Aston Martian: huge, heavy, hilarious
Cars for Mars! British car-maker should start inter-planetary business! Tremendous business!
Mates, we are going to Mars. This is as imminent as autonomous cars.
Elon Musk constantly promises to take us up and high. In September 2017, in Guadalajara, Mexico, he presented a vision to use the SpaceX potential and colonize Mars. Short trips back and forth should start in the first half of 2019. Then, the full-fledged SpaceX’s missions to Mars will follow in 2022 and 2024 (though Musk stressed that the timeline is a subject to change). The long-term objective is to put 1,000,000 of people on the Red planet. Some sort of Musk’s Plan B for humankind in case of nuclear war. What an industrious daredevil!
But wait... Before Musk and SpaceX, there was Mars One. A small Dutch enterprise which proposed already in 2012 to transport a couple of humans to the Red planet and make them settle there. Mars One wanted to earn money for this mission on making reality-shows and documentaries about how to explore celestial bodies. The mission was supposed to start in 2020 with sending non-manned lander and orbiter. The flesh and bone explorers would then arrive in 2024 and 2026. However, this mission is being criticised as suicidal. Humans will have very little chance to survive out there. Not to speak that very little money will be earned on broadcasting how explorers starve, suffocate or decay (from radiation). But critics will always criticise.
Have no illusions, Mars is a harsh planet. The most “surface habitable” in our Solar system, but still very harsh. It is two times smaller than Earth (53 percent of the diameter) and not as “pulling” down (38 percent of the gravity). It is freaky cold with the annual average hitting –55° C. It does not have much atmosphere (1:100 if to compare with Earth’s density) and most of its atmosphere is carbon dioxide. Its ground is covered with thick layers of rust. Dust storms and tornadoes are common, some of which being as big as France and Germany combined. Then, we have the cosmic radiation which hammers Mars as the Stig's Chinese cousin. The planet has no magnetic field to protect itself from the cousin.
This, however, does not change my initial point. As the multi-planetary species, we will step on Mars soon. And, after settling down, we will need something to move around.
I gave this idea a thought and, it seems, Mars is doomed to become the heaven for off-roaders, hill-climbers and drag-racers!
Then I gave it another, deeper, thought and... Dear Aston Martin, below you have my business plan for your future inter-planetary expansion. You should become the Mars’ best! Do not even ask why. You should. The brand obliges. Aston Marti-a-n!
First, when engineering cars, you should take the low gravity and thin atmosphere into account. This means your cars should be heavier and bigger. Do not worry about the aerodynamics; as there is almost no air pressure on Mars, bigger bodies will not slower the cars down. Instead, they will provide more space for the passengers and luggage. And dogs in trunks. Also, putting additional weight on cars will improve their driving abilities. Going fast and stable means being heavy on Mars. Three times as heavy as on Earth. Otherwise, the driver should be careful on cornering.
Second, you should address the terrain properly. It is the perfect track for off-roading. In all directions. Therefore, you should craft perfect off-roaders above all. They should be high. Consider mounting the height adjustable suspension and have a proper clearance. Also, because Mars is scattered with sharp “rusty” rocks, the car’s wheels should be as hard as the Brexit. They should be wide enough to cruise through the sand or dust confidently. I suggest you mount them six. By the way, dust. It will be everywhere and, if not removed in time, will form a rocky deposit. With this in mind, car’s elements should be well-soldered and protected. You should also give a though how to prevent the dust’s slipping into the cabin when the driver’s family goes out for a grill.
Third, you should engineer a proper motor for the local fuel. All previous Earth-made Mars-exploring vehicles were electric, so this technology works and should be considered. As for the source of energy, your cars can be powered by the methane fuel cells. I agree, there is no much “free” methane on Mars, but it may be “extracted” from the atmosphere using a Sabatier reaction and water electrolysis system. The reaction will also generate some liquid oxygen, alongside the methane, which is good. Another source of energy is the solar power. Imagine cars carrying composite panels on its roof. When parked, these panels are assembled (unrolled?) on the ground to charge the battery. On the move, they are put back on the roof. This solution, however, will encourage drivers for night riding.
As I see it now, the Aston Martian should resemble the Mars Concept Vehicle constructed in 2017 at the Kennedy Space Centre. It is 8,5 metres long and 3,3 metres tall six-wheeled hermetic beast weighting 2,5 tons. Its drivetrain consists of electric motor, 700-volt battery and solar arrays capable to charge that battery. The vehicle was crafted by Parker Brothers Concepts of Cape Canavaral, Florida, to navigate craters, boulders and dunes. Its body consists of the aluminium and carbon fibre. Its guts are full of scientific instruments and life support systems. It also looks very stylish in blue and black colours.
Now, the “good” news is that the Mars Concept Vehicle will not go to Mars. It serves a scientific muscle-play and encouragement for new generation of engineers. Therefore, dear terrestrial Aston Martin, use your chance to take the lead! And let the Aston Martian be born!
To take the firm lead, however, all of the Aston Martian's parts should be produced on the Red planet. Earth supplies are no-no. Here is how to do this!
I bet, one of the first objectives for the early Mars colonists will be establishing facilities to mine and refine local resources. The latter are in abundance! Silicone, iron, aluminium, titanium, calcium, chromium, copper and many other elements can be “easily” extracted from the planet’s crust. Surely, Martian metallurgy will be different from the Earthly one. It will also take more time and experimenting to achieve the acceptable quality (i.e. absence of coal and lower gravity may influence steel-making), but this should be done. On success, the metallurgic products will be used to make the car’s body, chassis, drivetrain, wiring, seals and other components.
The automotive challenges do not end here, unfortunately. While the methane, electricity or even focused sunlight may be used to melt metals, they cannot replace the Earth’s fossil fuels for producing plastics. Because the latter are produced from crude oil. Solution? The “non-industrial” one. The Aston Martian’s plastics should derive – ta-dam – from the hemp. Or from the hemp’s seeds which are crushed to produce oil which is further processed to produce plastics. Actually, hemp can become the Mars’ super-plant! It grows super-fast on virtually any soil. It emits super-huge volumes of oxygen. Its stalks are fine to produce super-bio clothes, bricks and fibreglass. Its leaves and seeds may be consumed raw in salads (tough, they are not super-tasty). It squeezed hard enough, it can provide super-humans with milk and tea. Finally, the hemp is a variety of cannabis, thus colonizers may use it to relieve their super-stress from the harsh environment. You know, what I mean.
Now, I mentioned hill-climbing in a passage above. Hope you know that Mars hosts the Olympus Mons, the biggest planetary mountain in the Solar System. It is believed to raise about 21,3 km above the ground, what makes it two and a half times taller than the Everest. It is a shield volcano and looks like – and once erupted like – the one on Hawaii. It covers the area of 300,000 square km, what is comparable to the size of Italy. The slopes of the Olympus Mons are very gentle, only 5 degrees on flanks. All this, alongside the Martian low gravity and atmospheric pressure, makes the mountain perfect for hill-climbing. The Aston Martian will rush there much faster, higher and happier than its DB11 “brother” anywhere on Earth. The tracks will be enormously long!
To have some sort of comparison, the Martian hill-climb will look like the one in Iceland:
Apart from the Olympus Mons, there are a couple of other worthy mountains on the Red planet. One of them, the 5,5 km tall Mount Sharp (officially Aeolis Mons), is being explored today by the Curiosity rover. Making use of only 0,16 horsepower (!), the rover continues climbing the sloping slopes (but probably finds no enjoyment in doing this).
Speaking of drag-races. Brainy engineers and astrophysicists speculate that a majority of the first Martian settlements will be built underground. This will provide the colonizers with a proper shielding from the cosmic radiation. As well as from the random meteorites. This will also facilitate the extraction of metals from the planet’s crust. Volcano craters, caves, canyons and frictions – which the Martian surface is very rich in – should become the best choice for shelters. In the long run, these underground settlements (cities?) will be connected by a network of highways. The latter will probably run through the bottoms of canyons or through the artificial tunnels (as the radiation will still be there, on the surface). Can you see my point? There will be dozens of straight, smooth, uninterrupted roads spread out for hundreds of kilometres! And that is why, dear terrestrial Aston Martin, you should definitely equip your Martian car with the height adjustable suspension!
Wait! I have even more stupendous idea! Dear terrestrial Aston Martin, you should start engineering bikes! They will require much less parts to be assembled on Mars. Moreover, all colonizers will likely become bikers as they will have to wear pressure-retaining suits anyway. By default, Martian bikes will bring incomparably better and more involving driving feel than anything on Earth. Because of the low atmospheric pressure and gravity. These bikes will probably be electric and will definitely be very heavy. But they will be fast. And will come cheaper than cars.
Can you imagine this? A pack of Martian bikers in hemp-fabricated suits cruise along the Vales Marrineris, one of the biggest canyons in the Solar System. The obscure rays of the distant star cast shadows on the mountaintops. The crystal-clear stripe of the Milky Way stretches high above everyone’s helmets. This will be terrific!
And do not dare saying that bikes are not your business! Poor excuse after you created the Cygnet!
Finally, for those of your demanding clients who insist driving the DB11 in the distant space, consider colonization of Venus. Internal combustion may work there as atomic oxygen is present in the atmosphere. Your clients will also have unmatched experience when driving through the glossy streets of the cloud cities.
But make sure to warn them that the clouds may feel nippy.
As they are acid.
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P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA