Mars Exploration Essay, Research Paper
Mars has been a place NASA and other organizations have wanted to conquer after the Apollo missions. It has been several decades since anyone has sent anything to Mars. Lately though Mars has been the main focus to space engineers and scientists. This is because in 1989 President George Bush called for a manned mission to Mars (Sky & Telescope). This will cost a lot of money and effort.
In 1969 people were celebrating the first manned mission to the moon. People were in awe of their own ability. So when Mariner 6 and 7 went to mars nobody really cared because they were so caught up about the lunar missions. Mariner 6 and 7 were two flybys of Mars. Their main job was to measure the ionosphere (the shell of charged particles high in the atmosphere) of Mars. They found that Mars? atmosphere was mainly Carbon Dioxide. NASA then sent two Viking landers in 1976. The Viking landers confirmed that the atmosphere of Mars was mainly Carbon Dioxide. Nobody realized though that tons of rocket fuel could be synthesized out of Mars? air. Then in the 1980?s Martian meteorites showed that the planet?s soil contained a material that could be easily made into a building substance. For the past 15 years space scientists and engineers have worked quietly on unmanned missions to Mars. (Newsweek)
In the first couple of decades in the 21st century Mars is going to be visited more often then any other planet or moon. NASA, Russia, and other countries are going to be sending spacecraft towards Mars about every two years. The first ones were NASA?s Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, and Russia?s ill-fated Mars ?96 mission. The next group is NASA?s Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, and the Japanese spacecraft Nozomi. Before Mars Polar Lander arrives it will drop two probes. The two probes will crash into Mars and penetrate about 2 meters in search for water ice. (Sky and Telescope)
After George Bush called for a manned mission to Mars, NASA saw how much money it would take and how long. They said it would cost about 400 billion dollars and 30 years. That?s a lot of money and time to get a few astronauts there and plant a flag. A Man, Mr. Zubrin, thought that it would cost a lot less. NASA?s idea was to first build a multi-billion dollar space station orbiting earth. Then they would begin assembly of the spacecraft on the space station. This is because the spacecraft would have to be huge in order to have enough fuel to go to Mars and back. But Zubrin?s idea was to have enough fuel to get to Mars. Then use hydrogen brought from earth and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to make liquid oxygen and methane to use for rocket fuel. NASA said it would cost 55 billion dollars to do it that way, but Zubrin says it would cost 5 billion if done by companies and not the government. (Sky and Telescope)
The first step is to get a sample and return mission. It was originally scheduled for 2005, but NASA is pressuring engineers to get it off by 2003. The bad part about most of NASA?s plans is that they will only be able to get 10 ounces for a sample. But the Johnson team (One of the teams in charge to design a sample and return mission) is using the ?live off of the land? philosophy. This would make the spacecraft a lot lighter then other designs. Also every kilogram that is shaved off is $150,000 saved. Also Johnson?s plan could bring back several pounds not ounces.
Another plan for getting humans onto Mars is called Mars Direct. Scientists would use the same type of rocket used for the Apollo missions to get to Mars. It would take 8 months to get to Mars. The entire craft lands on Mars with six tons of hydrogen, 100-kilowatt nuclear reactor on back of a methane/oxygen truck, a set of compressors with a chemical processing unit, and a few scientific rovers. The craft would then make 36 tons of liquid oxygen from the hydrogen and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (this would take a bout 10 months). This is all mechanical, so scientists will launch one rocket the following year. This will contain a crew of four and food and hydrogen. Then the crew will stay on Mars for one and one half years. Unlike most of the plans to Mars this one is the safest because it is too dangerous to stay orbiting around Mars. With 12 tons of fuel stockpiled it would be a lot easier to leave when they thought they needed to. If this were done enough times would make it easier to make Mars a livable place for colonization. (AD ASTRA)
There are many ideas to get man on to Mars. Hopefully they will begin to send manned missions to Mars soon. It will be hard but I think if countries join forces in this common goal humans could conquer Mars. I hope that they begin colonizing Mars in my lifetime because I would like to live on a different planet.