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We can get to Mars in 10 years, aerospace engineer tells CIOs

Byron Connolly | Aug. 28, 2017
Diversity in information systems is important, says American scientist and author Dr Robert Zubrin.

“We place the reactor on the ground, turn it on and now we’ve got the power to run a pump,” he says. “We suck in the Martian air, which is 95 per cent carbon dioxide gas – everyone here [on Earth] is against carbon dioxide but on Mars it’s really handy because you can use it to make rocket fuel.

“We’ve also brought to Mars about six tonnes of hydrogen in gel form. So you suck in the CO2 and you can react CO2 with hydrogen to create methane and water. Methane is great fuel, you’ve got water and electrolytes – oxygen is your oxidizer and hydrogen is recycled to make more methane,” he says.

“Then you have another reactor in which you take CO2 and split it into carbon monoxide and oxygen. The oxygen you store and the carbon monoxide you vent as waste. You can do it on Mars, there’s no environmental protection agency there.”

What the astronauts will have essentially done is convert six tonnes of liquid hydrogen from Earth into 108 tonnes of methane-oxygen propellant on Mars, he says.

“You are making use of the resources available in the environment that you intend to explore. That’s how exploration has been done successfully on Earth and when we try to bring everything – like Sir John Franklin did when he travelled to the Arctic – you have very limited capacity and you typically fail.”

Because fuel is made prior to the arrival of the crew, there’s no question that the first humans on the red planet would be stranded if the propellant production operation fails, he says.

Two years later, the four astronaut crew takes off on its six-month trajectory from Earth to Mars landing two months before the second Earth return vehicle.

“The other Earth return vehicle which is following us to Mars on an eight-month trajectory. If we land off course, it can be landed near us. So if there’s a massive pilot error and they land on the wrong side of the planet – which would indicate a significant problem with the pilot selection process… we can land the second return vehicle near us.”

But if the astronauts land accurately, the second Earth return vehicle can land anywhere on the planet.

“I would prefer to land it a few hundred kilometres away because we have with us ground transportation, small a pressurised rover that has a one-way range of 1000km. So as long as we land the second vehicle within that distance we have two complete Earth return vehicles – either one of which can take us home.”

But the second vehicle is really for the next mission, two years later, which will open up a third site on Mars, says Zubrin.

 

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