Re: Ion Propulsion

Eugene Leitl (
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 08:29:59 +0200 (MET DST)

"Astronauts on way to Mars in microwave plasma oven; expected to be done
on arrival".

Aargh. Will this never stop? Men to LEO, men to the moon, men to Mars.
Trained monkeys in space. Instead of focusing on sustainability, like
developing autoreplicating industry designed to work in space, we
continue to be fatally attracted by pointless bottoms of the gravity wells.
Don't they see that it is prohibitively expensive to drag up resources
from below all the time? If indeed we should have monkeys in space, then
they should send out machines to build an appropriate vivarium, first.

Whatever happened to solar sails? Of course solar sails are pretty useless
in the outskirts of the solar system, but what, please, have we lost there
yet? Before we have fusion, Kuiper and Oort are out of question. It will
be hard enough to use solar radiation in the asteroid belt -- the best
investment would see to deccelerate the material into lower orbit by solar
sails, into the high-luminance areas. But the best bootstrap investment
would see to tap near-Earth resources, first. Heck, we've got even
multiton ice debris out there. Water, silicates, tar, metal ore, hard
vacuum, lots of sun and microgravitation conditions next door -- what else
do we need?

Oh yes, plasma drives. I remember seeing several plasma powered probes as
kid in a russian space exhibition. Back then the idea was taking something
easily ionizable, like cesium, ionize it, accelerate the ions, then
ejecting the electrons back to create neutral plasma (orelse the probe
acquires charge until it ceases to function). Monkeys ridiing a 10 MW
nuclear reactor to Mars.... I dunno.