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A proposal was made to design a long-ranged interplanetary transport based on the venerable Julius platform. The A3-Julius was a military cargo transport (often nicknamed the Space Truck) used extensively during the Minmus-Mun Conflict. Even though the ship was unarmed, it's oversized manoeuvring pods gave it the thrust needed to side-slip in all directions. Thus, it could perform evasive manoeuvres needed to avoid enemy attacks. This, coupled with it's thick plating, gave it a reputation for reliability and survivability (albeit at the cost of delta V). fig 1: A3-Julius military transport The new ship will be named Jericho, and it's mission is to send a crew of four into the outer solar system. Prior missions have proven unsuccessful, as the attempted in-situ resource utilization ended in failure. Insufficient fuel for a return trip as well as a lack of vital resources resulting in a loss of life of all crew members. To correct these oversights, the Julius-class will feature a state of the art ore scanner, capable of pinpointing viable ore deposits from a distance of over 600 km. High-ISP nuclear engines will serve as the main propulsion systems, with lower-efficiency, higher thrust engines providing extra thrust when needed. Nuclear power will also be used to provide electricity in the sun-starved depths of the outer system. The ship will also feature an entirely self-contained mining and refinery system capable of refuelling it's tanks in under 2 weeks. This equipment will significantly dig into the ship's mass-budget, and as such multiple refuellings will be necessary to reach Jool. First at Minmus (where the ship will perform it's initial shakedown and extensive system's tests), then Dres, until finally refuelling at Pol when it arrives within the Jool system. While there, we expect to perform the first ever manned landing of Laythe. The lander (then unmanned) will be sent ahead of the Jericho and rendez-vous with it later. The ship's ventral engines provide an acceleration of 0.12 g with fuel and ore tanks at full capacity. At reduced capacity the engines can achieve 0.20 g, meaning it could theoretically perform a ventral landing on the Mun (though his has yet to be tested, as it would be pushing the safety margins to their limit). fig 2: the Jericho undergoing final tests before being mated to it's launch vehicle Since the orbital shipyards have yet to be repaired following the end of the war, the ship needed to be constructed on the ground, and then hauled into orbit on boosters. After careful planning, a modified Boreal-class lift vehicle was successful at performing the boost. The Boreal booster is capable of providing more than 13 million newtons of thrust at liftoff. Even this was not sufficient to lift the Julius, so modifications were made, adding 4 vector engines as well as 8 solid rocket engines to the first stage. fig 3: a Boreal-class booster in it's cradle prior to modifications fig 4: the Jericho escaping the atmosphere The vehicle boost was meant to be unmanned (due to the extreme G-forces that the vehicle would experience on ascent), Jeb insisted on coming along for the ride. The rest of the crew boarded via shuttle-capsules. Boarding was finished last night at 21:00 hours KCT. The ship is now ready to depart on your order. The injection burn will require around 1400 m/s. Upon departure the ship will be carrying a total of 4000 m/s (a significant excess and safety margin). God speed, and good luck. fig 5: the mission begins (( If the delta-V costs seem a bit high, it's because I'm playing on an up-scaled Kerbol system. Everything is 2.5x bigger than normal, resulting in some pretty big delta-V requirements. ))
So getting a human to land on Mars and come back is very hard. But here's an idea for a less sexy mission, but still sends people to Mars and if anything gets us some practice. Apparently, a mission to Mars will involve 18 months on Mars itself. That's a tall order, but theoretically doable. What if, instead of landing the astronauts, you leave them in orbit and land one rover per astronaut. Each one with certain specialized equipment. Each astronaut then spends 18 months working long hours driving them around, no need to tie up the DSN. You have one or more land close to a rocket capable of docking with your orbiting station in LMO so at the end of the mission you can bring back some samples. Now, we don't get that sexy shot of humans standing on another world, but in terms of science we would have three curiosities running around, probably something more sophisticated. The real utility of this project comes from that 14 minute delay no longer being a problem. Any possible benefit of having humans on Mars with less risk, and without having to go all the way down to the surface. Which means it will be easier to bring them home. Which gets to the title of this thread, what is that 14 minutes (and a free DSN for other missions) worth? And, this tech can possibly be applied to longer missions to Jupiter or Saturn, where the delay time is more severe so you get a bigger benefit.