ALTADENA, CA –Human Mars exploration may become a reality with the establishment of near-Earth gateways to the Moon and Mars. Global Aerospace Corporation (GAC) will report on the development of its concept for an interplanetary rapid transit system between Earth and Mars at the Annual Meeting of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Mr. Nock, President of GAC and a NIAC Fellow, will give this briefing at the NIAC Annual Meeting to be held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX, June 11-12, 2002.
Permanent human habitation and exploration of Mars is inevitable and only a question of time, sustained political leadership and resource availability. A revolutionary concept, which could speed this inevitability, is being developed for transporting scientists and explorers between Earth and Mars.
This innovative design architecture (see figure 1) uses highly autonomous, solar-powered, xenon ion-propelled spaceships, dubbed Astrotels for astronaut hotels (see figure 2), and small, fast spaceships called Taxis for trips between Astrotels and planetary transport hubs or Spaceports. Earth and Mars Shuttles transport crews to and from orbital space stations and planetary surfaces. Astrotels orbit the Sun in cyclic orbits between Earth and Mars and Taxis fly hyperbolic planetary trajectories between Astrotel and Spaceport rendezvous. Together these vehicles transport replacement crews of 10 people on frequent, 5 months long trips between these Earth and Mars. Two crews work on Mars with alternating periods of duty each spending about 4 years there with crew transfers occurring about every two years. In addition, autonomous solar-powered, xenon ion-propelled cargo freighters deliver hardware, fuels and consumables to Astrotels and planetary Spaceports. The pathways to an interplanetary rapid transit system between Earth and Mars are being explored by Global Aerospace Corporation under funding from NIAC with support from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Purdue University and others.
An important cost-lowering element of GAC’s transit concept is the production of rocket fuels for crewed spaceships using materials mined from the surfaces of the Moon and Mars and the Martian satellites. The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) has been developing concepts for the use of natural resources on these bodies and in space to produce and store liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket fuels. Work at CSM has included evaluation of excavation and extraction systems for the production of water, oxygen and hydrogen. and the building of simple prototypes of some of these systems.
GAC’s concept provides a framework and context for future technology advance and robotic Mars exploration. Robotic explorers have been used on Earth in a variety of environments and for short-term exploration on Mars and are a natural adjunct to human operations. Permanent self-sustaining Mars habitation, instead of brief and expensive expeditions, are more desirable and practical and the Astrotel system will bring us closer to that goal.