Mars is the fabled planet of science fiction and the movies.
Many many books have been written about Mars and its inhabitants
notwithstanding the fact that there aren't any. Mars is the fourth
planet from the sun and the next one out from Earth. Thanks primarily
to Mariner 9 and the two Viking missions, we have significant
knowledge of Mars. For example, the orange to red color is due to
hydrated iron oxide in the soil. The following data were extracted
from various sources.
* Mars - the red planet
Datum Value units Source
Mass 6.421e+23 kg [3, p.289]
Equatorial radius 3.393e+3 km "
Equatorial inclination 25.19 deg "
Equ. surface gravity (0.38g) 3.72 m/sec/sec "
Equ. escape velocity 5.0 km/sec "
Mean density 3.95 g/cu.cm. "
Sidereal rotation period 24.6229 hours "
Mean distance from Sun 2.2794e+8 km "
Mean orbital velocity 24.13 km/sec "
Sidereal period 668.98 Earth days "
Inclination to ecliptic 1.850 degrees "
Orbital eccentricity 0.0934 "
Sky is pink during the day [31, p.160]
Sky is white at sunrise and sunset [31, p.161]
Sky has a red afterglow after sunset "
Mean wind speed (Viking 1) 29 km/hour [21, p.91]
Atmospheric pressure 5-10 millibars [23, p.91-3]
Maximum temperature +17 deg. C [61, p.A-16]
Constituents of the Martian atmosphere
Carbon dioxide 95.32 % [3, p.93]
Nitrogen 2.7 % "
Argon 1.6 % "
Oxygen 1300 ppm "
Carbon monoxide 700 ppm "
Water vapor 300 ppm "
Neon 2.5 ppm "
Krypton 0.3 ppm "
Ozone 0.1 ppm "
Xenon 0.08 ppm "
Duration of the Martian seasons Source
Northern Southern Martian Earth
Hemisphere Hemisphere days days
Spring Fall 194 199 [23, p.128]
Summer Winter 178 183 "
Fall Spring 143 147 "
Winter Summer 154 158 "
Water ice cap about 1000 km (diameter) in summer [15, p.172]
Water ice is 4 to 6 km thick (covered by) [23, p.138]
Frozen carbon dioxide in winter [23, p.136]
Frozen carbon dioxide 300-1000 m thick under ice [15, p.180]
Summer temperature is about -70 deg. C [23, p.136]
Winter temperature is about -130 deg. C [23, p.100]
Water ice cap about 350 km (diameter) in summer [15, p.172]
Water ice is 1 to 2 km thick (covered by) [23, p.138]
Frozen carbon dioxide 25-50 cm thick in winter [23, p.136]
Summer temperature is about -110 deg. C "
Winter temperature is about -143 deg. C [61, p.A-16]
Soil is an iron-rich clay-like material [17, p.502]
Orange to red color is hydrated iron oxide [21, p.91]
Viking 1 site was Chryse Planitia (22.5N,47.5W) "
Viking 2 site was Utopia Planitia (47.89N,225.86W) [21, p.92]
Soil oxides (weight %) Viking 1 Viking 2
Silicon 43 43 [4, p.336]
Titanium 0.63 0.54 "
Aluminum 7.2 - "
Iron 18.0 17.5 "
Magnesium 6 - "
Calcium 5.7 5.6 "
Sulfur 7.6 8.0 "
Elemental composition (approx) Percent
Oxygen O 42 [15, p.180]
Silicon Si 21 "
Iron Fe 13 "
Sodium Na 8 "
Magnesium Mg 5 "
Calcium Ca 4 "
Aluminum Al 3 "
Sulfur S 3 "
Chlorine Cl 0.7 "
Titanium Ti 0.5 "
Potassium K <0.25 "
. Mars has two satellites, Phobos and Deimos, (see chapter 10 for
data on them).
11.1 The cost of Mars missions
The excessive cost of some of the proposed missions to Mars
is the primary reason for their lack of progress. Our proposed
Mars mission will not be paid for by taxpayer dollars, but it will
still cost a great deal. It is instructive to examine the costs of
some of the various Mars missions both past and future.
11.1.1 Past Mars projects
Miles and Booth give a list of eight US missions to Mars up
to and including Vikings 1 & 2 [23, p.14]. These include two
failures and three flybys. There were two orbiters (one failed)
and two landers. The Soviets conducted 16 Mars missions through
the end of 1973 and two more in the late 1980s [23, p.10]. Of these
there were three successful orbiters, two in 1971 and one in 1973,
and three landers, only one of which reached the surface successfully.
Sadly, it stopped transmitting shortly after landing. Both of the
recent missions also failed, but Phobos 2 did get some pictures of
Phobos and took some measurements before its transmitter failed.
22.214.171.124 Mariner 6 & 7
[21, p.56-8] Mariner 6 and 7 were sent to Mars in 1969.
These two missions were flybys not orbiters. They returned a small
number of pictures which showed that Mars looked quite similar
to the moon. There were no canals, no cities, and no evidence of any
form of life. There were however, plenty of craters. The cost of
the two missions was about $292 million in 1965 dollars which would
scale up to $1.208 billion in 1990 dollars.
126.96.36.199 Mariner 8 & 9
[21, p.67] Mariner 8 was lost but Mariner 9 successfully
orbited Mars. The entire surface was photographed at a resolution
of 1 kilometer, 80% at a resolution of 200 meters, and 20% at a
resolution of 50 meters [4, p.50]. The cost of $120 million in
1969 dollars would scale up to $427 million in 1990 dollars.
188.8.131.52 Viking 1 & 2
[21, p.88-94] The two Viking landers were built by Martin
Marietta under contract for $280 million (5/29/1969). The parent
craft were built by JPL and the project was directed by NASA's
Langley Research Center. Both landers were exceptionally successful
and have provided us with most of the data we know about the
atmosphere and soils of Mars. Including all the support costs
during and after the landings, the total run-out cost was about
$2.5 billion in 1984 dollars [21, p.88]. The cost of the program
scales up to $3.143 billion in 1990 dollars.
184.108.40.206 Summary of past Mars projects
Spacecraft Cost (yr) Cost (1990$)
Mariner 6,7 $292 M (1965) $ 1.208 B
Mariner 8,9 $120 M (1969) $ 0.427 B
Viking 1,2 $2.5 B (1984) $ 3.143 B
11.1.2 Current Mars projects
The following three projects have been included in "current"
projects because they are actually under development. The other
Mars projects are still somebody's pipe dream and have been
included in "future" projects.
220.127.116.11 Japanese Mars orbiter
The Japanese are developing a two metric ton orbiter to be
launched in 1999 on the new H2 booster [AW 25, p.39]. The orbiter
will survey Mars from a 375 km orbit. The budget is $400 million.
18.104.22.168 US Mars Observer
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) is building the Mars
Observer on a budget of $470 million [AW 43, p.60]. The Mars
Observer will weigh 127 kg and will have a power supply of
148.5 watts [23, p.36]. It is scheduled to be launched on
September 14,1992 and to arrive on September 2,1993 after a
flight of 353 days [23, p.34]. It will maneuver into a polar
orbit so as to be able to survey the entire surface. The Mars
observer will be able to take pictures with a resolution of 2
meters [63, p.69].
It has been reported [23, p.28] that the Soviets are planning
Mars landers for 1992 and 1994 and a Mars sample return mission for
1996. With all the turmoil in the former Soviet Union it is not
clear which if any of these missions will actually be accomplished.
No cost data are available.
22.214.171.124 Summary of current Mars projects
Japanese Mars orbiter $400 M
US Mars Observer $470 M
Soviet Mars Landers ?
Soviet sample-return ?
11.1.3 Future projects
126.96.36.199 Unmanned Mars missions
188.8.131.52.1 NASA Ames mini-landers
[29, p.92,94] NASA's Ames Research Center has proposed
deploying a group of 16 small landers at various sites all
over Mars to do a detailed survey. They would be launched four
at a time by Delta rockets and would take 11 months to reach
Mars. This project is called the Mars Environmental Survey
or MESUR. The cost was estimated to be about $800 million.
184.108.40.206.2 NASA JPL micro-rovers
[29, p.92,94] NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) would like
to send 24 micro-rovers to Mars to study the planet in detail.
This plan would send the rovers to Mars in egg-shaped containers
four at a time so that small inexpensive rockets could be used.
The project would cost about $1 billion [29, p.92].
220.127.116.11.3 Science Applications' Mars sample-return
[15, p.196-8] Science Applications International Corporation
presented a paper at the AAS/AIAA conference in Montana in August
of 1987 which detailed a Mars sample-return mission. The mission
would consist of a rover and a sample-return system which would
be launched to Mars separately. They would use conventional
chemical propulsion and would take 289 days to reach Mars. After
a stay of 489 days the sample-return portion would begin a 220
day return flight. The project would not require development
of new launchers. It would return a 41 pound canister containing
11 pounds of rocks and soil. The project would cost $3.5 billion
to $7 billion.
18.104.22.168.4 NASA JPL Mars sample-return
In 1988 NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) estimated that a
Mars sample-return mission would cost $10 - $15 billion [63, p.94].
22.214.171.124.5 Summary of unmanned Mars proposals
Project Organization Cost ($ B)
Mini-landers NASA Ames 0.8
Micro-rovers NASA JPL 1.0
Rover/Sample-return Science Applications 3.5 - 7.0
Sample-return NASA JPL 10 - 15
126.96.36.199 Manned Mars missions
188.8.131.52.1 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plan
[AW 53, p.84-5] Lowell Wood leads a group at Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) who are developing a plan
which would produce permanent manned bases both on the moon and
Mars before the turn of the century and for a mere $10 - $12
billion. Highlights of this proposal are as follows. It
requires no HLV. Components would be combined into 50 - 70
ton packages which could be lifted by Delta or Titan 4 rockets.
A total of 24 launches would be required. The first is estimated
to cost $500 million, the second $250 million, and the rest would
cost $150 million each. It would use inflatable modules 15 meters
long and 15 meters in diameter. Interior components would be
prefabricated. A 53.3 ton LEO "gas" station would electrolyze
water into its components which would be liquified to yield
liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. In 1994 70 tons of payload
would be lifted to the moon with 215 tons of fuel from the LEO
gas station. This 70 ton package would include a lunar hopper,
2 tractors, a return module with 10 tons of fuel, a "snowblower"
to cover inflated modules, and a greenhouse module with food,
water, and air for 4 people for 10 years. This facility would
produce oxygen from Lunar soil. In 1996 a 70 ton Mars mission
would leave LEO using 265 tons of fuel from the LEO gas station.
It would reach Mars in 1997 after a 305 day trip. The package
sent to Mars would include a return module which would be left in
orbit and 4 Mars base modules including a rover, a Mars hopper,
an instrument package, an oxygen from carbon dioxide machine,
and a life support system for 399 days. Some of the crew would
return in 1999 with Martian samples leaving the remainder of the
crew. Subsequent missions would expand the facility. This
proposal was not popular at NASA headquarters [AW 56, p.59] -
perhaps it was too cheap.
184.108.40.206.2 Lunar base study group
[15, p.201] A group of scientists and engineers who
participated in the 1984 conference on Lunar Bases and Space
Activities of the 21st Century studied the prospects for
manned Mars missions and concluded that we already have all
the capabilities necessary for the mission. They estimated
that the mission could be accomplished for $30 - $40 billion
(1986 summary report).
220.127.116.11.3 Stanford/Soviet study
[AW 40, p.20] Stanford University and Soviet scientists
have recommended using the Soviet Energia heavy-lift vehicle
for an international Mars mission. The Energia could launch
the initial Mars base for $60 billion over 20 years. The Mars
vehicle would be assembled in orbit. It would use chemical
propulsion taking 9 months to travel each way. It would provide
artificial gravity for the 3 men and 3 women on board by
rotating the spacecraft. The crew would spend one year on Mars
18.104.22.168.4 Synthesis Group plan
The Synthesis Group report [Ref 61] (also known as the Stafford
Report) was presented to Vice President Quayle in early May of 1991.
The report described four so called "Architectures" or outlines
for the exploration and establishment of bases on the moon and
Mars. They are: (1) mars exploration, (2) science emphasis for
the moon and Mars, (3) the moon to stay and Mars exploration,
and (4) space resource utilization [61, p.5]. All four call for
manned missions to both the moon and Mars and are described in
significant detail [61, p.34-57]. All four architectures span
a period of nearly thirty years, from the present to 2020.
The baseline plans suggest manned crews of six people for
both lunar and Mars missions [61, p.36-9]. The Mars missions
would be launched by Saturn derived heavy-lift launch vehicles.
The HLVs would use the F-1 engine of the Saturn 5 which burned
kerosene instead of hydrogen. The missions would use nuclear
thermal rockets to go to Mars and conventional rockets for the
Mars landings rather than areobraking because of the anticipated
13 km/sec entry velocity at Mars. No cost figures were given.
According to an article by J.R. Asker in Aviation Week
[AW 39, p.55-6] in the 6/24/91 issue, "they found no 'magic bullets'
and no inexpensive shortcuts." Evidently they didn't speak to the
right people or they threw out all the inexpensive suggestions.
In passing it was mentioned that the cost had been estimated in
excess of $400 billion [AW 39, p.56].
22.214.171.124.5 Baker/Zubrin Mars mission
David Baker and Robert Zubrin of Martin Marietta Astronautics
Group in Denver presented a proposal at the "Case for Mars IV"
[AA 6, p.51]. Their proposal calls for a Shuttle-derived
heavy-lift launch vehicle (SDHLLV) - called Ares. This
booster would be a modified space shuttle external tank with four
space shuttle main engines and two stap-on advanced solid rocket
boosters. It would be an all chemical rocket with a cryogenic upper
stage. It could put 121 MT in LEO, send 59 MT to the moon, or send
47 MT to Mars [AA 7, p.33].
Their scenario calls for launching an unmanned Ares to Mars in
1997. It uses aerobrakes and parachutes to land on Mars. The payload
consists of: an unfueled two stage ascent vehicle, an earth return
vehicle, a nuclear reactor, fuel production equipment, some small
rovers and 6 tons of liquid hydrogen. The fuel production equipment
would begin producing methane from the hydrogen, and carbon dioxide
from the Martian atmosphere. Once earth based controllers verify
that this operation is proceeding properly, two more Ares rockets
will be launched from earth. One will be identical to the first
mission but the second would carry a crew of four, and three years
worth of provisions, plus a rover and aerobrake and parachutes. The
vehicles land on Mars in 1999 at the same site as the first mission.
The crew would remain on Mars for 18 months. They would explore
the surface in their methane powered rover, while the fuel production
facility would keep producing more fuel. Finally the crew would lift
off using the ascent and earth return vehicles brought by the first
Ares mission which would also use methane and oxygen as fuel. The
crew would return in 2001. The cost was estimated to be about $125
billion [AA 7, p.34].
126.96.36.199.6 Ball Aerospace Corp
[69, p.92-3] At the "Case for Mars III" conference, a proposal
for the establishment of a permanent Martian base was presented
by C.C. Smith of Ball Aerospace Systems Corp. of Boulder, CO.
This project extends over a period of more than 40
years - ending in 2030. It consists of four phases. The first
phase would consist of 2 orbiters and would cost $200 million.
The second phase would include 2 Mars penetrators and 2 Mars
sample-return missions at an estimated cost of $5.1 billion.
The third phase would include 2 manned technical evaluation
missions costing $69.2 billion, 5 base development and exploration
missions costing $58 billion, and 2 base establishment missions
at a cost of $22.1 billion. Finally, phase four would consist
of crew rotation missions every 2 years at a cost of $34.4 billion
through the year 2030. The total would be $189.1 billion in 1987
188.8.131.52.7 NASA Moon/Mars project
[63, p.24] General Dynamics' Space Systems Division prepared
a detailed cost estimate of manned lunar and manned Mars missions
for NASA which was presented in November of 1989. This analysis
indicated an expenditure of $300 - $550 billion over a period of
35 years in order to develop manned bases both on the moon and
on Mars. It also predicted that the costs of manned missions
would be at least 10 times the cost of unmanned missions and
perhaps as much as 100 times the cost of unmanned missions.
184.108.40.206.8 An Independent Mars Expedition
David Gump has outlined a purely private mission to Mars in
a paper entitled "An Independent Mars Expedition Funded by TV Rights
and Corporate Sponsorships" which appeared in Space Manufacturing 7,
[SM 41, p.358-361]. His project depends entirely on raising funds
from the private sector. The following table shows his sources.
* Table 11.1-1 Funding sources
Source Funds ($ B)
Global TV rights 2.0
Corporate sponsors 2.0 - 3.0
4 to 6 Tickets sold to governments 2.0 - 3.0
(at $500 million each)
total 6.0 - 8.0
The plan calls for a preliminary mission to Phobos which would
emplace a fuel production facility which would produce fuel for the
return trip. The manned mission would send a crew of 10 to 14
people on a minimum energy trajectory to Mars. Total mission time
would be 957 days of which 562 would be on Mars and 395 in space
[SM 41, p.360].
He plans to keep costs low by avoiding the government red tape
and not building everything to military specifications which are
generally thought to roughly double the cost of anything purchased
by the military. His cost estimate is as follows:
* Table 11.1-2 Cost estimates
Item Cost ($ B)
Lift 1090 tons to LEO (at $1650/kg) 1.6
Hardware cost = 1.5 times lift cost 2.4
Payroll and overhead 1.5
The key to this project is the $1650 per kg lift cost. Gump
expects the Advanced Launch System to provide this capability. It
appears however, that the ALS cost will be at least $2200 per
kilogram which would raise his estimate by $1.333 billion to about
Another paper entitled "Generating Revenues in Space: Challenging
some of the Economic Assumptions of Space Exploration" by James
Dunstan [LB2, p.76] pursues a similar theme.
220.127.116.11.9 The Ride Report
In August of 1987 a report called "Leadership and America's
Future in Space" by Sally Ride was released [Ref 108]. This report
outlines four leadership initiatives: (1) mission to planet earth,
(2) exploration of the solar system, (3) outpost on the moon, and
(4) humans to Mars.
The Mars part of this report includes just about everything one
might think of. It begins with two Mars Observer missions to be
followed by two sample-return missions. It pushes a major space
station based life sciences research program. And it culminates in
three manned missions to Mars which would result in a Mars outpost
by 2010. The manned missions would be one year round trip "sprint"
missions with astronauts spending two weeks on the surface before
returning. Each mission would consist of two vehicles, a precursor
cargo vehicle and a subsequent manned vehicle.
"The Mars cargo vehicle minimizes its propellant requirements
by taking a slow, low energy trip to Mars. The vehicle would be
assembled in LEO ... and would carry everything to be delivered to
the surface of Mars plus the fuel required for the crew's trip
back to earth. The personnel transport would be assembled in LEO
and would leave for Mars only after the cargo vehicle had arrived in
Mars orbit. It would carry a crew of six, crew support equipment,
and propellant for the outbound trip" [108, p.33].
Each of the sprint missions is expected to require over 1100
metric tons of materials in LEO.
A thinly disguised budget for this project was given [108, p.46].
It included about $43 billion for mission specific items, about $23
billion for work common to both lunar and Mars projects, and about
$30 billion for program support. This is a total of $96 billion in
1987 dollars to cover the period through 2010. Inflating by 15% to
1990 dollars we get $110 billion.
18.104.22.168.10 Summary of manned Mars proposals
Project Crew Organization Cost ($ 1990 B)
Mars mission 10 - 14 Gump private project 7
Moon/Mars bases 4 each LLNL 10 - 12
Mars mission ? Lunar base study group 36 - 48
Mars base 6 Stanford/Soviet study 60
Mars mission 6 each Ride report 110
Mars mission 4 Baker/Zubrin 125
Mars bases 20 - 30 Ball Aerospace Systems 217.5
Moon/Mars bases 6 each Synthesis Group study 400+
Moon/Mars bases ? NASA 300 - 550
11.2 Should we finance a Martian sample-return mission?
No - unless that mission is to Antarctica! We already have
several samples of Martian rocks so why should we pay billions more
to go to Mars to get a few more? They will tell us very little if
anything that we don't already know.
There exist a small number of meteorites known as SNC (snick)
meteorites. SNC stands for "Shergottites, Nakhlites, and
Chassignites." The Shergottites are a group of meteorites that
fell in 1865 in Shergotty, located in the Indian state of Bihar
[34, p.113]. Chassignite is named for the city Chassigny in France
where the meteorite was found. Nakhlites are fragments of a
meteorite called Nakhla. The Shergottites are basaltic rocks
composed primarily of pyroxene and plagioclase [114, p.113], while
the Nakhlites are mostly augite and the Chassignites are mostly
olivine [114, p.115].
The characteristic of all the SNC meteorites which sets them
apart from all others is their age. Radio-isotope dating techniques
have shown that their age is about 1.3 billion years - which is
much younger than the 4.4 to 4.6 billion years commonly measured for
meteorites [114, p.113]. These meteorites are igneous in composition
which means that they were formed on a parent body which was still
volcanically active 1.3 billion years ago. Since the surface rocks
of the moon are 3 billion years old or more, the next most likely
candidates for the source of these meteorites is either Venus or
Mars. A number of meteorites similar in age and composition to the
Shergottites were found in Antarctica in 1979. One such meteorite
which was found in the Elephant Moraine region was analyzed at the
Johnson Space Center. Gases trapped inside the meteorite were
found to contain "a mixture of gases strikingly like those found in
the Martian atmosphere" [3, p.250]. Many experts including John
Wood [3, p.250] and John Wasson [114, p.114] are convinced that
the SNC meteorites came from Mars.
In conclusion it appears that we already have at least a half
dozen samples of Mars and furthermore, it is likely that a major
search of some of the Antarctic ice fields would yield more. The
cost of such an expedition would be at most a few million dollars
instead of a few billion.
11.3 Lifting the crew to LEO via space planes
The US space shuttle was the first space plane to reach
orbit. Since then (1981) quite a number of other projects have been
initiated. Not surprisingly the Soviet version known as Buran
is the most advanced. It has flown one unmanned mission to date.
The space planes are designed to carry both people and cargo.
In order for our master plan to succeed, we must have a relatively
inexpensive space plane which can lift our crews into space. The
following sections give some details of some of the space planes
11.3.1 Buran (CIS)
In September of 1988, Tass revealed the Soviet space
shuttle called Buran. It is quite similar in size to the
US space shuttle. It is about 36 meters long, 6.3 meters high
(not counting landing gear or tail) and its wingspan is about
29 meters. Buran was first launched (unmanned) in November
of 1988 by the Energia heavy lift booster.
The future of the Buran space shuttle is now in doubt
due to the turmoil in the former Soviet Union. The production
line for the first stage of the Energia has been shut down.
Since the vehicle size is nearly the same as the US space
shuttle, one can estimate that the payload will be similar
as well - say 30 MT. According to Ad Astra [AA 4, p.34]
the cost of an Energia launch is $600-$750 million. Thus the
cost per kilogram would be $20,000 to $25,000.
11.3.2 Hermes (ESA)
The Hermes space plane began as a French proposal, but
was given the go-ahead by the European Space Agency in 1987.
Nicholas Booth gives the following information about Hermes in
"Space the Next 100 Years" [71, p.68-70]. The project will
be financed by France (43%), Germany (27%), Italy (12.1%),
Belgium (5.8%) and the other ESA countries but not the UK.
The Hermes will be 18.29 meters long, 9.01 meters wide and
2.95 meters high. It will weigh about 24 tons and will carry
a crew of three rather than the original design of six. It will
land like the US space shuttle but at 300 km/hour.
Aviation Week [AW 50, p.107] reported that development
cost estimates had risen to $7.2 billion and that the first
unmanned flight had been pushed back to 2002 with the first
manned flight now scheduled for 2003. Estimating an Ariane 5
flight at $60 million and the payload at 3 tons, the cost
per payload pound would be:
* $60 M / 6,000 = $10,000 per pound ($22,000/kg)
Of course that does not include amortization of the
development costs ($7.2 billion).
11.3.3 HL-20 (US)
NASA's Langley Research Center is developing the HL-20
Personnel Launch System (PLS) as a candidate for an "Assured
Crew Return Vehicle" (ACRV). In an article by E.H. Phillips
which appeared in Aviation Week [AW 41, p.52-3] in the July
15,1991 issue, this vehicle was described. It would be about
one quarter of the size of the space shuttle with a length of
29.5 feet and a width of 23.5 feet. It would weigh about
24,000 pounds and could carry 8 passengers, 2 crew members,
and 1200 pounds of cargo up to the space station and back
again. Alternatively, it could carry the crew and 4000 pounds
of cargo. This space plane would be launched atop the Titan 4
expendable launch vehicle.
Unfortunately this article gives no financial data, but
one can make some approximations based on the given data. Using
the Newsweek estimate of $5100 per pound of payload for a payload
of 33,000 pounds, the cost of one launch would be $168.3 million
[28, p.50]. Alternatively we could use the GAO estimate of $527
million per launch [AW 58, p.79]. Then we can calculate the
following cost figures.
* $168.3 M / 4,000 = $42,075 per pound ($92,565/kg) or
$527 M / 4,000 = $131,750 per pound ($289,850/kg).
This is far more expensive than the space shuttle! I, as
a US taxpayer, will cry if one of these ever flies! We don't
need a rescue vehicle. People going into space must be prepared
to take the risk of not coming back alive. This is just another
extremely expensive make work project. It should be cancelled
immediately if not sooner.
Rockwell engineers have a plan for a 74 passenger module which
would fit into the cargo bay of the space shuttle [49, p.144]. At
least this proposal would lift many more people per flight.
11.3.4 "Hope" unmanned space plane (Japan)
In August of 1990 Aviation Week ran a three week series
of articles on the Japanese space program [AW 25, 8/13/90],
[AW 26, 8/20/90], and [AW 27, 8/27/90]. Details of the Hope
space plane were given in [AW 25, p.65-70]. The development
is being done at Tsukuba Science City which is about 40 miles
northeast of Tokyo. The Hope vehicle will weigh about 20 metric
tons and will be designed to carry a 3-5 metric ton payload
up to the Freedom space station. It will be launched atop an
enlarged H-2 booster perhaps as early as 1997. NASDA has been
funding Hope at about $66 million per year. Hope carries two
orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engines which would have a
thrust of about 2 tons each. These engines would be used to
provide the final delta velocity necessary for orbital insertion.
No cost information was given in the article, but the
following guestimates can be made. If the payload is 5 MT, then
the payload will constitute 20% of the weight lifted and thus
the cost would be 5 times the cost of payloads on the H-2. If
the payload is 3 MT, then the payload will constitute 13% of the
weight lifted and thus the cost would be 7.667 times the cost of
payloads on the H-2.
11.3.5 Hotol (UK-CIS)
The Hotol (an acronym for horizontal take-off and landing)
was the first space plane to be announced to the public.
It grew out of the work of British engineer Alan Bond who was
the first engineer to seriously study the problems of burning
liquid hydrogen with oxygen from the air [71, p.80]. Most
of the internal volume of the vehicle would consist of a massive
liquid hydrogen tank. A small LOX tank would also be required
for the final boost to orbit. The payload bay is 7.5 meters
by 4.6 meters in diameter [31, p.92].
The initial version called for Hotol to be launched from
a "trolley" rolling down an ordinary runway. The trolley would
stay on the ground as the Hotol flew off into space [71, p.81].
In September of 1991, a new version of Hotol emerged from
a British/Soviet study. In an article by Lenorovitz/Zhukovsky
in Aviation Week [AW 44, p.68-9] the new version was described.
It would be about the same length and width of the US and
Soviet space shuttles but considerably fatter to contain the
large liquid hydrogen tank. It would be powered by four RD-120
reuseable Soviet engines of the type used in the second stage of
the Energia. The Hotol would weigh about 250,000 kilograms
and would be able to carry payloads of more than 5000 kilograms
[AW 44, p.68]. A Soviet Antonov-225 cargo aircraft would carry
the Hotol to its launch altitude of 30,180 feet (9,200 km). The
An-225 would require two additional engines (it normally has 6)
to be able to cope with the heavy load.
Another article in Aviation Week [AW 66, p.58] of 1/6/92 by
S.W. Kandebo indicated that the project is still moving along
well despite the financial problems in Russia. In the article
the payload was stated to be 7-8 MT [AW 66, p.58].
No cost estimates were given, but that will not stop us
from guessing. The estimated cost and mass breakdown would be:
* Component Mass (MT) Cost
LOX 192.9 $23,811 @ $0.5/100 cu.ft.
LH2 32.1 $126,026 @ $1/100 cu.ft.
Hotol empty 12.5
4 engines 5 1185 kg each plus mountings
250.0 $149,837 per flight
An-225 $100,000 per flight
Refurbishment $100,000 per flight
$349,837 per flight
The cost per kilogram of payload would then be:
* $349,837 / 7,500 = $47 per kilogram ($21/pound)
Clearly this does not include amortization of the
development costs of Hotol or the An-225 which is already
11.3.6 Japanese NASP
In August of 1990, Aviation Week ran a three week series
of articles on the Japanese space program [AW 25, 8/13/90],
[AW 26, 8/20/90], and [AW 27, 8/27/90]. Details of the Japanese
NASP program were given in [AW 26, p.83-7].
Funding for this program was about $35 million in 1990,
and project managers were pushing to double that to $67 million
in 1991 and to $133 million in 1992 [AW 26, p.83].
Neither the physical dimensions nor the airfoil design have
been determined as yet. We are told that it will be a hydrogen
powered vehicle which will take off from a runway and use
air-breathing scramjets to fly to the upper atmosphere, where
it will presumably switch to LOX like some of the other space
planes and accelerate to orbit. Hydrogen slush is being studied
because of the potential volume savings over liquid hydrogen.
Current research is being handled on a component by component
basis. They have a Fujitsu VP-400 supercomputer to handle the
computational fluid dynamics (CFD) work. Since Japan lacks
sufficient hypersonic wind tunnels, new ones are being constructed.
A carbon/carbon structural material has been developed which
is said to be six times as strong as what is being used on the
US space shuttle [AW 26, p.87].
Plans call for a prototype to fly early in the 21st century.
11.3.7 NASP (US)
The NASP or National Aero-Space Plane (also known as the
X-30) has been under development for several years. The project
has been classified to try to keep technical information from
leaking out. No information of any importance to NASP competitors
will be revealed in this book since we are concerned first and
foremost with costs and not with the details of how each
approach may be implemented.
Some useful information about the NASP project appeared in
an article by S.W. Kandebo in Aviation Week [AW 59, p.23-4] in
the 8/6/90 issue. The NASP program manager is Robert Barthelemy.
The five major contractors involved in NASP are: airframe
manufacturers McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell International, General
Dynamics, and propulsion specialists Pratt & Whitney, and Rocketdyne.
Conspicuous by their absence are Boeing and General Electric.
Each of the airframe manufacturers have submitted separate
designs for the X-30. "The conceptual design selected for the
NASP will definitely not be any one of the three originally
developed by the three airframe designers. The NASP airframe and
the propulsion plant are likely to incorporate features from all
the contractors," Barthelemy said [AW 59, p.24]. This is typical
of design by committee. It is guaranteed to get the taxpayer a
second rate product. One genius will beat a room full of committee
members every time. This plane should be renamed "The Flying
The X-30 will be 150-200 feet long and will have a wingspan
of about 50 feet. Gross take-off weight will be about 250,000-
300,000 pounds [AW 59, p.24]. It will be primarily an air
breathing vehicle but may carry a rocket too.
A subsequent article by S.W. Kandebo that appeared in Aviation
Week [AW 60, p.36-47] in the 10/29/90 issue provided some additional
information. The propulsion system will consist of 3 to 5
scramjets located on the lower surface of the vehicle. It will
also include a small rocket in the 50,000-70,000 pound thrust class.
Slush hydrogen will be used to reduce the volume of hydrogen
tanks. Several hundred gallons were produced with a 50% fraction
of solids [AW 60, p.41] as a test.
One critical parameter was omitted from both of these
articles - namely the size of the payload. Is the taxpayer to
be forced to pay for an unknown quantity?
Funding was $258 million in fiscal year 1991 [AW 61, p.26]
of which the Air Force provided about $161 million [AW 30, p.85].
NASA provided $59 million for NASP in fiscal year 1990 and
$95 million in fiscal year 1991 [AA 7, p.35].
Funding for fiscal year 1992 is scheduled to be $72 million from
NASA and $233 million from DOD for a total of $305 million
[AW 30, p.84]. The NASP contractors have received contracts
totaling $502.6 million for work through July of 1993.
In a brief article in Ad Astra [AA 7, p.10] it was
reported that development of a prototype will begin in 1993,
followed by test flights in 1997 and the first orbital flight
At a House subcommittee (on science and technology) hearing
in July of 1985, George Keyworth, President Reagan's science
adviser, said NASP's launch costs will be "not five times
cheaper, but a hundred times cheaper than they are today,"
[31, p.93]. One wonders if he was referring to expendable
launch vehicles or to the space shuttle, and if the latter,
whether he was referring to the true cost or the phony costs
which NASA bills its customers.
At this time we have no estimate for the costs of payloads
placed in orbit by the NASP - except that they will be high.
11.3.8 Sanger (GER)
A multinational consortium lead by Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm
(MBB) of Germany has been working on a more conservative two stage to
orbit project called Sanger. An article by S.W. Kandebo which
appeared in Aviation Week [AW 62, p.72-5] in November of 1990
gave the following details, which came primarily from Peter Sacher,
project manager for hypersonic technology at MBB's Aircraft
The orbital second stage will be carried by the sub-orbital
first stage up above the atmosphere to a velocity of about
Mach 6. There they will separate with the second stage continuing
into orbit and the first stage returning to land like an ordinary
airplane. A sub-scale first stage is being developed during
this phase of the project. It will be a horizontal take-off and
landing vehicle called Hytex (an acronym for hypersonic technology
experiment). Since this vehicle will be flying over densely
populated Europe, no parts will be jettisoned.
Hytex will be about 23 meters long, 6.3 meters high, counting
the tail, and will have a wingspan of about 9.3 meters. The
plane will weigh about 20 metric tons. Its turbo-ramjet
engines will burn aviation kerosene in fanjet mode and liquid
hydrogen in ramjet mode. Flight tests are planned to take place
over water; the North Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the eastern
edge of the Atlantic are being evaluated. Each flight test would
take about one hour and would yield about one minute of test time
at Mach 5-6. The first flight is planned for 1998.
The plane will be built mostly out of titanium (90%) with
carbon-carbon or carbon-silicon materials used on high temperature
areas. This should keep costs down because even titanium is cheaper
than gold which is what they make planes out of in the US.
The orbital second stage will have at least two configurations.
The first, known as Horus-M, will be able to lift three astrnauts and
three tons of payload to the space station [AA 11, p.15].
The second, known as Horus-C, will be able to lift seven tons of
payload to LEO. The Horus-M will cost about $24.5 million for each
launch or about $8167 per kilogram. The Horus-C will cost about
$22.5 million for each launch or about $3536 per kilogram [AA 11,
11.3.9 SDI SSTO (US)
The SDI Organization is planning its own single stage to
orbit space vehicle. In an article by J.R. Asker in Aviation
Week [61, p.26-7] of Nov. 5,1990, some of the details of this
project were revealed. The goal of this project is to demonstrate
a vehicle in sub-orbital flight by 1994 using current technology.
SDIO has awarded $2.4-$3.0 million contracts to each of four
companies: Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, General Dynamics, and
Rockwell International. Later, two will be contracted
to build prototypes which will be expected to fly in 1994. Part
of the vehicle performance specification calls for reservicing
for the next flight to take no more than 7-10 days and to cost
no more than about 1.4 man years of effort per flight.
According to the article, Boeing's entry will have a take-off
weight of 1.0-1.2 million pounds and will have a payload of
10,000-20,000 pounds. The vehicle will burn liquid oxygen and
liquid hydrogen. Thus we can estimate the cost as follows:
* Component Mass (MT) Cost
LOX 389.6 $ 48,104 @ $0.5/100 cu.ft.
LH2 64.9 $254,596 @ $1/100 cu.ft.
empty vehicle 36.4
500.0 $302,700 per flight
Refurbishment $140,000 per flight
$442,700 per flight
This works out to $97 per kilogram for a 4545 kg payload
or $49 per kilogram for a 9091 kg (20,000 pounds) payload - not
counting amortization of the development costs. The costs will
be at least double these numbers when development costs are
included. See the referenced article for more details
[AW 61, p.26-7].
An update to this story appeared in Aviation Week [AW 70,
p.55-6] in the 2/3/92 issue. That article, by E.H. Kolcum,
gave the following information. The winner of the phase 1
competition was McDonnell Douglas. Their vehicle is basically
a reusable rocket which stands 38.76 meters high and weighs
36.3 MT empty and 455 MT ready to fly [AW 70, p.56]. It
will take off and land vertically and will have a payload
capacity of 4545 kilograms. The vehicle will burn liquid oxygen
and liquid hydrogen. Thus we can estimate the cost as follows:
* Component Mass (MT) Cost
LOX 355.0 $ 43,842 @ $0.5/100 cu.ft.
LH2 59.2 $232,242 @ $1/100 cu.ft.
empty vehicle 36.3
455.0 $276,084 per flight
Refurbishment $140,000 per flight
$416,084 per flight
This works out to $92 per kilogram for a 4545 kg payload.
11.3.10 Space van
Tom Logsdon, in his book "Space Inc.", describes a space van
which Len Cormier and his company, Third Millennium, would like
to build [37, p.139-141]. Cormier's plan is to build a reusable
hydrogen-fueled shuttle craft which will fly from the back of
a Boeing 747 into low earth orbit. The space van, which
looks similar to the space shuttle, but is only half the length,
would deliver a payload of 3000 kilograms to low earth orbit.
The plan is to launch from American Samoa just south of the
equator. There it would receive the full benefit of the earth's
rotation to help it achieve orbital velocity.
Orbital velocity is about 7.671 kilometers per second at an
altitude of 400 kilometers. The earth's rotational speed is
about 0.464 kilometers per second and a 747 flying at 550 miles
per hour is flying at 0.246 kilometers per second. Thus the
plane and the earth together would provide about 9.25% of orbital
Cormier estimates that at two flights per week, the cost
would be $2.5 million per flight which works out to $833/kg or
$379 per pound [37, p.141] - including amortization of the
Applying the same type of cost estimates as were given
above, yields the following cost breakdown for the incremental
* Component Mass (MT) Cost
LOX 150 $18,520 @ $0.5/100 cu.ft.
LH2 25 $98,019 @ $1/100 cu.ft.
Space van 15
193 $116,539 per flight
747 $100,000 per flight
Refurbishment $100,000 per flight
$316,539 per flight
This works out to $105 per kilogram or $48 per pound
11.3.11 Space shuttle (US)
Volumes and volumes have been written about the US space
shuttle and that material will not be reproduced here. The
space shuttles are about 37.2 meters long and 6 meters high
(not counting the landing gear or tail) and their wingspans
are about 23.8 meters. The space shuttle orbiters have an empty
weight of about 70 tons [14, p.101]. Six shuttle orbiters
have been built:
* Orbiter Designation Status
Enterprise OV-101 Not space qualified
Challenger OV-099 Lost January 1986
Columbia OV-102 Operational
Discovery OV-103 Operational
Atlantis OV-104 Operational
Endeavour OV-105 Operational
The cost of the space shuttle has been estimated at anywhere
from $150 million per launch (for launch operations only) to
$400 million. In any case the prices charged NASA customers to
launch their payloads is far less than the true cost to the US
taxpayer. The following tables were prepared using NASA's own
data and they show how expensive the shuttle really is.
* The real cost of the space shuttle (in billions)
Current dollars 1990 dollars
------------------------ CPI ----------------
Year NASA Shuttle Shuttle inflator Shuttle Shuttle Shuttle
budget D&P Ops D&P Ops flights
1975 3.231 0.808 0.162 2.425 1.959 0.393 0
1976 4.484 1.525 0.224 2.296 3.501 0.514 0
1977 3.819 1.375 0.229 2.155 2.963 0.493 0
1978 4.064 1.382 0.244 2.003 2.768 0.489 0
1979 4.561 1.642 0.274 1.796 2.949 0.492 0
1980 5.243 1.887 0.419 1.583 2.987 0.663 0
1981 5.523 1.988 0.663 1.431 2.845 0.949 2
1982 6.020 2.589 0.482 1.355 3.508 0.653 3
1983 6.838 2.188 1.368 1.311 2.868 1.793 4
1984 7.228 2.024 1.446 1.257 2.544 1.818 5
1985 7.547 1.887 1.283 1.213 2.289 1.556 9
1986 7.764 1.786 1.553 1.191 2.127 1.850 2
1987 10.796 3.887 1.727 1.150 4.470 1.986 0
1988 9.117 1.732 1.823 1.104 1.912 2.013 2
1989 11.007 1.761 2.642 1.054 1.856 2.785 5
1990 12.398 1.736 2.480 1.000 1.736 2.480 6
1991 13.868 1.803 2.774 0.969 1.747 2.688 6
------ ------ ------ ------ --
sub-totals 32.000 + 19.793 45.029 + 23.615 44
grand totals $51.793 B $68.664 B
cost per flight $ 1.177 B $ 1.560 B
cost per kg payload $39,898 $52,884
cost per pound $18,136 $24,038
2 [67, p.C-14] NASA Pocket Handbook, 1991.
3,4 NASA as cited in [60, p.33] The Augustine
Report, Dec. 1990.
5 [86, p.151] World Almanac, 1992, and
World Almanac, 1986, p.52.
8 NASA as cited in [60, p.32].
3,4 The data given in [60, p.33] were in percent. The data
presented here were calculated by taking the given percent
of the current year budget. D&P means shuttle development
and production. Ops means shuttle operations.
5 The CPI inflator for each year was calculated as follows:
inflator = CPI (1990) / CPI (current year)
6,7 These columns are the product of the CPI inflator and the
corresponding entries in columns 3 and 4.
* Shuttle costs not including development costs (in millions)
Year Shuttle Space total Shuttle Cost per $/Kg
FY P&OC Trans Ops flights flight payload
1984 1637.20 1431.70 3068.90 5 613.78 20,806
1985 1478.10 1308.60 2786.70 9 309.63 10,496
1986 1354.70 1633.20 2967.90 2 1483.95 50,303
1987 3501.40 1636.90 5138.30 0 - -
1988 1092.40 1825.50 2917.90 2 1458.95 49,456
1989 1123.00 2377.30 3500.30 5 700.06 23,731
1990 1189.80 2628.40 3818.20 6 636.37 21,572
totals 24198.20 29 834.42 28,285
2,3,4 [67, p.C-20] NASA Pocket Handbook, 1991.
5 NASA as cited in [60, p.32].
6,7 Author (payload = 29,500 kg)
2,3,4,6 Costs in millions of current year dollars.
P&OC means shuttle production and operating
capability. Space Trans Ops means space
4 Column 4 is the sum of columns 2 and 3.
6 Column 6 is column 4 divided by column 5.
7 Costs in dollars per kilogram of payload.
Column 7 is column 6 divided by 29,500.
11.3.12 Other space planes
The Russians apparently are working on their own SSTO
vehicle. In an article by Craig Covault in Aviation Week
[AW 70, p.18-19] in the 2/3/92 issue, a series of scramjet
tests was described. Instead of using wind tunnels the
Russians have rigged up their ramjet/scramjet engine on
a rocket. This allows them to collect real data on the
critical switchover from ramjet to scramjet mode. Those
clever fellows are said to be 3-4 years ahead of the US NASP
program [AW 70, p.18]. Continued progress on this vehicle
is in doubt due to financial pressures just as is the US NASP
According to Nicholas Booth, the Germans also have another
project called LAFT (an acronym for Luft Atmender Raketen Trager)
under develpment [31, p.95]. Few details were given.
The same source also mentions an Indian program which
is planning a Hyperplane (for Hypersonic Platform for
Airbreathing Ascent to Near Earth orbit) [31, p.95].
Who knows how many secret projects exist around the
world? There may be dozens. Perhaps Saddam is building one.
11.3.13 Summary of space planes
Some of these planes will eventually fly, but most
probably will not - primarily due to lack of funding. In a
friendly world perhaps only the most economical would
survive, but in the real world others will survive because
of nationalistic determination to insure the survival of
those nations' aerospace industries.
Let us summarize these space planes.
* Space plane Country Availability Lift(MT) Cost ($/kg)
Buran CIS late 1990s 30 ? 20-25,000 ?
Hermes ESA 2005 2.727 22,000
HL-20 US ? 4.1 ? 290,000 ?
Hope Japan 2000 ? 3-5 ?
Hotol UK/CIS late 1990s 7.5 47
NASP Japan late 2000s ? ?
NASP US late 1990s ? ?
Sanger Germany 2000 6.36 3536?
SDI SSTO US late 1990s 4.5 92
Space van US late 1990s 3 105
Shuttle US 1981 29.5 15,249
The costs column does not include amortization of
development costs and may therefore be way too low. Note
the difference between the cost given here for the space
shuttle ($19.793 B / 44 / 29,500 = $15,249) and the cost
cited above ($39,898) which includes development and
production costs. (MT means metric tons i.e. 1000 kg.)
One immediately sees that the space planes beak down into
two groups: those that are lifted by rockets and those
that aren't - the former being at least two orders of
magnitude more expensive.
It appears that the British/Russian effort will be the
most economical. One could guestimate that 28 people in 7
rows of 4 could ride into space on this vehicle. That would
amount to about $12,500 per person.
11.4 Lifting the crew from LEO to HEO
The critical parameter which constrains the lifting of the
crew from LEO to the spaceship in HEO is time. We obviously must
provide food and toilet facilities for this trip. Therefore, the
faster the trip the better. On the other hand, we cannot expect
the crew to put up with an acceleration of more than about 3 gees.
This restriction prevents us from using some of the cheaper
alternatives to rockets such as rotating tethers which could
sling objects from LEO to HEO quickly and without using any
The flight time of the Apollo missions to the moon was about
115 hours or 4.8 days. That corresponds to a velocity of 0.928
km/sec. By travelling at 1.5 km/sec we could make it in three days,
but the higher velocity will cost more fuel and therefore more
money. On the other hand it will save us nearly two days worth of
food per passenger and there will be less stress on the passengers.
The simplest scheme is to refuel the space planes which lifted
the people to LEO and use them again to carry the people up to HEO.
Since the velocity change required to go from the surface of the
earth to LEO (about 9.3 km/sec) is less than half of that required
to go from LEO to HEO (about 3.2 km/sec), it appears that this is
workable. Thus we could use the Hotol or Cormier's space van to
lift our crew from LEO to HEO.
We will need a whole fleet of space planes to lift
the crew due to their limited individual capacity. At 20 to 25
people per flight, it would take 40 to 50 flights to lift a crew
of 1000. At one flight per day, it would take nearly two
months to lift the crew. That is longer than the flight to Mars
and clearly unacceptable! If we had a fleet of 50 or more
space planes, then the crew could be lifted to LEO in one day and
on to the spaceship in three more. Thus it would take about 4 to
5 days to prepare for departure to Mars.
11.5 Daily schedule for the crew
Boredom will be the enemy on the 45 day flight to Mars. We
must keep the crew entertained. Some of the normal diversions
available on earth can be provided such as an extensive library
of movies and musical selections. We can arrange for special
transmission of sporting events or possibly concerts or even
new movie releases from earth. Those who were couch potatoes
can continue as such.
Since the spaceship will be spinning, it will not be possible
for the passengers to simply look out a window and see the earth or
the Mars. Therefore, we will need a few counter-rotating camera
platforms upon which to mount our cameras. The cameras will be
remotely controlled so that human attendents will not be needed.
Some of the cameras will provide video links to large viewing screens
in the crew's quarters. Video tapes will be produced from several
of these cameras. The tapes will be sold on earth to help support
the mission. The crew will be allowed to purchase the tapes at cost.
This adventure should be a learning experience. Courses could
be offered which would deal with each of the planets, with the
evolution of the universe, the solar system, the moon, the sun,
and other astronomical or space subjects. Perhaps language courses
could be offered to promote international understanding. Many
people would like to learn a new langauge, but who has the time?
This would be the perfect opportunity. Passengers would be encouraged
to participate in as many courses as they could fit into their
Preparation for landing on Mars and living there will require
at least one hour per day. The crew must become familiar with their
spacesuits and the partial gravity (38% of earth's gravity) that
they will encounter on Mars. A room will be provided at a distance
of about 38 meters from the center of the spaceship, where the
artificial gravity should be about 38% of earth's gravity, so that
the crew members can accustom themselves to conditions on Mars. No
doubt crew members will wish to experience "weightlessness" too, so
we will also provide spaces where they can float around to their
Very likely most of the passengers will imagine themselves as
captain of this ship. Actually the computers, androids, and other
automatic equipment will be running the ship. But, there is no
reason that we can't have a "captain's bridge." Each passenger can
be allotted a specific period to sit in the captain's chair, give
the orders and "run" the ship. Through computer simulations we can
allow the captain to do almost anything - to land on other
planets or moons, to travel at warp speed, or "to go where no one
has gone before." Over a period of 45 days, each passenger could
have one hour as captain. Within each apartment, the passengers
will be able to play a limited version of "Star Trek" on their
smaller TV screens.
11.6 Arrival at Mars (fictional narrative)
We had been slowing down for several days. Every few minutes
the red lights would flash, those irritating alarms would sound,
and everyone would brace himself for the next projectile. As the
projectile was caught the ship would jerk backward away from Mars,
and we would all lurch forward. But still Mars grew bigger and
bigger on our monitors. Then the projectiles stopped coming from
the direction of Mars. We were too close now and we couldn't
receive any more projectiles from the EMPL on Phobos. But we had
been collecting them for days and we had hundreds of them on board.
From now on we would continue to slow down by throwing projectiles
One day from Mars it already looked more than twice as big as
earth's moon. It was pretty hard to sleep with the ship lurching
every few minutes, so nearly everybody was dead tired. Our velocity
relative to Mars was over 2 kilometers per second and every half hour
we came one Mars radius closer. Everyone was glued to their
monitors, fascinated by the face of Mars. We were the first
humans to see the planet in person.
At 7 Mars radii we crossed the orbit of Deimos, the smaller
outer satellite of Mars. Two of the slewing cameras picked it up
and it was displayed on some of the monitors. It was too far
away for us to make out much without magnification, but with the
telescopic lenses on the cameras we could see its potatoe shape
and some of the larger craters. Mars now subtended an angle of
16.5 degrees compared to earth's moon which subtends an angle of
about 0.5 degrees. Some of the passengers were getting the
feeling of falling.
Finally one of the cameras picked up Phobos coming out from
behind Mars. I cheered and began opening one of the bottles of
champagne we had brought along to celebrate with. As I started to
pour the bubbly the alarm sounded again. They were firing as
fast as they could now - every couple of minutes - and we could
feel the ship turning. They were using the thrusters to rotate
the ship between each shot. We were curving into a circular orbit
above Phobos. At 5 Mars radii the disc of Mars was 23 degrees
We would rendezvous with Phobos in an hour, but we weren't
planning to land immediately. It was necessary to position the
ship very carefully before we landed on Phobos. At Phobos' orbit
(2.75 Mars Radii) we were only about 6000 kilometers above Mars
which now subtended a gigantic 42.5 degrees or 23% of the field
of view. Nearly everyone had the falling feeling now. But that
was nothing compared to weightlessness. Before we landed on
Phobos, the ship would be despun and everyone would become weightless.
There was a track around the outer perimeter of the ship and they
had a large toothed wheel, like a gear, which ran around the ship
in the opposite direction to the ship's rotation to cancel the
angular momentum of the ship. It took several hours to stop the
ship's rotation. At the same time we closed in on Phobos.
11.7 Mars landing (fictional narrative)
The passengers were frantic with excitement. We all put on our
spacesuits and waited while the air was evacuated around us. We
couldn't afford to allow our air to escape into space - we needed it
for the return trip. Finally the hatches were opened and we looked
out onto the surface of Phobos for the first time. Mars looked huge
at the horizon - we were on "top" of Phobos (the side toward the
north pole of Mars).
It was magical. We stepped carefully from the ship because of
the low gravity. The gravitational field was only 0.06% of earth's
gravity. If you jumped upward with a velocity of 1 meter per second,
which wouldn't be hard to do, you would rise more than 80 meters off
the surface and it would take 5.5 minutes for you to come back down!
Phobos was gray-brown, much like the moon, but "cleaner." The reason
was that most of the small pieces or fragments from the countless
impacts simply flew right back out into space because the
gravitational field was too small to hold them. The surface was
crisscrossed with fractures and crevasses and countless rocks and
boulders of all different sizes were everywhere. It was like walking
on a glacier - literally because it turned out that Phobos was about
45% ice. But since the gravity was so low our only real worry
was to avoid tearing any holes in our suits as we clambered over
The passengers were given three hours to move their personal
effects from the ship to the Martian landers. The original plan had
called for 11 landing sites, just in case of a failure and one
failure had indeed occurred, leaving us with just 10 landers. That
meant 100 passengers per lander. Everyone was wondering if there was
a one chance in eleven that they wouldn't make it to the surface
alive. The ten remaining landers had each made one round trip to
the surface safely. The three hours were intended to permit everyone
to tour the mining and fuel production facilities but still be able
to get onto the landers in time for the next launch window. Phobos
orbits Mars in 7 hours and 39 minutes so that was the time between
successive launch windows.
Television crews from nine different countries were swarming
over the site, setting up their equipment, and as usual most were
happily engaged in filming themselves. Broadcasts had been going
around the clock for the last two days although the earth received
a delayed version. The passengers were taking pictures too, with
special cameras built into the helmets of their spacesuits. All
they had to do was look at what they wanted to photograph and press
the tips of their thumb and first finger together.
Everyone was on board the landers well before the three hours
expired. The sites had been selected months ago and each passenger
had picked the site at which they wanted to land. The selection
process had taken several iterations to satify most of the passengers,
but now we were all going to land at more or less our preferred site.
Two sites were on the Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar
system. Another two were on opposite sides of the Valles Marineris,
a gigantic canyon stretching for more than 4000 kilometers across
Mars. No polar sites were selected because they didn't get enough
year around sunlight to grow the crops we needed to live on. All
the sites were on the same side of Mars so that no group would be
forced to wait while Phobos orbitted around to their side of the
planet and all would have about the same travel time from Phobos.
The departures from Phobos were scheduled so that the landings
on Mars would all occur at the same time. My wife and I were on
the fourth lander. We were going to the edge of the Vallis Marineris.
The blast-off was smooth and easy - we were actually going to land on
Mars. Phobos got smaller and smaller on the monitor overhead while
Mars got bigger and soon it filled the screen. Craters and plains,
canyons and gullies, mountains and valleys, all appeared and then
disappeared from our screen. Everyone was spellbound. Progress
reports were coming in from all the landers. Each lander gave their
report in order in one minute or less. So far everything was going
according to schedule. One of the displays showed our estimated
altitude and velocity, which was increasing moment by moment. If
the rockets didn't work we would crash into the surface at nearly
5 kilometers per second or more than 11,000 miles per hour. Perhaps
we would create our own crater/grave.
The computers arranged it so that all 10 landers touched down
within a few seconds of each other. Of course the landers didn't
carry enough fuel to boost the crews back up to Phobos. When the
time came for us to return to Phobos they would
be refueled at the landing sites with propellant produced at the
sites. But we didn't need to worry about that now. We were about
to set foot on Mars!
Construction of the manned Mars spaceship can begin as soon as
the Phobos spaceship has departed, or perhaps before, if we
complete the Phobos ship but miss the launch window and are forced
to wait for the next one. As mentioned in section 10.5,
construction of the Phobos ship will begin about 15 years after
the start of the whole project and will take two or three years.
We can then begin on the Mars ship, which will probably take three
or four years to build because of the additional effort needed to
assemble the crews' quarters and the hydroponic facilities. So, it
may be 22 years after the start of the project that the Mars ship
is ready for departure.
Since the launch windows for Mars occur only about every 778.7
days, or 2.132 years, we should try not to miss one with our
manned spaceship. The flight to Mars will take about 45 days. The
crew must remain on Mars until the next launch window, about two
years later (778.7 - 45 = 733.7 days), at which time they can
begin the return trip. They should arrive back on earth about 45
days later, or 824 days after they left.
Financing for the trip to Mars will come from six sources: (1)
sale of tickets, (2) sale of television broadcast rights, (3) sale
of Martian souvenirs, (4) profits from the android business, (5)
profits from the hydroponics business, and (6) sale of helium-3 to
customers on earth. Let's guestimate how much money each of these
sources might raise.
11.9.1 Ticket sales
There is a small market already for joy-rides on Mir for $10 -
$12 million a shot (see section 5.1.2). How much would people pay
to go to Mars? Very likely there would be a lot of people who
could and would pay $1 million a seat to go to Mars. Perhaps we
could even sell 1000 seats at $2 million each. There are more than
250,000 millionaires in the US alone.
Sales of tickets - 1000 at $2 million = $2 billion
11.9.2 Television rights
The first point to make about broadcast rights is that the
market value can be increased significantly by selling the rights
on a country by country basis. Television sports contracts give
some idea of the value of broadcast rights.
Sport Network Cost Period Source
1988 Summer Olympics NBC $300 M 15 days [116, p.430]
1992 Winter Olympics CBS $243 M 15 days "
1992 Summer Olympics NBC $401 M 15 days "
1994 Winter Olympics CBS $300 M 15 days "
Baseball ESPN $400 M 4 years USA Today
NCAA Basketball CBS $1.0 B 7 years USA Today
World Series, etc. CBS $1.08 B 4 years Star Ledger
NFL several $3.6 B 4 years USA Today
The value of a live telecast from a spaceship on the way to
Mars or from Mars itself is difficult to estimate. None of the
three major US networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) responded to my written
inquiry regarding their interest in such a venture. But it is
clear that its value can be increased by an order of magnitude by
timely preliminary "hype".
Broadcast rights (worldwide) - $1 billion
11.9.3 Martian souvenirs
Marketing of souvenirs from the moon or Mars certainly offers
the possibility of generating some significant revenues, but the
value of such souvenirs is difficult to estimate. The Apollo
program cost the US taxpayers at least $120 billion in 1992
dollars and it returned 382 kilograms of lunar soil and rocks.
Those rocks cost the US taxpayers about $314 million per kilogram.
On a little more down to earth scale, pieces of the Berlin wall
were sold for $10 in the US.
Perhaps we could get $1000 per pound for moon rocks and $5000
per pound for Martian rocks. If the price is too high, there will
be people defrauding the public by selling rocks from their back
yards. The value per metric ton would be: $2.2 million for moon
rocks and $11 million for Martian rocks. Who knows how many tons
we could sell before the price would drop?
Martian souvenirs - $11 million per metric ton
Large numbers of video tapes of the trip to Mars will be made
as it happens. Copies of these tapes will be sold to help raise
funds. Judging from the success of video sales in the past, this
should raise many millions of dollars.
Profits from the android and hydroponics businesses will
depend on how rapidly they are ramped up to large scale. We
believe that both of these industries have the potential of the
world automobile industry. The hydroponics business could be
ramped up faster because there is no need to wait for product
development. On the other hand, hydroponics will have a lower
profit margin than the android business.
11.9.5 Helium-3 sales
Helium-3 sales must wait for two things: (1) the production of
the helium-3 and (2) the construction of the small EMPL needed to
throw the helium-3 down to earth. As was indicated in section
7.11, it will probably be 4 to 5 years after the establishment of
the first base before the small EMPL is completed. By that time,
we should have several metric tons of helium-3 ready for shipment
to earth. The first few metric tons will go to repay our sponsors,
the utilities and/or oil companies. The remainder can be sold at
$1 billion per metric ton to other utilities or even the same