Author Topic: Manned Mars sortie using "cheapest" launchers available: Researching for Novella  (Read 9727 times)

Offline MATTBLAK

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Using only the 'cheapest' classes of launchers available for the next 8-to-10 years - 15-to-25 ton class - I'm researching (freshly) for a novella about a 2x person crewed Sortie mission to Mars. I've re-read some of the previous threads around here and noted some of the better ideas from folks and also re-read some of my own posts on similar ideas. The pitch for the story would be:

A trio of wealthy investors (1x American, 1x UAE Prince and 1x other foreign billionaire) want to mount a 2x person mission to Mars, using off-the-shelf and modified space launchers and hardware. The idea is that the crew performs a 'Apollo Sortie-on-steroids' mission to stay for a couple of weeks on Mars and then return them safely to Earth. The transit times would be as short a chemically-propelled trip as possible to and from Mars and the minimum stay time. I'm thinking of adding sample return probes into the mix as an add-on from ESA and NASA that the crew could pick up in Martian orbit and bring back to Earth with them, for added science value. I'm thinking 4x probes but one or more of them fails. There would be three phases to the plan:

Phase 1: Earth orbit testing of vehicles and hardware.
Phase 2: A high Lunar-orbit deep space 'shakedown'.
Phase 3: The manned Mars mission. If successful; there may be a second mission with a slightly longer surface stay next time - primarily, the second mission is just to ameliorate the expenditure and investment on the first. A third mission would likely occur as an obsolete artifact when the big SpaceX vehicles finally get going, probably a few years later than planned.

As I said - a work of fiction: 'Flags & Footprints' and all... Those of you who have read my 'Flight Of The Lunar Dragon' story here on Nasaspaceflight.com know that I can pull this off. I'm picking that the entry, landing and descent vehicles would be a 'Red Dragon' derivative, as would be the surface Hab craft and ascent vehicles - but I'm open to some truly fictional and notional designs. I'm thinking of the details now and I'm trying to restrict the launchers to Falcon 9 (full thrust), Atlas V and the occasional Falcon Heavy. And there would be partial ISRU for Mars ascent propellant creation and some Earth orbital propellant transfer. I need to work out what year and month they would depart and what trajectory-class of flight they'd be on - shortest duration Opposition Class for example.

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20150001240.pdf

https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/mars/marsprof.html
« Last Edit: 10/28/2017 02:53 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline Saage

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Offline MATTBLAK

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Anyone know what the best case scenario for cargo down mass would have been for the Red Dragon? I've done a bit of a Google but haven't found much consensus.
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Offline TomH

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FH with Red Dragon and modified methalox US integrated with Red Dragon to be an ultra-mini BFS. It refuels from pre-filled tankers in LEO, again at L2, escorted by an extra tanker and a fully stocked Bigelow hab to Mars. A prototype lands and begins ISRU prop production, this provides enough prop for manned ship to get back to LMO where the hab and other tanker are waiting for another repropping prior to TEI for the UM-BFS and hab. RD/UM-BFS always dormant during transit. On Earth EDL, RD separates from the rest of ultra-mini BFS and lands by parachute.

I know there are a million reasons it wouldn't actually work, but this is for a work of fiction, right?
« Last Edit: 11/01/2017 08:55 AM by TomH »

Offline MATTBLAK

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I'm going for a more bare bones appoach for the mission, where a few key things are new build items but many components are a mixture of off the shelf vehicles and launchers and modified ones.
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Offline TomH

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I just don't think they exist.

Offline Hotblack Desiato

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If you want to go really cheap and bare bone, you'll have to stick with ion engines for cargo flights.

Have a lander tin can that can be outfitted with various different types of equipment, lander mass 25t and launch that with a FH in reusable mode to LEO. Two landers equipped with ISRU for fuel production, two landers equipped with home and laboratory. This way, you have a lot of redundancy. And two landers with food and supplies. Then, add 2 return ships, 2 stages, dragon 2 capsules on top. Essentially a F9 upper stage with landing gears and a lander stage to get that stuff down to the surface.
This makes eight launches. But your payload is now sitting in LEO (good for testing, not so good for Mars), dock them together to form two crafts with one module of each kind. And launch 2 ion drive stages which do the transfer. Expect it to take 2-3 years to get everything to Mars, depending on the trajectory, since the ion engines can't directly insert into a hohmann transfer (but: the ion drive stages can return to LEO).

So, 10 launches, depending on the prize of a regularly used FH-R, that costs $ 6-80M per launch, you need just 2 types of landers (the return vehicle and the standard lander that remains there). Should be doable for $ 2B or less, including the launches.

And then, for the launch of the astronauts themselves, one FH with a dragon capsule + one beam-like expandable module. Land on Mars at the spot, where the other modules are already waiting.

Launch prize for that: something around $200M

Maybe it's cheaper to reduce testing (also good for dramaturgy) but send a third set of all systems (if a launch costs 20M, such a set would cost 100M, and 100M production (not development)).

And give them some sort of transportation, a small vehicle would be good enough.

Offline MATTBLAK

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I think large scale SEP technology can and should be a feature of future Mars architectures. However, for a lowest budget mission that would just barely be possible, here's the pitch: A trio of (fictional) multi-billionaires want to mount one or two 'Sortie' manned missions to Mars for a minimum of 2x crew. In the story, Elon Musk's BFR exploration/colonization vehicles are taking longer and costing more to develop than envisaged. And NASA's Mars prospects have all but collapsed under poor budgets and leadership. The billionaires cut a deal with SpaceX to 'Bulk Buy' sets of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, plus several 'Red Dragon' spacecraft based on Musk's shelved ideas. The most expensive items in the architecture are the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) and some multi-purpose hypergolic propulsion stages. Several 'Expanded Cygnus' spacecraft are also bought and modified. The craft and stages have to fit within the capability of the Falcon 9 and Heavies available after 2020.

Martian EVA suits are also contracted for. And for Mars surface operations; there is an unpressurised Rover not unlike the Apollo vehicle - but with longer range and the ability to recharge. Mars surface power systems will be a mixture of solar and Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs). I'm basing the mission loosely on all-chemical propulsion with a bit of ISRU for Mars ascent. The inspiration is Robert Zubrins' 2011 article where he uses all SpaceX rockets and hardware and sends a mere 2x crew to Mars. But I'm trying to plug the 'gaps' in his architecture. I'm also realizing that a long 500 plus day surface stay may not be possible the first time round with a 'bare bones' approach.

I'm all for more grandiose plans and hardware, but I want to keep the story within a reasonable length and plausibility. Though here's the rub - even with 99.9% percent system reliability and a lot of luck, the chances of such a mission coming off successfully are very slim. I just wanted to warn people that I have planned this fairly carefully and have my mind made up about the main aspects. It is science fiction, yes - but I'm not going to slip in anything as advanced as Elon Musk's coming plans and architecture. That whole process and history will work out in it's own unique way. I'm indulging in some 'alternate history' about a type of mission that very likely will not happen, but could similarly happen, if adventurers and altruists like my fictional billionaire characters took a very big chance...
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Offline Arch Admiral

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Some people here seem not to be aware that Red Dragon has been cancelled because it was designed for Earth reentry and didn't have enough drag to cope with the much thinner atmosphere of Mars. All possible reentry corridors at Mars ended up with a very high terminal velocity, and the rocket fuel needed to make the terminal burn took up too much of the internal volume. Of course real space engineers could have told them this right at the start, but Saint Elon never listens to them.

This decision by Musk got virtually no coverage on space news sites, so I'm not surprised that many SpaceX fans don't know about it. NewSpace seems to follow an inverse Gresham's Law: Good news drives bad news out of circulation.

Offline QuantumG

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... and where did you get that from?

I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline MATTBLAK

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Probably not enough delta v for a direct entry and soft touchdown was what I was once thinking - though SpaceX did say it could, so who was I to judge? I have no access to full specs or blueprints. Some handwaving is required in fiction - but not too much, or it becomes 'science fantasy' and I might as well put anti-gravity equipment on it! The Mars rover entry aeroshells were relatively wide; a combo of heatshield, large parachute and strong retro propulsion should theoretically get the Dragon down. Some 'slow down' burn while still some distance from Mars might be required. How that might foul up the accuracy of the terminal descent trajectory I cannot say at this point.
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Offline saliva_sweet

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Some people here seem not to be aware that Red Dragon has been cancelled because it was designed for Earth reentry and didn't have enough drag to cope with the much thinner atmosphere of Mars.

I suspect most, if not all are unaware of this. It may true though. When Tom Mueller said that there were cases when Musk setting outrageous requirements backfired totally I always thought he was talking about Dragon2 and the SuperDraco.

Offline TomH

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Maybe your rich guys buy the remaining Saturn V at KSC (the government is broke, due to tax cuts, and is selling off national parks, everything in the Smithsonian, etc., for a song) and have it refurbished and lengthened. They buy the handful of F-1A engines that are packed away in AJ-R warehouses. They lengthen the S-II and S-IVB, putting J-2X engines on them. They then use FH to reprop the S-IVB at LEO and again at L2. They put an aeroshell on a LM (LM pulled from a museum) to protect it during initial Mars EDL, jettisoning it briefly before firing up descent engine. IDK how you get enough prop to get off Mars, maybe aerobraking enabled only partial use of descent stage prop, so you launch with descent stage until running out of prop, then fire up the ascent engine on ascent stage. Maybe old brittle wiring, radiation, inferior computers are dealt with somehow, but there are still infinite reasons all of this would never work (where does CSM get enough prop for MOI and TEI, fuel cell prop, food, breathable O2, how do you reprop an S-IVB? etc., et al). Nevertheless, book writers and Hollywood producers take great liberties.
« Last Edit: 11/03/2017 07:52 PM by TomH »

Offline MATTBLAK

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Stephen Baxter pretty much did a very similar storyline back in 1997 with his dystopic novel 'Titan'. I don't think restored Saturn Vs and F-1s are in anyone's future! :(

And 'stretching' the Saturn V stages amounts to completely rebuilding them - better off to buy a load of RD-180 engines from Russia and build the Atlas V Phase II with 5 meter tooling bought from a 'failing ULA'. Or buy a clutch of Falcon 9s from SpaceX and Vulcan/Centaurs from ULA and get all the launch capability you'd need.
« Last Edit: 11/03/2017 08:12 PM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline meberbs

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Some people here seem not to be aware that Red Dragon has been cancelled because it was designed for Earth reentry and didn't have enough drag to cope with the much thinner atmosphere of Mars. All possible reentry corridors at Mars ended up with a very high terminal velocity, and the rocket fuel needed to make the terminal burn took up too much of the internal volume. Of course real space engineers could have told them this right at the start, but Saint Elon never listens to them.

This decision by Musk got virtually no coverage on space news sites, so I'm not surprised that many SpaceX fans don't know about it. NewSpace seems to follow an inverse Gresham's Law: Good news drives bad news out of circulation.
Contrary to your claim, NASA analyzed the Red Dragon and found it to be doable:
https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20170008725.pdf

Quote
NASA’s EDL systems analysis tools were employed to assess the feasibility of landing a largely unmodified Dragon2 capsule on Mars, ... demonstrating that propulsive landing approach initiated in supersonic conditions is possible, albeit not mass optimal.

The actual reasons for Red Dragon cancellation are related to it being better just to skip straight to BFR, in particular as the paper I quoted mentions in its conclusions, the specifics of supersonic retropropulsion at this point depend heavily on the details of the architecture, so Red Dragon would not have done much to inform BFR design.

Offline QuantumG

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The actual reasons for Red Dragon cancellation are related to it being better just to skip straight to BFR, in particular as the paper I quoted mentions in its conclusions, the specifics of supersonic retropropulsion at this point depend heavily on the details of the architecture, so Red Dragon would not have done much to inform BFR design.

Well, that and propulsive landing required them to cut holes in the heat shield for the legs and NASA didn't like that idea.
I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline MATTBLAK

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Would I be correct in saying that NASA was more concerned about the legs-through-shield idea when it pertained to the Earth landings? Greater and longer thermal loads etc.
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Offline QuantumG

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Would I be correct in saying that NASA was more concerned about the legs-through-shield idea when it pertained to the Earth landings? Greater and longer thermal loads etc.

Yes. SpaceX wanted to make the Dragon 2 propulsive landing part of the baseline (apparently it *was* baselined) and, in much the same way Falcon 9 landings were paid for by launches, get NASA to pay for the experimentation needed to prove it works over water before trying it on land. NASA was agreeable at first, but once the holes in the heatshield came in the risk was considered unacceptable for the return.
I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline TomH

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Matt,

You asked for suggestions. If people give you the free advice that you asked for, you don't have to take it. At the same time, if you just rebut them flat out, people will not want to offer you ideas.

Offline Oli

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I suggest looking at the JPL design. Biprop stages, 100kw SEP, blunt-body lander. It relies on SLS' EUS for departure but I guess more biprop stages would do the job as well.

Here's the paper for the lander:

https://trs.jpl.nasa.gov/bitstream/handle/2014/45916/15-5417_A1b.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Edit: Ah well, 25t launcher, not an option then :)
« Last Edit: 11/04/2017 02:05 AM by Oli »

Offline MATTBLAK

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Matt,

You asked for suggestions. If people give you the free advice that you asked for, you don't have to take it. At the same time, if you just rebut them flat out, people will not want to offer you ideas.
I thought I only rebutted one person, really, but your point is taken. I've been looking for specific answers to technical questions, I suppose. And as for the Saturn V idea; I was merely pointing out that it has been done, actually more than once by professional writers and I didn't necessarily want to just riff off of their stories. Besides; I have a shelved, alternate history novel that deals with Saturn V's ;)

As I'm examining the whole concept more and more - it appears to me that there are only a few ways this could all be 'cheaply' done, if it could be done at all. My story 'bible' outline has it occurring before 2030, but I will not be specifying a year (I think) and I'm going to definitely stick to a concept that's a fair bit like the Lunar 'Golden Spike' concept of a few years back; but scaled up. For alternate and better Manned Mars Mission ideas; there are plenty of threads already for those - I've taken part in them. I'm an SLS skeptic and a big SpaceX fan; but I'm a little skeptical of their plans, too.

I'm going to start writing very soon. Not all of you will agree or like it - but I'm going for bare-bones realism and some real world best-case/worst-case scenarios. In other words - I've already made my mind up what I'm going to include in the story, and what not to. But if someone came up with a 'wrinkle' or riff that I could steal - I'd give them credit. I'd love to have my billionaire protagonists be like Jeff Tracy from the old science fiction show 'Thunderbirds' and give him a convenient uber-genius and unlimited budget, creating a fantasy shopping list of super-technology. But Elon's ambitions will be sci-fi enough until he does or doesn't make it real.

I'm asking for some faith at this point; even though many of you don't know me and don't know what to expect. This novella will be the 'Training Wheels' for my first, full-length novel. I might even change the tone to make it read more like a Reginald Turnill or Kenneth Gatland account from one of their awesome books on the history of space exploration. Might be a way to shorten it a bit...
« Last Edit: 01/14/2018 09:49 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline MATTBLAK

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I suggest looking at the JPL design. Biprop stages, 100kw SEP, blunt-body lander. It relies on SLS' EUS for departure but I guess more biprop stages would do the job as well.

Here's the paper for the lander:

https://trs.jpl.nasa.gov/bitstream/handle/2014/45916/15-5417_A1b.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Edit: Ah well, 25t launcher, not an option then :)
That paper is excellent, thank you!! A scaled down version of that MAV could form the basis of the story vehicle - two crew, bare-bones ascent only with their EVA suits providing much of the life support. The cost of the boosters and the MAV will be portrayed as the most expensive items in the architecture. In fact; if they did a second manned mission to ameliorate the cost of the first - a version of the MAV could be a descent-only cargo lander that could get down much more cargo mass than a 'improved' Red Dragon, which probably couldn't land a lot more than about 1.5 tons on Mars.

And the occasional 63 ton load, fully expendable Falcon Heavy will be making an appearance in the story...
« Last Edit: 11/04/2017 02:41 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline speedevil

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Using only the 'cheapest' classes of launchers available for the next 8-to-10 years - 15-to-25 ton class <snip>

Phase 1: Earth orbit testing of vehicles and hardware.
Phase 2: A high Lunar-orbit deep space 'shakedown'.
Phase 3: The manned Mars mission. If successful; there may be a second mission with a slightly longer surface stay next time - primarily, the second mission is just to ameliorate the expenditure and investment on the first. A third mission would likely occur as an obsolete artifact when the big SpaceX vehicles finally get going, probably a few years later than planned.

While of course it's your story, and alternate timelines can be fun, it seems you're predicating this on (taking 9 years as average purchase time of launcher)
2026: Integration and vehicle design
2027: earth orbit testing
2028-Q1 : LO
Dec 2028 - M1
Feb 2031 - M2
Apr 2033 - M3

( NASA trajectory planner )

The first Mars mission planning implies that in 2025 or so, it looks utterly implausible BFR will be flying in the near future, and that it in fact does not fly until after 2031 - a ten year slip.

I have a hard time envisioning what's gone on to make this plausible.
Perhaps FH explodes, taking out the pad, followed by two unrelated explosions and stand-down periods, leading to starlink failing and ...

But that would mean it may be very hard to buy F9s, much less to trust them.

Just curious as to why you're choosing to not use BFR as it seems at least plausible it will be available in the time period in question, and
likelyhood * cost-saving
seems to favour BFR over other launchers.


« Last Edit: 11/16/2017 03:05 PM by Lar »

Offline MATTBLAK

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I have finished the first second draft of the prologue. This is all I plan to put up for now. This thread is likely to 'go dark' for awhile; at least as far as I'm concerned. To work...
« Last Edit: 11/16/2017 05:02 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline TomH

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I usually would not go deep into my teacher mode about a board member's style of writing, but  since you want actually to publish a book, I am going to be honest in a way that I would not otherwise be. You need an editor and a proofreader.

The syntactical flow of your prose needs an editor's polish; it is a bit stilted. The dialogue of the two characters, as well as the narration, are all too stylistically similar for a third person point of view narrative. The voice of each character, as well as that of the narrator, all need to be distinctive, yet maintain consistency throughout the story.

You also need a proofreader who is well versed in all conventions, particularly grammar. Your dashes should all be commas, while two items in series are not separated by a comma, only three or more. Only one of your numerous semi-colons is correctly used; the clauses must be related yet able to stand independently as a simple sentence. Yours do not. You have a beginning quote mark which does not belong.

A good story needs to flow easily and requires a different style than the type we all normally use on the board.

I would love to see your work succeed and hope you are able to find some people who can help you achieve that goal.
« Last Edit: 11/16/2017 03:48 AM by TomH »

Offline MATTBLAK

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EDIT:  It's now a second draft, for now - several extraneous dashes and semi-colons have been agreeably removed. But I'm not going to remove any others at this stage. You have to put in some commas to emulate the real way English-speakers put natural pauses for breathing and vocal clarity when they speak - both formally and informally. Otherwise they sound like robots or a recitation of a textbook. I've also done a fair bit of stage acting, so I know about breathing and public speaking. Semi-colons and commas can be tricky and in subsequent drafts as the story grows will be rather tightened up. I know of at least one published author whose opinion on punctuation would be about halfway between yours and mine! As for their relative dialogue and styles of talking, I'm trying to avoid a 'technobabble' and most kinds of ethnocentric patois and I don't ever go for much casual swearing. If you listen to a lot of the semi-formal interactions during NASA press conferences for instance, I'm trying to have the characters talk in their subject matter accurately, but make it much more conversational than that without resorting to 'staged banter'.

Funnily enough; the three short stories I've had published already in out-of-print anthologies certainly were proof read and edited professionally and didn't end up being a million miles away from the 9 or 10th drafts I'd submitted.
« Last Edit: 11/16/2017 04:18 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline KelvinZero

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I read the prologue thanks. My first reaction was, "Smith and Jones"? :)

My impression from the prologue, right or wrong, was "so that's the motivation, and the story will be the implementation."

I don't think it is enough motivation. It is a huge ask even to a space enthusiast like me. IMO you have two options:

(1) Hand the reader an EPIC hypothetical motivation in the prologue just to dismiss this as an issue from any readers mind, something like
* There actually _is_ a face on mars, and it is the protagonist's. (Which prompts a great shaggy dog tale where the guy struggles all his way to just make it to the statue with his last breath, to read the plaque which says "Here lies the body of <insert his name>, first man on Mars" :) )
* The protagonist was already a huge mars proponent but discovers that they just do not have the time. Maybe a degenerative muscle disease that will actually be easier in space.
* A Nigerian prince is given a huge inheritance by a crazy uncle, but they can only collect it on Mars. That lets you play lots of "Nigerian email scam" jokes for laughs while he is trying to get anyone to take him seriously.
Anyway you get the idea.

(2) You acknowledge and actually advertise the motivation as a mystery, with an implicit promise that the answer will be gained by reading the story. It is the pay off.
For example what if the protagonist was actually a lawyer/accountant for the billionaire, and had absolutely no dream or expectation of going to Mars. They could discover the motivation as they tried to stop it (first just discovering the billionaire is still of sound mind when the billionaire runs rings around his attempts) pulling the reader along with them, and somehow end up on the trip themselves. Whatever the motivation is, which may simply involve truely understanding what drives the billionaire, now has the entire length of the story to be answered.

After writing this I realise a common thread is that there does not appear to be anyone to explain it to or convince. My impression from the prologue is that the two characters are already completely onboard and informed. That takes away a convenient tool to slip some exposition to the reader when necessary. You don't need to shout it directly at the reader if you have an unconvinced protagonist to convince.

There is also no character flaw that we expect to see resolved. The "Nigerian prince" could be a worthless layabout. The dying billionaire could be handling it very badly. The lawyer/accountant is obviously transformed. They are all going to change or die, and possibly both.




Offline MATTBLAK

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That's funny stuff, Kelvin, but I'm not writing a comedy (at least not intentionally). You just might be a fan of Harry Harrison's 'Stainless Steel Rat' by the sound of it. I chose 'Smith & Jones' almost as blank, generic avatars for the 'Flight Of The Lunar Dragon' so as to be as far away as possible from the real folk's names for the Lunar Tourist mission, if and when they are announced.

Also; the motivation is a bit 'because it's there' for Mars. Just the sort of thing a 'nutty billionaire' might do if they've developed a taste for outrageous adventure once having sampled some of it (Circumlunar Tourism). Felix Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space some years ago made no real, pragmatic sense when he did it - but he did it anyway. James Cameron dived to the bottom of the Challenger Deep - very cool but outside of enthusiasts like me; who really cared? The lunar tourist mission will scarcely teach us anything new that we didn't know 49 years ago. But someone wants to do it anyway. Elon wants to die on Mars - just not on impact. Everyone catching the drift, yet?

I've spent more than 40 years hearing how NASA or some other huge government agency is 'someday' going to go to Mars in their grandiose spaceships. I distinctly remember telling Scott Carpenter when I met him in February 1986 (a conversation over dinner) about how everyone talks about going to Mars, but no one wants to pay for it or truly face up to the difficulties. I said to him; "In the end, it'll probably just be a couple of nutjobs in a couple of tin cans who get to Mars." We both agreed that it will likely just be some billionaire adventurers.

And so at least on a light-drama fictional level, I intend to make that prophecy come true... ;)
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Offline Russel

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Umm. I'm a bit late to this party but this is a 'fun' problem in that you can pretty much treat the billionaires as potentionally expendable :)

If you cut it down to just one person landing and the other two orbiting, then you might be in the ballpark. Maybe.

Start with a Dragon2. This is the heart of your inter planetary vehicle. Attach a small utility vehicle. This is your storage, storm shelter and of course return propulsion. Finally attach a lander/ascent vehicle.

Since you want to minimise transit and supplies you'll probably aim for a reasonable excess velocity on Mars approach. This is where the Dragon's heat shield comes in handy since you've no choice but aerocapture.

From here, one person descends on the lander/ascent vehicle. We're talking a couple of tons of gear and consumables for a 2 week stay. Your lander is your habitat.

On descent you lose some drop tanks after the first phase which loses most of your delta-v. The nice bit is that the lander/ascent vehicle is light. No heat shield and low g forces. Its built with modern materials and is lighter than the gear/consumables it carries

When you're done your lander becomes your ascent vehicle. You tge return to the orbiter. The lander is now ditched.

Earth return is as you'd expect. A main burn to send you back to earth and the Dragon  separates for a direct landing.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2018 07:58 AM by Russel »

Offline MATTBLAK

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Yes; it's going to be Dragon 2 based. In fact; a dusted off 'Red Dragon' idea. No; there wont be anyone left in orbit because there will not be enough delta-v to arrive in Martian orbit first - just direct entry and landing as prescribed by Zubrin and company for 'Mars Direct'. It will be just two people, to cut down on the food and other expendables and 'excess' characters, shedding modules and propulsion stages along the way, but there will be some propellant-generating ISRU. This will be a short novella in a semi-documentary style rather similar to my earlier story 'Flight Of The Lunar Dragon' that I attached earlier in this thread. There will be little deep characterizations - the crew will be almost avatars for a near-future, highly fictionalized history book extract. Think Reginald Turnill and/or Kenneth Gatland style - terrific space journalists who wrote great space books in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They just summarized and recorded the facts. Maybe in future I will greatly flesh it out and expand it. But I'm no Andy Weir and make no pretensions to be.

Google or research Robert Zubrin's SpaceX/Mars Direct derived article from about 2011 and this will be loosely based on that. This will not be high art. But I want people to have fun. Read 'Flight of the Lunar Dragon' and you'll hopefully get the gist of what I'm doing. Also: I've been waiting impatiently for Falcon Heavy to fly so I can finalize or change my mission architecture! The Martian surface stay will be fairly short and 'guerilla style'. A bit longer than the longest Apollo lunar stay of 3 days, but I haven't nailed that right down yet.

I will have to indulge in some minor 'hand-waving'. But even Andy Weir did that, too. But he got away with it! But like I said - I'm not him... Everyone be patient and please trust me - even if you don't know me... ;)

All the above is the closest I can get to a 'spoiler trailer' for now.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2018 09:46 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline Russel

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Well I'd like to see the numbers because every time I look at it, the act of directly returning to Earth ftom Mars surface doubles the scale/cost relative to an indirect return with Mars aerocapture.

This is with favorable assumptions. ISRU is oxygen only. ISRU does not cost too much in terms of energy generation (it will). But the real killer is that the Earth return vehicle (based on Dragon or not) isn't going to be light and getting that off Mars surface just means everything scales against you.

Good luck :)
« Last Edit: 01/09/2018 03:38 AM by Russel »

Offline MATTBLAK

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It is not direct return from the Martian surface to Earth, no. ISRU for LOX generation yes; just going to low Martian orbit. ISRU powered by solar/RTG/Stirling engine combo system. Approximately 9 tons of LOX generated over many months by the system before crew arrival for the MAV. MAV is literally a bare-bones craft. If it malfunctions majorly before crew arrival; springs big propellant leak etc, then the outbound crew aborts past Mars and does a long trip around the Sun to return to Earth, doing some course-correction burns along the way. The Earth Return vehicle is another Dragon 2/Cygnus Enhanced waiting in Martian orbit. The Mars departure stage is hypergolic fueled and powered by Super Draco with a nozzle extension.
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Offline MATTBLAK

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...Like I said; some good luck and hand-waving needed to portray even a marginally successful mission...
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Offline Michael Bloxham

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I’d be happy to help with your mission architecture. I worked on a very “bare bones” architecture for MarsDrive a few years ago. I think you might remember... We used 2 mobile habs, with 2 crew each. The MAV was the tiniest vehicle we could imagine, with no capsule. It was just 4 guys riding a rocket in their suits. Not only that, but to save even more weight we put the return vehicle on a fly-by trajectory, so that the MAV had to catch up with it. It was a one-shot deal - no second chances. But the IMLEO was tiny compared to anything comparable...

Offline MATTBLAK

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I'm mostly all filled up for ideas, thanks! :) I know before I've barely started that my ideas will be too hand-wavingly ambitious for some people and not near enough ambitious for others. We can have wish-lists and engineering shopping lists for what we want to see, but I'm making this mission not much more than Apollo 17 on the Martian surface. No fancy rovers and complex nuclear power sources, no driving hundreds of kms across Mars, as Andy Weir did. The surface stay will be for only mere days, with the most bare-bones equipment and dust contaminated-prone spacesuits. The Transit and return vehicles will be SpaceX Dragons docked to small Hab modules - probably Cygnus Enhanced and with hypergolic propulsion modules.

The MAV idea I have is for a 2x person vehicle where the spacesuits provide the life support and the cabin is a basic, pressurized shell that is more to protect the suits from RCS contaminants than anything else. The architecture is to be as basic and technically 'risk free' as possible with not really much new tech as we'd like. Not much more than Apollo on steroids, with RTG and solar power helping out instead of the Apollo 3x day battery power source. I'm massaging the details now and may cheat in the portrayal by presenting it as a mission description from a historical spaceflight account; such as what Reginald Turnill or Kenneth Gatland used to write, only a little more detailed. It will be a 'Flags & Footprints' mission showing that such a mission is basically sheer folly and terribly risky. The billionaire protagonists will be roundly criticized for 'wasting billions' while people are starving etc. One of the crew will counter this by saying, essentially; "You're missing the point" and "No; we did not fake this in a film studio". I'm being a bit cynical in the story by pointing out that the ignorant will spin this mission as a frivolous waste of time and money and will ignore the fact that 2x humans lived an worked on another world for a week. It is possible.

In fact; I reveal here for the first time that I may be descoping the mission into a Mars orbit and Phobos visit only portrayal instead; because if Elon and company make better progress than expected, this alternate, near-history portrayal may end up being ever more irrelevant, as my 'Flight Of The Lunar Dragon' story now is because of the cancellation of the Lunar Tourist mission :( The point of the descoping could be - we made it all the way to Mars; for far less money than imagined. Now; for a little more cost and risk, all the investment could be ameliorated into an actual landing.

That way - I could write a third part of a trilogy... ;)
« Last Edit: 02/14/2018 03:19 AM by MATTBLAK »
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