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Case for Mars II
Part of American Mars Expeditions
Case for Mars II
Case for Mars II
Credit: © Mark Wade
American manned Mars expedition. Study 1984. The Case for Mars II Mars expedition plan was presented at a conference on 10-14 July 1984.

Status: Study 1984.

This proposed the establishment of a permanent space infrastructure to ensure safe and economical exploration of Mars. It pulled together all of the elements proposed by Mars enthusiasts to minimize spacecraft mass and eliminate expendable hardware: aerobraking, a flyby-rendezvous mission scenario, Mars Cyclers, and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) to produce propellants on the Martian surface.

The mission scenario developed at the Case for Mars II workshop was intended to demonstrate that human missions were possible using then-current technology. The mission concept incorporated a flyby cycler spacecraft and the use of aerocapture to minimize fuel requirements. A crew of fifteen would rendezvous on the surface of Mars with supplies and equipment sent ahead. Water, air, and fuel would be manufactured from the Martian atmosphere, and farming would be used to grow food for the crew. This would establish a base for later expansion, as well as a self-sufficient safe haven on Mars not dependent on the success of interplanetary flight schedules.

As part of a larger space infrastructure, it was proposed that two space stations be placed in cyclical orbits. These would allow departures for a six-month journey to Mars every 20 to 30 months. Passengers bound for Mars would rocket from earth orbit aboard a small Crew Shuttle Vehicle to rendezvous and dock with a passing Cycler in deep space. On approach to Mars, they would enter their Crew Shuttle Vehicle, undock, and use aerobraking to enter Mars orbit and land on the planet.

Prepositioned on the surface would be a surface habitat, surface exploration equipment and vehicles, and ISRU equipment that would process the thin Martian atmosphere to produce the 145 metric tons of carbon monoxide/liquid oxygen propellants required by the Crew Shuttle Vehicle for the return trip. After one to two years of surface exploration, the crew would board the Crew Shuttle Vehicle, and rocket out of Mars orbit to intercept a passing Cycler for a 20 to 30 month return trip. On approach to earth the astronauts would enter the Crew Shuttle Vehicle, separate from the Cycler, and re-enter the earth's atmosphere.

A new crew would be launched every two years to ensure continuous occupation of a base on the Mars surface. The first expedition would launch in 2007 and return in 2012; the second departure would be in 2009 and return in 2014. It was assumed additional Cyclers would supplement the infrastructure, and continuous occupation and expansion of the Mars base would continue thereafter.

Crew Shuttle Vehicles were two-stage biconic vehicles shaped like nuclear warheads, designed for aerobraking at Earth and Mars. A heavy-lift launch vehicle, based on shuttle hardware, with a 68 metric ton payload, would be used to assemble the spacecraft in earth orbit. Despite all of the weight-saving measures, it would still require 24 HLV and 20 shuttle launches to assemble the various payloads for the first two expeditions in earth orbit.

The mission scenario was as follows: