The mission to Mars is quickly approaching and the closer the deadline gets, the faster the skeptics become believers that the mission will be a reality. One of the major problems that anyone could predict would be the logistics issues around the supplies needed by the crew and the equipment. Even with the best of our current technologies, there is only so many ways to stock supplies on board the flight. That means, before the flight even takes off, there is a time line for how long the people going to Mars can survive based on the supplies they have, and that’s if nothing goes wrong along the way. Yet again, the movies have either by coincidence, inspiration, or prediction shown us new and amazing technology that could one day be possible. This one in particular, however, could be the solution to an easier method of transportation of not just supplies, but people too!
What kind of new transportation has been designed?
Not the Star ship Enterprise and not the Millennium Falcon, but instead a train! A company called Imaginactive, the same company that we talked about in the blog “Will a Mach 24 jet leave supersonic planes in their dust?“, has designed, what they call “the Solar Express”. It sounds like a normal train with solar panels but it is much more complicated.
- Rather than a train, It looks more like a column of boxes strung together over 150 feet. A train would carry its cargo containers on the top as it ran down the tracks, but since space requires no track, no wheels, and no bottom at all, the train can use all four sides to attach cargo containers. That’s why it looks like a column.
- On one end of the rows of cargo containers would be a livable space that would rotate around the core to provide gravity for those living in the space, since they would be in deep space for very long periods of time.
- Inside the core would be the fuel containment areas. The fuel would be used to power rocket boosters up to nearly 2000 miles per second allowing the train to leave Earth’s orbit, make course corrections, and even escape the gravitational pull of another planet’s gravity as it uses those gravitational pulls to sling shot through space.
The train would never stop. After the rockets got it up to speed, an ion thruster would take over. An ion thruster is an electric form of propulsion that works better than the rockets because it pushes with exhaust better than the rockets in the vacuum of space. Then solar panels would be used to charge supercapacitors which are basically enormous rechargeable batteries that can hold and use a great deal more energy.movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2017 trailer
How does the Solar Express work?
The hardest parts about space transportation are the starting and stopping. Friction and gravity are always fighting you requiring rockets and fuel to combat them so the only way to remove friction from the equation is to never stop! The Solar Express would simply continuously run around the same path and anything that needed to be added to it would be put on board with specialized machines. These machines would pick up the cargo from the location it is leaving, regardless of where it is. So these machines would have to be able to leave orbit of a planet, align with the moving train by matching its speed and direction or heading, and then attaching the cargo to the train. This would keep the train in constant motion, allow anyone or anything to be attached to it and send it or them on their way wherever the train was going.
Are there any draw backs to the Solar Express?
As we have said before, the Solar Express is only in the design phase, so there are a few things to work out. Anyone that lives on board the Polar Express is going to be there for a long time, and there will have to be several trains with different routes to make the system worthwhile. The vehicles to attach and detach the cargo boxes have not been designed, the cargo boxes that could carry humans still has a few key points to work out, and the relative size to speed to energy ratios are still being worked on. But all in all the general idea is not only intriguing, it is mathematically and scientifically proven to be a possibility, and in this day and age, isn’t that all you need to get started?