Join 3,503 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Beam me up and away
May 2, 2005 8:13 AM   Subscribe

NASA is funding a research project that looks into a new and much faster way of getting astronauts to Mars.
posted by C17H19NO3 (24 comments total)

 
See also. And.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 8:19 AM on May 2, 2005


The artist who did the concept art is an obvious fan of Tron.
posted by furtive at 8:23 AM on May 2, 2005


We must go into space because we must go into space!
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:23 AM on May 2, 2005


Why doesn't projecting the beam send the space station backwards? Does this require a continuous stream and line of sight? Or is it a one-push mechanism?
posted by scarabic at 8:32 AM on May 2, 2005


That'll never work.

scarabic: Why doesn't projecting the beam send the space station backwards?

I suppose it does. But that could be countered by sending and "empty" beam in the opposite direction.
posted by sour cream at 8:44 AM on May 2, 2005


Or is it a one-push mechanism?

According to the brief article you apparently didn't bother to read, it's a series of brief pushes:

The Magbeam station would fire a plasma beam at the target spacecraft for about four hours, giving it a boost toward Mars.

It requires the launch of a Martian space station similarly equipped to brake the spacecraft on approach and push it back upon return.

What I would like to know is what would happen Earthside if this plasma beam was trained and then fired upon, say, a place like New York City. Or Teheran, for that matter.
posted by y2karl at 8:50 AM on May 2, 2005


New York City. Or Teheran,

Well, then it would send New York City or Teheran to Mars, silly...
posted by Balisong at 9:06 AM on May 2, 2005


BUM bum bum bum bum. FLASH...AAHAAH!

Claytus, prepare the magnetic plasma beam! It's target....Earth!

...

Um, I mean, this will certainly be a great new form of transportation. Bravo to NASA! Yeah.
posted by unreason at 9:14 AM on May 2, 2005


Step 1: Take other missions' computer-generated images.
Step 2: Change the background and photoshop in really cool plasma beams.
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Interstellar profit!
posted by cgs06 at 9:30 AM on May 2, 2005


Thanks for linking to the Mars wiki. I had no idea what Mars was.
posted by notmydesk at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2005


Thanks for linking to the Mars wiki. I had no idea what Mars was.

That was intended to be a joke.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 9:57 AM on May 2, 2005


In space no one can hear you being cranky.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:21 AM on May 2, 2005


So you would have to send a magbeam site to Mars first to set up the return journey?
Hmmm.....
I wonder if you could 'tack'...
posted by Smedleyman at 10:27 AM on May 2, 2005


Thank you for the information and the scolding, karl.
posted by scarabic at 3:12 PM on May 2, 2005


Why doesn't projecting the beam send the space station backwards?

It would; that's how ion propulsion engines work. If the beam can be targeted, maybe it can be fired symmetrically on both the approaching and departing limbs of the orbit, allowing the vectors to cancel out. Or the thrust from the plasma projector could be used to accelerate the orbit and cancel out atmospheric drag.

A system that requires a station in orbit around Mars is totally impractical in the short term (that's more of something you would use when you had a permanent station on Mars.) I wonder if this system could be used to accelerate the probe both to and away from Mars, using just the Earth station. If the beam can reach to Mars, then adjusting the system from 'repel' to 'attract' should be as simple as reversing the polarity of the spacecraft's field.

What I would like to know is what would happen Earthside if this plasma beam was trained and then fired upon, say, a place like New York City. Or Teheran, for that matter.

Almost certainly nothing worse than auroras. Diffuse plasma beams aren't very compatible with atmospheres.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:06 PM on May 2, 2005


If the beam can reach to Mars, then adjusting the system from 'repel' to 'attract' should be as simple as reversing the polarity of the spacecraft's field.

I think you're thinking of Star Trek. I understood this to work like a water gun, though it uses electromagnetic forces as resistance.

And the beam doesn't reach to Mars. It accelerates the spacecraft to its top speed in four hours, so it doesn't have to reach very far (relatively speaking, anyway).

I was trying without success to figure out the force of acceleration that this would impart on the occupants and/or cargo earlier today. The thing that's out of my league is the length of the trajectory, since a faster mission would have a much shorter flight. Take a look at the graphics illustration the Mars Pathfinder Trajectories, and how far the spacecraft has to fly due to its slow acceleration.

Seemingly informed discussion, with formulas and stuff, can be found at FuturePundit.
posted by dammitjim at 7:35 PM on May 2, 2005


On the FuturePundit page they say the final speed would be 11.7km/s. If the acceleration lasts 4 hours that would be 0.8125 m/s^2, or a little under 0.1g.
posted by Chuckles at 11:37 AM on May 3, 2005


60 x 60 x 24 x 11.7 = 1,010,880 km

Is that really 1 million kms a day? that just blows my mind...
posted by pots at 3:23 PM on May 3, 2005


pots writes " 60 x 60 x 24 x 11.7 = 1,010,880 km

"Is that really 1 million kms a day? that just blows my mind..."


Blow you mind again.
posted by litghost at 4:39 PM on May 3, 2005


*kaboom*

heh. thanks for that. Now, I've gotta get back to reading Red Mars for the umpteenth time.
posted by pots at 5:27 PM on May 3, 2005


I think you're thinking of Star Trek. I understood this to work like a water gun, though it uses electromagnetic forces as resistance.

Well, sort of. The incoming particles will probably be nuclei stripped of electrons, so they'll be positive. Arranging the spacecraft's magnetic field to repel the ions and slow them down would cause the momentum of the ions to be transferred to the spacecraft, pushing it in the direction of the ion's motion. However, it should be possible to arrange the spacecraft's field to accelerate the ions, which would pull the spacecraft toward the beam projector.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:06 PM on May 3, 2005


But then you would have to supply the energy... The whole point is that the energy is supplied from a remote location, to keep the capsule as light as possible...
posted by Chuckles at 7:46 PM on May 3, 2005


You know, America does sorely need a new slew of pork barrel projects to prop up its floundering military industrial complex. And with our current surpluses of cash and domestic harmony, now seems as good a time as any. Bring on the Star Wars projects!
posted by squirrel at 9:28 PM on May 3, 2005


What I would like to know is what would happen Earthside if this plasma beam was trained and then fired upon, say, a place like New York City. Or Teheran, for that matter.

Almost certainly nothing worse than auroras...


God, think of this technology in the hands of, say, Clear Channel then:
Pepsi Blue Sky. Nike Swoosh Uber Alles. And so forth.
posted by y2karl at 12:45 PM on May 5, 2005


« Older Good luck, blessings, positive thoughts, and an ea...  |  Add one part Icelandic Aerobic... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments