It’s official: at the NASA Advisory Council meeting, Bill Gerstenmaier unveiled NASA’s latest designs for sending humans back into deep space. He is the associate administrator for the Human Exploration And Operations sect of NASA, and the plans are brilliant.
The mock-up boasts of a Moon-orbiting space station with a much larger, reusable transport ship that regularly goes between carrying people from the space station down to Mars and back again.
And by back again, I mean Earth. Not the docking station.
Now, NASA is beginning to put everything in order to test this theory: mainly, taking the Space Launch System as well as Orion (the module that is catapulted from the SLS) and preparing them for launch.
You guys, they are beginning to test the exact equipment that will be utilized in getting humans from Earth to Mars.
The first phase is the Deep Space Gateway. It is a docking station for Orion that can house four crew members for 42 days. It would be assembled IN SPACE over the course of three different Space Launch System trips, and each trip would take a separate Orion capsule to dock there.
This importance of assembly in space is the fact that it opens doors for much more complex spatial maneuvers that would be required should we begin to house human beings on Mars. So, not only does this venture build the docking gateway station, it also begins the process of tweaking precautions and steps necessary to instate things, such as deliveries and repairs, that would become normal in the realm of this Star Trek world unfolding.
Then, the Deep Space Transport happens. This is where the DSG (the Deep Space Gateway just talked about) becomes a lunar port for a vehicle with a much larger crew (entitled the Deep Space Transport). This vehicle would house a crew of four for 1,000 days at a time. Each time it docks at the Deep Space Gateway, it will be fixed, resupplied, and refueled for another round-trip to Mars.
They expect the life of a DST to run three fully-loaded round-trips to the planet and back.
Then, it’s all or nothing. It is simply a matter of launching the screened and chosen people into space, docking them at the Deep Space Gateway for refueling, fixes, and supplies, and then sending them on to their final destination.
You guys, NASA has a working plan to send people to Mars.
It seems that the term “science fiction” could very soon become merely “science.”
Featured image courtesy of IndieWire.