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Parlor Trick:  Relanding a piece of junk and wasting payload fuel to do it


Fallacy:  It takes eight to nine months to get to Mars when the planets are in the correct position.

Fact:  Mars can be reached in a matter of weeks if the ship has the propulsion and fuel to increase speed beyond what is required for the Hohmann Transfer, and to reduce speed to insert into orbit around Mars. Also, a more powerful propulsion and fuel method can allow for trips to Mars even when the two planets are not in the ideal position.

Fallacy:  We don’t have the technology to protect humans from cosmic radiation for extended space journeys beyond Earth orbit.

Fact:  Again, we do have methods to protect astronauts from cosmic radiation, but the concepts add weight to the ship, and that means a better propulsion system is needed.

Getting to Mars is about ship and propulsion design. Period. Speed and weight will have to be increased to get astronauts safely there and back again. It costs money to achieve the goal.

This is the problem with SpaceX plan to go to Mars. Their approach has been to  ‘save money’ by developing a reusable booster system. That sounds great. That’s what the space shuttle was designed to provide, and now, thirty years later, SpaceX is trying to re-do what we’ve already done. Not only are they reinventing technology we already have, they are doing it wrong.

Returning a booster as a landing craft defeats the mission objective of going to Mars. It requires wasting time, money, and fuel to:

  1. design a booster landing system
  2. building and testing a booster landing system
  3. committing fuel that should be dedicated to the payload, to the booster landing system
  4. using personnel and resources to monitor and land the booster
  5. using personnel and resources to recover and rebuild the booster that is basically a piece of junk.

In addition, their approach to a reusable booster is contradictory to the goal of getting to Mars. It is absurd to think that one vehicle will liftoff from Earth, orbit Earth, go to Mars, orbit Mars, and land on Mars. Mars is not a pack-your-overnight-bag trip. To get to Mars will require boosting several payloads to be assembled in Earth orbit. Wasting fuel to put a payload into orbit in order to land the booster makes no sense.

Landing the booster stage on Earth is a parlor trick. It lets SpaceX look cool, and lets them claim they are saving money by reusing the booster. It makes people excited and cheer, but it is a waste of valuable resources. Landing on Mars will not be achieved by expending resources to re-land the booster on Earth.