2024 is not off to a great start when it comes to space exploration. The Peregrine lunar lander, the first such piece of tech launched by the US for the Moon in more than five decades, has failed unspectacularly after a flawless launch. In doing so, it could jeopardize the launch of the Artemis II mission, which is likely to be now pushed from late 2024 into the next year.
But such things, like them or not, are very common in this business, and by no means do they put an end to all of our efforts to expand our presence into the solar system. Proof of that are both the ongoing space programs, and the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which awards the most daring ideas in this field.Like it does every year for a while now, NIAC
announced at the beginning of the year the ideas it decided to back and bring them closer to fruition. Among them is something called the electro-luminescently cooled zero-boil-off propellant depot. A space gas station, if you will, meant to facilitate a human mission to Mars.
Mars is the farthest place in the solar system humans can dream of reaching themselves in a reasonable amount of time. In about seven months or so, a crewed spacecraft could reach the Red Planet and officially kickstart the spread of humanity to other worlds.
But, just like the Artemis program and the Peregrine mission have shown, things are a lot easier to do on paper. NASA has confirmed it’s targeting a crewed flight to Mars, but before it does that it needs to make sure everything is in place and will work as advertised.
A while ago, the agency published a list of requirements, capabilities, and technologies needed for the success of such a daring project. Among the items on the list is a spacecraft’s ability to refuel in space.
A trip to Mars would require immense amounts of fuel. I know, you will argue that we’ve sent missions there before, and fuel was not an issue, but you have to consider the fact a…