Triad – Three Technologies Unite for Mars

VASIMR Plasma Propulsion
Small Fusion Systems
Asteroid Retrieval

In the past few months the three items of my extreme interest have hit the news, and it has me pondering if NASA may be putting together (finally) a real set of architectures for a larger solar system mission. The most recent news about Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz’s Ad Astra VASIMR getting the go-ahead for a mission seemed like a final puzzle piece falling into place. See:

Could we get to Mars in 39 DAYS? Nasa selects companies to develop super fast deep-space engine

If a mission to places farther than Earth orbit or Mars are to become anything other than naked, skin-of-the-teeth exploration forays, we will have to have propulsion sources like VASIMR. You need something that can cross these larger distances quickly, be reusable and re-directable to multiple destinations, and be able to perform an abort is something goes wrong. VASIMR is capable of doing all of those things.

There was also the news late last year about Lockheed Martin’s small, but high-power-density fusion power plants now in development, discussed here:

Fusion Power May Be On Its Way (Finally)

In short, these are the power systems VASIMR is looking for. They make the mission work.

And now we have OSIRIS-REx going forward with spacecraft assembly for its 2016 launch, announced right on the heels of Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) option B being given the green light for development.

The combination of these three things, the Triad, are the road for development of the solar system. Resource exploitation and permanent human exploration and settlement ride that road.

3 comments

  • Thanks for the links! And linking the pieces together!
    I agree in some ways but also want to be more practical. I agree that we need some very different propulsion to get to Mars and not make it a suicide run. So we need people to keep working on those solutions, and I’m confident we’ll get there eventually. Fusion seems like a winner if I was to predict the next leap forward. Eventually we’ll figure out warp drive or worm holes…
    But more near term, why aren’t more people advocating that we establish a permanent base on the moon? I did catch wind that this plan is trying to get sold within NASA and Congress again. What’s your opinion on this approach, if you don’t mind me asking? And you don’t mind replying…

    • As a very long-time supporter and member of the Moon Society, I generally agree about the need to establish a beachead on the Moon. If the Triad is the road to the rest of the Solar system, colonizing the Moon is the maturing of the Terrestrial system. Certain circles are taking umbridge that NASA is doing quiet study on going back, but personally, I think it’s great. I think it’s appropriate. NASA is supposed to look to the future, and it is kind of unrealistic to think that planning for Moon missions would be ignored. Lunar activity doesn’t become any more or less impractical because political winds blow in another direction.

      However, Mars missions push us towards technology that we need to go anywhere else nearby, say the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, or even farther afield.

      I really should address this in a post all its own.

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