In my flying machine…

This is a study of a project for economy space travel to Mars. First, we study its constraints, build it’s initial mass of early adopters, slowly expand the user base and finally overcome any constraints in scaling.

Some of the constraints include:

  • Technical
    • Overcoming earth’s gravitational field
    • Building a great spaceship which is safe and reusable
  • Marketing
    • Attracting people to give up 5-10 years of their life on a trip
  • Logistics
    • Keeping people entertained for a long time
    • Having enough store of food, water, enough daily supplies

Overcoming constraints

  • As suggested in Arthur C. Clarke‘s work, a space elevatorcould be constructed to overcome the gravitational field of earth. After that, sending spaceships to other planets does not require too much thrust to reach the destination of their choice. There would be issues in landing the aircraft of course. But, perhaps, a space elevator/orbital tower could be constructed in Mars too, which could ease the descent of the travelers onto the planet.
  • SpaceX is already coming up with reusable spaceships. This technology needs to be utilized into coming up with mass-produced spaceships that can seat up to 500-1000 people.
  • Have plenty of sports, movie theaters, gyms, offices, clubs, restaurants and other places of social gathering and business inside the spaceship.
  • Come up with solutions to growing natural food on the spaceship. Also, store or produce enough water (through some process perhaps) to sustain for the entire journey.
  • People may be attracted to the idea of taking a 5-10 year sabbatical from their full-time jobs, while giving them the opportunity to keep their skills sharp by giving them jobs in businesses which run on the spaceships.

Constraints removed & scaling achieved

With all the above constraints removed, it appears there is a scope to scale this business into a fleet of space-faring ships which run trips to Mars and other inhabitable moons or astronomical bodies in the solar system.


Post-script

As Elon Musk says, “we should become a space-faring civilization”. I think people could be attracted to undertake such a long journey by emphasizing the awesomeness of journeying into outer space. Sounds exotic and exciting!

I think the targeted persona could be people who are retired or interested in a sort of “early retirement” or in perhaps undertaking a “mini-retirement” from their careers.

Also, it is interesting to think in terms of toggling some of the individual constraints back and forth. Just overcoming the technical constraint of the earth’s gravitational field seems like a big step forwards in exploring not only economy space travel, but a host of other opportunities which could open up for mankind.

Success in this venture would look like having numerous happy and satisfied customers have traveled back and forth to Mars. In order for the business to grow, it needs a growing army of satisfied clientele who can tell others about their great experiences. Looking at the results of surveys and the number of people who have expressed genuine interest in traveling to Mars, it seems the market for this could be potentially big.

We could look at taking the help of space entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson, scientists and astronauts.

Some of the worst case scenarios I can think of are:

  • Spacecraft are unsafe or unfit for travel and people become sick or die during the journey
  • Entire spaceship blows up because of some issue and everyone on board dies
  • Spacecraft do not coordinate well with each other and crash into each other resulting in deaths of everyone on board
  • Spaceship runs out of food
  • Agriculture on board the spaceship fails and no new food can be grown
  • Spaceship runs out of water
  • Spaceship runs out of clean air
  • People on board go crazy for some reason and start fighting with each other
  • The flight crew go crazy and start fighting with each other or with passengers
  • Flight crew get sick and die. Who flies the spaceship?
  • Other disasters
    • Aliens attack (!?)
    • Asteroid falls on spaceship
    • Guidance mechanism fails and spaceship drifts away from destination

Knowing and analyzing the above scenarios, we need to come up with strategies to handle all of them.

P.S. The title is in reference to the Cliff Richard song: