NASA has a Spaceship that could Take us to MarsNASA budget cuts have killed a lot of projects. Lying around in hangars and storage facilities are incredibly advanced, incredibly expensive paperweights with little to no use.
Concept for the design of the ISS-Derived Deep Space Habitat
But a new project aims to hack together these leftovers into a ship that could take us all the way to Mars.
Revealed at the 5th Werner Von Braun Memorial Symposium by NASA engineer Paul Bookout, the ship would make use of practical, cheap technologies to work. Rather than expensive radiation shielding for deep space, the ship would use water, which, after all, you have to carry up anyways. Broken parts would be replaced by a 3D printer, probably similar to the one being designed right now for the ISS. The crew area would be twice that available on the ISS, thanks to the larger sizes that NASA's SLS will (hopefully eventually) be able to launch.
Landing would be accomplished by the Orion spacecraft, still under development at NASA despite all the cuts. Propulsion would be accomplished by cryogenic propulsion, easy to maintain in the vacuum of space.
From left to right, Lab/Hab, tunnel, and Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)
Now to be fair, this is hardly the first budget moon mission provided. Another one that has gained quite a bit of traction is the Red Dragon mission, which would use a Falcon Heavy and Dragon technology to reach Mars. Proponents say that a manned Mars mission could be mounted for as little as $400 million per shot. Development of technology, of course, would cost a fair bit more.
But Red Dragon suffers a fundamental flaw that this new mission doesn't have: a lack of people doing real work on the plan's problems. Right now, Red Dragon is just a dream. But this new NASA-driven space program has already done simulator testing in an attempt to determine optimal crew and cabin sizes. Given a couple of years, this project might just prove that NASA's scrap is worth looking into.