The dull landscape of the Martian desert
Unable to color a cold sunrise.
Clear air in thin air
We went to the far now all-terrain vehicle.
The Great Space Odyssey of the 20th century turned into a cruel farce — a series of clumsy attempts to escape from its “cradle”, and a black abyss of lifeless space opened up before the man. “The road to the stars” was a short dead end.
The gloomy situation in the space program has several simple explanations:
First, chemical fuel missiles have reached their limits. Their capabilities were enough to reach the nearest celestial bodies, but for full-scale studies of the solar system, more is needed. The increasingly popular ion engines are also unable to resolve the issue of overcoming enormous space distances. The thrust of ionic super-engines does not exceed the read fractions of one Newton, and interplanetary flights still stretch for many years.
Note - we are talking only about the study of the Cosmos! In conditions when the payload is only 1% of the starting mass of the rocket-space system, it makes no sense to talk about any industrial development of celestial bodies.
Manned cosmonautics was especially disappointing - in spite of the bold hypotheses of science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century, Cosmos turned out to be an icy hostile environment where no one was glad of organic forms of life. The conditions on the surface of Mars, the only one of the “decent” in this regard, celestial bodies can cause shock: the atmosphere, on 95% consisting of carbon dioxide, and the surface pressure equivalent to the pressure of the earth's atmosphere at an altitude of 40 kilometers. This is the end.
The conditions on the surfaces of other surveyed planets and satellites of giant planets are even worse - temperatures from - 200 to + 500 ° С, aggressive atmospheric composition, monstrous pressures, too little or, conversely, too much gravity, powerful tectonics and volcanic activity ...
The interplanetary station “Galileo”, having completed one orbit around Jupiter, received a dose of radiation equivalent to 25 lethal doses for humans. For the same reason, near-earth orbits at altitudes above 500 km are practically closed for manned flights. Radiation belts begin above, where long-term stay is dangerous to human health.
Where the strongest mechanisms can hardly exist, the fragile human body has nothing to do.
But Cosmos beckons with the dream of distant worlds, and man is not accustomed to surrender to difficulties - the time delay on the way to the stars promises to be short-lived. Ahead is the titanic work of exploring and mastering the nearest celestial bodies - the Moon, Mars, where manned cosmonautics cannot do without.
You will surely ask - why all this cosmic "fuss"? It is obvious that these expeditions will not bring any practical benefit, bold fantasies about mining at asteroids or mining Helium-3 on the Moon are still at the level of bold assumptions. Moreover, from the point of view of the terrestrial economy and industry, there is no need for this, and it will probably not appear soon.
Then - for what? The answer is simple - perhaps this is the purpose of man. Create an amazing beauty and complexity of the technique, and with its help explore, explore, change the surrounding space.
No one is going to stop there. Now the main goal is to correctly select priorities for further work. We need new daring ideas and bright, ambitious projects. What will be our next steps towards the stars?
1 June 2009, on the initiative of NASA was organized by the so-called. "Commission Agustin" (named after its head, the former director of Lokheed Martin Norman Augustin), a special committee on American manned cosmonautics, whose task was to develop further solutions to the penetration of man into space.
The Yankees carefully studied the state of the rocket and space industry, analyzed information about interplanetary expeditions using automatic probes, took into account the conditions on the surfaces of the nearest celestial bodies and carefully scrutinized “examined in the light” every cent allocated from the budget.
In the autumn of 2009, the “Commission of Augustine” presented a detailed report on the work done and made a number of simple, but at the same time absolutely brilliant conclusions:
1. Expected in the near future manned flight to Mars - bluff.
Despite the popularity of projects related to the landing of a person on the Red Planet, all these plans are nothing more than science fiction. The flight of a man to Mars in modern conditions is similar to an attempt to run a “hundred-meter” with broken legs.
Mars attracts researchers with adequate climatic conditions - at least, there are no sizzling temperatures, and the low atmospheric pressure can be compensated for by the “usual” space suit. The planet has normal size, gravity and is at a reasonable distance from the Sun. There are traces of the presence of water - formally there are all the conditions for a successful landing and working on the surface of the Red Planet.
However, in terms of landing spacecraft, Mars - perhaps the worst option of all the studied celestial objects!
It's all about the insidious gas envelope surrounding the planet. The atmosphere of Mars is too low - so that the traditional parachute parachute is impossible here. At the same time, it is dense enough to burn the landing gear, inadvertently “firing” to the surface with cosmic speed.
Landing on braking engines on the surface of Mars is an extremely complex and costly undertaking. A long period of time the device "hangs" on jet engines in the gravitational field of Mars - it is impossible to fully rely on the "air" with the help of a parachute. All this leads to a monstrous overrun of fuel.
It is for this reason that unusual schemes are used - for example, the Pathfinder automatic interplanetary probe landed using two sets of brake engines, a frontal braking (thermal insulation) screen, a parachute and an inflatable airbag - crashing into red sand at a speed of 100 km / h, the station bounced off the surface several times, like a ball, to a complete stop. Of course, such a scheme is completely inapplicable when disembarking a manned expedition.
No less miraculously, he sat down in the "Curiosity" 2012.
The rover weighing 899 kg (weight on Mars 340 kg) became the heaviest of the earth vehicles delivered to the surface of Mars. It would seem that only 899 kg - what problems may arise here? For comparison, the descent vehicle of the Vostok ship had a mass of 2,5 tons (the mass of the entire ship on which Y. Gagarin flew was 4,7 tons).
The landing pattern of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), better known as the rover Curiosity
And, nevertheless, the problems were great - in order to avoid damage to the structure and equipment of the rover “Curiosity”, we had to use the original scheme known as the “sky crane”. In short, the whole process looked like this: after intensive braking in the atmosphere of the planet, the platform with the rover fixed on it hung in 7,5 meters above the surface of Mars. With the help of three cables, the Curiosity was gently lowered to the surface of the planet - having received confirmation that its wheels touched the ground, the rover cut cables and electrical cables with pyrochargers, and the overhanging platform above it flew off to the side, making a hard landing in 650 meters from the rover.
And these are just 899 kilograms of payload! It is terrible to imagine what difficulties will arise when landing on Mars an 100-ton ship with a couple of astronauts on board.
All of the above problems are converted into extra hundreds of tons of "Martian ship". By the most conservative estimates, the mass of the departure stage in earth orbit will be at least 300 tons (less optimistic estimates give a result up to 1500 tons)! Super heavy launch vehicles will again be required, whose dimensions will surpass the lunar Satrun-V and H-1 with a payload of 130 ... 140 tons.
Even using the sectional assembly method of the “Martian ship” on smaller blocks and using the scheme of two ships — the main (manned) and automatic transport module with their subsequent docking in the Martian orbit, the number of unresolved technical problems exceeds all reasonable limits.
In this situation, sending a man to Mars is like trying to solve the Great Fermat theorem without having the simplest knowledge of algebra.
Then why torture yourself with unrealizable illusions? Is it not easier to start learning how to “walk without crutches” and gain the necessary experience by solving slightly simpler, but no less enchanting tasks?
British scientists have found that the asteroid Apophis is not dangerous for the Earth.
Commission Agustin proposed a plan called Flexible Path, a story worthy of Hollywood film studios. The meaning of this theory is simple - to learn how to make long interplanetary flights, training on ... astroids.
Itokawa asteroid in comparison with the International Space Station
Wandering stone debris does not have any tangible atmosphere, and their small gravity makes the process of “landing” similar to the docking of the “Shuttle” with the ISS - even more so, humanity already has experience of “close contact” with small celestial bodies.
This is not about the “Chelyabinsk meteorite” - in November 2005, the Japanese probe “Hayabusa” (“Sapsan”) made two landings with dust collection on the surface of the 300-meter asteroid (25143) Itokawa. Not everything went smoothly: the solar flare damaged the solar panels, the cosmic cold knocked out two of the three probe gyroscopes, the Minerva mini-robot was lost during landing, finally the device collided with an asteroid, damaged the engine and lost its orientation. After a couple of years, the Japanese still managed to regain control of the probe and restart the ion engine - in June 2010, the capsule with asteroid particles was finally delivered to Earth.
Flights to asteroids can give several useful results at once:
Some details of the formation and clarification stories The solar system, which in itself arouses considerable interest.
Secondly, this is the key to solving the applied problem of preventing the "meteorite threat" - all the details in the scenario of the Hollywood blockbuster "Armageddon". But in reality, the case can take an even more interesting turn:
The first day. A giant asteroid is approaching Earth. A group of brave drillers
went to him to install a nuclear charge.
Second day. A giant asteroid with a nuclear charge is approaching Earth.
Thirdly - geological exploration. Asteroids are of considerable interest as sources of minerals (huge reserves of ore, low gravity and a low value of the second cosmic velocity - the transportation of raw materials to Earth is simplified). This is for the future.
Finally, such missions will provide invaluable experience of manned interplanetary flights.
NASA proposes Lagrange points in the Earth-Sun system (areas where a body with a negligible mass can remain stationary in a rotating frame of reference associated with two massive bodies) as the highest priority targets. From the point of view of celestial mechanics, a flight to these areas is even easier than a flight to the moon, despite the much greater distance from the Earth.
The next targets are near-earth asteroids of aton, apollo, etc. - between the orbits of the Earth and Mars. Next - our nearest celestial body - the moon. Then there are proposals for sending a non-stop expedition to Mars - circling and exploring the planet from orbit, followed by landing on the Martian satellite Phobos. And only then - Mars!
New audacious expeditions will require the creation of new technical means - now the Yankees are already working energetically on the project of the multi-purpose manned spacecraft Orion.
The first test launch is scheduled for 2014 year, the ship is scheduled to launch 6000 km from Earth - 15 times further than the orbit of the ISS is located. By 2017, Orion plans to prepare a super-heavy SLS carrier rocket capable of putting up to 70 tons of cargo into a reference orbit (up to 130 tons in the future). The Orion + SLS rocket and space system is expected to reach full readiness for the 2021 year - from this point on, manned expeditions beyond the limits of near-earth orbit will become possible.
"Orion" on the orite of the moon in the artist's presentation
Everything new is well forgotten old. Sounded the conclusions of the “Commission Agustin” were very familiar to domestic experts - it was no coincidence that, having become acquainted with the cunning of the atmosphere of Mars, the Soviet space program quickly shifted to the study of Phobos (the unsuccessful launches of “Phobos-1 and 2” year) because it was much easier to land on the satellite than to the surface of the red planet. At the same time, Phobos, in terms of geology, is almost more interesting than Mars itself. The odious Phobos-Grunt and the promising Phobos-Grunt-1988 are all links in one chain.
At present, Russian scientists are also inclined to believe in the benefits of studying small celestial bodies. There is no talk about manned expeditions yet, Roskosmos is working on the possibility of sending automatic probes to the Moon (Luna-Glob, Luna-Resource, the nearest planned launch is 2015 year), and also the implementation of the fantastic Laplace-P expedition. In the latter case, a probe is planned to land on the surface of Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s icy moons.
The message about the planned sending of the Russian probe to the outer planets of the Solar System caused a surge of caustic jokes in the style of "Phobos-Grunt", "Jupiter is an ideal target, another 5 billions will disappear forever in the depths of Space", some of the Internet comedians even offered "manned "Option" Laplas-Popovkin "...
However, despite the apparent complexity and ambiguity of the upcoming mission, landing an automatic station on the surface of Ganymede will hardly be more difficult than on the surface of Mars.
Of course, manned flights to Lagrange points and automatic probes in the vicinity of Jupiter are still better than the impossible dreams of how “apple trees will bloom on Mars”. The main thing - do not relax on your laurels. Even after landing on the surface of an asteroid, we should not indulge in sweet dreams of how our omnipotent science is now able to dislodge any celestial body from orbit and make us lords of near space.
“Captains of the heavens” cannot for many months plug a small hole on the ocean floor - it is easy to imagine what awaits us in the event of a meeting with another Tunguska meteorite.
Automatic interplanetary probe "Hayabusa"
Multi-purpose spacecraft "Orion"
Mass 25 tons. Internal habitable volume - 9 cube. meters (for comparison - the habitable volume of the Soyuz spacecraft is 3,85 cubic meters). Crew - to 6 people. Repeated use of the basic elements of the structure is assumed.
SLS Super Heavy Booster Project