NASA released details for their plan to journey to Mars. It’s not the first they have released but each rendition carries with it more detail. AND the timing couldn’t be better as al are riding high (both NASA and Matt Damon) from the movie The Martian. A movie that portrays not just the awe of space, the adventure, but also the risk one finds themselves in as a part of pioneering, the necessity of it all, and then there’s the stay in school factor too! (If you don’t pay attention to the ‘little’ stuff you may find yourself unable to survive where Matt Daman, sorry, Mark Watney!)
The below datagram (my word – maybe I’ll copyright it?) gives some of the details – bulleted pointed as to what is going on, will be going on, looking at to be going on.
NASA has worked out a ton more details than the datagram alone suggests. Actually, if you have been reading my articles, and my website numbers tell me you have, I have written quite a lot as of late referencing Mars. AND to be honest I have kept the best stuff to myself as my next novel builds on it. BUT let me share some factoids. The plan is to go to Phobos first and then Mars – Phobos is of course one of her moons. BUT there also is a plan for a space elevator on Phobos to just above the planet’s surface. (About 6.8 km above the surface – a telescoping platform can be built)
The extremely cool thing about NASA, and I have no doubt this has helped them work on their miniscule budget, is while to the untrained eye it may appear they are working on three unrelated technologies, turns out each one will both help the other on one of the long-term goals and also do something independent on a whole different goal.
For example; the Bigelow Expandability Activity Module, the ARM (Asteroid Redirect Mission), all of the robotic missions to anywhere and from all times, 3-D Printing, and so much more.
Let’s look at first the Bigelow Expandability Activity Module. To be delivered to the ISS by SpaceX on the 8th (& upcoming) resupply mission is a module called BEAM (Bigelow Aerospace Expandable Activity Module). Having multiple intentions, the testing of this module informs NASA & Bigelow of much. Besides the obvious gaining space – it will also allow performance data not just to Bigelow of its BEAM having actual time in space, but also performance data a non-rigid aluminum structure’s operations in orbit. This provides NASA with important data for both the planned Moon operations as well as looking ahead to Mars AND perhaps, of it performs really well, something to consider for non-orbit use.
Looking at the robotic missions – all of them, from Curiosity’s landing on Mars with her sky crane, Valkyrie – the robot that took part in many of the DARPA robotic challenges, etc.; this assists NASA is so many different plans. From perhaps the set-up of a space elevator on Mars from here on Earth, the clearing of the ancient lava tubes & set-up for humans via Robots (such as Valkyrie), to the operations requiring that so much equipment be sent to Mars in advance of the astronauts.
With regard to the 3-D Printing – while it is so obvious that it will provide parts far from home, there is also the food 3-D printer NASA has been working on. So from printing a 3-D bubble house for habitation on Mars, in-space satellite construction, spare parts needed in an emergency, to pizza, Chinese noodles and of course chocolate – a space must, NASA is bringing this project to life in an awesome way – and it’s for every space venture. 3-D printing means more space on board, more capabilities in an emergency, more intriguing food sources which spells psychological well-being, less weight taking off so lower fuel costs… Did I miss anything?
NOW I have been holding back something. A plan to utilize Cislunar space. What is Cislunar space? Cislunar space is the volume within the Moon's orbit, or a sphere formed by rotating that orbit. Volumes within that such as low earth orbit (LEO) are distinguished by other names. Okay – that definition was from Merriam Dictionary, but basically it is this – there are areas (you may have heard of them – La Grange points?) where more than one gravity is pulling on objects that enter that space. These areas become a sort of ‘parking spot’. Thanks to the gravitational pull from different directions- the two (or three if you are in L2 – Sun, Earth and the Moon) end up canceling out each other’s pull and so you simply go nowhere, kinda cool, no? Well they (NASA) want to develop Cislunar space. To maybe put a space station that will capture portions of items needed to go to Mars but that separate launches are needed for as it would be either impossible or near impossible to launch at that same time as the Orion. It is likely, one of those launches would likely be an extension of the crew area a deep space habitat if you will. This launch would wait for them up in Cislunar space.
I could write forever about the different options, the technologies in development that could be used in ten different ways and ten different directions and I probably will! After all the Moon, Mars, (Phobos first then Mars) we’ve got time, though it is only a blink of an eye away and I can’t wait!