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Micro-Space hardware for Mars Missions

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Fri Sep 2, 2005 5:12 am
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Micro-Space hardware for Mars Missions was demonstrated at the “New Mexico Science Fiction Conference” (aka “Bubonicon”), Aug. 27, 2005. A presentation by Richard P. Speck, head of Micro-Space, laid out the parameters for a lightweight and low cost manned trip to Mars. This talk was well attended and well received. It was noted that size matters, and that two petit women could travel for the same cost as one average man. Procedures which optimize the use of “gravity well synergism”, will allow the Falcon 5 (with 6020 Kg payload in LEO) to deliver 1800 Kg to the surface of Mars. The estimated cost for this mission is well below the $100 Million dollars used as a working budget figure. Estimated costs and system masses are decreasing, as solutions are found to the remaining problems. Historically, costs increase late in such projects, but with this mission requiring only a single, $16 Million launch vehicle, the working budget has substantial slack.

In any case, this mission could be funded as a “Big Budget”, “Docutainment” movie (plus three years of reality programs), as a commercial “Mars Sample Return” venture, with collected materials presold or auctioned, or as a personal adventure. The small quantity of hardware which still needs to be developed makes embarkation for this 970 day, round trip mission in 2009 a real possibility.

The proposed mission lands only a fraction of the payload on Mars, using orbital rendezvous to minimize mission mass. At present, two stage orbital rendezvous is under consideration. This preserves near Mars escape energy in the Earth return vehicle, while parking fuel for high orbit transfer in low Mars orbit. The ascent stage used by the astronaut after walking on Mars would be a lightweight version of those used by Apollo on the Moon.

Known health risks, including radiation, are serious but comparable to those faced by inveterate high altitude mountaineers, or those “who choose to enjoy smoking”. Unknown risks, of course, place this in the same category as historic pioneering and polar exploration.

The demonstrated hardware included a fuel cell, capable of producing the 640 grams per day of Oxygen needed on average by the astronaut (or petit pair). Such fuel cells, when used in appropriate systems, work perfectly in zero “g”. The equations for efficient life support recycling were presented. A zero “g” centrifugal evaporator was run. This completes water recycling, by separating even biological waste water from its dissolved solids. The distilled water which results is “as pure as rain” since the identical cycle occurs continuously on the Earth. Handling only a drop every second or two, this “zero g” distillation system would eliminate several kilograms per day of supplies, leaving only 500 gram per day of food required.

A commercial “Reverse Osmosis” filter unit was shown which would provide virtually unlimited wash water. It was demonstrated with the small, long life pumps which will permit operation in a concentrator mode. A sample of the composite material Micro-Space uses for fuel tanks was also shown. A larger diameter version will yield a 2 meter diameter, 3 meter long habitat weighing only 20 kilograms. This structure could have an overpressure safety margin of ten.

The centrifugal evaporator is being run continuously and has accumulated hundreds of hours. Multiyear operating life is expected to be demonstrated. With only 3.5 kilogram total mass for the demonstrated collection of hardware, redundant spare hardware is very practical.

The presentation slides can be accessed through www.micro-space.com (select news) or directly through www.Mars-Now.com .

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