Saturday, April 15, 2006

Wonderful Mars-Moon Web Site

Mars Approach 2033
I've been getting into another Mars phase recently. One reason for this is the new Earth-Mars chapter written by Andy McSorley for the new edition of Go Play In Space. I've been testing his Orbiter scenarios and instructions, and I'm finally starting to get a feel for what's involved in getting to Mars. It's relatively straightforward if you have a good planning tool like IMFD, a futuristic vehicle with huge (but still limited) delta-V capability, and extreme time acceleration for the long cruise phases. Real-life Mars missions are a little trickier.

The other thing is the Mars for Less (video clips now available there) mission approach developed by Grant Bonin for the MarsDrive Consortium (I've written about it previously). This is basically a variation on Mars Direct, restructured for use of multiple payloads launched with existing (or slightly modified) medium-lift launch vehicles, and with some specific ideas related to on-orbit assembly of the complete Mars vehicles. I'm working with Andy McSorley and Mark Paton to develop an add-on to simulate this mission in Orbiter.

I've therefore been looking for Mars references to support these two little projects. There is certainly no shortage of information on the web, from NASA, ESA, the Mars Society, and many other sources. A veritable confusion of data! But I recently found a "meta-site" that is really wonderful. It summarizes the issues and organizes the technical information in a series of clear and detailed PDF files on many issues of getting people to Mars (and back to the Moon). These papers are directly useful but also point to the various NASA studies and technical papers, making it easier to find the most useful and important original sources.

The simply named Mars and Moon Website is the personal site of Dr. Donald Rapp, an engineer and scientist who has worked for or with JPL for many years. This man knows a lot about planning Mars missions, trade-offs, ISRU, and much more. Dr. Rapp also has a number of "editorial" articles on his site, in which he gives his own views on various space issues. We're not talking about blog posts here - his opinions are backed by experience and technical data. His depressingly-titled February 2006 editorial "Why NASA is not going to be able to send humans to Mars this side of 2040 and probably 2080" (813 kb PDF) is 39 pages! We better look at some other options (this is MDC's goal).

Thanks to Dr. Rapp for making this resource available on the web.

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