Re: A case for the eradication of unmanned Mars missions

Eugene Leitl (
Wed, 8 Dec 1999 21:31:24 -0800 (PST)

Robert J. Bradbury writes:
> > [ Mars no good for linear mass drivers ]
> Eugene, I don't think thats accurate. If you've got calculations
> I'd like to see them. NASA is studying mass drivers to assist
> launching on Earth, so I would think they have to work on Mars.
> The question comes down to whether the friction limits launch
> speed to sub-orbital rates, in which case you need rocket assists.

You're right of course, it's just that it would be interesting to launch relatively large payloads (say, myself with oxygenated fluorocarbon flooding the lungs while floating in saline plus life support hardware -- pickled monkey) with relatively low accelerations/deccelerations this way, without having to have reaction mass onboard. On the Moon, this is just a longish (10 km? 50 km? This way there is even no need for saline) electromagnetic railway, the end being a Moon surface tangent. Each segment is powered by an energy spike cache, driven by a smallish PV array, giving the launch vehicle a small push as it slides by.

Atmospheric drag limits this to low velocities, the lower the denser the atmosphere. You could probably pull that trick on Olympus Mons, but not on Mars surface. You would be probably still jelly if you slam into the atmosphere without the liquid acceleration cushion and rocket assistance even on the top of Auld Olympus.