Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Mars Colonial Transport? Get real

I know that what Elon Musk did was quite impressive, but to transport a 100 people at a time to Mars is an improbable goal.

Simply to land 100 tons on Mars isn't enough.  You have to keep the people alive on the way and after arrival.  You'd better have a system for that.

He wants to land 100 tons on Mars.  Amongst that 100 tons will have to be people themselves, plus all their supplies and life support systems.  Everything.

Even if you achieve that improbable feat, still a lot of the mass has to be fuel.  Just to get to Earth orbit consumes a tremendous amount of fuel.  To put it briefly, Musk has to assemble an "ark" in space, supply it, and fuel it.  What he sends won't be what arrives there.  Most of what he sends will be fuel.

It took about half of the mass that starts from lunar orbit to reach the surface in a soft landing.  Mars has a deeper gravity well, although it has an atmosphere that can be used for braking.  How much he will have to use for a landing is hard for me to say.  Delta V for a Mars mission is considerably more than a lunar mission and for a much longer duration.

It may be possible to do that much, but not all in one launch like Apollo.  Very unlikely.

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