Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars NASA Space Transportation Science Technology

NASA Wants Spacecraft For Mars Return Trip 193

Posted by timothy
from the oh-a-mockup's-fine-actually dept.
coondoggie writes "If we ever do get to Mars, getting home might prove to be as difficult. NASA today selected three companies — Alliant Techsystems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — to being the task of defining the spacecraft that will leave Mars, presumably at first loaded with red planet rock samples, then later possibly humans — for a safe trip back to Earth. The engineering challenges those three companies face are immense."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Wants Spacecraft For Mars Return Trip

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 26, 2011 @02:08PM (#35325252)

    We don't pay for any bids that specify the same ship design be used for the return as was used during the departure.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      It can't be. For one thing, you've used up almost all of your mass as fuel by the time you land at Mars.
      Then there's the pesky little detail that most people ignore, that Mars isn't a sister planet to Earth, but a tiny little ball that has more in common with Mercury and large moons than with Earth and Venus. You only need a tiny fraction of the boost to lift of from Mars compared to Earth.

    • Any more so than the Apollo CSM could be the same as the entire Saturn V configured for Apollo, or an F/A-18 could be the same as the USS Nimitz. The outbound craft is going to have to contain the inbound craft - by definition, they can't be the same thing.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @02:10PM (#35325268) Journal
    I'd design it so it had just enough thrust to get back in Mars Orbit. Then I'd send a 2nd craft from Earth to ferry it back. I figure there is a lot of problems that could be solved by reducing that added fuel weight from it.
    • by MachDelta (704883)

      Why bother making the trip twice? The same ship that carries everything to mars can be used as a fueling depot in mars orbit for the lander to return to earth.

      • by Z00L00K (682162)

        Essentially it may end up being a six stage rocket we are talking about.

        For a human transport I think that the following concept is what's needed.

        Stage 1 & 2 are to leave Earth.
        Stage 3 is for the transit phase to Mars.
        Stage 4 is for the return trip.
        Stage 5 is for landing.
        Stage 6 is for departure from Mars to Mars orbit.

        At arrival at Mars Stage 3 is discarded, Stage 4 left in orbit and Stage 5&6 are landed, at launch Stage 5 will be used as launch pad for Stage 6. However Stage 3 could still be usefu

        • by MachDelta (704883)

          Yeah this is very similar to what I was picturing.

          No matter how you slice it, I think, a round trip to mars would be the largest/longest/most expensive/most complicated/quintessentially fantastic trip in human history.
          Yet i'm 27 and afraid I may not live to see it.

    • The problem is (if I understand the orbital mechanics right; IANARS) that the launch window for getting to mars, or back, is rather small and occurs but rarely. If you send a rocket TO mars, it won't immediately come back, because the window to START travelling is shorter than the time it takes to get there.

      Additionally, the fuel needed in transit is actually much less than the fuel needed to get into and out of those kind of orbits--because space has no force opposing inertia. Getting a load from the sur

      • by TamCaP (900777)
        I think the launch window depends directly on the amount of fuel (or if you prefer, m/s) you are willing to spend. I would think (yet, also, IANARS) that the more m/s you are willing to spend (thus the more fuel you are willing to move to orbit from Earth) the larger your launch windows would be.
        And yes. Despite much smaller gravity well that Mars has, I guess it makes more sense to leave fuel for return trip in orbit than to take it to Mars surface. This way, if something goes wrong with the lander, you
    • should be nuclear. Seriously. We need to develop a small nuclear ferry for sending goods between earth and mars. Building a prototype for moving small samples and cargo around would be worth it.
  • One Way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Monty845 (739787) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @02:13PM (#35325302)
    Who needs to come back. We should send a one way craft, there would be countless volunteers even if it was clear that they are never coming home. Once there, you could start working to establish a sustainable off planet colony... Would also make getting there a lot cheaper.
    • by Arlet (29997)

      Personally, I would be much more interested in a sample return mission than a Mars colony.

      The amount of materials you need to send over to establish a viable colony are also staggering. A small sample return mission is probably simpler.

    • by Frangible (881728)
      Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space) said recently she'd be happy to volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars. I'm sure you could find other veteran astronauts and cosmonauts who feel the same. I think it's a bit ghoulish, personally... the Russian scientists who sent Laika up on a one-way trip (first animal / dog in space) regretted it. I think we'd owe it to the astronauts and/or cosmonauts to at least *attempt* to bring them home safely.
      • I bet it's already happened with death-row prisoners.
      • Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space) said recently she'd be happy to volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars.

        And, in a few weeks, she'll be 74 years old.

        I'm sure you could find a bunch of people who would be willing to volunteer. The question is whether or not these people would actually be worth sending to Mars. I'd rather send a bunch of scientists (geologists, biologists, etc.) who are interested in doing research and returning to Earth in order to publish their findings than a bunch of suicidal thrill-seekers who are looking for some way to get their names in the history books.

    • by Laser Lou (230648)

      Well, we can better analyze the samples they collect back on earth. Also, travelling the Mars will be hard on the astronauts, and the experience they gain would be invaluable for future missions.

    • The idea of a self-sustaining Martian colony is beyond retarded. It costs something like a million dollars/kg to get stuff to Mars. To get a colony going would require millions of kilograms of stuff. Then anything you manufactured there would have to be transported back to earth to be sold - again with transport costs $1M/kg (or more, as building return rockets on Mars would no doubt be exceedingly expensive). And Mars is made of the same stuff as earth - silicates, iron, etc. What the hell could you possib

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Ha, right. Did you maybe miss what happened to the shuttle program when some astronauts got killed? NASA sending a crew to slowly die on Mars on evening television would probably be the end of the whole US space program.

      And die they would. We're nowhere near having the capability to put a self sustaining base on Mars.

      • NASA sending a crew to slowly die on Mars on evening television would probably be the end of the whole US space program.

        I would guess that about half the Presidents and most of the Senators of the last 50 years would consider the cost of a one-way Mars mission a small price to pay to be able to defund NASA for good.

  • ... and a pony. It's not going to happen until the economy picks up considerably or we get into a space race with China to see who can get there(and back) first.
  • Pale red dot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Palmsie (1550787) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @02:18PM (#35325348)

    "There does not seem to be sufficient short-term profit to motivate private industry. If we humans ever go to these worlds, then, it will be because a nation or a consortium of them believes it to be to its advantage" -Sagan

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      "There does not seem to be sufficient short-term profit to motivate private industry. If we humans ever go to these worlds, then, it will be because a nation or a consortium of them believes it to be to its advantage" -Sagan

      No, it will be because the cost of getting there has dropped into a range that rich tourists can afford. Otherwise there's no particularly good reason to go to Mars when all the resources we need to live in space are floating around waiting for us in asteroids and comets.

      • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

        Well, part of the cost is the *time* involved. It's doubtful a Mars tourist trip would be feasible in even a dozen generation's time.
        A spinning roulette wheel orbital casino a la Cowboy Bebob would be the best bet. It'd be faster and easier to get to as well as generate artificial gravity, making it easier to keep hold of your cards and chips, and having sex with space hookers... sex in zero-g is not sexy at all.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Well, part of the cost is the *time* involved. It's doubtful a Mars tourist trip would be feasible in even a dozen generation's time.

          Bill Gates could probably afford it today if he was willing to take significant risks; NASA might need a trillion dollars to fly to Mars and back, but a private company could do it for much less. Falcon-9 is supposed to cost about $100,000,000 to put 32 tons into LEO, so you could launch a thousand ton spacecraft (most of which would be fuel) for about $3 billion... even if that ship costs $10 billion itself, that totals less than a quarter of what Gates is reportedly worth. And while 'the richest few peopl

          • by Frangible (881728)
            Yeah, but is that technology going to get cheaper? The fundamentals of rocket science haven't changed since the days of Sergei Korolev and Wernher von Braun. There's no Moore's law in effect here.

            Sure, they can buy seats on the Soyuz, which has been around forever and always been very economically efficient... or SpaceShipOne/Two which are X-15 / X-20 ripoffs (which are Me-263 and some German rocket bomber ripoffs...) anyway, the X-15 / X-20 were always relatively cheap, it's just that the rocket plane
            • by 0123456 (636235)

              Yeah, but is that technology going to get cheaper? The fundamentals of rocket science haven't changed since the days of Sergei Korolev and Wernher von Braun. There's no Moore's law in effect here.

              The fundamentals of flight haven't changed since the Wright Brothers and the cost of the aircraft has increased, but the cost of travel is much lower.

              To give an obvious example of where improvements will come from, the Falcon rockets are designed to be reusable; there's little point doing that if you fly twice a year, but there's a lot of point if you fly a thousand per year. Few people would be able to afford to fly across the Atlantic if the airliner could only make one trip.

              Similarly, having to launch a

              • Your analogy isn't really getting the job done for you. Sure, the price of air travel has gone down - but it's still not cheap. It's still much, much cheaper, for example, to get something shipped UPS ground than UPS overnight. And for bulk quantities of stuff, forget it. Air's not an option for resupplying your coal fired power plant, for example.

                The situation is even worse with respect to space. Prices aren't really coming down at all, and there really aren't any technological breakthroughs on the horizon

                • Your analogy isn't really getting the job done for you. Sure, the price of air travel has gone down - but it's still not cheap. It's still much, much cheaper, for example, to get something shipped UPS ground than UPS overnight. And for bulk quantities of stuff, forget it. Air's not an option for resupplying your coal fired power plant, for example.

                  The situation is even worse with respect to space. Prices aren't really coming down at all, and there really aren't any technological breakthroughs on the horizon as far as anyone can tell. Economies of scale, if you can achieve them, will only get you so far. You're going to need something that makes you some money "out there", and so far, no one has any particularly plausible ideas. The terrestrial planets are all made of the same stuff earth is, and no matter how cheap you make space travel, it's never going to be so cheap that mining is more economically done in space. Asteroids are the same deal. Comets: slushballs. Gas giants: hard to even imagine what you could recover or how to do it. And if you can't figure out what can be economically recovered, you probably can't even get the economy of scale.

                  Somehow we need to break out of that trap

                  Ok, I'll bite. Why do we need to? We've already established that there's no money in it. Carl Sagan seems to be casting about for a reason to do it in the quote. So why? This is really the heart of the matter. You can't just wave your hands and say "we need to get into space... just because". Someone needs to identify the actual benefits - and so far, they seem pretty slim.

                  The actual benefit of advancing space-faring technology is the possibility that humans may one day establish a self-sustaining off-world colony. This is important, to some of us, because it makes extinction much less likely.

                  If you do not care about the extinction of humanity, then I understand not giving a damn about space travel. If you do care, space travel should be pretty important to you.

            • by khallow (566160)

              Yeah, but is that technology going to get cheaper?

              Sure, launch frequency is the great, big, unexploited economy of scale. Any currently operating space vehicle would be much cheaper per launch, if you doubled the number of launches.

              Cost of manufacture has dropped significantly over the decades too.

  • Challenges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @02:28PM (#35325414) Homepage Journal

    "The engineering challenges those three companies face are immense"

    The bureaucratic challenges will be even more so.

  • by cjonslashdot (904508) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @02:29PM (#35325424)

    These big contractors will never come up with an efficient solution. It is against their interests. They will design some very capital intensive approach. Then they will bid on the contracts to build it.

    It will take a startup company to come up with a innovative and viable approach.

    • by houghi (78078)

      They will design some very capital intensive approach.

      So their calculations was done by HARLIE [wikipedia.org]

      (You will probably only get the reference if you read the book)

      • I am curious. Can you explain? Thanks!!
        • by houghi (78078)

          Serious spoiler:

            If you intend to read the book, do not read on.

          Serious. Don't read on.

          HARLIE is a computer which must prove his own reason to exist. In doing so he creates an even bigger computer (Called the G.O.D. computer) that will answer all questions. However this computer will be so big and complex, it will need HARLIE to build it AND to operate it. So just as the companies that will invent a reason to justify their existence, so does HARLIE.

    • It's in their interest to come up with a solution that could feasibly be purchased. Too cheap and not enough profit, but too expensive and Congress doesn't pay for it.
    • by Frangible (881728)
      A small start-up company hardly changes the fact that rocketry is very expensive, and going to other planets and returning is crazy complex. There's no cheap way to do it. The "big contractors" actually have skilled scientists, engineers, and experience... and bid against each other to win the contract. No one is stopping little venture capital dot-com start-ups from trying to compete in this process. It's just that rocket science is... well, rocket science. It's a lot different from programming a hit
      • Yes, it is indeed complex. But I will point out that it took small startups to figure out how to create low cost launch vehicles. The big contractors just don't have that mindset. See this article about Elon Musk: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/aug/01/elon-musk-spacex-rocket-mars [guardian.co.uk]

        From that article:

        "[Musk] investigated the science behind rocket launching and concluded that there was no real reason why it was so expensive. He believed the space industry was dominated by inefficient government bodi

  • To paraphrase - "I think you underestimate their chances".

    From an engineering standpoint, the challenges are similar to the Apollo moon missions.

    What's new is size and weight for the extra storage capacity needed for fuel, food, oxygen, etc; and space for the extra living quarters.

    In fact, I'd say you could do it with 3 launches from Earth to put up a propulsion module, living quarters module (the "RV" section and the mars lander module.

    Assemble them in orbit like the Apollo missions did, go to Mars, drop t

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Well... except for the fact that we don't HAVE the heavy lift tech anymore...

      Heavy lift is a crazy boondoggle; there's very little market for it and as a consequence it ends up far more expensive than using multiple smaller launchers.

      The way to reduce costs is to increase flight rates so that reusability becomes worthwhile and viable, not to stick everything on top of a huge rocket that flies twice a year, costs billions of dollars every time, and destroys your entire multi-billion dollar spacecraft if it fails. That's particularly true for fuel, where you don't much care whether yo

      • by Frangible (881728)

        Heavy lift is a crazy boondoggle

        Yeah, that Wernher von Braun... always concerned with profits and personally designing boondoggle after boondoggle.

        The way to reduce costs is to increase flight rates so that reusability becomes worthwhile and viable, not to stick everything on top of a huge rocket that flies twice a year, costs billions of dollars every time, and destroys your entire multi-billion dollar spacecraft if it fails.

        We had something like that, and it's going to cease to exist in June. It could carry quite a bit of cargo, but not enough for a lunar or martian mission. You're also going to leave stuff behind that's not reusable on any type of super-long distance space trip; "reusable" only really applies to stuff within Earth's atmosphere. You need big freaking rockets to get to Mars and back, and that's

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Yeah, that Wernher von Braun... always concerned with profits and personally designing boondoggle after boondoggle.

          Indeed. A large part of the problem with manned spaceflight is that people continue to follow von Braun's dreams even though experience has shown that he was wrong.

          We had something like that, and it's going to cease to exist in June. It could carry quite a bit of cargo, but not enough for a lunar or martian mission.

          The shuttle was at best refurbishable and required huge amounts of labour and lots of new hardware for each flight. Falcon 9 Heavy should cost about a tenth of the price of a shuttle launch while carrying the same payload, and that's even before they start recovering the stages for refurbishment.

    • by Arlet (29997)

      Mars also has a thin atmosphere, which creates some unique challenges. A rocket assisted landing is fairly easy in a vacuum, but a lot harder while flying supersonic through the atmosphere. On the other hand, the atmosphere is too thin for aerobraking with a heat shield or parachutes.

      What makes it even harder is that Mars is the only place to practice.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        On the other hand, the atmosphere is too thin for aerobraking with a heat shield or parachutes.

        That'll be news to the probes that have landed there using aerobraking and parachutes.

        Ok, they needed either rockets or inflatable balloons for the final touchdown, but most of the braking was performed by the atmosphere. Similarly, you can use the atmosphere to perform much of the braking required to get into orbit, which further reduces fuel requirements.

        • by Arlet (29997)

          That'll be news to the probes that have landed there using aerobraking and parachutes

          Those were all very small and light, and able to withstand the considerable forces of surface impact. This method does not scale up to the size and mass required for a return rocket.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...Robert Zubrin 1996 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_for_Mars for a decent affordable, credible, realistic and possible plan.
    Then, if anyone reading this knows Elon Musk, please send him a copy.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      I'm pretty sure Elon knows Zubrin. Its really a quite small community, and I've been to conferences where they are both there. And I'm pretty sure they agree on a lot of things, including the desire to extend a human presence to that planet.

      I'm not sure what you're getting at.

    • Robert Zubrin 1996 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_for_Mars [wikipedia.org] for a decent affordable, credible, realistic and possible plan.

      For sufficiently fuzzy values of "affordable", "credible", and "realistic" - sure. In the real world, not so much.

      Zubrin consistently treats things that exist as laboratory prototypes as if they were ready to be deployed off-the-shelf. He consistently treats questions that we don't even know enough about to quantify the known unknowns clearly as if they are long solved a

    • Zubrin lives up the road from me. I can tell you that Zubrin would MUCH rather that elon did not have the book. The reason is that Zubrin worked at L-Mart and will continue to push that nightmare Constellation. In fact, I thought it interesting that Zubrin had little to say when Musk was talking about doing a Merlin 2/Falcon XX, yet, threw a fit when the MASSIVELY EXPENSIVE AND 30 years to develop Ares V was cancelled.

      One of the bigger reasons for the dislike is that Zubrin wants a 2 way mission. Musk is
  • we need a way to make fuel on mars better to plan for a one way or very long term trip to Mars and maybe just a shouter term cargo only return.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

      Send some unmanned cargo & fuel-only runs out to Mars orbit to refuel the manned mission for the return trip. The problem is not the technology, it's the political will to fund it. When politicians are in charge of your budget, you wind up with decisions made by cowards.

  • Why do we need a super heavy-lift vehicle to get there? Can't we put the pieces one-by-one into low earth orbit, then bolt em together and head off to Mars? And why are they thinking about landing a heavy ascent vehicle on the surface, all loaded with fuel? (80% of the ascent vehicle will need to be fuel) Why not land a few cans of gas on Mars so the astronauts can fuel up the ascent vehicle prior to liftoff? Would drastically cut the weight of the descent vehicle. And since I'm designing this Mars missio
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      Why even send the fuel? Build it from the environment once you get there. A phased array antenna could avoid the need for a de-spun bus on the vehicle as well.

      Of course, the really hard technical part (not to diminish the political and psychological challenges) is the landing on the surface. There is no 'best practice' for Mars EDL (Entry/Descent/Landing), and landing something big enough to hold people is very much an open problem.

  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @04:15PM (#35326146)

    Before they start working on how to get OFF of Mars they need to figure out how to get ON Mars. A couple of years ago I found this article (sorry, lost the original link).

    Getting Large Payloads to the Surface of Mars
    by Nancy Atkinson
    July 17th, 2007

    Some proponents of human missions to Mars say we have the technology today to send people to the Red Planet. But do we? Rob Manning of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory discusses the intricacies of entry, descent and landing and what needs to be done to make humans on Mars a reality.

    There’s no comfort in the statistics for missions to Mars. To date over 60% of the missions have failed. Even among those who have devoted their careers to the task, mention sending a human mission to land on the Red Planet, with payloads several factors larger than an unmanned spacecraft, and the trepidation grows even larger.

    Why? Nobody knows how to do it.

    Surprised? Most people are, says Rob Manning the Chief Engineer for the Mars Exploration Directorate and presently the only person who has led teams to land three robotic spacecraft successfully on the surface of Mars. "It turns out that most people aren’t aware of this problem and very few have worried about the details of how you get something very heavy safely to the surface of Mars," said Manning.

    He believes many people immediately come to the conclusion that landing humans on Mars should be easy. After all, humans have landed successfully on the Moon and we can land our human-carrying vehicles from space to Earth. And since Mars falls between the Earth and the Moon in size and atmosphere, it should be easy. "There’s the mindset that we should just be able to connect the dots in between," said Manning.

    The real problem is the combination of Mars’ atmosphere and the size of spacecraft needed for human missions. While the Apollo lunar lander weighed approximately 10 metric tons, a human mission to Mars will require three to six times that mass, given the restraints of staying on the planet for a year. Landing a payload that heavy on Mars is currently impossible, using our existing capabilities. "It’s this ugly, grey zone", said Manning, "There’s too much atmosphere on Mars to land heavy vehicles like we do on the moon, using propulsive technology and there’s too little atmosphere to land like we do on Earth. Until we come up with a whole new system, landing humans on Mars will be an ugly and scary proposition."

    In 2004 NASA organized a Road Mapping session to discuss the current capabilities and future problems of landing humans on Mars. Manning co-chaired this event and the major conclusion that came from the session was that no one has yet figured out how to safely get large masses from speeds of entry and orbit down to the surface of Mars.

    "We call it the Supersonic Transition Problem," said Manning. With our current capabilities, a large, heavy vehicle, streaking through Mars’ thin atmosphere only has about ninety seconds to slow from Mach 5 to under Mach 1, re-orient itself from a being a spacecraft to a lander, deploy parachutes to slow down further, then use thrusters to translate to the landing site and finally, gently touch down.

    When this problem is first presented to people, the most offered solution, Manning says, is to use airbags, since they have been so successful for the missions that he has been involved with; the Pathfinder rover, Sojourner and the two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), Spirit and Opportunity.

    But engineers feel they have reached the capacity of airbags with MER. "It's not just the mass or the volume of the airbags, or the size of the airbags themselves, but it's the mass of the beast inside the airbags," Manning said. "This is about as big as we can take that particular design."

    In addition, an airbag landing subjects the payload to forces between 10-20 G’s. While robots can withstand such force, humans can’t. This doesn’t mean airbags will never be

  • 1. Launch craft to Mars
    2. Land on Mars
    3. Assemble pre-fab transfer gate
    4. Activate transfer gates on Earth and Mars
    5. Walk back to Earth
    6. Start selling access to gateway

    NASA could single handedly pay off the US debt this way

    Might want to budget a bit extra for the whole "develop gateway technology" portion of the schedule prior to launch

  • I'm surprised that nobody has yet mentioned nuclear-powered spacecraft, which propels itself with an ion thruster: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster [wikipedia.org] Such a spacecraft would not have a problem carrying enough fuel to make the return trip. I do need to point out that that space vehicle would not lift off from earth using its nuclear-ion thruster, nor would it land on Mars. It would have to first be propelled into earth orbit with conventional hydrogen-oxygen rockets. The nuke engine would then "go
    • Such a spacecraft would not have a problem carrying enough fuel to make the return trip.

      It does have the problem of not having enough thrust to make the trip at all in a reasonable time frame.

      It would drop a module down to Mars (which uses parachutes and the "beachball" technique to land safely).

      Which is a great idea... except there isn't enough air for parachutes to slow a payload the size of the lander down enough, and airbags produce G and shock loads way above what a human can tolerate... Not t

    • I used to be a big fan of VASIMR. That is until you start to look how to generate electricity for it. Solar will not cut it, except for a real slow cargo system. For humans, we need to move fast. It will require a nuke reactor. Assume that we do not have DIRECT generation of fusion to electrons developed in the next 10 years. That means that we are left with fission thermal system. Not a problem. Right?
      WRONG. The nuke generates the heat which can create steam, and drive a turbine. BUT, you have to dump the
  • 1) Drop a reactor on Mars
    2) Drop a robot tractor on Mars
    3) Drop a fuel generator on Mars, use the tractor to pull it to the reactor
    4) Drop a greenhouse on Mars, use the tractor to pull it to the reactor
    5) Drop a crew habitat on Mars, use the tractor to pull it to the reactor
    6) Deliver humans to Mars once steps 1-5 have been done successfully

    Hopefully, we'll have some form of nuclear propulsion by the time we're ready for step 6, which would kind of ruin the need for step 3.

    For extra coin, you could get spon

  • SpaceX has specifically said it's Dragon Spacecraft has a heat shield designed to withstand the increased speed that would exist from a return trip from Mars.

    "The ablator, called PICA-X for short, was tested inside an arc jet laboratory at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

    "It's actually the most powerful stuff known to man. Dragon is capable of re-entering from a lunar velocity, or even a Mars velocity with the heat shield that it has," Musk said.

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/002 [spaceflightnow.com]

  • Build a mothership in space, one that cannot land on Earth, equip it with nuclear reactors and a project-orion propulsion system, and then you have affordable space travel to any planet in our solar system.

    Then Mars becomes simply a case of having the right vehicle on the mothership.

This file will self-destruct in five minutes.

Working...