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If something like Minmus existed in real life, would our technology be different?


Sharkman Briton
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I keep thinking about this, if something like Minmus existed IRL, a second moon to earth further out than the moon, would humans have step foot on there by now? And if true, how would that affect our technology? Would we be more technologically advanced due to the advances in technology from a mission to that moon? Enough so for us to even be planning trips to other planets like Mars that will happen quite soon? Very intriguing to think about.

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Technologically speaking, I would say "no."

Minmus is essentially an asteroid, size and gravity wise, so there would be no new developments re: landers. Likewise, the greater distance from Earth compared to the Moon would not be any great obstacle with the technology available at the time. I'm figuring things off the top of my head here, so expect inaccuracies, but it strikes me that a "real equivilent" to Minmus might see a similar increase in travel time with respect to travelling to the Moon. In KSP, going to the Mun (one-way) takes less than a day, and going to Minmus takes between 6 and 8 days. In reality, going to the Moon (one way) takes three days, so travel to a "real Minmus" would take around 18 to 24 days, with a round trip on the order of 40-50 days.

That's a long time to be cooped up in the same Apollo capsule, even with a lander to serve as a "second room", so the big change I would see would be the need for extra living space. Essentially, imagine Skylab with an engine and a lander module attached, and you have a spacecraft capable of reaching "rMinmus". In reality, Skylab held people comfortably for up to 60 days at a time, so such a voyage would certainly be within its capabilities. Thus, such a voyage would neither need nor spur developments in life-support technology beyond what was already present in the 1970s.

The only thing I can imagine such a voyage would do might be to get some extra life out of the Saturn-V launch vehicle, as Skylab is still a fairly hefty spacecraft even if only to put in orbit, and sending it on a voyage to the Moon or "rMinmus" would require more fuel and engine power than the Apollo missions needed. There would be as much of a price tag of sending humans to "rMinmus" as sending them to the moon, so the final question becomes: would we bother?

Assuming the political situation in our alternate history is unchanged, then by the time humans land on the Moon, the Russians would already have given up their lunar dreams, and perforce would have given up dreams of landing cosmonauts on "rMinmus" as well. So without the impetus of "Beat the Russians", I suspect that any proposals to send humans to "rMinmus" would have gone the way of later Apollo mission proposals: precisely nowhere. We would probably send probes, but we were already launching interplanetary probes successfully in the 1960s, so again, no great technological breakthroughs.

So, no, I don't think an "rMinmus" would have let us be more advanced or more established in space than we are already. We might have learned more about near-Earth asteroids sooner, but I expect that we wouldn't turn our attention to "rMinmus" again until the time comes for us to start sending humans to the planets in earnest.

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It might have led to a more interesting space race. rMinmus would have a lower delta-V requirement than the moon, (for a landing and recovery, obviously not for a simple orbiter), but requires a significantly different mission profile. Maybe we would have gone there first? Maybe the Russians would have realised they were never going to be first to the moon, but could be first to rMinmus if they forgot about rMun, so the first stage of the space race would have been a "draw", and the next step would have been Mars?

Or maybe we would just have ignored it!

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A trip to rMinmus would require more robust radiation shielding than Apollo had simply because of the much longer journey time. It might (I don't know the numbers here) have require better heat shield materials or more accurate reentry techniques than were needed for a return from the Moon. I suspect that it would also have required Earth orbit rendezvous of two fairly complex Saturn V sized payloads, so might have led to better spacecraft designs to make the creation of a Really Large Spacecraft from its component chunks, as reliable as possible.

So yes, potentially rMinmus could have driven the development of space technology, although most of it would have been incremental improvements on Apollo era technologies rather than anything truly revolutionary. The major problem would have been lack of funding and political motivation (on either side of the Iron Curtain) for further deep space voyages after the US had beaten the Soviets to the Moon.

rMinmus would be an ideal destination for testing potential interplanetary spacecraft since it would be far enough away that post-Apollo technologies would make the trip a lot easier but not so far away that tried and tested techniques couldn't be used as a backup in case the new stuff breaks. However, I doubt it would have been enough to drive the development of those interplanetary spacecraft by itself.

Unless our unmanned probes found any large black monoliths in orbit around it of course... :)

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To get from a lunar transfer to an earth escape is only an extra 90 m/s, so I doubt you'd need much of an extra heat shield for that. By my calculations, you'd shed about 2% more kinetic energy on reentry.

However, the Earth's Hill Sphere (SOI) is about 1.5 million km in radius. Moons are only stable over long time periods in the inner 50% of the Hills Sphere. The Moon is at about 400,000km from the earth, so the upper bound for the semi-major axis of a stable rMinmus would be about 750,000km, or 1.875 times the moon's orbital radius.

Minmus is 4 times further from Kerbin than the Mun, so rMinmus actually would be right on the very edge of earth's Hill Sphere, and not in a stable orbit.

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If only the N1 actually worked...

In such a scenario, a Proton launching a Salyut (with 2 docking ports, like Salyut 6, but based off Salyut 1), a Soyuz rocket carrying the crew, and a N1 carrying the fuel for the trip.

If the Americans did a similar mission, they would probably launch a Saturn IB with a MOL- based HAB (Skylab is way too big for such a mission) and a Saturn V with the fuel required and a CSM.

- - - Updated - - -

To get from a lunar transfer to an earth escape is only an extra 90 m/s, so I doubt you'd need much of an extra heat shield for that. By my calculations, you'd shed about 2% more kinetic energy on reentry.

However, the Earth's Hill Sphere (SOI) is about 1.5 million km in radius. Moons are only stable over long time periods in the inner 50% of the Hills Sphere. The Moon is at about 400,000km from the earth, so the upper bound for the semi-major axis of a stable rMinmus would be about 750,000km, or 1.875 times the moon's orbital radius.

Minmus is 4 times further from Kerbin than the Mun, so rMinmus actually would be right on the very edge of earth's Hill Sphere, and not in a stable orbit.

I guess the Kermen will need that ARM technology soon :-)

On the other hand, would Minmus be stable if it was 1.5 the Moon's Orbital radius, or would the Moon push it out of the Earth-Moon system?

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Would Minmus be stable if it was 1.5 the Moon's Orbital radius, or would the Moon push it out of the Earth-Moon system?

I ran 10 simulations of this in Universe Sandbox 2. The simulation only included the Sun, Earth, Moon, and an object I labeled "rMinmus". The information I put in for rMinmus was:

600km diameter (in accordance with the power-of-ten rule seen in most KSP celestial bodies with a real analog)

Orbital radius of 576600 km (or 1.5 lunar distances), zero inclination or eccentricity

1/3 iron, 1/3 silicate, 1/3 ice (just guessing based on similar real-life objects)

Anyway, six times out of ten it was ejected from the system into solar orbit within ten years. Three times out of ten it remained stable near 1.5 lunar distances over ten years (I ran the simulations up to 14 to see if this changes, it doesn't in all cases). One time out of ten, rMinmus ended up in a eccentric (~0.11), lowish Earth orbit of 115000km semimajor axis and stayed there.

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I ran 10 simulations of this in Universe Sandbox 2. The simulation only included the Sun, Earth, Moon, and an object I labeled "rMinmus". The information I put in for rMinmus was:

600km diameter (in accordance with the power-of-ten rule seen in most KSP celestial bodies with a real analog)

Orbital radius of 576600 km (or 1.5 lunar distances), zero inclination or eccentricity

1/3 iron, 1/3 silicate, 1/3 ice (just guessing based on similar real-life objects)

Anyway, six times out of ten it was ejected from the system into solar orbit within ten years. Three times out of ten it remained stable near 1.5 lunar distances over ten years (I ran the simulations up to 14 to see if this changes, it doesn't in all cases). One time out of ten, rMinmus ended up in a eccentric (~0.11), lowish Earth orbit of 115000km semimajor axis and stayed there.

Interesting, thanks.

Is there a possibility that rMinmus will get shredded and become a ring around earth?

I believe it would have to be very close for that to happen, but the in game Minmus is far away.

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It's possible that it could have somehow aided early navigation techniques in some way, but ultimately would probably not have changed too much.

If it was a mostly water ice asteroid (uncertain about Minmus' stated composition) it is possible that it would have been a fairly strong candidate for a colony, but budgets would likely have still worked out the way they did.

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Well, as with any other alternate-world theories, I think there are way too many factors we can't account for. Like how it may have influenced Earth weather, for example, which may result in a different path of evolution, even. There might be various different myth and lores, which in turn reshaping cultures of the world, and may give raise to different societies and belief, and so on. The butterfly effect will go on and on, and it would be hard to tell exactly what will happen, and how our technology may changed as a result.

Though if rMinmus just magically appear right after we land on the moon, I think there might some interest going there to explore this mysterious extra moon coming from another dimension.

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One of the problems with rMinmus is the radiation out there.

Judging by the distance, Earth's magnetic field wouldn't be as strong, obviously and prominently, of course.

Not a problem. The moon itself is miles outside the earth's magnetic field. Most of the Apollo astronauts' dose came from passing through the van Allen belts, which are actually caused by the magnetic field. The only issue would be the added time it takes to get to somewhere further out. You're not going to run any real health risk from the trip under normal conditions, but the longer you're out there, the higher the risk a solar storm happens when you are.

A good analysis of the radiation environment in cislunar space is found here: http://www.braeunig.us/apollo/VABraddose.htm

Apollo astronauts got a maximum dose of about 10 mSv on the entire week-long round trip. The lowest dose that has been categorically linked to an increased risk of cancer is 100mSv. The average annual dose for a person living on earth is about 4 mSv. The NASA annual limit for astronauts is a full 500 mSv/year

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  • 4 years later...
20 minutes ago, Bigmwclws31 said:

I haven’t read through the whole thread so this might’ve already been said , but minmus is based off of Halley’s Comet, although irl the orbit is elliptical whereas In ksp it is fairly normal 

Is it? Halley's Comet is on a highly eccentric orbit of the sun (i.e, not one of Earth's moons), whereas Minmus is on a circular, slightly inclined orbit of Kerbin. Minmus is one of the only celestial bodies in KSP that doesn't have any obvious analogues in the real solar system.

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Depending on how deep into Chaos theory you want to go, I would point out that the presence of minimus could have caused technology to have not have developed at all because perhaps it caused just enough gravity that one larger asteroid would have wiped us out. 

Generally though I think that Minimus would have caused increased technology because unlike a mars landing it is much more viable. I think we would most likely have landed their in the 1980s, and this might mean that something like the ISS would not have been developed in the manner it was.  

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I'm not sure why everyone is discussing Salyut. A Soyuz is capable of a month-long mission even without the lander. A hypothetical "Apollo with a caravan" or perhaps even pre-deployment of the lander to rMinmus orbit (a la the current Orion and Oryol mission plans) should enable such a mission with little change in technology or even no new boosters.

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