Monday, April 13, 2009

Project Virgle - Life on Mars

Virgin and Google Join forces to colonize mars:

2014: Low Earth Orbit
If a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, then our 550-million-mile journey to Mars will begin with 550,000 1/500th-of-a-mile steps, as the LSE3, a multi-stage heavy lifter now under construction using the World War II-era Liberty Ship philosophy ("Make them fast, ugly and in large numbers"), launches our staging components into low earth orbit.

Deceleration - Mars orbit insertion through aerobraking and final sky crane descent of the now separated modules is crucial in achieving the landing ellipse with minimal deviation. In other words, by the time the Virgle 1 reaches Mars, it will be flying very quickly and will have to slow down very quickly or the first landing of a human craft will be forever marked by a very large crater.
Virgle 1 - Our standard ship's three-module configuration includes hab modules for each of two six-person crews and a Bio module for organics and supplies and to serve as a backup in case of unexpected...well, let's just say in case the first two hab modules should ever become uninhabitable.
Delta V - The Mars insertion propulsion stack is a first-generation launcher based on the workhorse JGARV design and relying on classic propellants, ensuring a fast start to the mission and a soft deadline for our nuclear thermal research group.
Mars Hab Modules - Prospective Virgle Pioneers may take a small measure of comfort from knowing that their future dwellings will be making the half-a-billion mile journey to Mars well ahead of them. Talk about a mobile home.
Launch sites - Virgle's multiple launches spread across decades will require a number of launch and mission tracking sites. Prospective locations include the Mojave Desert, Southern San Francisco Bay, the Kingdom of Tonga and Necker Island.

2015: Virgle Base 1
If you're like us, and deep down you aren't all that interested in going to Mars in the first place unless it means setting loose a swarm of super-cool robots -- well, rest easy. When the Virgle 1 lands, teams of autonomous rovers and assembly platforms will leap into action:

Nuclear reactors. Primary and secondary C02-cooled pebble bed nuclear reactors, a big part of the Martian colony's energy equation, lie at the bottom of lava pits shielded with Martian regolith not far from the main habs. We're 99.9% certain that they're safe.
Martian Positioning System – Virgle's MPS satellites start taking 360-degree stereo imagery, subsurface radar data and land plot position measurement. This data will be used to populate the land registry which will someday make ancestors of the (hint, hint) earliest Virgle investors very wealthy individuals indeed.
Earth return vehicles are plugged in to the fuel production plant. If all goes well, the ERVs will serve as fuel storage tanks. If all does not go well, they'll serve as lifeboats to get stranded Pioneers back home. So we keep them gassed up.
Hab modules will be fully integrated with the base’s permanent power sources and communication infrastructure long before the first teams of Virgle Pioneers show up to check out their new digs. Yes, this place comes with utilities.
Production plants - use solid oxide electrolysis to turn atmospheric CO2 into breathable oxygen for the crew, and use the Sabatier process to turn it into methane rocket fuel and water for the greenhouses. Finally, a place where (for the moment, anyway) we don’t mind that C02 levels are so high.
Assembly platforms adapt (by which we mean “detonate powerful explosives within") the lava tubes to clear impeding structures and level access corridors before moving the electronics inside. Humankind began in caves, and to caves we now return.
Robotic vehicles ferry modules from the landing ellipse to the foot of the cliffs and begin laying the Virgle Base 1’s structures, power and communication lines, startup energy sources and uplink antennas and shields.
Greenhouses are inflated, structure polymers hardened and aeroponic equipment powered up and tested. These greenhouses will provide early Pioneers with their standard diet of potatoes, rice, onions, tomatoes, soya, lettuce, spinach, wheat and the Martian delicacy spirulina (it's 70% protein, and trust us, that's all you really need, or want, to know).

2108: Virgle City
One hundred years after the launch of Project Virgle, we see the emergence of an enduring human community, with its own economy, ecology and social customs and mores.

Microorganisms - Following 6 years of drilling in the permafrost of Chryse Planitia northeast of the Sagan station, egzobiologists announce the discovery of native Martian methanogene microorganisms and start research on their genetic material to establish their relation (if any) to Earthly life.
Economy - Martian exports of software systems and services, synthetic protein matrices, micro m-learning processor designs and medical vision implants reach an all-time high. The Earth/Mars trade balance is maintained largely by entertainment imports from Earth, although a nascent Martian music and video scene anchored by the Shoreline Amphitheater is starting to sell well Earthside. Shares of Virgle, Inc. (Nas: VRGL) sell at an all-time high (adjusted for splits) of 69.32 Mollars.
Population - The human population of Mars reaches 1,000 by 2050 and, growing a robust 8% per year after that through both spaceflight immigration and more traditional means, surpasses 100,000 by the time Virgle City celebrates its first centennial -- including the first (human) generation to be born on the Red Planet, and thus truly having the right to call themselves Martians.
Phobos - Google now stores a full copy of the Internet on Mars as a physical backup, while Virgin is now the planet's major producer of cargo and crew ships and operates a large shipyard on the mineral-rich Martian moon Phobos.
Virgle Ships - By mid-century, Virgle’s hot thermal nuclear propulsion launcher is sending spaceships, both crewed commuter flights and autonomous supply runs, regularly between Earth and Virgle City.
Terraforming - After nearly a century, the terraforming of Mars is 89% complete. Residents of Virgle City and its outlying settlements can now walk around wearing nothing more than breathers, and adapted crops are growing in the open. The food supply has diversified, manufacturing has expanded into commodities and a transit project promises to open new land not far from Tharsis to development. Protesters, like this young woman borne in Virgle City in 2083, warn of the risks that untrammeled development pose to the Red Planet's natural beauty.

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