Early Manned Mars Mission

Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann

EQUIPMENT: The equipment needed for an early manned mission to the surface of Mars, for the purpose of establishing a synotic base, does not require any vast extension of current technology. It could be accomplished in the very early or middle 1970s with the following equipment:

Two to five men (Perhaps including a doctor, two astronaut scientists with medical and pilot cross-training, and two pilot astronauts with scientific and medical cross-training)

Three Saturn C-5 configurations (Which could be used in various mission profiles, as will be discussed in the paragraphs that follow)

Three modified Apollo Command vehicles (Only one Is designed for re-entry; and this for re-entry into either the atmosphere of Mars or Earth)

Life-Support equipment: for flight – rated at two years; for Mars surface operations -rated 5 years.

Apollo extension (for more comfortable living quarters during interplanetary transfer)

Interface Equipment

For fuel transfer between Saturn C-5 Configurations in Earth orbit, during interplanetary transit, during Mars orbit, Etc.

For the operation of two to three coupled Saturn C-5 configurations from two or three command modules. The interfacing should be complete.

Provision for the operation of any of two or three Saturn C-5 configurations as master/drone configurations during departure from possible Earth orbit, interplanetary transfer, or Mars orbit

Interface with Voyager orbiters and landers to secure the use of their communications equipment and nuclear power

Logistic Landers separated from the manned entry capsule or designed for entry as drones

Pressure suites for use on the surface, surface transportation (These seem of paramount importance if logistic vehicles are to be used. It will be necessary for the men in the landing capsule to reach the supplies.)

A tape recorder with periodic messages prepared (The messages would report receiver malfunction, and continue to send periodic messages after the death of the crew. This would encourage a rapid continuation of the efforts to prepare a base on the surface of Mars.)

MISSION PROFILES: At first consideration, it seems that the simplest mission, directed toward the establishment of a 2 to 5-man base on the surface of Mars, is one from Earth orbit to Mars with the use of the atmosphere of Mars as a break. There are, however, other mission profiles possible. The one that offers the most advantage in fuel savings includes a Venus fly-by. The following mission profiles could be considered.

Transfer from Earth orbit to interplanetary trajectory; then use of Mars atmosphere for brake in order to save fuel.

Proposed with three Saturn C-5 configurations (Earth’s surface)

possible addition of solid boosters

Mars excursion module (modified Apollo)

One vehicle manned, two supply vehicles; the manned vehicle can execute a fly-by and return to Earth without landing in an emergency

Transfer from Earth Orbit to interplanetary space with a Venus swing-by.

Proposed with three Saturn C-5 configurations (@Earth’s surface)

One vehicle manned two supply vehicles; the manned vehicle can execute a fly-by and return to Earth without landing in an emergency

possible addition of solid boosters

Mars excursion module (modified Apollo)

The two supply configurations are flown as precursors some weeks earlier than the manned vehicles

Voyager Precursor: In this plan, the Voyager System will be so engineered and deployed that its equipment and possibly power plant can be used for manned surface excursion group. This integration would only be planned for voyager landers in the early stages. It is possible that the voyager orbiters under consideration could be used by later expeditions. Environmental conditions and scientific objectives dictate the deployment of Voyager Lander(s) in the same positions that would be the objective of an early manned landing on the surface of Mars.

Logistic Drones: It has been suggested that supply vehicles be sent ahead of the manned vehicle; however, it might prove vastly more reliable to operate the supply vehicles as drones closely associated with the manned vehicle.

Tandem Vehicles: Could prove the most effective and -from the point of view of energy, numbers of rendezvous operations, reliability, manned flights – the best mode for an early manned mission to the surface of Mars.

Proposed with three Saturn C-5 configuration (@Earth’s Surface)

Two rendezvous operations with one, two, or all vehicles manned. Venus swing-by manned and in tandem. Tandem supply vehicles detached and operated as precursor drones on the final approach to Mars. If drones fail, the manned vehicle can fly by and abort the landing.

It is possible that with additional solid boosters, an orbit of Mars could be navigated by the manned vehicles.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: The environmental hazards of most immediate concern are those associated with the mission profiles. These may be classed as electromagnetic, corpuscular, and material. These transfer-path hazards are primary; secondary hazards are those presented by the Mars environment. The hazards are both to the members of the expedition and to the Mars environment. The hazards to the expedition are mostly mechanical; and possibly biological. Most of the hazards are due to our current insufficient knowledge of the atmosphere of Mars. This may be met by overdesigning the Mars Excursion Vehicle and paying a penalty on mass that must be transported. The hazards to the environment of Mars are mostly biological, to an extent radioactive, and to a very minor degree, a function of possible geochemical contamination.

Electromagnetic hazards are mostly concentrated in the ultraviolet band, to an extent in the x-ray and gamma-ray bands. The danger is to the materials of the spacecraft and to the transport material of “portholes”.

Corpuscular hazards have been extensively discussed for the periods of Sun-Spot Maximum. If the writer’s recent computations concerning Forbush decrease of galactic cosmic rays; and plasma-bottle decrease of solar cosmic rays, during sun-spot maximum are considered, the period at sun-spot maximum could be the most attractive. It would, however, be most attractive for operations toward the mean orbit of Mars rather than toward the mean orbit of Venus, where the hazard would increase.

Material hazards are probably in the form of micrometeorites. Conditions in the vicinity of Mars are as yet unknown; they are thought to be reasonable.

The biological hazards to man on the trip, and to the undisturbed environment of Mars will have to be weighed. They are certainly significant, as is attested to by the great mass/distant sacrifices made on the recent probes and planned Voyager probes for the sake of sterility.

To an extent, an atmosphere that is imperfectly known can be compensated for by overdesigning the Mars Excursion Module. Such overdesign could limit the mission but not severely enough to preclude it.

Electrosphere of Mars: The presence of Van Allen belts or similar corpuscular streams could present a hazard to the manned effort. This could be monitored by probes over the next few years; and/or with precursors to the manned vehicle.

OBJECTIVES OF THE LANDING PARTY: The writer suggests a tentative list of priorities for the landing party. These are in current apparent order of importance:

Immediate survival of the party: Much of this would depend on the condition of the supply vehicles, the condition of the manned module after entry and landing, and the ability of the men to reach the supply vehicles.

Communications: the Earth will be interested in what has transpired and then the scientific aspects of the expedition. This would have great appeal to the public. Television pictures, even with very low frame rates – would have enormous appeal.

Longterm survival: The expedition should prepare for survival over a period of years, and with not much hope of air or aid from Earth. The problems will be with equipment, with the environment, and – to an extent – the men. The writer feels that one man, or more than three men, should be in the landing party.

Scientific: There is a vast amount of scientific work that could be done with relatively light equipment. The equipment could be carried on the expedition, or it could – to an extent – be cannibalized from precursor Voyage Craft. The work could be devoted to the planets:

Cis-Planetary environment

The Electrosphere and Ionosphere


Solid Surface (lithosphere)

Planetary Interior (endosphere)

A possible biosphere indigenous to Mars (and also the viability of selected plant (python) and animal (zoön) single (proto) and multiple (meta) celled organisms) could be studied. The weight of such experiments could be astonishingly extensive for, say, 10 pounds of payload.

Preparation for Later Expeditions: The most important research might well be that devoted to the securing of liquified nitrogen, oxygen, or water for use by later parties. The preparation for later expeditions could take on the following priorities:

Reception of later supply drones

Cooperation with a manned orbital mission, but without physical contact

Base expansion for receipt of more personnel

Preparation for departure of the original landing party