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Reconstructing Mars' Boring Moons


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Showing 1-11 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 20, 2012 6:55:33 PM PST
Mars, as everybody knows, has two moons. In earlier science fiction, these two moons were presented as romantic objects in the sky, shining big and bright, with one of them, Phobos, rising two or three times a night. One or two stories even pointed out that Phobos rises in the WEST, instead of the east. I don't know if any mentioned that Phobos, while traveling across the sky from west to east two or three times a night, goes through the entire set of phases each time. WOW!

Unfortunately, while all of this exotic movement and phasing is true, the moons of Mars are mere captured asteroids. Not only are they mere captured asteroids, but they are very disappointing as seen from the surface of Mars. We now have images from our landers and rovers, and "the hurtling moons of Barsoom" these little rocks are not. Even Phobos will not be nearly as large in the sky as Earth's own moon, will be eclipsed part of the time, and is invisible from substantial parts of Mars. Deimos... just pathetic.

I think that we can do something about that, but only once we have a truly space-faring civilization (and until then, what's the point in mucking around with the Martian moons anyway?).

Here's a suggested future:

As more frequent launches, improvements in launch technology, and a growing infrastructure and population outside of Earth's gravity well makes the cost of even interplanetary travel something the wealthy can save up for, and growing standards of living bring more and more people into the wealthy category, eventually some group will decide they'd rather orbit Mars than orbit Earth. Indeed, some group will decide that, practical or not, life on the Martian surface is what they want. AND! they will have the means to have what they want.

Now, the people of Mars may well resent the growing orbital traffic. Some O'Neillian habitats, with their solar panels and heat radiators, may well outshine Phobos and Deimos, and that's just not right!

Phobos masses 10 trillion tonnes. An O'Neil type space habitat (Island Three) masses 1 billion tons. So, just 0.1% of the mass of Phobos (10 billion tonnes) would be enough to build ten Island Threes.

Ten Island Threes is enough to house one hundred million people in comfort, and at any gravity level from zero-G to one G (including Martian gravity, if desired).

So a full 1% of Phobos would be enough to house a billion. Seven percent and you've got room for more people to live in comfort and affluence than currently live on Earth, where we live in conditions ranging from squalor to splendor. Seven hundred Island Threes, at any gravity. Deimos is smaller, but still substantial, a whole lot more than 7% Phobos.

So here's an idea: how about we gain the support of the Martians by offering to build them new moons? Each would be a nice, big, round radiation shield for multiple habitats (gonna need radiation shielding anyway). Each shell has one thousand Island Threes inside, packed as close together as is practical. From the surface of Mars, they will look like big, beautiful moons. Make them mostly grey, with lighter and darker areas, maybe a bit of orange or purple, just for the sake of exotica. Let the Martians choose the color scheme; after all, it's their sky. Oh, and let's incline the orbits to 45° so that the new Phobos can be seen over all or most of the planet. Do something similar for Deimos. Mirrors and heat radiators and such would be on the far side, and thus invisible from Mars. We get our orbital civilization, the Martians get a romantic planet, and everybody is happy.

How big do these radiation shields need to be? I'd suppose Neodeimos as seen from Mars would be, say, half to two-thirds the size of a full moon as seen from Earth? That's 0.25° to 0.33333°. Neophobos at, I don't know, 0.66666° to 0.75°? Bigger than a full moon on Earth. It should still have the fast orbit, go through the full set of phases every night, and rise in the west.

If each habitat has its own shield (maybe we're doing electromagnetic shielding by now) then the New Moons don't need to be complete spheres and they don't need to be two metres thick. They could be something more like shallow domes, with the convex side pointed at Mars. They could be ten cm thick.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 7:01:48 PM PST
Old Rocker says:
They would probably get painted over with corporate logos and named in honor of their corporate sponsors.

Sorry for the Buzz kill.

Posted on Dec 20, 2012 7:13:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 9:31:47 AM PST
Eeww...

Maybe...
Perhaps...

OK, how about they START OUT covered with logos, but the Martians gradually buy up the space, and paint maria and craters and such over the ads each time they buy up another hundred square metres or so?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 10:34:01 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
:)

Nice for a change to see "speculation" with a brain behind it, Sailor.

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 7:47:07 AM PST
How about the Martians complain that all of these objects are blocking their sun? [Blocking effects: less solar power, less plant growth in the big agrobubbles, and a whole crowd who want to terraform Mars and want MORE sunlight to heat the planet up.]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 7:55:29 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Unfortunately at least one of the Martian moons appears to be a rubble pile, and without taking it apart and rebuilding it entirely, no one is ever going to live in it. In fact, given that the moons aren't very useful, and their orbits will ultimately lead them to crashing into Mars, in the interests of traffic control and to minimise the threat to any terraforming project, a controlled deorbit might be the best solution.

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 8:07:08 AM PST
How about this for an alternate future. Since it takes so much more effort to land on and take off of Mars, the first 'colonists' are on the moons so that they can teleoperate robots realtime on Mars, which you can't do from Earth. Pretty soon there are thousands of these robots, wandering around scooping dirt, sending up samples, sending up resources since the rubble pile of their moon is depleted, etc.

When the true colonists arrive on Mars, they find all of these robots a royal pain. They kick them over whenever they find them (sort of like putting a turtle on its back). The moon colonists retaliate with ...?

BTW..the idea that the first mission to Mars only lands on a Martian moon and teleoperates robots on Mars' surface is a true proposed mission.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 9:17:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 9:20:13 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Bob,

There's a story (I forget the author and title) where the robots have been left to their own devices, and then an astronaut crashes on Mars instructs the robots to find resources to aid their survival, but is rescued. The robots continue their last programmed instructions, resulting in an evolutionary struggle when some find it more effective to steal from other robots instead of gathering their own materials, and then progress to predating on the collecters, resulting in the formation of a robotic ecology which subsequently threatens human colonisation. Some of the predators have become increasingly smart, and some of the prey have developed defenses...

There was an older story by Poul Anderson (Circus of Hells?) which has an abandoned mining AI start playing chess with its robotic minions, and allows them to develop within its chess ecology.

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 9:40:45 AM PST
Taking the two moons apart and putting them back together in a useful way is exactly what I'm talking about.

This robot ecology stuff sounds interesting. These are all short stories, ne?

I guess that the two (now) big moons would eclipse the sun from time to time. They do now, but they're so tiny it hardly matters. Neodeimos, at a quarter to a third of a degree of arc, would almost but not quite cover the sun. Neophobos at two thirds to three quarters of a degree of arc would cover the solar disk with room to spare.

I found that an eclipse by Phobos only last for thirty seconds, sometimes less. I don't know how long transits of Deimos last (what little, far-off Deimos does now can hardly be dignified as an eclipse). I don't know how frequently it happens, for either moon. I don't know if my proposed change in orbital inclination will affect the frequency.

I'm sort of assuming that the real moving and shaking of the future society of the Solar System takes place in orbit, about the various planets and about the sun. Such a set-up has huge advantages over planetary living. There would be billions living in orbit around Mars, billions more throughout the System, and maybe a million on Mars who put up with planetary life because of the romance. The New Moons are offered as either a gesture of good will or as appeasement.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2012 11:28:54 PM PST
Tom Rogers says:
Why do we have to do something so extravagant behind a veneer of social realist practicality making a vain attempt to pass for sexy? Why can't we just throw Maya Lin at the project and see what she comes up with?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2012 4:28:48 AM PST
Ronald Craig says:
:)
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  6
Total posts:  11
Initial post:  Dec 20, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 23, 2012

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