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#1 2002-06-04 15:16:30

Byron
Member
From: Florida, USA
Registered: 2002-05-16
Posts: 844

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Hey,  I was wondering whether dirigibles would be a viable means of transport in Mars' thin atmosphere, especially if they were to be scaled up to enormous dimensions.  I particularily relish the idea of huge airships with spacious gondolas underneath perputually roaming about the skies of Mars, landing only to load up on fuel and provisions. An interesting thought, anyhow.

Byron

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#2 2002-06-04 20:31:17

Shaun Barrett
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From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Hi Byron!
   Yes, I believe dirigibles would be a very elegant way of getting around on Mars. And I understand it's a practicable idea, too.
   Because Mars' atmosphere is effectively inert and can't support combustion, we can use hydrogen for lift without fear of another "Hindenberg" disaster. And the news about all that water ice in the regolith means we should be able to produce large quantities of hydrogen by electrolysis.
   Unless or until we thicken the air on Mars, winged heavier-than-air craft may prove too difficult to use. So dirigibles may be the method of choice in the early years of colonisation/terraformation.
   There's actually a very interesting account of a dirigible flight on Mars in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars", "Green Mars", "Blue Mars" trilogy. They're quite heavy going in places but, if you haven't read them yet, they're well worth the time and are practically required reading for Mars nuts, anyhow!
   Good to hear from you, Byron! And I'm sure this topic will create a lot of interest.
                                        smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#3 2002-06-16 07:35:42

Aetius
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From: New England USA
Registered: 2002-01-20
Posts: 173

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

I have always loved airships...so I was thrilled to see the dirigible story in "Red Mars".

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#4 2002-06-16 09:07:05

Adrian
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From: London, United Kingdom
Registered: 2001-09-04
Posts: 642
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Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

There's a story at the Mars Society homepage about the German chapter's efforts to produce a balloon probe for Mars:

The Mars Society Germany, supported by numerous companies, universities and the German Space Agency DLR, is currently leading an effort to design, build and fly Germany's first interplanetary mission; a super-pressure balloon born aerial reconnaissance survey of the planet Mars. The mission, known as Archimedes, will fill the current gap between orbital and surface missions, and combine long-range mobility of planetary dimensions with close up surface measurements and imaging.

Besides being a technology demonstrator, the proposed craft will perform unique scientific experiments. Being a super pressure balloon it will have the ability to make close up images of the surface from an oblique perspective, probe the weak residual magnetic field from its position beneath the ionosphere, and use an atmospheric science package to provide for in situ measurements of local pressure, temperature and humidity. The associated instruments are a high resolution planetary camera provided by DLR Berlin, a magnetometer provided by TU Braunschweig and a meteorology package provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. These sensors have a combined weight of roughly 600 g without electronics, and are suspended beneath a 15 m diameter balloon in a small gondola of 4.3 kg.

The vehicle will enter the Martian atmosphere and decelerate. Subsequently, a drogue chute will be deployed at around Mach 2 that will bring the vehicle through the sound barrier and decelerates enough for the deployment of a larger, the main parachute. The system will drop its nose cap forward in flight, suspended by a bridle forming an instrument that senses ground contact. Once ground contact is acquired, a set of solid rocket motors will decelerate the flight system even further (to around 1-3 m/s) so that a semi hard impact may be achieved.

When the vehicle itself hits the ground, the parachute suspension rope is cut, allowing the parachute to be jettisoned by the remaining fuel in the SRM. This prevents the parachutes from covering the vehicle. Once this has been accomplished, the vehicle will open up by folding out three panels, with the inflation system, the gondola and balloon envelope left in the middle. The gondola is thus exposed to sunlight and can recharge its batteries. Ground controllers will now be able to monitor the vehicle's health and wait, if necessary, for conditions that allow for balloon envelope inflation.

If the command is sent, a smaller pilot balloon will be inflated that pulls up the main envelope, which should be slightly larger. Once this is inflated as well, it will climb to unfold the gondola suspension bridle. Now the gondola is released and the balloon may climb to its service altitude.

This is the design reference scenario. The major issue here is that it is necessary to find a way to automatically deploying the envelope on the ground without having the material ripped due to ground contact. Another option to be researched is to use, instead of a pressure vessel, some way of chemically bonding the hydrogen in order to have it less volatile during cruise, and thereby eliminate a heavy object from the mission.

Issues are that the process must guarantee for a clean hydrogen gas, must be safe and simple and function in the Martian environment, and be lighter than the equivalent amount of gas with it's high pressure storage system. Along with these questions, various entry vehicle shapes are currently being researched, balloon material options are being studied and transport arrangements with AMSAT on board their P5-A space craft are being negotiated.

The institutions other than the Mars Society Germany so far involved are the AMSAT Germany, Technical University of Stuttgart and the University of the Armed Forces in Munich. The team is led by the two project manager Hannes Griebel and Sven Knuth from Mars Society Germany.

A complete report on the design and progress of the Archimedes Mission will be presented at the Fifth International Mars Society Convention, August 8-11, 2002 University of Colorado, Boulder.

Those wishing to get involved with the Archimedes mission should contact Sven Knuth (Sven_Knuth@online.de). [/quote:post_uid1]


Editor of New Mars

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#5 2002-06-16 12:23:09

Phobos
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Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

It's great to see all of these space projects that are being planned and run by private organizations like the Mars and Planetary Society.  It sends the message that space isn't as inaccessible as a lot of people like to think it is.  I hope after the current X-prize is won a new one is offered that ups the ante to actually launching ships into orbit.  If that can be accomplished without government help I think Mars will suddenly loom a lot closer on the horizon.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#6 2002-06-16 19:26:36

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

I have long been a highly enthusiastic fan of balloons on Mars. I can't remember how long it's been since I was supporting The Planetary Society's Mars Balloon Project ... not just vocally and spiritually, but financially as well. I love the idea of it! (I've still got the T-shirt somewhere! )
   Even though the German Mars Society's balloon, like TPS's before it, is not strictly a dirigible in that it cannot be steered in a desired direction, I'm sure it would still return marvellous images. Such images would go a very long way toward impressing on the public that Mars is A REAL PLACE!! ... Somewhere interesting we can go and explore.
   One question. How will TMS in Germany get Archimedes to Mars?
                                             smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#7 2002-06-17 01:58:35

RobS
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From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,701
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Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Two things to remember about dirigibles on Mars: (1) since the atmosphere is 1% as dense, the dirigibles need 100 times the volume to achieve the same lift, wich means they need about 5 times the height, width, and depth of a terrestrial dirigible; and (2) hydrogen burns in CO2, so a lightning strike could cause a Hindenberg-style disaster, though probably rather slowly.

                   -- RobS

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#8 2002-06-17 05:45:34

Byron
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From: Florida, USA
Registered: 2002-05-16
Posts: 844

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Two things to remember about dirigibles on Mars: (1) since the atmosphere is 1% as dense, the dirigibles need 100 times the volume to achieve the same lift, wich means they need about 5 times the height, width, and depth of a terrestrial dirigible; and (2) hydrogen burns in CO2, so a lightning strike could cause a Hindenberg-style disaster, though probably rather slowly.

                   -- RobS[/quote:post_uid0]
Lightning on Mars?  That's something I've never heard of.  Also, I don't think hydrogen burns without an oxidizer present(oxygen,) so I we would be O.K. on that front.  Theoretically, hydrogen-filled dirigibles would be safe on Earth if proper safeguards were taken (like grounding rods, etc)...If the Hindenburg had never blown up, chances are we'd still have giant hydrogen airships flying around today.

Another thing I realized, too, is that CO2 is a "heavy" gas, so the fact that Mars' atmosphere is made almost entirely of this gas should increase the buoyancy of a hydrogen-filled craft (especially if it was heated, like a hot-air ballon).  Even so, they would have to be much bigger than equivalent craft here on Earth, just perhaps not quite as huge as you mentioned.

B

P.S.  Three cheers to the Germans for sending a balloon craft to Mars...imagine the pics we'll get from a mission like that!!
smile

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#9 2002-06-19 16:04:07

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

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Lightning on Mars?  That's something I've never heard of.  [/quote:post_uid11]
*I'm certain I read somewhere that the more intense dust/sand storms on Mars could cause lightning.  :shrugs:

Don't quote me, of course smile

--Cindy

MS member since 6/01


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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#10 2002-06-19 18:47:50

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

*I'm certain I read somewhere that the more intense dust/sand storms on Mars could cause lightning.  :shrugs:

Don't quote me, of course
[/quote:post_uid0]

The static electricity from such storms might damage electronic equipment as well, but considering that I have yet to hear about Earth based dust storms causing similiar problems I wonder if there's really much of a danger.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#11 2002-06-20 06:12:33

Byron
Member
From: Florida, USA
Registered: 2002-05-16
Posts: 844

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

*I'm certain I read somewhere that the more intense dust/sand storms on Mars could cause lightning.  :shrugs:

Don't quote me, of course
[/quote:post_uid0]

The static electricity from such storms might damage electronic equipment as well, but considering that I have yet to hear about Earth based dust storms causing similiar problems I wonder if there's really much of a danger.[/quote:post_uid0]
Let's hope Martian dirigible pilots are smart enough to avoid dust/sand storms...it'd be like flying an airliner into a hurricane here on Earth..lol.  Protecting dirigibles from the threat of lightning and static electricity shouldn't be a too difficult a task anyhow, using such low-tech devices such as discharging rods, etc.

B

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#12 2002-06-28 13:47:27

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

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Hey,  I was wondering whether dirigibles would be a viable means of transport in Mars' thin atmosphere, especially if they were to be scaled up to enormous dimensions.  I particularily relish the idea of huge airships with spacious gondolas underneath perputually roaming about the skies of Mars, landing only to load up on fuel and provisions. An interesting thought, anyhow.

Byron[/quote:post_uid3]
*What sort of material would the dirigible be made out of?  If tarp, or something similar to it, wouldn't that material freeze in the severe coldness?  I understand the occupants of the dirigible will be in an enclosed compartment beneath it, with some warmth, but I keep getting this picture in my mind's eye of the tarp (or whatever material) freezing then shattering from the cold at the slightest external pressure against it.  If tires can -- and do -- freeze and shatter in Alaska, what about the dirigible in the Marsian coldness?

--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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#13 2002-06-28 13:53:59

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

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

The static electricity from such storms[/quote:post_uid3]
*Static electricity, you say?  Hmmmm.  That, combined with the lower Marsian gravity, might make for some interesting "hairstyles."  You know, every hair standing on end, like in the movies? 

Better watch out for those fingertip-touch shocks, too.  wink

--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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#14 2002-06-28 17:55:21

Byron
Member
From: Florida, USA
Registered: 2002-05-16
Posts: 844

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

*What sort of material would the dirigible be made out of?  If tarp, or something similar to it, wouldn't that material freeze in the severe coldness?  I understand the occupants of the dirigible will be in an enclosed compartment beneath it, with some warmth, but I keep getting this picture in my mind's eye of the tarp (or whatever material) freezing then shattering from the cold at the slightest external pressure against it.  If tires can -- and do -- freeze and shatter in Alaska, what about the dirigible in the Marsian coldness?

--Cindy[/quote:post_uid0]
I haven't a clue of what the envelope of Martian dirigibles would be made of, but I'm certain it would be of a material that could withstand the extreme cold of Mars.  The dirigibles would probably have "sacs" contained within the overall envelope of the dirigible superstructure..the hydrogen gas within could be then be controlled like ballast on subs.  I also think that the hydrogen would be heated as well to give the craft increased bouyancy...perhaps this could solve the problem of the effects of the extreme temperature.

The main reason why I like the idea of dirigibles on Mars is that it would be a great way to overcome the problems of traveling by land in rovers, etc...can you imagine attempting to navigate across all those boulder fields on the Martian surface in a wheeled vehicle?  Airborne craft could bypass all the problems of land travel, and give the crew a spacious, mobile laboratory to carry out their research.  Hopefully the gondolas would have walls of glass so the occupants could get fantastic views of Mars from the air..can you imagine floating down Mariner at 2000 meters and looking up at the towering 6 kilometer high walls of Coprates Chasma??  Something I certainly wouldn't mind doing... wink

B

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#15 2002-06-28 18:40:19

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

The main reason why I like the idea of dirigibles on Mars is that it would be a great way to overcome the problems of traveling by land in rovers, etc...can you imagine attempting to navigate across all those boulder fields on the Martian surface in a wheeled vehicle?  Airborne craft could bypass all the problems of land travel, and give the crew a spacious, mobile laboratory to carry out their research. [/quote:post_uid0]

Dirigibles would also be good because they're low-tech and don't need gobs of fuel to get around.  They could maybe use electric propellers or low-thrust rockets to set them drifting.  In Zubrin's book he talks about having NIMF vehicles (Native In-place Martian Fuel Vehicles?) that coud hop around the planet and refuel themselves out of the atmosphere but those types of vehicles I think would be to heavy and complicated to be realistically considered for use on Mars.  Dirigibles on the other hand could perform the same functions a lot easier and probably a lot safer.  They'd be slower but so what.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#16 2002-06-28 20:03:53

C M Edwards
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From: Lake Charles LA USA
Registered: 2002-04-29
Posts: 1,011

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

I don't know about this idea of derigibles on Mars. 

They would have to be quite large and flimsy to lift themselves -- >100 times larger volume than a derigible with roughly the same mass & powerplant here on earth -- which means that a Martian derigible may be incapable of flying against the wind. 

The possibility of damage due to freezing is always present if the blimp (non-rigids are the lightest type of derigible) uses composites in its structure.  A lot of plastics get brittle at very low temperatures.  Still, there are some that may prove useful.  Polyethylene is good to -90C, and aramids like Kevlar remain strong at -200C or lower.  And though polypropylene does get hard and brittle from low temperatures, thermal stress alone won't crack it.  It's ability to go back and forth from room temperature to the freezing point of nitrogen all day long is a little creepy.

The plastics exist to make a lightweight blimp that can survive on Mars.  The only question is can they make one that can actually fight the wind.

CME


"We go big, or we don't go."  - GCNRevenger

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#17 2002-07-01 06:58:03

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Won't it help that Martian gravity is only 38% of Earth's?
   Also, if your dirigible is bigger, you can place a greater area of solar cells on its exterior for greater power to the engines.
   And, if you make this airship long and thin like a barracuda, you should be able to make good progress even against a strong Martian breeze ... always remembering that the low atmospheric density, which caused us buoyancy problems, is now acting in our favour by reducing the power of the winds.
   Another trick which may help is to take advantage of different wind directions at different altitudes. For example, if you wish to travel eastwards but the prevailing winds at low altitude are easterlies, ascend to an altitude where it is calmer or where the winds are in your favour. Katabatic winds driven by the topography may also be used to advantage in some circumstances.
   I'm sure we will soon learn how to navigate the skies of Mars in much the same way that we learned to navigate Earth's oceans.
                                         smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#18 2002-08-28 10:00:38

C.COMMARMOND (FR)
Member
Registered: 2002-06-09
Posts: 45

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

Hi all,

for your information, i read that a 600 km/h wind on Mars is equivalent to a 40 km/h on Earth, so no problem for a dirigible and no problem for the men. But what about the dust which is dry and so could be really abrasive for the envelope and the thrusters.

CC

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#19 2004-08-30 15:23:29

C M Edwards
Member
From: Lake Charles LA USA
Registered: 2002-04-29
Posts: 1,011

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

[color=#000000:post_uid1]Hello all.

Inspired by JP Aerospace’s recent announcement of their Airship-To-Orbit plan (see jpaerospace.com), I’ve  been toying with the idea of using rocket-propelled airships to ascend to orbit.  It turns out that Mars is theoretically an even better place to launch an ATO vehicle than Earth, because of the lower gravity, slightly higher planetary angular velocity, and lower possible cruise altitudes.  For example, the best my little ATO simulator program can do on Earth is about 35 tons to Earth orbit, including both vehicle and payload.  That’s probably less than 10tons payload, and that’s a generous estimate.  However, a similar vehicle on Mars could lift 85 tons or more to orbit.  That’s enough for a hefty ERV using electric rocket propulsion, and it would be re-usable.  A smaller scale version would fly, too, and still easily carry enough fuel to circumnavigate Mars if it were never required to reach orbit. 

I think the JP Aerospace ATO could make an Earth to Mars mission possible using three or four launches, and allow a single stage Mars to Earth ERV.  An Airship-To-Near-Orbit vehicle could also easily take the place of the NIMF and Silane hopper proposed in _The Case for Mars_.

I have not quite changed my mind about airships on Mars, but I’ve decided it’s worth a try.[/color:post_uid1]


"We go big, or we don't go."  - GCNRevenger

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#20 2004-08-30 20:46:34

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 15,793

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

[color=#000000:post_uid14]Cover the top of the balloon with a thin film solar cells and make an electrical heater element to make the co2 rise to provide the lift. Or possibly use some form of nuclear reaction to generate the heat.[/color:post_uid14]

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#21 2004-09-02 13:38:28

mboeller
Member
From: germany
Registered: 2004-05-08
Posts: 53

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

[color=#000000:post_uid0]I have found an study of the university of Maryland about an 2.3 Mio m³ big blimp for mars :

MARV: Martian Airborne Research Vehicle  448KB PDF

Unfortunately I cannot read the complete PDF, cause it is (as it seems) not properly coded.[/color:post_uid0]

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#22 2005-03-22 07:56:55

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

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

[color=#000000:post_uid0]In an alternate thread, we were looking at automated refueling stations for mobile habitats. Let us look at a new kind of Civilization.

"The Sky Galleons of Mars"

A Civilization that lived exclusively aboard Zeppelin. The prospect of traveling the skies of Mars allows a group to take it's atmospheric processor and food production facilities with it sounds interesting. We could even start a sky civilization over the Pacific to test the Economic benifits.

ESD: One Meson shower and you have an electron discharge to ground.[/color:post_uid0]

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#23 2005-03-22 08:29:23

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 15,793

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Yes that thought had occured to many on the board but its application fits best for Venus due to atmospheric pressure.[/color:post_uid0]

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#24 2005-03-22 17:02:47

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

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

[color=#000000:post_uid0]The Mars Dirigible: Your team of Cosmonauts dangling from harnesses beneath a basic frame to which is attatched a couple of control fans and a balloon. The lead astronaut struggling with hand controls as the party makes for the nearsest habitat landing site.

This would allow Astronauts to land outside the hundred Km landing field and inflate their own dirigible on landing.[/color:post_uid0]

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#25 2005-03-24 10:56:51

REB
Member
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: 2004-04-07
Posts: 555
Website

Re: Dirigibles on Mars - A practical means of transport?

[color=#000000:post_uid0]  Because Mars' atmosphere is effectively inert and can't support combustion, we can use hydrogen for lift without fear of another "Hindenberg" disaster.[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]Shaun, I saw a show where they came up with good evidence showing it was not the hydrogen that was the problem with the Hindenburg. It was the substance they coated the skin with. It was very flammable.

Witnesses said the Hindenburg’s fire was very orange. Hydrogen tends to burn blue. This promted NASA scientist and hydrogen specialist, Addison Bain, to investigate.

Bain theorized that “static electricity ignited the linen shell of the ship, because it was coated with a nitrate-based paint.”

The show also mentioned that the Germans had Hydrogen safety features in place.

History might have been different if the fear of hydrogen wasn’t instilled on the public. Perhaps we would still have huge Zeppelins in our skies.[/color:post_uid0]


"Run for it? Running's not a plan! Running's what you do, once a plan fails!"  -Earl Bassett

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