To Mars and back

If you think short space trips to an altitude of hundred kilometre and back, proposed by several companies, is for wimps, why not fly to Mars and back? Ten students from AE faculty designed a fly-by mission to Mars as part of their bachelor thesis.

With their proposal the students participate in the Inspiration Mars Design Contest organized by the the non-profit organization Mars Society. The requirement is for student teams to design a two-person Mars flyby mission for 2018 as cheaply, safely and simply as possible.

According to the Mars Society the planets will align in 2018, offering a unique orbit opportunity to travel to Mars and back to Earth in only 501 days.

Team Adrestia from the Aerospace Engineering faculty is a finalist in this competition in which a total of 56 Universities and 38 student teams competed. The team is invited to present and defend their mission design at the NASA Ames Research Center in California this May.

“The first step of the mission is the launch of a Falcon Heavy (a carrier rocket, red. TvD) which will carry fuel to a Low Earth parking orbit”, Shahrzad Hosseini of team Adrestia explains. “The second step is the launch of the SpaceX Dragon re-entry capsule which carry the crew and the living module on board of a second launcher.”

After an on-orbit docking process (depicted in the illustration) the spacecraft is ready to start its interplanetary journey.

After a bit more than 200 days, the first manned Martian fly-by is performed with a duration of ten hours, approaching Mars to an altitude of 180kilometers. Using Mars’ gravity, the spacecraft obtains a velocity boost to continue its trajectory and journey back to Earth.

The two passengers will not see much of Mars, as the capsule will fly past the red planet on the dark side. But that is not really an issue, according to Hosseini. “The goal is to demonstrate for the very first time that it is feasible to fly a manned spacecraft to Mars. There is a lot going on about landing on Mars (in the news), yet first you have to perform a fly-by mission to ensure a safe return trip.”

The first place team will receive ten thousand dollars, handed out by Dennis Tito, the worlds first space tourist, and an all-expenses paid trip to the 2014 International Mars Society Convention to be held August 4-7 in Houston.


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