Mars May Yet Hold Promise by Dr. Joseph S. Maresca
Mars is known as the Red Planet due to its rustic coloration and appearance. The density of Mars is about 30 % less than that of Earth (4. g/cm3 vs. 5.5g/cm3). There are upcoming technologies like wind power and the Maglev levitational magnetic platforms that may compensate for the lower density of Mars vis-a-vis the earth.
Magnetic levitation systems have focused on frictionless and active stiffness characteristics. The Mechatronics approach has a simple servo design. By breaking the system into small SISO loops, a simple control algorithym can achieve complicated control. A partitioned experimental Maglev utilizes analytics for subsystem partitions coincident with classic linear controllers.
Fusion power could be another source of electricity resulting from continuing research on the “Artificial Sun” project in Livermore. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore will utilize a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second. The result should be an explosion in the reaction chamber which may produce 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.
This scientific team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny manufactured star inside a lab and trigger a thermonuclear reaction. Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere on the earth, from a tiny drop of fuel. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step toward building a commercializable nuclear fusion power station and a source of virtual power.
With a virtual power source, Mars can become an important interplanetary manufacturing center consisting of unmanned stations with minimal human interface as time marches on toward the 22nd century and beyond. Mars may be a good choice for manufacturing products and processes that produce large amounts of waste and pollution- particularly if there are minimal life forms that would be impacted . Further into the future, the Titan moon of Saturn would be a good place to obtain an almost unlimited amount of hydrocarbons and natural gas forms.
Mars might be a good storage place for these gases enroute to Earth. Admittedly, this is a 22nd Century project goal. By the mid- 21st century, we will need to investigate the interplanetary sources of energy because the population here will be approaching 9 billion people and growing. Fortunately, there may be some good alternatives; however far into the future these alternatives may be.
The atmosphere of Mars is unlike the nitrogen/oxygen ratio here on earth. Instead, the Martian atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide, nearly 3% oxygen 2% argon , trace quantities of oxygen, carbon monoxide, water vapor, ozone and other mixtures. For life to be sustained on Mars, scientists would be required to implement a geodome concept with extensive tree planting to maintain a viable oxygen/CO2 cycle together with existing water from the polar caps. Sunlight would be problematic because the planet gets approximately 40-50% of the natural sunlight on earth. Advanced laser system amplification might provide some compensation for the paucity of sunlight.
The core is probably similar to Earth, mostly iron, with small amounts of nickel, but spacecraft mapping of its gravity field seem to indicate that the iron-rich core and mantle are a smaller portion of its volume than on Earth. Also, the smaller magnetic field indicates a solid core.
The salient characteristics of Mars are as follows:
o solid core probably made of iron o 30% less dense than earth o trace amounts of nickel o a smaller magnetic field than the earth o trace quantities of oxygen, carbon monoxide, water vapor and ozone
There is no known tectonic activity on Mars . The planet hosts Olympus Mons, the highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris- the largest canyon. Mars’ rotational period and seasonal cycles are comparable to those of Earth.
Mars is most likely to have liquid water, and (by extension) life forms. Geological evidence gathered by various unmanned missions suggest that Mars once had large amounts of water on the surface. Smaller water flows may have occurred during the past decade. In 2005, radar data revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice at the poles, and at the mid-latitudes.
The Phoenix Mars Lander found water ice samples in the soil during July , 2008. Observations by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor show evidence that parts of the southern polar ice cap are disappearing with time. In March 2007, NASA announced that the volume of water ice in the south polar ice cap, if melted, would be sufficient to cover the entire planetary surface to a depth of 11 m. Additionally, a permafrost mantle stretches from the pole to latitudes of about 60°. The weather stays within a range of -87 C and 20 C. The day is over 24 hours and the Martian calendar is approximately 1.8 earth years.
Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which may be crashed asteroids. Mars hosts three functional orbiting spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. On the surface are dual Mars Exploration Rovers. The Phoenix completed its mission on the surface in 2008.