Next Stop: The Red Planet?


Read these as well:-

Given the state of the country as at now, you can safely say that when we celebrate the year 2020, this country would not have achieved the status of a “developed country”. So Dr M’s Vision 2020 will remain a vision and will not become a reality, at least in 2020.

For one, religion had taken precedent in key areas of the country and have caused a mismatch of priorities. Instead of us busy with human resource development and preparing the country for a “developed” status, we are busy on which law to use and how holy or religious one must be. And I saw this in play when I went to a shopping complex one fine day and decided to drop by a bookstore as my son wanted to buy a science book. We walked around and realised that there was more books on religion than on science and mathematics. I was hardly surprised – there were more people at the religion book section than at the science & mathematics book section.

Vision 2020 is also doomed to be nothing but fancy slogan because we still place high importance on racial based policies (we still calling ourselves as Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc instead of Malaysian) and on cheap politics. But come year 2020, all is not all lost though. Year 2020 would mark the start of activities that would eventually place humans on the planet Mars by year 2026.

Imagine a human colony on another planet and we don’t have to look another 100 – 200 years for that. We will see that in the next 10 years and it is very exciting news indeed. The company that is taking the exploration one step ahead is Mars One – is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands that has put forward plans to land the first humans on Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2027.

NA_384397_MADD_mars

(It may not look much now but imagine a lot more people on the surface and with high end technology which allows them to come back to the Earth and back to Mars again? Image source: Mars One)

It may sound far fetching at first and Mars One have been on the receiving end of many as nothing but a scam. Some even question the USD6 billion budget of sending humans to Mars but remember India sent its spacecraft to Mars for mere USD73 million. But think of the feasibility. Think of the possibility.

Mars One lists out the mission feasibility of a human colony in Mars in the following manner:-

Permanent settlement

The Mars One crews consist of people that want to settle on Mars. Absence of a return mission reduces the mission infrastructure radically. No return vehicle, return propellant or the systems to produce the propellant locally are required. Permanent settlement also reduces the required technology development; vehicles that can take off from Mars and return to Earth are currently unavailable and untested. Since the vehicle returning to Earth and the accompanying systems are mission critical for a return mission, they will also require backups adding to the infrastructure that needs to be delivered to Mars. More importantly, to attain a somewhat acceptable risk level, the return mission would need to be tested in a complete unmanned return trip before the first crew even departs the Earth. Even after a full test of the return system is successfully performed, the risk for a crew that will ride the first return rocket would be very high: 126 rockets launched from Earth since 1990 failed to deliver their payloads in the correct orbit.

Permanent settlement also solved the challenge of the astronauts entering into Earth’s atmosphere after having spent about two years in reduced or zero gravity environments.

Use of In-Situ resources

Mars has resources that can be used for a sustainable settlement. Water is present in the soil and can be made available to the settlement for hygiene, drinking, and farming. It is also the source of oxygen generated through electrolysis. Nitrogen and Argon in the Martian atmosphere can be mined to be the inert part of the atmosphere inside the habitat. Martian soil will cover the outpost to block cosmic radiation. Carbon dioxide can be taken from the atmosphere if the plants take in more than the humans expel.
The systems to mine water from the soil and to mine Nitrogen, Argon, and Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have never been tested in space. Mars is however not space because there is gravity and a thin atmosphere. Additionally, the processes are all more than 100 years old. The water can be collected from the soil by breaking up the soil with a drill and harvesting the resulting debris. Argon and Nitrogen can be collected from the atmosphere by removing the Carbon dioxide through a phase change.

Solar panels

The Sun is a reliable, robust, and plentiful energy source. Using solar panels is the best choice for Mars One since it takes away the requirement to develop and launch a nuclear reactor, thereby saving time and money while avoiding the risks and concerns of the use of a nuclear power source.
Thin film solar (photovoltaic) panels will power the Mars One settlement. These are less efficient than those more commonly used in aerospace, but have the advantage of being extremely light, and are thus easily transportable. The first settlement will install approximately 3000 square meters of power generating surface area.

Existing technology

No new major developments or inventions are needed to make the mission plan a reality. Established suppliers can build each stage of Mars One mission plan. While most of the components required are not immediately available with the exact specifications, there is no need for radical modifications to the current component designs.

Every effort was made to design the mission with as little complexity as possible. The choice to send permanent settlers removes the need for a heavy lift launch vehicle, which does not currently exist. Permanent settlement makes the landing module small enough to land with current technology. A pressurized rover will not be sent to Mars until large enough rockets exists. No water recycling in the transit habitat will be present because the trip to Mars takes only 210 days. Instead, all required water is stored in tanks that also function as radiation shielding. Storage of waste that is not easily recycled is available in the settlement until more technology is available.

(Source)

And just look at the number of people who shown interest in the Mars One project:-

Mars One applicants come from over 140 countries; the largest numbers are from the United States (24%), India (10%), China (6%), Brazil (5%), Great Britain (4%), Canada (4%), Russia (4%), Mexico (4%), Philippines (2%), Spain (2%), Colombia (2%), Argentina (2%), Australia (1%), France (1%), Turkey (1%), Chile (1%), Ukraine (1%), Peru (1%), Germany (1%), Italy (1%) and Poland (1%).

(Source)

The first 3 nations are well known for their eagerness and competition in space exploration. Out of the three, US and India already have rovers and space crafts orbiting Mars. And I am pretty sure the Chinese will do so soon as well although these guys are busy exploring the moon (hmmm, they know something we don’t?). And Malaysia is involved in Mars One in 2 areas – our own Angkasawan, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is an ambassador for Mars One and three brave explorers from Malaysia including a woman.

SPACE: India Mars mission

(It’s only cost USD70 million to launch a space craft to the Red Planet. Trim down the money spent on wars, religion conflict and corruption and you can send hundreds of the space craft to many part of the solar system. Image source: engtechmag.wordpress.com)

Mars One is an one way trip as there is no way (presently) to bring the space explorer back. The environment is harsh and there is no guarantee, despite the mission feasibility, that the colony will succeed, especially when the next human civilization is million kilometers away (230,000,000 km to be exact) and in case of emergency, one cannot simply dial up 999 and ask for help. Rescue mission if it is to be done, will take months to prepare and execute and by then, any rescue mission would have been redundant.

Mars One itself can go bankrupt and may not be able to bring the next set of explorers to add to the colony. Anything can happen. After all, it took a lot of research, time, risk and money to send man to the moon, so what more another planet and that too for one way trip. But there are good reasons to make this trio to Mars, namely:-

To give our kids new Hope, careers and Dreams — beyond merely surviving in a world of growing terrorism, more “police state” responses, with increasing resource and energy scarcity ultimately leading to endless global wars

By finally opening up unlimited solar system resources — be it exotic fuels, new planetary minerals or endless solar energy – dramatically alter the “have not” competition between the First and Third Worlds here on Earth … the ultimate source of increasing global terrorism

By greatly accelerating these radical technologies — from “black” energy systems and propulsion to autonomous robotics, from desktop “super computers” to their ultra-broad band communications (essential to conducting “routine operations” on the Moon and Beyond) – dramatically accelerate overall national and global productivity, with startling increases in GNP and GWP

By federally subsidizing the creation of a whole new generation of consumer industries — through pioneering a literal “Second age of Space” — dramatically increase the historical “return on investment” from past NASA spending … from 23 to one to more than 100-to-one; thus, for every billion dollars invested in this New Space Program, over a hundred billion will return to the national and world economy

By finally providing accessible new sources of raw materials and energy “off planet,” processed in lunar and orbital industrial facilities, naturally reverse over a century of planetary degradation and pollution … including global warming

By accelerating fundamental solar system exploration with human beings, return equally fundamental, radical scientific information – ranging from comparative planetary data which will assist preservation of the Earth’s environment through new space installations, to answers to the origin of the human race itself

(Source)

Yes, money and human resource is important but aren’t we been busy wasting them on wars, corruption and wastage as well. Save up on those and you will plenty for the science exploration, I am sure.

Many of us, including myself are from the generation that grew with science fiction movies like Star Wars and Star Trek. Still remember ” to boldly go where no man has gone before”? It is in our nature to explore and find new worlds and the more we explore, the more we will push the boundaries of technology, science and human endeavor. And there is the prospect of rich natural resources that could be mined for humans (there was even plan to start a mining colony in the moon).

For those reasons alone, Mars One mission should succeed.

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Direction of a Nation 3


The time has come for us to think big, really really big and not indulge in petty, idiotic things that touches on religion and race

A Quick Guide to Star Trek – Part 1


“I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you, Q. The universe is not so badly designed!” (Captain Jean Luc Picard in ST: TNG episode Tapestry)

Inspired by the Star Wars movies, Star Trek: The Next Generations (ST: TNG) and Star Trek Voyager (VOY) was one of my favourite TV shows in the 1990s.

And in recent times, I managed to get hold of whole 7 seasons of ST: TNG and it was worth watching the show all over again. VOY on the other hand, took viewers on the other side of ST:TNG and had it’s own interesting attractions as the Federation ship that got lost in the Delta Quadrant which requires 70,000 light years to return back home.

Whilst on the onset, both series looked the same (with ST: TNG being more prominent between the 2), there are some interesting differences and my pick between the 2.

starship

(USS Voyager (right) is smaller but better designed compared to USS Enterprise)

1. Type of starships

The crew in ST: TNG flies the more famous USS Enterprise a Galaxy-class Federation starship commissioned in 2363 whilst the crew flies the lesser known, much smaller but more nibble USS Voyager, the Intrepid-class Federation starship commissioned in 2371. Further USS Enterprise is deemed the flagship of the Starfleet and one of the largest among all Federation starships.

ST: TNGUSS Enterprise has 42 decks, 14 phaser arrays, 2 torpedo launchers, 250 photon torpedoes, deflector shields with a maximum warp speed of 9.8 and a crew complement of 1,014

VOYUSS Voyager has 15 decks, 13 phaser arrays, 38 photon torpedoes, deflector shields with a maximum warp speed of 9.975 and a crew complement of 150.

My pick – USS Voyager. For a simple fact, it is faster, more nimble and carries less unnecessary crew. Besides Captain Picard hates it when there are children on board.

captains

(No one can ignore the ‘prominent’ feature of Captain Jean Luc Picard (left) and the powerful stare from him)

2. The captains

Long before playing the role of Professor X in X-Men, Patrick Steward played Captain Jean Luc Picard in ST: TNG and that it was one of the key crowd puller for the series. For Voyager, we had an unsettled first impression but Kate Mulgrew who played the Captain Kathryn Janeway showed that Kathryn Janeway was one tough lady and had all the rights and skills to captain a Federation ship.

ST: TNG – USS Enterprise D is captained by Captain Jean Luc Picard (human). Picard not only witnessed the major turning points of recent galactic history, but played a key role in them also, from making first contact as captain of the Federation’s flagship with no fewer than 27 alien species, including the Ferengi and the Borg.

He also became the chief contact point with the Q Continuum as well as serving as Arbiter of Succession, choosing the former leader of the Klingon Empire, Chancellor Gowron, and exposing the Romulan Star Empire as backers of his chief rivals, later aiding an underground movement of dissidents to gain a toehold on the Romulan homeworld. Captain Picard ‘s favourite drink is hot Earl Grey tea

VOY – USS Voyager is captained by Captain Kathryn Janeway (human). She became the first Federation captain to successfully traverse the Delta Quadrant, encountering dozens of new planets and civilizations over the course of seven years. While there, she and her crew also survived numerous encounters with the Borg. By 2379, she was a Vice Admiral at Starfleet Command. Captain Janeway’s favourite drink is hot black coffee.

My pick – Captain Jean Luc Picard at any given day! He’s bald and yet he is cool and one that had stood up to Q on almost equal terms

ist officer

(Both have the right looks of a first officer but Commander Riker (left) is more experienced with Federation starships)

3. The 1st officers

Captains cannot work effectively without having a fine, dedicated, skilled crew and first in line are the ‘number ones’ or the next in command. When the captain is unable to take helm of the ship or is away on missions or trapped in some alien world / ship, number one have the control and final say. Number ones also take care of job assignments and staff evaluations and other operational issues.

ST: TNG – USS Enterprise D’s 1st officer is Commander William Thomas Riker (human). He was perhaps best known for his long assignment as first officer under Captain Jean-Luc Picard aboard the USS Enterprise-D, and later the USS Enterprise-E. In 2379, he finally accepted a promotion to captain and was assigned to the USS Titan. Riker was a jazz aficionado, and his favourite musical instrument was the trombone.

VOY – USS Voyager’s D’s 1st officer is Commander Chakotay (human). Chakotay didn’t use the holodeck often, but enjoyed reading instead. He occasionally took the time to embrace his artistic side, such as creations using colored sand while trapped on ‘New Earth’ and carvings of Native American symbols. Chakotay was a vegetarian; one of his favourite meals was mushroom soup.

My pick – it is tough choice between the 2. Both had their own strengths and weaknesses but I guess Riker have the edge over Chakotay – he already been offered captain-ship several times but opted to remain Jean Luc Picard’s number 1.

engineer

(Geordi (left) is blind and needs a visor to see things in a very different way)

4. The chief engineers

The heart of Federation star ships is the warp propulsion system and without the right person at the engineering, the starship, no matter who is in charge, is in deep trouble (they can loose speed, shield and weapons). Since the time of Scotty Scott and Captain Kirk, the role of the chief engineer has become more complex, as starships gets bigger and more technologically innovative.

ST: TNGGeordi La Forge (human) held the rank of lieutenant commander and was the chief engineer of the USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E, both under Captain Jean-Luc Picard. As a junior officer, his specialities included antimatter power, dilithium regulators, holodeck programs, and climate-control computers. His intense focus enabled him to master the complexities of warp engineering and other starship systems.

VOY B’Elanna Torres (half-Klingon, half-Human) served as Chief Engineer on the USS Voyager. Torres was initially assigned the provisional rank of lieutenant junior grade. Torres had difficulty getting along with the temporary chief engineer, Joe Carey.

She was recommended as a replacement chief engineer by Chakotay. However, Kathryn Janeway opposed this decision. After Voyager became trapped in a quantum singularity, Torres proved her skills to Janeway and earned her respect. Janeway then made her chief engineer over Carey.

My pick – Between 2, Geordi is better simply because he is more prominent when it comes to new innovations to the warp propulsion system and key starship systems. And without a “Klingon DNA”, he is often more adapting to handle critical situation without losing control or temper.

(Key data and pictures for this Star Trek post sourced here)

To be continued…

(Read Part 2 HERE)