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Just a thought

Humanity is really just in early Beta.

We’ve had some successes, a few spectacular failures, and a pivot or two.

We don’t really know yet what we are able to achieve, or what we can will become.

Isn’t that exciting?

What’s wrong with the Dreamliner?

In case you haven’t heard, Boeing has been having battery troubles with its new flagship Dreamliner aircraft. The batteries have occasionally been catching fire, and the planes are now grounded until they determine what the issue is.

Hopefully they’ve figured this out already, but there’s one big difference between their on-the-ground tests, and a live flight – the passengers.

I wonder if they’ve tried plugging in a couple of hundred randomly selected laptops into the passenger , and seeing what happens to the electrical system then?

Sounds silly? What if one (or half a dozen) of them has a bad battery, or an electrical short circuit?

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Conclusion

This is the final post in the Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook series. For part one, please see here.

A brief word about science: I’ve avoided discussing planetary science in this series, because it has been covered so well, in so many other places. The traditional vision of a trip to Mars, in the guise of a 1980’s US/USSR joint mission, revolved heavily around the idea of sending a small group of people, for a relatively short period of time, with largely scientific objectives. This is completely different from the various colonization concepts that have circulated in recent years. Regardless of why people go to Mars though, a lot of serious scientific work will be done. The advantages of having a large number of people present, along with a well-equipped laboratory, are immense. We cannot conceive yet of the discoveries that will result. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 8

What happens when things go horribly wrong on Mars? Help from Earth would take months to arrive, and would have a transportation bottleneck.

The colony will need to have a contingency plan for all possibilities, as well as a full range of emergency services. Continue reading

Better turnstiles

Turnstiles for directing people in a single direction are a useful but klunky invention. I always approach them with great caution, especially when carrying a laptop bag over my shoulder.

It occurs to me that we could get the same effect with greater ease of use (and less tangled straps).

Picture the kind of hanging flaps used to keep cold in a walk-in refrigerator.

Now make them out of some kind of smart material.

When touched or pushed from one side, they become flexible, allowing people to pass through. Otherwise they would be set to be hard, preventing passage in the other direction.

Smart turnstile, with touch sensitive hanging strips
Smart turnstile, with touch sensitive hanging strips

The material could be transparent, or could have a no-entry sign imprinted on one side of it.

The material cost would likely be significantly lower than traditional turnstiles.

Entry only possible from one direction
Entry only possible from one direction

Why do I need a cellphone?

If computing is ubiquitous, then why do I need a cellphone?

This isn’t a new idea, really. I’ve come across it before in SF novels. Its worth gaming out what the world will look like though. I say “will”, because this scenario looks inevitable. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 7

The Mars colony will be planned in great detail, years in advance. It is impossible for the colony administrators to anticipate everything though. Vast stockpiles of spare parts, and a regular supply chain will help, but certain items will need to be manufactured locally. It is important to remember that issues that are trivial irritants on Earth – a blocked toilet, for example – can become life threatening emergencies in space, or on Mars.

In the previous post, we discussed how legal, jurisdictional and economic issues can effect the future health of the colony. You can also begin at the first post here. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 6

The administrators of the first Mars Colony will need to be expert in more than just science. Legal and economic factors will have a huge bearing on the success of the colony. Without a firm legal basis, the colony will have difficulty attracting investment, and private individuals may think twice about participating. Without a vibrant economy, the colony could turn into a ghost town. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – A brief intermission

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook will continue shortly! I’m currently estimating that there will be another 5 – 6 posts, covering topics from manufacturing to emergency services. Much of this is already written, and I’m editing it as quickly as I can. I apologize for any delay.

If anyone from Discovery reads this – wouldn’t these posts make a nice documentary miniseries? For one thing, it would be a great excuse to visit McMurdo Station, as well as other cool and out of the way places. 🙂

One of the nice benefits of blogging is the people that you meet. I especially want to mention the enthusiastic space community at (go sign up!) and the wise folks at the Lifeboat Foundation’s Facebook group.

Some readers of the series from these two groups posed a couple of questions that I had anticipated answering in the conclusion. I think now that they’re too important to leave until then. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 5

Ensuring that a Mars Colony has a solid supply chain will be a difficult task. The average distance between Earth and Mars is around 225 million kilometers, and transit times – even with greatly improved rockets – are several months. Light itself can take nearly half an hour to travel the distance, depending on how far apart the two planets are. And there is little margin for error, as tens of thousands of lives will be at stake.

In part 4, we discussed how the colony will generate energy, obtain raw materials, and ensure that the right mix of colonists are picked. Or you can start from the beginning, here. Continue reading