Expedition 31 Crew Launch A Soyuz rocket just sent two Russians and an American to the ISS. Is the Baikonur Cosmodrome becoming the space port of the world? If so, what do you think about that?
Like many fans of the Olympics, as well as I’m sure most of the athletes, I was very pleased six years ago when Rio de Janeiro was selected over Chicago and other ho-hum host cities for the 2016 Games. If I were a young healthy athlete, Rio would be a “Duh?” choice for me. Pristine white beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana, lots of girls and boys in bikinis, Brazilian beat music (Jobim comes to mind), tropical climate, picturesque scenery–Perfect!
Unfortunately, my vision of Rio was 50 years old and probably idealized even then. The reality, as shown in the picture is grimmer. Apparently the beaches I referred to are seldom used these days because while the population of the city has grown to 12 million, the water and sewer system has not grown with it. 70% of Rio’s raw sewage is dumped right into Guanabara Bay, the famous one overlooked by the huge statue of Jesus, and the water is hopelessly polluted. Swimming and even boating in it guarantees an infection of some sort, probably several. Yet these waters, in and around Rio are intended as venues for the Games. Brazil has had over six years to figure out an answer to this situation and has apparently done nothing. They intend to hold the boating, long distance swimming, and other water venues in the city’s cesspool. In six years, they could easily have built an artificial lake outside of town or located a clean lake or bay farther up the coast for those venues. Instead, over a billion dollars in Brazilian tax money earmarked to address this very problem, money Brazil can ill afford to waste, has been flushed down a sewer of graft and public corruption.
The major nations on the International Olympic Committee need to step in before it is too late. With the opening ceremony only 12 months away, time is short. This is not simply a few minor inconveniences such as the faulty doors and such in the dorms that occurred during the Sochi Games last year. The health and safety of hundreds of athletes are hanging in the balance here. It’s time for the USA and the other participating nations to step up to the plate and lay it on the line. Make it safe, Brazil, or we will hold those venues somewhere else, where they can be conducted safely. That would be a shame and a waste for all concerned, but maybe the threat, and it needs to be real, will spur the Brazilian authorities into action.
In the May 2015 issue of Scientific American, there is an article in the Science of Health section entitled “Why Girls Are Starting Puberty Early,” by SciAm editor Dina Fine Maron. The article describes a situation in which American girls are experiencing the changes associated with puberty earlier and earlier in life. This change has occurred over the last generation. The author cites clinical evidence and points out some of the problems associated with the phenomenon. Her principle explanation for condition seems to center around obesity. The rise of obesity in America equals the rise in early onset of puberty in girls. Have you heard about obesity before? It is the scourge of America and is being blamed for this latest of social ills.
She mentions the possibility that social stress may be a cause, as if social stress has never existed before. My mother grew up in the Great Depression and I grew up during the Cold War. I think we both had a little “social stress” ourselves, yet neither of us suffered from premature puberty. She also recommends breast feeding and raising children in homogeneous neighborhoods. The stress argument sounds like armchair psychology, breast feeding is a familiar progressive nostrum, while the last sounds suspiciously like de facto segregation.
In addition, while the article is several thousand words long, only two sentences are devoted to the mention of pesticides and other environmental chemicals that are now present (and in ever increasing quantities, which she also doesn’t mention) in the modern American food chain. And, almost comically, she asserts these are probably only important because obese people would ingest more toxins and thus have more of them in their bodies. No mention at all is made of the ever present growth hormones in meat and vegetable products, as well as the insecticides and herbicide suppressors that are now present in some GMOs widely used in animal feed and cereals; nor the growing variety of and sufferers from food allergies among children as well as certain classes of behavior disorders. All of which seem to parallel the above mentioned changes.
As a society, we should be horrified at the notion that the physiology of our young people, principally girls, but it is also happening to a lesser degree to boys, is being adversely effected by what, at least I must conclude, are human created environmental conditions. The phenomenon of premature puberty only occurs in countries practicing the agricultural methods used here in the United States. And after all, too many coincidences do constitute an actual pattern. That an article addressing a major issue like this should ignore these environmental factors is curious indeed. The cynic in me suspects that the author, an editor at SciAm, knows which side of the bread the butter is on. That the very companies that provide for and buy the products of modern agriculture, Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Chemical, Phizer, Merc, and so on, are also principal sponsors and advertisers in SciAm, and they might take offense at an article suggesting that their products are a possible source of a health problem. This may be a reason behind her downplaying this aspect of the issue.
But leaving aside the arguments that the current industrial model of agriculture practiced in the United States is unsustainable environmentally, I would contend that these methods are also poisoning our children. Viable and existing alternatives exist, but I will leave that discussion for another day.
Little Friends Volumes I and II
Little Friends Volumes I & II, copyright 2013 by Thomas J. Mullen, are books about the fighter planes and pilots of the United States Army Air Force that served during World War Two. Well researched and factually accurate, these books are gems. While Mullen gives us enough of the “big picture” to place events in context, the focus of these books is on the planes and individual pilots rather than presenting a general’s eye view of the war.
Beginning with the P-26 (the forerunner of the P-35 and P-36), which but was used by Filipino and Chinese airmen, the author sketches a history of the development of each plane, its performance specifications, its design features, its armament, as well as where and when the plane was deployed. He does this with each of the fighter planes used by the US Army Air Force ending volume II with the P-51 Mustang. Numerous photographs and excellent drawings accompany each article.
As interesting as the technical and historical information is, and it is very complete, what the author then does is novel. Colonel Mullen presents mini-biographies of the pilots who flew the featured aircraft. These vignettes are very well researched and documented, oftentimes including interviews with fellow airmen, friends, and relatives of the subjects. We are told about their backgrounds and careers before and after the war. However all too often, the biographies end by the author telling us how and where their young lives ended during the war. On the other hand, some lived to fly on during the Korean War and several flew in the Vietnam War. While he profiles a few famous leaders, Generals Doolittle and Chennault for example, most of the biographies and stories are about men and women most of us have never heard of, but were equally essential to ending that terrible conflict.
Like the biographies, many of the photographs are heretofore unpublished. I have read many history books and seen numerous documentaries of the period and these are all new to me. In addition, the illustrations and diagrams are excellent. They are the work of graphic artist and painter Liz Makowski while some of the artwork is by Jim Laurier.
A history buff myself, I did not know for example, that Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers flew their first combat mission against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. I had always assumed they were fighting “secretly” at the behest of the United States long before the war officially began. This has been the historical narrative promoted by Hollywood and folklore for as long as I can remember. Tom Mullen sets the record straight in the section in Volume II about the P-40, the plane used by that group early in the war.
These make great “coffee table” books (they are on mine) and are especially interesting in that function as the vignettes and profiles can be read individually. Anywhere you open one of these books, you will discover something new and worth reading. Both of these fine books are currently available at Amazon.
Thomas J. Mullen served in the Army as an enlisted man for four years and did two tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). He was commissioned as an Army Infantry officer fifty-eight days after the United States ended its combat mission to the RVN. Other duties included service in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Kuwait during the Gulf War, as well as in Germany, Korea, and Bosnia. Colonel Mullen has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics from Purdue and Ball State Universities respectively. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and resides in Virginia.
Online Now! Tonight, Episode XCIII of Mars Pirate Radio will feature the second half of our interview with aerospace systems engineer and President of the Oregon L-5 Society, Charles F. Radley. In addition, MPR will present the next installment of H. G. Wells’ masterpiece, The War of the Worlds. To listen to the episode, scroll down to the bottom of the entry and click on “Listen Now.”
-Note: Unbeknownst to him, Mr. Radley was suffering from walking pneumonia at the time of the interview but soldiered on anyway. If his voice seems a little raspy at times, that is the reason.
Of the Mars One volunteers selected in Round 3, several have been guests on Mars Pirate Radio. While I was surprised to discover that several of my guests weren’t picked, those who were interviewed on MPR and are now among the “100” include: Dan Carey, Cody Reeder, Dr. Elena Shateni, Carmen Paul, and Oscar Mathews. Two more, Dr. Lela Zucker and Sue Ann Pien were scheduled to participate in a group discussion, but Mars One closed the process to interviews before this could happen. Best wishes to all.
To those MPR guests who weren’t chosen, I can only say that there isn’t one among You that I wouldn’t be pleased to have at my side were I on the Mission.
Transcript of my interview with Aquaponics expert, Mihail Mateev.
-First of all, could you describe aquaponics? What it is and how it works.
-A Aquaponics is a closed ecosystem of edible fish and plants.
It is a combination of industrial breeding of fish, which is called aquaculture and soilless growing of plants, which is called hydroponics (where the inorganic nutrients are dissolved into the water). The combination of these two terms makes aquaponics.
In aquaponics we feed the fish, they grow and they produce ammonia, which resides into the water. Then bacteria convert ammonia to nitrites and nitrates, which are consumed by plants.
So the benefits are mutual: plants receive nutrients at constant rate and fish have their water cleaned by poisonous in descending degree ammonia, nitrites and nitrates.
The water is moved by a water pump from the fish tank to the plant tank and then it is moved back to fish tank under the force of gravity.
What are the advantages of aquaponics compared to usual soil agriculture and classical aquaculture and hydroponics?
A: Regular agriculture is done in extensive way – when more production is needed, more land is sowed. Water is not contained within root zone of the plants, but it is mainly relied on the natural rain during the warm seasons to water the crops. When there is less rain we face a disaster. On the other hand, when we need more production per acre, we put different fertilizers, which are transported by water. Unfortunately the effect of the fertilizers is limited for the time when there is first, rain after putting fertilizers into the ground, and second, the period of which the fertilized water stays in the root zone of the plants. This period is usually short, and therefore fertilizers need to be in higher concentration, so effect can be achieved. After this this rich of fertilizers water have passed the root zone, it naturally goes to the lower levels until it reaches sub terrainian water, and this way the fertilizers contaminate sub terrainian water, which is used as potable water from humans and animals.
While soil agriculture is feeding the world population successfully, it does it in a quite ineffective way, and there are different prospects that the food in the future would become more expensive as the demand for food will increase. These prospects are based on regular agriculture. As we saw, it is ineffective in water usage, in fertilizer usage and in addition, it contaminates the potable underground water.
Aquaculture – the industrial breeding of fish – is none the less inefficient as the water is discarded on a regular basis, because it is contaminated by fish byproducts (which is a usual practice even for ornament fish aquarists). So ammonia rich water (and may be even water contained antibiotics and other medicines) is released into artificial ponds, or rivers and water channels where it contaminates natural environment if it is processed through an expensive treatment plant.
In hydroponics we have a water solution of several elements – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (also called NPK). The problem is that within 4 (four) weeks the solution is impossible to be rebalanced as in the initial state (although some large hydroponics installations operators report they make this period longer), finally the water, full of unbalanced minerals, is discarded in a way similar to the one, discussed for aquaculture.
Aquaponics, on the other hand, is a closed system. The water is constantly moved from fish tank to plant tank and back to fish tank. It does not rely on special chemicals, it relies on fish food and some water to keep the loses of evaporation and plant consumption, but as a general rule water is never discarded. Reported efficiency in regards to the water is less that 10% usage in aquaponics compared to regular agriculture for the same amount of production. Aquaponics also is area-wise, because the plants may be planted more densely, because they do not compete for nutrients, as nutrient-rich water is always available. Also, aquaponics is possible to be run in urban environment, and to use what-ever space is available in horizontal and vertical direction, because it is soilless and also because plant containers are able to be stacked in stories. There are video-clips of aquaponics done in old buildings, repurposed for aquaponics.
And the last advantage, but not the least, is the fact that with aquaponics you can have fresh plants, which are locally grown. This means they would have ripen on the stem and not in the ships or trucks during transportation. This would mean they are healthier and tastier.
-What types of aquatic flora and fauna do you envision growing in a self-contained aquatic environment?
-A Generally aquaponics is a fresh-water environment, which means fresh water fauna is breed- mostly different kind of fish (mostly different kinds of carp, but also trout, goldfish, etc), and also shrimps and crawfish/crayfish, and may be even some mussels.
As for the flora – most of the land plants can be grown, keeping respect to different species requirements – for example leafy vegetables prefer more water, while other prefer less water – tomato, potato, strawberries, etc. There are several different types of plant containers to meet these different demands.
-What type of equipment is required in order to sustain such an environment?
-A The absolute minimum for aquaponics system is to have a container for the fish, a container for the plants, some pipes and a water pump to move the water from fish tank to plant tank. And constant access to energy for the pump- and emergency power source in case the main power source fails for any reason.
Optional equipment is air pump, illumination, timer, heater, and chiller, different kinds of monitoring and automation equipment.
-Would the aquatic medium be salt water or fresh water, or possible both?
-A As a rule fresh water is used in aquaponics. The plants that are usually grown, are land plants, and they do not tolerate high levels of salts, which present in salt water. But salt water must not be discarded and may be some seaweeds can be grown in salt water in a closed recirculating system.
There are only a few edible fresh-water aquatic plants, which is possible to be used as plants in aqupoanics, but they are not of such interest among aquaponicists.
-What are your thoughts on the effects of reduced gravity on aquatic plants and animals?
-A Unfortunately the humanity does not have any reduced gravity prolonged experiments with plants or animals, apart from ones grown at International Space Station, but there the extreme is there is no effective gravity.
So my suggestions are pure speculations – the animals would adapt quickly in reduced gravity, the plants might or might not have increased transpiration, which was detected in microgravity.
– How much space would such an installation require in order to provide food for the Mars settlers?
-A Here the opinion differs.
Mars One foundation says in very short statement that 50 square meters would be enought to provide food for four settlers.
“In total there will be about 50 m2 available for plant growth…. There will be sufficient plant production capacity to feed about three crews of four.” – See more at: http://www.mars-one.com/faq/health-and-ethics/will-the-astronauts-have-enough-water-food-and-oxygen (accessed 20141230)
MIT researchers, in their famous report on Mars One feasibility (http://bit.ly/mitM1 – accessed on 20141230), claim no less of 200 square meters per crew (four people) plant area is needed for five (lettuce, peanut, soybean, sweet potato, and wheat) out of nine crops (because diversity in food is needed): dry bean, lettuce, peanut, rice, soybean, sweet potato, tomato, white potato, and wheat. But as mentioned before, plant containers may be stacked.
It remains unclear if Mars One’s 50 sq. m. are the floor print with 4 stories, or the total plant area.
-Can the plants and animals be shipped to Mars in egg form?
-A Plants can be carried in form of seeds, fish can be transported in form of fry and sperm and fertilized on arrival (such deep freezing is done with the gametes of other animals – horses for example. The same approach is used with humans, too). Or it can be transported with living fish.
-Do you envision this as a food supplement source or a mainstay source?
-A My vision of aquaponcis is as a operational mainstay source of food, which means food will be provided locally by other animals – different kinds of birds, animals, insects, etc. The main thing is food independence, therefore self-sustainability of the settlement. And aquaponics might have a big share in this.
-Discuss the advantages of aquaponics over regular gardening or hydroponics in a Mars settlement.
-A The main advantage of aquaponics over regular gardening and hydroponics in a Mars settlement is its simplicity. For hydroponics one has to produce special solution of carefully selected chemicals, and the tests with Martian analogue regolith soil growing of tomatoes showed that heavy metals are available in the soil and those heavy metals are collected in the fruits of the tomato plant, making them poisonous and harmful for people (http://www.euronews.com/2013/10/02/plant-life-on-mars, accessed 20141230)
-You recently gave a presentation on this subject. Could you give us the highlights of that talk?
-A Yes, I gave a presentation on aquaponics on this matter. The most important points I spoke on were what is aquaponics, advantages of aquaponics as food producing method, which are already covered in this interview and finally I demonstrated an aquaponics setup, made out of shelf off containers, pipes, and some aquarium equipment.
-You have referred to an aquaponics apparatus you have developed. Could you describe it and its purpose?
-A This aquaponics setup contains of 30 L fish tank, 10 L plant tank, a small aquarium pump, some pipes and other optional equipment – lighting, heater, air pump, etc.
The purpose was to prove aquaponics is possible to be done with readily available items, and this way to inspire teenagers to create their own aquaponical systems and gain knowledge and expertise along the way while they do it. So one day they be able to be the specialists of food production in Mars settlements.
-Any other topics you would like to discuss?
Thank you for taking the time for this interview.
A-You are welcome and thank you
Doug Turnbull’s review of “The Plundering of NASA: An Expose” by R. D. Boozer
I write science fiction stories, occasionally write non-fiction space science articles and have a weekly podcast called Mars Pirate Radio concerned with science, science fiction and the future. I also review books and movies.
The Plundering of NASA: an Expose’ by R. D. Boozer (Copyright 2013) is an exhaustive report on how pork barrel politics has diverted vital NASA funding away from cutting edge technological research into building, to borrow a term from space science writer, John Stickland, “a rocket to nowhere.” R. D. “Rick” Boozer is an astrophysicist who in addition to writing books and articles, hosts a blog called Astro Maven and a website called Singularity Scientific. Both are dedicated to putting forth the message that science can be fun.
In making his arguments, Boozer explodes a dozen or so commonly held myths about spaceflight. For example, myth number one: NASA needs a large budget increase for ambitious space exploration. Boozer examines this one carefully and demonstrates that NASA has plenty of money; but, he argues, because of political pressure much of it is being funneled into non-productive areas. In those categories, the biggest culprits are the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Spacecraft projects. Another commonly held belief is that Space Stations and propellant depots require heavy lift vehicles of type proposed in the SLS program. Boozer points out that the critical factor in assembling large structures in low Earth orbit (LEO) is not the size or number of components. Assembling large structures out of many smaller components is a well established capability, as the construction and maintenance of the International Space Station (ISS) demonstrates. Instead, the cost per ton of placing the components into LEO is of paramount importance. Using this measure, SLS with its colossal development costs and huge per unit cost is the biggest loser to other less expensive lift systems. A third myth is that fuel depots in orbit are too expensive to operate, thus we need a huge rocket that doesn’t need refueling. Boozer crushes this one with the analogy of the in flight refueling techniques long employed by the Air Force and Navy as an alternative to building a few gigantically expensive aircraft capable of flying around the world on one tank of fuel.
As you may have gathered from the foregoing, the main brunt of Boozer’s criticism of NASA’s current agenda is directed toward the SLS and Orion Spacecraft projects. Like SLS, the Orion Spacecraft is still under development, existing only on engineer’s drawing boards. Designed to carry a four person crew, the Orion is only a little larger than the already operational Dragon Spacecraft developed by Space X. It primary claim to fame is that it will be deep space mission capable. But this claim is empty because any missions lasting more than a few days would have the astronauts crammed in the still tiny craft like “spam in a can” to quote Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. It’s bigger than Apollo or the Dragon, but not that much bigger. The Dragon is quite capable of doing its primary mission: ferrying astronauts and cargo to and from LEO, where the real deep spaceships can be assembled, vessels large enough to convey their crew comfortably and safely on long duration missions. Boozer proposes that NASA use the money he feels is being wasted on SLS/Orion instead to develop and build a spaceship such as the plasma powered Nautilus X, the outlines of a design of which have already been studies and created by the agency. The magneto plasma engine, invented by Franklin Chang-Diaz, could be used to propel such a craft and will be tested on board the ISS within a year or two.
He argues, I believe successfully, that SLS/Orion programs are superfluous and largely propelled by pork barrel politics. Boozer names—names, and identifies the congressmen and senators who are pushing programs that benefit their constituents and the aerospace companies that contribute to their campaigns, rather than further actual space exploration and extra terrestrial development. In making his argument, Boozer quotes noted astronauts, rocket scientists and other aerospace experts such as Buzz Aldrin, Chris Craft, John Strickland, Rand Simberg and Space X founder, Elon Musk, to name just a few.
As noted above, Boozer isn’t simply criticizing a program without proposing useful alternatives, however. He documents how the badly underfunded Commercial Crew and Commercial Cargo programs have been much more efficient in producing results than the programs managed directly by NASA. These two programs encourage private companies to develop their own hardware by granting contracts to the firms with specific budgets and timeframes, as opposed to the open-ended “cost plus” contracts traditionally employed by NASA. What Boozer and many others both inside and outside NASA propose is the development of an infrastructure in space, either in (LEO) or possibly at the Lagrange Point known as L-2 located beyond the moon, for assembling, fueling and equipping deep space missions. Much of the equipment necessary for creating such an infrastructure already exists or will be operational in the very near future. Space X’s Falcon Heavy, which can lift 55 tons to LEO will be launched in 2014 and was developed entirely with private funds, while both the currently operational Atlas and Delta heavy lift systems are capable of placing 20 tons in LEO. The Dragon spacecraft has already flown an un-crewed cargo mission to the ISS and like the Falcon Heavy, was largely developed with private money.
Rick Boozer is not a bomb thrower. He carefully documents all of his assertions, oftentimes using NASA internal studies as well as external studies by entities such as the Congressional Budget Office and the Booze-Allen-Hamilton study of the SLS. This book is carefully sourced and will stand up to scholarly scrutiny. One very useful feature of his list of references is that each article or reference source cited in the main body of the book has a web address where the original document can be accessed. I highly recommend this fine book to anyone who is interested in space exploration and believes, as I do, that humanity’s next logical step is development and settlement off the Earth. This book is currently available at Amazon and other online retail outlets in both e-book and paperback formats.
Doug Turnbull here at Mars Pirate Radio, the nexus of science, science fiction and the future. Tonight we have an interview with Mihail Mateev, the founder and President of The Mars society in Bulgaria. In addition we will have some space science updates and the next installment of Titus Andronicus Scott.
Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder of The Mars Society and President of Pioneer Astronautics has joined the advisory board of Mars One, the Dutch based foundation that seeks to establish a permanent settlement on Mars in the next decade. To date, Mars One has had over 200,000 volunteers for their astronaut program. The mission architecture calls for the trips to the Red Planet to be one-way. On accepting the position on the board, Zubrin said:
“Mars is the new world. Its settlement presents the challenge that will determine whether we remain confined to Earth, or can become a multiplanet spacefaring species, with a future made unbounded by our courage and creativity. Mars One has accepted that challenge. It is a daunting one, and the odds may well be against them. But if no one tries, no one will succeed. I’m proud to do what I can to help.”
According to an October 15th Leonard David article in space.com, India’s first Mars bound spacecraft is set to launch late this month. The Indian Space Research Organization’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe, will be carried aloft by the Indian made Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The spacecraft is designed to photograph the Martian surface from orbit and search for signs of methane in the planet’s atmosphere, be it expelled by non-biological or microbial sources. The orbiter’s launch window opens on Oct. 28 and closes on Nov. 19, with the arrival at the Red Planet targeted for September 2014.
On October 15th I had an article posted in space.com positing that the planned 501 day Inspiration Mars circumnavigation mission could be flown using equipment that is already in service. Utilizing the Proton and Soyuz launch vehicles, the Mars vehicle would be assembled in low Earth Orbit and then injected into its Mars circumnavigation orbit by Russian built Briz-M propulsion units. The vehicle itself would consist of a Zvezda module similar to the one in use on the International Space Station and a Soyuz orbiter docked together. The mission is scheduled for 2018.
Links to these articles are listed in the introduction of Episode XXVI.
And now, to our interview.
Mihail Mateev is the founder and first President of The Mars Society-Bulgaria. He has a Masters Degree in Engineering in the area of Telecommunication Technique and Technologies. Having grown up when the Soviet Union still held Eastern Europe as part of its empire, Mihail brings a perspective to the subject of human space flight that differs from that of most of us who grew up in the western democracies. He speaks English, Russian and Bulgarian. A written transcript of this interview will be posted in the “Podcast” portion of my website.
Good evening Mihail
– Good evening, Doug!
-Tell us a bit about The Mars Society Bulgaria, what the organization does and what you do.
– Mars Society Bulgaria was founded in 2012. Our main aim is the younger generation – children and teenagers. Thus we pursue popular projects like translation of articles, we have done the translation of “The Mars Underground” 2007 with subtitles in Bulgarian.
One of our finished projects is a set of 2 maps – topomap and photomap – with size of 50 by 70 cm /19 by 27 inches/ – it is B2 size of paper, which we had distributed to most astronomical organizations /clubs, planetariums, observatories/ and some of public libraries. The rest of the print is available for donors for their donation. The toponyms are in Latin, the explanatory text is in Bulgarian. Even so, there is an American couple who bought a pair and put them framed on the wall of their home.
We have also a mechanical Mars Gravity Simulator (MaGraS). It is on paper only, as we need funding to make it.
Mars Society Bulgaria holds an annual literature competition for science-fiction short story and poem, too.
We have some other projects, which are not finished, and therefore we do not announce them too much.
My personal role in Mars Society Bulgaria… Well, I am the founder and its first President. It is my duty to participate whenever a journalist calls and asks for an interview, or if there is a Space related event – to go and to present Mars Society Bulgaria. I am also maintaining the website of the Society.
How did you get interested in space exploration and human space flight?
– I was raised in Communist Bulgaria. At that time the science fiction was one of the few areas, where some liberty of mind was possible.
In fact, as long as I remember, I’ve started with Tsiolkovskiy “On the Moon” and “Dreams for Earth and heaven”, where microgravity, reactive propulsion and closed ecosystems were examined, as well as Solar system, etc.
I am humbled to know that scientists from a global magnitude as von Braun and Korolyov had the same way in their life.
I become especially fascinated with the idea of closed ecosystems, therefore I am doing a theoretical research in aquaponics, which is combined growth of fish and plants in symbiosis. I will try to run a small system here, on Earth, and if it is successful, I will try to adapt it for microgravity and Martian gravity.
-Do you feel, as do I, that there is a future for humanity in populating and developing the solar system and how do you see that evolving in the near future?
– The curiosity and the spirit of discovery is laid down into the human being and I believe there are some people who are willing to go to a certain place just because it exists. For example – Mt. Everest, Mariana Trench, Moon, Mars… What is more – humanity had settled the Earth firstly on places, where the conditions are most favorable. With respect to the temperature Martian equator is a better place than some places on Earth, as Martian regolith temperature during the day reaches up to 30 degrees C. For example, the temperature on some Antarctic stations is – 40 to – 80 degrees C and people do live there.
So, everything is depending on the will of man and proper equipment. I strongly believe that gradually the humanity will settle the whole Solar system. Mars, for example, has total surface of all land area on Earth. Practically said, it is a second Earth in regard to the surface.
In order to settle down on Mars we should have develop technologies to maintain a regular and relatively inexpensive journeys to Mars and back. Then we would have the possibility to extract resources from the Main asteroid belt and to “Long live and prosper!”, as they say in Startrek. Then may be we would be able to visit and make outposts on Jovian moons, then the rest of the planets, and who knows, one day we may fly to Proxima Centauri, which is 4 light years away.
-Private ventures seem to be gradually displacing government financed space ventures. Is this the future of space development in your view?
– Yes, according to me the private enterprises would take over the governmental space program. If you want to have something sustainable on a long run, you have to make it profitable.
America was settled this way – with chapters from the British Crown, but the funding was private. My point of view is sooner than later the settlements would request their independence from Earth authorities and therefore it is best to have as less as possible governmental interference. New communities would be formed, with their own challenges, and that is why I strongly believe the role of national governments soon shall end and will be replaced by community councils of the settlements, which would be private ventures.
Something more – private sector and free market in space are would provide drop in the prices and boost of quality – something we already see if we compare SpaceX to NASA rockets. There was an article, which said NASA committee was elected to investigate how SpaceX did their Falcon rocket. The same committee said if NASA had to do it it would cost about 4 times more.
-I believe it is possible to begin planning and assembling the infrastructure materials for a Lunar or Mars settlement today, using equipment we currently posses, and assembling the missions in low Earth orbit the way we did with the ISS. What are your thoughts on this?
– It is possible to be done today, but it is impractical. Elon Musk from SpaceX is aiming to achieve price of USD 1000 per pound to LEO, which is USD 1000 for 0.5 kilograms in metric system. Current price is about USD 10,000 per pound.
I understand there are people of different age and some, which are with greater age, what to see things as soon as possible, but economics has its own pace. I would say if SpaceX achieve a reusable first stage of its Falcon rocket, then the prices would drop. What is more – we already saw a cargo delivery from Cignus of private company Orbital. The competition between private rocket companies would make prices to get low with a drop. I expect to see many more private players in this sector, so the near future is really bright. I am enjoying the first Sun beams of the rise already.
-In my books and stories, I postulate that the habitats and so forth for a Mars or Lunar settlement be constructed robotically before any human ever sets foot there. Do you agree or disagree and why?
– I am totally agree. Robots do not get tired, they do not need life support systems, they are remotely controllable and able to have some local autonomy. Plus, if they are supplied with energy, they can work non-stop around the clock.
3D printing revolution is already here, it is just starting to get more common day after day in spreading areas of application, habitats included.
The great benefit for Earth is if something is working on Moon or Mars, it would work for sure on Earth (well, if it is not specifically bounded to a less gravity).
-Right now it takes about 260 days to get to Mars using the economical, Hohman style orbit, during which passengers are subject to a barrage of high energy radiation. What do you think of the Aldrin Cycler as a mean of shortening the duration of missions?
– Aldrin Cyclers are a great idea of a great mind. Some of the outbound trips are just about 86 days Earth to Mars.
What we need is cheap access to LEO and strong business competition in order to secure low prices and great quality. We would need also redundancy reliability in automatics. The last article, written by Buzz Aldrin, had some extra intermediate vehicles to match the high speed of the Cycler. But what I saw is that it would become a transportation network. We need reliable access to LEO and beyond in order to secure that network.
-Along those lines, what do you see in the future of propulsion systems such as chemical, ion, nuclear, solar sail and other possibilities?
– Different propulsions are suitable for different aims. Ion propulsion is great on fuel consumption – it is very economic, but the acceleration is small and time is needed to achieve really usable speeds.
Until we handle nuclear waste reliably – for example – to burn it into the Sun – I would not use nuclear power. The fact the nuclear plant is dangerous even just as a device – just needs to go out of its optimal parameters to make a boom, makes me reluctant to accept it in any form. I am not environmentalist, but I do not want a Moon or Martian settlement to be erased just because of a nuclear failure. Of course, there are several types of nuclear batteries, which are somehow more secure, but nuclear propulsion is too dangerous for the crew on the ship plus Earth atmosphere, thus the whole Earth population if it is ignited in vicinity of Earth.
Solar sail is a great way for light equipment.
Chemical propulsion still has to offer a great way of transportation, which, combined with proper orbital trajectories can serve us for many years and decades ahead. For example, methane-liquid oxygen bi-propellant is very secure and clean fuel, which we still haven’t implemented on Earth, but it is quite possible to be implemented on Mars firstly, and then on Earth.
-I believe that private property rights are essential if we are to develop an extraterrestrial culture. What are your views on this?
– I believe that the political system as we know it – big governmental programs, big interfere of the government in the economics is a model, which soon shall be outdated. I think the community model is the future – people would live in one settlement because they are willing so, not because some bureaucrat/statist said so. The settlements need to be productive as much as they can, and feeding non-productive big government with money, collected by taxes or imposed fees is not the best way for surviving and thrive in such a community/society. If there would be any such need of people like this, they would be non-paid. For example as you and me are not being paid for what you do in Mars Pirate Radio, nor I am paid for running Mars Society Bulgaria. As long as I know the Swiss Parliament/Congress is also unpaid. May be this is the reason this country is has such an effective government and self-dependent people.
-On this subject, the so called “moon treaty” appears to prohibit ownership of extraterrestrial property. Should the USA and other space faring nations opt out of this treaty?
– I have been interviewed for Bulgarian National Radio on that matter. So called “Moon treaty” is not signed by any major Space faring nation, neither USA, nor Russia (also China, Japan, India, some European countries). So such nations do not have to opt out, as they have never signed it.
Moon treaty from 1979 is thought as a follow-up of Outer Space Treaty from 1967. The Moon treaty bans private or NGO ownership of any parcels on heavenly bodies and gives authorities to UN to rule.
Outer Space Treaty from 1967 rules out possibility to claim any extraterrestrial territory a sovereign national territory, but says nothing about private person ownership or a private consortium. Of course, in the midst of the Cold War no one could even imagine a real private ownership of any extraterrestrial plot of land.
Here comes the community system. If a community of settlers claim sovereign right over a territory, but not subdue to any nation on Earth, but something like a new nation in-situ, then it might work, especially if this community is self-sustainable and have knowledge or resources to trade.
Outer Space Treaty is built upon a frame of The Antarctic Treaty (also called Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)). It prohibits only nation to develop any national business in Antarctica. As a result, Antarctica is still a non-exploited land, contrary on the Arctic, where contracts have been drawn and the area is quite developed in regard to the resources, trade, etc.
So, if I can rephrase your question should USA opt out of Outer Space Treaty – yes, you should. For the sake of the future of humanity.
-Any other questions or topics you would like to discuss?
– I do not have any particular suggestions right now.
-How can our listeners learn more about The Mars Society Bulgaria and possibly contact you?
– Anyone who is willing to contact us may do it visiting www.MarsSociety.bg, and we are also on Facebook – we have a page Mars Society Bulgaria and a group Mars Society Bulgaria. Also we may be contacted directly by email info@MarsSociety.bg.
-Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.
– Thank you for the invitation! Long live and prosper!
The means for missions to Mars, the moon and deep space are within current capabilities.
By assembling mission ships in low Earth orbit (LEO), it is possible to mount deep-space flights using existing equipment.
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Mid-Century Life on Mars
By Doug Turnbull
Sunday, August 31st marked the end of the application period for future astronauts hoping to catch a ride on a rocket to Mars. The project, known as Mars One, is a non-profit foundation established with the eventual goal of using existing transportation and other technologies to arrive at and settle on Mars. As a hard science fiction writer, I have spent some time attempting to envision what life might be like as a settler on Mars thirty-five years from now. If any of the three or four major private sector plans to travel to Mars come to fruition, we may well find out if my predictions are right.
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