Cottage Views from Earth Orbit
Today, after years of preparation we finally launched our space ship into orbit. Had we been earlier we could have gotten the X-Prize. The views are tremendous, well worth the long wait. (Click the image above for a much larger view.) Seeing the International Space Station up close and personal was a real treat. Due to our funky orbit it was a trick catching a photo as we whip by. Sadly our launch schedule just missed the shuttle which landed recently. Still, the breath taking views of the blue marble are amazing. One of those lifetime experiences you’ll never forget. You really should take the kids on a trip like this. It will almost be a sad day taking when we leave orbit but great adventure awaits us!
As we begin our six month journey to Mars we leave with confidence that our caretakers are fully able to handle all the chores now that we have the farm sufficiently automated. We’ve brought along just a small breeding herd of pigs, a few sheep for milk and wool and a two dozen chickens for our trip. With luck there won’t be any hard births like last year’s three headed pig.
The cottage performed perfectly during launch with the wood burning rocket stove producing over 17,000,000 pounds of thrust. The automatic wood feeder was well worth the time and effort it took to perfect – we would not want to have had to been throwing logs into the fire at the rate of one every 0.47 seconds while under three G’s of force pressing down upon us. In all the rocket stove burned an efficient 3.14159265358979 cords of wood. That’s approximately 9,424 pounds of wood in a quick 9.22 minute burn. Nobody blacked out but the cottage did shake a lot. We lost a few plates and one mug that was not properly secured before liftoff but that is minor damage. Fortunately, although they heated red hot, the ceramic chimney tiles withstood both the temperature extreme and the force of lifting our 100,000 lb cottage in our unusual polar orbit. As you can see in the photo below the rocket stove was a little discolored after it cooled from the heat of launch. Below the stove is additional wood we’ll use for manuvering before we do our burn to begin the next part of our journey to Mars.
Please note that our primary stage rocket was jettisoned so that it will fall harmlessly over the empty expanse of land at latitude 38′ 53°N, longitude 77′ 02°W on April 1st at 9:47 pm (±3 seconds). The time leeway gives about a 25 mile impact zone. Traveling at 14,000 miles per hour (slowed by air resistance) and weighing only 15 tons there should be no significant damage however it is recommended that travelers avoid the target area during the twelve hours before and after impact.
Ben’s Zero-G Gymnastics
Once we were in orbit we all had a lot of fun with zero-G gymnastics. “Perpetual falling” as Ben said. I tried to get photos of five year old Hope but she was bouncing off the walls and ceiling so fast she blurred out. Hopefully the exercise we get from learning to maneuver in zero-G will make up for not being able to go outside for the next ten days while the solar flares die down. When we pass behind the moon we’ll have some time to safely check the exterior, reconfigure and prepare for our long burn outward.
While we won’t have the large acreage of our farm on earth during this two and a half year round trip we fortunately will have our new greenhouse which is now fully glazed and air tight to the vacuum of space. The few pigs, sheep and chickens we brought seem to be doing fine in there although the sheep appear bewildered. Holly says they were like that on Earth too. It will be very interesting to see how the animals and plants adapt to space. This is important research for developing sustainable colonies outside the well.
Working with such a small space ship, just 14’x20’x11′ for the crew capsule, we had to get very creative with our use of space so we have many built-ins that fold and transform from one thing to another depending on the current needs for desk space, shelf space, benches, sleeping pallets, etc. Magnets and velcro strategically sewn into clothing and attached to objects keep things from floating away under zero-G and also give us a little up-down orientation. Super magnets in our socks let us walk along the floors and ceiling which have rebar and WWMesh in them. I do admit that the use of concrete and granite in a spaceship is highly unusual but it worked better than the advanced ceramics on the space shuttle, storing up heat so that the interior of the cottage remains tempered. By rotating the cottage as we travel we will be able to absorb or reflect heat as needed using our foil roof.
Communications won’t be a problem during the first part of our trip while we maintain a line of sight with Earth satellites and thus the Internet. We will soon start to experience significant ping time lags but the data rate will still be high unlike with the slow modem systems used in earlier NASA expeditions. This means the kids will be able to continue with their homeschooling, I can keep up my blog and we can keep in contact with friends and family back on Earth. Just no twittering or phone conversations. Before we get to non-LOS we’ll deploy the auxiliary relay satellites to keep in touch.
Since we will be running completely on solar power and methane co-generation (in the greenhouse from the pigs) we are using energy efficient LED lightning. I have modified the refrigerator to vent heat to space on the dark side and we’ll do most of our cooking on the wood stove which will be continuing to provide a gentle acceleration until we reach the flip over point. We do have an electric backup stove as well as ready-to-eat canned goods for those times when we can’t run the rocket stove. I’m a little worried about the built up of heat inside so we have a dry air pump system setup to run through the portals for cooling. We’ll see how that actually runs in practice. Fortunately we’re used to the cold where we came from in Vermont. After all, space is only -455°F. Not much worse than a bad Vermont winter.
Outdoors: 50°F/-455°F Cloudy on the ground, Starry with clouds below from space
Farm House: 35°F/33°F
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/59°F Fire