NASA mocks the Mars transportation system for 1,200 days of space travel

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shared details about its habitation platforms for lunar and Martian missions. NASA is planning habitat modules for both lunar exploration and Martian transport missions, and those for the latter will sustain life for more than a thousand days. The first, called the Surface Habitat (SH), is at the heart of the space agency’s Artemis program as it will be the main residence for astronauts during their missions. The habitat will be capable of supporting 30-day missions for two crew members, and is also designed to accommodate four crew members for short periods during a transitional period.

NASA’s Lunar Habitat significantly expands exploration capabilities over Apollo-era missions

Surface habitat operations will be based at the NASA landing site for the Artemis missions as they land on the lunar south pole. Four astronauts are expected to operate on the Moon at a time, with two living in the surface habitat and two living in a logistics lander. Transportation between the lander and the habitat will be via rover, and NASA expects the SH to evolve to support four crew members for up to sixty days.

It is also designed to function as a life support system for the lunar lander. This will see the lander dock with the SH and transfer the urine and condensate there. These will be processes and water and gas capable of supporting the astronauts will return to the lander. The habitat will have to endure long eclipses, which will last more than a hundred days. At the same time, engineers will also work to ensure that the habitat can sustain long periods of dormancy which will require the SH to be in storage mode.

This is a crucial design challenge as NASA cannot leverage the experience gained from the space station to design the SH, as the station requires constant human presence to operate.

NASA render showing the Mars Transport Habitat (MTH)

The habitat will partner with NASA’s Artemis Base Camp. The space agency is quite optimistic about the Artemis program’s ability to expand the life and work time of astronauts on the Moon. The Artemis mission will use the lunar south pole, where daylight is present for a whopping 200 days, while the Apollo astronauts had to contend with 14 days of daylight at the equator and return to Earth before this period was up.

These items will also help NASA prepare for Mars exploration missions. The SH will allow it to stimulate Martian missions to the Moon and work with a new module called the Mars Transit Habitat (MTH). During the simulation phases, the crew will connect with the MTH either directly or through NASA’s lunar space station called the Gateway. Then, they will land on the Moon and work there as if they were working on Mars. Once the surface missions are completed, the astronauts will return to the Martian habitat and stimulate a journey back to Earth.

Overall, many of the design features of the surface habitat, such as dormancy, dust protection, and energy generation and storage, will also apply to future missions to Mars. In a new Facebook post, NASA also shared details about MTH in which it outlined that “the Mars Transit Habitat will carry four crew members on a journey of up to 1,200 days to and from Mars.“Communication with crew on a Martian mission is also complex due to long delays that can last up to 24 minutes, while surface modules often have to lie dormant on the surface for months before a crew arrives for habitation.

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