Recycle, Reuse and fly to Mars


Eric Knight has one of the more interesting concepts I’ve heard in a while on how to get to Mars. Although the details and specifics are a bit sketchy the idea is certainly food for thought.

“Instead of retiring the Space Shuttle, and simply moth-balling the orbiters at museums and “rocket parks” around the country, could we give the fleet a heroic assignment? A grand mission commensurate with their thirty years of service? Something that would be truly historic — even through the lens of time a millennium from now? “

His concept:
•  Fly two Space Shuttle orbiters into earth orbit.
•  Rendezvous and connect the two orbiters together — top to top — by a truss.
•  The ends of the truss are anchored to the bases of the orbiters’ payload bays.
•  At the center of the truss, dock a sufficiently sized propulsion stage.
•  Install a “crew-transfer conduit” — a pressurized, accordion-style inflatable system that connects the airlock hatches of the two orbiters so that the crew could freely move between the two spacecrafts.
•  Once the propulsion stage has accelerated this entire system on its trek to Mars, the truss is detached from the two orbiters and the truss-propulsion assembly is jettisoned.
•  The two orbiters then separate to a distance of a few hundred feet, but remain connected — top to top — by a tether cable that is spooled out.
•  During the separation, the accordion-style inflatable crew-transfer conduit equally elongates.
•  Once the orbiters are at their maximum fixed distance apart, they would simultaneously fire their reaction control systems to set the pair into an elegant pirouette — creating a comfortable level of artificial gravity for the crew’s voyage to the red planet.

Read his paper: Mars on a Shoestring

What will happen to the Shuttles? It was reported last month that NASA will probably sale at least two of them.

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One Response to Recycle, Reuse and fly to Mars

  1. R2K says:

    We went over this plan quite a bit at the nasa forum. Sadly, the plan just doesnt add up.

    You gain nothing by using the shuttles for such a trip: they cant land on mars. They are very heavy (200 tons or more for the whole stack) calling for a propulsion unit that would, alone, use 4 or 5 large rockets!

    Sadly the shuttles are just not very useful as spacecraft: because they are aircraft. Like oil and water, you cant mix the two without severe compromises.

    The best thing the shuttle program can do for manned mars trips, is to fade away quickly. They were the reason we didnt go to mars in the 1980s, after all.

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