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The John Batchelor Show Hotel Mars, Wednesday, 9-23-15 September 24, 2015

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The John Batchelor Show Hotel Mars, Wednesday, 9-23-15

Special Guest:  Dr. Robert Zubrin


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Guests: John Batchelor, Dr. Robert Zubrin, Dr. David Livingston. Topics: NASA’s Road to Mars plans. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. We do not permit the commercial use of any Space Show program or part thereof, nor do we permit Space Show programs to be edited, placed on YouTube, or other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted in news articles, papers, academic & research work but must be cited or referenced in the proper citation format. Contact Dr. Livingston for questions about our copyright and trademark policies which we do enforce. This program is archived on The Space Show website, podcasting, and blog sites with permission from John Batchelor. Please visit the John Batchelor Show website for more information about this fine program. Remember, your Amazon Purchases Can Help Support The Space Show/OGLF (www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm). For those of you listening to archives on live365.com & rating the programs, please email me the reasons for your rating. This will definitely help improve Space Show programming. Thank you. Please note that audio and transition issues are a result of copying the John Batchelor broadcast & are not within my control as they originate in the Batchelor studio.


John Batchelor and I welcomed Dr. Robert (Bob) Zubrin to the program to discuss the NASA Road to Mars per the Evolvable Mars Campaign: Status Update as published Sept. 22, 2015 by NASA Spaceflight.com at www.nasaspaceflight.com/2015/09/sls-manifest-phobos-mars-2039. John and I asked Bob about parts of the plan including 41 SLS launches, cislunar development missions, a mission to Phobos and then finally in 2039 a Mars surface landing. Bob was highly critical of all stages of the plan. He also said it was the subject of a big debate at the recent Mars Society Conference. You can see the debate Dr. Zubrin referenced at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo4-ros2yEk&list=PLn0lnGc1SaimPHpRoH0XlwiCih-jYjC7F&index=11. Bob called the NASA plan absurd, was highly critical of plans to go to Phobos saying the science was at Mars, not on Phobos, plus he described orbital challenges and difficulties created by going to Phobos. Several times he said the plan was nothing more than a way to spend money on NASA projects. Near the end of the segment I asked Bob about the plan being sustainable and also leading to the settlement of Mars. You can imagine his response to my questions. In summary, he said a humans to Mars mission needs to be done from start to finish within the two terms of a president, not spread out over 25 years as is the case with the NASA Road to Mars program.


Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog above. You can email Mr. Batchelor or Dr. Robert Zubrin through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com. Dr. Zubrin can also be reached through The Mars Society website, www.marssociety.org.


1. DougSpace - October 2, 2015

As always, Zubrin is very articulate and makes his case very strongly. Regarding a mission to Phobos, he is probably correct that it doesn’t make sense to use it as a staging base before going to the surface of Mars and back up. But I think that this misses the best reason for going to Mars.

Phobos is an interesting destination in it’s own right. It also doesn’t require the expense of the lander, ascender, and propellant production plant. So we could go to Phobos (and also Deimos in the same trip) earlier that we could go to Mars.

Some may say that a mission going to Phobos but not to the surface of Mars would be psychologically unbearable because we would be so close but not on Mars. First off, by way of analogy, Apollo 8 wasn’t disappointing despite being close but not quite. Also, there would be an innumerable number of astronauts that would be glad to do the Phobos mission if given half the chance. The scene of crew floating over the surface of Phobos in their MMUs with Mars in all its glory in the background would be just amazing. Then, if the crew found Martian rocks from inaccessible Martian layers, that would be a significant science return. But at a stepping stone to Mars, it would give us the opportunity to remain in the Mars system for the same duration as a later Mars surface mission. It could also give real-life experience setting up a modest inflatable habitat and perhaps covering it with regolith — the same as we would do later on the Martian surface.

As for the inclined orbit argument. Again, for a stand-alone mission to Phobos, we could and should do as Zubrin suggests and use aerobraking to enter a highly elliptical Mars orbit. At apogee, the velocity is sufficiently slow to allow for a low-cost plane change. Aerobrake a smaller craft until it’s apogee is at Phobos orbit and then circularize. Then, do the reverse to raise apogee to the apogee of the mothership. Conduct the plane change there. Dock with the mothership and use a modest amount of propellant to do TEI.

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