Thursday, September 17, 2009

An idea for getting humans to Mars faster.

Ok, it takes an unmanned spacecraft, what, at least 9 months. To carry that all that the people on board will need, like water, food and air, would mean a big ship. Then there's the 9 months of boredom for all the folks on board. It seems to be a real problem, carrying enough fuel to get up to speed, and then decelerate at Mars too.
I have an idea.
We have a space drive system called Ion drive, but it is really weak. It has been used on a few satellites as a test that I know of, and given enough time, can archive high speeds. In theory, faster than any chemical propulsion that we now have.
Soooo... what we do is build a big ship in orbit around Earth, equipping it with room for 10 people, enough food, water and air for 2 years (maybe more). It would also have attached to it landing craft plus a small ship or two that would remain in orbit that wouldn't have much but speed. The Mother ship would be big, and have any redundant systems and heavy shielding that would protect it's systems for decades. This Mother ship would have an ion drive. Yep.. ion. The
thing is, the Mother ship would be launched on a long orbit to mars and back, and here's the new idea, WITHOUT people on board. As I've covered, on drive is weak, but given enough time, it can get the Mother ship up to very high speeds. When it returns from its long trip to Mars and back, it will be going very fast indeed. All we need then is a much smaller ship that carries just enough supplies and speed to catch up with the Mother ship, with the people on board the smaller ship. They then dock with the bigger ship with all its supplies. In theory, the Mother ship will be going fast enough to get them back to Mars in much less time, where they then separate on the landing craft to visit Mars. The smaller ships, lets call them Interceptors, stay in orbit around Mars till the Mother ship returns in its eternal orbit between Earth and Mars. While the group on Mars sets up camp, another crew catches the Mother ship as it again passes Earth by then at an even higher speed.
I'm not a scientist, but I believe that the initial journey to Mars will be closer to just a month if done right, the second trip even faster. We might even have a fleet of these Mother ships being built to keep a constant 'conveyor' of explorers coming and going from Mars.
Hey, I know there are a ton of things to be worked out with this concept. The basic orbit might have to be a lot bigger to achieve the required speeds.
What do you think?