Science: Space: Colony
Mercury 3.0   (+2, -7)  [vote for, against]
It Is Time To Get Serious About Colonizing Planet Mercury

Several months ago Jutta and I exchanged some e-mail over whether I could do this. She basically gave me the go-ahead for a ONE TIME ONLY appearance of this posting. So here goes. . .

I am issuing a call for participants in a project to create a comprehensive plan for the colonization of the planet Mercury.

Mercury was the subject of a number of very spirited exchanges on the 'Bakery over the past year or so. I am impressed at the number of people who had so much to say about Mercury, a planet I have been researching for almost four years now. What I saw was a very potent group of minds who, I am convinced, could solve any of the issues confronting manned settlement of Mercury.

As a planet for humans, Mercury is often regarded as a backwater at best. This attitude must be changed. Mercury has fifteen different attributes that may enable it to be a worthwhile venue for human settlement. Mercury can be settled without undue interference to lunar or Mars settlement plans currently underway. Most surprising of all, Mercury could well be the first planet beyond the Moon to be settled on a cost-effective basis!

Of course, much has to happen before anything can be done on Mercury by anyone. Our job is to get the work started.

For more details contact me through my e-mail address which has been returned to my 'Bakery bio. If you have difficulties getting through, contact Jutta as she has my permission to give out my contact info.
-- Moonguy, Jul 03 2008

Wikipedia - Mercury http://en.wikipedia...ercury_%28planet%29
[MisterQED, Jul 03 2008]

Encarta http://encarta.msn....rcury_(planet).html
Mercury [Voice, Jul 04 2008]

Venus is better Womanned_20mission_20to_20Venus
Trying to land on it would be stupid though [nineteenthly, Jul 04 2008]

Water in Mercury's exosphere http://www.planetar..._Astonished_to.html
[MisterQED, Jul 06 2008]

You should have included the 15 reasons. I have found only two which are the possibility of water ice at the poles and the slight protection of the planets magnetic field from the solar wind.
-- MisterQED, Jul 03 2008

0/15th of a bun
-- FlyingToaster, Jul 03 2008

So how do we deal with the heat?
-- Bukkakinator, Jul 03 2008

[Bukakka....] What the hell kind of moniker is that? I'm assuming you know what it means.... My sincere apologies if you've meant something else and I've misunderstood.

As to the idea, I'm a little curious. //Mercury can be settled without undue interference to lunar or Mars settlement plans currently underway.// What other plans? Are they really "currently underway" - ?

Lastly, [Moonguy], are you [MercuryNotMars]s' alternate identity?
-- Custardguts, Jul 03 2008

Is this a joke? not even a hit of "how"
-- simonj, Jul 03 2008

Exploration, manned bases, maybe resource development, but colonization is a nono on planets that can't support human life. With no hope of being self-supporting from the ground up, unlike *every* settlement on Earth, the only "colonization" options are industrial, scientific or penal.

And as far as current Earth is concerned... well, we'll be losing the polar bear to extinction this summer when for the first time in millenia the polar ice cap melts completely.

And this "group of people" would be more inclined to make a multi-billion dollar plan to toast marshmallows and slingshot them back to Earth, totally ignoring the fact that you can toast them perfectly well by dropping them from orbit, saving a 180million mile round trip.
-- FlyingToaster, Jul 03 2008

Folks, you need to go back and re-read the last part of the invite: if you ARE interested in knowing more about this project, contact me directly. If you are NOT interested, save yourself the trouble of posting questions here. They will be answered to those who reespond to the invitation.
-- Moonguy, Jul 03 2008

//re-read the last part of the invite// didn't we go over this before with the link to a youtube video ?

Pardon the skepticism but I doubt you have a few billion of any currency handy, so are you writing a book, an article or just having a bit of fun ?
-- FlyingToaster, Jul 03 2008

//Exploration, manned bases, maybe resource development, but colonization is a nono on planets that can't support human life.// The Wikipedia thinks that there is significant water ice at the polls.

From Wikipedia "The icy regions are believed to be covered to a depth of only a few meters, and contain about 10^14–10^15 kg of ice.[45] By comparison, the Antarctic ice sheet on Earth has a mass of about 4×10^18 kg, and Mars’ south polar cap contains about 10^16 kg of water.[45] The origin of the ice on Mercury is not yet known, but the two most likely sources are from outgassing of water from the planet’s interior or deposition by impacts of comets.[45]"

Power is easy, if there is that much water, then all you need is arable soil.
-- MisterQED, Jul 03 2008

Everyone knows that Bukkak is the vocalization made by alarmed chickens. Bukkakinator is obviously one who does. That's what he does. THAT'S ALL HE DOES!

I am curious: why not knock this idea around right here on the HB? Is that not what one does on the HB?
-- bungston, Jul 03 2008

Moonguy is shopping for a crew to man his ship--a sort of 'B' Ark to Mercury. As this crew won't be coming back, one qualification is that they won't be missed by society at large. Thus this halfbakery posting.
-- ldischler, Jul 03 2008

In the States, I believe the onomatopoeia used to express the interjection vocalized by poultry is spelled "Bukkaw".

IMHO, more details of how to establish colonization would be needed to qualify this as an invention.
-- ed, Jul 03 2008

Hell, it's all just a bit weird. Why the secrecy, [Moonguy] - If that is your real name?
-- Custardguts, Jul 03 2008

[MisterQED] possible difference of nomenclature: I can't wrap my head around the concept of the word "colony" being defined as "an environment where the default human condition is 'very very dead'".
-- FlyingToaster, Jul 03 2008

//[MisterQED] possible difference of nomenclature: I can't wrap my head around the concept of the word "colony" being defined as "an environment where the default human condition is 'very very dead'".// [FlyingToaster] I'll be the first to say that I think this idea is not even Halfbaked, I expected more on the realization of the idea, but why do you think that life on Mercury would be any more harsh than life on the Moon? Or is it space in general that you have an issue with? The basic approach to a colony on either would be the same, land in a crater on one of the polls where the crater walls sheild you from the direct radiation then reflect the amount of light you do need into the crater to heat and light airtight greenhouses where people can live. One obvious advantage is the even easier access to abundant solar energy. If there is water ice then you have hot and cold, so you can do PV and Stirling engines. Is the whole place radioactive? Maybe, but it may also be chock full of tritium and other fun things that could make fusion reactors here on Earth efficient. And I see three ways of saving this planet, getting some people off it, convincing them to stop multiplying or converting to nuclear power. Heck, the last only delays the inevitable and the second isn't going very well.
-- MisterQED, Jul 04 2008

It would work in Chao Meng Fu if you could get there. Getting there would be more of a problem. I still think a brief and non-genitally oriented mission to Venus would be a better idea.
-- nineteenthly, Jul 04 2008

Can you push soil into a wide circle at one of the poles to block sunlight?

Can you combine olivine with carbon dioxide and make oxygen and steel for building, drilling, and protection with the resulting minerals?

Can you crash a load of wood and let it break down in sunlight for carbon?
-- Voice, Jul 04 2008

The poles are quite cold. There should be a place underground on Mercury where overlying thermal mass evens out day and night to create earth-like temperatures all year. Can we dig that far? Can we seal up any rooms we make? Is it geographically stable enough? Would it help to burrow in at the base of a cliff?
-- Voice, Jul 04 2008

Parts of Chao Meng Fu are in permanent darkness and are ice-covered. I wonder if there's dry ice as well as water ice, but i'm not aware of the presence of nitrogen, which would be needed for protein synthesis unless biomasse were taken too.
-- nineteenthly, Jul 04 2008

[Voice] I have an overall structure available for life in a cliffside (hexagonal cross-section rooms: amazing space-utilization and much better environmental pressure-differential properties with common walls unlike square/rectangular or circular, though if you're building a "sunroom" you have to let R.Buckminster Fuller come out and play.

[19th] Venus is actively malignant towards fleshy water-cycle critters and their creations: temperature, pressure, winds whereas a vacuum is "only" passively deadly: the difference between being nekkid at the South Pole... and being nekkid at the South Pole with people shooting at you. Long term though, Venus can be terraformed.

[MisterQED] sorry, can't explain properly, I think "non-compatible native environment" is as close as I can get.
-- FlyingToaster, Jul 04 2008

[FlyingToaster], my idea wasn't to go anywhere near the surface, any more than you'd try to "land" on Jupiter. That's not achievable or even worth trying. See link.
-- nineteenthly, Jul 04 2008

"As a planet for humans, Mercury is often regarded as a backwater at best. This attitude must be changed."

-- Murdoch, Jul 04 2008

There are a couple of reasons. It has lots of easily available energy from the sun and it's the densest planet in the solar system, so it is probably high in certain elements. It has a magnetic field and its gravity is about the same as Martian gravity, so people aren't so susceptible to osteoporosis as they would be in microgravity conditions. It's also relatively controllable because of the nature of the atmosphere and it's only a bit further than Mars. I agree it's a nice place.
-- nineteenthly, Jul 04 2008

I'm somewhat interested in this but not enough to put much effort into finding more information. You should have put more on here.
-- apocalyps956, Jul 05 2008

Water found in Mercury's exosphere, see link.
-- MisterQED, Jul 06 2008

Okay, now that it has been a couple weeks since this was posted, I can finally get to responding to some of the comments made here. 1. [simonj] No, this is not a joke. It is a sincere effort to get a group of very bright people together on a subject that gets no attention otherwise. 2. [Custardguts] No. I am not 'MercuryNotMars', though I REALLY would like to hear from him/her! 3. [Bukkakinator] I like your code name 'cause I used to raise chickens. . .reminds me of younger days! 4. [Ian Tindale] I never read 'Brightside Crossing' but suspect it may not have gotten a true picture of conditions on Mercury. Could you enlighten me further? 5. [Flying Toaster] You are only too right: I don't have several billions of dollars lying around. My wife has often expressed great sorrow on that very point. 6. [bungston] That was my first thought too, but I wanted to get a serious effort to actually work out a feasible plan. There is a LOT of ground to cover. . .

The posting deserved to be boned because it was not very well written. For THAT I apologize. As for the idea of colonizing Mercury itself, I stand by it. Can we get past bad writing and take up the subject again?

For a start: I made the comment that Mercury could be settled with little impact on manned Mars operations. Launches to Mars occur every 780 days or so. For Mercury, launches can occur every 116 days. That's means you can launch to Mercury during those years 'in between' Mars launches. In fact, because you are ordering boosters during the in-between years, the cost of producing each booster goes down. The effect is to actually lower the cost of individual Mars launches through 'bulk' purchasing.

Mercury cost effective? Yes. If you accept the premise that available energy resources determine a locations productivity potential, then Mercury has a much better shot at profitability than Mars - though I hold great hope for Mars to have geothermal energy available, which would balance things a bit.
-- Moonguy, Jul 18 2008

Mercury's USPs are solar power and mineral resources. It would provide around six times the solar power per area compared to Earth orbit or on the Moon. Putting power stations near the sun would generate lots of power, but it'd have to be gotten to Earth to be useful. On Mercury it could power mining.

There's living on Mercury because you want to, and going there for Earth. The first is straightforward but hard to motivate. The latter might involve sending chunks of metal back, which would take some energy, but not necessarily lots. Cost-effective mining would mean doing all of that was cheaper than getting it out of this planet or recycling it. Maybe that will be so one day. Energy is also cheap in space compared to Earth.
-- nineteenthly, Jul 18 2008

Mercury's average solar flux is 8.2 kw/m2. At perihelion it goes up to 9.9 kw/m2.

Powersats are like aircraft carriers: large, complex constructions that take a year or two to build.

Mercury could export energy to Earth (or Mars)in the form of powersat modules delivered over the period of construction. The only realistic competitor would be the Moon. The Moon would have to use chemical systems to transport powersat modules from lunar orbit (or L2) to the powersat construction orbit. This is true even if the Moon uses a mass driver to get powersat modules off of the Moon.

By contrast, Mercury could use a mass driver to transport powersat modules off of Mercury to be picked up by a solar sail. The solar sail could deliver the modules to Earth orbit using no chemical propellant at all. Time of flight for a solar sail is determined by the sail's load and the sail's area. Also, sails are mass producable. And Mercury has departure opportunities every 116 days! It might take two years to get the first load arriving at Earth, but subsequent loads would follow at at least 116-day intervals. All with essentially no chemical propulsion involved.
-- Moonguy, Jul 18 2008

A solar sail would imply quite a small payload, but the mass driver might work. However, i think it would work better if there were a series of orbiting battery packs whose perihelion was near Mercury's and whose aphelion near Earth's. Microwaves could be used to transmit stored energy generated at Mercury's surface and again at the other end. However, if that were done, Mercury itself would become surplus to requirements because the battery packs could generate their own solar power.

What about energy from the temperature change on Mercury or from its magnetic field?
-- nineteenthly, Jul 19 2008

//A solar sail would imply quite a small payload//

It depends on where you start from. A two-kilometer diameter solar sail could transport a 180 metric tonne mass to Mercury orbit from Earth in about 1500 days. A long wait to be sure, but it does this without propellant. Going the other way, the same sail can transport at least as much from Mercury even faster because it is starting from a region with several times the solar flux. Alternately,if you are willing to wait, more mass can be transported. Solar sails are cool that way. . .lots of flexibility!

I would think it would take a great deal of mass to make the battery packs you mentioned. That would keep Mercury employed for quite a while if you are trying to capture a significant fraction of the world's burgeoning energy market.
-- Moonguy, Jul 19 2008

[Murdoch] Why? Any healthy society is characterized by the extent to which it creates opportunities for its people. When opportunities cease to be created, hope eventually ceases to be the prevailing attitude. Nations decline as a result. Just ask any ancient Romans you run into.

Settling the Moon and at least some of the planets opens new opportunities for people. My research and my backround as a business major (and owner) tells me Mercury is a seriously potent place for a number of industries. Energy is just one.

For another example, I could see a trade relationship where Mars sends methane produced from martian atmosphere and water to Mercury and Mercury sends back stainless steel made with martian carbon and Mercury iron. The hydrogen from the methane would be net payment to Mercury. Mars has iron, so why not produce stainless steel there? Productivity rates on Mercury would be MUCH higher than any possible rate for Mars, for a given mass investment. Per-mass unit costs - particularly if non-chemical propulsion is used for delivery - can be significantly lower for Mercury's steel than for steel produced on Mars.
-- Moonguy, Jul 19 2008

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