Mars-wards ho!

I pass this torch onward to my children. May they see our dream come true.


Meanwhile, I enjoy playing the Terraforming Mars boardgame every once in a while — link >>>

Artist unknown.

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Venus Exploration: Thinking Outside the Box

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of NASA’s top research facilities, is currently investigating whether it is feasible to design a wind-powered clock-work rover for Venus, tentatively named Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE). The basic concept was conceived by Jonathan Sauder, a mechatronics engineer at JPL.

AREE is designed to function on Venus’s surface without electronics, because the searing (470°C) and crushing (92 bar) atmosphere destroys such components quickly. Fortunately, the planet’s forceful winds can power Savonius wind turbines that provide the required mechanical energy for ground propulsion and on-board devices, for example a mechanical computer. Ergo, AREE is a clock-tech design made of hi-tech materials able to survive in that hellish environment for months.

AREE communicates with a Venus orbiter by a contraption of radar-reflective panels that can be set at various angles. The orbiter broadcasts a radar signal that is reflected back from those panels; the received “image” is then decoded by the orbiter. This simple device is comparable to Morse code or 18th-century semaphore telegraphs. (Also, check the movie The Martian where a stranded astronaut devises a similar method to communicate with Earth.)

Click on the AREE picture for a larger version.

Read more about the AREE studies here — link >>>

XKCD: Rocky Bodies in 2 Dimensions

The eminent site XKCD has published this picture that compares the surface areas of notable rocky celestial bodies in our solar system. The four giant planets are excluded because they lack mappable surfaces. The arrangement would be laid out nicely on the type of Ringworld that Larry Niven proposed in some of his stories — link >>>

“The Ice War”: Lost and Found

An event in the alternate timeline of The Ice War

In May 1939 the Russian military cloudship Dmitri Donskoi foundered with all hands in the icy wilderness of the southern continent Alba*. Complications caused by the ongoing Republican Rebellion and the impending austral winter delayed search and rescue attempts. When spring arrived five months later, an ice-tracker of the Danish Canopus-patruljen gendarmerie discovered the wreck.

Artist: Mike Doscher. Click on the picture for a larger version.

*Alba: A alternate continent around the south pole, being a larger and more dramatic substitute for Antarctica. It is the location of my dieselpunk spy adventure The Ice Warlink >>>

“The Ice War”: Meanwhile in Europe

The Republican Rebellion is a major 1930/40s European war in my dieselpunk spy novel The Ice War (link >>> ). In the book the Central European front is merely mentioned in radio news bulletins, but developments there cause serious problems for the protagonists during their mission in icy Alba on the other side of the globe. This photo depicts a Republican scout car in the vicinity of a battle in Sachsen (that, is Saxony in the south-eastern German lands) in 1940.

Dieselpunk Engineering Lab

Dieselpunk is characterized by, among other things, fanciful machinery and vehicles. Those gadgets must, however, originate in some place. Well, here it is: the archetypical dieselpunk engineering lab with, where you see Doctor Zarkov being busy with developing the repulsor device. (Those are used in cloudships in my novel The Ice War.)

Artist: Colton Dubell. Click on the picture for a much larger version.