The Mars Underground
About the documentary The Mars Underground
A 2007 documentary film which explores a cost effective manned Mars mission; Mars direct. The main problem as argued by the Mars Direct figure head, Robert Zubrin is that NASA and other space agencies around the world have been running quite literally in circles since the Apollo space program was cancelled in the early 1970’s. No manned missions to the red planet have been realised due to perceived, (as he puts it) spending issues. The plan Robert and his team have created uses existing technologies that have been developed over the years which can be used for a manned Mars mission rather than spending hundreds of billions creating new ones. This would reduce the cost for such a mission drastically. The plans for how to achieve this goal were proposed in Zubrins’ 1996 book titled “The Case For Mars”, the information provided in the book is the staple in the Mars Society, an organisation devoted to the colonisation of Mars.
As the mars underground documentary shows, the trick for colonising Mars using existing technologies comes in the launch procedure. First a rocket with a return craft would be sent to Mars. The return craft would only carry 5% (around 8 tonnes) of its fuel in the form of hydrogen because taking all of it would simply be too much for a direct launch from Earth. Upon landing on the planet the Earth return Vehicle would begin using a nuclear reactor to create 112 tonnes of Methane / oxygen fuel using carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere. So before the main crew on the second ship even left Earth there would be a fully fuelled ship waiting for them on the planet.
This method of direct travel rather than sending one large Vehicle which would be assembled in space at a great cost is something that Robert Zubrin strongly believes in as well as many people at NASA. This Mars documentary follows how Mars direct has been lobbied to NASA engineers for more than 20 years, an inspiring idea that has provided the story for books such as “The Martian”.
I think a major problem with any mission like this is going to be government and NASA involvement. The red tape and egos involved will crush any realistic plans for making this happen.
Having said that, this documentary resonated with me enough to have me considering methods of funding a Mars mission outside of government funds. Better yet, I believe I have found the answer.
If the mission science is sound and the people involved are as driven to do it as they seem to be, the only thing missing is money.
I need to hammer out some details, then I need to decide if I want to take on the responsibility and commitment required to provide funding for such a mission.
Right now, I'd love to see this happen... but I don't want to jump into it with my eyes closed.