Showing posts from June, 2009

Improving Mars Direct

It should be possible to improve upon Robert Zubrin's "Mars Direct" plan:

Zubrin's plan is good, but we could make the mission much safer. There are two main potential failure points in Mars Direct that are risky for humans: Will the crew vehicle be able to aerobrake into orbit and land; and will the ERV be able to lift successfully from Mars?

Reduce both risks by simply not landing humans in the first few missions. Instead, land robots to be tele-operated from a Mars orbital station. Eliminating the mass of the lander and aerobraking shield allows the ship to arrive with enough fuel to get into Mars orbit using the 3rd stage rocket. Even better, use two rockets, providing backup, and to act as each other's counter-balance when rotating for artificial gravity - no need to discard the 3rd stage rockets. Instead, the crew can return to Earth on the same ship(s) in which they arrived. They just need fuel for the return trip - and Zubrin's approach can be used to…