Tech and the Exploitation of Mercury

Seann Branchfield
Aug 24, 2019 · 3 min read

We as human beings have been doing quite a bit to exploit and destroy our own world. That’s part of the reason visionaries such as Elon Musk and all of the collective brains behind NASA are working so hard to backup the hard drive we know as “life” on Mars. Humanity needs to continue to focus on establishing earth-like life of Mars while doing what we can to protect our own planet. That being said, there may be another thing we can help to do our progress. This is where I will diverge a bit from my usual tech article and dive a bit into science fiction.

We Should Go To Mercury

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t it scorching hot? Won’t we die and be fried from solar radiation? Well for starters, at any given time, most of the dark side of Mercury is actually freezing cold, while the other side is burning hot. Neither is particularly an environment where anything could live. However, there are some permanent shaded areas near the poles, and what if we employed a similar tactic to our exploration of Mars and deployed a rover.

If you are a software developer like me, you will take interest to the fact that the code that controlled the Mars rover Curiosity was written in Java and C++. Wouldn’t it be cool to write some extra-terrestrial-robot-controlling code?

Why Should We Be Deploying Mercury Rovers Instead of Mars Ones?

Mars is a close neighbor of Earth. On the other hand it has a bigger orbit than Earth and they can be very distant from each other, meaning that missions to Mars have to be timed very carefully. Mercury has a very small orbit and it is much closer to the sun at all times. This means that on average, the distance between Mercury and Earth is actually shorter than the distance of Mars and Earth. This also means that missions to Mercury could be more frequent and more efficient. Also consider that Mars has an atmosphere and anything we land fall victim to the whims of weather. Mercury does not have dust storms that can cover solar panels or damage equipment.

What’s There?

If we manage to land a rover on Mercury, what could we do with it? First and foremost, there is that big blazing ball of energy conveniently close to the planet. Mercury is a haven for energy, both solar and thermal. If that energy could be used by a rover, it could have tremendous computing power. Imagine mining cryptocurrency on Mercury. Assuming you also had a strong internet connection, that could be amazing! As a tech enthusiast, Mercury seems like a great place to keep a supercomputer. While the software on the Mars rovers is controlled by scientists on Earth, we are approaching a point with machine learning where we have self-driving cars. Why not have a self-driving rover? With energy in abundance, it seems like a rover could be tasked with many different things aside from driving itself around. It could take care of itself, report data back to Earth and potentially survive until it wears itself out. We could eventually build a ‘smart power plant’ and have it send energy throughout the solar system as well. The possibilities are enormous!

Purpose

Image from recent animation project using p5.js

Of course it will take a while to get to Mercury, but with NASA’s anemic budget and constant mission changes, it is important to dream now and dream big. There are all kinds of companies like SpaceX that are building rockets and assisting. So we need to keep inspiring them to keep figuring out how to get us to different worlds!

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Full Stack Web Developer and Musician

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