Category Archives: Mission Plans

‘Inspiration Mars’ Press Conference Slides

“It is time for America not to withdraw within itself, but to dream big dreams again. It is time for Americans to unite in accomplishing big goals again and reap the benefits in our educational systems, technical advancement and the economy that were realized when we first journeyed to the Moon.” NASA Astronaut, Jerry Ross, January 28, 2013

“I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it” President Barack Obama. Kennedy Space Center, April 15, 2010

Inspiration Mars Press Release:

Inspiration Mars Feasibility Analysis:

Thank you Dennis Tito!

______________________________________________________________________________Update: Additional Material Published Shortly After Annoucenement

“This type of private sector effort is further evidence of the timeliness and wisdom of the Obama Administration’s overall space policy and the enthusiasm to tap the innovative spirit of the private sector and share the interest people have in Mars exploration. It’s a testament to the audacity of America’s commercial aerospace industry and the adventurous spirit of America’s citizen-explorers. NASA will continue discussions with Inspiration Mars to see how the agency might collaborate on mutually-beneficial activities that could complement NASA’s human spaceflight, space technology and Mars exploration plans.” David Steitz, NASA Spokesman

Blue Origin: Fireside Chat with Jeff Bezos & Werner Vogels

Literal Factual Fiction transcription (there are lots of “ums” and “ahs” in these scripts…they are meant to encourage realistic dialogue in narrative writing, not to be insulting : )

“I very frequently get the question: what’s gonna change in the next ten years. That is an interesting question – it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: what’s not going to change in the next ten years. And I, submit to you, that that second question, is actually the more important of the two. Because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. And so as you pointed out, in our retail business, we know that customers want low prices – and I know that’s going to be true ten years from now. They want fast delivery. They want vast selection. It’s impossible for me to imagine a future ten years from where a customer comes to me and says, “Jeff, I love Amazon but I just wish the prices were a little higher.” You know how, you could – “I love Amazon, I just wish you’d deliver more slowly.” And so the effort that we put into those things, spinning those things up – we know, the energy we put into it today, will still be paying dividends from our customers ten years from now. And so those – when you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.


Innovation is a point of view. You have to actually select people that are part of the company who want to innovate and explore. Um…being a pioneering…company – an “explorer” company – isn’t for everybody. Some people wake up in the morning and they get their, uh – energy, the thing they think about in the shower as they start their annual planning process, or however you want to think about it – “who are the three companies that we’re going to kill this year”. That’s the conqueror mentality. And, it’s competitor focused mentality instead of a customer focused mentality. And it’s not being – that mentality can succeed by the way…so I’m not claiming that the pioneering explorer approach is the only effective one, um, but when you’ve – when you attract people who have the DNA of pioneers, and the DNA of explorers – you build a company of like minded people who want to invent. And that’s what they think about when they wake up in the morning “how are we going to work backwards from customers and build a great service or a great product” – you, you, you – that’s ah, that’s ah, key element to invention. That part is fun by the way. So if you’re the right kind of person, and you like to invent, and you like change – and everything you see as you move about the world you think about how it could be improved. That’s just fun. At Amazon, over the last eighteen plus years, we’ve attracted a bunch of people like that, and we have a ton of fun doing it. Now there are a couple of other things that are essential to invention and innovation – that are not as fun. One of them is you have to have a willingness to fail. You have to have a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time. If you do something in a new way – now I don’t care what it is…people are initially going to misunderstand it relative to the traditional way. And they will – there will be well meaning critics, who will, you know will genuinely want the best outcome but they’re worried about this new way. And there’ll also be of course, self-interested critics…who have a vested interest in the traditional – they have some profit stream tied to the traditional way. Um, but, doing things – doing things – if you never want to be criticized for goodness sake don’t do anything new. So…it’s, it’s okay, though, if you have a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time. If you have a willingness to fail. Then what you can do is you can ramp up your rate of experimentation. So successful invention – successful invention is inventions that customers care about. It’s actually relatively easy to invent new things that customers don’t care about. Um, but successful invention, ah,if you want to do a lot of that, you basically have to increase your rate of experimentation. And that – you can think of as a process, how you go about organizing your systems, your, people…ah, all of our assets, your own daily life and how you spend time, how you organize those things to increase your rate of experimentation. Because not all of your experiments are going to work.


You see it, you know, on the blogosphere – on Facebook – you see anywhere customers can talk, discussion boards, about products and services…let’s put it this way, if, in the old days, you might be best advised to put thirty percent of your energy and effort into building a great product or service – and then seventy percent of your effort and energy into shouting about that service…that has flipped around. And basically the balance of power is shifting from, the, you know, the providers of services, providers of offerings, to: the consumers of offerings – and, I believe that’s a great thing for society, I even believe that’s a great thing for the companies that provide the services as long as they acknowledge it and embrace it.

[…]  Whenever you empower people with new tools you see beautiful results.

If we think long-term, we can accomplish things that we couldn’t otherwise accomplish. If I said to you, “I want you to solve world hunger in 5 years”, you would rightly decline the challenge. But if I said to you, “I want to you to solve world hunger in 100 years” now that’s more interesting. Because you start to create the conditions under which such change could occur. And all we’ve done there is change the time horizon. We didn’t change the challenge, we changed the time horizon. So time horizons matter, they matter a lot.”


Blue Origin is a, ah, um, ah, a space – a company that’s developing a vertical take-off, vertical landing, space vehicle. Ah, and ah, so it takes off on its tail like a normal rocket and lands on its tail like a Buck Rogers rocket. It’s designed to be reusable. We’ve built our first development vehicle, we’ve build our second development vehicle, we’re right now working on our third development vehicle. Great team of engineers, located in Seattle. Another team of people ‘test and operations’ in West Texas where we do our flights. And, uh, it’s proceeding along very nicely, ahhh – I’m hopeful that this third development vehicle, will be our last. But we can’t know for sure. And then, we will, ah, build our operational vehicle and start taking people to suborbital missions – we’ll sell tickets…the long term goal of Blue Origin is to – not only do suborbital but also orbital and to democratize…space travel so that anybody who wants to go into space can afford to do so.

Vogels : Are there particular challenges to vertical take off and landing that, that, other approaches don’t have?

Yeah, um, every approach has its…plusses and minuses. The thing that I like about – well, first of all: you need reusability. So, when you go look at any approach that doesn’t have reusability, it’s never going to be low cost. There’re only two problems of space travel today: it’s too expensive and it’s too dangerous, other than that it’s fine. [laughter] So we hope to solve those two problems. And if you want to solve those problems, and have a spacefaring species, you need to – um – you need to practice, and you can’t practice this with expendable vehicles. It’s like, you know, it’s like flying your – you know, you get on a 747 with a bunch of passengers, fly to Hawaii – and then: throw the whole plane away. It’s just a bad – it’s a bad cost structure. And, um, so we need reusability. So we have to get the vehicle back. And, ah, one of the ways to get it back is to put wings on it, um, and then you can land it on a runway. Another way to get the vehicle back is to land it vertically under, under rocket power. And both techniques have advantages and disadvantages – one of the things I like about vertical landing is, if you get it to work, it’s very scalable. It scales to very, very large size. Whereas wings sort of – you know – they top out a bit.

Vogels: Ok, so, it cannot only be experimentation. I assume you do a lot of computation and, um, you know, simulation as well.

Absolutely. Blue Origin is a huge – as you know – he’s leading me here – but it’s, it’s true, Blue Origin is a huge, user of AWS [Amazon Web Services]. And it’s because – we used to have a Beowulf cluster, and it was a total pain in the butt, and ’cause we’re always upgrading – we do a lot of computational fluid dynamics calculations. And now – the Blue Origin team – can spin up, you know, multi-thousand node clusters – and what used to take a weekend of elapsed time can now be done in minutes. And it keeps getting better. It keeps getting better. So yeah, the, you know, the – I think it’s safe to say the, uh, the heavy duty compute users of Blue Origin are very, ah, you know, ah – they basically wet themselves they’re so happy….


Never chase the hot thing – whatever it is. That’s like trying to catch the wave, you’ll never catch it. You need to position yourself and wait for the wave. And the way you do that is, you pick something you’re passionate about. So, that’s the one piece of advice I give someone who wants to start a new company – or, start a new endeavor inside of a bigger company. Make sure it’s something you’re interested in, something you’re passionate about. Missionaries build better products. And so I would take a missionary over a mercenary any day. Mercenaries want to – you know, flip the company in a day and get rich. Missionaries want to build a great product or service – you know, it’s one of those great paradoxes – its usually the missionaries who end up making more money anyway. But, so that’s one. Pick something you’re passionate about. And…the second is…start with the customer and work backwards. That’s…those two things…passion and customer-centricity, will take you an awful long way.

Mars Sample Return Concepts and References

(It may be important to note: sample return is not a necessary precursor to human exploration,
and, some robust sample return missions are proposed as follow-ups of on-going
human settlement.)

Gorgeous 2020 MSR Concept by Corby Waste for NASA JPL

Earlier MSR Concepts also by Corby Waste for NASA JPL

Even Earlier Concepts by Corby Waste for NASA JPL

Zubrin Advancing ‘Humans to Mars’ as Questioner at Mars Concepts 2012

Zubrin (as questioner in audience at about 1:22): “The purpose of the human, exploration program, inasmuch as it is cooperating with the robotics, exploration program, should be to prepare for human exploration not to prevent human exploration…and so…you really don’t want to get into this thing of “you can’t do your program, until we do my program”. And so that, for example, while the Mars Sample Return has a great deal of scientific merit – I’m not going to argue against the mission – ah…to say you cannot do a human mission, until you’ve done a sample return mission, to certify that the target site is lifeless, ah…doesn’t make any sense. In fact, if you did do a sample return mission and you found biological material at that site, that’s exactly where you’d want to send human explorations. You want to send human explorers to the most interesting sites, not to the least interesting sites. And, other things here…we clearly don’t need to do a Phobos mission before we do humans missions. You might want to do a Phobos mission, but to claim you have to do a Phobos mission before you do humans missions, its not relevant. To say you have to do a humans to Mars orbit before you do human mission to the Mars surface, makes no sense, because actually, a human mission to Mars orbit, unless you have very advanced propulsion systems which can take on very large delta Vs, will involve over twice the radiation dose of a human mission to the Mars surface, because you’re left in Mars orbit for a year taking in-space radiation doses. So, I think what you want to do, is – for instance: Mars missions that provide reconnaissance for the most interesting sites to target human exploration to? Great! Okay…the, the Mars missions which do reconnaissance to assure us of no landing hazards, great. Mars missions that find resources that would be useful to human missions, great. Okay, and we should do the maximum number of them – but, the idea of doing, of, of, of setting an infinite series of precursors and saying “you can’t do that until you do all these things” – many of which are clearly irrelevant and are just being stuck in there because somebody’s interested in them, that’s not the way to go.”

NASA Becoming a Barrier to Space Exploration, Again

“Mars the Hard Way”
By Robert Zubrin | Dec. 3, 2012In recent weeks, NASA has put forth two remarkable new plans for its proposed next major initiatives. Both bear careful examination.

As the centerpiece for its future human spaceflight program, NASA proposes to build another space station, this one located not in low Earth orbit but at the L2 Lagrange point just above the far side of the Moon. This plan is indeed remarkable in as much as an L2 space station would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. We don’t need an L2 space station to go back to the Moon. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to near-Earth asteroids. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to Mars. We don’t need an L2 space station for anything.

The other initiative is a new plan for Mars sample return, which is now held to be the primary mission of the robotic Mars exploration program. This plan is remarkable for its unprecedented and utterly unnecessary complexity.

It may well be asked whether a sample return is the best way to pursue the robotic scientific exploration of Mars, within the budget of the Mars exploration program run by NASA’s planetary exploration directorate. That is an issue over which reasonable people may, and do, differ. It is certainly possible to propose alternative robotic mission sets consisting of assortments of orbiters, rovers, aircraft, surface networks, etc., that might produce a greater science return than the Mars sample return mission, much sooner, especially in view of the fact that human explorers could return hundreds of times the amount of samples, selected far more wisely, from thousands of times the candidate rocks, than a sample return mission. However, that said, if members of the scientific community really believe that a robotic Mars sample return is so valuable that it is worth sacrificing all the other kinds of science they could do with their cash, then it is imperative that NASA develop the most efficient Mars sample return plan, to allow the sample to be obtained as quickly as possible and with the least possible expenditure of funds that could be used for other types of Mars exploration missions.

Unfortunately, however, rather than propose the most cost-effective plan for a Mars sample return mission, NASA has now set forth the most convoluted, riskiest, costliest approach ever conceived. The Curiosity mission just demonstrated a system that can soft land 900 kilograms on the martian surface. With a 900-kilogram payload, it is possible to land a complete two-stage Mars ascent vehicle capable of flying a capsule with a 1-kilogram sample directly back to Earth, as well as a Mars Exploration Rover class vehicle to gather the samples for it. But instead of proposing such a straightforward plan, NASA has now baselined a mission conducted in eight parts: a) land a large rover to collect and cache samples; b) dispatch a Mars ascent vehicle to Mars and perform a surface rendezvous with the rover or its cache; c) fly the Mars ascent vehicle to Mars orbit to rendezvous with a solar electric propulsion spacecraft; d) fly the solar electric propulsion spacecraft back to near-Earth interplanetary space; e) build a LaGrange point space station; f) fly astronauts to the LaGrange point space station; g) dispatch astronauts from a LaGrange point space station to take the sample from the solar electric propulsion spacecraft and return to the LaGrange point space station; h) conduct extended studies of the sample in the LaGrange point space station.

The kindest thing that can be said about this quintuple rendezvous plan is that it is probably the unplanned product of the pathology of bureaucracy, rather than the willful madness of any individual. For a fifth of its cost, NASA could fly five simple direct sample return missions, each of which would have (at least) five times its chance of mission success. So it’s hard to imagine any sane person inventing it on purpose.

Clearly, though, the group that drifted into it was attempting to make the Mars sample return mission provide an apparent excuse for the existence for an assortment of other NASA hobbyhorses. For example, we note that it makes use of the LaGrange point space station. But this does not help the Mars sample return mission, which could much more simply just return the samples to Earth, where far better lab facilities are available than could ever be installed at L2. Rather, by invoking the L2 station as a critical element of the mission plan, NASA is inserting a toll both blocking the way to the accomplishment of the sample return, while radically increasing mission and program cost, schedule and risk and decreasing science return. The same can be said for requiring the use of electric propulsion, a technology program that was inserted into the human Mars mission critical path based on an unsupportable claim by a well-placed advocate that it could speed up interplanetary transits, and that now needs some alternative rationale.

This planning methodology is equivalent to that of a shopaholic couple who ask an architect to design their dream house but insist that he include in his design as critical components every whimsical piece of random junk they have ever bought in the past and piled up in their back yard, in order to make those purchases appear rational after the fact. By capitulating to this kind of thinking, the NASA leadership has transformed Mars sample return from a mission into a “vision.”

NASA is facing an oncoming fiscal tsunami. There could never be a worse time for the agency to seek to inflate the cost, stretch the schedule and minimize the return of its missions. If the space program is to survive, it needs to really deliver the goods. Now, more than ever, if we actually want to get a sample from Mars, we need to employ a plan that does that in the simplest, cheapest, fastest and most direct fashion possible. Under no circumstances should the mission be made into a Christmas tree on which to hang all the ornaments in the bureaucracy’s narcissistic wish box of useless and costly multidecade delays. And the same can be said of the human Mars exploration mission as well. If we want to go to Mars, we need to go to Mars, not to L2.

"Myth Buster in the Space Industry" Rand Simberg (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

 “If you don’t want to lose crew, don’t got into space.”
 “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships were built for.”
 “Most humans never got more than ten miles from the place they were born, throughout history.”

Rand Simberg: “When you have a congressman congratulating the NASA administrator saying, “We’re glad that you made safety the number one priority for that mission.” What he’s really saying is, “everything else is number two, its a lower priority”…actually doing the mission is a lower priority than making sure its safe. Safety becomes such a high priority that we’d rather not fly – “because we don’t want to risk an astronaut.” There’s something fundamentally wrong with that. What it says is that, “Space isn’t important. Actually doing things in space is not that important.” If you agree to that, then agree to it and make sure, make it very explicit, that’s what you’re saying.”

“One thing we have to recognize: people have different risk tolerances. There’s some people who are willing to risk more, for whatever their perceived reward is, and, we have to let them do that. The least safe way to get to 29,000 feet is to walk there. You know, about 10 percent of the people who climb Everest, don’t come back. But we’re not telling them they can’t do it. When we come up with these numbers, “loss of crew, 1 in 2,000…” that’s completely an arbitrary number. There’s no rational basis for it. And particularly for a vehicle that’s going to fly as seldom as Ares One did, what they are saying is, “we want a guarantee that we’re never going to lose crew.” Well, if you want to do that just do go into space. Its a tough frontier…its nutty to think we’re going to open it up without loosing people.

“Every one of the FAA regulations was written in blood – they learned by flying – and, we have to do the same thing in space. And we have to recognize that.”

A Genuine Intellectual with Integrity, John Lewis on Asteroid Mining and Mars Settlement

“Our first goal is not to settle space, but to make space so economically attractive that it will settle itself.”


“Pass carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through electrolysis with what is essentially a ceramic membrane and split it into carbon monoxide and oxygen. Liquify the carbon monoxide and oxygen and you have rocket fuel and rocket oxidizer. The performance of a carbon monoxide/oxygen engine is inferior to that of cryogenic propellants because you’re already using carbon that’s half burned. But – it’s sufficient to get off of Mars. With a single stage.”

Robert Zubrin on "Mars Direct" at the University of Washington 2011/02/25

Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society, gave an address at the University of Washington in Seattle,  February 25th on his “Mars Direct” plan and efforts to send humans to the Red Planet within a decade. Attended by students and faculty members, the lecture was hosted by Prof. Adam Bruckner, former Chair of UW’s Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics and one of the founding members of the University’s Astrobiology program.

The Mars Society would like to extend a special word of thanks to Gabriella Rios-Georgio, one of Prof. Bruckner’s students, for her wonderful work filming and editing Dr. Zubrin’s address at UW.

To watch Zubrin’s address, please click here

Special Offer on Print Version of the Journal of Cosmology’s "Human Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet"

We are pleased to announce that until December 31, 2010, the Journal of Cosmology is offering a discount to Mars Society members on the purchase of the print version of its highly acclaimed issue “Human Mission to Mars”

The print version of “Human Mission to Mars-Colonizing the Red Planet” can be purchased by Mars Society members for the reduced price of $50.00 through PayPal by using this link:

After December 31, the retail price will be $124.00.  (You can become an International Mars Society member, and receive a discount on attending their annual convention, here: )

The Human Mission to Mars issue was released in October to an international audience. It was edited by Joel S. Levine, Ph.D., NASA, Co-Chair, Human Exploration of Mars Science Analysis Group (HEM-SAG) of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), and Rudy Schild, Ph.D., Center for Astrophysics, Harvard-Smithsonian. It was presented in association and collaboration with The Mars Society.

For more information regarding the Journal of Cosmology, visit: