This morning I made a visit to the post office, sending off twenty printed, signed copies of THE BIG RED BUCKLE to some really excellent engineers doing mankind’s work. “What?” I hear you mumble way over there. It’s pretty simple.
A diverse collection of students at Arizona State University is trying to create an open-source, highly adaptable construction utility that could be used for a variety of purposes here and abroad. And by “abroad” I mean Mars. Imagine a rig, similar to the prototype they want to build, that can be outfitted and modified, on-the-spot, to accomplish anything. Moving great, heaping mounds of freshly manufactured green-house compost on its way to surface garden beds under a domed crater; outfitted with a rudimentary robotic semi-autonomous sensory/navigation rig and an ice mining auger; or oversized “resilient wheels” of spun aluminum, mined and smelted on the red planet, and mounted to the chassis along with a left over fuel tank section of some delivery vehicle and astronauts in the future will have whipped up a Mobile Habitation Module.
When I think of humanity’s future on Mars I don’t see in my mind’s eye a panorama replete with single-purpose designs like this.
That is pretty, and it worked in OBLIVION sure, but only just. Rather, when I imagine that future I see designs that empower the hands that will move them about the fines. These things must be infinitely versatile and interchangeable. And, most importantly, these tools need to be developed now.
Some time ago I had a conversation with a proponent of privatized space ventures. This person came to the table with a gallon glass jug of his favorite kool-aid and proceeded to try and fill everyone’s glass with his favorite flavor. When he got around to pouring it into my cup I stopped him and he asked, “why?” My answer was that I try very hard to remain agnostic about space exploration. “Want to build an orbital space station near Earth? I’m cool with that. Have a pile of private funding to dump into rocket design and manufacture? You go do your thing. Interested in reaching for a piece of mankind’s future on Mars? Hey, I’m on your side. I am an explorer at heart. Not any particular kind of explorer, just a person who really wants to see us all on our way.”
So, with that, I encourage you to go check out Mars Trac‘s Indiegogo campaign. It’s “Flex Funded”, which means the campaign will receive all funds raised even if it does not reach its goal, and that gives the team the freedom to take what you can spare and apply it toward their ultimate goal without fear of coming up short. This my friends is merit incarnate. This is what it looks like when a few dedicated people break the mold and make their dream happen. If you’d like to see more people making things like this, you should go support this campaign. And, as a super cool bonus, you could end up with some really excellent art to read or hang on your wall.