Astronaut Chris Hadfield Believes That No Planned NASA or SpaceX Rockets Can Send Humans to Mars

Sunday, 17 June 2018 - 11:58AM
Space
Technology
Mars
Sunday, 17 June 2018 - 11:58AM
Astronaut Chris Hadfield Believes That No Planned NASA or SpaceX Rockets Can Send Humans to Mars
< >
SpaceX
Getting a rover or orbital probe to Mars takes an extraordinary amount of power and top-of-the-line technology from modern space agencies. Getting a human to Mars and back safely is another game entirely.

While technology is a point where we could send human astronauts to Mars, we're not at the point where we can prepare a Mars mission with even modest confidence that the astronauts will return safely, which is the big reason it hasn't been done yet. That said, NASA and private companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX are working on the potential rockets and spacecrafts that could stick the Martian landing and send everybody back.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, retired astronaut Chris Hadfield was asked about a number of high-tech rockets due to be ready for test launches in the coming years, including NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket (BFR, and the acronym is intentionally based on Doom's BFG), and the New Glenn rocket from Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company Blue Origin.

When asked about any of these rockets leading a Mars mission, Hadfield answered that he didn't think so:

Opening quote
"Personally, I don't think any of those three rockets is taking people to Mars. I don't think those are a practical way to send people to Mars because they're dangerous and it takes too long... My guess is we will never go to Mars with the engines that exist on any of those three rockets unless we truly have to."
Closing quote


Asking about New Glenn is unusual, since unlike the other two rockets mentioned, there's little reason to believe that Blue Origin has any plans to send people beyond Earth's orbit at this time. On the other hand, the SLS and BFR rockets are being built with crewed missions to the Red Planet specifically in mind. 

As for Hadfield's reasoning, the fact that all three rockets share a similar fuel system of liquid hydrogen, solid chemicals, and added oxygen. Naturally, this is extremely flammable, and while that may be necessary for sending a rocket into space right now, there's also a dangerous chance of an explosion taking out everybody onboard. SpaceX in particular has seen non-crewed Falcon 9 rockets explode because of how quickly they load their fuel. 



Currently, SpaceX's BFR is expected to see its first test launches within the next couple years, and Musk has an ambitious plan to start sending unmanned missions to Mars in the early 2020s so he can prepared the first manned Mars mission later in the decade. Whether those missions will actually happen is very subject to change, and NASA has no concrete Mars schedule for their similarly powerful SLS, which should begin testing soon after all its delays.

Again, that's not to say any of these rockets aren't powerful enough to send humans to Mars, and Hadfield says as much in the interview. Its the rockets' ability to keep the astronauts alive that's the big issue in any talk of visiting the Red Planet.
Science
Science News
Space
Technology
Mars
No