Hartford, CT: Veteran inventor, business pioneer, futurist, and entrepreneur, Eric Knight has unveiled a concept that would allow human exploration of Mars to take place in a couple of years rather than the 20-year timeframe proposed by NASA and other space authorities. In his concept note Knight describes propulsion, environmental, food and nutrition issues during travel as well as Mars-landing systems and processes.
Instead of retiring the Space Shuttles in 2010 as is currently proposed by NASA, Knight proposes to utilize the vehicles for "...a grand mission... something that would be truly historic - even through the lens of time a millennium from now."
The following is an excerpt from Knight's thought paper:
- Fly two Space Shuttle orbiters into earth orbit.
- Rendezvous and connect the two orbiters together -- top to top - by a truss.
- The ends of the truss are anchored to the bases of the orbiters' payload bays.
- At the center of the truss, dock a sufficiently sized propulsion stage.
- Install a "crew-transfer conduit" - a pressurized, accordion-style inflatable system that connects the airlock hatches of the two orbiters so that the crew could freely move between the two spacecrafts.
- Once the propulsion stage has accelerated this entire system on its trek to Mars, the truss is detached from the two orbiters and the truss- propulsion assembly is jettisoned.
- The two orbiters then separate to a distance of a few hundred feet, but remain connected - top to top - by a tether cable that is spooled out.
During the separation, the accordion-style inflatable crew-transfer conduit equally elongates.
Once the orbiters are at their maximum fixed distance apart, they would simultaneously fire their reaction control systems to set the pair into an elegant pirouette -- creating a comfortable level of artificial gravity for the crew's voyage to the red planet.
Knight further describes a parachute system that would enable the Space Shuttle orbiters to safely land on the Mars surface.
A long-term bio-regenerative life-support system for the Mars mission is also described.
Knight describes his concept in a note entitled: "Mars on a Shoestring: A novel method to transport humans to Mars based on a pair of tethered Space Shuttle orbiters."
Eric Knight is a veteran inventor, business pioneer, futurist, and entrepreneur. He is the president of Remarkable Technologies, Inc. His company founded "UP Aerospace" in 2003 -- the aerospace firm that, as a free-standing entity in 2007, launched into space the cremated remains of Star Trek's "Scotty" James Doohan and NASA astronaut and pioneer L. Gordon Cooper.