View Poll Results: Is Ceres easier to colonize than Mars?

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  • Yes, Ceres would be easier to colonize than Mars.

    9 23.68%
  • No, Mars would be easier to colonize.

    20 52.63%
  • The sun is easier to colonize, provided we go at night.

    9 23.68%
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Thread: Is Ceres easier to colonize than Mars?

  1. #1
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    Is Ceres easier to colonize than Mars?

    Would Ceres, or possibly another asteroid, be easier to colonize than Mars?
    Ceres would appear to have several advantages over Mars.

    The low gravity (2.7% of Earth's) means little fuel is required to reach escape velocity. Ships would not need separate landing craft as they would for mars.

    The tens of kilometer thick ice mantle that is presumed to lie close beneath the surface could provide fresh water, oxygen and fuel - either for chemical rockets or propellant for nuclear rockets.

    The ice mantle could be cut or melted into to provide living space. This may be easier than tunnelling or building shelters on mars.

    Material from all the different varieties of asteroids is available on the surface of Ceres and in nearby space. This material could be transported at low energy costs.

    Ceres's low axial tilt (4-5 degrees) means that at the poles it should be possible to constantly collect solar energy or microwave energy beamed from elsewhere in the solar system. But solar energy would be weak.

    There are some disadvantages. Ceres is further away and travels times would be much longer. The ease of refuelling at Ceres may help to shorten trips, but atmospheric braking is not possible at Ceres, unlike Mars.

    The minimal gravity would require centrifuges for colonists to spend time in to prevent physical deterioration.

  2. #2
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    My vote goes for Ceres.

    It's harder to enter orbit from whatever speed you were going at to reach it, but it seems landing would be a cinch.

    There's no dust storms to worry about, and no atmosphere to compensate for.
    Certainly, one can "live off the land" there as well as one can at Mars.

    Of course, it would help to know what's there. Hence, the need for missions like Dawn. I figure that if one can get under a layer of metallic ore, that ought to act like a shield against solar radiation.

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    Question

    The sun is easier to colonize, provided we go at night.
    ????

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronald Brak View Post
    Would Ceres, or possibly another asteroid, be easier to colonize than Mars?
    [my emphasis]

    The current PC term is "dwarf planet."

    (Opens can of worms, turns and runs for the door.)
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

  5. #5
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    Radiation exposure

    Go to Mars or go to Ceres, it doesn't much matter until the smart folks figure out a way to prevent radiation exposure to spacecraft occupants during the journey such as during solar flares or in the absence of the Earth's magentic field.

    http://www.space.com/news/061023_space_radiation.html
    http://srag.jsc.nasa.gov/

  6. #6
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    If there's enough ice in Ceres mantle, then underground would help. Or a crater shadow.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sticks View Post
    ????
    Because its dark at night, so the sun is cooler! Duh!

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    Wow, great minds think alike, I was lately wondering about this myself.
    Note that I am just a hobbyist, not a professional space and aeronautics scholar.
    I was particulary thinking about the need of gravity. I don't think there would any potential for creating it on the surface. So I was toying with the idea of mining and supply colony on surface and a habitation torus in orbit around Ceres. How feasible it would be to build an space elevator on Ceres for that purpose ? Or is completely unnecessary due to low launch costs ? Could a space elevator be connected to station with rotating sections providing artificial gravity ? Like I said, I am just an amatour, so If something I am wondering is obviously flawed, don't attack me But I would be greatefull If somebody would answer those questions.

  9. #9
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    I was particulary thinking about the need of gravity. I don't think there would any potential for creating it on the surface. So I was toying with the idea of mining and supply colony on surface and a habitation torus in orbit around Ceres. How feasible it would be to build an space elevator on Ceres for that purpose ? Or is completely unnecessary due to low launch costs ? Could a space elevator be connected to station with rotating sections providing artificial gravity ? Like I said, I am just an amatour, so If something I am wondering is obviously flawed, don't attack me But I would be greatefull If somebody would answer those questions.
    There's no need for a space elevator on Ceres. Escape velocity is only 0.51 kilometers per second which is 4.6% that of Earth's. You could put an object in orbit around Ceres with less than a twentieth of the fuel you'd need to put something in orbit around Ceres. On the other hand, building a space elevator on Ceres would be extremely easy, especially since its day is only nine hours long. A space craft could easily carry enough cable. A rotating torus could be built around Ceres, but I think it would be easier to build a rotating station in orbit or nearby, of whatever size was required. And sure, you could have a rotating station at the end of an elevator cable.

    Centrifuges could be built underground. Tunneling into the ice mantle should be safer in the minimal gravity than on earth and it should be possible to make large chambers. The low gravity also means construction can be less robust than it would need to be on earth.

    Perhaps the first colony ship would rotate and people could periodically travel to it using a space elevator to maintain physical condition. Later centrifuges could be built under the ice.

    It is possible that colonists wouldn't want to return to higher gravity and so would do without centrifuges or medical advances may enable physical condition to be maintained without simulated gravity.

  10. #10
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    Forgive me for reopening a 5.8 year old thread, but some of the questions were neglected and the Dwarf planet Ceres has some very long term potential = We can build a giant cavern at the Mass center with a volume of 1000 cubic kilometers, where the entire population of Earth can live at a population density of 7 million per cubic kilometer = 0.07 people per cubic meter which we often exceed in Earth buildings at present. Waste heat disposal would be a big problem so we should likely think a smaller population. The cavern would all but perfectly protect the inhabitants from a nearby supernova or other galaxtic radiation and galactic meteorites, while planet surfaces and free flying colonies could be totaled. Similar cavities could also be built in most of the larger asteroids and the other dwarf planets. So these huge cavities could be the far future home of a million times a million humans. Millions of small asteroids and comets could have mass center cavity habitats as small as 20 cubic meters, which is more practical near term, but sort of like a prison cell. Mass center reduces the probability that a gravel pile asteroid would disassemble, and maximises radiation protection. Neil
    Last edited by neilzero; 2012-Dec-17 at 03:57 AM.

  11. #11
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    Ronald Blake post1 was absolutely correct on every point in my opinion. Post 2: Low Ceres orbit will be useful for communications satilites, and orbiting habitats but just land on the surface is best for incoming pasengers and cargo. Post 8 When and if we invent a tractor beam or inertial dampers, we will likely know how to make artifical gravity. Large centrfuges appear to be a viable alternative. Short versions of the Edwards type space elevator are easy on nearly all low gravity worlds, but may not have much utility unless made very long, which requires CNT = carbon nano tubes or equivelent with great specs.
    A rotovator can have a habitat at both ends with artificial gravity due to the rotation. We can build these now, almost anywhere. Does anyone know why there are no rotovators in progress? Post 9 is also correct on every point in my opinion. Neil
    Last edited by neilzero; 2012-Dec-17 at 04:07 AM.

  12. #12
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    One disadvantage I didn't mention is that I think in the popular imagination mars is just plain funkier.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronald Brak View Post
    One disadvantage I didn't mention is that I think in the popular imagination mars is just plain funkier.
    I wonder. It's certainly true that almost everybody knows that Mars exists, and many are aware of its green inhabitants, whereas almost nobody outside of geek circles knows what Ceres is. But I think that once people learn about Ceres, they'll find it quite funky. Just tell people it's like one of those things that Bruce Willis blew up, and they'll probably understand the funkiness!
    As above, so below

  14. #14
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    One scheme I read of long ago would involve travelling to a Sun-grazer asteroid, settling on it and studying the sun close-up from the safety of the far side, in its shadow.

    So, you really would be going "at night."

  15. #15
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    I think asteroids are "funkier" than Mars. Everyone's done Mars, but real space miners go straight for the Belt. Once you set up shop on Ceres, the rest of the asteroids are right next door.

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    Considering Ceres is fully a third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt, why bother? Ceres should be more plentiful in volatiles than the rest of the belt combined, and the fact that it's fully differentiated should make its ores more concentrated and "self-refined" than anywhere else in the belt. And while siderophiles may be too deep, in the core, to be convenient to mine, billions of years worth of asteroid impacts should leave plenty of asteroid ore at the surface

    Anyway, the weakness of the Oberth effect, orbital inclination, and lack of atmosphere make Ceres relatively inaccessible and not such a great base of operations for the rest of the belt anyway. Ceres is actually hard to get to, using traditional means. Solar electric can get you there if you're very patient.

    Oh--one more thing to consider. Ceres is a serious candidate for extraterrestrial life. It may have natural life in an underground ocean. Until this is studied further, we should avoid potential contamination. One way around this would be to use carefully sterilized robotic mining hardware, keeping any manned habitats in orbit. This is probably a good idea anyway since it allows the habitat to have 24/7 solar power (which is significant considering the distance from the Sun).

  17. #17
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    One thing Ceres has going for it is the minimal gravity well, unless you want to a permanent exhibit on it's surface.
    Very difficult to land on mars, spend time and then ascend to orbit and rendezvous with the Earth transit ship.
    It's a different kind of situation.... entirely.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    One thing Ceres has going for it is the minimal gravity well, unless you want to a permanent exhibit on it's surface.
    Very difficult to land on mars, spend time and then ascend to orbit and rendezvous with the Earth transit ship.
    It's a different kind of situation.... entirely.
    The delta-v requirements to get to/from Ceres are so much higher than to get to/from Mars that this is really a minor detail. The requirements for Mars are sufficiently low that it's actually conceivable to do it all using traditional chemical rockets using fuel brought all the way from the bottom of Earth's gravity well. But that delta-v won't even go you to Ceres, much less land on it or ascend or return.

    The transit times to/from Ceres are also nasty, as well as the availability of transfer windows of you want to keep the delta-v requirements reasonable (by having either the start or end of the transfer orbit coincide with the inclination burn). It's almost a given that you'll need to use advanced propulsion, such as solar-electric, but this makes transit times very long also.

  19. #19
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    Think about it: "Can you land a 747 with full fuel, baggage and passengers ? " The nanswer is "NO". All that weight will collapse the gear. But.... that's at one G . A vehicle going to Ceres has time and zero G on it's side.

  20. #20
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    I have no idea why you think a 747 with full fuel, baggage and passengers can't land, or that this weight would collapse the gear (this truly defies common sense). But in any case it's irrelevant. A Mars mission designed on similar lines as the Apollo mission would have an ascent module about the size of the Apollo ascent module--much smaller than a 747.

    Anyway, the reality of interplanetary orbital mechanics are not kind to any mission to Ceres. The orbital inclination is a real pain; the weak Oberth effect and lack of atmosphere for aerobraking make things that much worse.

    You might think that in space, you just push off and coast the rest of the way. That's not how it works, due to the Sun's gravity. If you just push off, you end up in a slightly different orbit than Earth's...but it never gets very far from Earth's orbit due to the Sun's gravity. If you want to get anywhere close to Ceres, there's no way around the fact that Ceres is much further away from the Sun than Earth is, and you've got to add energy to make up for this fact. Then there's no getting around the fact that an orbital plane change is needed, and orbital plane changes require a lot of delta-v.

    The gravity of Mars actually helps more than it hurts. You can leave your main spacecraft in orbit, where it's still zooming around the planet at several kilometers per second rather than sitting still. In a sense, this acts like a free kinetic energy battery. It's nice, because when your ascent module brings the crew back to the main spacecraft, the main spacecraft is already "idling" with most of the speed necessary to get back to Earth. You don't get to do that with Ceres, where the weak gravity pull means an orbit "idles" at a very low speed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IsaacKuo View Post
    I have no idea why you think a 747 with full fuel, baggage and passengers can't land, or that this weight would collapse the gear (this truly defies common sense).
    Yeah, that seemed pretty out there to me too. If the landing gear are so weak that they would collapse on landing, it seems that take-off must be a very risky endeavor.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Yeah, that seemed pretty out there to me too. If the landing gear are so weak that they would collapse on landing, it seems that take-off must be a very risky endeavor.
    I'm not a pilot or engineer, but I think it's more that they are recommended to avoid it because it could cause damage or failure. Landing is a lot harsher than takeoff. And it could be plane specific as well. That's one of the reasons many planes are designed and have to dump fuel if they have just taken off and need to land again, aside from avoiding fire. But many planes don't have that, and I know ours has landed before with a decent amount left, although we don't usually have a full tank.

  23. #23
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    Just so you know: They dump fuel before they land. They have to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Just so you know: They dump fuel before they land. They have to.
    I really don't think so. I think they will dump fuel normally, but if they have a situation like a fire, they will land the plane fully loaded and the landing gear will be OK (though I understand it's undesirable because you have to do an inspection afterward and there may be issues with runway length as well). Do you have any references to back up your claim? I looked on some pilot forums and they seemed to agree on what I just wrote.
    As above, so below

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    They really don't want to try and land a fully loaded aircraft. These things are designed to to take off "Nice and smooth"
    see, with a smooth transition from landing gear suspension to lift. Landing fully heavy is a severe problem.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    They really don't want to try and land a fully loaded aircraft. These things are designed to to take off "Nice and smooth"
    see, with a smooth transition from landing gear suspension to lift. Landing fully heavy is a severe problem.
    Yes, I'm aware of that. I've actually had the experience of being in a plane, so I'm aware that the landing is tougher on the landing gear than the take-off. I was only disputing your assertion that the landing gears would break if you tried to land a fully-fueled 747. I don't think it would, that's all. I'm not claiming it's a good idea.
    As above, so below

  27. #27
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    There would be time to solve the artificial gravity problem with Ceres. Initially, a Bigelow inflatable could be docked into a crater on Ceres and then regolith could cover it. With the lower gravity, the five meters or so needed wouldn't weigh that much. Then, the early colonists could maintain a vigorous exercise program to maintain their bone, cardiac, and muscle health. Shielded from radiation and taking measures to mitigate hypo gravity, early colonists could stay at Ceres for years. During those years, they could work on building a shielded spinning system. They could use thin Mylar mirrors or local aluminum to concentrate sunlight onto solar panels. If Ceres ice is like lunar ice, then it could provide the carbon and nitrogen for growing plants. Metals can be extracted from the regolith. So a Ceres colony could be largely independent of Earth except for the occasional shipment of higher-tech but small mass items. So settlement of Ceres is a real possibility.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I really don't think so. I think they will dump fuel normally, but if they have a situation like a fire, they will land the plane fully loaded...
    See SwissAir 111
    Loew informed ATC Halifax that he needed to dump fuel...; dumping fuel is a fairly standard procedure early on in nearly any "heavy" aircraft urgent landing scenario.
    I'm not claiming that they can't land fully loaded, but based on this event, it appears that pilots try to avoid it, even when there is evidence of a fire.
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extravoice View Post
    See SwissAir 111


    I'm not claiming that they can't land fully loaded, but based on this event, it appears that pilots try to avoid it, even when there is evidence of a fire.
    I was on a transcontinental flight where they had to shut down one of three engines about 3/4 the way. IIRC they reduced altitude in order to burn more fuel (so they had plenty more than needed). But the point of dumping fuel I think is mainly to reduce the risk of fire upon landing when systems are not working correctly. Fuel is expensive.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by IsaacKuo View Post
    The delta-v requirements to get to/from Ceres are so much higher than to get to/from Mars that this is really a minor detail. The requirements for Mars are sufficiently low that it's actually conceivable to do it all using traditional chemical rockets using fuel brought all the way from the bottom of Earth's gravity well. But that delta-v won't even go you to Ceres, much less land on it or ascend or return.

    The transit times to/from Ceres are also nasty, as well as the availability of transfer windows of you want to keep the delta-v requirements reasonable (by having either the start or end of the transfer orbit coincide with the inclination burn). It's almost a given that you'll need to use advanced propulsion, such as solar-electric, but this makes transit times very long also.
    It's kind of disappointing that when thinking about these possibilities, we don't much consider the nuclear rocket idea as pioneered by NERVA in the sixties. This was the rocket that Von Braun thought would take us to Mars by 1975.

    NASA and SNPO felt that the test "confirmed that a nuclear rocket engine was suitable for space flight application and was able to operate at a specific impulse twice that of chemical rocket system [sic]."[1] The engine was deemed adequate for Mars missions being planned by NASA. The facility was also deemed adequate for flight qualification and acceptance of rocket engines from the two contractors.

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