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starship-design: Landis' Mars Plan
This paper is a little old and some of you have probably read it before,
but going back through old files has brought forth a lot of little gems...
This is important not so much for the actual steps involved, but for the
slowness of the timetable and Landis' assertion (correct unfortunately)
"Footsteps to Mars: An Incremental Approach to Mars Exploration," Geoffrey
Landis, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 48, September
1995, pp. 367-372.
Landis, an engineer (and award-winning science fiction author) at NASA's
Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, presented the original version of
this paper at the Case for Mars V conference in May 1993. He states that
President Bush's "Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). . .is politically
dead. It is viewed as an expensive Republican program with no place in the
current era of deficit reduction. . .The political question is: how can we
advocate Mars exploration without appearing to be attempting to revive S
EI?" Landis proposes a new Mars exploration program which, he says, takes
into account lessons taught by Apollo ("[i]f you accomplish your goal, your
budget will be cut") and Shuttle ("if you do the same thing over and over,
the public will focus on your failures and forget your successes"). Landis'
program is a 14-year series of incremental "footsteps," which, he says,
fits NASA's new "faster, better, cheaper" approach to spaceflight.
First footstep: Piloted Mars Flyby - A piloted Mars flyby mission relying
on U.S. and Russian space station technology and existing boosters could
occur "immediately," Landis writes. The 18-month mission demonstrates the
transfer vehicle, long-duration interplanetary flight, and Earth return.
During the flyby the astronauts take advantage of short two-way radio
time-delays to teleoperate a rover on Mars. Relying on teleoperation helps
ensure planetary quarantine while life on Mars remains an open issue. The
rover leaves Earth separate from the piloted flyby craft.
Second footstep: Mars orbit and Deimos Landing - Landis reports that, with
the possible exception of a few near-Earth asteroids, Mars' outer moon is
the most easily accessible object outside of Earth orbit in terms of
propellant needed to reach it. The mission demonstrates Mars orbit
insertion and orbital operations, as well as trans-Earth injection. Landis
adds that Deimos might become a resource base providing water that can be
electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen rocket propellants.
Third footstep: Mars orbit and Phobos Landing - "From Phobos," Landis
writes, "the view of Mars will be spectacular." Landis proposes that an
unmanned version of the piloted Mars lander be tested while serving double
duty as a sample-return vehicle. Phobos' low orbit allows the lander to
launch Mars surface samples to Phobos for recovery by the crew.
Fourth footstep: Earth orbit operation & Moon landing - This footstep tests
the Mars lander in Earth orbit and on the moon.
Fifth footstep: Mars Polar Landing - Landis writes that Mars' poles have
readily accessible water that can be processed into fuel. In addition, the
Sun remains in the sky continuously during local summer - a great advantage
for solar power systems.
Sixth footstep: Mars Temperate Landing - This mission marks the culmination
of Landis' program. Successfully accomplishing this step will, Landis
maintains, result in budget cuts and program cancellation within two years.
Seventh footstep: Valles Marineris landing - Landis proposes a landing in
Mars' equatorial "Grand Canyon" as a spectacular coda which might be
exciting enough to help delay program cancellation.
Landis states that finding easily exploitable resources on Deimos, Phobos,
and Mars could lower costs, allowing piloted exploration to continue on "a
shuttle-scale budget." He proposes that Mars replace the Cold War as a
driver for western aerospace, thereby arresting the downsizing shaking
western aerospace organizations. In addition, the Soviet Union's collapse
makes Russia - with its Energia heavy-lift rocket, Mir modules, and
long-duration spaceflight experience - available as a cooperative partner.
Landis urges an immediate program start, saying that "despite indications,
there is no better time to act."
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
William Allingham, Ireland, 1850