Project Blackbird: A Mars Colonial Setting

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MoonHunter

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My Concerns

I have had some reservations about the setting that I could not put my finger on.

At first blush, it sounds easy. Then you dig a little. We all know gamers will only accept so much hand waving. So then there will be details. Even if you follow just "one plan" for how this would go, there are things that need to be addressed.

I have been boxing out pieces for this setting and related chronicles. Taking on chunks that would be manageable. (I have not done Mars Geography, but I have a bunch of good sources so only a matter of doing it.)

The Design Line for this is a "setting that you can put other chronicles into". So all the Mars stuff is there as background OR to make it interesting/ complicated. That is why I decided on Silver Era of Colonization, 20-30 years after the first hard years of landings and buildings. It would make things easier. The more I worked on this, the more I came to conclusions.

1) The Mars stuff (Big or small plots) are okay. They are easy. You just need to apply extra effort to link it to both the various plots and the environment you are in. A bit of work, but I think any interested GM might put in that effort. (And a straight Mars(B/s) chronicle with the occasional other plotlines might be better to do.)

It is the environment that is the thing. Things we take for granted in planetary gaming can not be. If you have ever played in a space ship sci-fi game and realized that one of your players did not get it? They did not really understand what would happen if they fired a gun and it went through the hull, or gravity plates breaking or all the odd parts of the tiny ship. Sure, lots of science fiction takes some understanding... but this setting is surrounded by understandings.

The environment here is more contained than an Earth town/ city/ castle. And there are no shortcuts, you have to follow the tunnels. The furniture is all light and modular. There are no cars, just trucks and maybe you can hitch a ride. The food is odd. Even with domes, there is not that much open air - unless you are in an environmental suit (then it is just open space).

2) These chronicles will have a learning curve as players learn about the Habitats and Life on Mars. I am thinking it might be more than most players would be willing to learn. Even breaking sections down into tiny bits and using quick lines, it is a lot to absorb. It is a great setting. Would players be willing to buy in?
 

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Thrown to the wall to see what sticks Organization

Intro - gobblygook
The Mission
(MARS Dump?)

Life in the early days
>>The Trip/ Landing
>>Habs
>>Digging
>>Odds were good they were never going back to Earth.

Colony changes over time
>>Fuel processes and Engines improve
>>More complete habitat process
>>People keep coming.
>>Factions Form


Outside Habitat- Colonies
>>Dome
>>Tunnel
>>Hab

Environment
>>Biosystem
>>Agro
>>Other systems
Environment
>>What is it like inside
>>>Physically

>>What is society like
>>>bits and pieces

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da LIfe goes on​

Other chronicles inside it


Character Creation
Equipment
Vehciles

Building Habitat

>>>>>>>
Factions

Brief Sketch of the Sol System

Why of some of this #7 post 38

Mars Planetology
Mars Geography

GMings
Chronicle Framework
Big Mars
Little Mars

Techniques
Tools
Make sure the players ae on board and know things.
 

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Random Thoughts 6 - The Cousin of 4 and 5

I am still not sure that I want to finish this completely. I do have a lot of words and effort invested, but could someone play it accurately without doing a ton of research beyond what is in the book. (I mean how many things can I have hyperlinked in the pdf and ignorable in a print copy (if such a beast existed)?) Yet stumbled over some things and concepts in my feed (as it still remembers I have been searching Mars, Ikea, and too many Ultraman episodes -thus a lot of things about Japan). So here are two things that popped up and one video

1) Furniture - Son of 4 #13

This video dovetails on The Ikea Initiative. More population, and less space, require more efficiency of living.


2) Japanese Style Bath Spaces.
While everyone will have vacuum machines and stations, (every changing area and some doors/ airlocks), washing with water is a luxury on Mars. One that most Earth Transplants will not want to live without. So, filtering water, for baths.
1) There are misting showers that you need to do before. It is impolite and hard on the filters if a very dirty person gets in (some areas tax you or assign you filter duty for a while).
2) Some Habitats are okay with naked, others require bathing suits if more than one person is in at a time.
2b) Some might be segregated for genders.
3) There are quick circulating pools for those who actually want to use soap/ shampoo. Mostly they simply soak off the dead skin and such.
4) Most are for long soaks to warm the body and soul.
5) Some habitat baths have steam rooms or saunas as well.
6) The drying space or middle spaces in the Baths are often social spaces to talk, socialize, play backgammon, and such.

3) Org, slightly strained... Originally I just had a thought for a better organization for the intro. Then I found a better spacing for things. Then separated The Dome life out and stuck it. It just kinda expanded... but it makes more sense now.

Intro
>Story bit
>Mission Statement - both to make a mars colony and to create a setting you can apply your own chronicle to - made more interesting because it is a Mars Colony
>Gamer's Guide to Mars (maybe some of the pieces from post 39)
>Gamer's Guide to The Mission (Infographic in RT 5 #7)
>Psuedo History - Things that needed to happen (about 1/3rd of things in the "The way Sol system is" and "Things that happen Plotlines") into the Silver Age
>Modes - What you will choose and what we the example chronicle has (i.e. what we played).

Life in the Domes
>Life in the early days
>>>The Trip/ Landing
>>>Habs
>>>Digging
>>>Odds were good they were never going back to Earth.
>Colony changes over time
>>>Fuel processes and Engines improve
>>>More complete habitat process
>>>People keep coming.
>>>Factions Form
>Outside Habitat- Colonies
>>>Dome
>>>Tunnel
>>>
>Environment
>>>Biosystem
>>>Agro
>>>Other systems
>Scene/Setting
>>>What is it like inside
>>>Physically - briefly most in small encyclopedia entries

Character Creation
Core Trait
>Kinds possible
>>Human - we have yet to differentiate (most of it is expanding)
>>Well of course players will want to play not people. They always do.. so AIs, Synthetics, etc)
>Archetypes - the huge list up there, expanded (explanation and Core Focus)
>Milieu - Technically just one, but we will define it as the sub-section you were raised in.
>>Expanding Trait to define "native environment and Gravity"
Aspects
>Core Aspects (PHY, DEX, MEN, EMO, MPY, CHA)
>>Are there traits that best fit Mars? Defining build, look, outlook.
>Persona Aspects 2 parts
>>General Traits
>>Mars Faction Beliefs
Gifts/Flaws (Assets/ Burdens) that are tied to a Mars Chronicle
>>Which ones are locked to certain modes?

Equipment (Subsection or big section?)
> Basic Equipment
> Equipment Bundles for professions
> Equipment for Miners and Construction

All the Section 50.0 things. Most are built using core rules, but we are not breaking out rules except for Habitat elements )
>Robo Corral (The EI we have)
>Vehicles Corral The Designs and names used on Mars. Some are originals from Earth. Some are Rebuilds or actual Builds on Mars
>How to build your habitat (This is the only building section, using the core rules. It will list all the notable features a "Town"/ habitat will have. Importance to the chronicle (really should default to 5) x size (usually around 3) for 15 features of note.

68.0 MORE MARS
>Here will be more science details/ Geology/ Planetology
>>>Moons
>Here will be Geography
>Here is why ecoforming in a gameable scale is a myth, but should we start?

70.0 Players Advice
>>Mostly it is about how to read over this
>>Get on the same page
>Add elements of description that fit to your actions (by describing some element) Get bonus points for doing this.

80.0 GM Tools and Techniques
>Tools
>Techniques
>>GMing at the Table and techniques handy to have (Note: ADD C&C dispatch )
>Story Weave of Big Mars, Small Mars, and your plot.
>Any Advice on running Mars. (Descriptive wide shots of the Outside, maybe with colony motions)

90.0 Mars Chronicles
> Build a Framework - some examples
> Build a Chronicles - general modes and specific modes
> Big Mars/ Small Mars lists
> Encyclopedia These will include sections that explain certain things in detail. It will include core points of each mode for the game (and each Mode might have a few plotlines tossed with it. Factions - Red vs Green.) And lots of these little entries might be included, as they color and define. Factions, Corp (and names). Mars Changing Plot Points.

4) Add a section on Notes for changes for NeoFrontier (applying tech mostly).
4b) Add section for making a sci-fi world out system (changing how ships get here, probably MAV and MDV) So you can use this for other things

5) Launch and Descent: Mars Ascent Vehicle and Mars Descent Vehicle MAV and MDV These will need two sections - equipment (and might be early vehicle and later vehicles) and a section on the 90.0 Encyclopedia explaining use. Since we can launch up, metal and resources can be shifted up to Earth... and travel.
5b) Borrowing from Ares Mission (The Martian) do we still have a ship doing to the loop between Mars and Earth. Has it been changed? Do we have other looping ships? Are they getting bigger and more habitat like?

6) Never use the word Colony, comes up with bad associations. Habitats and Habs (towns and cities) are more correct. Outposts on Mars is a more poetic way to put it. Eventually we will have outposts on other places, such as real habitats on larger asteroids being mined. And various Jupiter and Saturn Moons. Stationaries and Orbitals (habitats with some notable motive power put in solar or planetary orbit).

7) A collection of important Mars-related Time events that could derail Mars Colonization by decades if not more.

  • August 6, 1672: Polar Ice Cap Observed. ...
  • September 5, 1877: Opposition and Exciting Discoveries. ...
  • April 12, 1963: The Air up There. ...
  • July 14, 1965: Encounter with Mariner 4. ...
  • November 14, 1971: Mariner 9 Comes to Visit. ...
  • July 20, 1976: Viking 1 Makes Contact. ...
  • August 7, 1996: LIFE!…or Something.
  • July 4, 1997: Pathfinder Blazes a trail
  • Sept 28, 2015: Liquid at Last
8) Book to read later


You know, for a setting I am not sure about... I seem to have a lot of stuff about it. Is it interest or just stuff I can stumble over? (and Thank You Elon Musk for making this topical.)
 
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MoonHunter

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So all the posts are locked in and can not be added to or edited. I am going to work on the "parent setting" of Neo Frontier for a bit (See post 36). I solved part of its problem AND I need to make it back compatible with Blackbird (as this is in New Era's effective Past). So unless something brilliant comes up, this space will be quiet for a while.

Unless you have a question or comment. Post it up and I will respond.
 

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Random Thoughts 7
Okay, I swore I was taking a few days off to work on Neo Frontier and make sure the traits are back compatible. But my feed did not get that memo. And to be honest, if I am working on Spacers in Neo Frontiers, I am going to have overlapping ideas for Blackbird/ Mars.

1) Housing homesteads beyond Habs. Suburban Housing outside a Habitat proper.
Okay, this is a memory piece - It is a cob style home, using "adobe" (dirt, water, and fiber if you can). Martian Concret is the local dirt plus liquid water (with or without any fibers). It will set up and be stable. (Though you might want a sealant for moisture.) Note: it is all inside a dome. It manages to keep internal heat. (on Mars it would have more water and air recycle points) This would be ideal for mid to late period colonization. It would not be full underground, which would be a bit of a luxury. (and changing dirt to soil with lots of human byproduct and maybe worms.)

Note the "first floor" is actually above ground level because of hill. This would be important on Mars to prevent grit from building up on the first level. (the under level would have to be swept and dug out from time to time.)

Note: Sweeper Robots (EI or dumb bots could be used as dome cleaners and sweepers around properties. A personal home might have one special small EI bot responsible for clearing this.



1b) Habitats might have a "cab" or "bus" that ferries people around to suburban areas or remoter work spots (like the Power Plant or the Mine). Sure some of this would be underground, but sometimes the road is easier. It could also be a cab - call to C&C and ask for a ride if one is available.

2) Cubbies and Lockers: This is a fact of life in Habitats. Some of them will be assigned to you and some will be ones you just use on a given day (or maybe assigned to a given living space in the case of Baths). It is rude to mess people with someone's cubby (or locker), more so than any illegal activity you might do. So your key might open your living space and a locker or three.

3) Three Pairs of Shoes:

You have outdoor shoes, used for outside the habitat/ martian environment. Dirt Shoes they are called. These are separate from an environmental suit (as you may have a specific one or one that is off the rack). You will never, ever wear these deeper in the hab without people giving dirty looks (akin to you @#$@$@-ERR#$$ bastard) for tracking Grit into the hab. Even if you properly vac them (and Martians/ Habitat folk can tell a properly cleaned pair by looking at them), it is a bit rude to wear them in any part of the Hab except maybe a dome that has dirt/ soil or a full dirt tunnel (unfinished). Even then you are expected to wipe them off or even vac them if you wear them there. Note: many outdoor workers will be walking barefoot and carrying their outdoor shoes in a bag (if not wiped or vac-ed).

Note: Martians notice shoes.

You have habitat shoes: These are the things you wear when you are in the habitat. Given the martian concrete floors or syth tile in much of the habitat, going barefoot is less than ideal. Now often these are "ballet flats" for both genders, but more interesting shoes are worn. Some are stylish and look like Earth Shoes. Many are just velcro or elastic slip-on shoes that handle "athletics". Many people "make their outfit" by coordinating colors including their shoes.

Random 2 #7 Fashion - Yes, many science fiction authors' view of the jumpsuit future did not quite come true. While the jumpsuit is very common (along with what we would call Athleisure wear), it is customized with a ton of colors, prints, and trims (often near neon or LED trims). Remember, Mars clothing does have a very 80s vibe. Note: Habitat designers sort of expected people to just wear "mission clothes" or their "space uniform" while here. That worked for a little bit, but eventually, personalization and just clothing came into play.

You have Home Shoes. These could be retired habitat shoes, lighter weight more slipper-like ones, thongs, or special socks. You wear them inside your home area. Ideally, one's home should be clean so you could wear bare feet. However, grit and stuff really does get everywhere... so home shoes are great. You tend to take habitat shoes off (either outside or just inside on a mat ) and put on indoor shoes. Some habitats have you put the shoes on outside (with huge social and legal penalties for messing with them); while others keep them inside. Some places have them off to the side, adjacent to the door; while many have cubbies (inside or out).

4) Windchimes: Air circulation is important in a hab or habitat. So light windchimes that make a little, but not too much noise, are placed so vents and currents will "tinkle" them. If the area is silent, you know the air could be bad... so a martian/ habitat person will search out a vent and see if it is working.

5) Rude: Habitats and workgangs are relatively small l groups and in the early days "everyone's life depended on everyone else". Being rude in a small community like these is a good way to ensure you might be dead or not rescued in time. The group functioning together has been important since the beginning, so it continues to be a societal trend. So everyone is always polite (ideally in words, actions, and tone... but).

5b) Martians tend to be "formal" and will address each other by title or title and name (first or last depending on their importance). So Miner John or Scientist John or Scientist Smith (if the lead scientist or you don't know). Some of the older habitats still make sure nametags or velcropatches are worn. Newer habitats do not. Since the populations are so small, everyone knows everyone else.

5c) The exception: Rude to be funny. Usually, such rude comments are notably stupid and not that hurtful. Sometimes they are even sexual in nature. They are a way to blow off some steam and show someone that you are their friend (because you would never do this to someone who might actually be offended). This is confusing to Earth folks. For some unknown reason, the term Wanker has fallen into the Martian Lexicon. So instead of Miner John, it would be Wanker John.

6) Whittier Alaska and the Hodge Building - Almost an arcology, almost a habitat, and an entire town of 200 in one building.



7) Money Originally everything was supposed to be for the common good. Well, that did not stick, as it started with barter... then using Earth Money between outposts, corporations, and other habitats. (Then there were people using their earth money for exchange or were still being paid for writing or coding by an Earth company.) Then The First Colony started to use Martian Dollars (tied to American Dollars). They made bamboo paper money, but only in small amounts (i.e. not worth the effort to forge enough to be rich). Mostly, the money is transferred digitally via a banking app. The Chinese are trying the common good, but they have access to the Chinese Yuan/ Renminbi. They are not allowed to use any other currency, so the Chinese Outpost is stuck losing money to convert to acceptable currencies or creating a trade set up and a "well" of Martian dollars to pull from.

8) We wash with Vac and Light, not so much with water.
Things are cleaned with towels that have static electric properties and fibers that pick/ cling things and lock them in the towel fibers. Things are sterilized on Mars using UV lights (usually little personal hand held units). You can wash things with water (or with chemicals in water), but water is expensive (relatively). So mostly we wipe things (and clean those with ultrasonics). We Vac up things. We sterilize with light (or put it outside for ten minutes in the sunlight). And if we must, we clean things with water and water products.
 
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MoonHunter

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Add to MAV and MDV :
"If you can walk away from a landing, it's a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it's an outstanding landing."
- Chuck Yeager
 

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HASSELL + EOC presents MARS HABITAT​


I like this one, but it requires some technology that has not been invented or perfected yet.

* * Colonizing Mars | The Mammoth Task of Supporting Humans in a Martian Colony * *​


I like this one as it is "likely", but it requires some technology that has not been invented or perfected yet.

Look at: https://www.youtube.com/c/astrumspace


THE FIRST 10,000 DAYS ON MARS (Timelapse)​


This is a big bit of fiction and handwaving.


SpaceX's plan to colonize Mars, explained (from Verge)​


It is a great idea. It gets handwavy in spots, but not outrageously so. The technology is there for all of this (but not yet assembled). The project takes wealth and resources that I do not think Musk and Space-X investors can muster.
 
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Random thoughts 8

- -
Note: Do we need a magnetic shield set up for each Hab?
Archetype: Ice Runner - a variation of Rust Runner, they move from the poles to habitats bringing ice/ water.
Archetype: Sparkers is the nickname for people who work with power sources. Now many of them monitor and work with power cell systems. Many of them work with fuel cell systems. Some of them work with pebble nuclear arrangements. They also do the electrical work and wiring. Given the frequency of solar flares and all the other things working with longer wires or a powered system is actually a little more dangerous than it should be or would have been in decades past or centuries future.

Hydroponics - Habitat element
Fish Ponds - Habitat Element
Jail/ Isolation - Habitat Elements
Medical Center - Habitat Element
Exercise Center - Habitat Element
Landing Center - - Habitat Element
Refurb Center - Habitat Element (take things shipped to be used and change them up)
Recycle Center - Habitat Element

Genetic Modified Plants to exist on Mars?
Microbes to make the dirt to soil.
Genetic Modified Humans to make them radiation resistant and more immune to gravity disorders.

Star Link System:
WE have a Com Sat System
We have an observer sat systems which become weather and geo monitoring.


Augment Suit: Framework: For Martians Visiting Earth.
 
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Okay, Today I have found "traction" on my projects. It is the Neo Frontier (see post 36 of this thread). The Neo Frontier is an Alt 70s Retro(near)future based on the Anime of the 70s. It is a world of Spacers, Espers, Synthetics, Aquahabitats, Arcologies, Wartorn Lands, and Wild Ecology and Weather due to mismanagement of the planet. Now Mars outposts (and spacer habitats) was a big part of the Neo Frontier.

Blackbird is from our time line, a near future. However, it was all things I was looking at for Neo Frontier. It took on a life of its own. Blackbird can be used to build "Mars Towns" for the Neo Frontier by adding a few elements.

If you want to see what I am working on (or what inspired this) here is a proto-introduction.

Introduction (prototype) - Neo Frontiers

The Neo Frontiers started long before anyone declared the Neo Frontiers open. It all started in the late '50s early '60s when humanity began to explore space. The progress was slow. Space exploration had highs and lows over the decades. Exploration of other frontiers such as the ocean and the human mind continued on. The tidal wave of scientific change began. All that was missing was The Drive.

Humanity took steps forward. Humanity took a step back. Sometimes there were side shuffles. Humanity stumbled on in the drunken progress of history, as seemingly random events pushed and pulled society. Societies and Humanity itself changed and developed. The Esper era began. Things unresolved slowly came to a head. Little conflicts occurred, fizzling out or smoldering. New technologies were driven ahead by need or greed rather than the benefit of humankind. Until The Pop. The postmodern era ended during the first big explosions of the Six Year war.

The Six Year War (or some people like to call it World Wide War 3) was a set of interlinking conflicts. Scholars argue if it was six wars and a defensive battle or four wars, twelve conflicts, and two police actions gone wrong. No part of the Earth or near Earth orbit was left unscarred by the conflict. Weapons of all kinds were eventually used in one conflict or another. Limited use of the most dangerous weapons kept the ecological and economic damage to a minimum.

Towards the end of the Six Year War the United Nations moved beyond an advisory and negotiation forum and renamed itself The United Zones. It began with relief, rebuilding, repairing infrastructure, and meeting physical and emotional needs. It defended what it could from violent intrusions – through diplomacy or mag gun.

Thus the beginning of the new era was declared by UZ Chief Director [@insert name here]. Humanity needed a new goal - a new vision and [@insert name here] provided it. It would drive economic recovery. It would give society something to do. It could solve many of Earth's problems all the while wiping out the malaise and fears left from the War. The key was dispersing the population so no one war or disaster could wipe us all out. The exploration and expansion would lead to new solutions yet unknown. (Hopefully defeating the Ills of Old.) However, the Grand Idea of the Neo Frontiers was to give people hope when there was little and kickstart the next chapter of Humankind’s history.

While The Neo Frontier was to be all about Space - the restarted Mars outpost and solar exploration, the spirit of exploration was expanded to other areas. It was to be an age of exploration and discovery - be it in space, be it in the ocean, be it the power of the Human mind, be it in every realm of science. All of humanity’s challenges would be tackled as we confronted the frontiers.



Of course, humanity would bring its best to these new frontiers. Unfortunately, it would also bring some of its’ worst or the ills of old as it's poetically been put. There was still some crime, some excessive greed, and unfortunately some lingering fears and hates. The embracing of the Neo Frontiers has helped to alleviate many of these problems. Perhaps once humankind moves beyond “the frontiers”, humankind will move beyond those ills of old.

...

It is now 2025. Humanity is spread to other planets, other habitats, and stationaries. Humanity lives on Mars, in spacer habitats and ships, under the seas, underground, in arcologies, and in traditional cities - trying to return to normalcy. Espers are a notable part of society, rather than a confusing side element. Biologic Science has brought us clones and constructs in an attempt to supply "people" and lifeforms to a depleted world. Data Science has brought us the global Compunet and Artificial Intelligence/ Expert Intelligences to control mechanoids and robots. Space travel to the stars is "this close". It is a time of exploration of the planet, the solar system, and what it means to be Human.

The Series 1 Book gives you a tool kit for the basic style of game, which you can emphasise the Mode or Element you want to. (All Spacer chronicle? An Esper one? Underwater City Folks against biological mistakes? Robo freedom fighters? and all such.)

1665278663962.jpeg
(From Blue Seed, but sort of the collection of characters you might see in a Neo Frontier Chronicle)

Series 2 will include: Magic/Horror elements, Vampires/monsters, Magical Girls, Kaiju/ Daikaiju, and Sentai-styled Vector Forces.

575 Thoughts? Ideas? Smiley emoticons?
 
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MoonHunter

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Look at the post above and comment.

This is about the Moon and part of the NASA plan for Mars.



By the way:
Three Artemis missions are currently in progress; Artemis 1, an uncrewed test flight around and beyond the Moon, planning to launch between 12-27 November 2022 (exact date TBC). Artemis 2, a crewed flight beyond the Moon which will take humans the farthest they’ve ever been in space. And Artemis 3, a mission that will land the first female astronaut and first astronaut of colour on the Moon to spend a week performing scientific studies on the lunar surface.

And check out the Wikipedia page for this and Constellation.


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
A post from another site that I did. It was about time patrol/ time watch adventures. It dovetails with this.

I did another time watch post here

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Ion thrust engines are practical only in the vacuum of space and cannot take vehicles through the atmosphere because ion engines do not work in the presence of ions outside the engine; additionally, the engine's minuscule thrust cannot overcome any significant air resistance. Still, it was fun.





Inventory: Cold Plasma Sterilizer and tissue energizer. For Blackbird and Neo Frontier
This little hand held unit, combines cold plasma with very specific wavelength UV projection, helpsing sterilize small areas (2cm radius) and stimulating tissue growth. This device when used will give a bonus to recovery rolls equal to 1+the skill of the medic using it (AoE for Science-2 for lack of trait)),
 
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MoonHunter

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Check this post and the two above it for today....

Best Evidence of Liquid Water on Mars and an active core.

 
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MoonHunter

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My feed is golden....

a9195eb9e818c5555d80fa33357acd7d.jpg




Actually they should put a small dome over the scene... maybe clean oppy off some... and make it a "planetary park" or historic site (with a blue marker)... like they did (will have done) with Armstrong's footprint on the Moon.
 
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xanther

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>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Ion thrust engines are practical only in the vacuum of space and cannot take vehicles through the atmosphere because ion engines do not work in the presence of ions outside the engine; additionally, the engine's minuscule thrust cannot overcome any significant air resistance. Still, it was fun.
Not sure how hard SF you are looking for but not exactly on the above. They can technically work in an atmosphere (or ions outside the engine) just a poor practical choice. Has more to do with the energetics and reaction scattering dynamics, that and gravity if leaving a planet, that and you really, really want to get through the van allen radiation belts fast when leaving Earth.

Ion engines though are clean....just some Xe as exhaust. Combine them with He3 fusion and you may have cheap, if slow, interplanetary transport.

Not something you would necessarily use for humans as the more time it takes the more air, water and food you need to carry but for robotic transport vessels.

You may not even need to slow these transports down, rather put them on an orbit/trade route and boost the payload (and fuel) to them and the deceleration of the payload can happen on the receiving end....perhaps the reverse of an electromagnetic catapult orbiting Mars.
 

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From the wikipedia.
Spacecraft electric propulsion (or just electric propulsion) is a type of spacecraft propulsion technique that uses electrostatic or electromagnetic fields to accelerate mass to high speed and thus generate thrust to modify the velocity of a spacecraft in orbit.[1] The propulsion system is controlled by power electronics.

Electric thrusters typically use much less propellant than chemical rockets because they have a higher exhaust speed (operate at a higher specific impulse) than chemical rockets.[1] Due to limited electric power the thrust is much weaker compared to chemical rockets, but electric propulsion can provide thrust for a longer time.[2]

Electric propulsion was first successfully demonstrated by NASA and is now a mature and widely used technology on spacecraft. American and Russian satellites have used electric propulsion for decades.[3] As of 2019, over 500 spacecraft operated throughout the Solar System use electric propulsion for station keeping, orbit raising, or primary propulsion.[4] In the future, the most advanced electric thrusters may be able to impart a delta-v of 100 km/s (62 mi/s), which is enough to take a spacecraft to the outer planets of the Solar System (with nuclear power), but is insufficient for interstellar travel.[1][5] An electric rocket with an external power source (transmissible through laser on the photovoltaic panels) has a theoretical possibility for interstellar flight.[6][7] However, electric propulsion is not suitable for launches from the Earth's surface, as it offers too little thrust.

On a journey to Mars, an electrically powered ship might be able to carry 70% of its initial mass to the destination, while a chemical rocket could carry only a few percent.[8]

Now we will move on to Ionic Drives

An ion thruster, ion drive, or ion engine is a form of electric propulsion used for spacecraft propulsion. It creates thrust by accelerating ions using electricity.

An ion thruster ionizes a neutral gas by extracting some electrons out of atoms, creating a cloud of positive ions. These ion thrusters rely mainly on electrostatics as ions are accelerated by the Coulomb force along an electric field. Temporarily stored electrons are finally reinjected by a neutralizer in the cloud of ions after it has passed through the electrostatic grid, so the gas becomes neutral again and can freely disperse in space without any further electrical interaction with the thruster. By contrast, electromagnetic thrusters use the Lorentz force to accelerate all species (free electrons as well as positive and negative ions) in the same direction whatever their electric charge, and are specifically referred to as plasma propulsion engines, where the electric field is not in the direction of the acceleration.[1][2]

Ion thrusters in operation typically consume 1–7 kW of power, have exhaust velocities around 20–50 km/s (Isp 2000–5000 s), and possess thrusts of 25–250 mN and a propulsive efficiency 65–80%[3][4] though experimental versions have achieved 100 kW (130 hp), 5 N (1.1 lbf).[5]

The Deep Space 1 spacecraft, powered by an ion thruster, changed velocity by 4.3 km/s (2.7 mi/s) while consuming less than 74 kg (163 lb) of xenon. The Dawn spacecraft broke the record, with a velocity change of 11.5 km/s (7.1 mi/s), though it was only half as efficient, requiring 425 kg (937 lb) of xenon.[6]

Applications include control of the orientation and position of orbiting satellites (some satellites have dozens of low-power ion thrusters) and use as a main propulsion engine for low-mass robotic space vehicles (such as Deep Space 1 and Dawn).[3][4]

Ion thrust engines are practical only in the vacuum of space and cannot take vehicles through the atmosphere because ion engines do not work in the presence of ions outside the engine; additionally, the engine's minuscule thrust cannot overcome any significant air resistance. Moreover, notwithstanding the presence of an atmosphere (or lack thereof) an ion engine cannot generate sufficient thrust to achieve initial liftoff from any celestial body with significant surface gravity. For these reasons, spacecraft must rely on other methods such as conventional chemical rockets or non-rocket launch technologies to reach their initial orbit.

A side note: Artemis 1 (if it ever launches... come on people) will include a testing of the newest Ionic Thrust Drive.

There are more... and we can follow up with the references.

An ion-propelled aircraft or ionocraft is an aircraft that uses electrohydrodynamics (EHD) to provide lift or thrust in the air without requiring combustion or moving parts. Current designs do not produce sufficient thrust for manned flight or useful loads.


Yes, technically they can work in an atmosphere, but no design yet provides could produce enough thrust to overcome the weight ratios for much life nor deal with electrical disturbances in an atmosphere (as found in higher flying aircraft).

As to:
You may not even need to slow these transports down, rather put them on an orbit/trade route and boost the payload (and fuel) to them and the deceleration of the payload can happen on the receiving end....perhaps the reverse of an electromagnetic catapult orbiting Mars.

Yes, yes you will to make it easier and SO MUCH SAFER to onboard and offboard cargo and to maintain orbits on Earth and Mars. Also The MAV and MDV vehicles may or may not be local to the planet of choice, though reusable MAVs and MDV (as well as Earth Versions) would be more efficient... but requires a fuel port in orbit. So if it is carrying the descent unit, it will need to slow to improve the landing window.
 
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xanther

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Technically the presence of ions outside the ion engine does not prevent them from working... base this not on wikipedia but my own research from the 90s that was used by engineers to design ion engines. :smile: We weren't going to trust just what the Soviets did back then. No the wiki did not cite us but it was pretty fundamental stuff on reaction scattering dynamics, not the glamorous engineering stuff, however if you find it you can PM me for confirmation. Yes, technically was a "rocket scientist" at one time I guess. :smile:
 
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