As part of NASA long term plans. NASA is now looking at new technology and options for sending Astronauts to Mars in the 2030s to set up a Mars base. In the 2020`s, NASA will also establish the Lunar Gateway, which as its names suggests, will be based in a lunar orbit. The Lunar Gateway will support missions back to the moons surface, which are planned to happen in the mid 2020`s-2030`s. This orbital base will also support future deep space voyages including Mars missions. Once again, Space Logistics will be a key operation in these movements.
Why Mars, well for last few decades, various space agencies including NASA, ESA and ROSCOSMOS have been sending probes to Mars to understand the planet and its history. The most successful probes were the two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) called, “Spirit” and “Opportunity” that were launched in 2003. These Rovers were originally designed for 90 Martian solar days of Martian operations, but both rovers far outlived their planned mission lives. “Spirit”, finished its exploration mission in March 2010 and “Opportunity”, was finally shut down in June 2018. “Opportunity”, actually holds the record for the longest distance driven by any off-world vehicle.
NASA is now planning on sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s to explore and ultimately create a base on the Red Planet, which has fascinated humanity for centuries. Mars was the Roman god of War and second only to Jupiter in the Roman pantheon. But it’s a stunning planet, if you look at it.
Getting to Mars is also difficult. Traditional rocket boosters use chemical fuels and this mode of power would mean that each flight to Mars would take at least 6 months. Nuclear drive technologies could halved that original 6 months transit time and get the astronauts to Mars in about 3 months. During a recent meeting of the National Space Council (NSC) August 20, 2019. The NASA chief praised the idea of using nuclear drive technologies to power future Mars missions.
Nuclear thermal propulsion systems would use the excess heat thrown off by fission reactions to accelerate propellants, potential hydrogen to fantastic speeds, pushing the space craft forwards, Increasing the spacecraft velocity, also reduces the effects of space radiation on the crew. A, 3 month transit reduces the crew exposure by 50% compared to the original 6 month transit time. Recent research suggest that prolonged radiation exposure could have a harmful effect on the astronauts brains, so reducing the Mars transit time is beneficial to everyone travelling to Mars.
NASA will need to design a new ship for the voyage to Mars. This new Mars ship design will also be interesting as it use stunning new technologies and could be adapted to other missions. NASA new space launch system (SLS) will have a low earth orbit (LEO) payload capacity of 95t (209,000Ib) in its Block 1 configuration and in its Block 2 configuration it can carry 130t (290,000Ib). The Space Launch System (SLS) could be used to launch the Mars Ship components in orbit.
Any new Mars ship will have a nuclear drive section at the rear of the ship to push it through space. The front of the ship will be covered in a heavy duty radiation shield, which will be designed to protect the crew during there flight. The whole ship will be built around several core modules, which will run the length of the ship. A stress frame could link all of these core modules together. These core modules will contain a command centre, living quarters, storage bays and potentially science laboratories. One of these modules will also be an additional radiation shelter for the crew. Additional multi mission modules could be attached to the ship core structure. The ship could also be fitted with micro-meteorite plates that cover the whole ship, protecting it from harm. The ship will be covered in sensors including radar, which will allow the ship to have 360 scan coverage in all axis’s. This type of ship will be very impressive and could be used to carry cargo to a Mars Base and act as the home base for its Mars Landers.
The ship will be designed to be totally reusable and once it’s built, it could be in service for a long time, travelling back and forth between Earth and Mars helping to create a base and colonise Mars for future generations. But you don’t stop at one ship, you build several in the same way as the navy builds submarines, e.g. Virginia Class Submarines. Each new vessel is slightly better than its predecessors as new technology and systems are introduced. This way, you’re creating a production line and controlling your costs, whilst improving the original design.
The Moon, Mars are just stepping stones to exploring the solar system. NASA is on the right track, they just need the long term funding and the political support to make this dream a long term reality. But building a base on Mars, that’s a fantastic idea. We are already developing the Mars habitation modules, Mars rovers and the life support systems including food production centres, we just need to put the pieces together. The Red, Green, Blue Mars series of books by Kim Stanley Robinson gives you an idea of potential, Mars life, there a brilliant read. Even in the future, logistics operations will be there making things happen.
The human race needs to leave this planet and expand across the solar system. The Expanse Series of books by James Corey is pretty accurate on where humanity is heading in spaceship design, and these designs could evolve into the ships of the line such as in Battlestar Galactica. Science fiction inspires school children and college students to become engineers, technicians, designers and the visionaries, whom will build and crew these wonderful new space ships that will one day take the human race to the stars.
Space Links. Mars, Probes, SLS, Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), Spirit, Opportunity. Lunar Gateway. National Space Council News
Space Agencies. NASA, ESA, ROSCOSMOS
Nuclear Links. NASA, Nuclear Thermal Propulsion.
Space Technology. NASA Technology, Space Review.
Space Books. “The Expanse”, By James Corey. “Red Mars”, “Green Mars”, “Blue Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson
Ships Link. US Navy, Virginia-class submarines.
Science Fiction Links. Space Logistics and Science Fiction
Related Media Links. Washington Post. NASA TV.