Monday, 26 June 2017

Millions of colonists on #Mars by 2062, #SotM @ProfSaraSeager and Night Sky July/Aug with @smrolfe

A summary of the Radio Verulam West Herts Drivetime Science Feature broadcast 26/06/2017 5:30-6:00 pm BST

City on Mars of a million colonists by 2062

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and helped create PayPal and set up the Tesla electric car company has suggested a colony city could be set up on Mars by 2062, with the first flight to Mars in as little as 4 to 5 years, in 2022.
His suggestion includes warming up the atmosphere and planting plants, he suggests that warming Mars up there would be a thick atmosphere and liquid water at the surface.

The Dragon craft which currently resupplies the International Space Station (ISS) is being modified to make an unmanned mission to Mars, possibly in 2018. However, it has also been said that there could be a manned mission sent beyond the Moon in 2018 by two private customers. Depending on the number of craft that can built within in a given time frame, a million people could live on Mars between 40 and 100 years from now (1 spacecraft would have to make 10,000 trips, 100 people per trip (more ideal 1,000 spacecraft, only 1,000 trips)).

Problems addressed: propellant (can you make a propellant on Mars?)

system architecture (launch manned craft, booster stage returns to Earth, propellant loaded on reusable booster, craft fuelling in orbit, booster returns to Earth, manned craft heads to Mars)

vehicle design and performance, rocket engine, interplanetary spaceship (capable of transporting 100 + passengers to Mars plus an unpressurised compartment for cargo and materials. Heat shield technology extremely important.)

ticket cost - ~$140,000 possibly dropping below $100,000 with optimisation over time.  

timeline Red Dragon mission to launch in 2018 and then launch something to Mars every time there is a launch window (~ every 26 months), already making rocket engines at a rate of 300 a year and require 51 per Mars vehicle, so rate is sufficient. 

carbon fibre tank, difficult to cool which would occur with the cold fuel storage – cracks/leaks could mean catastrophic failure… so far have developed a prototype for testing, seems to have positive results.


Problems to be addressed (not mentioned in above source paper): space junk, cost per person once living there, radiation protection, one-way?, planetary protection.

Scientist of the Month

Professor Seager’s main research goal is to find and identify another Earth, including the search for signs of life by way of biosignature gases.

“Sara Seager is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT.
Her science research focuses on theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets.
Her research has introduced many new ideas to the field of exoplanet characterization, including work that led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere.
Professor Seager also works in space instrumentation and space missions for exoplanets, including CubeSats, as a co-investigator on the MIT-led TESS, a NASA Explorer Mission to be launched in 2017, and chaired the NASA Science and Technology Definition Team for a “Probe-class” Starshade and telescope system for direct imaging discovery and characterization of Earth analogs.
Before joining MIT in 2007, Professor Seager spent four years on the senior research staff at the Carnegie Institution of Washington preceded by three years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.
Her PhD is from Harvard University.
Professor Seager is on the advisory board for Planetary Resources.
Professor Seager was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015, is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, the 2012 recipient of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences, and the 2007 recipient of the American Astronomical Society’s Helen B. Warner Prize.
She has been recognized in the media, most recently in Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential in Space in 2012.”

She developed the Seager Equation, which is a variation on the Drake Equation, but rather than estimate the number of planets with intelligent life, this equation focusses detecting the number of habitable planets, where (any) life could be detected.
where: N = the number of planets with detectable signs of life
N* = the number of stars observed
FQ = the fraction of stars that are quiet
FHZ = the fraction of stars with rocky planets in the habitable zone
Fo = the fraction of those planets that can be observed
FL = the fraction that have life
FS = the fraction on which life produces a detectable signature gas

Night Sky this Month

We’ve just gone through the summer solstice, but the long summer evenings will continue with sunset at the end of July not until about 8:50 pm.

29-30 July - Peak of the Delta Aquarids meteor shower, 20 per hour, best viewed from a dark location after midnight.

30 July - Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation – look for the planet in the western sky just after sunset.

11-12 August - Peak of the Perseids meteor shower, 60 per hours, bright fireballs, best viewed from a dark location after midnight.

Look out for ISS, use this link to get information on sighting opportunities:


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