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Manned Mission to Mars

Went to hear a public lecture from NASA's Dr Pascal Lee about a manned mission to Mars. This is a prospect that has intrigued me for a while, not the least because I studied mission profiles as an undergraduate in physics (mechanics) class. A lot of people (including, for example, Dr Werner con Braun) were enamoured with a flight plan involving exploiting a conjunction between the orbits of the two planets, thereby yielding an "optimal" flight path. Such a mission would be roughly a year out, year there, and a year back. I was never a fan of it. To carry three years' supplies that distance requires some rocket, almost certainly a nuclear powered one. And if you have one, then you can take liberties with the flight path. Of course, my field is logistics, not rocket engineering. I have no idea if it is even possible to build a nuclear thermal engine. But I do know that any plan that involves "living off the land" on Mars is a logistical non-starter.

However, there are more difficulties that I hadn't even thought of. For example, the Apollo astronauts had moon suits that weighed around 80 kg. No problem on the one-sixth gravity Moon; but Mars has one-third gravity. And the Martian dust is not only abrasive like Moon dust, it is also corrosive. So you don't want it on your skin. How you'd stop it getting everywhere (not to mention what you'd do in a Martian dust storm) needs to be worked out somehow.

As a result, I am completely pessimistic about the whole thing.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
31st May, 2009 12:38 (UTC)
So far, half the mars landers have crashed and they can't even manage to send people to the moon at this moment. So, logistics aside, I'm not too optimistic about a manned mission to Mars any time soon, either.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )