Could an image similar to this be in our near future? If Elon Musk has his way - the answer is yes. Falcon 9 Image Courtesy of SpaceX - Mars Image Courtesy of NASA

[/caption]Elon Musk is not one to rest on prior accomplishments; he likes to continue to push forward – his plans for the future of commercial space flight reflect that philosophy. He has stated his plans to begin crewed flights to Mars. Musk thinks that humans can set foot on the red planet within the next 10 to 20 years. He stated that the rationale behind mankind becoming a multi-planet species should be obvious to all.

“Ultimately, it is vital that we are on a path to becoming a multi-planet species,” said Musk. “If we don’t then our future isn’t very bright, we’ll simply be hanging out on Earth until some calamity claims us.”

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is set to head to the International Space Station this December. SpaceX has plans to use the spacecraft in potential Martian missions. Image Credit: SpaceX

Musk made the announcement of his intent during this month’s meeting of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) that was held in San Diego, California.

SpaceX would presumably utilize the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is slated to conduct its first launch either at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013. Whereas the Falcon 9 features nine engines in its first stage, the Falcon Heavy, being a triple-body design similar of the Delta IV Heavy – would utilize 27 Merlin engines. It is estimated that the Falcon Heavy could send 12 to 15 metric tons to orbit.

The proposed Falcon Heavy is scheduled to launch either some time next year or in the early part of 2013. Image Credit: SpaceX

The spacecraft that would fly any mission to the red planet would theoretically be an offshoot of the vehicle that SpaceX sent to orbit last December, the Dragon. In fact the craft/project has already been dubbed the “Red Dragon.”

NASA currently plans to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars sometime in the 2030s. If SpaceX is successful, this would be far faster than what the space agency has stated it is capable of accomplishing.

SpaceX has had a number of successes lately. It has successfully launched two of its heavy-lift Falcon 9 rockets, the second of which carried the first of the company’s Dragon spacecraft to orbit. Shortly thereafter the company recovered the vehicle as it bobbed safely in the Pacific Ocean after returning safely to Earth. The feat of sending spacecraft to and from orbit had only been accomplished by nations before this.

The NewSpace firm is working to speed up the timeline of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract, worth an estimated $1.6 billion, that the company has with NASA. SpaceX has requested and technically received permission to send the next Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) this December. Originally this flight would have been a flyby of the orbiting laboratory to test out several of the spacecraft’s key operating systems. However, one of the ISS partners, Russia, has yet to sign off on this plan however.

Musk wants to see his "Red Dragon" on the surface of Mars within the next 20 years. Image Credit: SpaceX

The California-based company was also tapped to participate in NASA’s Crew Commercial Development contract (phase 2) – more commonly known as CCDev-02. SpaceX was selected along with Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Blue Origin. Each firm was awarded a different cash sum to accomplish the proposals that they had set forth.

SpaceX is a company whose scope appears to be rapidly expanding. The announcement at the AIAA by Musk appears to highlight this fact. Mars has long been the destination of choice for many within the space community. Funding and logistics woes have delayed the first manned mission from ever taking place. It remains to be explained how the mission will be flown, will it be unilateral, multi-national or some other mixture? Will private industry take the lead? For his part Musk has thrown down the gauntlet – “Red Dragon” could fly as early as 2018.

SpaceX toured the Dragon spacecraft that flew to orbit this past December around the country in order to demonstrate the company's growing capabilities. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian


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Anonymous
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Anonymous
August 10, 2011 12:49 AM

“…launched to of its heavy-left Falcon 9 rockets”

Great. So all of us lefties are moving to Mars after all.

I thought Space X had plans to develop a XX version of their heavy lift vehicle. Something on the order of 100 tons or more; comparable to the Saturn V in tonnage. Has the plan shifted to a modular mission?

WaxyMary
Member
WaxyMary
August 10, 2011 1:15 AM

I here yosue, yeah, to for two, left for lift, what is the –what is the worild comming ta, anywaw.

If 12-15 tons is all this baby can do 100+ tons will be “built the thing in space from modular units”.

The engine type would have to be of greater thrust than the Merlin (current designation) and there would be additional goals that type of engine in a cluster could do. Isn’t it something like 75% of the mass of any rocket is consumed to accelerate to 50% of the intended orbital insertion velocity?

Mary

mastercope
Member
mastercope
August 10, 2011 4:35 AM

Falcon Heavy will put 53 tons to orbit, also the Merlin 2 engine will easily be the most powerful engine ever built will more than quadruple that weight. we live in a most wonderful time for the Adventure to begin

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 10, 2011 7:34 AM

Yes, Musk notes that 2-3 Falcon-Heavy launches sets up a minimal Mars mission. It can be cheaper than the Curiosity mission.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 10, 2011 7:36 AM

To spell differently is “to fail a little creative”. [sips his t with lemon]

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 10, 2011 3:35 AM

That is about it. I really do not think humans are migrating to Mars any time soon.

LC

TerryG
Member
August 10, 2011 4:09 AM
Hi Uncle, An earlier edit of your post referred to the Falcon X and Falcon XX and possible time lines for either. A precursor for development the Falcon X and Falcon XX (the so-called “BFRs” or Big expletive-deleted Rockets) is development of the Merlin 2 engine. The Merlin 2 would be in a similar class to Rocketdyne’s F1 engine used on the Saturn Vs of the Apollo era or the Russian RD-170 / RD-171 engine currently used on the Zenit rocket (58 successful flights in 68 launches) in that the Merlin 2 would be LOX/RP-1 fueled and capable of a projected 1.7 million lb. of thrust at sea level and 1.92 million lb. in a vacuum (see here… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 10, 2011 8:12 AM

This is an unfair market point that I am sure Musk would have made big scores with unless it is in his interest to keep the war axe buried:

The other day I read an article that claims ULA gets its Atlas V RD-180 engines (3x per launch) at half the production cost from Russia.

Is this how political rats smell?

TerryG
Member
August 10, 2011 3:47 PM
Hi Torbjörn, AeroJet cheaply acquired a stockpile of 36 Russian designed, 1960s era, N.D. Kuznetzov NK-33 rocket engines for less than $40 million in the mid 1990s. Today, re-packaged as the AeroJet AJ-26-58, these engines are destined for use on Orbital Science Corp’s Taurus II medium-lift launch vehicle selected for use in NASA’s COTS ISS resupply program alongside SpaceX’s Falcon 9 medium-lift launch vehicle . Why the NK-33? This engine achieves the highest thrust-to-weight ratio of any Earth-launched rocket engine, while achieving a very high specific impulse and is by many measures the highest performance LOX/Kerosene rocket engine ever created. Now that AeroJet has an exclusive license to produce these engines in the U.S., their intention is to… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 11, 2011 11:45 PM

Thanks, good to now!

mastercope
Member
mastercope
August 10, 2011 4:22 AM
Offer is only valid for a small elite. Everyone else foots the bill. Give a few the experience of a lifetime today for the special introductory offer of 12 trillion dollars. First there is no we footing the bill this is not NASA but Private Enterprise so SpaceX foots the bill with very small grant money from NASA, who really does not want to be out of this Adventure but provide science and technology to assist SpaceX. Second point the bill as now and maybe a little more when it happens is only 400 million as it is being done with a very good management team. Get us there and the brave will go and even more brave… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 10, 2011 12:41 PM
I have not investigated the money foundations here, but I find it difficult to see how a mission to Mars will be financed entirely by private funds. It might be one thing if a launch vehicle is privately financed by a company founded by a billionaire. E. Musk made a killing off of PayPal. As an order of magnitude estimate unmanned missions to orbit that cost on the order of $10^8 might be privately financed. Putting astronauts in orbit probably increase that cost to $10^9, and a lunar program might up that to $10^{10}. A Mars mission will cost around $10^{12}. That is 10,000 times the cost of a single orbital launch as has been done with the… Read more »
damian
Member
August 10, 2011 2:46 PM
The craft that can make the journey is the key, and the best kind of craft will already be a simulacrum of our biosphere and ecology. The first such ship or station will be expensive, but your thinking in terms of spacecraft rather then habitats. My conjecture is we should be thinking more habitat then spacecraft. Bigelow and Space X should team up. The old adage, “its not the destination but the journey” comes to mind. If the journey can be done in relative comfort… Perhaps you wont need to go (down) to mars. If your comfy ship can give you a sightseeing trip of a lifetime. Especially if it has an orbit that crosses the orbits of… Read more »
Otto M. W. Zee
Guest
August 10, 2011 12:01 PM

hey, nice math’s! Yes he made a killing off Paypal, so did Bill Gates and what did he do? Elon Musk said it nicely and smart: We must become a space faring civilization, to survive the future!

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 10, 2011 7:40 PM
I would say that it is best that the outcome of this be determined by what it is that works. It might well be that human beings never step on the surface of Mars or become a multi-planetary or space faring species or civilization. If that is the case we will have to adjust our future accordingly. It might be best to consider our situation with regards to where we do live. If you have a test tube with a growth medium bacteria placed in there will double their numbers every 20 minutes. So we place one bacteria in there. Then after a few days let us assume they have multiplied to the point they have used up… Read more »
r0blar
Member
r0blar
August 10, 2011 6:43 PM
But: “According to Kapitsa (1997),[86] the world population grew between 67,000 BC and 1965 according to the formula: N=C/?*arccot([T0-T]/?) where N is current population T is the current year C = (1.86±0.01)•10^11 T0 = 2007±1 ? = 42±1″ Although: “Using linear interpolation of the UNDESA estimates, the world population has been doubled or will double in the following years (with two different starting points). Note how, during the 2nd millennium, each doubling took roughly half as long as the previous doubling, fitting the hyperbolic growth model mentioned above. However, it is unlikely that there will be another doubling in the current century.[87]” However: “Tracing one person’s lineage back in time forms a binary tree of parents, grandparents, great-grandparents… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
August 11, 2011 12:42 AM
I agree. We need to get a grip on reality and face the facts that far-removed, expensive artificial habitats are not the optimal use of our resources. It’s analogous to the young adult who buys expensive toys while his personal living situation goes down the tubes. If we want to better our future and ensure the survival of our civilization, the Earth is our best habitat. We are not managing our own home very well. perhaps we are somewhat complacent because civilization – at least up until l now – particularly in the western world has been largely successful. We are facing a growing laundry that is going unaddressed. Day-to-day survival is not something any of us had… Read more »
trclark81
Member
trclark81
August 11, 2011 12:20 AM

your numbers are equal parts pure speculation, and complete garbage. I see a big list of complete stabs in the dark. I’ve seen a lot of people with experience in the field give estimates on the costs far, far lower than multiple hundreds of tons. I won’t even get into your grossly incorrect cost numbers. If you want to make a point using numbers, try using real ones.

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 11, 2011 1:37 AM

I think I will stand by my numbers as order of magnitude estimates. GH Bush in 1991 had his space initiative and the cost for each Mars mission was estimated at $.5trillion. A Mars craft would probably have at minimum 100metric tons of mass, which is about the mass of the space shuttle. A Mars craft will be at least that size and mass. And no, we are not expecting a crew to sit still in a cramped capsule for two years. They would go insane, similar to what happens with prolonged cell lockdowns or solitary confinement in prisons.

LC

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 11, 2011 11:59 PM

Sure, those order of magnitude would set an upper limit.

But that the Space Exploration Initiative cost was the whole program for 20-30 years.

And we are discussing hardware that is developed, and for ~ 1/10 – 1/100 of NASA costs, depending on if we are discussing launch or project cost.

I can agree with Terence Clark that in a sense those numbers are not very applicable to the new playfield. And that is the core of Musk’s proposals.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 11, 2011 11:59 PM

Sure, those order of magnitude would set an upper limit.

But that the Space Exploration Initiative cost was the whole program for 20-30 years.

And we are discussing hardware that is developed, and for ~ 1/10 – 1/100 of NASA costs, depending on if we are discussing launch or project cost.

I can agree with Terence Clark that in a sense those numbers are not very applicable to the new playfield. And that is the core of Musk’s proposals.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
August 11, 2011 2:03 AM

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to go to Mars too, but we have to be realistic about our expected returns, or the opportunities Mars will offer biological life.

I have yet to see any estimate that can get us there for 400 million; good management or not. Most projections that have run through the costs projections place a Martian mission in the realm of billions or trillions – with a colony in the trillions (see LC’s discussion for reasons why a Martian trip is expensive).

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 10, 2011 7:51 AM
The way it is set up now, there can be mass tourism from suborbitals up to extended orbits. All the needed infrastructure and economy of scale is converging on that. But the rest is “take it or leave it”. A freshly added problem I just saw the other day is that even low gravity conditions seems hazardous to health, as I remember it. Long term living on the Moon, and perhaps Mars, can be a problem. But it is early days. If we can get there, the rest is relatively easy. (Not the dust, obviously. It will be a dozy.) Caving will solve most of the problems. I am sure a biosphere even at todays lousy ~ 70… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
August 10, 2011 11:55 PM

I did consider caving. There are probably ways to mitigate risks and lower overall costs (inflatable habitats blown into lava tunnels, etc.). Still, I’m unconvinced this makes more sense then staying out of Mar’s gravity well. Perhaps companies like SpaceX can find ways of utilizing resources in space. There might be a need for manned service missions to theses celestial bodies. Not glamourous, but seems to make more financial sense.

Thanks for the link!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
August 10, 2011 8:02 AM

Thank the lord the founding fathers didn’t share your views sir…otherwise you’d be still sat here in Tottenham with me…smile

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
August 10, 2011 11:46 AM

Your clever post brought great humor to my early morning. Well done, “Uncle Fred”! ( Not that I am against man’s exploratory quest beyond his known horizons. )

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
August 10, 2011 11:53 PM

Glad I could be of service!

I’m not against space exploration either. I respect and admire people like Elon Musk. I just don’t see the means justifying the ends with manned Martian exploration.

tel
Member
tel
August 10, 2011 9:33 AM

You mean we get to go to mars? Sign me up!

Otto M. W. Zee
Guest
August 10, 2011 11:53 AM

Dear Uncle_Fredwink Why so negative? We will master the challenges ahead! Just remember, if you’re old enough, APOLLO!!! The technologies existing THEN were, well, inadequate to say the least. STILL, we made it… not just once.
YES, there are challenges and dangers. I am happy however, that there is a man, Elon Musk, who has already done things which recently could only be accomplished by NATIONS!
He is a visionary like von Braun and many other people, thinking outside the box, a creative mind. May the force be with him and SpaceX.

Mike Smith
Guest
Mike Smith
August 10, 2011 7:29 PM

Planet-wide “desserts”? Creme broulee for everyone! Count me in!

PhillyJimi
Member
PhillyJimi
August 11, 2011 7:54 PM
Uncle_Fred – Really??? If we are ever going to live on another planet where else do you propose? Like Little Red Riding Hood, The Gas planets aren’t a good place to lay a foundation down. Venus and Mercury are just a tad too hot. Mars isn’t perfect but it is all there is. Anything short of an anti-matter engine and we’re not going to visit another star for thousands of years. You may ask why even bother? Well why did humans built the pyramids? The great wall? Why did we climb Everest? Or travel to the poles? I don’t know but I have a feeling the future history books in 1000 or 10,000 years will not be talking… Read more »
WaxyMary
Member
WaxyMary
August 11, 2011 9:05 PM
@PhillyJimi, I liked the passion of your argument quite a lot. However… You may ask why even bother? Well why did humans built the pyramids? The great wall? Why did we climb Everest? Or travel to the poles? Some folks surmise the pyramids and the tells built in the desert were built to act as life saving areas when catastrophic flooding would occur on a periodic time table -15 yr in – 15 yr out, and of course with stable periods of around 12 yrs during each of the ins and outs. The great wall, well some have told us it was to act as a “choke point for hordes of outsiders so that other outsiders could fight… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 10, 2011 1:12 AM

I caught a couple of mistakes. The “heavy-left Falcon 9 rockets” in the sixth paragraph should be heavy lift. The last sentence is “thrown down th gauntlet,”

I must confess that something seems amiss here. While this heavy lift vehicle is large, it seems implausible that a crew could really survive the small cabin environment of this craft for the two year journey to Mars and back. There is also the question of provisions, which would have to be considerable.

LC

snowfist
Member
snowfist
August 10, 2011 1:21 PM

Bigelow will provide the living space on the journey I would suppose

postman1
Member
postman1
August 11, 2011 1:28 AM

Dan Johnson? NASA retiree in NC mtns?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
August 10, 2011 1:31 PM

Musk’s mission studies will ivenitably zero in on the most practical and workable option, a one-person, one-way coilonization concept expressed by James McLane in his 2006 Space Review article, “Spirit of the Lone Eagle” http://www.thespacereview.com/article/669/1

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
August 10, 2011 1:31 PM

Musk’s mission studies will ivenitably zero in on the most practical and workable option, a one-person, one-way coilonization concept expressed by James McLane in his 2006 Space Review article, “Spirit of the Lone Eagle” http://www.thespacereview.com/article/669/1

Otto M. W. Zee
Guest
August 10, 2011 12:34 PM

Heavy lifters could just bring enough stuff to EO to build the Mars vehicle, and YES, the crew should be larger, maybe 10, consisting of men and women. The vehicle going to Mars should use the most powerful engines available.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 12, 2011 12:06 AM

Zubrin et al pulls Bigelow type of tents out of the storage space of CEVs.
Dragon has, I believe, even more cargo capacity. One stores the journey cabin, the other the perishables, and with a tether they spin them for pseudo-gravity.

But Zubrin is the crazy one. I expect Musk to be more down-to-Mars.

TerryG
Member
August 10, 2011 1:15 AM

FYI. Elon fielded audience questions on potential Mars missions at a Q & A session during the recent AIAA meeting. This has been posted here on YouTube. Elon is shaping-up to be a Steve Jobs of NewSpace.

Otto M. W. Zee
Guest
August 10, 2011 12:19 PM

Totally agree! Elon Musk is the von Braun of today, plus he seems to be a good manager and businessman! This man may be for space what Jobs is for computers…
Musk draws attention, because he is visionary and bold. We’ll hear a lot from and about him in the future I hope. may the force be with himwink.
Gee, how I would go to Mars in a heartbeat if I only had a chance. Our engineers and scientists will solve the problems based on ideas from a vast resource around the world, us!!!

Joseph Brown
Guest
Joseph Brown
August 10, 2011 4:21 AM

Yet another error in this article — the Falcon 9 is really a medium-to-heavy lift vehicle & carries ~ 10 metric tons to LEO. The Falcon Heavy will be a heavy lift vehicle, and will carry about 53 metric tons to LEO. The Falcon X and Falcon XX (and their multi-core ‘heavy’ variants) are still conjectural, awaiting development of the Merlin 2 engine. These launchers will be capable of lifting anywhere from 38 to 140 metric tons or more to LEO in a single launch.

Bob Lathrop
Guest
August 10, 2011 4:34 AM

I was the only one in my second grade class who wanted to be an astronaut: 1962. Now I’m just a bit jealous. Oh, and I’m really old.

Tim McDaniel
Member
Tim McDaniel
August 10, 2011 4:41 AM

They’ve launched two Falcon 9s into orbit and they’re planning for Mars. {snort}

Then there’s the problem of landing on Mars, which I am given to understand is that there’s too much atmosphere for some purposes and not enough for others.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 10, 2011 6:44 AM

They have launched 5 Falcon-1, 2 Falcon-9 and 1 Dragon. They are planning for all sorts of things. If some comes out right, who cares about the rest?

renoor
Member
renoor
August 10, 2011 3:44 PM

what about a glider that could survive speeds in order of thousands of kilometers per hour? surely not possible in earth’s atmosphere, but what about mars? who said you have to slow down from orbit to landing in few minutes like shuttle (R.I.P.)? the slow-down glide could last multiple hours or days…

Tim McDaniel
Member
Tim McDaniel
August 10, 2011 8:07 PM

“what about a glider that could survive speeds in order of thousands of kilometers per hour?” Please see http://www.universetoday.com/7024/the-mars-landing-approach-getting-large-payloads-to-the-surface-of-the-red-planet/ . This is a case where the atmosphere is not dense enough: you have seconds to get from slowing down from high Mach before you crater. “You’d still be going at Mach 2 or 3 fairly close to the ground.” To use a glider, I gather you’d have to first land enough equipment and probably people to make a runway that could take a Mach 2 landing.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 10, 2011 7:27 AM
Musk has thrown down the gauntlet. His IAAA speech in the youtube mentioned in the thread reveals that SpaceX economical plan revolves around supporting Mars colonization to achieve sufficient turn around. Ad astra or go bust. While I can share the general sentiment, I am not sure I share Musk motivations. I have said it ad nauseam already: we are evolving anyway, and the risk for a specific species isn’t external extinction pressures. Musk dismiss mining, but it is relevant for exploitation for, say, his colonies. Historically the economy in colonization has naturally been precisely exploitation before independence, and I doubt that can change. “Inverse gain” exploitation in the form of population relief will not work. I can… Read more »
Otto M. W. Zee
Guest
August 10, 2011 12:31 PM

While I am not a scientist, I am a fan of TLwink Why criticize Musk, when you can contribute? I am sure Musk wants smart people… the way to succeed in business is to employ the smartest, the most creative and innovative minds, and manage this team to outdo any individual. The leader always is the one with the vision, Torbjörn! Steve Jobs is probably the best example in modern times.
Please enlighten me further. Thank you for all your great contribution here.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 12, 2011 12:08 AM

Thank you.

Stephane Labelle
Guest
August 10, 2011 12:04 PM

We will need to terraform Mars first.

Otto M. W. Zee
Guest
August 10, 2011 12:21 PM

with every mission so far hurled to Mars, we could have send microbes to start the process… smile

Mike
Guest
Mike
August 10, 2011 6:59 PM
Terraforming isn’t going to work on Mars unless we can first find a way to create an artificial magnetic field around the entire planet and create a moon sized to stabilize the planet’s rotation. Specifically, without the magnetic field, the solar winds will just strip away any beneficial atmosphere we manage to create and, more significantly, cosmic rays and other harmful particles will directly impact the planet (and any colonists) instead of being diverted the way it is here on Earth. As far as sending microbes to begin the terraforming process, I seriouslt doubt anyone would sign off on such a plan since we are still attempting to determine if there is or has been any Mars-originating life… Read more »
qraal
Member
August 11, 2011 7:35 AM

Mike, those truisms need to be buried. Atmosphere erosion by the solar wind at present is minuscule – it was only significant when the Sun was young and the wind was 1000 times stronger. As for the Moon stabilizer thingie, we’re talking about multi-thousand year timescales for significant inclination changes – plenty enough time to prepare.

As for radiation protection, most of the Solar wind is deflected by the planetary ionospheres around present day Mars and Venus. Flares will cause some radiation from the Sun to get through, but a thicker atmosphere will stop that automatically. On Earth we are protected by our atmosphere, not our magnetosphere.

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 11, 2011 1:24 PM

The magnetosphere does protect us. The atmosphere of a planet without a magnetic field is attenuated by solar induced charged particle bombardment over hundreds of millions of years. Solar wind took out the Martian atmosphere this way, where the smaller Martian gravity permitted this to happen at an accelerated rate. If the Earth did not have a magnetic field the atmosphere would be significantly less, maybe a half or a quarter of its current sea level pressure.

LC

Mike
Guest
Mike
August 11, 2011 4:06 PM

Thanks LC – couldn’t have said it better myself; and I tried (above)! lol

qraal
Member
August 11, 2011 8:06 PM

Did I say otherwise? The present day erosion has been confused with the higher levels of the past. Extra atmosphere on Mars now would last aeons because the current rate is so low – the solar wind isn’t an impediment to terraforming now.

squidgeny
Guest
squidgeny
August 12, 2011 9:21 AM

The ideal of installing a magnetic field for Mars is a bit dubious, but I agree with qraal that atmospheric loss isn’t a big barrier. Presumably, we would want to find a way to create atmosphere at such rates as to dwarf its gradual loss.

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 10, 2011 2:23 PM
There is one needed ingredient to engage in manned interplanetary exploration. It requires a serious propulsion system. The specific impulse (ISP) of chemical rockets has an upper bound of about 550 seconds. Specific impulse s = v/g for v the velocity of the reaction mass shot out the back of the rocket and g = 9.8m/s^2, one Earth gravity at the surface. A nuclear solid core reactor engine has s = 1000sec, a liquid core s = 2000sec and the gas core s = 5000 sec. A gas core reactor borders on being a controlled nuclear bomb, so that is a bit dicey. The VASIMR propulsion system has an ISP up to s = 10,000 sec. A nuclear… Read more »
qraal
Member
August 11, 2011 7:28 AM

A VASIMR is only as effective as the power source to energize its jets. Unfortunately for all fans of plasma rockets, we don’t have power sources light enough to do the job sufficiently well to get to Mars in mere weeks. The best a VASIMR can do isn’t much different to what a chemical mission can do, as both require aerobraking at Mars and over 100 days transit time. A free-return orbit to Mars is the best option using either system, but we don’t have to invent a power source for the chemical rockets to do the mission.

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
August 11, 2011 12:50 PM

The optimal power source for a plasma propulsion system is nuclear, or maybe further into the future fusion, power. Nuclear power in space has its detractions from a health and safety perspective, but I think these issues can be hammered out. The space nuclear power systems which have been deployed, SNAP etc, are pretty small affairs. Without propulsion systems that have much larger ISPs, interplanetary exploration of space with astronauts is ill-advised, very expensive and extremely risky.

LC

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 12, 2011 12:22 AM

But those are VASIMRs own figures I believe.

Current reactors can _maybe_ be pushed to a factor 2 from what is needed to take VASIMR from a Hohmann type trajectory to a faster.

I think VASIMR may be sound, but again Mars seems to be the “too little, too much” planet. For Jupiter, VASIMR will probably deliver sooner.

Ryan Cole
Guest
August 10, 2011 6:13 PM

CORRECTION: 12-15 tons to orbit is wrong. This is more like what we can expect from the single core Falcon 9 after the new turbo pump upgrade. The Falcon 9 Heavy should be able to put 58.5 tons (117,000 lbs) to orbit. This will make the Falcon Heavy the worlds biggest rocket in production.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 12, 2011 12:24 AM

The turbo pump upgrade, if successful, will help. The need to make the stages reusable will not. I would expect the future Falcon Heavy to lift ~ 50 tons.

Mike Smith
Guest
Mike Smith
August 10, 2011 7:35 PM
Everyone on this thread seems to be discussing the capability of Mars mission in terms of today’s science and technology, whether it comes down to propulsion, life support, communications, etc. While this is quaint, it is ultimately a futile discussion. Technology will continue to improve exponentially and in ways that are plainly inconceivable at this point in time. In 20 years, you will look back on this point in time and say (to your grandchildren, perhaps), “I still remember the days before we discovered ‘x’, and we thought it was impossible that a human being would survive the trip to Mars.” This has been the story of history up to this point in time, and it will continue… Read more »
trclark81
Member
trclark81
August 11, 2011 12:29 AM

F Heavy is estimating 53+ tons to LEO, not 12-15. SpaceX has said it should be able to put in the neighborhood of 12 tons on the surface of Mars, however.

EltonB
Guest
EltonB
August 10, 2011 11:29 PM
The longest anyone has been away from Earth is less than 2 weeks (3 days to the moon, 3 days back, + time on the moon). It may not be possible psychologically to be away much longer – we just don’t know. It’s not the same as low earth orbit, with the planet constantly looming out the window, hours away from emergency touchdown if needed (the shuttle took 1hr, 5min from deorbit burn to landing). To get to Mars and back in a matter of weeks would take a nuclear engined rocket with about 1000 fold increase in energy. You would need a bigger ship. You would need to get that ship going 10’s of times faster (the… Read more »
qraal
Member
August 11, 2011 7:46 AM

That being said, once we have a presence on Mars, then the development can begin on sending more cargo or quicker flights. VASIMR is perfect for that role, once we can power it.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 12, 2011 12:29 AM

If VASIMR works, it will definitely be good as we get farther out. And even if it only achieves parity on Mars, it should be more robust and perhaps permit refueling in most places. (Argon is “easily” liquified from gasified media.)

squidgeny
Guest
squidgeny
August 11, 2011 10:28 AM

Well if you’re just going to appeal to technological miracles, then what’s the point in discussing anything at all in regards to the future of Mars?

SpaceX might as well not bother developing a rocket because who knows, maybe tomorrow someone have invented a teleporter and we can just go to Mars in an instant.

Mike Smith
Guest
Mike Smith
August 11, 2011 9:02 AM

Who said anything about needing miracles? I’m just addressing the pessimistic attitudes of some of the other posts, who seem to assume that what we have now in terms of technological capacity is all we’ll ever be able to achieve.

squidgeny
Guest
squidgeny
August 12, 2011 9:19 AM

Ok, fair point.

But I would say that it’s the safest possible assumption to make, to assume we’ll never develop new technologies. Incredibly unlikely, I’ll agree, but if we’re going to discuss how to do something, it makes sense to discuss it in terms of proven technologies rather than speculative ones.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
August 12, 2011 12:38 AM

As a comparison to Mars exploration/Moon return, diverse private companies plans an affordable, tourist, return to the Mariana trench after 50 years. (Trieste 1960.)

These things takes time to do.

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