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#26 2005-07-03 01:31:08

srmeaney
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From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

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

Actually the Nuclear Powerd Steam engine is far cheaper to manufacture. The original coal fired steam engines of History were a short modification from Nuclear fuel rod technology. The remote control systems pioneered by Tesla would have given us nuclear fueled Trains if it were not for the fact that the train itself would be a hazard to living systems requiring cargo handling and fuel rod replacement by automated systems.

Considering Human colonization will be confined to the ice mining colonies of Mars north and south poles, A fully automated nuclear railway about the equator of Mars, is feasable. Considering the Mineral Mining is going to be Robotic in nature, Little in the way of a human presence is required or desired.

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#27 2005-07-03 09:50:04

Commodore
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From: Upstate NY, USA
Registered: 2004-07-25
Posts: 1,021

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

What? A "simple" mag lev isn't good enough?

Imagine the speeds that could be reached in the thin Martian atmosphere.


"Yes, I was going to give this astronaut selection my best shot, I was determined when the NASA proctologist looked up my ass, he would see pipes so dazzling he would ask the nurse to get his sunglasses."
---Shuttle Astronaut Mike Mullane

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#28 2005-07-04 19:23:21

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

What the heck do you mean by a "nuclear engine"? Assuming fission, doesn't that simply provide you with a relatively unlimited source of heat? A Stirling engine, using compressed atmospheric CO2, heated by concentrated Solar radiation, to generate electricity for trolley-cars spring to mind. Hardly much incentive, to use nuclear reactors on wheels just to avoid stringing trolley wires, eh?

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#29 2005-07-04 20:14:28

Commodore
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From: Upstate NY, USA
Registered: 2004-07-25
Posts: 1,021

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

I don't see the logic of putting the reactor on the train either.

You can provide more than enough power to thousands of miles of track and cars with a single stationary reactor.


"Yes, I was going to give this astronaut selection my best shot, I was determined when the NASA proctologist looked up my ass, he would see pipes so dazzling he would ask the nurse to get his sunglasses."
---Shuttle Astronaut Mike Mullane

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#30 2005-07-05 10:16:38

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 10,650

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

I am not sure how conductive the mars soils are to electricity but if the rails can be insolated from the Mars ground, then the rails can carry the power from solar panels placed at different lacations all the way around the planet. Plug in your megawatt reactors and use it as a power distribution grid as well.

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#31 2005-07-05 14:02:57

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

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

It'd be interesting to see a vast network of trains on Mars.  Of course I won't live to see it (likely).  Building tracks around/through/over all those bumpy, plateaued, yardanged, hilly, craggy landscapes...

I wonder how much (percentage-wise) of Mars' surface is relatively smooth and/or flat, and where on the globe the majority of that surface type may be.

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#32 2005-07-06 02:29:34

Austin Stanley
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From: Texarkana, TX
Registered: 2002-03-18
Posts: 519
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Re: Trains on Mars - Could a rail system provide martian need

I think building a conventional train with tracks and what not on mars would prove to be extrodinarily difficult.  While the idea certianly has its merits, its something for the later stages of colonisation when the population of mars is in the hundreads of thousands of people range.

I think an imporant point that people are forgetting is that Mars is a huge planet (as much land area as Earth) with surface features that match and/or exceed anything we have here as well.  Indeed land travel across some of Mar's surface features (like the Valles Marineris) may not even be possible without some gigantic feets of engineering.  Building even a realitivly small streach of rail (in comparison to the size of the planet) could be prove to be a huge undertaking.  You must first survey the rout, as heavily laden trains cannot directly climb tall hills or take sharp turns.  Then you must grade the course, as trains moving at high speeds don't deal well with bumps and dimps.  Of course any terrain features that get in your way must be delt with by being filled in, bridged, or tunnled as appropriet.  I'm not saying that such a project is impossible, but the effort required will be very great, and the distances you might want to traverse could easily dwarf anything every attempted here on Earth.

I think RobS plan for a land train or convoy of vehicles is much more sensible for the beggining.  It is how bulk transport is handled in places like northern Canada and Antartica where similar chalanges are faced.  A track for a land train is much simpler to rout and grade since they are not bothered by bumps or dimps, can make sharp turns, and can generaly climb much steaper hills than trains.  It is allows a natural evolution of transport.  First sporadic transport by all terain exploration rovers, then mild roadmaking and cargo transport by such vehicles, then convoys, then finaly true road trains.

The question as to nuclear of chemical propulsion is a tricky one.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  I tend twords nuclear propulsion though.  A nuclear propelled land train could circle the planet indefinetly for years on end without refulling.  Also, without the need to carry fuel a nuclear train could transport more cargo, this become especialy evident on very long trips.


He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

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#33 2005-07-06 10:10:02

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

Come to think of it, monorails suspended between cable-guyed skeletal towers like those we suspend powerlines from here on Earth, should be feasible on Mars.

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#34 2005-07-07 02:05:32

Austin Stanley
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From: Texarkana, TX
Registered: 2002-03-18
Posts: 519
Website

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

Come to think of it, monorails suspended between cable-guyed skeletal towers like those we suspend powerlines from here on Earth, should be feasible on Mars.

This is not a terrible idea, although I'm not sure that constructs as flimsy as telephone polls would be able to support a heavily laden train.  But certianly Mar's low gravity will make some incredibly large suspession type structures possible.

However there is still the issue of the incredible distance you have to cross.  In terms of land area Mars as big as Earth and so we could be talking about projects similar in scope to the US's transcontinetal railroad or the Soviet transiberan railroad.  We could be talking about thousand of kilometers of track here.


He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

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#35 2005-07-07 06:48:03

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

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

Whatever rail system they may one day have on Mars would be fine with me.  At this point I'm just hoping for bootprints there within 25 years or before I kick the bucket (whichever comes first). 

I think an imporant point that people are forgetting is that Mars is a huge planet (as much land area as Earth) with surface features that match and/or exceed anything we have here as well.

I've kept that in mind.  smile  I wonder what rail rides at night on Mars would be like, I mean in the early stages of settlement.  No Luna-like moonlight washing over the landscape.  Starlight might be fairly bright, though.  And whatever bit of shine Deimos and Phobos might give, if they're visible during...

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#36 2007-04-26 19:08:22

X
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From: Alabama
Registered: 2007-02-02
Posts: 134

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

Allow me to scale back the whole idea.  While nuclear powered locomotives are a cool idea (perhaps one could be called Terminator or some such) that's a long ways in the future.  What if we do something much simpler for the hopefully near future?

You've all seen those human powered little cars in Westerns I'm sure.  A teeter totter type lever giving the power that can be run by one or two people.  I think you actually have to be fairly strong to get one moving on earth, but in Mars gravity maybe anyone could do it.  Make sections of track that can be disassembled, moved and reassembled by a  one orr two man crew so in the early days when exploration is taking up a lot of time a team can lay track to their destination and then move it when they need to go elsewhere.  Any thoughts?

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#37 2007-05-01 17:29:12

neviden
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Registered: 2004-05-06
Posts: 99

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

Why not use trucks?

They don’t need expensive rails, only dirt roads (easy to make). Fill them up with methane/oxygen, attach trailers to them and you have something that is used in Australia to move things around: road train.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_train

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#38 2007-05-02 15:03:38

Number04
Member
From: Calgary Alberta Canada
Registered: 2002-09-24
Posts: 157

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

On the idea of trucks...

A train without tracks would solve a lot of problems but create them as well.

+ No labor to lay the tracks
+ System can adapt

- Cannot use the tracks as an energy transfer system
- The train could get lost

http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/index.asp
Autonomous Vehicles could move materials from a mining site to the plant then finished objects to the population.

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#39 2007-05-02 18:12:27

GCNRevenger
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From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

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

Trains would be far faster too. They may not handle as large a load as a truck, but if is twice as fast it need only carry half as much to be competitive.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#40 2007-05-04 06:24:11

neviden
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Registered: 2004-05-06
Posts: 99

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

I don't think that making trucks drive themselves would be that much of a problem. We can already do it on the Earth, but we don't because of legal problems (who is to blame when something goes wrong?). Since Mars is empty and will be short on people (that will be able to drive trucks) and since any accident could be deadly for a driver (broken window = suffocation) the trucks will be automatic. It could get lost, but then again it could also go to places that do not have rails laid down. It’s simpler to make good maps than to make tons and tons of steel rails.

The rails could be used to transfer electricity, but I don't see any need to transfer electricity to begin with. It's not like there are hydroelectric plants on Mars that are away from "populated" areas. Power = solar, nuclear, stored (from the first two). So no need to transfer big amounts of power since it would have to be produced where it is needed. If the power lines would be needed it would be cheaper/safer to make power lines.

If it can handle more cargo but travel slower, than it's the same capacity. If you are in a hurry than you can always fly on the mars.

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#41 2007-05-04 09:10:43

GCNRevenger
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From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

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

No, the rails transmit electricity to the trains to drive them, thus making them much much lighter and more efficient since they need not carry their power plant with them.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#42 2007-05-04 09:42:30

neviden
Member
Registered: 2004-05-06
Posts: 99

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

I don't think they would be that much much lighter, since we don't need to cary all the needed fuel. We can stop and refuel. Not to mention, that we don't need to accelerate our truck to escape speeds (our truck would not be one big tank and nothing else).

Even on Earth we use locomotives that are powered by the combination of diesel engine and electric generators. If there would be need for a really long trips we could always attach extra cistern to the "road train".

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#43 2007-05-04 10:35:51

GCNRevenger
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From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

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

I don't agree, with the lower power demand, since you don't need the extra push to climb over rocks or up steep slopes nor accelerate very fast then the electric drive will be pretty light weight versus a truck. So, if you don't have to carry the power plant with you, this does make the train much lighter.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#44 2007-05-05 04:19:56

neviden
Member
Registered: 2004-05-06
Posts: 99

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

It's easier (and cheaper) to add one diesel engine and two gas tanks than to build and check thousands of km of rails. Especially since we are talking about 0.37g, airless environment with limited amounts of workers.

Broken railway would need immediate attention (because everything on that rail would lose power).  If one road train breaks down, the rest of them can easily bypass it, while the truck gets towed back to the garage for repairs. Diesel engines could get checked and fixed at sheltered garages at regular intervals (when there is nothing more urgent to be done).

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#45 2007-05-05 06:53:51

GCNRevenger
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From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

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

Diesel engines? You would have to bring the oxygen supply with you, greatly increasing the mass. You would also need to scrub the water from the exhaust, since it would be absolutely criminal to dump all that precious hydrogen overboard. I also think you woefully underestimate the amount of fuel such a vehicle will require. A train on the other hand, direct nuclear-to-motor, nice and efficient with a bigger less expensive reactor and plenty of shielding.

And of course building a rail line will take a substantial investment in resources, and for very small quantities of material or personal, rovers/trucks make more sense, but unless its just a short trip for  a few people or an occasional load a train would make more sense. Plus I am absolutely not worried about the track being damaged, this is Mars we're talking about here, not Earth. No storms, no floods, no quakes, basically no nothing that could damage the rail. Also, thanks to the trains' relatively low mass and the low Martian gravity, laying rail should be easy and not require much of a rail bed.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#46 2007-05-06 13:30:13

neviden
Member
Registered: 2004-05-06
Posts: 99

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

It all depends on when will they need trucks/trains. They will probably need heavy ground transportation as soon as they start doing anything on the industrial scale. That’s before they have the capability to make rails. How will they transport water, ores, metals, salts, machineries over long distances? Roads can be made with bulldozers. They don’t need iron rails.

Oh and yes, Water could be scrubbed from exhaust and saved to be reprocessed back to methane/oxygen. That’s presuming that will not be more complicated than getting new one from permafrost (which I doubt it).

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#47 2007-05-06 23:03:50

GCNRevenger
Member
From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

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

No I don't think even then, if it is truly industrial scale, a rail line will probably make more sense than trucks. Small-scale metal smelters could turn out the tracks pretty easily if they are not too beefy. Microwave smelters able to turn out kilo-quantity amounts of steel will fit on your desk even.

Scrubbing (like condensing) the water out of a hypothetical truck combustion engine would require significant equipment mass and probably energy, not to mention ladening the truck with the mass of the water as the fuel supply is consumed.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#48 2007-05-07 09:42:20

Number04
Member
From: Calgary Alberta Canada
Registered: 2002-09-24
Posts: 157

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

While agreed that rail would be a long term solution, for the first 20 odd years i don't really see it being practical.

And in no way should these vehicles be run on diesel. An electric / solar / fuel cell combination would be ideal. send the trucks on their way, charge them back up when they get there

Rinse lather repeat.

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#49 2007-05-07 12:04:52

neviden
Member
Registered: 2004-05-06
Posts: 99

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

Disel is just and example. It can be anything that can extract energy from fuel and oxidizer. That can be internal combustion engine, gas turbine, fuel cell,..

At KW - MW power levels you can't carry enough solar cells with you. And there is no need to. Your power source in the base allows you to make methane/oxygen (or any other combination). When you return to base you simply refuel.

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#50 2007-05-31 10:22:49

Antius
Member
From: Cumbria, UK
Registered: 2007-05-22
Posts: 974

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

Electrified railways would seem like a good bet.

Attempting to power vehicles with chemical fuels derived from electricity produced by nuclear reactors, would be very expensive.  This is due to the poor overall energy efficiency of the process and the simple fact that power sources must be transported from Earth.
For initial Mars missions this is tollerable given the overall cost of the mission and the modest initial transport requirements.  As soon as we start looking at transporting people and materials on a large scale, the cost will begin to look burdensome.

Fitting a nuclear reactor within a train would run into problems of power-to-weight ratio, although it could be made to work in principle.

To power a train with electricity is easy - you just lay an extra (third) rail.

Railways have clear advantages over road vehicles in long-term economics.  When you are paying through the nose for energy produced by imported nuclear reactors or home-made solar panels and wind-turbines, energy efficiency matters.

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