According to a new report published in Scientific American, scientists have discovered a cheaper way to get to Mars. At present, a trip to the red planet is a very time-consuming, very expensive endeavor. Mathematicians Edward Belbruno and Francesco Topputo have worked out a route that essentially takes advantage of Mars’ own motion.
Their new method is named ballistic capture. It is said to be a cheaper, faster method of transporting humans to Mars than the current method– the Hohmann transfer. Ballistic capture cuts back on both costs and fuel usage and could provide NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) with news ways to travel to mars—be they manned expeditions, robotic missions or even effort at colonization.
Ballistic capture, also known as low-energy transfer, actually launches a spacecraft into orbit beyond Mars rather than just to it. This way the spacecraft eventually travels slower that Mars itself. This then later lets the red planet pull the spacecraft into planetary orbit. This method may not lower the cost of the launch or the cruise cost but it does eliminate the “big burn” required to slow the spacecraft when arriving at Mars.
Coasting probes was first introduced in 1991 when they sent probes to the moon. The velocity of Mars, however, is higher than the moon’s. This is the first time that scientists have applied the concept to Mars.
Not only does this method lower costs it also reduces dangers to the spacecraft because it no longer has to slow down in such a tight window near the planet. A disadvantage to this method is that the capture altitude is very high–20,000 kilometers above the red planet–and a mission utilizing this method would take a few months longer than it presently takes. Nevertheless, ballistic capture would theoretically permit a higher number of trips to Mars which in the end could make colonization of the red planet a reality.
New, Cheaper Trips To Mars