What's missing to get humans to Mars? - Orbit 11.28


We have our scheduled roundtable this week, voted on by the Citizens of TMRO. Jared hosts and asks, “What are the missing pieces needed to get humans to Mars?” This turned in to a really lively discussion and we would love your comments below or on our new forums at https://community.tmro.tv


  • Launch of Progress MS-09 on New 4 Hour Trip to Space Station
  • Long March-2C launches PRSS-1 & PakTES-1A
  • Long March-3A launches BeiDou-2 satellite

Space News:

  • Ghost particle traced to its source!
  • Crew Dragon Update
  • Oumuamua is a confirmed non-icey comet?!


Good discussion.
I think I agree that radiation and health in general are the biggest issues.
I also think that as long as those people who sign up to go are fully aware of the risks, we shouldn’t have to wait until every possible aspect is perfectly safe before we go. If we did, we would never go.

I only hope that when someone dies (notice I said when, not if) we don’t just panic and pull the plug. As long as we learn from it and improve, we should carry on.


Really good point. Something I wanted to bring up but we ran out of time in the show: I think the best chances of a self-sustaining colony come from sending as large a crew as soon as possible. I think 4 is too small a number to have all the skills and redundancy necessary.

Ideally, something like a 10-20 person BFR trip where the crew has built a social structure akin to an ‘extended-family’ could be most robust.


Indeed it would be impossible for this to be risk free. We still cannot transport ourselves to the other side fo town risk free let alone inter-planetary. I for one would gladly take the risk for the chance to set foot on another planetary bodie … but my health means getting that chance is nill :(. However I am sure there are many others who feel the same. I expect as long as the chance is over the 60% mark for success there will be those willing to go. I agree it would be a shame and perhaps even disrepctful to allow a failure even a fatal one to stop us from trying. There is always risk in anything worth doing. We should minimize that as much as possible but 0% risk on something like this is not going to happen. There will always be a chance of mechanical or software failures.


The first humans to Mars need to be highly trained teams, obviously. A good model for the first crews is the Special Forces Alpha Team. Alpha Teams are made up of 12 members: 1 Commander, 1 Assistant Commander, 1 Operations Sergeant, 2 Communications Sergeants, 2 Medical Sergeants, 2 Weapons Sergeants, and 2 Engineering Sergeants. Also, Alpha Teams are assigned to certain environment specialties such as mountain, ground mobility, scuba, etc. All members of the teams cross train each other in their specialities. Training is intense and focuses on working under extreme life threatening pressure, fast thinking, and an ability to improvise with limited resources.

This can easily translate to Mars exploration teams (METs?). A strong leadership structure will be necessary. As far as we know there will be no need for weapons specialists, but there will be need for medical, science, engineering, and operations specialists. Since there is no guarantee all will return alive, cross training will be essential. METs can also be specialized (as a team) for various terrains on Mars … Mountain, Valley, Lava Tubes, Polar, etc.

We could send multiple 12 member METs to various places on Mars, generally during the same time. These people will be our vanguard, our trailblazers, and many of the heroes that will become immortalized in Mars lore.


I would definatly agree good, strong and reliable leadership will be needed. I would think due to this most if not all of the vanguard will be miltary or exmilitary. Hopefully an international team. It is common for special forces of allied countries to train and work together so I cant see this being a problem. I really do hope as we go further into the solar system its as one planet not one nation. As for the technical/medical issues time should see us solve them. At least BFR should allow much larger robotic exploration of the solar system.



Agree that health is the greatest issue…(Radiation causes health issues) the poisons in the soil always gets glossed over if its mentioned at all… the poisonous dust will get everywhere…

The safest solution seems to be a fully underground “space station”, like the one proposed by the gateway foundation… but underground on mars. But that will take many years to build. in the meantime the first few “settlers” will die horrible deaths from poisons, radiation and low gravity.

My proposal? make a spinning space station (2 BFR connected spinning end to end ?) . Once we are happy with it being safe and self sustaining … fly it to mars( or the moon or Titan or Venus ) using ion drives. once we get to Mars, send down robotic avatars - :slight_smile: Little green men - (controlled by humans in the spacestation) to build a Mars base. Once that works and is safe then land actual humans. There could still be deaths but would be much safer.


That indeed would be a sensible solution. I Think controlling remote building on Mars from Earth would not be easy … 20mins each way delay the automation would have to be massive. But from in orbit around Mars would be a sensible comprimise; And at the end of the day whatever is done there will have to be comprimises. As has been said the dust will get in no matter how careful and while risks will have to be taken they should be managed to be as minimal as possible … certain death by poison dust/radiation would not look good on a risk assement form :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. To land a small expedition take some samples or fix a broken machine stay a short time and fly back (even just to a Mars orbiting station) would be one thing but to live permantly with the thought that one small misstep of de-contmination would result in nasty outcomes would be adding a lot of stress. Even during the cold war miltary units were not expected to work indefinatly under NBC conditions airforces for example accepted that crews had to enter and exit facilties to operate aircraft and with all the best training and equipment it was still taken as a given there would be eventual contamination of the ‘clean’ areas.


It looks like Lockheed has just what you ordered … Mars Base Camp


Nice … When can i be the hows does a bi-polar guy with IBS and a bad back do in orbit of Mars experiment :sunglasses:


Now that’s a research project just asking for a grant writer! :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


The problem with the “LM Mars Base Camp” is that it does not have “gravity” and its a trip there and back over a 3 year period… I think we already know that a shorter time in zero G is already very bad for the human body and in 3 years our poor astronauts will come back as “blobs of boneless protoplasm”.

My proposed solution was to have a permanent orbital engineering control center around mars, from which the building of the main base will be coordinated and controlled. The actual building will be done by industrial robots and robot avatars. This orbital station must have spin gravity. My proposed design was to tether 2 BFR’s together and have them spin.The tethering together can be done on LEO before they leave fully tested. they would fly to Mars tethered together to provide “gravity” all the way. They can of coarse land on mars if needed. Or when the Mars surface base is completed.


We’d still need humans there during construction to control the avatars due to the 20 plus minute time lag in communication.


As for couples going to Mars; we better avoid ‘multiple captains on one ship’ situations.
So I think I would prefer to go alone… :wink:


Hello everyone,
what’s missing to get humans to Mars? Well, as Jared said its everything. I just hope here are science oriented folks so just put the hopes and believes aside please and look to the facts. We cant get humans to the Mars. I mean we cant land on Mars and survive. Fact is we know how human body respond to the lack of gravity more or less thanks for the ISS. But we still need good data for radiation on human bodies.
The biggest technological problems (not the last one) are lack of gravity and radiation. Sorry for cynicism but if we try to sent humans to Mars today on arrival day we will have just a package of meat but not an active and relatively healthy astronaut. And I am taking just about to get there and land on the surface.
We desperately need to:
1 build interplanetary ships (forget BFR its just unreal for transportation of people to Mars). Interplanetary means with “artificial gravity”.
2 radiation protection at least partly to sustain astronauts relatively healthy.
3 how to get needed mass to the interplanetary ship in LEO or maybe in moon orbit, how to transport that mass to Mars orbit, how to land safely needed mass on the surface of Mars…etc, etc, etc.
So again What’s missing…? Is everything. We do not have necessary technologies (for the people) to get there in the first place.


With BFR we can get a large mass there and possibly robotic tools to construct a ground base. a 6 month trip to get there … yes we know what that long does to the body in micro gravity as you say thanks to ISS. Radtion is the problem. Even if we do send pepole to Mars on BFR they are not going to be in a good way by the time they get back here! So BFR is a good step in the right direction. Once it is known we can send large payloads to Mars and elsewhere it will help spur on development of technologies to solve the other problems … maybe by the time we get to BFR Block 5. BFR and SLS will hopefully at least see us back on the moon and for more than a few days at a time. From that we will learn a lot abot living outsiide the Earths magnetic field.


Yes, you are right bout BFR but just if we are talking about cargo not people. And yes we need a cargo ships as big as possible too. They are essential.
My point was about human inabilities to operate after prolonged time in space. After 6-9 months trip you cant be intact and walk on the surface on Mars just look at the astronauts who landed after 6+ month.
That’s why we need to build and test “artificial gravity” structure. BFR concept is very good for the earth-moon system and maybe interplanetary cargo. And it will be awesome as a cargo vehicle.


Agreed my hope is that it will encourage development of the systems we need for that sort of manned flight. Possibly even act as a testbed


I made a huge comment on youtube… I kinda just want to copy it here… but I won’t.

To me the biggest hurdle which needs to have real work and real hardware created and tested is In Situ resource utilization. For short term missions and long… it’s very important. We need to be able to live off the land.

For short term… fuel… maybe some water and oxygen to breathe… Farming… Consumables that we really really don’t want to have to haul all the way from Earth.

For long term… We need to jump start Industry. We need to mine, process, and then build not just structures but technology. We will need circuit boards, resisters, capacitors, processors… all the things that the ships, suits, habitats are made of.