If you are a long time SF reader and/or a writer in the same genre, you may have dedicated some thought about how we will work and live outside our planet. In the next few years we’re expecting new manned missions to the Moon and to Mars and it’s a given that we have to leave our cradle someday, to expand in our solar system and beyond.
One of the main problems is about transports, of course. Going to the Moon from our planet is quite costly and energy-consuming, that given the need of overcome the gravity and the resistance of our atmosphere. But what about the Moon or Mars (or any other moon or planet accessible in our system)? If we get to drill mines anywhere or to manufacture any kind of goods out planet, how do we get the stuff home?
We will need something reliable and reasonably simple, a workhorse of sort that could be useful for many different tasks. A modular spaceship, easy to build and maintain, with a structure that could be somewhat bonded with a space habitat or with a “ground” base. It should be designed to land and to take-off as a VTOL aircraft, ready to be deployed in unprepared surfaces. Its design should allow to be loaded or unloaded with minimum efforts.
Then a very good TV show came back to my mind. Because this kind of ship has already be imagined there.
Yes, it’s the “Eagle” from Space:1999 show (IMHO, one of the best ever in the SF genre). Take a good look at it. A basic structure; a central, container-like, module that could be easily connected or disconnected from the ship. A four pod system to land, manoeuvre thrusters in all the right places, a small command module that could be easily removed or replaced. The top side could easily be linked with the external hull of a bigger ship or used to grab it with some kind of elevator to be stored inside.
The container-like module is a natural of a variety of specialized purposes, just like it already happens for the ISS modules or for the various payload modules for the Space Shuttle. Imagine a mining settlement on the Moon, there you may have a small fleet of this “Eagle” ships carrying away the products (i.e. pre-processed Helium-3) and taking on site Robonauts or 3D-printers mobile units (or many more things).
In a low-gravity environment (Moon got 1/6 of Earth’s gravity, Mars is about 3/8 of the same) and without any atmospheric drag, you could use low-output engines (low when compared with what’s needed from Earth) a factor that will reduce the need of fuel (and lower the mass total as well). As shown in the aforementioned TV serial such a vehicle could also be remote-controlled (i.e. from a mother ship or from an orbital habitat). Once spaceborne, an “Eagle” could be used to go back and forth from Moon’s low orbit to any of the Lagrange points in the Earth-Moon system or to LEO.
Now, the real question is: when we will finally see such birds on flight?