Mars Piloted Orbital Station
Mars Piloted Orbital Station (or MARPOST) is a Russian concept for a manned orbital mission to Mars, with several proposed configurations, including using a nuclear reactor to run an electric rocket engine. A 30-volume draft proposal was produced in 2005. The design for the proposed ship was planned to be ready in 2012, and the ship itself in 2021.
Marpost would be launched to Mars together with a fleet of robotic spacecraft designed to study the planet both from its orbit and on its surface, while humans will not land on the red planet. The station would reach the Mars orbit from where its crew will research Mars by operating the robots; for this reason the mission is called ‘hybrid’.
Since the robots will be controlled by Marpost crewmembers from Martian orbit it will eliminate one of the basic problems of robotic Mars missions, the 14 minutes delay for radio signals to reach the Earth. Samples of Martian soil will then be delivered by these robots to Marpost and later brought back to Earth. The whole duration of the flight is set for 2.5 years with one month of work in Mars orbit. The mission would also prove that people can survive a lengthy trip through deep space and effectively perform their professional responsibilities, including operating the spacecraft and conducting research activities.
Evolution of the project
The idea of this ‘hybrid’ mission was first advanced by US-trained Russian space policy expert Dr. Yuri Karash; he got his Ph.D. in Space Policy and International Relations from the American University in Washington, D.C. in 1997. His article was published in the Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta on October 18, 2000 under the title Vperyod, Na Mars! Rossii sleduyet vzyat kurs na sozdaniye marsianskoi pilotiruemoy orbitalnoy stantsii [Onward, to Mars! Russia needs to set a course toward the development of a Martian Piloted Orbital Station]. Karash claimed that Russia, while continuing its participation in the International Space Station program, should build the rest of Russian modules for the station but instead of attaching them to the ISS, assemble them in orbit as an autonomous complex and launch it to Mars with a crew on board. He also gave this space complex its name MARPOST.
Further concepts see Marpost to pave the way for a joint Russian-American mission to the Martian surface. Russia, capitalizing on its extensive experience in building and operating long-term orbital space stations, would build a trans-planetary spacecraft while America, capitalizing on its experience gained during the Apollo Moon landing program, would build a Mars landing module.
The idea of Marpost was then picked up by Leonid Gorshkov, one of the main designers of the RKK Energia (Raketno-Kosmicheskaya Korporatsiya - Rocket-Space Corporation) company, the leading Russian space developer and builder of human spaceflight hardware. Gorshkov proposed to use the space complex called MEK (Mezhplanetniy Ekspeditsioniy Komplex, or Interplanetary Expeditionary Complex), that was already developed and designed by RKK Energia.
The projected cost would be $14–16 billion and the period of realization 12–14 years. The elements of MEK were initially designed to be launched into space by the Energia heavy booster, resembling the Saturn V moon booster by its payload capacity. Later however, in order to lower the cost of the mission, the elements of MEK were redesigned to be launched by a Proton or Angara rocket. The overall weight of MEK is about 400 tons. The flight from earth orbit to Mars will be powered by ion thruster engines.
- Yury Zaitsev (30 March 2005). "Russia Suggests Manned Matrian-Mission Plan". Rianovosty.
- Vladimir Isachenkov (29 October 2009). "Russia Hopes To Fly Humans To Mars With Nuclear Spaceship". The Huffington Post.
- Yuri Karash (12 January 2005). "'The heart' of the Martian Spacecraft". Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
- "Human Mission to Mars". Russian Cosmonautics Academy, Moscow-Korolev. 2006.