The LMRs' Role
Astronaut Limitations
The Big Picture
LMR Advantages
In-field LMR Control
Habitat LMR Control
Problem 1: Complication
Subsequent Problems
LMR Families
LMR Chain of Command
LMR Overdependency
Beyond Mission 2004
A Design Note
LMR Design
Systems Outline


Getting to Mars

Spacecraft Control:

Deploying the spacecraft components into space will not be a trivial process at all. Autonomous computer systems will likely control the various docking procedures involved int the inspace construction of of the three Low Earth Orbit to Martian Orbit vehicles. Though supervised by humans at the on-Earth control center, these systems will essentially need to run on their own. The complicated motions involved in in-space motion are not particularly intuitive. Only a well-designed and tested computer system would be capable of handling the intricate docking procedure.
In spacing docking, however, is not the only space-based autonomous system required for Mission 2004. Both the manned and unmanned spacecraft will include extensive computer diagnostic and control programs. Autonomous systems must be capable of regulating the onboard systems. They must, under Earth supervision, perform any necessary course adjustments should the spacecraft's trajectory deteriorate.

One might anticipate that the presence of humans on the manned trip to Mars would decrease the need for autonomous systems. This is probably not going to be the case as the presence of humans requires the development of autonomous environment control systems, and pilot-spacecraft computer-based interfaces. Earth-spacecraft communications will run through digital computer channels and several precautionary measures will need to be taken by the computers to ensure that the Earth, and the spacecrafts communications equipment, are aligned.

Communications Systems:

The communication satellites available for Mission 2004 will launch well before the manned mission. This has been purposefully done to ensure the security of the Astronauts. The communication link to Earth is critical. Should the communications systems fail to sucessfully enter Martian orbit and return an all-clear signal to Earth, the mission as a whole would be jeapordized. In such an extreme case, the Astronauts would not launch at all, the mission would be delayed, and possibly cancelled.

The primary factor standing between the succesful and unsuccesful deployment of satellites into Martian orbit is the automation factor. The autonomous systems for the communications and satellite systems would necessarily have to be complex and comprehensive. These systems will require intensive research and testing under simulated conditions. The satellites must not only succesfully enter Martian orbit, but must also run systems diagnostics, align their transmitters to Earth, and autonomously maintain a Mars-Earth communications link.

Crew Selection and Training:

The Mission 2004 crew will be handpicked on the basis of their physical and psychological properties. As part of their training they will be exposed to extreme situations designed to simulate the likely experience of a 450 day-long stay on Mars.

To complete the training of the Astronauts, however, extende Mission run-throughs would have to be simulated. The Astronauts would be trained to face unexpected and dangerous situations in the safety of a dependable simulator. Such complex simulations involve great deals of computer automation. From space-flight simulators, to in-field Martian surface simulators, the automated aspects of the crew training period will be diverse and complicated. Fortunately, with new graphics technologies being developed at a rapid pace, it will be possible to realistically simulate the visual Martian environment. Combining this with an appropriate physical environmental simulation of Mars, it should be possible to closely model the various challenges the Astronauts will be facing on Mission 2004, and to prepare them for the psychological difficulties of the mission.

mitCopyright © 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Comments and questions to Last updated: 10 December, 2000