Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

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Scientists find method to store natural gas as a solid

Scientists at the National University in Singapore have found a way to quickly convert natural gas into a solid that is much safer to store while using far less space.

The end product is much more convenient and safer to store and transport. As a block of ice it’s shrunk in volume by 90 times, and is non-explosive and stable enough to be stored in a regular freezer at -5 °C (23 °F). The new method also apparently requires less toxic additives than usual.

It also takes only 15 minutes to convert. Essentially, the natural gas is chemically contained within a block of ice. The video at the link explains the entire concept nicely.


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  • jburn

    I wonder if this would be useful as rocket fuel? Not so much for the intense burn required for launch from earth, but rather the slow burn required for interplanetary travel. Perhaps the water could be repurposed for other uses as well.

  • Dick Eagleson

    This could wind up being a very useful technology for spaceflight, but not as a direct replacement for liquid methane as a rocket fuel. According to the video at the link, this substance is only a fraction as methane dense as is LNG, with the balance being water.

    But the characteristics of this stuff make it look ideal for use in the SH-Starship “ecology.” To start with, it’s a better and less energy-intensive way to store large quantities of methane on the ground here on Earth than is cryogenic tankage.

    The same will apply to an even greater extent on Mars. Many parts of Mars never get above -5 degrees C even in daylight. The places that do exceed this temperature during at least part of a martian day don’t get any warmer than 20 degrees C. Rather modest energy expenditure, supplied by PV solar panels, could keep this stuff solid on Mars during the middle of even the “hottest” martian day.

    SpaceX plans to go to Mars in flotilla/armada strength with more of the ships being freighters than passenger carriers. If the cargo bays of the freighters are built as refrigerator space, then, once unloaded, they could be used to store this substance once ISRU methalox production is up and running.

    The linked article and video provided no complete recipe of what is needed to produce this new substance, but tryptophan was mentioned. Tryptophan can be produced from elements readily available on Mars – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. It would be interesting to know if the constituent elements of the unnamed parts of the recipe are also easily sourced on Mars.

  • Jay

    Dick Eagleson,
    You are right about storage of fuel, more of it could be made and stored easily in this methane hydrate form on Mars. Convert it back to liquid form when needed.
    It would take a lot of photovoltaics on Mars to power up the equipment. I believe the amount of light energy that hits Mars is about 600 watts/m^2. I think the high efficiency PVs are at best in the 40% range, so about 240w produced. A lot of panels would be needed.
    I would opt for the RTG for power. Yes, I know I am parroting Zubrin’s “Direct/Semi-Direct” papers for his use of an RTG for power in making methane.

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