Despite the advances of chemical rockets, taking a 6 month journey to that crimson world would not only be unreasonable (as you would have to pack a lot of food and water for the journey) but dangerous as well due to space radiation.
In order to shorten the time span between the blue and red worlds, we may have to resort to Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket’s (aka VASIMR).
(Space.com) Future Mars outposts or colonies may seem more distant than ever with NASA’s exploration plans in flux, but the rocket technology that could someday propel a human mission to the red planet in as little as 40 days may already exist.
A company founded by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz has been developing a new rocket engine that draws upon electric power and magnetic fields to channel superheated plasma out the back. That stream of plasma generates steady, efficient thrust that uses low amounts of propellant and builds up speed over time. […]
A mission trajectory study estimated that a VASIMR-powered spacecraft could reach the red planet within 40 days if it had a 200 megawatt power source. That’s 1,000 times more power than what the current VASIMR prototype will use, although Ad Astra says that VASIMR can scale up to higher power sources.
Although VASIMR could help shorten the trip towards Mars, future astronauts would probably still need a magnetic shield to protect them from the ravages of space radiation.
Ever since we discovered water on the Moon, scientists have been trying to figure out how much water is upon the lunar surface, and whether or not there would be enough to sustain not only colonists but perhaps a few rockets as well.
Now it looks like there may be “3 different flavors” of lunar water, which could help decide where future moon bases are established.
(Physorg.com) “If you converted those craters’ water into rocket fuel, you’d have enough fuel to launch the equivalent of one space shuttle per day for more than 2000 years. But our observations are just a part of an even more tantalizing story about what’s going on up on the Moon.” […]
“So far we’ve found three types of moonwater,” says Spudis. “We have Mini-SAR’s thick lenses of nearly pure crater ice, LCROSS’s fluffy mix of ice crystals and dirt, and M-cube’s thin layer that comes and goes all across the surface of the Moon.”
Although this still means that most of Luna is still drier than a terrestrial desert, the fact that many craters contain vast amounts of water ice means that future lunar outposts will become a reality in the near future.
While these “oasis craters” may spark debate about lunar property rights and perhaps some tension amongst the first lunar powers, their presence may signal that humanities first home beyond the sky will be upon our celestial next door neighbor.
With President Obama cancelling Constellation and outsourcing space to the private sector, many politicians have been complaining that ditching the NASA rockets will leave America in the hands of the Russians.
Now it looks like SpaceX, a company who thus far has been able to launch one successful rocket into space is challenging Russia for the right to launch Americans into space.
(Earth Times) As lawmakers weigh the pros and cons of turning over US manned spaceflight to contractors, one commercial hopeful vowed Thursday that her firm could fly US astronauts to the orbiting space station for less than a trip on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Gwynne Shotwell, president of Space X, said she could guarantee her company would be able to provide at least three flights to the International Space Station (ISS) for less than 50 million dollars a seat. A ride on the Soyuz currently costs the US space agency NASA 51 million dollars per astronaut, and that price is likely to rise when current agreements expire. […]
While other industry executives declined to offer such an exact price for their services, all said they would be ready to fly to orbit within three or four years.
SpaceX has designed the Dragon spacecraft (pictured above) to not only transport humans into space, but also cargo for the International Space Station.
Whether or not Congress will choose SpaceX over Russia has yet to be seen (note: it would be very foolish if they chose otherwise), but either way this could help the private space industry gain some much needed respect among the bureaucrats in Washington, DC.
It looks like humanities hope of turning Mars into a second Earth may never translate into reality thanks in part to the red planet’s lack of a magnetic field.
Scientists have discovered that our Sun’s solar radiation may thwart all attempts at increasing the atmospheric pressure of the crimson world, which means we may never get the chance of witnessing a green Mars, let alone a blue one.
(Discovery News) Scientists have identified a sort of double-whammy solar super wave that is responsible for blowing away air from Mars and keeping its atmosphere thin, frigid and downright inhospitable for any possible future travelers.
The waves happen when one stream of solar wind is overrun and amped up by another, faster gale of solar particles. That creates a flying traffic jam of particles that slam into Mars as one large pulse. […]
When Edberg and his colleagues compared these events at Mars to the flow of heavier atoms blowing past Mars Express, they discovered that fully a third of Martian air loss happens during the 15 percent of the time when doubled-up solar wind pulses hit the planet.
Although this means that Mars may never become a second eden (unless we can create a global magnetic field), it does not mean that humanity will never settle the planet en mass.