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How will we solve the problem of landing large 20-40 t payloads on Mars?

asked 2017-05-27 23:08:01 -0500

Rob Mueller gravatar image

Almost all of the Mars studies in the past 20 years have concluded that in order to land humans on Mars a minimum of 20 t of landed payload mass will be required. Today we can land 1 t. How is it going to be possible to land 20t - 40 t on Mars?

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answered 2017-06-21 07:06:00 -0500

jonyfries gravatar image

There is the idea of the LDSD (https://www.wired.com/2015/06/will-na... and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ksgM...) which has the goal of increasing the drag experienced by high mass objects landing on mars.

However, the idea of ever landing high mass objects on Mars with drag alone seems fairly unlikely at this point. There simply isn't enough air density on Mars.

At this point propulsive landing is going to be necessary for any high mass lander. There appears to me to be three options to achieve this:

1) Launch a vehicle from Earth with the fuel needed to land on Mars. This would be an incredibly expensive, perhaps currently impossible task. Every bit of extra fuel needed to land on Mars needs fuel to get it up to Earth orbit much less all the way to Mars.

2) Refuel the lander in Earth orbit. This could be either around the Earth, the Moon, or a lagrange point. This has the benefit of allowing for multiple smaller launches to bring the needed fuel up to space.

3) Refuel the lander in Mars orbit. This seems like a long shot, at least until we get settlements on Mars but it would be possible to send the fuel to Mars and then dock with the lander.

For now the answer is kind of a brute force approach. Hopefully as time goes on we'll get better at landing on Mars and can kind of some other ways to make it work. For example a Space Elevator becomes more realistic on Mars due to the lower gravity. To create something like that on Mars however would require a substantial human presence on Mars so we have to get people there before we can start really working on the creative ideas to get high mass cargos down to the surface with something other than lots of rocket fuel.

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Asked: 2017-05-27 23:08:01 -0500

Seen: 58 times

Last updated: Jun 21