A Look at the Proposed Inspiration Mars Mission

Credit: Inspiration Mars

An artist’s conception of the Inspiration Mars vehicle, which includes a Cygnus derived habitation module (right) and an Orion-derived re-entry capsule (left).

Credit: Inspiration Mars

The mission architecture would launch the main spacecraft on NASA’s Space Launch System and send a crew aloft later aboard a commercial space transport to dock with it.

Credit: Inspiration Mars

In testimony on Capitol Hill today, Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito said about $300 million could be raised privately while NASA would invest $700 million.

Credit: Inspiration Mars
Credit: Inspiration Mars

  • Chris Collins

    Why don’t they forget about the Orion capsule in the initial launch?

    – Just use that as the crew transfer vehicle during the second launch: docking with the craft and piggybacking for the duration of the mission.

    What is the point of launching an unmanned capsule in the first launch?

  • Hug Doug

    “Orion-derived,” and it would be because the crew transfer vehicle likely wouldn’t be rated to last the journey to / from Mars, and / or not able to handle the heat stresses of an Earth-reentry at returning-from-Mars velocities, probably. the Soyuz, for example, is rated for on-orbit time of 180 days, and the return capsule will need to survive ~500 days.

    the two launches would be for safety purposes. it reduces risk to launch crew separately, especially if they are using the new SLS to launch the habitat / crew supplies.

  • Nickolai

    I think Dragon is the only commercial crew vehicle that could be used for that purpose, since I don’t think CST-100 and DreamChaser heatshields are rated for Mars re-entry velocities.

    But your question remains. The cynic in me wants to say that congressmen might like to see their district’s products in use and this would make it more appealing for them. On a technical side, maybe it’s just a lazy way to avoid big hardware development. If you use an Orion for both habitable volume and return that’s less habitat module to develop.

    On another note, I know they’re only sending two people, but wouldn’t the habitable volume be a little small?

  • No landing, no excitement.

  • Eric Thiel

    If the SLS program goes according to schedule, will it be apart of the one billion price tag or will it be a separete flight to purchase?

    chances are the SLS won’t be ready in time.

  • Aerospike

    ridiculously small habitat for such a long journey…

  • Robert Gishubl

    Nice idea to go to mars but this is just a flyby stunt with unproven equipment that does not contribute to long term exploration.
    I would much prefer an initial cost effective un-manned mission aimed at setting up infrastructure and testing proposed equipment that could be used in a ream mission so you need to land on Mars in something that could take people but in forst case is un-manned but has equipment such as prospecting or fuel making experiments. The Habitat needs to be a reasonable size such as a Bigelow module.
    So use several Falcon Heavy Launches (you may even try recovery of first stage) to launch Centaur interplanetary stage, Bigelow Module and 2 Dragons. One Dragon to land on the surface and the other to return to earth and re-enter. Possibly even take a fuel depot to leave in orbit around Mars.
    All components have been designed for this type of mission and flown at the least as prototypes so technology maturity is better and much les costly than the Orion SLS hash up.
    On return you have proven every system needed for a manned mission to Mars except launch from Mars surface.

  • Hug Doug

    no landing, so much cheaper.

  • Hug Doug

    only 2 people. how much space do you need?

  • Hug Doug

    well, if it works, the equipment will be proven, won’t it? isn’t that the point of doing something like this in the first place?

  • Tonya

    I’m really not sure what to make of this now.

    This has switched from a private proposal, to at best minority private venture on a 30/70 split. The elements involved are mostly to be sourced via NASA conventional aerospace procurement, so it isn’t particularly reforming either. I dread to say this, but it seems almost “Gaetano” like, someone asking to use NASA’s hardware according to their own designs and thoughts.

    I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve studied this more, but I certainly feel a lot less “inspired”.

  • Robert Gishubl

    If it does not work first time you kill people, doing an unmanned test lets you check things out before you put people at risk. Especially when it is such a large departure from what we have done before. The issues are radiation, duration and distance from support.

  • Richard

    With the moon missions and the fly by stage they then had the intention of landing at some point, here there is never an intention to use this equipment, or any dirivitive of it to land. So then the question has to be why send people on it at all? Looking out of a window at 500km up for an hour or so is a really boring goal of a $1bn multi-year mission. Landing or at least having the intention of working towards a landing would give it a real purpose.

  • Aerospike

    I would rather ask the question: how many people do you need?
    There is a reason that Mars500 was conducted with 6 people (and personal space for each crewmember to retreat to).

    2 people, in a tin can for 500+ days… even a couple intimately in love would return as sworn enemies from such a trip (at best).

  • Hug Doug

    can you cite any psychology studies that can back that claim up?

  • Hug Doug

    which is why they are planning to use equipment that has already been tested.

  • Duncan Law-Green

    How many test flights would SLS/Orion have had at that point? How many tests would the shiny new EDS have had?

  • Hug Doug

    SLS / Orion would have had at least one launch by then.

    the EDS would probably be the existing Centaur upper stage.

  • Duncan Law-Green

    Wrong. The IM architecture baselines the new DUUS, whose development has to be accelerated specifically for the mission.

    As far as I can tell, previous test flights for an IM 2018 departure:

    Orion: 1 (EFT-1, unmanned boilerplate version)
    Block-I SLS: 0 (this replaces the EM-1 shakedown flight)
    DUUS: 0

    Even if this is EM-2, you’re still climbing the infant mortality curve.

  • Solartear

    spacex.com says Dragon can endure up to 2 years in space, and “can even withstand the much higher heat of a moon or Mars velocity reentry”. How well it can survive outside Earth magnetic shield during a few CME is still questionable. Orion, or “Orion derived” may have better protection.

    Agree with 2 launches for safety.

  • Hug Doug

    what does DUUS mean?

  • Duncan Law-Green

    Dual-Use Upper Stage. An enlarged 8.4m dia. LOX/LH2 cryogenic upper stage with four RL-10 engines. Doesn’t exist yet, currently expected to fly early-mid 2020’s.

  • Hug Doug

    I agree, I think Inspiration Mars should stick with Falcon Heavy for launcher / Dragon for reentry vehicle choice, rather than bet on the SLS being ready. SpaceX will likely be ready to go sooner, and also likely to be much cheaper.

  • Hug Doug

    then that’s not likely to be ready, is it? unless Tito’s pitch to the congressional committee went really well and they decide to throw money at accelerated development of it. switching back to SpaceX or the Centaur upper stage seems much more likely.

    everywhere i look online the first test launch of the SLS block 1 is still 2017

  • Hug Doug

    The goal is “inspiration” 😛 it certainly could be a precursor to a manned Mars landing inspired by the fact that a flyby was done.

    think of it as a test of life support equipment, it would also answer a lot of unanswered questions as to how well humans survive a 500 day trip what with the weightlessness and radiation and isolation and whatnot.

  • Stuart

    I don’t think they will raise the funding or indeed achieve this mission in just over four years. 2021 with a flight lasting an additional 80 days is a far more realistic target.

    Everyone seems to mention the size of the craft, the capsule and rocket origins but never the horrific consequences of high radiation and cosmic rays e.t.c dosage. The two astronauts will be bathed in all sorts of radiation and cosmic rays and they will die, whether that be during the mission or on their return as a consequence.

    Our current shield technology is totally inadequate, we’ve been far to busy conquering low Earth orbit! Indeed isn’t the latest shielding material proposed by NASA is the same material we use to make waste/bin bags…!

    I’m normally a pro space exploration supporter but find this mission has far to many ifs, buts and maybe’s with so many uninspiring consequences if it ends in tragedy.