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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Requests for Papers, ERV Simulators

To date, the following people have asked to see the ERV paper:

- My contact at NASA (directly from me)

- A Bulgarian scientist, who I think was one of the non-finishing teams (via the ERV group list – haven’t responded yet)

- A group called The Mars Direct Project, who is modeling the vehicles in a free program called Orbiter. (Stayed up late to send this one Sunday)

This last one is excellent, because if they build my design or something close to it, I can fly it on the PC! They said the next version will allow you to model the inside of the ship, so I could walk around it as well! Even if they don't use my design, I signed on to be on the team. I wouldn't mind having a crack at another ERV with my lessons learned from this one.

I was thrilled with this last one, as that was one of my goals when I originally started this project. The person there complimented me on the level of detail in the report. I knew I’d covered my bases well, where I could, but all this time I’ve been so focused on the areas I didn’t do right that I couldn’t possibly picture myself winning.

After letting the paper sit for a month, I reviewed sections of it today. I’d forgotten how detailed I actually did get. For example, here is a passage selected at random. It concerns thermal protection of the vehicle, starting with entering the Martian atmosphere.

The craft is angled into the atmosphere on a given side opposite the truck door, which is the largest opening on the craft. Engines are hidden on the leeward side as well. The command module and service module are the biggest challenges, as they have to withstand reentry heat at Mars twice and Earth once, nose first, with hundreds of days of exposure to Martian dust in the intervening time. The nose may be protected with additional ablatives or even a separate cover during the surface stay. A system on the base, first stage, and second stage that compresses Martian air and filters it, then uses this clean air to overpressure the modules to keep dust out, forces this air slowly out across the radiator panels for added efficiency.

OK, the grammar sucks because it was written late at night, but how many people would think to use a clean room technique they’d seen at Abbott Labs while documenting the IV bottle drug assembly line and apply it to keeping dust out of a Martian spaceship? And since this air is cold soaked by having been around all the fuel tanks, blowing it out past the radiator afterwards doesn’t hurt either. NASA probably would, but a grad student wouldn’t pick up on techniques from outside their field.

I guess this puppy is a winner, after all.

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