SpaceX to Mars! Here’s How…

Following on from my Mars Anthology there’s now more Mars Society material available online…

Trans-Orbital Railroad to Mars

…a Picasa Web-Album of slides from the weekend elaborating on Robert Zubrin’s latest concept, which I have discussed previously. I was particularly struck by this one, which I first saw on “The Space Review”…

…from Jeff Foust’s evocative article on the Transorbital Railway concept. I didn’t realise when I first read Jeff’s essay that Zubrin had given a talk on the concept. Here’s the slide…

…which explains how the two-person crew have a quite roomy inflatable habitat attached to the Dragon to fly to Mars in. Provocatively Zubrin notes that some astronauts have already experienced cosmic-radiation exposures equivalent to the full mission to Mars, with no ill-effects noted thus far…

…seems the ISS (and MIR before it) have done a great service to the Mars effort by slaying this particular bogey. The serious issue of Solar high-energy events remains – otherwise known as solar-flares – but these can be mitigated by relatively simple shielding. Ultimately we’ll have magnetic deflectors for the particle stuff, but the x-rays will need careful shielding even then.

Once the First Expedition arrives, here’s how “Mars Base One” will look…

…ready to expand into a fully operational Base, if the nations of the world are willing to help. The Falcon Heavy can send significant payloads to Mars, not just people. Industrial machinery can be sent, able to begin utilization of local resources on Mars. Additive manufacturing technology can be used to make small components and, with sufficient incentive, can lend itself to larger manufactured items. Mars has plentiful carbon, oxygen & hydrogen to make plastics and polymers, and doubtless it has minerals of all kinds.

Of course the first two products should be propellant for the rockets and power-cells (solar or other.) Proper reusable Mars ferries will allow transfer of returning crews to waiting ERVs, eliminating the need to send separate MAVs. With sufficiently proven life-sustaining resources (material, technical and personnel) the Base can start receiving one-way arrivals – true Colonists. That’s something I’d like to see all nations, who are willing, to contribute towards. Let Mars be the true melting pot to alloy something wonderful out of all of Old Earth’s children.

11 thoughts on “SpaceX to Mars! Here’s How…

  1. > seems the ISS (and MIR before it) have done a great service to the Mars effort by slaying this particular bogey.

    Although that bogey has been slain, my guess is that we’ll see it keep coming up in various discussion boards. The problem is that there is isn’t a good way to kill bad ideas for good. I wish that there was a fact-finding process whereby certain facts could be verified whereas others could be officially put to rest.

  2. You and me both. If I have to tell some idiot, again, why helium-3 isn’t (yet) an economic justification for spaceflight or that boron-11 is a lot harder to burn than deuterium in a fusion rocket, I think I’ll scream.

  3. I checked found a similar presentation at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/376589main_04%20-%20Mars%20Direct%20Power%20Point-7-30-09.pdf

    On slide 3 he makes the point that the delta-v is less from Earth to Mars rather than from the Earth to the Moon to Mars. So, he calls the Moon a “tollbooth”.

    I don’t think that this is an altogether honest argument. The delta-v from the Earth to LEO is 9.3-10 km/s whereas the delta-v from the lunar surface to LEO is (I believe) 5.7. So, to get Zubrin’s Mars fuel to LEO it would cost about 4.7 km/s more than if the fuel in LEO came from the Moon using reusable OTVs.

    Also, I think that he completely ignores the other benefits that the development of the Moon can give. Bringing Lunar Ice To LEO (LITL) could bootstrap further development of the Moon, open up orbital servicing, result in very large GEO commsats, facilitate trans-lunar and lunar surface tourism, and facilitate any industry resulting from lunar surface mining. Zubrin never mentions this I think because for him that has almost no value compared to the amazing moment of men landing on Mars. But if we really want for progress in space to be immune from budgetary threats, then I think that we need to get local infrastructure to reduce the cost of Earth-to-LEO (thank you SpaceX) and also from LEO to BEO (such as a LITL system).

  4. Zubrin is a fanatic for Mars. I tend to agree but I do see benefit in developing the moon to support Earth orbital operations – plus it’s a tourist destination once cheap enough. If there’s significant ice found in those lunar caverns – as recently proposed after their discovery – then we don’t need to focus on the Poles. Shimizu Corp’s Moon-Power plan is a good one too, especially with metamaterials able to overcome diffraction issues with microwaves much easier than anyone imagined – or so my reading of the latest on metamaterials indicates. Criswell’s Moon-Power plan might prove better than parking SPS en masse in geosynchronous orbit.

  5. “Here be Dragons”

    It’s amazing the change that SpaceX has brought to the space powerpoint architecture community. It feels like it did when I was a kid in the late seventies (reading all the 60’s fantasies) and early eighties (reading all the post-shuttle fantasies).

    It’s exiting again. Feels like anything is possible.

    If I’m reading Zubrin right, F9H can send a manned Dragon to Mars directly? Given how cheap SpaceX prices are, I think it would be worth sending a Mars-modified cargo-Dragon alone to Mars just to show it re-entering and landing safely. (Carrying a small rover to photograph the landed Dragon.) It’s a stunt, but it’s a relatively cheap way to short-circuit a lot of costly arguments and bad designs at NASA and in Congress.

  6. John,
    “But who do you see paying for the stunt?”

    Ah, Mr. Hunt, you found the cunningly concealed flaw in my otherwise brilliant plan.

    “If it were the government then that would presume that they would already have somewhat bought into the idea and so don’t need the demonstration.”

    Not necessarily. Even if some people within NASA accepted it, doesn’t mean the agency is unified, nor that they can get funding for a full manned mission based on it (nor even convince Congress to kill Orion/MPCV & Ares/SLS once and for all.) It’s a way of demonstrating that a manned lander is possible now, something that I think would do more for manned space-flight than any project for the last 30 years.

    All for the price of a F9H launch and a Dragon capsule, say half a bil? (*) Certainly within the budget of a “Discovery” class mission. Something you slip quietly into the budget, “examine and test technologies necessary to allow the safe landing of a manned spacecraft on the surface of Mars.”

    Once successful, NASA can finally kill Ares/Orion (SLS/MPCV or whatever they’re called by then.) And the next President can do a realistic, fundable, Mars-in-10-years Kennedy challenge.

    (* Apparently the entire development cost for Dragon was about $300m. It’s hard to see SpaceX paying more for an unmanned Marsified version. Allow $200m for the launch. Fixed price contract. Bam. Done.)

    ((SpaceX prices do wonderful things to what-if mission architecture. Take half the shuttle’s budget over the last ten years, about $6b/yr (?), so $30b. At $200m/launch for F9H, you’re looking at 150 launches. 15 per year, at 50t each. Plus $30b more to buy stuff to launch.))

  7. Adam,

    I understand that Snopes.com is just a two-person operation. I’d say that SpaceFacts could also be headed up by a single individual who is pretty smart about these things but who also avoids pitfalls in which they are later proved wrong — so someone who is cautiousness, thinking, and evaluates alternate views. This one person could identify facts to be considered and make an inital judgment as to what category to presumptively put it in.

    Also that person should have a team of advisors (maybe about 10-12) who votes by private e-mail before a concept is decided upon. But a single dissident might be right and so any dissent should be given special consideration by the whole team and reasons why they are wrong are needed rather than just being opinion. There could be an area where ideas are pending being posted (say in 30 days) with the pending determination, so as to give any of the rest of us an opportunity to make comments. Once posted, it would be difficult but not impossible for a SpaceFact to be overturned.

    Also, I think that SpaceFacts should be given a designation so as to facilitate reference. For example: “SpaceFact P1b states that the LHC will produce no reaction of greater energy than what happens repeately between Galactic Cosmic Rays and the Moon.”

    Adam, do you feel up to starting a list of proposed SpaceFacts to get the ball rolling?

Leave a Reply