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Carl Sagan

First steps to Mars

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At sites in Texas and Florida, Elon Musk's SpaceX is building prototypes of it's new rocket, the Starship, that is designed to take (lots of) humans to Mars and all round the solar system for that matter. They're building it out in the open. At first they pretended their Starhopper test vehicle was a water tank!

When it's ready it will be a massive stainless steel retro-looking rocket standing on three legs. That's capable of launching from Mars as a single stage to orbit vehicle. To launch from Earth an even bigger reusable booster called the Super Heavy will aid its ascent, before returning to the launchpad like SpaceX's smaller Falcon9 first stages.

To make travel possible across the solar system, the new raptor engine burns methane instead of hydrogen. Revolutionary! But liquid methane takes up a lot less space and is nowhere near as cold as liquid hydrogen, so can be stored onboard more easily because of another radical new idea. The ship will refuel in orbit so it can fly between Earth and Mars way more quickly than has been done before where the spaceships just coasted for the whole journey until they reached the Martian atmosphere.

No one else would test a brand new engine and the base of its new spaceship in public, but that's what SpaceX did in Texas last night. And this was the result.

 

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18 hours ago, Carl Sagan said:

At sites in Texas and Florida, Elon Musk's SpaceX is building prototypes of it's new rocket, the Starship, that is designed to take (lots of) humans to Mars and all round the solar system for that matter. They're building it out in the open. At first they pretended their Starhopper test vehicle was a water tank!

When it's ready it will be a massive stainless steel retro-looking rocket standing on three legs. That's capable of launching from Mars as a single stage to orbit vehicle. To launch from Earth an even bigger reusable booster called the Super Heavy will aid its ascent, before returning to the launchpad like SpaceX's smaller Falcon9 first stages.

To make travel possible across the solar system, the new raptor engine burns methane instead of hydrogen. Revolutionary! But liquid methane takes up a lot less space and is nowhere near as cold as liquid hydrogen, so can be stored onboard more easily because of another radical new idea. The ship will refuel in orbit so it can fly between Earth and Mars way more quickly than has been done before where the spaceships just coasted for the whole journey until they reached the Martian atmosphere.

No one else would test a brand new engine and the base of its new spaceship in public, but that's what SpaceX did in Texas last night. And this was the result.

 

I think it needs to go a bit higher 🤓

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Looking at that video it seems that Mars is a lot closer than I realised.

But, flippant comments aside, it's quite amazing to think that this test was profoundly more important than anything that happened in the UK yesterday. It's mad to think that people are thinking very seriously about Mars as a new home for humanity.

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On 29/08/2019 at 20:22, richinspain said:

I think it needs to go a bit higher 🤓

Ha! After I posted I realized I'd meant to say that the Federal Aviation Authority insisted on a maximum of 150m as this was so untested. Now the flying water tower is being retired and a proper prototype spaceship will be tested in October, powered by three Raptor engines, and going to 20,000 feet.

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Posted (edited)

It's not just the vehicle it's also how we combat lack of gravity in space. That definately needs a solution. Even exercising can still not prevent bone mass loss and heart muscles becoming weaker (I am sure there are other problems but these 2 are the ones I know about). This needs to get us to Mars fast before the aformentioned problems start to materialise seriously.

Edited by TimRam

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On the space theme there’s a really interesting article on the online Guardian page this morning about how we’re dealing with the threat from asteroids and the potential danger of space rubbish. 

Perhaps someone more techy than me can post a link

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15 minutes ago, ilkleyram said:

On the space theme there’s a really interesting article on the online Guardian page this morning about how we’re dealing with the threat from asteroids and the potential danger of space rubbish. 

Perhaps someone more techy than me can post a link

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/aug/31/greatest-threat-to-life-on-earth-may-come-from-space-asteroids-satellite-debris

The greatest threat to life on Earth may come from space.

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On 29/08/2019 at 07:33, McRamFan said:

It would be better to build a 'starship' in space. Earth's gravity will limit the size that can take off.

Absolutely the case in the future but for that to happen we need space-based infrastructure and a space-based economy. The Starship can accelerate that because of its scale. 

On 31/08/2019 at 02:11, ramit said:

All they need now is to lay a flat blast resistant pad on the Martian surface and they can land that thing

Good point. NASA is working with SpaceX to develop vertical landing on bodies such as the Moon and Mars, without landing pads. Another alternative is to send robotic 3D printers ahead of time to build a landing pad from local material (called regolith). 

23 hours ago, TimRam said:

It's not just the vehicle it's also how we combat lack of gravity in space. That definately needs a solution. Even exercising can still not prevent bone mass loss and heart muscles becoming weaker (I am sure there are other problems but these 2 are the ones I know about). This needs to get us to Mars fast before the aformentioned problems start to materialise seriously.

This is one reason why the Starship's ability to refuel in orbit to accelerate rather than coast to Mars is important. In theory it can reduce the journey time to three months though initially it would likely be five months. 

The day will come when spaceships are large enough to rotate around their long axis to simulate gravity without causing other issues. But they have to be significantly bigger. The first incarnations of the Starship will only have a 9m diameter. 

Some good points raised by the forum!

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