Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Sadly, they perpetuate the misconception that we have not yet sent men to Mars because it takes too long to get there. No, the trip is already fairly short with normal rockets. We have not gone to Mars because of a lack of interest and money. There are no deal breakers, even using 1960s space technology. Indeed we could have (should have) continued Apollo simply by adding to lunar missions with deep space missions, and solar orbit missions to Mars and Venus. These, during the 1970s (including skylab which is a good model for a Mars transfer habitat) would pave the way for actual Mars landings in the 1980s. But at some point (when the space shuttle was given priority, followed by the space station), our manned exploration capabilities actually decreased.
This is great new technology, and perhaps it can help us with really far off trips (like unmanned probes!), but it is not needed. And we certainly should not wait for it to be ready, before we go to Mars. Also, it is important to note that low thrust rockets need to circle out from the Earth very slowly. This has to be done carefully because a month spent in the wrong orbit will give you a fatal dose of radiation several times over.