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#1 2003-07-04 20:01:24

prometheusunbound
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From: ohio
Registered: 2003-07-02
Posts: 209
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Maybe in the early years the focus could be on developing long range railroads.  The advantages are enourmous.

   1.large masses could be transported with a modicum of energy.

   2.reliable.  The techology used in railroads has been on earth for 180 yrs, enough time to work out most of the bugs! 

   3.adaptable.  it does not take much effort to lay a railroad bed (although if a mining oparation occured, there would be a need for substaintal reinforcement of beds)  and almost any source of energy could be used to propel the train. .the tracks do not limit the type of train (except electric) on the tracks! 
 
   4.Cheap.  I'll grant the initial cost might seem a bit on the high side, but the tracks will last for 20-30 yrs of continuous use.  Don't forget martain gravity is less, making wear and tear less, too.  less wear and tear means less replacement, making it cheaper to run.

   5.verstile.  Anysort of cargo can be moved, including large, heavy and bulky pieces.  (mining, again, would most likly involve modification of track bed.

   6.fast.  It would be quicker than dune buggys for sure, never having to stop or slow down on the track.


"I am the spritual son of Abraham, I fear no man and no man controls my destiny"

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#2 2003-07-09 06:19:41

sethmckiness
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From: Iowa
Registered: 2002-09-20
Posts: 230

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

3.adaptable.  it does not take much effort to lay a railroad bed (although if a mining oparation occured, there would be a need for substaintal reinforcement of beds)  and almost any source of energy could be used to propel the train. .the tracks do not limit the type of train (except electric) on the tracks!

Wouldn't take that much more to do it from the start!  some sort of tie and gravel would work.

This is a good idea, but it would require infrastructure in place to make it worthwhile.  A moot point until there is a need.  But Rail is the most efficient form of mass transit


We are only limited by our Will and our Imagination.

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#3 2003-07-10 00:26:23

RobS
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From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Railroads seem inevitable on Mars, but I suspect you need to have a fairly big population. The first railroad would probably be between two population centers that were at least dozens of kilometers apart, but not thousands. Unless in another century the laying of railroad tracks can be done robotically, it would be pretty labor intensive to lay rail for thousands of kilometers, even with a lot of machines to help the technicians.

My guess is that the first step on Mars is to bulldoze tracks across the surface, producing reasonably straight, smooth, dirt highways free of larger rocks. Robotic vehicles could drive themselves along such tracks pretty easily; they won't have to dodge other vehicles, stray dogs, kids, tumbleweeds, etc. Terrain recognition software might be enough; a system of GPS satellites would make it pretty easy. The first "train" may be a caravan of wheeled vehicles, which could be hooked together and towed by a lead engine, or they could simply driving together as an automated caravan. Powering the group of vehicles would be a nuclear reactor, either in the lead engine pulling everything or in a lead vehicle, beaming power by microwave back to the other vehicles. The caravan could proceed at 40 kilometers per hour; not very fast, but in 24.6 hours that's almost 1,000 kilometers per day. At that speed, a mistake in automated driving would cause a serious fender-bender, but not much worse. Such a caravan could circle Mars on a dirt highway in 21 days. People would be sitting in their vehicles in the caravan, playing cards or watching t.v., or maybe driving geological exploring rovers via satellite.

After the highways had been cleared and the population begins to grow, trains would become necessary.

       -- RobS

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#4 2003-07-15 12:51:32

prometheusunbound
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From: ohio
Registered: 2003-07-02
Posts: 209
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

not all railroads have to be like the frieght train roads you usually see. . .the kind of railroads I am talking about are a smaller guage and would take up much less room and mass. mars has only 1/3 the gravity anyways so it is no great loss to have smaller trains.


"I am the spritual son of Abraham, I fear no man and no man controls my destiny"

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#5 2003-07-17 13:42:44

Gennaro
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From: Eta Cassiopeiae (no, Sweden re
Registered: 2003-03-25
Posts: 591

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

I have also pictured railways as an obvious transit system for Mars, but at least prior to CO2 level terraformation, one needs perhaps to think a little about wheather conditions. Huge storms periodically blow across the planet, for example the so called dust devils. These, I've heard are much stronger than anything similar encountered on Earth.
For something like railroads don't you think we have a problem here? What kind of havoc does a normal Earth hurricane wreck on your average rail marshalling yard, for instance?

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#6 2003-07-17 18:56:45

Algol
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From: London
Registered: 2003-04-25
Posts: 196

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

I read (in the case for mars, no less) that despite the sandstorms looking impressive in terms of blurring our view of the surface, that they are actually really quite tame, due to the very low pressure at the surface. Which makes sense really, because you need something to blow in order to pick up the sand in the first place......

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#7 2003-07-18 10:26:34

prometheusunbound
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From: ohio
Registered: 2003-07-02
Posts: 209
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

the rails would have to buried or affected by a slide of dust to be serriously affected.  I am assuming martian dust is not that hard to blow off the rails. . . .as for the train cars, there could be shelters every 100+ miles on the track for them to wait it out.  if argol is right and dust storms are not very destructive, then the trains could just ride right through them as a dust storm could last 20 years.


"I am the spritual son of Abraham, I fear no man and no man controls my destiny"

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#8 2003-09-08 23:25:27

space_psibrain
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Registered: 2002-02-15
Posts: 83

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

the martian dust is corrosive, though, so it might not be advisable. Martian fines are...annoying, to say the elast


"What you don't realize about peace, is that is cannot be achieved by yielding to an enemy. Rather, peace is something that must be fought for, and if it is necessary for a war to be fought to preserve the peace, then I would more than willingly give my life for the cause of peace."

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#9 2003-09-23 10:23:08

MarsGuy2012
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Registered: 2003-01-22
Posts: 122

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Let's talk about the power source for these Martian trains.

I am pretty sure future Martians will be quite pro-nuclear and all, but I still don't think they would prefer to power their land vehicles with a nuclear reactor like Robs mentioned.  The idea of beaming the power from the lead car to other cars with microwaves is possible but just sounds to inefficient. I'm no expert on these matters, but I don't think I'd like to be playing cards in a vehicle while it was being bombarded by not only nuclear radiation but also microwave energy.

I say keep the nuclear reactors back at the bases and use them to produce chemical propellants for the land vehicles.

Here's an interesting fuel that would work for a Martian train:  Silane.  Methane, Ethylene, Hydrogen, and most all other fuels burn in oxygen, so you'll have to store the oxygen (about 75% of the propellant weight) on the vehicle in tanks.  Silane, on the other hand, burns in carbon dioxide.  You can get it from the air as you travel.  It is liquid but produces solid exhaust, so it is no good for internal combustion.  But, it would work great to heat the boiler of a steam locomotive.

With steam locomotives all we need now are some bionic horses with people riding them wearing cowboy marsuits and we'd have a good martian western. :;):

Silane (SiH4) can be produced locally as silicon (Si) makes up most of the regolith all over Mars.

The only thing I don't know is how expensive it would be to produce.

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#10 2003-09-23 17:34:01

dicktice
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From: Nova Scotia, Canada
Registered: 2002-11-01
Posts: 1,764

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Re. Trains on Mars: One-third gee, thin air, deep atmosphere, stratovolcanos, rails, tracks, wheels, dust, carbon dioxide, water-ice presumably, solar radiation, dust-storms, roads: all have been discussed separately. Not having defined nuclear power, it presumably would comprise fission-heated fixed-base steam for heating and turbogenerators producing electricity. All that observable iron in the soil seems to be ignored in the proposals I've read, but I assume all the ferrous metal you'd ever need could be obtained by strip mining the regolith.
   So, now--how about a real brainstorm (based upon the above elements and resources) towards a post pioneering-stage ground transportation system for Mars?

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#11 2003-11-02 02:44:18

Hazer
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From: Texas/Oklahoma
Registered: 2003-10-26
Posts: 173

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

"The first "train" may be a caravan of wheeled vehicles, which could be hooked together and towed by a lead engine, or they could simply driving together as an automated caravan. Powering the group of vehicles would be a nuclear reactor, either in the lead engine pulling everything or in a lead vehicle, beaming power by microwave back to the other vehicles."

Hey RobS
ksb6.jpg
This vehicle might be something along the lines of what you are looking for.  Essentially, it was a Land-train.  Developed by an RG LeTourneau, it saw use in Greenland in the fifties.
I think something like this might be ideal for surface transportation on Mars.  Come to think of it, this would make a rather capable mobile base.


In the interests of my species
I am a firm supporter of stepping out into this great universe both armed and dangerous.

Bootprints in red dust, or bust!

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#12 2003-11-25 23:13:35

Sir Bloxham
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From: Auckland, New Zealand
Registered: 2003-01-14
Posts: 5

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

How 'bout one of these:snowpho3.jpg

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#13 2003-11-25 23:42:10

RobS
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From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,701
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Thanks for the pictures! I like the land train. It's the sort of thing I had in mind. Rather than beaming power from a nuclear reactor, as I suggested in an earlier post, the other solution would be to make oxygen and methane, and have a vehicle pull up (quickly!) once every day or two to fill up. If the water being converted to methane and oxygen wer placed between the reactor and the vehicle being refilled, it would serve as a partial radiation shield. Possibly the vehicle could be driven remotely during refills, too.

        -- RobS

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#14 2003-11-26 01:51:48

Hazer
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From: Texas/Oklahoma
Registered: 2003-10-26
Posts: 173

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Sadly, the land train in the picture has gone the way of the Dodo as far as I know.  Power-wise, I don't think you'd have to beam power from the lead engine via microwave.  Ordinary cables would work just fine.
Going nuclear seems a better option then chemical fuel if you are going to be using a piece of equipment like this.  Mind you, I would also outfit any potential train with some back up batteries and solar panels.
That way, you need not worry about running out of gas.
Couple these with some lovely electric-drive wheels (Also something built by Mr. LeTourneau) and I think a modified Land train would work very well on Mars.

A side note on the silane engine:  You'd want a Stirling cycle engine, instead of a normal steam engine.  You get significantly less power though.


In the interests of my species
I am a firm supporter of stepping out into this great universe both armed and dangerous.

Bootprints in red dust, or bust!

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#15 2003-11-26 03:53:49

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Why nuclear? Never seen nuclear powered trains on earth...I live in Belgium, one of the countries with a VERY closely knit rail-net, and i see a lot of trains, every day (travel daily by train...)

The big freight trains, that transport absolutely mindblowing loads of steel rolls etc run on diesel... (instead of electricity, most modern passenger trains run electric, yesterday took the hi-speed to Paris (Eurostar, Thalys...), >200km/h, great way to travel, BTW)

I do know diesel is not an option, of course, but internal combustion has its merits: fairly easily loading and manipulating of fuel etc, and quite capable. The really heavy transports just use 2 or more locomotives, usually 2 up front

Downside for train transport: i've seen the amount of construction needed to lay tracks, etc and it's still very human-labour intensive.... (though i think its mostly the electric part that's the most work...)

That land-train looks good though, esp in pre-infrastructure situations. Nuclear engines would make it very expensive, with current tech, while a big dumb internal combustion beast would be fairly straightforward to build and operate...


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#16 2003-11-26 12:51:34

MarsGuy2012
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Registered: 2003-01-22
Posts: 122

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Hazer,

I don't know much about sterling cycle engines.  Can you explain the advantages of them.

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#17 2003-11-26 13:08:46

Hazer
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From: Texas/Oklahoma
Registered: 2003-10-26
Posts: 173

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

A stirling cycle engine moves a piston by means of heating and cooling a gas.  With a steam engine, you would have to use precious water-or some other liquid.  It is my understanding that this is something to avoid.  If you can think of a way to run a power-generating turbine on Mars-without consuming oxygen or water, please share your ideas. 

My problem with big dumb internal combustion beasts really has to do with the lack of readily availible fuel on Mars.
I was trying to stick with technology that would be readily availible to settlers. 

"Why nuclear? Never seen nuclear powered trains on earth...I live in Belgium, one of the countries with a VERY closely knit rail-net, and i see a lot of trains, every day (travel daily by train...)"
Nuclear fuel would likely last the longest, and be more reliable.  Plus, I think the land-train would be easily capable of carrying a small reactor.
When Martian transport is more advanced, we could go all-electric, but with early colonization efforts I favor the nuclear land-train.


In the interests of my species
I am a firm supporter of stepping out into this great universe both armed and dangerous.

Bootprints in red dust, or bust!

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#18 2003-11-26 14:39:06

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

still not convinced that nuclear is a 'simpler' option...

You'd need refining plants, extensive searches for uranium mining sites,  etc (i guess you don't want the rods ferried from Earth)

while a gas operated land-train could haul an atmospheric compressor (+solar power cells) with it. (to produce H2, O2; Methane...) Or even better, several, and install them en-route to give you a series of 'gas-pumps' like you have on earth on the highways. that way, you gradually build a net of fuel-stations, enlarging your action radius, everytime you use the train. The tech is quite straightforward, while compact nuclear generators are not(today) Of course, we don't know where our capabilities will lead us in the future, but they've been predicting compact generators for decades, and the smallest in use are stil *BIG* RTG's will be too weak, fission too bulky.... Fusion maybe?


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#19 2003-11-27 01:25:06

Hazer
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From: Texas/Oklahoma
Registered: 2003-10-26
Posts: 173

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

As I said, it depends on when and where the trains are implemented.  Early colonists might want to go nuclear, just for the amount of power and freedom it provides.  With a nuclear reactor, you don't have to worry about finding fuel on the planet-as much.


In the interests of my species
I am a firm supporter of stepping out into this great universe both armed and dangerous.

Bootprints in red dust, or bust!

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#20 2003-11-27 02:15:05

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

See your point... All depends on what we consider 'early stages' Two settlements with 10-20 persons each or 20-100 makes a big difference in what would be the most efficient way of transport... The 'market' for transporting stuff would be seriously bigger in the seccond case. In the first case, irregular transports by simple rovers (internal combustion, fuel cells etc) would be sufficient, but later on,...
Downside of nuclear engines: if it breaks (leakage etc) , you're very probably confronted with a total loss, but you'd surely have a back up in place by then. 'classic' power has the downside of a more 'distributed' infrastructure (spread-out ISRM plants, refilling stations...), needing people going outside on a regular basis to check and repair things.

Either way, it won't be easy...


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#21 2003-11-27 08:55:54

RobS
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From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,701
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

I like the term "land train"; maybe I'll use it in my novel.

I am currently working on volume 7, covering the 7th 26-month period of Mars settlement. The first four chapters of volume 1 are posted on New Mars. I assumed an initial landing in the eastern end of the Mariner Valleys in a smooth area of Aureum Chaos (which was an arbitrary choice) and that a decade after the first landing in 2021, gold is found near Cassini, whihc is about 1/4 of the planet and 6,000 kilometers away. Cassini is also at 30 degrees north and thus anything that goes into orbit from there will require a plane change, since the spacecraft that will fly to Earth every 26 months are in an equatorial orbit (Aureum being on the equator). Thus gold has to be hauled to Aureum for launching, and hundreds of tonnes of stuff--mining equipment, domes, greenhouses, food--has to be hauled from Aureum to Cassini. They have three options:

1. Use the Mars shuttles. They are the same as in my Mars-24 proposal and can fly from place to place on Mars, especially if they are refueled at the other end. They can haul about twenty tonnes from place to place. Disadvantage: They require a lot of maintenance and can make only ten round trip flights (assuming all goes well) before they have to be flown back to Earth for refurbishment. So shuttles must be used sparingly.

2. Use "sunwings." The first sunwing was more or less identical to the Helios high-altitude solar airplane NASA was flying over Hawaii until it crashed earlier this year. The Sunwing-A (identical to Helios) could fly about 300 kilograms from place to place on Mars at about 150 km/hour. At first it was used to transport TROVs (telerobotically operated vehicles; "rovers") to places for deployment and to snag their sample capsules and return the samples to Aureum (or drop off empty sample capsules the TROV could put back in place for refilling). Then they were used to transport supplies to expeditions (especially dropping ice blocks and fresh vegetables). Then they were used to transport up to two people. The Sunwing-B was twice as big, the Sunwing-C a biplane and twice as big again (able to carry over a tonne of cargo) and the Sunwing-D was a Sunwing-C with silane engines to allow faster flight. The Sunwing D was good for moving up to a dozen people from Aureum to Cassini in a 24-hour flight.

The sunwings can move some cargo, but not a hundred tonnes per year; at least not without wearing them out.

3. Land trains. A dirt "highway" is cleared from Aureum to Cassini over six months time. It is about 6 meters wide, to accommodate wide vehicles. At first "vans" go back and forth; these vehicles are about the size of a very big terrestrial van and can pull a trailer with a tonne or two of stuff. Then "Conestogas" are used; these are much bigger, with stronger engines, and can tow up to two trainers with eight tonnes of cargo each. Conestogas can accommodate up to four people when used for exploration. When pulling a train, the Conestoga has two people on board for emergencies; a regular operator and usually a passenger who can assist.

A nuclear reactor follows along robotically on its own vehicle and the Conestoga pulls up to it once a day to refuel. The train (Conestoga plus trailers) runs robotically (using GPS and terrain recognition software) at up to 30 km/hour or is driven by the humans at up to 60 km/hr. They make one stop a day to get out and walk around, and make the Aureum to Cassini run in about 6 days. There are emergency caches on the route every thousand kilometers and sunwing landing strips (to provide emergency support) every 500 kilometers.

I mention all this because the story gives a specific example of a need, and some details of how to respond. It assumes more or less current technology (if one assumes futuristic technology, one can do almost anything). I doubt Mars will have two separate outposts unless there is compelling reason for both (such as gold). The transportation system between them is too difficult to establish and maintain otherwise.

      - RobS

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#22 2003-11-27 20:12:12

Euler
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From: Corvallis, OR
Registered: 2003-02-06
Posts: 922

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

What about fuel cells?  It seems like they would be a good power source.

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#23 2003-11-27 22:48:26

Hazer
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From: Texas/Oklahoma
Registered: 2003-10-26
Posts: 173

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Hydrogen fuel cells are an excellent idea.  The only foresee able problem with them is the production of hydrogen.


In the interests of my species
I am a firm supporter of stepping out into this great universe both armed and dangerous.

Bootprints in red dust, or bust!

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#24 2003-11-28 09:27:57

RobS
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From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,701
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

The land trains in my novel use fuel cells, with the hydrogen and oxygen fuel (or methane and oxygen; fuel cells are being developed for them as well) being made by the reactor. The reactor only needs to tag along a few kilometers away from the train, where its radiation is not a problem, and the train and reactor stop to exchange oxygen, hydrogen, and water waste once a day.

Alternately, the highway could have automated fueling plants every 500-1000 kilometers. If a train needs 100 kilowatts (2400 kilowatt hours per day) and makes a round trip on the highway once a month, and each fueling plant needs to prepare 2400 kilowatt hours of energy (in the form of fuel) twice a month, that means each plant needs to store 160 kilowatt hours per day. That could be accomplished with solar panels or windmills or a combination of the two. I figure four windmills, each with blades 50 meters long (which is pretty long!) could do it if they have 25 mile per hour winds 8 hours per day.

        -- RobS

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#25 2005-06-26 18:59:05

Stormrage
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From: United Kingdom, Europe
Registered: 2005-06-25
Posts: 274

Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

Trains would be great. They could link Mega Cities with each other and the mega cities could trade each other for what they need and don't need.


"...all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by."

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