Straight to Mars. Meeting with the president of the Mars Society in Moscow

    “Today in Moscow, at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, Russian candidates for the MarsOne project met with its founder, Bas Lansdorp. Remotely, the project adviser Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Martian Society, took part in the meeting. He briefly talked about his Mars Direct project, available with existing technologies and the budget method of manned flight to Mars. And he sent all the details he wanted to the transcript I made of the meeting in Skolkovo on October 21st. After magical kick magisterludi I spread the transcript of that meeting on Habr ".

    "An important role in American history was played by the pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts, in their honor we celebrate Thanksgiving annually. In the book of the Governor of Massachusetts William Bradfort, he wrote a book about pilgrims that once something did not suit them in the outside world, and they decided to move to deserted places. Many responded to this call, many were frightened and resisted this idea. And we can conclude that great and venerable actions are always accompanied by enormous difficulties. This book describes the process of how beliefs created an enclave of civilization in America. "

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    Robert Zubrin (Mars Direct) and Sergey Zhukov (astronaut, head of the Skolkovo space cluster)

    On October 21, 2013 in Moscow, at a meeting of the Club of Friends of the Skolkovo Foundation's space cluster, a meeting was held with Robert Zubrin.

    Robert Zubrin is an American aerospace engineer and author of books. Leader of the Mars Direct project and President of the Mars Society
    He holds a number of patents in the field of aeronautics and astronautics.
    In 2010, Zubrin, along with Carl Sagan , Brian Cox and Penelope Boston, were featured in the science video “The Case for Mars” as part of the Symphony of Science project.
    Regalia: BA in Mathematics (1974), a MS in Nuclear Engineering (1984), a MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1986), and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering (1992)



    Zubrin : Good evening and thanks for the invitation. My report is called MarsDirect - Direct to Mars, a manned flight to the Red Planet in 10 years.
    Those of you who have in the past been interested in the capabilities of flights to Mars have heard of huge spaceships with grandiose huge engines that will be built for this purpose in orbit. Such technologies and work of this magnitude are not feasible in the near future. But I do not think that such work is now necessary and advisable. My colleagues and I considered different options for space flights and various previously implemented programs, successful and unsuccessful. And we thought, why is the flight to Mars so expensive. Of course, many developers want to sell their technology to fly to Mars. But we need to consider and select what is really appropriate.

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    To build a ship, of course, you need a booster rocket that will take it all out into space. My colleagues and I tried to evaluate which components are necessary and sufficient for this. We concluded that for a flight to Mars, four engines, two launch vehicles, and tanks with fuel and oxygen, the same as those used in the Saturn-5 project, were needed. There are various options for locating engines. Such a design could lift about 140 tons from the Earth's surface and deliver about 47 tons of cargo to Mars - these calculations were carried out in accordance with this load capacity. Until now, no one has delivered such a load into space and sent it to another planet. We just launched cargo in near-Earth space. And if you make this kind of calculation, then you need to take into account all the stages of this path.

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    But if the mass of the ship and the mass of the cargo to be delivered to Mars are not tens, but hundreds of thousands of tons, can we lift such a load from Cape Canaveral or from other spaceports? It is probably possible to divide the cargo into 8 parts, deliver them individually to orbit, collect them there and then deliver the cargo to Mars. Such projects have been proposed before, but are now forgotten. The risk is too great - if at least one of the eight launches fails, the whole mission will fail. We are now developing a mission with only two launches and are thinking about making both launches successful. It is not necessary to use just such missiles, but the class must be appropriate for carrying capacity.
    Why are the ships being developed in other missions so large? Most ships are calculated taking into account fuel for the delivery of people to Mars and vice versa. But here we can turn to the experience of travelers in the past. Did they always take with them everything to support themselves and the expedition, including feeding horses, all the way? No, travelers tried to be self-sufficient and get everything they need on the spot. Mars is a planet on which there are necessary resources and which can become part of our technological chain. Why don’t we travel light, and in order to facilitate the carrying capacity of our mission, we will take the concept of self-sufficiency as a basis.

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    First, we will send an unmanned rocket and 40 tons of cargo to Mars. The rocket will fly to Mars, slow down in the atmosphere of Mars, and we will drop the capsule from the Martian orbit to the surface of Mars, as we did in 1996 and how Curiosity was planted last year. We will deliver cargo, a capsule for a return flight from Mars, 5 meters in diameter, in which there are two decks, a compartment for the crew’s life support for 4 people. This capsule is designed to fly from Mars to Earth in 6 months, and it will provide empty fuel compartments.

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    Why are we sending compartments empty? Otherwise, the weight of our device would increase significantly. In these compartments there will be 6 tons of hydrogen and a compartment with a small nuclear installation. After the rocket lands on Mars, a special robot will be able to deploy a nuclear power plant. When the power plant is installed in the crater or in the recess, we can start it and use it to start a chemical plant where we will produce carbon from the atmosphere and with the help of the hydrogen we get methane. This is the well-known exothermic reaction of Sabatier, which does not require additional energy, and it passes with catalysts, which we can also pick up. As a result of this reaction, we get water and methane. We will get oxygen from water by electrolysis, which will become fuel for the return trip, and we will collect and store the remaining hydrogen in a special compartment.

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    So we will significantly save on cargo, 18 times. We will not need to bring fuel to Mars. Thus, having brought in only 6 tons of hydrogen, we will get more than a hundred tons or 95% of the fuel needed for the return trip. In addition, we will get enough fuel to help us conduct research on Mars itself with the help of Mars rovers. We will produce enough fuel to deliver the ship back to Earth and work on Mars. Chemical fuel has much greater efficiency, and engines run much better on such fuel. It may seem illogical to transport such volumes of fuel to Mars. But if you get it directly on Mars, then the practical aspect of the project immediately increases. It makes no sense to fly to Mars if there are no opportunities for research. And this production gives us an excellent product for such work.

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    Many experts in the field of astronautics see this project as a fantasy. But this is not magic, it is a very simple technology. It is much simpler than technology for launching a rocket into orbit. I have proven this NASA technology, we have proved the operability of this principle. Here is the model that we offer as a model for producing fuel for an engine that will send the capsule back to Earth. 8 months to deliver the capsule to Mars, and 10 months will produce fuel. And long before the new flight, we will know that there is already a rocket on Mars and there is fuel that can deliver the crew back to Earth. And if we know that this did not succeed, then we will not start the third stage. Two years later, we will launch two missiles - a manned vehicle and an unmanned vehicle. And since we already have a reverse rocket, we do not need to use a huge heavy apparatus. We can use a "tin can", 8 meters in diameter and 6 meters high.

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    Astronauts live on the upper deck, on the first floor there are loads. There is a gym, a library, a laboratory, bedrooms and in the center there is a shelter from solar radiation.

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    Two types of radiation can harm the crew. Solar flares from the sun and cosmic rays. Solar flares occur constantly, but large ones occur once or twice a year, and they occur unpredictably. The likelihood that the outbreak will happen within 6 months of travel is very high. Solar radiation is protons, and a 12 cm thick layer of water is enough to slow them down. We can equip a section in the center of the ship where astronauts can hide from the solar flare for several hours and shield the shelter by the ship and its cargoes. We do not fully know the nature of cosmic radiation. Its strength is huge, and the energy with which the particles of cosmic radiation are charged is such that a layer of 12 cm will not be enough, and the radiation force here can be large. But however, we, according to research, we can estimate the risk of cancer as a result of such radiation within 1%, because by the quantitative parameters the dose of such radiation is not so high. The Earth’s magnetic field is too weak to effectively deflect high-energy cosmic rays, the ISS crew receives a half-dose dose of radiation only because the planet itself blocks these rays. We measured the radiation received by the astronauts at the station, and they did not receive the dose leading to radiation sickness. The ISS operates continuously and continuously, and we were able to conduct research that we can apply to our Martian mission, and assume that this is not so dangerous. The ISS crew receives a half-dose of radiation only because on the one hand these rays are blocked by the planet itself. We measured the radiation received by the astronauts at the station, and they did not receive the dose leading to radiation sickness. The ISS operates continuously and continuously, and we were able to conduct research that we can apply to our Martian mission, and assume that this is not so dangerous. The ISS crew receives a half-dose of radiation only because on the one hand these rays are blocked by the planet itself. We measured the radiation received by the astronauts at the station, and they did not receive the dose leading to radiation sickness. The ISS operates continuously and continuously, and we were able to conduct research that we can apply to our Martian mission, and assume that this is not so dangerous.

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    There are other risks that are dangerous to the crew, for example, zero gravity. Going into space implies some kind of physical activity. It is necessary to check the physical ability of the crew to perform such a flight. We conducted a test flight with an unmanned aerial vehicle, we also created a simulator that is able to simulate the gravity that the crew will experience on Mars to evaluate how the changed conditions will affect the crew’s physical abilities. During the flight, we will connect the booster block and the residential module with a 1500m cable to create artificial gravity. At a rotation speed of 1 revolution per minute, we can provide gravity similar to Martian. At a speed of 2 revolutions per minute, we can achieve Earth's gravity. It will be necessary to provide medical options for solving this problem.

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    We are considering options using the trajectory along which the ship can reach Mars in 6 months. Why did we choose such a trajectory? With this trajectory, the ship will be able to begin returning to Earth 2 years after the crew starts from Earth. At the same time, the conditions of flight efficiency are observed, since once every two years the relative position of the Earth and Mars is such that the flight takes place in a minimum time.
    We considered risk factors. First, we launch an unmanned vehicle, which begins to produce fuel and conduct research using robotic vehicles. The manned vehicle must arrive at the same point as the unmanned one. What should I do if the second device descends at a point several hundred km from the first? We have a rover on the first unmanned vehicle, which can deliver an unmanned vehicle to our rocket. What if our ship lands much further than hundreds of kilometers? We will have the option of a spare engine with which we will equip the manned vehicle, and it will be able to deliver the crew to the unmanned vehicle. And even if we can’t find the first unmanned vehicle, if we can’t find the second unmanned vehicle, and the crew will land on Mars and will be forced to adapt to life on Mars, then the rocket will have everything necessary for life on Mars for three years, during which we can launch another unmanned vehicle. Let's say that the second unmanned vehicle will land far from the rocket, all the same, we still have spare options with the first rover. So, in the fifth year, a second crew will land on Mars, which will bring another unmanned vehicle. Every two years, one manned and one unmanned vehicle will be launched to Mars to ensure continuous exploration of Mars. which will bring another unmanned vehicle. Every two years, one manned and one unmanned vehicle will be launched to Mars to ensure continuous exploration of Mars. which will bring another unmanned vehicle. Every two years, one manned and one unmanned vehicle will be launched to Mars to ensure continuous exploration of Mars.

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    Let's see what the base on Mars looks like. Here we see a capsule for the return journey to Mars, here are the fuel compartments. We see residential compartments for the crew, solar panels as backup power sources and additional backup power sources for the chemical plant. We try to develop the project in such a way as to maximize the use of Martian resources. The duration of the mission on Mars for the crew will be one and a half years, this period is determined by the relative position of the Earth and Mars, favorable for such a flight. I advocate flight planning so that the crew spend on Mars the maximum possible time for research. It makes no sense to fly six months and come back a month later. In a year and a half, we will do a lot of research and get fuel on Mars,
    We know that once there were rivers and oceans on Mars. There is numerous evidence confirming that there has been water on Mars for billions of years, and this time is enough for life to arise. And if the concept of the appearance of life in a chemical way is correct, then we can verify this. Such missions will allow us to fly to Mars, conduct research, prove or refute the hypothesis of the emergence of life by chemical means. We will be able to conduct experiments proving the possibility of the emergence of life evolutionarily from simple elements to complex compounds. If we can set up oil rigs on Mars and reach the water horizon inside Mars, then we can create a suitable living environment. And if we look at the history of the origin of life on Earth, then once upon a time the conditions on Earth were similar to those that were on Mars. And perhaps life was preserved in the depths of Mars, where there is water, or we can find traces of life in the past. All living things use the same amino acids, and although there are some differences, there are general aspects of life, and perhaps we will find something like this on Mars and say that these are common aspects for all organisms in space. Or we will find evidence that chemical evolution does not always lead to life and that DNA cannot be formed exclusively by chemical means, and then the Earth's experience is unique. But we can answer questions that have been exciting people for thousands of years. To do this, we need to get to Mars, drill the soil, reach the water and conduct these studies. And after a year and a half of research, we can go back to Earth. All living things use the same amino acids, and although there are some differences, there are general aspects of life, and perhaps we will find something like this on Mars and say that these are common aspects for all organisms in space. Or we will find evidence that chemical evolution does not always lead to life and that DNA cannot be formed exclusively by chemical means, and then the Earth's experience is unique. But we can answer questions that have been exciting people for thousands of years. To do this, we need to get to Mars, drill the soil, reach the water and conduct these studies. And after a year and a half of research, we can go back to Earth. All living things use the same amino acids, and although there are some differences, there are general aspects of life, and perhaps we will find something like this on Mars and say that these are common aspects for all organisms in space. Or we will find evidence that chemical evolution does not always lead to life and that DNA cannot be formed exclusively by chemical means, and then the Earth's experience is unique. But we can answer questions that have been exciting people for thousands of years. To do this, we need to get to Mars, drill the soil, reach the water and conduct these studies. And after a year and a half of research, we can go back to Earth. that these are common aspects for all organisms in space. Or we will find evidence that chemical evolution does not always lead to life and that DNA cannot be formed exclusively by chemical means, and then the Earth's experience is unique. But we can answer questions that have been exciting people for thousands of years. To do this, we need to get to Mars, drill the soil, reach the water and conduct these studies. And after a year and a half of research, we can go back to Earth. that these are common aspects for all organisms in space. Or we will find evidence that chemical evolution does not always lead to life and that DNA cannot be formed exclusively by chemical means, and then the Earth's experience is unique. But we can answer questions that have been exciting people for thousands of years. To do this, we need to get to Mars, drill the soil, reach the water and conduct these studies. And after a year and a half of research, we can go back to Earth.

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    We will leave the greenhouse and living compartments on Mars. This is advisable, since we can continue to use this equipment so as not to bring it again from Earth. This is a map of Mars. Many Americans would probably like to travel to Mars. Nearby we placed a map of Texas to indicate the scale and drew a circle with a diameter of 800 km. It is not necessary to compare with Texas, it is comparable in size to France. These circles are located within one day of the journey that an unmanned aerial vehicle can overcome. We denote what area of ​​Mars can be explored during our missions. And we will answer the question - was there and is there life on Mars - and can there be life on Mars.
    This is a planet whose land area corresponds to the area of ​​the Earth's continents. It has all the resources. If we can get to Mars, then maybe we can make Mars inhabited - to plant forests and populate them, as birds do. I believe it is possible. Life has the ability to transform the environment. So on Earth, the geosphere and biosphere arose. Life pervades everywhere, wherever it can reach. So life appeared in Hawaii, on rocks far in the ocean. Birds brought seeds there, trees appeared, then people and cities appeared. If people fulfill the role of birds that bring the seeds of life - then, of course, this life will not be the same as on Earth, and this will not happen within one generation.
    What does habitable environment mean to us? I live in Colorado. Are the forests of Colorado inhabited? You can get lost there, you can’t survive there. But specially trained people will be able to survive there. Survival depends on intelligence. If we learn to live on Mars, learn to grow plants and animals there, produce materials - then we can equip a region that will revive the whole of Mars in the future. Here I would like to demonstrate that we will be able to build bases of this type everywhere.

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    We need the following elements to create a base: launch vehicles, habitat modules, power plants, return flight capsules - these are the basic equipment elements needed for the mission. And these technologies are already at the disposal of modern scientists, and we can do this for 10 years, already with this generation.

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    An important role in American history was played by the pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts, in their honor we celebrate Thanksgiving annually. In the book of the Governor of Massachusetts William Bradfort, he wrote a book about pilgrims that once something did not suit them in the outside world, and they decided to move to deserted places. Many responded to this call, many were frightened and resisted this idea. And we can conclude that great and venerable actions are always accompanied by enormous difficulties. This book describes the process of how beliefs created an enclave of civilization in America.

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    I am sure that we can develop a safe mission to Mars using small devices that produce oxygen on Mars itself. This existing mission scheme is the safest, although not absolutely, but there is always a certain risk. We need to remember that great deeds were never committed without risk and in the absence of courage.

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    I think we can do it together.

    Question . (about solar energy and a nuclear reactor)
    Answer.First of all, we want to use solar energy to operate the device during its work on Mars. As a backup, we are going to use a reactor and solar energy. We need about a thousand kW. There are dust storms on Mars, so a nuclear power plant is needed - we need a relatively small amount of energy. Other projects are designed for volumes of several megawatts. And if we can produce fuel, we can integrate it into our power sources. The chemical components of the fuel have limitations in operation, the electricity has limitations. And if we can produce fuel on Mars, then this is much more realistic compared to the option according to which we deliver the entire amount of fuel to Mars from Earth.

    Question.An interesting lecture, everyone understands that now technology is at the level that a flight to Mars is possible. But the main question - there are two main values ​​in American and other history. Freedom and profit. With freedom it’s clear here. Is it possible to profit from a flight to Mars - after all, it is profit that is the basis of capitalist history.
    Answer.Many historical achievements depend on profit, but not all. Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts to build their world. Profit is the basis of many things, and if you manage to get it, it will be wonderful. But not necessarily. In your question, actually two. What is the absolute economic effect of Mars. And the fundamental question of the possibility of flying to Mars. During the lunar race between the USSR and the USA, the Apollo program was developed. There are many reasons to support a flight to Mars. Many students in the field of astronautics want to conduct research in this direction. During the Apollo program, we received a surge of interest in this area, and in this way we create the future of our civilization. I came to discuss this issue. Relations between Russia and the United States have worsened - this is bad and even dangerous. There was a confrontation during the Cold War - but the war didn’t happen, because there were no territorial disputes, and the parties did not want war. The situation with Hitler was different - he wanted war. Together we were able to end the war then. We must take measures to prevent the growth of contradictions. And a joint flight to Mars is a wonderful field for cooperation between the two countries. And this should be taken seriously. And significant scientific research can be carried out on Mars, this is an outpost of our entire science.

    Question . The plan you described is good. We in Russia are discussing a lot about the success of the mission on Mars, and we are thinking whether it is possible to reduce the size of the capsule for the crew. Maybe we can use the capsule with a total mass of 14 tons, I think that it is technically possible, and reduce the size of all the elements you designated for flying to Mars. Is there a potential for mobilizing private funds for your project, attracting private space projects?
    Answer.There are also two questions - technical and political. You are right, I was designing an aircraft for a crew of two people, in this case we will need three launches at each stage of the flight to Mars, I published an article about this and there is a book where I describe such technological solutions. I believe that in Russia it is necessary to develop your own spacecraft variants; you have the technological and intellectual resources for this. But I do not think that Elon Musk wants to develop such lethal vehicles for such a cost. We need political will, and we need maybe not hundreds, but tens of billions of dollars. This is not such a large share of budget expenditures for other sectors of the economy. And I think that ultimately we will have to attract state funds to implement such a project.

    Question. There are contradictions in your text. On the one hand, you say that the main task is to spread life on Mars, but on the other hand, these people are returning. But the pilgrims were not going to return to Europe. And who is the real driver of this project now - NASA and other state-owned companies or Elon Musk and other private companies?
    Answer.The first question is about the contradiction between the pilgrims and the return to Earth. This is a stage of research, and at some stage people may appear who want to stay on Mars, but now it’s somewhat premature to talk about irrevocable missions, they require appropriate technical support. The main driver is the beliefs of people who are confident that humanity should advance in space research. Elon Musk does not do this for profit. If he wanted to make money, then he could have done it much easier in Internet technologies. He simply believes that this is a very important stage in human history - to let go beyond the boundaries of one planet. Behind this is the idea that inspired this person. Inspiration means putting an idea into a person’s consciousness, and the motive is just that. The development of private space companies can be successful, and I think that such SpaceX will appear more and more, and in Russia, too, and they will create increasingly cheaper solutions. But still, the initial missions will be held with the support of the government, as was the case in Columbus.

    I want to donate my book to Dmitry and the Skolkovo library so that you can all become more familiar with the aspects of the mission to Mars.
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    Presentation ( PDF ) from NASA

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