Thursday, May 18, 2006

Phase 3: To Mars And Beyond

Mars Station 1 represents the first real breakthrough in space exploration. It will be built with the best available resources. Equipped with its gravity generation unit and powered by it own attached nuclear plant (since it is out of the jurisdiction of ISA), Mars Station 1 allows its occupants to stay independent from Earth.

The above feature is important because the distance between Earth and Mars varies according to their different orbits. Earth-Mars Transport is only feasible at their closest orbital fly-pass. When Earth and Mars are at the opposite end of the sun, even speed of light communication is impossible. Therefore despite possible improvement of ship design and speed, Earth-Mars transportation is seasonal.

As a self-sufficient enclave, it will have its own school, hospitals, food production and recreation areas. Incentives to attract settlers will be minimal because it will be viewed as an opportunity toward greater prosperity. The pioneering spirit is revived. The riches of the sky is now open for all and people are rushing for this very opportunity but only there is only space in the station for 10,000 people.

The mass exodus begins. Interested settlers will rush to the Belt to occupy their own asteroid. Transportation companies are going to make huge profits transporting people and cargoes from Earth to Mars with a window period where the distance between them is the smallest. Orbital factories are stretching their capacities to their limits meeting the demands for new ships, mining equipment and life support systems while banks will start to grant loans to settlers from their huge unused surplus.

When available living units in Mars Station 1 is filled up, people will have to live permanently in their own ships. These were the space age nomads. It will be a completely new environment. Gravity in the ships was close to zero. This was the beginning of human beings adapting to life at zero gravity.

This “mad-rush” ended when Mars and Earth moved away from each other beyond the feasible range. The colonies were left on their own. This formed the seed of independence from Earth. It was Phase 1 starting all over again except there were no continuous support from Earth. It was more rugged. The Nomads would engage in various enterprises. Some used their ships to tow asteroids for an agreed fee. Others set up facilities like orbital food farms and workshops by parking their ship at the orbit of Mars. Inevitably, driven by desperation some became pirates.

Meanwhile, Mars Station 1 is the focal point at this region. No one was going to settle too far away from Mars, as it would mean isolation. Trade and territorial disputes were discussed and resolved in this station. New guidelines were formed to preserve harmonious relationship and a voluntary neighbourhoodwatch were formed to combat piracy. This was the first step towards the evolution to a confederacy government.

The harsh environment caused new innovations to be developed. Better weapons and defense system were needed to fight piracy. Artificial food technology was being improved, as the flow of organic food from Earth was seasonal. Ships were getting more resilient, self-sufficient, last longer and have better life support.

Will there be settlement on the surface of Mars? Yes but limited to research projects and land speculations. Settlements on Mars have the combined disadvantage of gravity and unbreathable air, thus requiring high cost to generate air and overcoming gravity.


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