The new Gemini.
In a previous report we mentioned the setup: Nitrogen/MMH. 9 x 5kN engines for the kick, all bundled under our sitting platform ("the coolest flying carpet yet"). We showed the first propellant tanks in CAD and today, have a look at the full Mars ascent structure.
Working the clusters according to numbers we've decided on earlier has been an interesting process. It's tight, much smaller even than the Apollo lander on the Moon.
Sort of a personal helicopter for Mars. Is it realistic?
Our prototype is based on space engineering papers from lightweight space projects (Mercury, Gemini, Vostok etc) which went to altitudes we don't exceed a whole lot today; only they were considerably smaller and cheaper.
Looking back through exploration history on our planet, small and sturdy ships usually fared better than the big endeavors. The Vikings crossed to America in an open fishing vessel, Shackleton rowed back from Antarctica in a life-raft type boat, South Pacific was explored in small kayak/canoes. Why must Space be different.
In a recent article about our mission, Zubrin states that the tech is doable but the cost is a hurdle: $1 billion he proposed. He is right but remember Robert is Big Space engineer (Lockheed Martin) so these are NASA tokens.
The Saturn5/Apollo constellation to the Moon cost 1.5 billion per launch (in today's value). Most folks think fuel and materials were the major expense; in fact they were only $1 million, much less than one percent.
SpaceX launch cost to ISS (for a payload equivalent of a Ford Expedition) is $130 million. Cost of propellant? $200 k. The majority of big space money lies in staff - salaries, pensions, healthcare, office space and more - for thousands and thousands of people.
Going alpine style means cutting overhead. Lots of overhead.
But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. On to the next step: Mars Lander and detailed engine design.
To the stars, my friend.