So far, in relation to colonizing Mars, we have talked about getting off the planet and the psychology of the colonists. But to colonize Mars, there are more problems. Many more.
Journey to Mars
The journey to Mars depends on multiple factors. Those different factors are the speed of craft, alignment of earth and mars, how much fuel is burnt, the weight and size of the craft and many others. Those factors can change the time to get there from 150 to 300 days.
Most people think that getting to Mars quickly is an easy task. Just put on a few more engines on the craft and hit the go button. Then when you get to Mars, you press the brakes. Like a car.
But space travel is not like driving in a car. And it isn’t a forceless environment either. People think that just because you are floating in space that nothing is pulling at you. That is very wrong.
A large majority of the fuel used in rockets is to get off the surface of the planet. It is not to get away from the gravity, it is to get out of the atmosphere. The atmosphere of the earth causes friction on rockets, slowing them down. A rocket can get into orbit on a planet one foot off of the ground. If there was nothing to run into to, or any atmosphere to slow them down. Even the ISS has to burn for a few seconds every once and a while to lift them back into a better orbit.
Saying that, when you get out of the atmosphere and into orbit, then you burn your rockets and head towards Mars. The forces that will pull against you are the Earth’s gravity until you escape from it, then the sun’s gravity.
To get away from gravity, you need speed. The faster you go, the easier it will be. Now, to get to Mars, you only need to escape Earth’s gravity and then get your orbit out to mars. Once you get towards Mars, you need to slow down. If you don’t then you won’t stop. You will sail past mars in your orbit around the sun. Once you slow down, the Martian gravity will catch you, and you are there.
That all costs fuel. Fuel to speed up, fuel to slow down. Larger craft, more fuel you will need. More fuel, the larger the ship you will need to hold all of the fuel. It is an endless cycle that hives engineers ulcers.
The problems of that costly hard journey are many, and the risks are high. Boredom, depression, lack of gravity and radiation are major problems that are going to have to be faced.
Luckily, all of these are engineering problems.
The Mars direct plan called for the ship to tether to another ship in flight and to spin. Which would then create centrifugal force. That force would give the colonists gravity and help fight against bone loss.
Boredom and depression are issues. Hopefully, the training and the screening has helped keep those susceptible to those issues from being selected. But easy entertainment, common rooms, and private rooms will help keep the colonists from suffering. A job on board the craft will also help. Whether it is a training course, or a job running the ship.
To put things into perspective, in the 1500’s it could take up to 3 months of travel to get from England to the new world. All of which was crammed into a small hold eating biscuits and other unsavory rations. This trip will be a luxury cruise in comparrison.
With good planning, increased speed, and acceleration/ deceleration times will speed up the journey greatly. Using a system like the BFR sounds very good on paper. I, for one, am keeping a close eye on the BFR to see if it lives up to its hype.