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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why the US needs a manned mission to Mars

While the camera Russian-European spacecraft ExoMars sent to Earth the first image of the red planet, the U.S. is working to send to Mars, fully manned expedition. Why do we need the Americans how much it would cost such a project and will be a part of Russia in it – questions that require a response.

The task of a manned flyby of Mars was made President Barack Obama in 2010. Then he depicted for NASA the following action plan: by 2025, to make a manned flight to nearby to the Earth the asteroid, in the middle of 2030-ies to Mars, and then will be followed by a landing mission. While it is possible to say that NASA in General fit into the schedule. The Agency is planning not just a flyby of the red planet, visiting its natural satellite Phobos.

“Really, Russia does not have similar strategic interests, to realize that you can use the project cost in two the Sochi Olympics?”

To date, the Agency has identified six key elements required for the flight to Mars, including the landing. It is a heavy vehicle SLS, the ship “Orion” residential module “Transhab” (for a flight on the route Earth – Mars – Earth), lander, take-off stage and solar-electric propulsion system (SEP). According to one preliminary estimate, to the surface of the red planet will need to deliver 15 to 20 tons of cargo and equipment to ensure first landing humans on the surface. However, representatives of NASA voiced a figure of 30 tons and more given the fact that the weight of only one of the projected takeoff stage is 18 tons, and the weight of the lander – not less than 20 tons. To send the data items in the space will take at least 6 launches heavy/superheavy vehicle SLS capacity of 70 to 130 tons. In order to save time and money on the development and production of these “heavies” NASA used the technology and equipment left over from the Shuttle, including engines, fuel tank and solid fuel boosters “Shuttle”.

Gather a bunch of the elements of the Martian complex will not be in earth orbit and Lagrange point L-2. It is located one and a half million kilometers from Earth, on the other side of the moon 61 500. The point of this is the ideal place for the construction of space complexes, because it is balanced by the gravity of the Earth and the Sun, which provides a “construction site”, almost not subject to external gravitational effects. NASA calls the L-2 as “a testing ground”, thus emphasizing that there will be not only Assembly, but also a test of the Martian technology.

In the American and international media repeatedly, including with reference to some sources at NASA, mentioned the possibility of returning Americans to the moon in preparation for Mars mission. Now, however, the issue of it not worth it. As stated by the newspaper VIEW one of the leading American specialists in the field of space policy John Logsdon, the creation of the lunar landing module not included in the plans of NASA. It is not excluded, however, the possibility that the decision on the implementation of the flight to the moon will take the European space Agency (ESA). In that case, if ESA build a lander, the United States can participate in the European lunar project, possibly by providing SLS to deliver this module on Earth’s natural satellite.

Three steps on the way to Mars

The most powerful launch vehicles in history kosmonavtiki step NASA called “resting on the Ground.” It includes testing of the required operations and the accumulation of experience required in low earth orbit using the ISS. In addition, in this step, the Agency develops ways and methods of use of available Martian resources (ISRU) to produce fuel and other necessary materials. A very useful exercise, given that for 18-ton takeoff stage would require 33 tons of fuel, and NASA intends to extract it from existing on the red planet carbon dioxide and water.

The second step is called “testing ground”, which, as already noted, is located in the point L-2. With the help of automatic device is planned to capture a nearby asteroid, which is transferred to the point where it examines the crew of the spaceship “Orion”.

The third step was called “independent Land”. We are talking about the direct exploration of the red planet. It includes life on Mars, the intensive use of Martian resources, as well as the regular transmission to the Ground of the received scientific information through advanced communication systems.

On the role of “Orion” is to dwell. Despite the fact that outwardly, it resembles a larger version of the classic disposable ships of the “Apollo” (sometimes “Orion” jokingly referred to as “Apollo on steroids”), a new “taxi” for astronauts will be reusable – it is planned to use the same lander ship up to ten times. The “Orion” will be different a high passenger capacity and can carry up to 7 crew members.

But the main feature of Orion is not in this. According to Charles Precott, Vice-President of Orbital ATK is developing pathsegment solid boosters for the SLS, the vehicle will become part of the interplanetary Martian complex. Its systems, including the system life support (GM) and protection from radiation will be integrated into the complex to increase its reliability.

Statistics of successful space launches in different strangeplay resource “Orion” – not less than 1000 hours. It is designed for entry into earth’s atmosphere at higher speeds, what are when returning from L-2 or Mars. In addition, the ship will be more shelter for the crew in case something goes wrong. Prescott gave the example of “Apollo 13, whose crew after the explosion of an oxygen tank in the command module during the flight to the moon was saved thanks largely to the coolant and the propulsion system of the lunar lander. This module, though, and was not designed to work during the flight on the route Earth – Moon – Earth, in a critical situation successfully performed unusual functions.

The first test flight of Orion took place in automatic mode in December 2014, when it was launched with the help of the carrier rocket “Delta IV Heavy”. Next scheduled for September 2018, Orion (still no crew will fly on the lunar orbit with the aid of a vehicle SLS, which incidentally, will be the first start. And the first manned flight of the ship – straight to the moon – scheduled for the years 2021-2023.

Fears and reality

Flying into low earth orbit, the crew is protected from cosmic radiation by the magnetic field of the Earth. The astronauts heading to the moon and especially to Mars, deprived of this protection. However, according to the Scientific American, referring to data of the Rover Curiosity, the danger of the radiation of deep space not so large as to become an obstacle to the implementation of the Martian expedition. So, astronauts who spend 180 days to reach Mars, the same, to return with him and spend 500 days on the surface of the red planet, will receive a total radiation dose in the area of 1.01 SV. According to the norms of ESA astronaut during all his flights must not receive more than one SV. This dose, according to doctors, increases the risk of cancer by 5%. NASA has more stringent standards: the risk of cancer of the astronaut during the entire period of his professional activity should not exceed 3%. However, according to one member of the science team of Curiosity don Hassler, 5% is “acceptable figure”.

Speaking at the conference “Humans to Mars” (Н2М) held in may this year in Washington, Scott Hubbard, in the past responsible for the Mars projects of NASA and currently a Professor at Stanford University, quoted the chief physician of NASA, Richard Williams, said that “currently, there are no such dangers for the health of the crew, which would prevent to carry out a manned expedition to Mars.” Williams acknowledges that some risk to the health of the astronauts is still there, but NASA is ready to accept it, especially given the fact that the Agency is continuously developing new ways to reduce it. For example, currently NASA is experimenting with a material made of hydrogenated nitride-boron nanotube (BNNT), which shows very promising anti-radiation properties.

However, according to Andy Weir, author of “the Martian”, which was made the same film, his character surely would be sick with cancer during his stay on the red planet’s surface. Who is closer to the truth – scientists, or fiction, time will tell.

When, for how much and with whom

Currently, NASA adheres to the following schedule of manned exploration and development of Mars. From 2021 to 2025 it is planned at least five manned missions in near-moon space, including the capture and study an asteroid. In 2033, the astronauts have to reach Phobos, and in 2039 for the first time to set foot on the surface of Mars. In the year 2043 on Mars landed the second expedition.

To ensure manned the “storm” of the red planet with the 2018 and 2046 will have to run at least 41 media type SLS. It is not excluded that this will have to add the triggers already operating carriers of the type “Delta-4 and Atlas-5” (if the latter get American engines instead of Russian, and will still be in operation). They will be involved mainly for launch to Mars and Mars robotic spacecraft that will act as “producers” of scientific information in support of manned expeditions.

Of course, the number of carriers and their types can vary depending on changes in the configuration of the Martian manned missions. There is a variant in which will need a total of 32 media type SLS (not counting the five for the lunar expeditions): ten to ensure a manned mission to Phobos, twelve for the first landing of astronauts on Mars and another ten for the second.

The question is: how much will all this cost and “pull” whether the United States, such costs alone? In the opinion of the expert group, composed of NASA officials and representatives from industry and academic circles in the United States for sending astronauts to Mars will have to pay only a small portion of the amount that was spent on the development and production of the sixth generation fighter F-35 (according to the State audit office of the United States, ultimately, the F-35 program could cost a trillion dollars) and will not exceed $ 100 billion. This is the same as United States to date has spent on the ISS program. By 2024, the ninth flight of the station is completed, NASA will cease to be spent on operation almost $ 4 billion annually. Thus, in the ten years separating the end of the station whirling around the Earth and the beginning of the mission to Phobos, the savings will be about $ 40 billion, and to implement their Martian intentions the United States will further explore only 60 billion.

Speaking about the cost of the Mars mission, experts stress that it can be reduced even more if to connect international participants. Obvious question: do they include Russia, which is currently one of the largest partners of the United States in space technology and advanced space capabilities, especially in the field of manned space flight)? But if the United States and there are similar plans for Russia, while they are kept secret.

At the end of may this year in the newspaper Space News was the views of the head of NASA, Charles Bolden on the future of international cooperation in space. He talked about the importance of interaction outside the atmosphere with Europe, Japan and China. With regards to China Bolden mentioned that he was going to visit her in late summer, stressing that sooner or later the US and China will cooperate closely in the field of space. The list of potential space partners, even countries like Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. But about Russia, Bolden said not a word. Maybe this just wasn’t, but another explanation is possible: the sharp deterioration of relations between Moscow and Washington, as well as the absence in Russia of technologies and equipment for deep space, in order to gain access to them, the United States could set aside political differences to the side) do not contribute to America’s interest to continue partnership with our country after the flight of the ISS.

It remains to add that, in addition to the state of the Mars program, the United States, there is also private, which intends to implement SpaceX. The head of the company Elon Musk has announced plans to attempt landing ship “Dragon” on the surface of the red planet in 2018, and in 2026 to send to people.

Speaking at the conference “Humans to Mars” and speaking about why America is committed to the red planet, Charles Prescott said, “horse Racing in space happen only when they are backed by the strategic interests of the country. We’re going to Mars because I want to show the world our ability to do something that no one never done before, to demonstrate space leadership and ensure our access to the world space market, the annual income of which amounts to 330 billion dollars.” As you can see, the explanation is simple enough. And involuntarily the question arises: is Russia does not have similar strategic interests, to realize that you can use the project cost in two the Sochi Olympics?

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