I’m not Rand Simberg, and I don’t even play him on television…

Last February I posted on my blog the following musings on a manned mission to Mars. The central feature is a permanent space station that could leave Earth orbit and travel to Mars and other spots within a reasonable distance.
The space station (termed “Habitation Module”) would not move under its own power (except for maneuvering thrusters), but would be pushed by a second craft docked to the rear. The mission also involves a third craft, capable of landing on Mars, returning to the HM, and then landing on Earth.
Then there’s the matter of launching the “Interplanetary Launch Vehicle” and the lander. The latter would have to be launched from Earth every time a crew is sent up, obviously. Originally, I had the ILV leaving Earth every time there’s a mission; in retrospect, the feasibility of launching it only once and sending a “tanker” into orbit to fuel the ILV might be looked into.
So without any further ado…


Spacecraft required for mission

  • Earth/Mars Shuttle (EMS)
  • Habitation Module (HM)
  • Interplanetary Launch Vehicle (ILV)
  • Launch vehicles for launch of EMS and HM

Mission Itinerary

  • HM in service in Earth orbit, years before mission
  • EMS, ILV are launched
  • EMS and ILV dock with HM, craft leaves for Mars
  • Craft enters Martian orbit
  • EMS undocks from HM, lands on Mars
  • EMS is launched from Mars
  • EMS docks with HM, craft leaves for Earth
  • HM enters Earth orbit
  • EMS undocks from HM, lands on Earth
  • ILV undocks from HM, lands on Earth

Earth/Mars Shuttle Design Concepts

  • Two-stage rocket
    • First stage to remain permanently on Martian surface when second stage leaves the surface
    • Second stage capable of glide landing on Earth
  • Single-stage rocket
    • Capable of glide landing on Mars and on Earth
    • Can take off from Martian surface like an airplane
    • If glide landing on Mars is impractical, craft must be capable of VTOL landing and takeoff from Mars

Habitation Module Specifications

  • Cylindrical; when not under thrust the craft will spin, creating artificial gravity along the inside edges of the module
  • Special maneuvering jets to start and stop spin of HM
  • Solar panels, perpendicular to craft when deployed, folded and lashed against hull when craft is under thrust
  • HM would serve as a permanent space station, normally deployed in Earth orbit, and capable of being launched from orbit to Moon, Venus, Mars, comets, and Near Earth Objects

Launch vehicles

  • ILV serves as the “ferry” to transport HM/EMS assembly from Earth orbit
  • ILV is unmanned, controllable from Mission Control, EMS, or HM
  • ILV and EMS will be launched separately
  • All launch vehicles will be
    reusable, capable of either remote control glide landing or (if small enough) parachute landing in water

Revenue sources

  • Space tourism
    • Tourists could visit HM during normal operations in orbit
    • One seat on the Mars mission could be auctioned off to highest
      bidder
  • Advertising
    • Product placement during streaming video broadcasts from HM during normal operations in orbit, and from HM and EMS during Mars mission
    • Endorsements from official sponsors
  • Sale of:
    • Paid subscriptions to the Habitation Module’s official blog
    • Rights to exclusive news coverage of Mars mission
    • Martian soil and rock samples
    • Limited edition of plaster casts taken from first human footprint on Mars
    • Memorabilia (caps, jackets, patches)
    • Posters made from photographs taken from surface of Mars

Unaddressed iissues

  • Mass and dimensions of modules
  • Means of construction and launch of HM; depending on its diameter, part of its construction may need
    to occur in space

  • Crew compliment of EMS and HM
  • Sources of charitable funding
  • A better name for the Habitation Module, one that reflects its
    mission as both space station and interplanetary barge
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One comment

  1. Jay Manifold

    I didn’t respond to this when you first posted it on your blog. Now it’s a bit more topical, so I’ll begin by fearlessly predicting that your proposal, as drafted, will make far more sense than whatever we’re going to hear about in The Announcement on the 14th.
    Having said that, I think there are a couple of mental frameworks you should apply to this:
    1. Given the triple constraint of schedule, budget, and scope, how are those three things to be balanced? The colloquial for this is: good, fast, cheap; pick two. Do you want to get there fast? Do you want to send a lot of guys and do a lot of stuff? Do you want to spend as little money as possible? Or some combination (remembering that you can’t have all 3).
    2. Propulsion methods are probably the key element. Launch from Earth (and Mars) still requires chemical rockets. But there are other possibilities for boosting from Earth orbit into Solar orbit, dropping from Solar orbit into Mars orbit, etc.
    You’re already into modularity and optimization, and that’s good. I think this can be taken further, however, especially in combination with different propulsion methods. Further reading here and here.