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Ares Program (Superpowers)

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The Ares Program (Latin: Missio Aris) was an effort of the Collegium Caelum Romanum (CCR) to found a colony on Mars. The plan called for the construction of a city on the planet's surface, not a mere Martian base. Ares was begun by a group of four Senators who proposed a 1 billion Dn per year fund to go into a manned mission to Mars. The proposal lay in legislative purgatory until news broke of the launch of a manned Maya ship to the Red Planet. Scarred of falling behind in the space race, the Senate voted strongly in favor of Ares.

The program started with a two billion Dn yearly fund. Technologies for human spaceflight were beyond necessary parameters for reaching Mars. Scientists in the CCR assured Senators that they could design a vessel that would easily accomplish Ares' goal. Their lobbying convinced government officials to change the publicized target in December 1960 to landing 30 settlers on Mars for colonization.

Ares was more ambitious than its predecessor Artemis. Once landed, it would immediately build a city and expand across the planet's surface. Lag times between stages of expansion could be short since tentative plans were designed for a 30 year constructive program. Room was left in the design for modification from changing government policies and goals. The future of Ares was dramatically transformed by the Ares Conference of members of the Alliance of Earth. The consensus was that humanity had a right to extraterrestrial territory and Mars would be the site of its first foothold on the final frontier.

Unlike a lunar mission, a trip to Mars is not a walk in the planetary backyard. Mars is on a separate orbit from Earth and the obstacles to overcome are multiplied over a journey to the Moon. Challenges of reaching Mars include: a long period in a confined zero-gravity spaceship, psychological trauma from extended isolation from Earth, lack of nearby medical facilities, and bringing sufficient fuel for a return trip. Maya engineers failed to solve these issues but the Romans succeeded and landed on Mars in July 1970.

Background

Maya Mission to Mars

The Itzamna Program, created in February 1957, was an ambitious Maya attempt to surpass Rome in their decades long Culture War. The Romans won the race to the Moon and were paving the way in Earth's orbit with satellite weapons and communication arrays. The Maya needed something that would launch them ahead of all Rome's accomplishments so far. No one had ever set foot on another planet so the government put as much resources as possible into a manned mission to the Red Planet. Unfortunately, the technical difficulties of traveling to another world were greater than anticipated and the Itzamna was a failure.

The engine was the Itzamna's finest component. Using controlled bursts of a fissionable fuel activated by a neutron laser, its engine was the most advanced contraption of its day, surpassing even what Romans had built. The only defect inherent in this system was that the Maya lacked the computational technology to properly control the mechanism, and if the neutron exposure was not carefully controlled, relative to the actual rate of fission of the material, it risked reaching critical mass and destroying the ship in a nuclear fireball. This did not happen.

The component which failed was life support. Oxygen was recycled into carbon dioxide by a honeycomb-like machine that contained a series of catalysts that need an input of perfect distilled water. This last part was vital (literally) since impurities in the water would rapidly build up in the mesh and render it useless. Sadly, the water picked up flakes of its containers during transport and storage before launch. The ever so mildly hard water shut down life support nine months into the journey and terminated the mission. The Conglomerate had no long-term remedy for the problem. The only solution was to design a better life support system.

Another mission was planned for 1965, with back-up life support, but public opinion against the mission and of confidence from the engineering teams forced the government to cancel in 1963. With the Maya focused entirely on travelling to the Moon, the Romans had free reign to colonize Mars.

Preparation

The vehicle the Romans used to reach Mars was Aeneas, the finest piece of engineering up to the 1960's. Named after the legendary Trojan ancestor of Romulus, the ship was seen as a beacon of a new era in Roman history, ushering in the glory of the Space Age. In reality, the program was not a driving force of the space age in itself but it was a sign of the advancements that were to come.

Construction started on the Mars Colonizer in December of 1967. Each component was built at different locations around the Empire and brought to the Space Elevator in Somalia for transport to space for final assembly. The Caelefactio was built to facilitate assembly of the Aeneas. This manufacturing structure was the first shipyard in space and remains the largest facility of that sort. With all of the pieces, the Caelefactio was capable of constructing the Aeneas colonizer in 5 months.

Aeneas

A journey to Mars is a long and arduous one. The difficulty of ensuring a reliable human component in any mission puts the onus of reliability on the machine transporting them. Roman engineers in the 70's understood the mechanics and requirements of spaceflight. They designed a craft comprising all these difficulties and surmounting them with classic imperial extravagance. Their product was the Aeneas.

  • Empty Weight: 3,670,200 kg
  • Weight: 3,679,460 kg (fully fueled)
  • Maximum Payload: 350,000 kg
  • Length: 526.5 m
  • Height: 34.8 m (at engine block)
  • First Flight: 1 January 1970
  • Last Flight: In Operation
  • Time in Space: 10,957 days as of 1 January 2000
  • Construction cost: 7.8 billion Dn ($390 billion)
  • Refuel cost: 200,000 Dn ($10 million)

Structure

The overall form of Aeneas is a 526.5 m long single-body vessel. No color scheme was intended but engineers enthusiastically painted the Emperor's family crest on the fore end. At the stern is the formerly largest rocket assembly ever made, with a thrust capacity of 21 million newtons. Incapable of landing, Aeneas holds shuttle craft on each side of its midsection. The outer surface is covered by carbon-tungsten composite nanotube plates that have a stress threshold 100 times greater than steel and a resistance to deformation at high temperature. Plating does not need frequent replacement as the entire vessel is electromagnetically shielded from cosmic radiation and dust so it takes small, gradual damage over time.

Propulsion

Theoretically, the ship's thrusters can easily lift it out of Earth's atmosphere but Aeneas has no take-off or landing gear. The ship's whole service life has been spent in outer space. The craft's main engine can generate thrust of 21 meganewtons over a period of one year without refueling. This action requires 60% of the fusion reactor's output at maximum performance. The enormous force of the engines accelerates the 3.67 million kilogram ship by 5.5 ms-2 in a vacuum.
Aeneas Ship Transit

Aeneas as it transits the sun
at 8 million km from the surface

The engines accelerate lead cations with superconducting electromagnets to generate thrust in open space. At full fuel capacity, they can run continuously for over a year. Engine operations require a light but constant flow of lead since each particle undergoes a high impulse. The ship manoeuvers by modifying relative output of the four thrusters. It takes ten minutes to rotate 180 degrees but high manoeuverability is unnecessary. The Aeneas can pull actions like slingshot around the Moon or enter geostationary orbit more easily than should be expected of a ship of its length.

The high operating velocity and acceleration rate of the Aeneas' thrusters put it in the class of interplanetary drive. Any ship's propulsion system that can reach a velocity of 0.05% light speed in a day or less, receives this classification. However, the Aeneas was the first ship to ever achieve this in human history. This in itself has made the Aeneas, and its propulsion system in particular, one of Rome's Seven Wonders of Engineering, serving as the model on which all other interplanetary drives are based. The technology is a closely guarded secret, something which is reflected in its surreptitious method of construction.

Power Generation

The first part to look at is power generation. All energy used by the Aeneas came from a T-T fusion reactor that was fueled by a 10,000 kilogram supply of Tritium. As this supply can last a year and a half of continuous operation, the reactor uses up around 0.8 kg of Tritium per hour. The maximum practical power output of the Aeneas' fusion reactor is therefore 10 GW, with a safe range of 5-7 GW. To generate thrust, some of this energy is used to electromagnetically accelerate lead ions out through four thrusters. The 60% of power devoted to propulsion in the acceleration phase gives the necessary energy for the thrusters to accelerate the 3,670 metric ton vessel by 5.5 ms-2. This allows the craft to reach its maximum safe velocity of 0.1% the speed of light in about 15 hours. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, on the first flight the Aeneas operated well below this velocity, which explains the long time it took to reach the Red Planet.

Computer

The next most impressive part of the ship is its operating system, meaning the control computers. At the ship's center is a rudimentary artificial intelligence generated by a one ton piece of equipment which holds over 120,000 processors. Each of these units can perform 400 million calculations per second and have access to 100 TriQuadis (50 MB) of random access memory. The AI, dubbed Aeneas, can solve virtually all standard problems that the programmers have foreseen might happen to the ship, as well as being able to run all day-to-day systems. In the event that something which it was not programmed to handle occurs, it will first alert the ship's crew, then postulate a potential solution based off the data that is stored in the ship's 20,000 PenteQuadis (10,000 TB) hard drives and give this to the crew to help them resolve the situation. It can also answer any questions to which it has relevant info in the data banks to, as well as play most existing Roman strategy games to entertain the crew.

Separate operating systems exist to oversee the other more complex systems on board the ship, including but not limited to: the fusion reactor, life support and radiation shielding. This allows the AI to deal with primary issues like ship trajectory, medical emergencies or intraship communication.

Life Support

The habitat systems on the ship are one of its most integral component types, accounting for over a third of its volume and nearly 25% of its mass. Using technology obtained from the Inca, the Aeneas is completely self-sustainable, able to support a crew of at most 40 people. There are dedicated systems for carbon and water recycling, tasks which are performed with very little measurable waste, and food growth facilities that utilize Inca therapeutic cloning stations. As long as energy, and nutrients in the last case, are supplied, these systems can go on running for decades, though the ship only contains enough resources to run them for half of one. Far away from home, the Aeneas has been outfitted with the most advanced medical gear of Earth, allowing its medical bay to treat things from blisters and cuts, to heart trauma and cancer. In the entire service record of the Aeneas, not a single person has died onboard. Since no one above the age of 40 has travelled on it, this was an unlikely thing anyways.

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