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Russians To Ride Nuke Spaceship To Mars


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Russians to ride nuke spaceship to Mars

Christian Science Monitor

 

"A nuclear-powered spaceship that can carry passengers to Mars and

beyond may sound like science fiction. But Russian engineers say they

have a breakthrough design for such a craft, which could leapfrog them

way ahead in the international race to build a manned spacecraft that

can cover vast interplanetary distances. They claim they'll be ready

to build one as early as 2012. In a meeting with top Russian space

scientists Wednesday, President Dmitry Medvedev gave the nuke-powered

spacecraft a green light and pledged to come up with the cash to cover

its $600-million price tag." (10/29/09)

 

http://tinyurl.com/yjcj656

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Yeah, if this is true then it’s out of this world.

 

That was so corny; I think I hurt myself.

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What if it goes Challenger (or Discovery) and showers us with nuke dust?

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What if it goes Challenger (or Discovery) and showers us with nuke dust?

Thanks for pointing out the downside of things VC. :grin:

 

Hopefully they'll design the reactor with such an eventuality in mind. I think it would be far better if it came down in one hunk after an explosion rather than sprinkle the atmosphere with dust. :eek:

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Quite interesting, would be cool to see something like this leave the drawing board if the technical challenges are addressed. Besides the consideration of launching nuclear material into space (which has been done correctly with radioisotope thermal generators) there still remains significant obstacles for long-term manned space travel using either nuclear propulsion or other means.

 

The most pressing issue is exposure to high energy cosmic radiation. Such radiation termed high-LET, or high linear energy transfer (defined as the amount of energy transferred to a material from incident particles) can cause single-strand and double-strand DNA breaks that can eventually lead to tumorigenesis and other bad stuff you wouldn't want to be exposed to without shielding. The best way to reduce the incidence of cosmic radiation is by the use of shielding in the form of high Z materials (lead, etc). This way the effective dose to humans within the spacecraft would be decreased to an extent. Of course, this has its own limits of practicality as lead is pretty heavy and weight is a premium on a spacecraft. Add in nuclear propulsion and then one must take into account shielding for the reactor itself, as well as many safety aspects that need to be incorporated as well (such as cooling a reactor in a microgravity environment, controlling fission neutron reactivity, and considering emergency situations like loss of coolant within the spacecraft, etc).

 

An interesting field of research, but there is a lot to consider and this list above only scratched the surface of what would need to be figured out before a long term mission to Mars is possible.

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sciencemike,

 

Would this craft be built in orbit, or say on Moon's surface, then sent on its way?

 

Reading your thoughts on shielding, craft would eventually hit some literal wall of construction overkill, and in turn be unliftable by chemical rocketry to past atmosphere.

 

Wondering, and I can't find any more on this subject in English, how the folks who are proposing this "engine" are going to take care of the "get my ass off this green rock" problem set.

 

kL

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What if it goes Challenger (or Discovery) and showers us with nuke dust?

That is 'Columbia' not Discovery.

 

Besides, the ship may get them there but the solar radiation will kill them before they get back to earth. That is the biggest draw back to sending humans to Mars. There is not enough shielding to protect astronauts and if they do solve the shielding on the ship, there is the suit problem. The suits have no protection from the solar radiation of Mars.

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What ScienceMike said.

 

I have heard that scientists are working on solving the problem of radiation by creating an artificial field to mimic the earth's electromagnetic field in space to protect astronauts.

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It's a neat idea, but strikes me as impractical in both technical and economic terms. I hope they can make it work- I'd like to see that. But I have my doubts.

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sciencemike,

 

Would this craft be built in orbit, or say on Moon's surface, then sent on its way?

 

Reading your thoughts on shielding, craft would eventually hit some literal wall of construction overkill, and in turn be unliftable by chemical rocketry to past atmosphere.

 

Wondering, and I can't find any more on this subject in English, how the folks who are proposing this "engine" are going to take care of the "get my ass off this green rock" problem set.

 

kL

 

I'm not sure whether it is possible to build an entire spacecraft in a modular fashion in orbit, at least with current limitations on what we can do on EVAs. Our space program has a hard enough time doing EVAs to repair satellites and possibly the shuttle, much less putting a spacecraft together in such a way to withstand all of the forces that it might encounter when applying controlled thrust. Regardless of the mechanism to get the spacecraft into space, work must still be done to lift all of that material out of the atmosphere into orbit.

 

Another alternative to the shielding problem, as mentioned by HereticZero, is the use of electrostatic and magnetic fields to steer charged particles away from the spacecraft. The drawback of this however is power(something which is typically of minimal supply on a spacecraft) and the need for superconducting magnets for magnetic fields. A lot of power would be required to power an electrostatic field, with one estimate being about 10000 MW electric to maintain a voltage of 2 x 108 V (the article estimates about 1 x 1010 V would be required to protect against the most energetic cosmic rays. A typical nuclear reactor can provide anywhere from 1000 MW thermal to 4000 MW thermal (of which approximately 1/4th will ultimately be converted to electricity, so 200 MWe to 1000 MWe) and the size of these reactors, including auxiliary facilities, is far too large to replicate on a small spacecraft to a planet such as Mars. This prohibits the use of electrostatic fields to deflect incoming cosmic particles.

 

While I'm not certain of the magnetic field strength required to deflect charged particles away from a spacecraft, it would probably be safe to assume that it would require a field of sufficient strength such that a superconducting magnet would be needed. Such magnets need to be cooled to at least the boiling point of nitrogen (77 K) and utilize high-Tc superconducting materials. At least with the superconducting magnets there is no resistive losses (so a constant potential doesn't need to be applied like the electrostatic field case), but bottlenecks of power and required cooling systems required to keep the system under quenching temperature. Another advantage is the lower voltages required for the magnet itself and resulting higher field strength compared to ordinary ferromagnetic magnets. As far as I understand it, magnetic particle deflection still appears to be a viable option of radiation shielding in spacecraft.

 

There are more studies about combining the two together, forming "plasma fields" but I'll need to read up a little more on that.

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It's a neat idea, but strikes me as impractical in both technical and economic terms. I hope they can make it work- I'd like to see that. But I have my doubts.

 

The scientists here can correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that NASA research has led to all kinds of new technology that has been exploited in commercial ways. In fact, an economist I read opined that it has contributed to a great deal of US prosperity.

 

I've been saying for years that Russia needs to leverage some of its oil money on it's massive knowledge base and get moving on R&D. This type of thing could be exactly what the country needs to start moving away from wholly depending on its natural resources as an economic base.

 

I also think that if we are going to fix some of the world's problems, like environmental issues, it's going to be through technological improvements, not politics. What better way to move this along than to put some of the world's brightest researchers to work on problems of this magnitude?

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The devil of it is that it takes politics for the researchers and engineers to get the $$$. Remember the ravages that science was subjected to here in America--and by extension, for a good chunk of humanity--as a result of Bush II and his cronies? All in the name of giving a hand-job to the Religious Right and making sure that market conditions would stay favorable for large corporations. Obama got a Nobel for not being Bush, but Scientific American gave him their annual award this year... also for not being Bush.

 

It takes political will for the researchers to get the $$$. It takes political will for the researchers that benefit humanity to get the $$$, and not just the researchers that benefit large corporations or the Dept. of Defense. And it takes political will to implement much of what these more selfless researchers discover. That's the devil of it.

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<snipped post of sciencegasm-inducing awesomeness>

Will you marry me? :wub:

 

Edit: Of course, the flip-side to the point about political will VC makes is few things are more powerfully motivating for that will than national pride. This country put a man on the moon 40 years ago and it's still touted as one of our greatest national achievements (and well it should be). It starts looking like China or Russia are seriously within a few years' time of beating us at our own game and I'd wager you can bet our politicians will decide real quick that NASA is suddenly a lot more important than they used to think.

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This sounds great but... hopefully it's more than just a political ploy supposing it's even technologically feasible in the first place.

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Personally, I'm all for going to Mars, and to live to see the day to where we are colonizing another earth-like planet around another sun-like star (and to be able to live long enough to make the trip!) would be my wildest dream come true.

 

But I'd like to see that "political will" directed at us becoming clean, green, and energy independent. I mean, fuck, if we threw a bunch of money at trying to get nuclear fusion in 15 years, it would solve everything and do a hell of a lot towards getting us to Mars and beyond.

 

We should also consider mining the asteroid belt. If that can turn a profit, then the Space Race will be on! Of course, only a gov't agency like NASA could feasibly pave the way to that. Sort of like how it took the Federal Government to open up the Western U.S. to expansion and development.

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Only $600 million for a manned spacecraft capable of reaching Mars?

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But I'd like to see that "political will" on us becoming clean, green, and energy independent. I mean, fuck, if we threw a bunch of money at trying to get nuclear fusion in 15 years, it would solve everything and do a hell of a lot towards getting us to Mars and beyond.

 

Maybe that's the end result of the problem solving I suggested above. I'm also all for it.

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Agreed. More than that, if we're to have any practical hope of getting beyond Mars we're going to need some sort of renewable/perpetual energy source. A energy source which, if it works in space, we're guaranteed to find a way of making it work here.

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Agreed. More than that, if we're to have any practical hope of getting beyond Mars we're going to need some sort of renewable/perpetual energy source. A energy source which, if it works in space, we're guaranteed to find a way of making it work here.

 

Some say that interstellar travel is possible with laser technology that works now. They're actually looking into it.

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Agreed. More than that, if we're to have any practical hope of getting beyond Mars we're going to need some sort of renewable/perpetual energy source. A energy source which, if it works in space, we're guaranteed to find a way of making it work here.

 

Some say that interstellar travel is possible with laser technology that works now. They're actually looking into it.

 

I can just see political ramifications in play with this. Suppose a manned mission is sent out somewhere using a laser-powered solar sail. Five or ten years later, congress decides to cut funding and power is shut off to the laser facility. They'd be stranded. :Hmm:

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I'd say test it out on a probe first. If we can zap a probe all the way to Tau Centi and get a close up view of an earthlike planet, then load up the humans and spend hundreds of trillions of dollars to get them there in one piece! It would be the greatest achievement in the history of mankind, and I'd saw off my leg to live to see it. I'd saw off both legs if it meant I got to go!

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Yes please.

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Project Orion was the original idea 45 years ago but they were worried about putting radiation into space. Doh! But there is a real worry about a spaceship blowing up in the atmosphere and raining radioactive debris on people below. Possibly they could launch from a mostly uninhabited area with a route out over the sea? The journey is still 3 years and the astronauts will suffer muscle wastage, even possibly brain shrinkage. They will also get a lot of radiation, despite shielding (and more so if there are any solar storms on the 1.5 year voyage each way.) There has been work on human hibernation and such but no one is talking about that at present.

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Isn't it entirely possible in principle to build some kind of "gravitron" if the ship were big enough?

 

Also, what about the space elevator? Is it even feasible? I also heard that they were thinking about building a rail gun that can hurl objects into space.

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