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Monday, September 1, 2003

Mars For Less Mission Architecture

Happy Labor Day everyone! Today is a big day for Red Colony.

Grant Bonin, an Aerospace Engineering student at Carleton University in Ottawa, has sent us his brand new mission architecture for a manned mission to Mars. A modified form of Zubrin's Mars Direct, Grant's architecture will cost a tenth of the best plans out there now and will use existing technology. That means we can go to Mars NOW instead of waiting to develop the rockets capable of getting us there. Grant's credentials include "building an In-Situ Propellant Production System, which won a silver medal at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, to presenting at the Third Annual Mars Society Convention, to studying aerospace engineering in preparation for a life absolutely dedicated to pushing for a crewed Mars mission; of course, not just one mission, but a continued human presence on the red planet."

Here is part of the email he sent me a while back, before he began work on the project:

I've been doing a study for the last three months on methods of sending a human mission to Mars utilizing expendible launch vehicles in the payload class of the Titan IV or Ariane 5; that is, rockets with roughly 20 tonnes to low-Earth orbit launch capacity. By using high-energy, off the shelf propulsion stages such as the Centaur (or alternatively, inexpensive space storable propulsion stages burning lower-energy propellants), a Mars-bound spacecraft can be dispatched to the red planet using a succession of individual rocket stages, for costs that sit below those associated with an average space shuttle launch.

The principle advantage of this approach is complete reliance on what we already have; this architecture only requires the development of equipment that's sent to Mars. It does not demand the construction of a heavy-lift launch system - a prospect that appears increasingly doubtful as of late, with the current lack of confidence in the Space Transportation System that takes the shuttle to orbit. Any shuttle-derived launch systems may prove too politically problematic to develop in the near-future: accordingly, this mission design obviates their need entirely.

My initial numbers place developmental costs below the Mars Direct architecture, since the need for heavy-booster development is rendered moot, and cost per mission sits at between 1 and 2 billion dollars per mars-bound spacecraft, depending on the specifics of the system employed.

So here it is, the world premiere of the mission architecture for a manned mission to Mars.

- posted by Alex @ 15:25 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, September 5, 2003

Opinion Piece at Hits Mark

There's an inspiring opinion piece over at dealing with NASA's vision for the future. The article explains that it is not NASA that lacks a clear vision, it is we who need glasses. This is my favorite part:

This past week Mars was closer to Earth than it has been in all of recorded history -- and the world noticed. The close encounter peaked the day after the CAIB report came out, renewing the great space debate. Whether by divine intervention or not, there's no denying that the bright red "star" is a sign in the heavens and could be telling us something.

So let's not waste too much time on debating why we should go. Choose one or more: Spirit of exploration, national pride, a jobs program for the aerospace industry, science, or as the next step in ensuring the survival of our species before our planet becomes toast in five billion years.

For now, for me, it's enough just to go. In any case, it is inevitable that one day humans will walk on Mars. Whether it's our peers from another country, or our children or grandchildren who make the trip, it's going to happen. It has to. And I'm among those who are impatient.

- posted by Alex @ 15:54 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, September 12, 2003

Space Bill in Congress

U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson has reintroduced the Space Exploration Act of 2003. It has 26 Sponsors. It would be great news if it passes. Write your Congressperson and voice your opinion:) Here are some quotes from the bill's writer, Rep. Lampson. I believe that they summarizes what we need to do to with space exploration.

"America's human space flight program is adrift, with no clear vision or commitment to any goals after the completion of the International Space Station. The intent of the Space Exploration Act of 2003, is to provide a vision and a concrete set of goals for the nation's human space flight program after the International Space Station. This legislation sets forth specific incremental goals that are challenging, exciting and that build capabilities and infrastructure needed for an ultimate human mission to Mars.

"The real obstacle we face in overcoming the drift in the nation's human space flight program is not technological and it's not financial it's the lack of commitment to get started. We don't need another national commission to come up with goals for human space flight beyond low Earth orbit. What we need is a national commitment to carry out any one of the many worthy goals that have been articulated to date."

I personnel like section 4, clause 4: "(4) Within 20 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the development and flight demonstration of a reusable space vehicle capable of carrying humans from low Earth orbit to and from Martian orbit, the development and deployment of a human-tended habitation and research facility on the surface of one of the moons of Mars, and the development and flight demonstration of a reusable space vehicle capable of carrying humans from Martian orbit to the surface of Mars and back."

(More info: Space Daily)

- posted by Jim @ 15:58 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Arrivederci Galileo

Today is the last day in the life of the Galileo probe. This probe has 14 years of exploration and discovery under its belt. Build for a 2-year mission, the probe has had its mission expanded 3 times. Galileo has provided us with spectacular images (and knowledge) of Jupiter and its moons. I recommend looking at some of the articles on the Scientific American site. Slash also has some very good articles of Galileo's discovery's. The spacecraft is being plunged into Jupiter to prevent it from crashing into Europa, which Galileo found to have water, when its power goes out. Our congratulations to the Galileo team (and craft) for their outstanding work.

- posted by Jim @ 10:46 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, September 29, 2003

No Physiological Barriers to Mars Mission

Soyuz Spacecraft.
Soyuz Spacecraft.
Credit: NASA
The recent unorthodox crew rotation of the International Space Station, caused by the February 1 Columbia disaster, has resulted in an unplanned demonstration of the human body's ability to tolerate the conditions during a voyage to Mars.

Two astronauts spent 161 days in orbit and then successfully landed and secured a Soyuz spacecraft without aid from the ground. Says one of the astronauts, Donald Pettit, "All of this demonstrates human beings have enough physical strength and integrity to go on these long missions, pilot vehicles through operational paths, secure equipment and operate immediately."

One of the major hurdles of an interplanetary mission has always been the physical stress the astronauts would be subjected to.

(More info: Yahoo! News)

- posted by Brian @ 20:52 EST

(permanent link)

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