Induced Torpor for a Trip to Mars?


New idea being funded for Phase I NIAC research, to be undertaken by aerospace firm, SpaceWorks, led by John Bradford. Phase I is for feeling out the next steps in developing the idea to a higher “Technology Readiness Level”, the standard for assessing practicality of concepts that NASA uses. The SpaceWorks NIAC abstract has the following description of the stasis-equipped Mars vehicle:

The habitat is envisioned as a very small, pressurized module that is docked around a central node/airlock permitting direct access to the Mars ascent/descent vehicle and Earth entry capsule by the crew. We believe the crew habitat mass can be reduced to only 5-7 mt (for a crew of 4-6), compared to 20-50 mt currently. The total habitat module volume would be on the order of 20 m3, compared to 200 m3 for most current designs.

The interesting thing about that mass-figure is that SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy should be able to throw a capsule of that mass, with sufficient aeroshell for braking and fuel for landing, to Mars. Such a One-Way ride, with 4-6 months of the interplanetary cruise in torpor, would be for colonists only or for cheap crew transport, if a separate return system is available. Call it the Martian “Sleeper-Car (Coach Class)”. If we got serious about colonizing Mars, then it might be a bargain basement approach used by smaller groups wanting to stake their own claim on the Red Planet. Presently the cost would be ~$200 million, factoring in the cost of developing the torpor system, but with a successful fully-reusable version of the Falcon Heavy’s lower stages (the Mars-Injection Stage would be slung into a “never-to-return” trajectory by just doing its job) the cost might drop significantly. Mass-production would allow thousands to launch to Mars, One-way, for perhaps ~$1 M/person.

Presently Mars isn’t very hospitable, but with sufficient motivation, we could build a thriving colony in one (or more) of the vast lava tubes that have been revealed via orbital cameras. If C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) were to smash into a Martian Polar Cap, 19 October 2014, then the release of water vapour and carbon dioxide (presently enclathrated in the Cap or frozen in the soil) might induce a shift to a more clement Mars, as I have blogged previously. We might then find the motivation to fly the “Sleeper-Car” to Mars.

3 Replies to “Induced Torpor for a Trip to Mars?”

  1. Adam, I read in about Anthony Pancotti claiming that is already possible a mission to mars using fusion, that will take 83 days reach mars.
    Meanwhile in NIF they could produce more energy than the injected for just some seconds just some days back.
    Why fusion propulsion in space is a lot easy to achieve than in earth?
    Or maybe the claimings of Anthony are a bit more far of his desires.

  2. Thanks a lot Adam for the quality info.
    The second link is broken, so here it is in case than any else wanna see it.
    I saw your new article, I will like to read a little more about Zubrin, after all he made some good points against Vasimr.

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