The red planet has always been a fascinating object for scientists and writers. Mankind has been dreaming of visiting Mars for at least 70 years. Fortunately, technologies have reached a point when such a trip may be possible.
National Geographic has compiled look back at plans to conquer Mars:
Wernher von Braun and Disney (1947-1957)
The first realistic plan for conquering Mars was developed by German aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun. During WWII, he worked for Hitler’s regime, but later ended up in USA, where he developed Saturn V expendable rocket. Saturn V was used in the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing.
In his free time, von Braun wrote The Mars Project. His worked detailed a manned exploration mission to Mars. He described detailed trajectory calculations and believable ship designs, as well as possible start dates. Von Braun offered to send an expedition to Mars in 1985. He proposed using 4,000 ton ships and 70 staff members. The first astronauts would land on the surface of Mars in snowy regions using gliders equipped with skis. They would then travel 6,500 km to the equator to prepare landing sites for other ships.
USSR: TMK (1956-1969)
TMK or Tyazhely Mezhplanetny Korabl [Heavy Interplanetary Spacecraft] was in development in USSR for 60 years and was intended for long-distance expeditions to far-away planets of the Solar System – Mars and Venus. The beginning of the expedition to Mars was planned for 8 June 1971 and the return was planned for 10 July 1974.
USSR had multiple versions in development. Gleb Maskimov’s team was working on a small ship manned by three cosmonauts. This ship would circle around Mars, study it from a distance and then return to Earth. Konstantin Feoksitov’s team, on the other hand, was working on a complicated multi-step system; having TMK built in Earth’s orbit before being sent to Mars. A lot of focus was put on oxygen regeneration, modelling of Earth’s ecosystem, food and other important aspects.
NASA’s first plan: nuclear missiles (1959-1961)
Shortly after the foundation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, work commenced on plans to send a mission to Mars. The first study plan offered a rough draft for the future and was basically taken from von Braun’s paradigm. NASA planned to use a much smaller rocket fitted with nuclear reactor engine that would heat up hydrogen and convert it to plasma. After tests carried out in the 60s, this technology became popular among people working on the Mars mission. However, sending nuclear fuel into space would have had political consequences. This meant releasing an enormous amount of uranium into space. Because of that, the rocket never left the Earth.
Buzz Aldrin’s plan (1985 – today)
The plan proposed by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin for the colonization of Mars provided for having two mother-ships circling around the Sun, regularly passing the Earth and Mars. Upon reaching its maximum efficiency, this inter-planetary bus service would carry astronauts to colonies on Mars and Phobos.
Plans of US presidents (1989-1991; 2001-today)
On the tenth anniversary of Apollo 11 landing, US President George Bush proposed a space study initiative. According to it, NASA’s priority would be sending man to Mars in 2019. This idea later drowned in political intrigues. On top of that, by the time it had reached the Congress, its costs had reached USD 450 billion. This seemed like too much to afford. In 2011, Barack Obama announced a new ‘safe and courageous’ space programme. NASA’s latest plans provide for sending people to Mars before 2030 and send an unmanned mission in 2018 to study the planet’s geological development.
People on Mars in 1999! (1990-today)
Two space aviation engineers developed the Mars Direct plan. First, a robot mission would be sent to Mars to build homes and transportation infrastructure on the surface of the planet. People would be sent to Mars 500 days after robots.
Robert Zubrin, who led this mission for 25 years, claims that NASA is the only obstacle on the way to colonizing Mars. He claims NASA could have sent people to Mars at any time. It should be said that NASA also plans to acquire fuel and oxygen from the atmosphere on Mars.
Private projects – all aboard for Mars! (2010-today)
There are also multiple private initiatives aimed at colonizing Mars. These include Dennis Tito’s Inspiration Mars Foundation and Planetary Society. Mars One NGO has even announced its plans to take on volunteers for a one-way mission.
Elon Musk technology businessman has serious plans to create a self-sustainable human colony on Mars. His inter-planetary transport system would be based on multi-use rockets, engine development on Mars and 1,000 space ships in orbit. Each of those ships would be capable of carrying approximately 100 people. In 2018, Musk plans to launch the SpaceX transport ship to pave way for manned space-flight. He plans the mission may leave Earth in 2024.
National Geographic mission Daedalus (2033-…)
In 2033, the personnel of Daedalus space craft will begin their first mission to Mars. Commander Ben Sawyer (Ben Cotton) is an experienced astronaut that had previously taken part in NASA and private missions. The trip to Mars is the culmination of his career. Doctor and biochemist Amelie Durand (Clementine Poidatz) is one of the most sensitive crew members. Exobiologist and geologist Marta Kamen (Anamaria Marinca) was inspired to study Mars by the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteorite. Now she wants to study meteorite traces on the red planet. Britain’s representative, nuclear physicist Leslie Richardson (Cosima Shaw) is a famous scientist who has published numerous books together with her husband is well-known for the development of Mars-specific hybrid plants. Robert Foucault (Sammi Rotibi) a son of a French diplomat and high-rank Nigerian official has excellent skills in robotics. Musician JiHAE plays two roles – American-born Korean twins Hana and Joon. Hana is the mission’s pilot and software engineer and Joon is the mission’s capsule communicator on Earth.