Space Liner: The Sleeper Ship
If the Saturn 5, or SLS, or Falcon Heavy are only big enough to send 3 to 7 people to orbit, much less Mars … how big would a rocket need to be to send 100 there? The numbers are staggering. Far greater than any business would even consider. Let’s not even think of the other stuff, like spacesuits, bunks, tool kits, or even just living space, and then there are the issues of resources such as air, water, and food.
But what if we could package the humans in such a way as to reduce the need for all the resources? While it has been proposed that they could hibernate all the way to Mars, the technology does not yet exist to survive 6 months in hibernation. And yet, I am proposing a Sleeper Ship. Hmmm.
Medical Tools – Medically Induced Torpor (hibernation) – The first thing that needs to happen to facilitate wholesale emmigration to space is the ability to transport more than the usual 3 or 7 persons per launch. As the article describes, we cannot yet survive 6 months hibernation, but shorter terms such as a week are actually possible, and could be stretched a bit. And yes, there would be training involved, and some of that could be mitigated with computer oversight. As recent as 2005, research was showing promise for short-term hibernation, as well as in 2011, and a followup in 2013.
New Tech – Also, in recent news, crystals were found that could store and release Oxygen in substantial quantities. The question still stands whether this would take up substantially less volume than liquid oxygen stores currently used.
History – Let’s look at history. The early settlers (and slaves) were caried in cramped quarters and bunks in ships that were clearly much not advanced enough to carry them to the new world. And yet, today the airlines ferry us across the country in nearly as tightly cramped quarters as those early sailing ships. How many of us have felt like we were in a cattle car when flying or even busing across the country?
By utilizing the principle of minimalism, lets propose an initial solution. There is in use on several launch craft a Fairing. On the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch craft this fairing is 17 feet in diameter, and 45 feet long. If we treated the “accommodations” necessary for a flight to orbit, such a fairing, as a pressure vessel, could carry nearly 35 people in a single launch.
Estimating that each person is around 150-250 pounds, that would be an average launch payload of approximately 12,500 pounds. Falcon 9 is marketed to lift up to 23,000 pounds to orbit. This leaves more than sufficient mass that would be used for the capsule and air and water supplies of the 35 persons travelling the two day trip to reach a space station Transport Hub, and then the three to five days to reach the moon’s orbit.
To alleviate the myriad of issues to be faced by our emmigrants, who like their ancestors coming to the new world, know little of their transport ship. They would be sedated for the launch, and transit until docked in orbit.
The Sleeper Launch
We introduce the “Sleeper Launch”. This transit reduces many issues with untrained personnel in flight, in much the same way as airlines do today. With the passengers asleep during launch and transit, however, there will be no need for Stewards and Stewardesses during the flight.
Passengers would be sedated and provided a breathing mask, then placed in a “Water Pod”. An envelope of water with a dry inner envelope into which our passengers would be placed with their air cannister. With reasonable baffling in the water envelope, the passenger would ride within that cushion of gently warmed water all the way into orbit. “Womb Rocket”.
Passengers would be awakened by staff, “Born” into weightlessness, and guided into the habitat area of their new space environment. After which the water could be diverted to the habitat’s supplies.
While there are means to put people to sleep for extended time periods in order to reduce their impact on supplies, such methods require special training, and drugs. IF – the Crew were trained in such methods, and sufficient quantities of drugs and IV solutions could be provided, then the impact on the six month trip would be near negligible. By incorporating electrical stimulation of the body’s muscles during sleep, the atropy that normally occurs during long periods of inactivity can be reduced.
While I proposed a week long sleep between Earth launch and the arrival at the moon, such a sleep option would be fraught with untenable issues for the longer, 6 months journey to Mars. However, breaking up the crew to have most be asleep for up to three weeks at a time on a rotating basis could extend the meager life support resources they would be carrying. And down the road, up to four modules, carrying 140 souls could be docked easily with the ship for transport to Mars. With staggered sleep and waking times during the 6 month journey to Mars, much research could be accomplished, and even enhancements to the ship could be accomplished with the extra hands.
Our First Space Liner
To be effective in our goals, we must consider the existing equipment available, and how might we reconfigure it to expand its uses. Take for example, the Falcon 9 fairing from SpaceX. It is designed to support a payload volume 21 feet tall and 17 feet in diameter, and can carry 29,000 lbs to orbit.
Hmm, Take the 21′ x 17′ cylinder, place a central tube 5′ in diameter, surrounded by 5 horizontal cylinders each with a diameter of 3′ and a length of 6′. This would provide 35 berths for passengers. Weight of the personnel comes to 7000 lbs, leaving ample weight allotment of 12,000 lbs for the pressure vessel, and
life support. Within each cylinder place a “water wrapper” into which the passenger would slide, securing themselves with a harness.
In the intervening space between berths is housed the air, water, and food-IV-anesthetic solution. The “water berth” provides both the cushioning for launch, and water for delivery to their destination on arrival. The passenger module is a Sleeper Unit, meaning once passengers are placed in their berths, they are put to sleep by the IV, not to be awakened until arrival at their destination.
Without all the equipment for experiments, additional life support for moving around, and re-entry, the module could remain within the weight specifications for launch, and bring the per-person cost down to approximately $1.8 million each to orbit.
These are game chainging numbers.