Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Space Mirrors Could Create Mars Pocket-Eden

One of the problems that explorers on Mars will face is low surface temperature. Although the surface temperature on Mars can rise above freezing in the summer, the mean temperature is about -60C (-90C at night). Mars' orbit is highly elliptical which leads to even greater cold in winter - temperatures as low as -110C on the poles.


(Space Mirrors warm a patch of Mars)

Rigel Woida, an engineering student at the University of Arizona, has been awarded a $9,000 NIAC Student Fellows Prize to study the use of large orbital mirrors to heat a small area of the Martian surface. Raising the temperature in a 150 acre patch would make it easier and more economical for humans to study the Red Planet.

Woida's prize-winning project is titled "The Road to Mars." Optical sciences Professor Eustace Dereniak and Assistant Research Professor Robert M. Stone will supervise Woida on the project.

Orbiting balloons made of a reflective metallized polyester would act as mirrors, collecting sunlight and shine it down to the Martian surface.

"I adjusted the aperture so the reflector would heat ... (the) surface to roughly Tucson daytime illumination and temperatures, said Woida. "Eventually, using techniques like these, humans might cultivate plants on Mars."
The higher temperatures would allow astronauts to survive without heavily insulated suits or living quarters, increasing comfort while reducing costs. Added sunlight would increase output from solar power cells on the surface; it might also melt ice at or just below the surface, making it available for human use.

Although still a student, Woida is no stranger to scientifc achievement. In high school, he was the driving force behind the construction of Tucson High Magnet School's thirty-inch telescope. After coming up with the idea, he successfully raised the necessary financial support from the school district, a private laboratory and the University of Arizona.

There is a rather unusual precedent for this idea in science fiction. Fallen Angels, a 1991 novel written by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn, contains a scene in which people are fleeing across a glacier without the necessary equipment to survive the -30 degree (F) temperatures. They survive by having a satellite focus a "spotlight" of solar-generated microwave energy onto their location.

"Big Momma, it's cold here. We're going to freeze, all of us. We need heat. Can you give us a microwave spotlight? Have SUNSAT lock one of its projectors onto our transponder frequency and track us across the ice."

"Skazhiyte. One moment." Alex waited while Big Momma conferred - probably with the Peace Station chief and the SUNSAT engineer. Sherrine asked him what he was doing and he told her...

"Is that possible?" she asked. "To beam enough microwave energy down to keep us from freezing? ...It won't be too much, will it?"

Alex grinned. "I'll have them set it for thaw, not bake...
(Read more about Spotlight of Heat)

Woida's plan is also not without potential hazards; the mirrors could focus harmful high-frequency radiation like gamma rays onto the surface. This problem might be solved by using a coating on the balloons that reflected only visible and infrared light, says Woida.

Update: 04-Mar-2015: See Theodore Sturgeon's orbital mirror from his 1941 story Completely Automatic. End update.

Read about these other unusual proposed projects, each with a science-fictional twist:

Learn more about the Martian surface temperature and conditions. Read more about Rigel Woida's plans here and here. Thanks to BajaB for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/15/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

SpaceX Wants A Moonbase Alpha
'And he had been sent with troops, supplies and bombs to command Russia's most trusted post, the Moonbase.' - L. Ron Hubbard, 1948.

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.' - EE 'Doc' Smith, 1928.

Can A Human Land A SpaceX Rocket On Its Tail?
'If she starts to roll sideways blooey! The underjets only hold you up when theyre pointing down, you know.' - Stanley G. Weinbaum, 1936.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

SpaceX Wants A Moonbase Alpha
'And he had been sent with troops, supplies and bombs to command Russia's most trusted post, the Moonbase.'

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

Europa Clipper Plate Carries A Special Message
'...a universal cryptogram yet it is one which can be interpreted by any intelligent creature on any planet in the Solar System!'

Micro-Robots Are Smallest, Fully Functional
'With a whir, the Scarab shot from the concealing shadows of the corner where it had hidden itself.'

AI Enhances Images Your Brain Sees
'I could have sworn the psychomat showed pictures almost as sharp and detailed as reality itself'

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.'

Deflector Plasma Screen For Drones ala Star Wars
'If the enemy persists in attacking or even intensifies their power, the density of the plasma in space will suddenly increase, causing it to reflect most of the incoming energy like a mirror.'

DIY Robotic Hand Made After Loss Of Fingers
'I made them... with the fine work of the watchmaker...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.