New Concept For A Return Trip To Mars Is Interesting, But Flawed

A team of British scientists have come up with a concept for getting astronauts to and from Mars, but it wouldn’t be easy to execute.

New Concept For A Return Trip To Mars Is Interesting, But Flawed

Is this how we’re going to get a man to Mars and back? Scientists at Imperial College London have designed a two-part concept spacecraft intended to carry a crew of three on a journey to the Red Planet. The trio of astronauts–who would need a full-on radiation shield along with the craft’s heat shield–would be brought back to Earth using a vessel that had pre-landed on Mars, and would use ice from beneath the surface of the planet as fuel by splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis.

There are several flaws in this scheme, however. After touching down somewhere close to the planet’s equator, the crew would have to undergo a trek of several hundred miles to reach the return ship, which would land somewhere on the planet where the ice is just inches below the surface and easily mineable by robotic devices. Does it all sound a bit iffy? Well, the concept behind the trip is actually part of a BBC documentary, How To Put A Human On Mars, that will be shown this weekend on BBC World News.

It is, however, an interesting exercise for space fans, as it shows what is and isn’t possible in terms of traveling to a new planet. Anyone only interested in the concrete should, perhaps, focus on existing Mars-related programs in the works, most notably Mars One, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX project.

[Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.