Mars Mission Update: June 2020
Drifting alone through the darkness of space,a small capsule traverses the void. Onboard, the two pioneers prepare forthe next step of their voyage. Mere hours ago, history had been made. For the first time, astronautshad launched into orbit in a commerciallybuilt spacecraft – the first crewed launchfrom the United States in nearly a decade. Looking down from orbit, they carried thehopes and dreams of a whole world, knowingthat this was just the beginning. Countless worlds would soon be explored, igniting a vibrant future amongst the stars. In today’s Mars Mission Update, we’re going to betaking a look at what comes nextfor human spaceflight after the first crewed Dragon launch by NASA and SpaceX. We’ll cover the commercialisation of low Earth orbit,the ongoing endeavours to build Starshipsin Texas, the plan to return astronauts tothe Moon in a sustainable way, and finally,how all these ingredients will enablethe first human missions to the red planet. *Intro plays*On May 30th, 2020, NASA astronauts Doug Hurleyand Bob Behnken were strapped into a SpaceXDragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Withtheir successful launch into orbit, one daylater they docked with the International SpaceStation. But this was not just any routinemission, it was the first launch of astronautsby a private company and the return of humanspaceflight to the United States after theretirement of the Space Shuttle back in 2011. This mission, known as Demo-2, marks the culminationof NASA’s Commercial Program. The centralgoal of Commercial Crew is to reduce the costof sending astronauts to space by commercialisinglow Earth Orbit. The idea being that thiswould free up NASA’s resources to focuson missions to deep space. Back in 2012, asimilar initiative, the commercial cargo,or COTS, program saw a commercially builtand operated spacecraft, SpaceX’s Dragon,begin regular resupply missions to the internationalspace station. Building on the success ofcommercial cargo, in 2014 NASA awarded CommercialCrew contracts to two companies: SpaceX and Boeing (with $4. 2bn). Each company was tasked with buildinga crew-capable spacecraft, flying two demonstrationmissions, and beginning astronaut transportservices to the International Space Station. Though the first crewed flights were initiallyplanned for 2017, the Commercial Crew Programis finally reaching fruition. SpaceX developedthe Dragon 2, called Crew Dragon in its astronautconfiguration, which saw its first flightto the space station, the uncrewed Demo-1mission, in March 2019. They followed thiswith a successful in-flight abort test inJanuary 2020, where a Dragon demonstratedits ability to escape from a malfunctioningFalcon 9 and return safely to Earth. Mostrecently of course, we all saw the incrediblelaunch of the crewed Demo-2 mission. Meanwhile, the other partner in the CommercialCrew Program, Boeing, remains around a yearaway from flying astronauts. Boeing’s Starlinercapsule conducted its first orbital test flightin December 2019, launching on an AtlasV rocket. Unfortunately, multiple softwareissues during the mission required it to abandondocking with the space station and instead returnto Earth. Boeing are now planning to repeatthis with an uncrewed test flight in November witha crewed demonstration flight following,if all goes well, early next year. So what comes next for the Commercial CrewProgram? Well, first Doug Hurley and Bob Behnkenwill complete an operational mission aboardthe space station. Their mission will lastfor 1-4 months, with the limiting factor beingthe timescale for degradation of the Dragon’ssolar arrays, due to atomic oxygen inthe upper atmosphere, which restricts thisflight to a maximum of 120 days. Once their missionis complete, they will board the Dragon, detachfrom the space station, enter the Earth’s atmosphere,deploy parachutes, and finally splashdownin the Atlantic Ocean, completing the Demo-2mission. The Dragon capsule will then be refurbished,and prepared to fly again for a future mission. With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX willbe fully certified to regularly fly astronautsfor NASA. The first operational flight, calledCrew-1, will be a 6 month mission to the spacestation targeting a launch on August 30th,2020. Crew-1 will carry a complement of 4astronauts, 3 being American and 1 Japanese. Looking ahead, from the Crew-2 mission earlynext year onwards, Russian astronauts areexpected to start joining Dragon flights. It’s worth pausing for a moment to reflecton just how good a deal Commercial Crewhas been. Since 2011, NASA has spent$6. 2 bn on Commercial Crew. In comparison,the development of the Apollo command modulecost $31 bn ,while developing the Space Shuttle Orbitercost $27 bn. So for 1/5 th the cost of theseprograms, NASA helped develop 2 new human-capablespacecraft. And this capability will onlysave money with each launch. Because for thelast 9 years, NASA has paid the Russian SpaceAgency an average of $80 million / seat forSoyuz launches to the space station, while SpaceX’sCrew Dragon flights will be much cheaper at$55 million / seat. Commercial Crew has also provided valuableexperience for SpaceX, because NASA’s stringentsafety requirements specified no more thana 1 in 270 probability of a Loss of Crew event. – this is over 3x safer than the Space Shuttle. CrewDragon itself achieved a rating of 1 in 276,with most of the risk coming from the chance of spacedebris or micrometeorite collisions in orbit. So Spacex have created the safest spacecraft in history. And because this is a commercially owned spacecraft, they are also free tosell Crew Dragon flights to othercustomers, opening up access to low EarthOrbit in an unprecedented manner. For example, in February the company SpaceAdventures reached a deal to fly up to 4 spacetourists on a Crew Dragon in late 2021 orearly 2022. This 3-5 day mission would reacha maximum altitude of over 1000 km, 2-3x higherthan the International Space Station, withthe participants observing Earth at a distancenot seen since the Gemini 11 mission in 1966. Space Adventures are certainly no strangerto space tourism, having facilitated the flightof the first space tourist, Dennis Tito, tothe space station and flights for six others since. Space Adventures are currentlyin discussion with several interested people,with the price per seat estimated to be lessthan $50 million. The commercialisation of low Earth orbit willnot just be confined to trips to space, asNASA has long-term plans to open up theInternational Space Station itself to commercialactivities. Earlier this year, NASA selectedthe company Axiom Space to design, build,and launch three modules and an Earth observationwindow to the space station. These moduleswill provide habitation for astronauts andtourists, host research and manufacturingfacilities, and test critical systems forfuture deep space missions. Axiom will startby flying one of their own professional astronauts,and three private astronauts, on a minimum 8-day CrewDragon mission to the space station in thesecond half of 2021. They plan to launch theirfirst module in the latter half of 2024, attachingto the forward end of the space station, withthe commercial extension modules fully assembledin 2028. Once the space station retires towardsthe end of the decade, the Axiom modules areplanned to detach, forming a stand-alone commercial space station in Earth orbit. But low Earth Orbit is just the beginning. If we want to go beyond Earth, and go sustainably,we need to scale up our space endeavours. We need larger spacecraft, capable of carryingmore cargo and more people, if we truly desire to live on other worlds. And this is where Starship comes in. Starship is SpaceX’s next generation launch system,a two-stage fully reusable rocketcapable of carrying over 100 tons of cargo orup to 100 people to a variety of destinationsin our solar system. The Starship system hastwo parts: a lower booster called Super Heavy,designed to autonomously return to its launchsite during flight to enable rapid reuse,and an upper stage spacecraft called Starship,the namesake of the system. Standing 120 mtall, the Starship system will be the world’smost powerful rocket, with twice the thrustof the Saturn V Moon rocket, while costingonly $2 million / launch due to rapid reusability. The upper stage is the current focus of SpaceX’sdesign and prototype work. As currently envisioned,it will have two configurations: cargo and crew. The cargo configuration takes advantageof the large payload volume, 1100 m^3 – over7x that of the Falcon 9, to enable a wide range of mission profiles. Once in orbit, Cargo Starship can open its payload fairing like a clamshell, deploying a single payloadof up to 9 m in diameter, or multiple payloadsvia a rotating deployment mechanism. Cargo Starships could also be used as orbital fuelrepositories, whereby Starships bound fordeep space missions can dock to them end-to-endto refuel before departing on their journey. But one application I’m especially excitedby is the prospect of launching large space telescopes. I will be analysing data from the James Webb Space Telescope when it launches next yearin order to examine the compositionof exoplanet atmospheres. And while JamesWebb will be able to probe rocky planet atmospheres,the amount of time required to search forsignatures of life in habitable planet atmospherescan easily add up to many hundreds of hours. So James Webb will only be able to look for life in a small number of planet atmospheres over its missionlifetime. If we want to increase our chanceof finding life in the Universe, we need largertelescopes which have a higher sensitivitydue to their greater collecting area. One such proposal is the Large Ultraviolet, Optical,and Infrared Surveyor, LUVOIR, a potentialsuccessor to James Webb which could launcharound 2035. LUVOIR would be a space-basedtelescope up to 15m in diameter, enablingan extensive search for life on 54 Earth-likeplanets, and detailed studies of over 500non-habitable planets, over the course ofits mission. If you’re interested in lerarning moreabout LUVOIR, I’ve added some linksdown below in the description. But due to its large size,no rockets currently in service can launch LUVOIR. However, the 9 m diameter fairing of Starshipwould easily be able to accommodateLUVOIR in a folded configuration, with thetelescope deploying into its final 15m operationalsize after launch. Though LUVOIR is one of a numberof concepts currently being considered by NASA,its compatibility with the reusable Starship system would serve to lower the launch cost and reducethe overall complexity of this mission. Besides launching cargo, Starship also hasa crew configuration. Crew Starships can accommodateup to 100 people for long duration missionsto the Moon, Mars, and perhaps beyond. Theywill include private cabins, large commonareas, central storage, solar storm shelters,and a large viewing gallery. This may sound a little like science fiction, butSpaceX have already made extraordinary progress inbuilding and testing the first Starship prototypes. SpaceX started building a scaled-down prototypeof Starship, called Starhopper, in December2018. A period of testing began in March 2019,seeing a tethered hop in April, a 20 m hopin July, and finally a 150 m hop test in August 2019. These hop tests also saw the first inflight usageof SpaceX’s Raptor engine, developed specificallyfor Starship and Super Heavy. The next step was to build and test full-scaleStarship prototypes. SpaceX initially builttwo vehicles, called Mk 1 and Mk 2, starting in Februaryand May of 2019. The Mk 1 vehicle was assembledover the course of 8 months at SpaceX’sBoca Chica facility in Texas, before it wasultimately destroyed during a pressurisation testin November 2019. Around the same time, itwas recognised that the Mk 2 vehicle, whichhad started construction in Cocoa, Florida, in May of 2019,was not flight-worthy and so was discontinued. Recognising that these first prototypes tookfar too long to build, SpaceX’s focus inthe first half of 2020 has been the creationand optimisation of a Starship productionline at their Boca Chica site. Back in January,the Boca Chica Shipyard consisted of a large‘onion’ tent, a small tent, a windbreakerand a workshop. Fast forward 5 months to June,and the site had undergone a colossal expansionin its production and manufacturing capabilities. The Starship assembly area principally consistsof a series of large tents, in which stainlesssteel cylindrical rings, fuel tanks, and noseconesare produced. A linear flow of these componentsfrom tent to tent moves each part of the Starshipalong an assembly line, progressively growingthe prototype structure, culminating withvertical stacking and integration in the highbay. This remarkably efficient assembly linehas managed to cut the production time forStarship prototypes from 8 months down tojust 3-4 weeks for the most recent builds. SpaceX are now working to further optimisethis pipeline, potentially down to 1 Starship/ week by the end of the year and ultimatelyto a rate of 1 Starship every 72 hours. The rapid expansion of Starship assembly operationshas also been enabled by a large increasein the number of workers on the site. From about a dozen workers in early 2019, the BocaChica site expanded to over 500 employeesby February and is now just shy of 1,000 workers – potentially growing to as many as 3,000 employeesby early next year. The core reasoning behind the new buildingsand mass hirings in Boca Chica is to implementa simple design philosophy: a high productionrate enables a high iteration rate. With eachnew Starship prototype being rapidly assembled,SpaceX can continually improve the designusing lessons from those that came before. So once a prototype is complete, the nextstep is to transport it around 3 km up theroad to the Starship launch and landing site,now being used as the Starship testing area. The main constituents of the test site are:a stand where the Starship prototypes aremounted for tests; a farm of tanks containingliquid nitrogen, liquid methane, and liquidoxygen; the old Starhopper prototype, nowserving as a mount for cameras and a radarsystem, also a flare stack to burn excess methane, and finally a launch pad under developmentfrom where the combined Starship and SuperHeavy rocket will eventually lift off from. Now that we’ve seen how the Starship assemblyline works, let’s take a look at the progressthe Starship testing program has made so far in 2020. Using lessons learned from Mk 1 and Mk 2,SpaceX started building the Mk 3 Starship,later renamed SN1 , inOctober 2019. The SN1 design was a markedimprovement, weighing 20% less than the Mk 1, but ultimately succumbed to a similar fatewhen its tanks were pressurised with cryogenicliquid nitrogen in February 2020. These cryogenictests would prove the bane of early Starshipprototypes. In the case of SN1, the rootcause of the failure were some bad stainless-steelwelds in the ‘thrust puck’ – a structurenear the base of the lower fuel tank wherethe engines would eventually be mounted. Over the course of a month, a small test tankcalled SN2 was built to try out a solution. A full redesign of the thrust puck for SN2 ultimately resolved the issue, with thetank passing a cryogenic pressure test inMarch 2020. SN2 was then retired, with SpaceXreturning to work on full-scale Starship prototypes. Hopes were high with the construction of SN3in March, which went to the test stand inApril. But alas, the cryogenic curse returnedonce more, albeit via a different failure mode. While both the lower and upper tankswere being pressurised with liquid nitrogen,a valve inadvertently released pressure fromthe lower tank, causing SN3 to crumple dueto the weight of the pressurised upper tank. Unlike the previous structural failures withMk 1 and SN1, the failure of SN3 was simplya test configuration error which was quick to rectify. Just 3 weeks after the demise of SN3, inlate April, SpaceX began testing their nextprototype: SN4. On April 26th, SN4 becamethe first full-scale Starship prototype tosurvive the dreaded cryogenic pressure test,having been pressurised to 4. 9 bar with liquidnitrogen. The tank pressure required for anoperational flight is 6 bar, a target exceededby a second cryogenic test on May 9th, which reached 7. 5 bar. Cryogenic pressurisation is the first of threemain stages in testing a Starship prototype. The second stage is a series of static fires,whereby a Raptor engine attached to the prototypeundergoes a burn while the Starship is fixedin place. Finally, if all goes well with thestatic fires, the prototype moves to flighttests with ever increasing altitudes, muchlike we saw with the Starhopper. SN4 successfully completed its first staticfire test on May 5th, becoming the first full-scaleStarship to be tested with a Raptor engine. Four further static fire tests took place overthe course of May, testing two different Raptorengines, while accruing a wealth of data onthe performance of the vehicle and the engine. But unfortunately, shortly after the fifth static fire on May 29th, a liquid CH4 leak near the base of the vehiclecaused a catastrophic explosion which engulfedSN4 in flames, leaving behind the smoulderingremains of this pioneering prototype. Thisrecent failure was an unfortunate setback,especially given that SN4 had been expectedto attempt a 150 m hop test shortly afterwards. But nevertheless, the delay is likely to bemarginal as the next prototype is more orless complete. Starship SN5 started construction in April and isalready fully stacked, bar the potential additionof a nosecone. As SN5 becomes the focus oftesting in the weeks to come, constructionwill continue on SN6 which began productionin April. At the same time, another smalltest tank, SN7, has just finished constructionand moved to the test site. SN7 has beenbuilt from a different stainless steel alloythan previous prototypes, 304L instead of301, so testing this prototype should elucidatethe ideal material properties to pursue beforeSpaceX ultimately shifts to a custom steelalloy in the future. So what can we expect to see in the Starship program this year?Well, with reconstruction of a test stand essentially complete, we shouldfirst see SN5 roll out to the test standand commence cryogenic pressure testing andstatic fires. If these tests succeed,SN5 would then move ahead witha 150 m hop with a single Raptor engine. The next milestone will be a 20 kmsuborbital hop, for which the Federal AviationAdministration has already granted approval. Such a hop will require a Starship prototypeequipped with 3 Raptor engines and fins, whichwe could see accomplished with the SN6 prototype a few months down the line. The ultimate goal of this year’s testingprogram would be a 100 km orbital flight ofa Starship prototype. This is certainly anambitious goal, which would require the constructionand testing of Super Heavy boosters beforeit could proceed, none of which have yet been built. But this being said, Super Heavy ring segments would employ the exact same build techniquesand facilities as the Starship prototypes. If SpaceX are to remain on track for an orbitalflight this year, we should expect to seeSuper Heavy prototypes sometime in the secondhalf of this year – perhaps undoing testswith a reduced complement of Raptor engines. And though this timeline is clearly unmatched in itsambition, and some slips are to be expected,one thing is for certain: when the day finallycomes where a Starship soars into the skyover Texas, a new era in spaceflight will begin. And from that day on, we will haveunlocked the limitless potential of our solar system. So now that we’ve seen the near-term futureof human spaceflight in low Earth orbit andthe progress of the next generation Starshipsystem, let’s turn now to the next greatendeavour in human spaceflight:the return of astronauts to the Moon. One year ago, NASA announced the Artemis program– a 21st Century initiative to enable humanexploration and development of the Moon. The headline goals of Artemis are to achieve a human landingnear the Moon’s South Pole by 2024 and establishan outpost on the Moon from 2028. Unlike theApollo program, Artemis has been designedfrom the get-go to be sustainable, using public-privatepartnerships, similar to the Commercial CrewProgram, to minimise the overall cost of this endeavour. The Artemis program begins with the Artemis Imission. In late 2021, NASA’s new SpaceLaunch System, or SLS, rocket will launchan uncrewed Orion crew capsule on a 26-42 daymission to loop around the Moon and return to Earth. A year later, in late 2022, or early 2023,the Artemis II mission will see a crewedflight of Orion on a free return trajectoryaround the Moon. Both Artemis I and Artemis IIwill verify the hardware and software ofOrion in advance of expanded human operations at the Moon. Around the same time as Artemis I and II,from 2021, NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services,or CLPS, initiative will start sendingrobotic missions to the Moon. The goal ofCLPS is to test landing technology, conductsurface science, scout for lunar resources,and demonstrate in situ resource utilisationin preparation for human landings. CLPS followsa similar model to the commercial cargo programfor the International Space Station, whereNASA will contract private companies to launchand land the payloads on the lunar surface. One of the most important early CLPS missionswill be VIPER, a rover mission which willland in the lunar south pole region in 2023. Why is this region the focus of the Artemis program?Well, in 2008 and 2009 both India’sChandrayaan-1 mission and NASA’s LCROSSmission deployed impactor probes in the southpolar region, with the resulting ejecta indicatingmillions of tons of water ice must lie in shadowedcraters near the south pole. So we know thewater ice is there on the Moon, but many of its properties remain unknown. The goal of VIPER is to measure the depth, purity, anddistribution of water ice over a 100-day missionBecause to build a sustainable presence on the Moon,we will need to understand how to use such icedeposits to produce breathable oxygen, rocketpropellant, and, perhaps, drinkable water. With these early missions complete, the stagewill be set for the first human landing onthe Moon in over 50 years. In 2024, the Artemis IIImission will see an Orion capsule launchto the Moon. In lunar orbit, two of the crewmembers will transfer into a Human LandingSystem, detach from Orion, and descend tothe lunar surface. Artemis III will be a huge milestonefor human spaceflight, seeing the first womanwalk on the Moon and the first human landingin the south polar region. The two astronautswill stay on the surface for 6. 5 days andconduct four surface excursions of up to 6 hourseach, before launching from the surface tore-dock with Orion and return to Earth. One of the key elements required to accomplishArtemis III is the Human Landing System. In April, NASA announced three companies willshare nearly $1 billion to design potentialhuman-rated landers over a 10-month period:Dynetics, the ‘National Team’ collaboration,and SpaceX. In November, NASA will start evaluatingeach design, ultimately deciding whether todown-select to two providers or keep threein February 2021. So let’s take a lookat these three proposed human landingsystems, and how they will work. Dynetics are designing a two-stage landercalled ALPACA, which would launch from Earthuncrewed on a United Launch Alliance Vulcanrocket. ALPACA uses two drop tanks to fuelits engines, which are jettisoned prior totouching down on the lunar surface. The National Team, led by Blue Origin, willsee Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, andDraper combine their expertise to design athree-stage lunar lander. The lander itselfis a variant of the Blue Moon lander, announced last year by Blue Origin, which notably uses liquid hydrogenand oxygen to power its BE-7 engine. Thesefuels can be produced by electrolysing icedeposits, allowing the vehicle to refuel usinglocal lunar resources before taking off fromthe surface. Finally, SpaceX are planning to use a speciallyadapted lunar lander variant of Starship. Comparing this with the base Starship designon the right, the lunar Starship has no heatshieldor fins, a curved solar array near its tip,integrated landing legs, and white paint forenhanced reflectivity. The lunar Starshipalso features triple-thruster engines higherup its body, minimising the effect of regolithkickback during landing. Once landed, cargoor up to four astronauts can leave the two airlocks 26 mabove the surface and be taken by a cranesystem guided by rails down to the ground. One key advantage of the Starship system isthe large amount of cargo it can deliver,opening the possibility of ambitiouslunar base architectures. So now that we’ve seen how SpaceX are poisedto play a critical role in NASA’s effortsto return to the Moon, let’s go back to ourStarship timeline to see precisely how theyplan to support the Artemis program. For reference,I’ve added the tentative dates for the firstthree Artemis missions to the timeline. SpaceXhave proposed a series of milestones to provethe fidelity of the Starship system. Onceorbital flight of a Starship prototype hasbeen achieved, they will demonstrate end-to-endpropellant transfer in orbit. Other milestonesinclude a long duration orbital flight test, the re-flight of a landed Starship, and aStarship flight beyond low Earth orbit. Notethat the precise dates of these milestoneswill be largely contingent on how the testingprogram in Boca Chica proceeds, so theirposition and ordering on this timeline shouldbe viewed as illustrative within around a1 year uncertainty window. With these tests complete,SpaceX will aim to land an uncrewed Starshipon the Moon in 2022 and complete a flyby aroundthe Moon with Japanese billionaire YusakuMaezawa as part of the privately funded #dearMoonmission in 2023. Following all these steps,SpaceX will have proved the reliability of the Starship system to support theArtemis III landing in 2024. From then, the focus of the Artemis programwill transition to establishing a sustainedhuman presence on and around the Moon. There are two key components to this plan: theLunar Gateway and Artemis Base Camp. Gateway will be a small station in orbit around theMoon, serving as a staging post for astronautsmoving to and from the lunar surface and aplatform for detailed scientific investigationsbeyond Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts. The nucleus of Gateway, consisting of an integratedPower and Propulsion Element along with aHabitation module, is planned to launch inNovember 2023 on a commercial rocket –probably the Falcon Heavy,but this will be decided later in the year. The Gateway nucleus will use solar electricpropulsion to manoeuvre to lunar orbit overthe course of 9-10 months, arriving in thesecond half of 2024. If ready in time, Gatewaycould potentially provide communications relaysupport for Artemis III, but currently itis envisioned to mostly support yearly landingsfrom the Artemis IV mission in 2025 onwards. Building on the collaboration at the heartof the International Space Station, many countrieswill work alongside the US to expand the capabilitiesof Gateway with additional modules. In particular,the European and Japanese space agencies planto contribute an international habitationmodule, Canada will be providing an externalrobotic arm, and Russia is interested in providingan airlock. These international additionsare currently envisioned to be complete byaround 2028, with the final configurationof Gateway designed for a 15 year lifespan. Much like the International Space Stationtoday, keeping Gateway well-supplied willbe vital to maintaining its science operationsand support capabilities for human crews. For this, NASA will offer Gateway LogisticsServices contracts to the private sector,following the same model as the space station’scommercial cargo program. These resupply contracts will be worth up to $7 billion over a 12-15 yeartimeframe, shared between multiple contractors. The first award was announced in March, givento SpaceX to design a new vehicle called Dragon XL. This will be a variant of the Cargo Dragoncapsule, launching on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavyrocket, and capable of transporting more than5 tons of cargo, experiments, and supplies toGateway. Once it arrives, Dragon XL will spend6-12 months docked to Gateway, before autonomouslymanoeuvring to a lunar graveyard orbit. When you combine Dragon XL, the lunar Starship,and Falcon Heavy launches for the CLPS program,it becomes clear that SpaceX is set to playa critical role in NASA’s efforts to return to the Moon. Alongside Gateway, lunar surface operationswill expand dramatically from 2025 with theestablishment of the Artemis Base Camp. This consists of three components: the Lunar TerrainVehicle, the Habitable Mobility Platform,and the Foundation Surface Habitat. The LunarTerrain Vehicle will extend the range of humansurface exploration, being capable of transportingtwo astronauts and materials weighing 500 kgfor at least 2 km. Next, the Habitable MobilityPlatform will be a pressurised rover capableof extending human expeditions to 10s of kmfrom the landing site and extending surfacedurations from a week to 30-45 days. Finally,the Foundational Surface Habitat will supportup to four crew members for stays of up to two months. These initial components of the Artemis BaseCamp are envisioned to be in place by 2028. Though a specific site for the base has yetto be determined, promising locations couldbe near crater rims at the lunar south polesome of which receive sunlight for 80% of theyear – helping to reduce temperature extremesand maximise solar power potential. During stays at the base, astronauts will test newtechnologies, including surface power systems,in situ resource utilisation, excavation andconstruction techniques, and lunar dust mitigation. Over time, the base will be expanded to addcommunications systems, a lightweight fissionpower system, radiation shielding, waste disposal,and a landing pad. One possibility that I’m especially excitedby is the prospect of remotely operating alunar radio telescope on the farside of theMoon from the Artemis Base. In April, NASAselected an idea along just these lines fora Phase I Innovative Advanced Concepts study. The central case is that radio wavelengthslonger than around 10 m are incredibly difficultto study from Earth’s surface, because theyare reflected off the ionosphere. But a radioobservatory on the Moon would have no suchproblems, opening a new window on the Universe. For example, such a telescope would be ableto measure the magnetic field strength ofexoplanets by searching for their correspondingradio emission. At the end of the day, one of the centralgoals of all this lunar infrastructure isto develop technologies and learn lessons whichcan be directly applied to human missions to Mars. One proposal is to add a large inflatablehabitat to Gateway to simulate a Mars mission. This would see four astronauts spenda few months living in this habitat, simulatingthe outbound trip to Mars, before two crewmembers descend to the lunar surface to visitthe Base Camp for surface operations. After which they would return to the Gateway andspend another few months in the inflatablehabitat to simulate the return to Earth. So now that we’ve seen the future of humanspaceflight in low Earth orbit, the developmentof the Starship vehicle, and the plans tosustainably return to the Moon, let’s finallytake a look at how these will all come together to enable human missions to Mars. If we want to land the first people on Marswithin this decade, the only vehicle whichwill have the necessary capabilities and beready on time will be SpaceX’s Starship system. Indeed, the founding principle behind theStarship project was to enable a self-sufficientsociety on Mars. SpaceX’s Mars mission architecturefollows a series of 6 steps. We’ve alreadyseen the process of launching a Starship intoorbit and landing the Super Heavy booster,along with on-orbit refuelling. For a Marsmission, with a surface payload of up to 100 tons,as many as 4 tanker Starships will be involvedin refuelling operations. After which, theStarship, or group of Starships, depart on amulti-month transfer to Mars. On arrival, the Starship plummets into theMartian atmosphere, orienting itself to maximiseits surface area and increase drag. The heatfrom this supersonic entry is absorbed bythe hexagonal heatshield tiles on the undersideof the vehicle. After surviving atmosphericentry, the Starship falls like a skydiverwith the wings and fins helping controlthe descent. Finally, it reorients itselfvertically and ignites its Raptor enginesto arrive at the landing site. The target landing site will most likely be ArcadiaPlanitia, as discussed in detail in my OctoberMars Mission Update last year. Once landed,each Starship can connect to a propellantplant which produces the liquid CH4 and O2 fuel forthe Raptor engines from ice deposits and CO2from the Martian atmosphere. This enablesStarships to readily return to Earth once refuelled. To chart a course for the first human Marsmissions, let’s go back to our Starship timelineand add the Earth-Mars launch windows whichoccur every 26 months. The first goal willbe to send two uncrewed Cargo Starships toMars, aiming to confirm water ice resources,identify hazards, and place basic infrastructureincluding power, mining, and life support systems. Starship’s large payload capacityhas clear advantages over any other systemcurrently in development for such a mission,as it increases redundancy by allowing multipleinstances of vital hardware to be broughtalong and allows for large-scale future expansionto be planned from the very first mission. SpaceX has been targeting 2022 for this cargoopportunity for many years now, but giventhis is only 2 years away and SpaceX may wantto apply lessons from their lunar Starshipmissions, I’ve added a 5 year uncertaintywindow to the timeline to cover the possibilityof slips by two launch windows. If all goes well with the cargo mission, itwould be followed in the next launch windowby the first human mission to Mars. This wouldsee two Crew Starships, each carrying 20-50people, and 2 Cargo Starships land in separatedlocation within a few km of each other. Thissuggests that a heavy cargo and crew transportationrover will need to be developed, perhaps similarto the Habitable Mobility Platform envisionedfor the Artemis Base Camp. The priority ofthis mission will be to make operational apropellant production plant to refuel theStarships. The crewed mission will also focuson establishing the infrastructure ofMars Base Alpha, including habitats, radiationshelters, greenhouses, and landing pads. Theplan is for the first five Starships to stayon Mars indefinitely, providing initial habitationspace, though the capability to return toEarth with a Starship will be available. Given that the initial crews will likely needto reside on Mars for at least 26 months,self-sufficiency will be absolutely crucial. The base will need to be able to extract over1 ton of ice per day to produce drinkable waterand air for the base, with this ice needingto be both accessible and amenable to purification. This is another key area where in situ resourceutilisation experiments on CLPS and Artemismissions can provide valuable input for MarsBase Alpha’s design. Self-sufficiency willalso require the extraction and processingof minerals and metals, such that structuralmaterials can be created for base repair andexpansion. Back on Earth, during the build up to each subsequent launch window,many additional Starships will be launched into orbit. If we want to create a civilisationon Mars, as many as 3 Starships per day willneed to be launched, assembling a fleetof 1,000 Starships over the courseof a year. The fleet will depart over a 30 dayperiod when the launch window arrives,carrying 10s of thousands of people tothe Red Planet. The ultimate goal of this ambitious endeavouris to create a city on Mars with 1 millionpeople by as soon as 2050. Designing sucha city is one area where considerable work remains to be done. But one organisation thathas been trying to fill the gap here is theMars Society. In 2018, they announced a competitionto design a 1,000 person Mars colony. The100 entries contained some truly innovativedesigns, with the 22 most promising submissionsrecently published as a book. Right now, theMars Society are running a second competition,this time to design a 1 million person MartianCity State. Anyone in the world is welcometo submit a design before the end of June,so if you have an idea and you’re interested,I’ll post a link to the competition down below. Well, that brings us to the end of this Mars Mission Update. The return of human spaceflightto the US is an incredible achievement butas we’ve seen, it is just one step in ourjourney. A decade of work realised this dream,and I wish all the best to Bob and Doug ontheir historic mission. Thank you so muchfor watching everyone, and please do let me knowif you have any questions or comments down below. And never forget that our best daysdo truly lie ahead of us. Human ingenuity will always carry us through, and it will guide us as weventure out to explore the wonders of our solar system. If you enjoyed this video, you might also enjoy my Mars Bunker series –a collection of livestreams exploring all manner of topics surrounding missions to Mars. To make sure you don’t miss future videos, hitsubscribe and click the notification bell,to stay up to date with all the latest developmentsin our journey to the Red Planet.