Red Dragon

2018 isn’t happening, but they may send two Dragons to Mars in 2020.

[Update a while later]

Meanwhile, in Michoud…

It’s almost metaphorical.

[Update a few minutes later]

20 thoughts on “Red Dragon”

  1. The SLS oopsie will cost millions of dollars to fix? So why am I chuckling uncontrollably?

  2. SpaceX has updated their published mass to mars using FH to 16,800 kg. (up about 25%)

    This would be enough to send a crewed Dragon with some light inflatable volume. A crew of two could have about a ton each of personal payload to the surface. The inflatable could then form the foundation of a permanent habitat with the Dragon providing emergency backup. Until the cost/price of transport falls, that personal property represents great wealth for each colonist.

    After about five Dragons worth of presupply they could begin to send crew. Which means the first colonists could arrive around 2024. Those colonists could prepare for the hundred at a time colonial transports (perhaps by 2030?)

    I was 10 yrs. old when we landed on the moon. I’d like to live long enough to see this.

    Once the first Dragon successfully lands on mars I would hope many countries would pay for many more than 5 or so presupply missions. Each country could then finance a crewed colonizing mission. The need for presupply goes way down once crew are onsite for ISRU. Personal property with new colonists eliminates the need for regular supply. Heavy equipment can be made from mars iron with incidental parts arriving in personal property.

    The laws of economics will work perfectly well without any major planning. Freedom works.

    This is no more difficult than the expansion of humanity in the past which risked many more lives for much less than a world in return.

    1. Seems quite unlikely SpaceX would would want to send a crew vehicle profile like that to Mars, even if they could figure out the life support for a multi-month journey in such a small volume. More likely it would be a launch launch architecture – if they do it at all.

      1. The FH will send more tan enough mass to mars orbit and the inflatable makes the trip bearable.

        8 tons in mars orbit: 2 tons fuel, 2 tons payload &4 tons lander. Leaving 8 tons for the transit. They will actually have to toss stuff out before landing!!!

        This would be a much easier voyage than many made to the Americas.

        1. They could leave the inflatable in orbit with much of the stuff they would otherwise toss out which might allow it to be retrieved for later missions. Everything going to mars could be packed away and untouched during the trip.

          There’s nothing to figure out regarding life support for the trip. A 270 day trip requires 4 tons of supplies for two people. That’s with zero recycling. They have twice that capacity (thanks to recent performance improvements.)

          Without using the Dragon trunk (but better if they do) the Dragon has 6 tons of capacity… more than enough and much of that can be moved into the inflatable during the trip. Actually perfect… 4 tons for the trip and 2 tons already packed away for landing.

          The Dragon w/o trunk has 11 cubic meters of volume. The low mass inflatable could augment that to the volume of a medium sized travel trailer. They could even carry a spare.

          1. Maybe you can get them to Mars, and maybe keep them alive; maybe the astronauts don’t kill each other.

            But how do they return? Dragon can do a retropropulsive landing, but it does not have the delta v to go up to Martian orbit.

            Or is the idea to just leave them there?

          2. …is the idea to just leave them there?

            What part of the word ‘colonists’ do you not understand? Of course they can return to earth when the means becomes available. I’d like to visit Australia but I don’t have the means. That’s life.

      2. BTW, don’t confuse using Dragon as the best idea. It’s simply what we have now. A stretch Dragon that fully uses the FH 16,800 kg to mars orbit (perhaps doubling what we can put on the surface) might be a good interim solution before the colonial transport. But it not only doesn’t exist but is not even as a rumor.

        We don’t need to wait.

        A paper exist (sorry no link) that talks about 28 tons to the mars surface using retro propulsion. Elon is thinking bigger than that which may be too large at this time.

    2. What kind of timeline are you looking at from arrival of the first colonists until failure of the next ships to arise becomes a crisis?

      1. There would be no crisis. Let’s consider possible failures… parts, food, other. Assume a minimum of four colonists on two Dragons every two years. All resupply would come as the personal property of the arriving colonists. As long as 50% of the landers make it (which they would or we would not go at all) there should be no resupply problem. That’s one ton of resupply per earth year (but very likely we would send more as that’s less than about $150m per year.)

        They will grow their own food but have at least two years of food in reserve that they normally don’t touch (that has a 25 year shelf life typical of survivor food… google it.) That’s 1.5 tons of reserve food per person (to last 26 months) which is reduced as normal food production goes up because some of the normal food production will be added to the reserves over time.

        Parts will break, but obviously any part produced on mars is not an issue. Only thing that earth has to produce need be resupplied. What are those things? Mostly small low mass high tech items. If we can handle tons of reserve food, we can certainly handle a few hundred kg of parts.

        Other? Bulk chemicals? Possibly, but unlikely to be replaceable from ISRU alternatives. In all cases we should err on presupplying too much, but for the essential basics that should not be a problem.

        There will be no crisis because the martians will be smart enough not to rely on critical technologies as alternatives are always available.

        1. What if for some reason there are no more launches from Earth for awhile? Will the first colonists be self sufficient, worst case, if there are no follow ups for an extended period?

          1. First, Elon is planning to send at least one Dragon every launch window from 2020 on.

            Second, if he can’t for any reason, earth will not abandon those colonists if they are in need and we’ve had cargo delivery capability since the mid 70s.

            Third, their mindset should be on self sufficiency from the very start. I strongly believe it is mostly having the right attitude (doing the alternative they can support themselves rather than some high tech. option they can’t) that will make life on mars great.

          2. I agree on targeting self sufficiency early on. The rest is counting on details outside the colonist’s control.

  3. “Gentlemen, congratulations. You’re everything we’ve come to expect from years of government training.”

  4. A suborbital test flight for SLS and I missed it?

    This day is already off to a bad start.

  5. Once SpaceX has three launch sites (two in the Cape and the other in Texas) they’ll be able to launch a lot of payloads to Mars. I could also see some minor spaceship assembled in orbit if people want that.

    But personally I think it’s better to have infrastructure in the Moon first. The travel time is a lot shorter and there are plenty of materials there in a low gravity well. It can open up exploration for the rest of near space. Besides if you want to begin to test ISRU the Moon is as good as anywhere really.

    Sure, Mars is larger, and it has more resources. But the travel time is long enough that any settlement is going to have real issues.

    1. Even if the billions of dollars of infrastructure were already sitting on the moon today it would make no sense to land there for supplies. Add more infrastructure and you might put some in space to collect for a mars mission but I doubt that make sense either once you run the numbers.

      A depot does make sense and could be supplied from both the earth and moon but certainly is not on the critical path.

      1. I agree: A cislunar infrastructure providing lunar-ice derived fuel would be nice and helpful, but is not necessary to any Mars program. If you want to go to the Moon, justify it on its own terms.

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