The minimal life support – The MARS discussions (III)

Let’s say everything else is fine and we plan to have soon 50 people living on Mars. What would we need for a minimal welfare state? I can imagine whoever signed for such an enterprise must be of a special type of people, however, this is not a reason for being uncivilised. Let’s start with the basic needs and keep building up from there.

Food is a must. We all know, as I said before, that probably we can plant potatoes on Mars. With potatoes we can prepare a wide variety of dishes, but it’s not going to be enough for a healthy diet. We need variety. This is my bet: mushrooms. They are easy to grow and varied in flavour. They can even be used to build walls, doubling then on usage. Imagine it like this: when you’re hungry, you can eat a wall. In addition it is relatively easy to transport them, as easy as seeds, but they may not need as much space, or as much light as a crop of wheat, for example. How about animals? What kind of animals they will have, if any? Will they bring pigs, cows, or chickens? Those big animals may not easily fit on a spaceship, where each millimetre and each pound costs money. The solution is to travel with eggs : chicken, doves, and fishes. The biosphere can then be completed with insects like earthworms.

We have described above a very basic ecosystem where the human is at the top. We can discuss how to control that in another post, but where should that ecosystem be? Integrated with the colony or separated? I would say separated – after all animals are animals – so we will need at least two buildings, the Biodome and the Housedome. Our putative martians can go to the Biodome to enjoy an Earth-like farm, so to say, and keep the Housdome automatically cleaned. Maybe the Housedome can even be just the cockpit of the Spaceship, or maybe built from a dismantled one. I will add a third one that I will call the Tooldome, where the workshop is situated, basically a huge space with atmospheric pressure so that people can work comfortably without any spacesuit on, for example, repairing a rover or an air machine, like the ones used to create a breathable environment. It can also be used as a party hall, or cinema, or even a baseball field. Yeah, why not. Baseball in Mars! Technicalities will be discussed in the future, if I stay here, of course. That I will, most probably. So see you next time!

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Hitchhiking – Sundays from the past (II)

I come from a relatively poor background, meaning I never had the chance to buy a car when I had the age for it. Besides, I was unemployed, but that’s the subject of another post maybe. So to go from A to B when I was a teenager sometimes I was hitchhiking, carpooling or riding a train.

One of those summers I was going down a hill. I wanted to reach certain valley in the middle of the Big Mountains where my friends were already camping and I was coming late, due to an University exam. The bus from the Big Town delivered me to the closest village, still like 25 Km away from the destination. When I arrived to the last village was getting dark but I decided to walk to the target with my backpack, with the hope of being picked up before the end. My mood was high, and the blooming night was fresh and beautiful. I looked at the starts, considering simply giving up and opening my sleeping bag just there after the last turn. Then I saw a van, and I signed it. “Here” I shouted. To my surprise, the vehicle accelerated instead of breaking, and passed by my side in a breath. That somehow discouraged me to continue walking. Was I looking dangerous? Not at all, I was still looking like a city boy with camping gear. I looked around, considering temporary sheltering places. The moon looked at me. I was wondering how far was the camping. I had a name and a description of the road. Is that over there the entry to the rural path on my map? Unfortunately not. While I was consulting my indications under the scarce light, another car in my back slowed down and stopped. The driver spoke to me “Hop in!” he said. I quickly did and thanked him. The man was a typical local hunter, hut included. I asked about the camping place. He knows it, and it’s on his way. Well I’ve been lucky at the end. “Did you see a van passing buy before me?” inquires the driver. I nod. He says. “A white van, model XXX, right?” I say I’m not sure of the model but definitely white. I tell him I saw it like 15 minutes ago. “Great! Then the bastard is not far away! Can you please please open my cubby-hole? It’s right in front of you.” I open the glove compartment and to my surprise, what is inside falls over my lap. A gun, probably a Magnum by the size of it. I decide to act as if nothing happened. “Nice, ain’t it? Careful, it’s loaded.” And we are on a road filled with curves. I grab it the best way I can, since I don’t have military training. “I need to kill that bastard. I will be great if you could help me… anyway now you have your fingerprints all over it.” I keep cool and do not shiver, probably because I’m paralysed. I deny his offer with the excuse that my friends are waiting me. He insist, but despite of the craziness of the situation, he seems like a reasonable person. “Well, here we are.” My road. “Your road. Leave my toy over the sit, where I can quickly pick it up if I need it.” I slowly do as he says, and thank him for the lift. “My pleasure. Have a nice time!”

The next day, and the day after I check every local newspaper, looking for news about a gun fight. I find nothing, and slowly I stop checking, but I will never forget that 20 Km ride.

EDIT: backposted, since I didn’t publish it in his day (Sunday). Reason is I’m not sure I wrote about this already…didn’t I? Maybe I thought about it.

The minimal crew – The MARS discussions (II)

Have you ever meet an astronaut? One needs to check the requirements to become one to find out what kind of person an astronaut is. For starters, at least for ESA, it is required to speak 3 languages from the member nations. This is not so complicated to fulfil, since here in Europe we don’t speak English, but to be clear, it is already a red light about the communication issues you may face while working. For our discussion let’s dump this requirement and assume everybody will simply speak in English. An astronaut -so far- is some kind of Swiss knife and it’s supposed to be able to perform a lot of different tasks. With that picture in mind, what would be need to include in the first Mars crew? Let me remind you that SpaceX Starship has cargo space for 100 people. Since I’m assuming the first trip will also bring extra equip, like rovers, I will reduce the population to 50. Let’s start counting, and see where we get.

From the top, I would divide the 50 into 5 teams of 10 people. Maybe each group of 10 should be called with a colour, or a letter. I would go for colours, since on Earth we don’t even have the same alphabets. I will choose them already: yellow, green, brown, blue, and white. I’ve avoided red – the colour linked with Mars – and black – the colour of mourning – on purpose. Each colour should have one leader, and common actions would be decided by them. The leader should have of course a secondary ability beyond leadership, so we still have 10 people per colour. Let’s start covering functions. One person needs to be the medical doctor in each team, maybe each one an expert in a different field, respiratory issues, traumatology, digestive system, psychology, general, for example. Then we need a geologist. At the beginning it will be very important to know where you step, and what you can use and what not to build the necessary infrastructure. The geologist can maybe double as ecosystem officer and take care of the ecological budget, how much is consumed, how much is wasted. Speaking of which, we will need someone to take care of the plants, since I have no doubt we’ll plant at least potatoes on Mars. The five teams will account for 5 martian farmers, that is not a bad number, if you ask me. Another very important person is the mechanical engineer. Maybe we could use two per team. They will work together with the system engineer, that will be in charge of the connectivity, and with the software official – I’m not sure we need one per team, but I’m sure we will need a software expert.

I have issues filling up the three remaining positions. A cook per team? It’s important to prepare good meals with scarce components, but I don’t think it’s vital. Also, one cook per team is definitely too much, specially if you need to eat together. Let’s say it’s an option. So I’m going to fill the 15 empty sits in another way. We can have 5 tourists – they will need to fully pay their trips -, three cooks, three media experts, and three biologists. Which means we fill it up all the 50 – except one. That one is, and must be, the Captain.

It all ended up pretty much Star Trek lookalike, right? Now remember that a lot of items we now use, like the tablets, first appeared on that show. Please leave your comments below 🙂

Doomscrolling

I’m a big mobile phone user (aren’t you also?) and as such I’m addicted to doomscrolling. In fact, I feel like I’m contributing to it right now by writing this post, instead of something useful for me and for some of my readers. Truth is, the device is in my pocket, and the book or ebook in my backpack, so I tend to go for the easiest solution if I want to waste some idle time. To scroll down my newsfeed was giving me a weird pleasure before, I wanted to reach the bottom of the screen, where the news that I’ve been looking for were hidden because I didn’t read them in time. But the price was never there. There are no big news missing. There’s no end to it, just a constant flow of monsters, like pictured above. In addition, they all look similar. I’ve read the same from different sources and I have the impression I’m being served by the middleman. That is, my stuff is not pure, it comes to me filtered by the different media and by my choices. Sometimes, it’s the same s*it in a different language, or with a different header. So I’m going to try to opt out. I don’t know how to do that, but if I find a solution, I will let you know. Because additions are a problem. All of them, even the harmless ones, like this one, or the bad habit to read your spam before deleting it. I’ve wasted so much time already that I don’t want to think about it. Stay healthy!

The kiss in the church – Sundays from the past (I)

If there is a place less appropriated to start a relationship than a church, I don’t know it. Maybe a subway, but in my childhood playground we didn’t have of those. I want to try to evoke the atmosphere to explain the situation a little. We were young, barely teenagers. My friend was an altar boy, and that Sunday evening, he was given the keys to all. His orders were to clean the Clock Tower, and he was allowed by the priest to bring help. What better help than his best friend – that will be me – and two girls that he was fancy about? What could happen in a church, after all?

We collected the girls at the back door of the sacristy. The portal was right after the main body of the church, a solid white building with a straight floor plan with space for around two hundred villagers. The lights were electrical, and of course, there were candles. We entered the main building from behind the altar, the way the priest uses. I still remember the view. The altar is a little elevated, so when I was standing there I was able to imagine the face of every other believer sitting in front of me. My aunt in the second row, the butcher in the middle, the three sisters in the back. No, even there I didn’t consider for me a religious path, if you ask me. My friend the altar boy pushed us down then. “Let’s go” he said “first we need to look at the clock tower, then we can check if there’s some wine left! ” I knew about the wine, and, like the girls, I think we were very curious about that also. The clock tower was in an annex to the main floor, and it was possible to ring the bell from below, close to the main entrance, where two small rooms were attached to the main, heavy, wooden door leaves leading to the village square. The small room to the right was conducting to the tower, the one to the left, to the church offices and the house of the priest.

When the girls saw the upward spiral staircase, they decided to stay at the bottom.”I need to do this” my friend said “but you can wait here. Please don’t move anything, I don’t want to be blamed of messing up with the liturgy.” Suddenly I was alone with two girls, and they were discussing about whom to choose. Me or the altar boy? Or to be more precise, who was choosing the altar boy? Then he returned and it was time to act. “Let’s play now a game,” my friend said “let’s get by couples in the confessional and see what we feel.” The girls, hesitant, didn’t agree. “OK I have a better place. Have you seen where the priest stores the tunics? It’s a gorgeous closet where we can all stand inside!” They did agree to go there. We quickly headed to the furniture – it was in the sacristy, so somehow on the way out – and I entered first, followed by one of the girls. Indeed the wooden item was enormous inside. Then my friend made his move and closed the door of the closet, leaving us both in, in the twilight. She quickly grabbed me by the waist. My heart jumped. “I will let you leave… only if you kiss her on the lips!” And I kissed her.

The Power to Choose – the MARS discussions (I)

I was discussing with a friend around Christmas about the incoming Mars colonisation. More specifically, about the fact that Elon Musk is losing tons of money with Tesla and Twitter. I guess it’s difficult to ignore his issues now, but we were speaking about how his mental meltdown will affect the SpaceX Mars colonisation program. My friends says the enterprise – SpaceX – was founded by Elon but it’s now a fully independent and profitable business, so they should not be affected. Well, I don’t know any millionaire and I don’t follow him specially so I had nothing to do but agree with my friend. The risk is there though. What if Mr. Musk decides that he wants to take full control over the rocket company because he has nothing else interesting to invest on? As I said, I don’t know him but from what I read he can be the typical man who likes to decide who lives and who dies. An Old King, one of those with absolute power. An Absolutist. A smiling dictator.

We kept digging on the consequences of him assuming the direction. USA alone will probably allow SpaceX to send the colonisation ships to Mars, since at least the first vehicle will be filled with Americans, mostly, and specifically SpaceX workers. It’s the easiest solution, and probably he will try to quench the complains by including one or two journalists from other countries. Once he has a loyal crew settling down on the Red Planet, the others should follow. Some governments, maybe NATO and UNO will then demand to know the application procedures for flying to Mars. The Space is a business after all. How do we think this conflict will be sorted out? I see a couple of solutions. There will be two types of sits in the ship, those bought and those earned. But the final decision over if you fly or not will be, no doubt, in the hands of the company – SpaceX -, meaning then Elon, in the Old King scenario. So the more you like Elon, the most probably will be that you manage to get the sit without paying it.

I’ll be writing about Mars for a while, if I find time, of course, and if I manage to clarify my ideas about it. If you like this, please leave your thoughts after my last word, in the comments. Much appreciated.

A Friday for the Future

Right now I can’t remember what I used to do on Fridays when I was at the high school. I do remember a little some of the epic ones at the University. We used to start quite early drinking – the sooner the better – and have a long wander through the City, all the time drinking, until the time the Others were able to join us. The Others were those that for one reason or another were not at the Uni. We met at the usual place. Always around the same spot. Some of them worked, some of them were still at the high school. We didn’t care. I do not ask you how old are you, so you don’t question if I’m allowed to. Actually I didn’t know the real names of some of them. Nicknames were not invented with TikTok, they were always there, just used in another way. Cutting to the chase, I can’t imagine those Fridays happening today. The Night is not anymore a dumb and silent witness. I’m a parent, and I would be able to pinpoint now exactly where my son is if I want to, thanks to our space technology. Luckily for him, I don’t want to, and I don’t need to since he’s still ten. Anyhow. This post is about the present versus the past and the future, maybe. Will I remember all of this when I’m 80? Will they remember what we do now? I look forward for my Fridays now, since I tend to come early from office and I have time to play with my kids. Which is not meaning I manage to play with them. It means I could if they want also. Are the current Fridays good? In principle yes, I do enjoy them. However I still need to analyse my feelings about. Do I miss those very long Fridays from the past? Yes I do, so if you are reading this, you are interested, and you think you know who I am and where I live, please, do not hesitate, and call for it. A Friday for the Past in exchange for one from the Future.

A blue January

I’m struggling to find my way from Monday to the weekend. It’s not that I can’t enjoy the day, it’s that I have lost the interest. Each day I wake up and I drive to work in automatic. My colleagues just came back from their Winter holidays and the mood in the office is enthusiastic, new year, new plans, you name it. They all are very proud of what we did in the last weeks. We all visited nice places, London, New Zealand, Lanzarote, Turkey, Pandora. But the time to enjoy the memories together around a coffee or during lunch is over. And the reality hurts, even after the traditional office cleaning. Once the desk is clean, the memories of it remain. I need to find my North, and once I find it, I will open a path for the others. The problem is that it’s still cold, and without sun, without heat, I can’t process it. It’s a good time for computers, but I’m not one of them. You can’t program me, and I enjoy the heat. Human heat, if possible. We’ll see if I get enough before the Summer comes. Maybe it’s just January, and I will get better as soon as the memories fade away. I’ll keep you posted.

Bigger Better Boring

You read me before, I have frequent writing issues. I want to create a useful blog but I’m recently tired of writing about bits. It’s a lot of work to compile the information so that I have it when I come back to it, and I get zero feedback from the readers. I understand that, since you or the average reader can’t quickly comment on the performance of this or that tool I’m presenting. As a result of my lack of interest on what I do I have an unquenched need to write. That has evolved onto this thirst to tell you about my issues with life. I guess you can call that frustration. On a healthy society I would get rid of this by speaking with my friends, unfortunately, I can’t call my situation healthy. I speak with some of them, but I have the impression my comments are either not properly expressed or not of their interest. It can be. I don’t need to be fascinated on the birthday party of your son. I am, but I don’t need to. Luckily sometimes my release mechanisms do work.

Let’s write about my feelings, then. Now I’m juggling, walking a plank over a sea filled with sharks. And I know them. They have names. That one who wants to be a professor. Or the other one who’s an emotional vampire, and he enjoys the sensation of power over their clients. The old one who’s there just getting the pieces the young ones are giving him. The lost one. The one who doesn’t care. I get nightmares about, about that I’m blamed for something one of the sharks in the sea below should have done, but everyone else think I didn’t do. Or that they know I do. The fight is imminent. Anyway, I think for a while here there will dragons. I will try not to be boring…

The Thanos premise

I need to start that I didn’t watch the Marvel “MCU” movies, so I don’t know what this Thanos character does on them. I do know the comics, and I confess I’ve read them. Probably due to the latest news – we managed to reach 8 billion whatsoever humans – and my regular reading of No Tomorrow recently I’ve been unable to remove from my mind one of the plots from the Thanos saga. What if, suddenly, the half of the population of the Earth simply disappears? I will call that from now on my Thanos premise.

In my Thanos premise we end up with half of the population but we don’t know why. Maybe even we don’t know where, or who. What would be the consequences for me as a survivor? In a, so called, realistic model, the disappearance is not due to a cosmic event, but a lateral effect from, let’s say, a pandemic. I’m not going to explore the causes, let’s say it just happened. So one day we are all alive and the next one, not necessarily in the same week, all the population is halved. We all know statistics good enough to say that I didn’t eat my corresponding half chicken today. By this principle I will not enter onto sad scenarios with people from my family dead… because we are those one with access to the chicken, so to say, and we can pay it.

I guess we will go on. Maybe trains will be emptier – I travel by public transport to my working place. Or they will reduce the frequency of them to the half – the gov is always practical. There will be less traffic jams. The economy will suffer a little, but salaries will not change. First weeks there will be a surplus of basics, like bread or sausages, and a lack of exotics, like peanut butter. Walking through a city will be very sad. We’ll see daily protests against the government. And other people crying for their losses, and militias trying to balance the new equilibrium. Because the Police and the Army will be, in principle, halved too, and some people can’t be quickly replaced. But the world will keep rotating. We will plan our holidays, accept the new ticket prices, and fly there. Wherever it is. There will be less planes, maybe. Or less frequent. But not emptier. Because we are resilient, and, if you don’t want to see the pain around, if you don’t want to acknowledge the symptoms, you will not need to. The sky will not fall over your head, food will come to your plate, and your salary will still be the same. I think. What do you think about it?