Astronaut Chris Hadfield Says NASA Could Have Gone to Mars in the '60s, But Can't Do it Now

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 - 10:39AM
Space
Mars
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 - 10:39AM
Astronaut Chris Hadfield Says NASA Could Have Gone to Mars in the '60s, But Can't Do it Now
< >
Image credit: NASA/Public Domain
The most basic understanding of what NASA does is daily innovation and research on all things space-related. For outsiders looking in, the space agency is always slightly ahead of the curve, but according to veteran astronaut Chris Hadfield, wherever the curve starts, NASA is years ahead of that. In terms of the race to Mars, Hadfield says that NASA could have sent travelers there decades ago, but there is a good reason why they haven't yet.

"We could send people to Mars decades ago," Hadfield told Business Insider. "The technology that took us to the moon and back when I was just a kid - that technology can take us to Mars." Plans to reach the fourth rock from the Sun date back to the 1950s, but even when the technology finally caught up to the dreams of engineers and researchers, there was a pretty big reason not to move forward. "The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn't make it," Hadfield said. "They'd die."


This revelation comes as something of a departure from a recent statement that Hadfield made discussing the abilities of NASA, SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to send people to Mars aboard the Space Launch System (SLS), Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), and New Glenn rocket respectively.

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
 

The reason for Hadfield's pessimism boils down to fuel efficiency. Hadfield says that chemical burning is one of the things that makes space travel inefficient, which is why he doesn't think companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, or even NASA will revolutionize the field if they continue to use the same ideas to propel their spacecraft. "Burning chemical rockets is the equivalent of using a sailboat or a pedal boat to try and travel around the world...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. I don't think those are a practical way to send people to Mars because they're dangerous and it takes too long, and it therefore exposes us to a risk for a long time."

The teams at SpaceX and Blue Origin obviously disagree, but Hadfield makes some really good points, and the incumbent risks have clearly slowed down progress otherwise we would be hanging with Martians already. Plans to reach Mars in the next few years are currently written in pencil, though the UAE is hoping for a space colony on the red planet in 2117.


That said, Hadfield thinks there will have to be some major developments before anyone can do it right, namely something that uses gravity and not fuels. "Someone has to invent something we haven't thought of yet. Maybe the work that's going on with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the space station and in the particle accelerator in CERN and other places... is going to show us how we can harness gravity. It sounds outlandish, but we figured out how to harness electricity and what electrons do, and that seemed crazy, and it's revolutionized life and travel. So who knows?"

Science
NASA
Space
Mars
No