even be livestock stabled in some carriages.

Luna 7 Tracked centrifuge and ancillary buildings and domes. Most structures are deep underground in the lava tube network. 

Unlike a larger space station the train stops regularly to allow people to come and go. Warnings are given so none are caught out. Many internal structures are designed with a radical change of orientation. The direction of down changes through 60-90 degrees.
To generate one earth gravity the train must run at 239 kph an easy speed for magnetic levitation technology in vacuum or a thin atmosphere. Stopping and starting takes several minutes so there is time to find all the loose things lying around that may fall.
This small pioneer carriage is designed for the starting crew. Its orientation goes from this normal running orientation above to:
This orientation when stopped. There is a possibility that the table and counter top might tilt. This model was in Second Life. The crew sit in a lounge near the table not on the blue seats. there is provision for standing at odd angles in the shower behind the floral screen, in the toilet opposite and beside the camera (Note: in the top hab image you see a grey/ white deck with the writing on it and the green box. I'm standing on the box in the second image. Select the box and stand ).
The counter top has a kitchen bowl that is clam shell shaped. Thus it retains the water regardless of orientation. A spar bath in the gym would be the same only much larger.

The first unit on the moon however would be small as the second life representation of a small habitat shows. It has three bunks, a tread mill for muscle and bone fitness and would be on an above ground track. A separate solar flare shelter would be near the track or one section of the track would be covered.
A full sized flat car would look more like a luxury railway car.
Image made with gimp from google images of search "railway luxury carriage"
Larger cars or carriages are possible. Below are two 6 story cars with the external shell removed from the front one.  This has a garden with trees and a 4 story building. It has two connectors front and back. One for people [blue] and one for freight and through traffic [red]. The shell would be pressure tight with artificial lighting and view illusions, Trompe-l'œil, probably digital and changeable. These could be farms or offices instead of homes. [Track not shown.]
These larger cars would not stop normally. Passenger transfer is by smaller cars running parallel on a track beside or under the main track.
 Zero g.
This technology is not just useful on the moon. There it allows large long term human population to live normally. The technology could be used on asteroids. There the gravity is so low that you don't need spare floors at strange angles. As the train slows down to a stop the gravity drops to zero. Your wash basin needs a lid not just a funny shape.
On this Asteroid we have two magnetic levitation train lines, yellow rings, as well as some domes for zero g gardening and several cylindrical building for zero g recreation and manufacturing, etc. the Black structure on the back of the asteroid is a solar furnace for power and metals smelting. The green domes are lit by free floating mirrors behind the camera. This asteroid could support 10000 people.

I've also designed a free flying space station. This has the lowest mass to crew ratio of any design with centrifugal gravity.
The twin trains run in opposite directions within the yellow ring. This is shielded with water tanks, storage spaces and space slag. The Sphere has a double geodesic shell with water in the gap for shielding and thermal control. The internal spheres are farms with shielded stowage for zero g planters. The geodesic spheres entire volume is pressurised as a large zero g recreational habitat.

The large dark thing on the right is a solar shield. This reflects the suns radiation away, provides some radiation shielding and a safe place for ships to dock. The station and the shield are linked by a pressurised cable car and perhaps a few long torsion spars. Sun light is provided by a steerable free flying mirror that give controllable day length and temperature control (black ellipse above. Your seeing the back of the mirror ). This structure would support 5000 people with some farming or gardening in the carriages and smaller centrifuges.

Here's another design. This unit might support 3000 people. It would have the same shield and mirror technology as the sphere. 

Most people don't know that plants have been grown successfully in zero g on the various space stations. Plants like gravity but a few days as a seedling in a small fast centrifuge will suffice. Plants don't get dizzy.

                          Plants on the International space station.

In case your worried about radiation hazards all the banked track systems on the moon, asteroids and space-stations are either burred in the ground or armoured with a high mass non-rotating shell around the track itself. There would be provision to move planter pots and whole garden beds into shelters under the domes and inside larger solid structures.

This technology will allow people living in space to have gravity when they need it and zero g for fun and research. Short exposures to normal gravity daily prevent bone calcium loss. By designing the cars to be used for about half the day time hours would suffice. Short periods of zero gravity should not harm anyone including embryos. Though that needs to be checked.

While these space stations will never look like a chunk of earth transplanted into space, like the illustration below, they will be adequate and interesting.

 First illustration, the luxury train cars and the one above are from the web. The Third illustration is pure gimp and relatively new. The large multi-story car is sketch up. All other illustrations created in Second Life with some reworking in Gimp. Sorry the hab photo's are so dark. I stuffed up with the virtual camera. Lol.
Sadly nothing lasts forever even in cyberspace and Space Destiny sim in Second Life with all my work is now gone. When a sim closes the prims are meant to shoot back to your player inventory but it simply could not handle 3600+ prims!
I'm Wesley Farspire in Second Life but bigger worlds call me away most of the time.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

13 things that will boom if oil goes to A$7 liter or $25 a gal

These things will boom and will be quickly organised via the web and social networks if something pushes oil to disastrously higher levels. A war in the middle East would raise prices as might the collapse of our currencies by high or hyper-inflation. 

1. Car pooling with 'fares' paid to cover the fuel. Governments may try to block these in defence of taxi regulation but will be laughed out of court.

2. Conversion kits and businesses that covert cars to LNG.

3. Conversion kits that turn an older car into an electric. Licensing barriers will be blown away quickly. Already legal in Australia and some US states.

4. Conversion to ethanol. Only 400 dollars. Big ethanol may be non-viable but there are those working on smaller stills and more sustainable ethanol. All the red tape imposed today will be bypassed by some cities best placed for ethanol.

5. Mopeds, scooters, motor units that convert your push bike into a moped. If your cities got warm winters or a tropical climate then these will boom; particularity in flat cities with intermediate distances and only one hill climb.

6. Bus companies that buck the system raise fares to cover the rise in diesel and offer free or cheap pensioner fares only in off peak periods. This will be particularly powerful if these are LNG buses. LNG wont rise as fast.

7. House swapping web sites. These minimise the cost of moving, finding a house without paying a real-estate middle man, swapping the papers without paying anything but the perceived value difference and taxes. Most governments facilitate swapping of government rentals but this will be mortgage for mortgage with desperation shortening the haggling.

8. Suburban micro-office. A house or shop converted into office space for 10-20 people. This creates a workplace away from the kids and the distractions of home and with the amenities of an office: broadband, fax, a big copier/printer complex. A centralised business hires a desk or cluster of desks for a month or so for its staff that live in that suburb. All staff work there 5 days a week commuting to the central office in the 'company carpool or minibus' as required but no more than twice a week. This gets people out of the house and into an office but their still in the suburbs. Team building will require some grasp of geography.

9. Company buses. Industrial companies, early in the crisis, will hire or charter private buses to go to a hub in the suburbs; Everyone working for the company will be instructed to walk or ride to the suburban hub.

10. Every church, old peoples home, NGO with a small to medium bus or large vans will go to work ferrying a few people from their congregation or neighbourhood to the nearest rail hub. The buses will fill. There will instantly be a thousand 'donations at the door bus services' using these generally underutilised mini-buses. Donations will exceed the fuel cost quickly.

11. Bus trams will be deployed in many cities. These are normal buses with capacitors in their hybrid or electric power train. At most stops there are overhead wires that a pantograph links to for quick a charge while people are boarding. There are no overhead wires on the roads its only at main stops and some traffic lights. This is the cheapest new alternative to light rail and it can be quickly deployed. and at the shanghai expo this design is in use. The ultra-capacitor technology is in free fall prices wise; one system uses flywheels that are even cheaper.

12. Some families will adopt the strategy of taking the whole family to work in the city. With schools chosen for their proximity to work not home. Tea time will be at a restaurant or in the office cafe. The trip home will be later in the evening taking advantage of cheaper off peak buses and trains. In some third world countries where the price of oil is already beyond them this is often done.

13. One from dear old Fidel Castro's Cuba. A semiprivate company has designed a 'bus' that attaches to an 18 wheeler tractor. These are called camel buses. Cheap and nasty but with a little smarts, intercom for safety and cameras so the driver can see all round the vehicle these will deploy by the thousands. Off peak the tractor does other work. Actually quite smart.

All of these solutions can be quickly deployed. All have potential problems with rip off Merchants,fraud and government red tape. Struggling city councils will shred the red tape after the first city that resists the changes dies. In some cases the Greenhouse scare has paved the way with red tape disposal and facilitation developing in response to CO2. To some extent people forget that there was suburbia before the car became cheap and ubiquitous.