Mason Peck, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University, former NASA Chief Technologist and co-author of three books on planetary exploration and spacecraft mechanisms, says while the ExoMars mission will advance space technology needed to put humans on Mars, the mission to sustain an economy beyond Earth still faces financial hurdles.
“The ExoMars technology demonstration will provide valuable data on the atmosphere and its interaction with thermal-protection systems and aerodynamic decelerators. So, ExoMars is an important mission, certainly for science, but also for advancing the space technology that will put humans on Mars in the next couple of decades.
“There are three major technical hurdles for future attempts to put humans on Mars, all of which can be overcome with enough investment in space technologies: creating the entry, descent, and landing technology to put at least 20 metric tons on the surface of Mars at once; sufficient, lightweight radiation protection for the crew during the flight and on the planet’s surface; and propulsion that delivers the mass-efficient performance of chemical propellants without cryogenics boiling off during the flight. To the extent that SpaceX has solved these technical obstacles, or worked around them, they stand a chance of doing better than NASA’s timeline, possibly achieving their 2026 objective.
“The primary roadblock is financial. Space technology can be expensive, partly because high launch prices demand that the hardware be low risk. We’ll be able to explore more and discover more as spacecraft engineering comes to resemble successful examples like consumer electronics and automotive manufacturing.
“If more nations put effort into Mars technology, and if reusable rockets drive down the cost of launch, we’ll see more launches, more rapid technology advancement, and ultimately more demand that can sustain an economy beyond Earth.”
For interviews contact:
Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.
– 30 –