Getting to Mars is a long trip, and right now most of our plans to get there involve one way rockets. What if there was an easier way? Buzz Aldrin proposed a better way that would allow us to ride to Mars in style, for a fraction of the cost of one way rockets. Lets check out Ben as he rides the first of these ‘cyclers’.
The Fun Part
November 23, 2073
6 million miles from Earth
This was the best use of Marriott points Ben had ever imagined. Granted, it was about 30 million points for the trip. But still. Being in the Aldrin Signature Hotel for the first time brought chills down his spine. Not because of its size…it wasn’t much bigger than a small town motel. But because it was travelling somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 miles an hour. He could check his tablet to see the exact speed and position, but it was almost time for the symphony.
As he left the symphony, Ben reflected that this wasn’t the nicest hotel he had ever been in. But as far as ‘all inclusive’ places went this was pretty good. The food seemed fresh, he wasn’t sure he wanted to think about where the water came from, but there was regular entertainment, plenty of space to mingle with the other guests. And plenty of very attractive women.
Was it just him, or were most of the women in the hotel really attractive? Why were all of these really hot women headed to Mars? Well, now that he really looked around, there did seem to be more than an average amount of really well off, and ostensibly powerful men on the trip as well. Not quite the image Ben had in his head for people who would immigrate to another planet. After all, only a handful of these people were tourists like him. They were leaving Earth, probably for good.
Weird…he thought. He would think about that later. For now, it was time to go talk to Sophia at the bar.
The Real Deal
A Mars cycler is a permanently orbiting vehicle with a path that alternately brings it near Earth and Mars. Once a cycler has been accelerated into orbit it continues on its own momentum, going back and forth between the two planets, only requiring propellant for occasional course adjustments. This cycler concept could be applied to the moon as well, and in fact it was initially conceived as a way to get there.
A one-way trip between Earth and Mars involves six to eight months of space travel, therefore a large and well-equipped Mars cycler would offer space explorers, and possibly even space tourists, better accommodations for these long journeys. Smaller spacecraft would ferry travelers between the planets and the cycler.
Buzz Aldrin…yes that Buzz…first proposed a Mars cycler in 1985. Aldrin proposed a pair of Mars cycler vehicles providing regular transport between Earth and Mars. While the astronauts traveling to the Moon could do so in spacecraft with a relatively small amount of habitable space, a mission to Mars would require something much larger.
These cycler’s orbit would be offset (because the orbits of the Earth and Mars don’t line up), so that one cycler has a fast trip from Earth to Mars, and a slow return; and the other has the opposite. This would create a system that Aldrin likened to an escalator, where you just transfer between the ‘up’ and ‘down’ escalators to go between floors.
I would like to pretend the image below will help depict this…but i don’t know that it will.
If you think about it, this is a really sweet system. You don’t need much fuel to get to/from these cyclers, which can be basically huge orbital hotels, and there can be any number of them going between the two planets, cutting down on the wait time to begin your trip.
In my next post I’ll explore what happens when the top 25% of humanity can reach space but the rest can’t? This is strikingly similar to the colonization of the America’s in the 15-1800s. What can we expect this time?
Until then, feel free to check out less serious posts, like ways we could grow our own food (hint you won’t want to think about it); or how hard it will be to repair your internet router if it isn’t inside your habitat.