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Mars manned mission: Mars Direct plan for Mars colonization
October 1, 2012
A manned mission to Mars could be launched using technology that is currently available. This animation describes the Mars Direct plan for sending a manned mission to Mars, which was envisioned by engineer Robert Zubrin and the Mars Society and subsequently used by NASA as a "design reference mission."
According to the Mars Direct plan, an Unmanned Earth Return Vehicle, or ERV, would be launched to Mars to prepare a base for astronauts. The ERV would land on Mars eight months later and deploy scientific rovers to explore the area around the landing site and a telerobotically driven truck with a 100-kilowatt nuclear reactor. The truck would deploy the nuclear reactor, which use 6 metric tons of liquid hydrogen brought from Earth to produce 108 metric tons of methane-oxygen fuel.
Roughly two years later, a second ERV as well as a manned spaceship would be launched to Mars. The manned space ship would carry four astronauts, habitation modules, a pressurized rover and provisions for the manned mission.
Six months later, the manned mission would land on Mars near the first ERV and use 12 metric tons of the methane-oxygen fuel produced by the first ERV to power their exploration mission. The second ERV would land several hundred kilometers away from the first ERV and begin to prepare a site for a second manned mission.
Eighteen months later, the first four astronauts would return to Earth in the first ERV. The return trip would be powered by 96 metric tons of the methane-oxygen fuel generated on Mars.
The process would repeat itself as subsequent ERVs and manned spaceships land on Mars, resulting in a string of bases on the planet.