Thursday, September 03, 2009

Getting to the red planet - an idea...

This idea builds upon the inherent urge on the part of the human species to explore the unknown and if necessary give up their lives in the quest - characteristics that were in vogue a couple of hundred years back but terribly out of fashion now... (outlandish yet possible).

To put a human on Mars within the lifetime of America’s current generation, only one scheme is feasible, and this feasible concept challenges our traditional thinking about risk and the value of life. The mission must be a one-way trip. It’s possible that the crew might consist of only one person. For the first manned landing on Mars, there can be no provision for the space traveler to return to Earth. We should call such a solo mission the “Spirit of the Lone Eagle” in honor of Charles Lindbergh, the original “Lone Eagle” who flew solo across the Atlantic. The manned Mars mission (which could be arranged to occur in 2017, just 90 years after Lindbergh’s famous flight) will require a person of special ability who can accept a great challenge.
Return to Earth from the Martian surface is a daunting technical problem for which current technology offers no obvious solution. Realistically, there aren’t even any schemes based on futuristic technology that are likely to be perfected within the next 20 years. When we eliminate the need to launch off Mars, we remove the mission’s most daunting obstacle. Huge engineering challenges remain, but without a Mars launch, we can reasonably expect to devise a program that may be accomplished within the scope of current technology.
...The first human mission to Mars might even consist of a male/female team. Such a privileged couple would follow in the tradition of creation stories common to many human religions. The historic (they might even become legendary) pair would repeat, on an interplanetary scale, the early migrations that populated our world. Precedence exists, since genetic studies suggest that some current populations descended from very tiny groups, perhaps only one family of adventurous travelers.

(For the more scientifically inclined, a fascinating video of launch/orbital mechanics here...)

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