Author Topic: Testing Mars Architecture Using an L2 Station and the Moon.  (Read 1457 times)

Offline alexconnorbrown

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Returning humans to the Lunar surface before Mars has been a debatable topic for decades. Although many make the argument that the Moon is an obstacle already passed, why do we ignore the fact that billions will be spent before a manned mission to surface anyways? The top priority for NASA will be to return the crew of the Mars surface mission to Earth. Safety will be at the forefront of mission necessities and safety requires testing. Lot's of testing. It's inarguable that billions will be spent on the development of functional, expendable Mars vehicles that will only be used for testing. These test vehicles, with massive exploratory capability, will likely be lost with their only accomplishment being man-rating hardware for Mars. If we can use these vehicles to get something extra while only spending a little more, why not use the moon?

Imagine this - in the early 2020s, a small but capable station is placed at the L2 point based off of modified ISS architecture. Later, probably somewhere around 2025, a manned mission carries an almost full, small, and affordable Lunar shuttle to the station. The single stage shuttle uses methane as fuel. A cargo mission sends 30,000kg of methane and oxygen fuel to the station afterwards, allowing the shuttle to refuel itself. In 2026-2027, a second crew arrives at the L2 station, boards the refuelled lander, and lands on the lunar surface for a weeklong stay. When the crew returns to the station using their Lunar shuttle, they board Orion and return home, leaving the shuttle to refuel once again (using the same 30,000 kg of fuel at L2) for the next crew, continuing this process until the third surface mission in 2029 when the fuel has been emptied. It would be optional if NASA wanted to send a second refuel cargo mission to complete three more surface missions until the end of the 2020s, costing around 13 billion more at most and landing, in total, 18 astronauts on the Lunar surface.

The delta-v needed to land on the lunar surface and return all in one piece to and from L2 is an approximate 5.01 km/s. For a Mars Ascent Vehicle, the delta-v to LMO is 4.1 km/s. If the Lunar shuttle parked at the L2 station is modified a bit, why can't it act as a MAV for future manned missions to the red planet? The MAV is the most important aspect of a mission, with failure being catastrophic. When Mars equipment is being tested, the MAV will most definitely be the most focused upon. The lunar program, landing and returning three to six crews from the Lunar surface to L2 provides significant testing for the MAV, as well as testing the propulsion systems of the craft using a methane-oxygen system for future Sabatier Reaction processes on the Martian surface.

The lander will likely cost an approximate 6-8 billion dollars in development, while a unit will probably be at most in the 1-2 billion range. If we assume that an SLS launched manned mission to L2 costs around 4 billion accounting for launch, development, Orion, etc costs, then we're looking at only 4 billion dollars per surface mission. Using a reusable MAV test vehicle as a cornerstone of a 2020s lunar surface exploration program gives way to extensive testing, increased safety, increased scientific gains, and a permanent human structure at L2.

What do you guys think of this sort of a plan? Having a Lunar program of the 2020s and a Mars program of the 2030s not be separate, but be of the same program.

Below's a quick mockup of a reusable single stage Lunar lander design that I'm using for a future program project I'm working on, weighing 20,762 kg when refuelled at L2, capable of transporting around 10,215 kg to the Lunar surface, and having an empty weight of about 5012 kg when returning the crew back to the L2 station.
« Last Edit: 06/07/2015 09:00 PM by alexconnorbrown »

Offline gbaikie

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Returning humans to the Lunar surface before Mars has been a debatable topic for decades. Although many make the argument that the Moon is an obstacle already passed, why do we ignore the fact that billions will be spent before a manned mission to surface anyways? The top priority for NASA will be to return the crew of the Mars surface mission to Earth. Safety will be at the forefront of mission necessities and safety requires testing. Lot's of testing. It's inarguable that billions will be spent on the development of functional, expendable Mars vehicles that will only be used for testing. These test vehicles, with massive exploratory capability, will likely be lost with their only accomplishment being man-rating hardware for Mars. If we can use these vehicles to get something extra while only spending a little more, why not use the moon?
I would put the whole lunar testbed for Mars at about 5 to 10 billion dollars spent or 2 to 3 years spent.
The problem for Mars fans is they would tend to think that NASA would spend more than 10 billion dollar
and more 3 years on this lunar testbed aspect of getting to Mars.
So I would suggest less emphasis on Lunar testbed for Mars. Or it will be testbed by merely exploring the moon in most cost effective manner.
But would say that NASA should explore the Moon using a lot the budget on robotic rather than manned, and general trend of a lot robotic would also be extended to Mars exploration. So big testbed in terms of teleoperation which will also be needed for Mars exploration. Another factor is that I believe the only cost effective way of having a Mars program will be related to being able to use rocket fuel depots in orbit.
So I think NASA should develop a depot for LOX at 28 inclination in LEO and move it from being experimental to operational status.
And this I would count as a beginning of lunar exploration program. And lunar exploration program also
begins by sending a lot robotic missions to the Moon to determine if and where there is minable water on the Moon. And at latter part of lunar exploration, human are sent to verify/clarity and generally increase
the certainty of if and where there is minable water deposits on the Moon. And that is in regard to the scale that commercial lunar water would occur, which around size of football field for first decade of mining.

NASA lunar exploration program lasting at most for 10 years and costs in total 40 billion dollars.
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Imagine this - in the early 2020s, a small but capable station is placed at the L2 point based off of modified ISS architecture.
The goal I would have is NASA finished with it's lunar program by 2025, and it's started it's Mars exploration prior to 2025.
And ISS mothballed [not de-orbited] by 2024. And maybe use part of ISS for this station at L-2- though as said I think NASA should mothball [and stop funding on ISS] so if NASA did this it's a continuation of ISS,
but a private group or some other Space agency [maybe Russia] could do this.

« Last Edit: 06/07/2015 11:07 PM by gbaikie »

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