For the first time in its history, the SSDW 2017 challenged its participants with a mission statement aiming for Mars: As employees of the fictive private company called Exploration and Development Enterprise (EDEN) both teams formed two individual Mars-Task-Forces with the assignment to survey and investigate different options to establish an international human tended platform in the vicinity of Mars. After performing a trade-off study of different mission scenarios, a comprehensive study of the selected scenario was carried out.
Again, a SpaceUp unconference was held as intro event to the SSDW, organized by the DGLR, KSat e.V. and the Institute of Space Systems. Around 100 participants shared their ideas and presented recent projects, following the slogan “Ad Astra via Stuttgart”. Highlight speakers analogue astronaut Dr. Christiane Heinicke and MIR astronaut Prof. Dr. Reinhold Ewald inspired the space thrilled audience with exciting talks about their experiences. The afternoon highlight was the launch event of watter bottle rockets, built by the SSDW participants during lunch break.
As 2016, the 40 selected students and young professionals from all over the world were challenged with the task to design a space station within one week. In this international and interdisciplinary environment, team coordination and project management became important disciplines. Driven by their enthusiasm for space and striving to win the competition, both teams developed excellent concepts for a future human tended platform at our red neighbour planet.
Team Blue designed a mission called H2-Mars, on the one hand being an abbreviation for “Humans to Mars”, on the other hand alluding the large amounts of Hydrogen respectively water, that are required for life support and radiation protection. The mission envisions a station on the Martian surface, located in the Gale crater at 5.4°S and 137.8°E. The base consists of two water drop shaped inflatable modules, which are sent to Mars with electrical propulsion, seven years before the first manned launch. The modules will be 12 m in diameter and 3 m in height with a mass of 9.2 tons for the membrane and roughly 86 tons of water for radiation shielding. The modular approach ensures future development and expansion possibilities by adding further modules to the existing structure. The assembly will be carried out by telerobotic operations: while the robots will decent to the Mars surface, the first crew will stay in a Deep Space Habitat (DSH) in a Mars Stationary Orbit (MSO), controlling the robots until the surface base is ready to be manned. The station will be permanently manned with a crew ranging between three to six astronauts. Radiation protection during the 3.5 years stay on Mars for each crew is realised by high density polyethylene (HDPE) and water layers in the shell of the habitat and a Mars Regolith cover on the outside.
Team Red envisioned the MARs Vicinity Exploration Laboratory (MARVEL). After performing the trade-off study, the decision was made for a space station in a Martian orbit. The platform will orbit the red planet in a circular sun synchronous orbit at an altitude of 600 km, granting full time illumination and global coverage of the surface of Mars. The fully assembled station will consist of five modules and three nodes, with a rough dimension of 67 m x 47 m x 47m in total and a dry mass of 310 tons. Two of the modules, named Human Orbital Module for Exploration (HOME) 1 and 2, are used for the interplanetary transport of the crew. Each module is designed to inhabit five astronauts in regular operation mode and is capable of housing the maximum crew of ten astronauts for shorter terms in case of emergencies. While being partly unmanned during the construction and testing phase, the station will have a permanent crew of five to ten astronauts on board at a later stage. From the orbiting station, ground operations by robots and later by humans are planned for scientific and In-situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) purposes.
In comparison, H2-Mars pursued a significantly more innovative, yet risky approach than MARVEL. The decision to establish a surface base entails critical challenges, especially in the scope of re-entry, descent and landing. Technologies like hibernation during the interplanetary transfer and inflatable membranes plus water-based windows in the Mars habitat require a lot of technology development and testing. If these technologies can be made available in time, the surface base offers a huge potential for the future colonialization of our red neighbour planet.
In contrast to H2-Mars, MARVEL relies strongly on ISS heritage as well as high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) components and technologies. The result is a less forward-looking, yet more viable scenario. The design of an orbiting station and smaller (un-)manned vehicles to the Martian surface results in a less complex logistic scenario and advantages in power supply and communication. However, public engagement might be a challenge as the timeline does not include any human surface operations within the first couple of years.