Ex-Energiya president Nikolai Sevastyanov believes the Martian project could be realized after 2025 and would consist of three stages: a trial expedition around the Moon, a non-landing manned expedition to Mars and then a manned Mars landing. Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos), said: “We are planning a Mars mission after 2035.” The ultimate decision is likely to be made at the top. Before the year is out the government must approve a program for the development of the space industry until 2040.
Technically speaking, a manned mission to Mars would be no more difficult than a flight to the Moon. Experts believe that the hardware required for reaching the Red Planet is largely already available. But it is the human element that is both the most important, and the most vulnerable, part of the mission. Before sending astronauts to Mars, scientists will have to solve the numerous medical and biological problems associated with deep space flight.
U.S. experts estimate the cost of a manned mission to Mars at $500 billion. Russia believes it can place cosmonauts on the planet’s surface in the next 12 years for just $14 billion, a sum roughly equivalent to 10 national space programs. However, this would entail a doubling of federal space spending and the launch of several unmanned reconnaissance probes to explore Mars in greater detail. Nikolai Anfimov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director General of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash), believes the total cost of the manned Mars mission would run to over $100 billion.
2025 or later is much too far away! How about…2015? I reckon a simple mission could be done for…under $10 billion? A test mission around Mars (but not landing on it) could be done for maybe $3 billion or so:
- A crew of two (possibly suicidal!) cosmonauts who don’t mind the possibility of long-term damage to their health, or dying – the tradeoff is they would be forever remembered in history (first humans to leave the Earth-Moon system!).
- Mission profile based on the one at Energiya (12 months to Mars, 1 month around/on Mars, 11 months back).
- Spaceship based on the Russian ISS modules with a nuclear reactor (of the Topaz-2 type) that provides power for the engines (rather than the huge solar array in the Energiya plan). There would be no means of artificial gravity (designing this would incur extra expense).
- Progress launches to bring up supplies (don’t know how many would be needed).
- Soyuz spaceship used to fly crew up to the interplanetary spacecraft, and later back to Earth (need to have a 2-year lifespan).
- A small automated probe could be used to retrieve Mars surface samples.
- Developing a Mars lander would add extra time to the mission preparations.
- Upcoming Mars launch windows (low-energy type): December 2009, February 2012.
My bargain-basement Mars mission! So, build a spaceship and go! Enough with the fussing around – after 40 years or so of spaceflight we know the effects of weightlessness on mental and physical health, so how many more studies do they need? Accept that there will be risk to the crew, and just go. (Yes, I am impatient.)
More articles of interest:
“Does Russia Have A Nuclear Engine Advantage?”, Space Daily, 5/11.