Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Missions to Mars via the Moon

For lovers of the science fiction genre, it is compelling to think of a future where the fiction becomes fact.  History has shown that many things dreamed up by sci-fi authors have become true later.  Star Trek brought us computers, tablets, wireless communication, and virtual reality; Star Wars introduced us to hovercraft; Asimov's I, Robot gave us robots that were autonomous and humanoid.  And I can't help but wonder whether concerns voiced recently from Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates about Artificial Intelligence isn't founded on the stubborn computer, HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Some times, I can't help but wonder whether sci-fi creators are really the inspiration behind the inventions that come later on.  Who hasn't watched the Jetsons and thought, "I want robotic maids, roomba vacuums, flat screen TVs, and personal aircraft."  (I'm still waiting for the last one to avoid my freeway commute.)  Could it be that good sci-fi is merely self-fulfilling prophesy?

Oddly, while my love for reading sci-fi stems from my daydreaming of future possibilities, I never thought that any of my science fiction might someday become science fact... until a reader of The Orthogonal Galaxy emailed me a link to an article from MIT.  In a PhD thesis recently posited by MIT graduate, Takuto Ishimatsu, payload weights to Mars could be reduced by 68% if astronauts used an orbiting tanker around the Moon to refuel in space before rocketing off to the red planet.  In my book, the intent is different but the principle is the same.  Because Mars is so far, and the travel considerable, I decided that a stop at Mars for refueling was crucial to provide a sufficient propellant to get spacecraft there as quickly as possible.  In other words, my book intends to use that 68% for a super-duper booster.  Thanks to the science of Ishimatsu, perhaps my fiction just took one step closer to reality as well.

Now, let's just hope and pray that this trend of science-fiction to science-fact doesn't hold true for all of this post-apocalyptic craze, or else Suzanne Collins is going to have some serious answering to do.