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Mars is the only planet humanity may explore within next millennium – expert

September 09, 2012, 20:26 UTC+3
Energia President thinks that humanity will be unable to venture beyond the solar system in the foreseeable future due to its technologies
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MOSCOW, September 9 (Itar-Tass) —— Mars is the only planet humanity may explore within the next millennium, in the opinion of Energia President Vitaly Lopota.

“Mars is the common goal of any scenarios [of the solar system exploration] in the next 50 years,” he said. Lopota thinks that humanity will be unable to venture beyond the solar system in the foreseeable future due to its technologies. It would be senseless to fly to Venus, because its environment is unfavorable for human beings.

“The only choice is Mars, which is rather good for colonization purposes,” he said. The Martian atmospheric pressure is 1/100 of the Earth’s. The atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide at 95%, and the planet has sufficient water resources (masses of ice were found at the depth of 70 centimeters). Planets beyond Mars are freezing, which makes them unsuitable for living, Lopota said.

Flights to Mars present a problem of propulsion units. Electric jet engines are an answer, he said. Existent engines have a thrust of no more than four kilometers per second, while electric plasma engines will develop a thrust of 60-70 kilometers per second or even 100 kilometers per second in the future. The use of electric jet engines will significantly reduce the mass of the Martian complex. It will weigh about 1,500 tons in the case of liquid fuel rocket engines, and 500 tons in the case of an electric jet engine. Crews will be delivered to low orbits by engines with chemical fuel, and an electric jet engine will propel them to the distant space.

A working group of space experts of various countries has been formed to plan flights to Mars using gravity of the Earth, the Moon and Mars itself, Lopota said.

Each crewmember spends approximately ten kilograms of cargo per day, Lopota said. Psychologists say solo flights would be impossible, and duo flights were also problematic. Hence, the crew of a manned spaceship to Mars must have no less than four members. The spaceship will have to carry cargo for the normal living of the crew plus colonization equipment. The only problem unsolved is the protection from radiation, both coming from the outer space and the spaceship engine, Lopota said.

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