JAXA's Mars Moon eXplorer (MMX) proposes to arrive at Phobos with three rocket burns:

Apo-apsis is very high, 70*Mars radius, so that plane change delta V is cheap. Time is money, so lower is more delta V but a somewhat cheaper mission.

That's the "apple", slightly modified from published numbers, to enable "apple/orange comparison".

My imagined alternative:

Note that each heat shield slowdown is in and out of upper Mars atmosphere, higher and smaller and much gentler than heat shield entry to Mars surface. WAG: 2 gees, not 12

Note also that system failure may cause the spacecraft to burn up and impact Mars surface; a "planetary protection" problem.

So, this approach reduces chemical rocket delta V by 920 m/s, (but does not eliminate it), and adds a heat shield (gently used twice) delta V of 1330 m/s.

But heat shields are not free - they add mass and different failure modes. Also, a dependence on the highly variable Mars atmosphere, requiring two pre-entry estimates of Mars atmospheric density.

That's the "orange", which I hope to compare.

A heat shield designed for two uses, loaded to less than 5% of Earth entry heating, will be cheap, but not free or massless. Hundreds of hours between uses, so there is time to repair or resurface it if necessary.

You are an aeropropulsion expert, but hypersonic aircraft must also be heat resistant, so you can probably estimate the mass and cost of a heat shield dissipating perhaps 300 MJ/m2 of slowdown heat, over two multi-minute passes.

And how that weight and cost (and reliability) "orange" scales to many extra minutes of non-cryo-fueled rocket engine "apple". 920 m/s delta V is a LOT of heavy years-storable propellant.

Ponder that for a while. Perhaps you know of a paper or textbook that compares these apples and oranges.

When I have this figured out, my next study will be "Phobos indirect to Mars". Given the enormous planetary protection consequences, my idea of a manned "plant the flag" mission to Mars is to send a large manned mission to a robotically prepared semipermanent base on Phobos, and spend 98% of mission elapsed time there.

Radiation shielded, 1 gee centrifuge, closed cycle algae food and air farm. Controlling hundreds of surface robots from that base; that's 90% of what the expedition does. Also examining tonnes of rocks sent up on ascent vehicles. The real work gets done on Phobos.

Nobody has ever walked on the Moon. They've walked on boots that walked on the Moon, and they've looked at the Moon through glass. "Walking on Mars" with predictive-adaptive tele-presence, perhaps wearing "sensor socks" so astronauts can actually feel the sharp gritty surface with their "bare" feet in real time, may be "more real" than actually being there.

There will also be a three-day, two-astronaut "Mars lander from Phobos" sub-mission, for a brief "show the flag, say the words, check the pulse, and collect the souvenirs" visit. This will be to a site already scouted, sampled, and prepared by robots. Some of those robots operated by the same two astronauts, pre- and post- landing.

Then ride an ascent vehicle back to the base on Phobos, and back to experiencing the entire planet using tele-presence.

If similar lander/ascenders move both rocks and astronauts, there will be plenty of system tests before risking humans (and Mars), as well as a spare ascender if the ascender the astronauts rode down on fails. The lander might need an entry heat shield, but the ascender does not; an open frame with a nosecone, and mesh seats for space suits, would be adequate.

PhobosMars (last edited 2021-04-26 15:49:21 by KeithLofstrom)