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How would you structure a program to get humanity to Mars?

Posted by: Manofmars - Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:02 pm
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How would you structure a program to get humanity to Mars? 
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Launch Director
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Post How would you structure a program to get humanity to Mars?   Posted on: Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:02 pm
How would you structure a program to get humanity to Mars? If you were to start from a clean slate how would you go about designing a series of missions to get people to Mars within the next 25 years. How would you take care of Launch, Transit, Landing and Return (if any)? What do you think it would cost and what is the basis for these estimates? Personally I'm in favor of Private Enterprise doing this but I am still trying to fully understand the FULL scope of the effort. I believe that both NASA's ref mission and Dr. Robert Zubrin's direct ideas form a good starting point. However, can a program be structured and accomplished using near term technologies that are less costly?


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Post    Posted on: Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:51 pm
If the goal was to get there as cheaply as possible, I'd buy some future spacex launches and send first some supplies and equipment, then the personnel. And not worry about getting them back here. Someone would be willing to go. If they're lucky (their equipment works, their supplies last, they don't suffer catastrophic mental or physical illness) - they'll survive long enough to get some visitors there and maybe even get to return to earth if they want to.

I wouldn't plan a trip to go there and back, but I think Zubrin's plan looks good for that.

If the goal was to establish a permanent colony, as I think it should, I would first send a fleet of mining and construction robots, various small refineries, spare parts and necessary construction materials, and of course a small nuclear reactor. The robots would have advanced programming and they'd be tested extensively here on earth, in order to act as autonomously as possible and construct a permanent habitat complete with radiation shielded pressure tight bunkers for plant and human life. Base would probably be underground. Nuclear reactor would provide both heating and electricity. Large amounts of water storage, and oxygen and water recycling equipment would be necessary.

The robots and the supplies would all be guided to a suitable landing site, probably near one of the poles for ice mining. The launcher would be the cheapest available fare, be it spacex or something else (the initial hardware and software would necessarily take several years to develop).

For landing I would take maximum advantage of aerobraking, and also build everything to withstand severe physical punishment. The equipment will be much heavier, but should also be more durable. This is important, since they will have to operate in a hostile environment for many years with little downtime and very limited possibility for repairs.

An ambitious plan like this should probably be tested on a simpler task first, but if the only goal is mars, the moon is just a distraction. I think the moon is a worthy goal in itself, and it's much quicker and easier to reach. So my plan would be to set up a similar habitat on the moon, using similar robots and equipment. Because of the closer proximity to earth, everything would be downscaled. Smaller habitat, less storage, higher dependency on food, water and equipment from earth.

The cost of the equipment wouldn't have to be astronomical, if you had a good team on each requirement and allowed for many years in development. The launch costs would depend a lot on the success of spacex.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:25 pm
I think I would go about it not so differently than NASA. Start work on a new space craft designed to leave low Earth orbit (Orion), get experience with long duration stays in space (ISS), start with missions to the Moon or near Earth asteroids, send unmanned missions to Mars to perfect navigation and landing methods (50% survival rate of unmanned vehicles sent to Mars is NOT an acceptable record for a manned mission). It would take lots of Money. Musk's real goal is manned missions to Mars, and SpaceX is just his way of starting. So if any private company can do it, or part of it, that is the one.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 22, 2008 9:05 pm
Yeah that is basically the main question. Form follows function.

If the goal is to make money then...

If the goal is to successfully colonise then...

If the goal is to employ people then...

I would go big, very very big. I would probably structure it as an R&D lab of a solar power company. That way your Mars base can be under a small solar power station and avoid using nukes. It needs to be an extension of a large industrial endeavour already going on in space.

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