Aphelion Issue 294, Volume 28
May 2024
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
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Bill Warren's

Aphelion Spacecraft: Solar System Explorer Missions

Shared Universe Series

(Text and images from e-mails 2007 by William R. Warren, Jr.)

Ladies, gents, and Rob in particular,

Aphelion 1, detail from original artwork by W.R. Warren, Jr.

I created the piece for you. Yes, you may use it as you see fit. Please credit me and consider my offer to provide more and increasingly entertaining work ... my models of the Aphelion1 and Aphelion2 spacecraft are detailed enough to stand very close scrutiny, and I can put them on Mars for some future issues if you'd like. (Well, the descent stage landing craft at any rate.)

A couple of technical notes:

1. As I mentioned, there is *no* photography involved ... the whole piece is 3D animation software generated, if you had a place to put it I could send you a short animation of these spacecraft in action. Might want to consider it, I could do animated opening covers for you, how wild could THAT get? (An animated magazine cover ... eat your heart out, Analog!)

2. The "blimp" between the Command Modules (the Return/Braking stack near us and the Landing/Ascent stack nearest Mars) is a serious proposal, state-of-the-art when I last worked in the Industry. It's a big inflatable habitat module (double-skinned) to give the crew room to move, exercise, and have some privacy. It's part of the Constellation "Return To The Moon" proposal, but I scaled the diameter down so you didn't lose the landing craft entirely. The "stack" you see at the aft end (near end) is about twice the diameter of the Apollo CSM, just for scaling purposes.
(Apollo diameter = 13 feet, Aphelion R/B Stack diameter = 30 feet. My estimate, DLH.)

Aphelion 1 & 2 approach Mars, by William R. Warren, Jr

3. There are probably several of those blimp modules, uninflated, aboard the landing craft to establish a toehold on the surface of Mars once they land, and I am assuming that several unmanned missions have already successfully landed to create the beginnings of a Martian home-port (which, in my conceit, I have already dubbed Port Arthur) ... those unmanned factory ships have been building return fuel for some time by the point we see Aphelion 1 and 2 bring living brains to Mars. No matter how good the hardware and the software, it is the wetware that will make Martian exploration a success. (Blueberries my aching *ss ...)

Check Dr. Bob Zubrin's "Mars Direct" for further details, he's a great party all by himself.

I built "Aphelion 1 and 2 Approach Mars" for your entertainment (and mine) and yes, you have my permission and blessings and earnest hope that you will use it to your hearts' content. Do credit due credit, I entreat.

"Aphelion1&2" was an 8-hour playtime for me ... I explore 3DS-MAX instead of playing even *GOOD* games like Flight Sim 2004 for recreation.

I have another proposal for you, as well. My piece showing that "Aphelion-1" and "-2" spacecraft is digital and original. Might I offer an idea for your readership/writership?

Although it was done strictly for fun and as a "portfolio offering" to Aphelion (and while you guys and gals get first digital publication rights and I may peddle the work elsewhere), it does represent an evening's worth of hobby time on my favorite tool (I don't play computer games, I write or mess around with 3DS-MAX, Poser, Photoshop, or I write) and as such it is an investment in my time and attention.

(Gorrammit, let me finish, you're already thinking the wrong thing...)

The model I built of the Aphelion mission can stand up to pretty close scrutiny already, and it's damn close to the new Constellation Space Exploration Initiative configuration, just pushed on to Mars rather than just the moon. I can readily add necessary detail and further expand the Aphelion Mission portfolio.

So I offer a notion: Who among you would like to write tales about the Aphelion Project that might expand upon my vision and like me to illustrate the stories with the existing (and additional) models for future issues of Aphelion? (Beats just using Hubble images ... but they are breathtaking, aren't they?)

Time permitting, I would love the exposure (and it wouldn't hurt your efforts, either) and, to quote Freeman Lowell or one of his cohorts in "Silent Running": "Playin' time is practice."

Here's what I propose:

Aphelion 1 thumbnail, by W.R. Warren, Jr.

BACKGROUND: The Aphelion Project is a multi-vehicle manned mission to Mars, at least partially funded by enough Americans that the vehicles proudly bear the Stars&Stripes and "United States" -- but I envision a multinational core crew. (Has America become an overwhelming superpower? Is it fascist enough to insist unilaterally on the "US" designation? Is it a private mission funded by patriots, and other nationalities cooperate voluntarily? Is it a parallel universe set in the 1980s or 1990s based on Apollo-era technology? Is it something nostalgic reflecting upon a fallen America's past accomplishments? I'll let you decide.)

HARDWARE:Ascent / Descent Module The two "stacks" you see in my Aphelion Cover submission ("Aphelion 1 and 2 Approach Mars") consist of (from farthest to nearest) the Mars descent and ascent stages and command module (a conical Apollo-esque CM, but much larger -- proportionally similar to Apollo, but capable of carrying anywhere from six to twelve colonists apiece. It is likely that some of these berths will be empty on descent to permit extra wetware on ascent in the event of mishap.)

Habitation ModuleIn the middle is an inflatable hab module for the journeys from Earth to Mars and back, and orbital ops for the non-landing crew. It has a communications platform and solar array on one side ... the non-sunward side has a docking module to offset the CG and permit ship-to-ship transfers and cargo module docking. It's tough stuff, but not impervious, and it's double- or triple-walled for insulation and atmosphere protection. (This module stays on-orbit around Mars and for the round trip.) (Privacy for married couples? Unmarried couples? Infirmary facilities? Gym? Are both identical, ncessarily?) And don't forget, there *may* be several such modules, unmanned, already docked and waiting for them in Mars orbit when they arrive ...

Re-Entry Module / Service Module / Booster StageAnother Apollo-esque CM is docked at the near end of this (out of view in my earlier rendering), capable of Earth entry interface and carrying more wetware than the Martian ascent stage (some redundancy is built in for return of samples or in case of disabling of part of the other vessel's hardware.) This is followed by a Service Module and the re-lightable booster that will put the remaining stack on a Trans-Earth Insertion Orbit after braking to enter Mars orbit. (I see the booster stage being anywhere from 20-30' in diameter, I'll leave it up to you ... but once it's established, everyone needs to stick to it and we have to try to make the physics and consumable volume work.)

I am assuming that there is some infrastructure available in Earth Orbit -- a space station to receive the Mars mission when it returns at least -- and I also assume that several unmanned missions have preceded the manned vehicles to land factory modules, inflatable habitats, greenhouses, robotic explorers, etc. on Mars before the wetware arrives. It is possible that not all of these robotic arrivals were 100% successful, but there must be a safety margin or they wouldn't have launched people, am I right?

STORYLINES: Go nuts, gang. One of the ships cracking up on landing? One of the vital pre-launched modules is stranded in nearly impassable terrain, like the bottom of a meteor crater similar to the one in Arizona? Proof of extraterrestrial intelligence? Political turmoil on the Earth left months behind threatening loss of support? Interpersonal relationships, good or bad? Curious problems caused by isolation, hardware, something unforeseen?

ART: I will do what I can, but the 3D models of the spacecraft exist, and I'm curious enough about them myself to be interested to see what you come up with, by way of explaining what they do, how they work, who's on them and why ... and it doesn't hurt me to flex my artistic muscles occasionally to respond with a new piece of art or two for Aphelion. Or more.
(Remember, Bill only works from finished manuscripts - so the story has to be done before he'll do illos for it. Futhermore, he'd be doing these for free for us, so he'd have to have time away from paying jobs in order to do illos for Aphelion, DLH.)

SO: What do you think? I'm throwing my hat into the ring. Who wants to pick it up? I'm willing to meet you halfway.

Besides: how many offers do you get from a pro-pubbed illustrator to give you a collaborative playground and will do his best to give you an illustration to go with your story? I want to see the reverse of a lot of panels I've done at conventions, I want to see "art into story" instead of explaining "story into art" ... but this would be "Art into story into art." And back into new story, and new art ... round-robin, collaborative and non-collaborative at the same time.

And it tickles my curiosity.

Be kind to each other (and to me) ... try to treat the project seriously. It is remotely possible that such a collection of art and fiction could eventually find publication, if we all make it good enough.

It's just a thought ...

All the best, always,

William R. Warren, Jr.

(But I go by Bill)

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