The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 290: Appendix: Technological Glossary

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HERMES - The most expensive single thing ever built by mankind. Designed to operate in space for a thirty-year lifespan, the ship transports crew members and the Mars Descent Vehicle (see separate entry) from Earth to Mars and then returns the crew and surface samples to Earth. The ship is powered by nuclear-powered VASIMR ion engines that use xenon ions to produce continuous thrust. The ship is designed to spin on its central axis to provide Mars-level artificial gravity via centrifugal force in a ring of habitat compartments. The ship has a vehicular air lock in the nose and two other airlocks down the ship's spine, all of which are capable of hard docking with compatible vessels or operating as points of exit or entry for astronauts on EVA (extravehicular activity).

ARES PREFABRICATED SURFACE HABITAT ("THE HAB") - An inflatable, climate-controlled, radiation-shielded habitat used by the expeditions of Project Ares for between seven and sixty sols (Martian days) on the surface of Mars. The Hab is assembled from supplies contained in fourteen pre-supply probes launched years ahead of the arrival of the expedition; the crew is trained to unpack and assemble the Hab in a single eight-hour EVA. The Hab has three airlocks, fifteen hydrogen electrical storage units rated for 9000 watt-hours of storage each, storage for 300 liters of water, 100 liters of compressed oxygen, 50 liters of compressed nitrogen, and food supplies for 150% of the expected mission duration of the expedition in progress, plus a small geology-chemistry lab, a microwave oven for heating food packs, six bunks, and a decontamination shower to clean perchlorate-tainted surface dust off the suits and crew.

HAB CANVAS - An extremely strong flexible multi-layer laminate fabric. The fabric is designed to provide radiation shielding and atmospheric containment under extreme differential pressure for the Hab. It is assembled and held together through the use of a special binary resin that, when mixed, hardens into a near-perfect seal in sixty seconds even under normal Martian surface conditions. This resin comes both in tubes for spot use and "seal strips" for rapid application along long, straight seams.

ARES EXPEDITION ROVER - A large four-wheeled conveyance designed for occupancy of one driver and two passengers plus both internally and externally stowed cargo. The driver compartment is internally pressurized and climate controlled to permit the removal of space suits during operation. Each rover has four independently driven electric wheels powered by a lithium-ion 9000 watt-hour battery. Each Ares mission is supplied two rovers which, in case of emergency, can be linked together using specialized tow hooks that allow the sharing of power and air between the vehicles. Two spare wheels are shipped in supply in case of defects or breakage. Top speed: 25 km/h. Maximum range: 35 km. Maximum mission travel radius: 10 km. The loss of one rover is automatic grounds for scrub of all subsequent rover-based EVA tasks and potential grounds for a mission abort. Carbon dioxide levels inside the rover are controlled by use of single-use, non-recyclable lithium hydroxide filters.

ATMOSPHERIC REGULATOR - A Hab subsystem which detects and regulates the amounts of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide in the Hab's atmosphere. Regulation of these levels is done by either adding more of the desired substance from storage tanks or removing it by a fractionation process utilizing Mars's natural cold. Air is passed through an external component (AREC) outside the containment of the Hab, reducing the energy required to cool the air in question to a liquid. The differing points of condensation allows the atmospheric regulator to control which portions of the air are sent to storage tanks. The returning air is then heated electrically back to the internal temperature of the Hab. The atmospheric regulator cannot condense or separate gases lighter than nitrogen.

OXYGENATOR - A Hab subsystem that converts carbon dioxide, separated from the internal atmosphere by the atmospheric regulator, into breathable oxygen through the use of heating elements and catalysts. The resulting carbon residue is the primary waste product.

WATER RECLAIMER - A Hab subsystem that filters and purifies used water, including excess atmospheric water vapor, and returns the clean water to the storage tank for reuse. This system saves water weight of as much as four times the weight of the unit itself. The filtration systems require regular maintenance, but the filters themselves are reusable with a long service life.

ATMOSPHERIC CONTAINMENT GARMENTS ("space suit") - Come in two varieties: a normal version used for wear aboard Hermes, for use interfacing with a manned maneuvering unit (MMU) on spacewalks, or during descent and ascent to/from Mars; and a highly robust, wear-resistant surface suit specifically designed to limit damage from dust, rocks, regolith, etc. on the Martian surface. The surface suits in particular use non-reusable filters to scrub carbon dioxide from the internal atmosphere (of the same kind used in the rovers). The suits also have two liters of atmospheric storage (compressed liquid oxygen and nitrogen), a small water reservoir, short-range radio, and internal displays projected onto the inside of the helmet visor. Two cameras are mounted on the helmet and right arm. Internal batteries, good for twelve hours of continuous function, are recharged using special racks contained in the Hab and plugs available in the rovers. All helmets are standardized to be interchangeable with all suits; gloves, however, are custom-fit to each astronaut.

COMMUNICATIONS ARRAY - Two separate systems, connected via cable to the Hab's radio systems. Outgoing transmissions are conducted using a large parabolic tracking dish for direct communications to Earth. Incoming signals are received via a large array of small wire antennae to be spread across the surface near the Hab. In case of loss of the main communications system, the MAV communications systems are triply redundant, allowing direct communications with Earth, Hermes, or any of the many orbiters in Mars local space. Loss of main communications is a condition for mission abort. The Hab also has a simple broadcast beacon for use by the rover and suit navigation systems, separate from the main communications systems.

MARS DESCENT VEHICLE (MDV) - A capsule designed solely to bring the crew from Hermes to the expedition site on the Martian surface. Using a combination of heat shields, parachutes, and thrusters (powered by hydrazine), the capsule descends through the Martian atmosphere to a pinpoint targeted landing zone. Once the MDV commits to descent, there is no possible abort, nor any return to Hermes except via the MAV. The interior cabin of the MDV is almost identical to the MAV, with internal life support for up to forty-eight hours in case of contingencies involving Hab assembly.

MARS ASCENT VEHICLE (MAV) - The single largest and heaviest pre-supply payload delivered to Mars prior to a surface expedition. In order to save the weight of fuel necessary to reach orbit from the Martian surface (about the same weight as the empty, unfueled vehicle), the MAV lands on Mars two years prior to the human crew and uses a radioisotope thermal generator (RTG) to power a fuel plant that converts carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into methane and oxygen. This process requires fifteen months.

The vehicle consists of a descent stage (containing heat shield, parachutes, and just enough thruster power for a controlled vertical landing, plus the RTG and fuel plant), two ascent stages (the first with multiple engines, the second with a single engine), and a two-deck capsule for the crew and cargo.

On-board life support is charged from Hab supplies and can hold up to three days of air. Solar panels enable a backup communications satellite mode in the event that an expedition is scrubbed before landing or if the MAV is unable to land. The MAV contains triply-redundant communications systems capable of establishing data links direct with Earth or with any spacecraft or satellite in or near Mars orbit.

The MAV is the single most mission critical piece of hardware in any Ares expedition. If a MAV is not fully functional, the expedition will not attempt a landing. If any contingency arises which would present a danger to the MAV, the mission will be immediately aborted and the astronauts will launch immediately for rendezvous with Hermes.


AMICITAS - Equus's first purpose-built multiple-use spacecraft (as opposed to capsules and prefabricated habitat compartments). Originally designed by Twilight Sparkle as a test bed for magic-powered fuelless rocket systems, Amicitas was the first piloted vehicle to orbit the moon. Amicitas was pulled out of semi-retirement for use as the test bed for the final planned test flight of the Sparkle Drive (see below).

In the configuration used for the third flight of Amicitas, the ship interior was composed of three airtight chambers. The cockpit or bridge contained seating for seven and all controls required for operation of the ship, plus a non-dockable personnel airlock. The central compartment, the habitat deck, contained the food supplies for the voyage, the sleeping area, and a dorsal docking port for use with the joint space programs' space station or other craft. The rear compartment, the engineering deck, contained the Sparkle Drive and a massive array of mana batteries for use in powering both the Sparkle Drive and the three main orbital engines. Access to the engines and batteries is accomplished via an extra-large cargo air lock.

The exterior of the ship consisted of an outer hull shaped in a streamlined lifting-body configuration to allow a runway landing (although emergency parachutes were also available), three main engines for use in orbit or deep space, and eight maneuvering thruster blocks. Initial launch to orbit is accomplished by an array of external booster rockets using chemical propulsion. A water-based cooling system runs between the outer and inner hull to regulate the temperature of the ship while in space.

Electrical power was provided by a mana-to-electricity conversion system, with an emergency backup solar array deployable from a compartment above the bridge in case the converter failed. Communications with Equus were provided by a magic telepresence array that provided instant FTL video and audio communications with the ground. An electric radio with six pre-set frequency-modulation channels acted as an emergency backup communications system.

SPARKLE DRIVE - An enchanted artifact designed to teleport itself and anything attached to it a certain pre-set distance every time an electrical pulse is sent into its main crystal. As with more common teleportation spells, the magical energy required is proportional to the square of the distance traveled, but the time required for a teleport is virtually instantaneous regardless of distance. Thus, by teleporting very short distances hundreds of thousands of times per second, apparent velocities can be attained that would be impossible using reaction-based propulsion. However, the enchantment, being unintelligent, can only teleport a fixed distance in a specific orientation (usually aligned with the nose of the ship). The only exception is a special safety enchantment that forces the teleport to displace the destination the shortest possible distance required to avoid collisions or the coexistence of two different masses within the same space.

The Sparkle Drive avoids relativistic effects by bypassing them entirely. Post-teleport the momentum of the equipped craft remains precisely the same. However, by displacing itself from point to point in space without traversing the space between, the Drive can allow travel faster than light without actually achieving the velocity of light.

In practice, the Sparkle Drive consists of control systems, the core teleport-enchanted artifact, and an array of mana batteries which collect mana beyond the ability of the Drive alone and which moderate power flow and demand to the Drive.

MANA BATTERIES - Although all enchanted artifacts store magical energy, or mana, as part of their enchantment, artifacts specifically designed for no purpose other than to store mana for future use were not developed by ponykind prior to the Equestrian Space Race of 1006-1007 CR. Early models required manual charging by unicorns and thus were prone to discharge and exhaustion, but the most recent version of the enchantment allows automatic environmental recharging.

The mana batteries installed for Amicitas Flight Three were composed of a crystal cube (amethyst for preference) containing the battery enchantment, encased in an open metal frame which also included the terminals, charge readouts, and control switches between recharge mode (off) and discharge mode (on). Amicitas contained one hundred batteries as part of the Sparkle Drive power array, plus two separate emergency batteries for use in powering bridge control systems.

MANA-ELECTRIC CONVERTER - A system which converts mana drawn from a battery into direct-current electricity. The process works in part because magical energy has a much higher potential energy state than electrical charge; the process is not reversible, in the same way that a water wheel cannot be used to pump water upstream merely by reversing the rotation of the wheel.

LIFE SUPPORT TELEPORTATION SYSTEM - A system which has, at its core, two or three pairs of magically linked crystals. The larger crystal of the pair remains at base (specifically, the Life Support Monitor Building, Cape Friendship Space Center, Baltimare, Equestria) and powers the enchantment for both crystals. The smaller crystal rides in the space suit or spaceship being supplied with life support. Various external systems provide additional controls, including activating or deactivating transmission through the magic link. The system provides normal Equus atmosphere at Baltimare local pressure, cold water for drinking, and (in the case of spaceship life support systems) a small stream of hot water for use in reconstituting and heating dehydrated meals. The air system provides for two-way circulation of air in order to keep the astronaut's air clean; the water system is one-way.

The chief drawback to the system is that the trans-dimensional link which allows instant transmission of materials also disrupts a certain percentage of many if not most molecular bonds, particularly carbon bonds or any bond which might lead to an exothermic chemical reaction. Attempts to use the system to transmit liquid food have proven messy and disgusting; attempts to transmit rocket fuels like kerosene, alcohol, or hydrazine have proven disastrously explosive. Attempts to convert the system into a rocket engine in its own right have failed owing to the relative fragility of the crystals on the receiving end. Although experiments at ending the issue continue, they have taken a much lower priority compared to improving the performance of magic-powered thrusters and developing the Sparkle Drive.

TELEPRESENCE SPELL - An all-purpose audiovisual communications spell, producing live, real-time communications between multiple stations. The system cannot provide recordings on its own; recordings must be made by filming or taping the output using conventional recording devices. Each spacecraft launched from Equus contains a full telepresence array, powered by ambient magic. Spacesuits contain a weaker version of the spell with a limited range should the master spell be deactivated.

MAGIC THRUSTERS - A system invented by Twilight Sparkle that converts stored magic power into propulsive thrust. In theory the final development of this technology would be a rocket system requiring no fuel whatever. The three main engines equipped on Amicitas for its third flight, the current peak efficiency revision of the system, produce a combined thrust sufficient to hover approximately eighteen tons at one Equus gravity. In orbit, with the vessel fully crewed and stocked, this would produce a maximum acceleration of the roughly sixty-ton mass of about three meters per second per second. All Equus space suits are equipped with thruster packs based on the same technology; these packs are vastly more effective on the astronauts' smaller masses.


PATHFINDER and SOJOURNER - Launched from Earth in 1996, the first (and only) successful "Faster Better Cheaper" Mars probe landed in Ares Vallis in the southernmost region of Chryse Planitia in July 1997. The combined mission of the Pathfinder base station and the small Sojourner rover, planned for thirty days, lasted almost a hundred days before Pathfinder ceased operations. The exact cause of the shutdown is unknown, but is presumed to be failure of Pathfinder's battery.

Pathfinder, the mission's base station, operated a meteorological package and provided direct contact to Earth using an aimable high-gain antenna and a weaker low-gain antenna, originally designed for a maximum transmission rate of about 1400 baud at Earth-Mars closest approach. (Communications limits were due to the distance between worlds and the very low power levels available for the probe.) Pathfinder also had a dual-camera stereoscopic imager on a tall mast capable of producing 360-degree three-dimensional panoramic views. The rover Sojourner had a spectroscope capable of limited mineral analysis plus a trio of cameras used both for examining nearby rocks and testing self-driving and obstacle-avoidance algorithms.

Although the mission delivered real science achievements, its primary legacy is as proof of technology which would be used for much greater effect on future Mars missions.

SPACEX RED FALCON - An adaptation of the (in)famous "B.F.R.", Red Falcon is the single most powerful booster system ever put into regular service in lifting payloads into space. In its cargo configuration it is rated for delivery of up to forty tons of payload to the Martian surface during the Hohmann transfer window. (This amount decreases to twenty tons if the first stage is staged early for landing and reuse.) The Red Falcons used to provide most of the presupply launches for each Ares mission, plus most of the components of the current space station, represent SpaceX's main contribution to Project Ares.

BATHROOMS (in space) - Human or pony, Hab or spaceship or spacesuit, they are NEVER good enough. The less said the better.

Author's Notes:

I'm sure the loyal readers who responded to every update for months will correct me on details or contradictions, or point out things that need to be added here.

For future readers, I hope this appendix answers questions (including the #1 question ever asked, "Why don't they send food/magic/Pinkie Pie through the life support?").

And now that I have your attention... some readers have got together with a pony POD outfit, Avonder, to make a hardcopy Maretian edition. If you're interested, answer this poll:


Another reader was making a POD for themselves, but I don't think they're doing mass production...

Anyway, we need to get responses soon to gauge demand for the print run. Typesetting is in progress. Let us know!

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