Friday, November 6, 2015

The Explorer-Engineer

 The Explorer-Engineer
by Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann

There is only room for one man on the Phaeton. Only one – but in great comfort. The man who is outward bound on the Phaeton has just retired healthy, athletic, a minor scientist, ex-pilot, excellent engineer, 60 years old, from a long-lived family, and without close relatives. In his younger days he served three missions alone: one in the Antarctic for 18 months, one on the moon for 8 months, and a highly commendable 4 year mission on Pluto’s moon. He served all alone and is worthy of a footnote in history. 

He will pilot the first starship, he will do it alone. With a little luck he will be the first human to come close to not just one, but a number of stars. He will never return. But he will be remembered, cherished, and enshrined in humankind’s history books. 

The supplies carried are ample to the point of luxury. 100 tons, at 10 pounds a day, will suffice for 20,000 days or 50 years. In addition he has machinery with the capacity to recycle air, water, and food such that, at worst, he need consume only one pound of stores per day. His recycling equipment has a total mass of about 50 tons. The recyclers are triple redundant; furthermore, he has a shop and tools for repair work.

The retired explorer-engineer’s quarters are not only large, but also structured interestingly. They are so skillfully planned that it will be years before he immediately recognizes every twist, turn, passage, room, and gangway. His air supply exists in his quarters as an atmosphere, and in solid storage. The mass of his atmosphere is about 100 tons, including free and stored air.

It is most unlikely that he will ever land, yet his vehicle is equipped with a small aerospace plane which could land on an airless moon, asteroid, or comet; or enter an atmosphere and land; even take off, ascend, accelerate, and return into space. He is equipped with four space suits. 

The small but artistically planned quarters have five gardens, and eight planted areas that might be called flower gardens. The ship carries five tons of plants and plant nutrients. The tonnage is sufficient to recycle oxygen and collect noxious dusts for 100 persons. The explorer-engineer will forever have a great surplus of vegetables, fruits, citrus fruits, avocados, catfish, and chicken. His little farms and flower gardens are free of earthly pests. They do and will thrive.

Entertainments are multiple, including libraries of video, audio, participating-simulations, and events beamed from Earth. 

Recycling the Circulating Air

It is most important to control an atmosphere. Without air men die quickly. Perhaps the simplest way of proportioning O2 and CO2 is through plants. About 20 to 100 ft 2 of leaves are needed to convert on human’s CO2 exhalations into O2 and Carbon in a plant’s tissues.


Illumination at the correct wavelength and of sufficient intensity is needed to cause plants to “inhale” CO2 through their stoma, and exhale O2. One of the most important mini-factories on the ship would manufacture and/or refurbish light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and such.

Recycling and purifying the circulating water

Filtering, clathrating (as with zeolites), evaporation of distillation, then finally filter cleaning and zeolite reactivation should suffice to keep drinking, cooking, washing, toilet, and other circulating waters sweet and clean.

Plants can enter the cycle by digesting mineral residue left after water, or watery substances, are respectively distilled or heated to dry ash.

Thermal and or electrical energy is needed to recycle water. It would be abundant – indeed – overly abundantly available.

Recycling of human, animal, and plant wastes or remains

Recycling of wastes and remains may be accomplished by a combination of bacterial digestion or thermal incineration. In both cases the remains would be fed to plants.

In the case in which all plants died catastrophically waste could be in incinerated and the ash stored, and/or dumped.

Food could be plentifully available as garden products including carrots, radishes, potatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, bonzi, lemons, oranges, lines, pears, apples, potatoes, rye, wheat, sorgum, barley, rabbits, chickens, catfish, snails, shrimp, and octopus. 

Raising the food, maintaining seed stocks, caring for special plants such as bonzi citrus groves, would be hard, painstaking work, But perhaps rewarding for a lonely voyager.

Space to live in

Space would not only be ample for the retired explorer-engineer on a one-way retirement mission to the stars, it should, and certainly would be, interestingly comfortable. Somehow a frank Lloyd Wright of architectural layout and interior decorating will appear among humankind’s legions of skilled educated people who will design such quarters as a labor of love. 

A sphere of 3o feet in diameter would accommodate four decks. This would be a vast region for a lone person. 

Footnotes: CO2 (carbon dioxide) will be scrubbed out of the habitats atmosphere chemically as is done on Trident submarines. Hopefully the green plants will make the use of scrubbing unnecessary, and ideally the scrubbers will forever be on standby. 

To read more about real life starships, and short stories by Duncan-Enzmann based on rocket science, visit EnzmannStarship

Edited and published by Michelle Snyder: author, editor, artist, publisher, teacher. Her books on symbology and her original fairy tales are available at Amazon.

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