Russian

Martian Mission

Chronological Evolution of the Mission Concept


Year of the design Design features

1960

  • Use of electric propulsion for interplanetary transit powered by a 7 MW nuclear reactor;
  • Crew of 6;
  • Delivery to Martian surface of a group of vehicles to make up a self-propelled train

1969

  • Reactor power increased to 15 MW;
  • Crew cut down to 4;
  • Switch to a stationary "headlight"-shaped lander with frontal heat shield

1987

  • Switch to two independent nuclear reactors to increase flight reliability;
  • Changed shape of the lander (lifting body instead of "headlight" with heat shield)

1988

  • Replacement of nuclear power plant with a solar power plant based on a film-type photoelectric converter

1999

  • Modular design for the solar arrays;
  • Changed shape of the lander;
  • Switch from one lander to two (a manned and a logistics lander)

The 1960 Project

Spacecraft project

Use of electric propulsion for interplanetary transit powered by a 7 MW nuclear reactor; (a Crew of 6)
Interplanetary spacecraft
Delivery to the Martian surface of a group of vehicles to make up a self-propelled train
Self-propelled train

In 1960, a manned martian lander design was developed. That design was based on the decision to use electrical propulsion engines for the interplanetary transit. A 7 MW nuclear reactor with shade-type biological shielding was to be used as the power source.
The vehicle was to be assembled in low-earth orbit and then launched towards Mars with a crew of six, three of which were to land on Mars. The equipment and the crew were to be landed in five conic segment-shaped spacecraft. After the landing, a "train" was to be made up of these research craft riding on an undercarriage with large-size wheels. The train was to consist of five platforms: a platform containing a crew cabin with a robotic arm and a drilling unit, a platform carrying a convertiplane for exploration flights above Martian surface, two platforms with launch vehicles (one spare) needed to return the crew to the spacecraft waiting in the martian orbit, and a platform with nuclear power plant. The train was to traverse the Martian surface form its south pole to its north pole in one year, and during the traverse it was to study the Martian surface and atmosphere, and transmit the data to the spacecraft in low Mars orbit for its relay to Earth. Upon completion of activities on the surface, the crew with soil samples and other research results were to return to the spacecraft in low Mars orbit and then blast off for Earth.


The 1969 Project

Spacecraft project

Interplanetary spacecraft Reactor power increased to 15 MW. Crew cut down to 4. Stationary "headlight"-shaped lander Switch to a stationary "headlight"-shaped lander with frontal heat shield

In 1969, one more Martian mission project was considered. The Martian vehicle was to be assembled in low Earth orbit using a modified N1 launch vehicle (N1M). The Mars expedition system included an interplanetary orbital vehicle housing the crew and key on-board systems; a martian lander; an Earth return vehicle (to be used by the crew for descent to Earth), propulsion power plant (nuclear reactor) with electrical propulsion engines. The Martian vehicle structure was to be shaped as a long needle, which carried a reactor placed in a remote position for the purposes of radiation safety, and a conical heat rejection radiator. In contrast to the 1960 project, only one conic segment-shaped spacecraft with deployable frontal heat shield was to land on the Martian surface. The vehicle also used electrical propulsion, and the nuclear reactor power was raised to 15 MW. The total number of the crew was cut down to 4.

The 1987 Project

Spacecraft project

Interplanetary spacecraft A change in the shape of the lander (a lifting body instead of a "headlight" with a heat shield) Interplanetary spacecraft A switch to two independent nuclear reactors to increase flight reliability

The next Martian mission project proposed in 1987, after a successful launch of super heavy-lift launch vehicle Energia, to a large extent drew upon engineering solutions of 1969 project.
The distinctive feature of this project was the use of Energia launch vehicle as the means of putting elements of the spacecraft into orbit. Besides, the interplanetary transit was to use two independent propulsion power plants 7.5 MW each with its own nuclear reactor, radiator, and a cluster of electric rocket engines. This allowed to drastically increase reliability and safety of the interplanetary transit without any increase in the initial mass and cost.

The 1988 Project

Spacecraft project A radical change was introduced into the project in 1988, when it was proposed to use instead of the nuclear reactor an environmentally safe system based on film-type solar arrays on linear deployable trusses that passed developmental tests on-board space stations Salyut-7 and Mir. The main reason for this decision was the aspiration to make the vehicle environmentally safe. This decision was also greatly influenced by the progress in the development of film-type photovoltaic converters, which allowed to considerably simplify the construction of a high-power solar power plant.
The key parameters of the project are as follows:

  • the total mission time is 2 years;
  • the vehicle mass is 350 tons;
  • the crew of four;
  • the crew of two to land on the Martian surface;
  • the crew to stay on the Martian surface for 7 days.

The plan was to carry out the expedition to Mars in incremental steps, starting with robotic probes and ending with the manned mission. The following three steps were envisaged:

  • The first step was to develop the principles of joint operation of the elements of the Martian Vehicle using its models to be delivered on-board Progress logistics vehicles to a space station where they were to be assembled by the crew and to continue their mission in fre-flying atomated mode. These models were to equipped with scientific equipment needed to get a better knowledge of the Martian Vehicle operating environment.
  • The second step was to be a dress rehearsal of the manned mission, where a solar-powered tug was to deliver to the Martian surface two landers instead of one, with one of the landers to be used for developmental test of the crew landing and return concept, while the other one, carrying several Mars rovers (the mass of about 20 tons), was to conduct a detailed survey of the Martian surface;
  • The third step was the manned mission to Mars.

The 1999 Project

Spacecraft project The 1999 Martian Mission project is a further development of the 1988 project. It uses the results of design, research and testing activities that took place at RSC Energia since 1988. As compared with the previous project, changes were introduced into solar array panels which became modular, into lander shape where lifting body was replaced with a "discus", and into the number of the landers, with two landers - a manned lander and a logistics lander - instead of one. Besides, the nuber of the crew once again became six.

Interplanetary spacecraft Interplanetary spacecraft
Modular design for the solar arrays A change in the shape of the lander. A switch from one lander to two (a manned and a logistics lander).

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