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Using the ISS as a Mars Mission Analog

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
March 23, 2012
Filed under , , ,

NASA considering space station as dry run for 500-day Mars trip, would test human endurance, Washington Post
“The International Space Station may provide the setting for a 500-day pretend trip to Mars in another few years. NASA said Tuesday that consideration is under way to use the space station as a dry run for a simulated trip to and from Mars. It would be patterned after Russia’s mock flight to Mars that lasted 520 days at a Moscow research center.”
Let’s Stop Going in Circles – And Go Somewhere (2002), SpaceRef
“Re-dedicating the International Space Station to the specific task of flight certifying humans for travel to Mars – on a fixed schedule – and then holding to that schedule would bring a long absent focus and general direction to this meritorious but meandering program.”
Keith’s note Its about time NASA decided to do this. I think they should have been doing this from the moment that the first crew arrived.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.

50 responses to “Using the ISS as a Mars Mission Analog”

  1. Stuart J. Gray says:

    Awesome, now get Bigelow to finally build the transhab and get on with it.

    And, someone needs to come up with something useful for those people to do while they are at it.
    There has to be some sort of useful job they can do like accounting, web development, software development, theoretical astrophysics, etc. while keeping their minds occupied.
    Some people could telecommute to their regular jobs while in LEO.

    Then we need the high bandwidth laser comm for the real mission to Mars and during the trip to & from Mars the astronauts could continue a regular job on Earth. Talk about telecommuting! 😉

    • DTARS says:

      Laser faster than normal radio waves I thought they both go about the speed of light????

      • Steve Whitfield says:


        “high bandwidth laser comm” is communicating at light speed (in a vacuum), and so is radio.  The big difference is that laser light can be tightly aimed at the destination antenna, whereas radio frequencies inevitably spread out in a cone shape, so that the signal strength at the receiver is much reduced (most of the radio wave comes nowhere near the receiver antenna; the longer the distance, the more you lose).

        The “high bandwidth” part just means more independent channels of comm, but you knew that.


        • jimlux says:

          Laser light spreads too, just like radio. It’s just that the beam width is inversely proportional to the width of the antenna (telescope) measured in wavelengths. A 30cm diameter telescope at 1 micron (near IR) is like a 3km antenna at 1 cm (Ka-Band).
          But realistically, today we do multiple megabits per second from Mars with 3 meter antennas on the spacecraft and radio, and there’s nothing making it particularly difficult to do 10s of Mbps. Even 100Mbps mostly requires more DC power, and if you have astronauts you’re already well beyond the “few hundred watts” that’s typical for current exploration spacecraft.

          Besides, up til 100 years ago used to send small numbers of explorers off in ships to remote places with no comm and a promise to write when they got back. I think that astronauts can handle exploration with a few Mbps just fine.

        • DTARS says:

          No I did not sir, only part so thankyou for the info, I know it now and maybe 5 more people do too 🙂

          Not a rocket scientistt

          Correction did know the bandwidth part lol whatever 🙂

      • Julie Gray says:

         Also – The higher the frequency of the carrier, the more “bits” that can fit in the signal. Higher frequency means more bits-per-second. And as mentioned, using a laser as the carrier means much more energy reaches the receiver.

        There is no way around the TWLT (two way light time) which can be greater than 20 minutes if Mars in near solar conjunction.

  2. Donald Barker says:

    A better analogue would be to fly a crew to ISS for six months, simulating the interplanetary portion of a Mars mission and then have them land somewhere in an isolated portion of the western United States (thus providing/proving the ability to land Soyuz craft in other locations besides Kazakhstan) where the crew could rendezvous with a simulated Mars base for another year of isolated/controlled simulation. The reason is that the ISS is not a relevant analogue to any planetary surface exploration, operations or biological/psychological adaptation studies. We have a good grasp on how to live in space for six month durations, but not a good understanding of extended missions which transition to different environments (especially with regards to radiation, gravity and dust). And that transition is important for both crews and hardware. Just being isolated, off the Earth for 500 days does not afford any new or great insight to how we would conduct or adapt to a Mars mission. You might as well send people to the dry Antarctic valleys for that time instead of the ISS – as it would be more relevant and probably cheaper.

    • Jerry_Browner says:

      I agree. Based on recent revelations on permanent deterioriation of astronaut eyesight, in addition to already well known information about bone demineralization and muscle wasting, I doubt we will ever fly a Mars mission of multiple years duration without some type of artificial-G. Just sending people up for a year and a half in order to set a new duration record is kind of pointless.  

      • dogstar29 says:

        All of these problems also occur with chronic immobility or confinement to bed due to illness on Earth, and have attracted surprisingly little interest even though the number of victims is greater by several orders of magnitude. Yes, they can be problems and risks, but they are minor compared to the risk of violent death in a spacecraft crash or system failure. Several people have spent periods in space considerably greater than the transit time to Mars.

        The real obstacle to human spaceflight is cost-effectiveness. The work people can do has to be of greater value than the cost of sending them. We cannot increase the value of their work, so if we want o go, we must very substantially reduce the cost of the trip.

        • kcowing says:

          bedrest studies are useful but they are an imperfect model.  The individual cells and tissues are still exposed to gravity and zero G exposure has shown genes turned on and turned off differently than what occurs in a 1G field.  Whales may be buoyant but their tissues are very much subject to gravity.

          • DTARS says:

            genes turned on and turned off differently? wow!!!  
            So loonies and martians could really change very fast in only a few generations or two.
            And no rats wheels are up there yet or  tethered spacecraft test flights ???Why isn’t NASA trying to figure ways to get us in space safely now??

            Shouldn’t a cheap mars trip vehicle be 2 Bigelow habs tethered on a string with dragon capsules docked in line with falcon second stage used as service modules and then learn how to steer  that while it spins?
            Have Bigelow square that hab up too so they don’t feel like they live in a soup can.

          • Anonymous says:

            True. And important if we expect to make any long voyages in our lifetimes.

          • dogstar29 says:

            Some plant cells clearly demonstrate direct effects of gravity, but mammalian cells have evolved to function in any gravitational orientation and have never been shown to be directly influenced by it. All the effects of gravity on mammals are due to gravitational effects on larger structures and resultant forces due to weight, convective flow, etc. Even the detection of gravity (i.e. in the mammalian vestibular apparatus) requires specialized noncellular structures such as statoliths.

            As to the turning on of genes in microgravity, I beg you to spend a little time with the real literature in microbiology and you will quickly find this claim, widely repeated in the lay press, has no scientific credibility. The virulence transition in salmonella is not a “discovery” made in space, it is well known and can be easily triggered on earth by trivial changes in oxygen partial pressure or pH. The changes seen in space were likely the result of unavoidable differences in flow conditions within the culture media, in fact the investigator’s recent work has mostly been in the rotating cell culture apparatus on the ground, where the cells are tossed about in fluid but obviously still in one gravity.

            Finally, an excellent vaccine for salmonella already exists and has virtually eliminated the disease in Britain. It is not used in the US due to opposition from the poultry industry.

      • newpapyrus says:

         I absolutely agree!

        If NASA is really serious about sending humans to Mars then there needs to be some real  funds for developing and deploying simple rotating artificial gravity space stations and interplanetary transhabs  at LEO and probably at one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points to give it full exposure to cosmic radiation beyond the magnetosphere.

        And with a big rocket like the SLS in the near future, there’s no logical reason why such facilities can’t be deployed during the 2020s with perhaps just one or two SLS cargo launches.

        The deployment of simple rotating artificial gravity space stations and interplanetary vehicles in space  should be one of NASA’s top priorities!

        Marcel F. Williams

        • DTARS says:

          make sure the solids are not on SLS and that you use liquids. 6 falcon 9s would be nice / two falcon heavies with cross tanking as tinker discribe so that strap ons having 3 stages not 2 turning the SLS into a safe 7 core booster.  if it gets canceled then Spacex puts its own central core like tinker described and you have CHEAP HEAVY LIFT IN THE 2020s not SLS

          Marcel if you want affordable heavy lift we really need to get that SLS money to Elon if we ever want to be a multi planet species.

          build that merlin 2

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s easy to visualize a tethered pair of fairly large life support modules launched on something like the Falcon Heavy. The two modules could be fairly light weight, and spun around a common center using a tether of controllable length to study varying amounts of artificial gravity. Put a docking station at the CG, and away you go. If there were problems, the personnel would be in LEO, not halfway to Mars.

          Not the easiest job to do, but very little that’s easy is worth doing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Let me add that LEO artificial gravity experiments  appear to be a rock-solid necessity, and the sooner the better–it has become pretty obvious that we aren’t going on any long trips beyond LEO without artificial gravity.

            Several recent papers show that lack of gravity has effects that reach beyond those we we already knew about. Effects on the eyes and brain, not just the more mechanical parts of the body.

          • Steve Whitfield says:


            I think your suggestion is very important.  A lot of people seem to think that a centrifuge or rotating vehicle/station (without even specifying size and performance) with solve all of the micro-g problems — and that’s a big problem, to me.  What if Congress agrees to fund a Mickey Mouse centrifuge and it doesn’t nicely solve all of the problems (which I consider the likely outcome).  There’s a good chance that the money people and those ignorant of basic physics are going to say, “hey, you guys were wrong!” and that will be the end of it, a dead end.

            I think we need to stress, up front, that a centrifuge, or any other micro-g mitigating method is, at this point, an experiment only, and further that 1) there are parameters that need to be investigated, which means more than a single experiment will be required, and 2) there are other methods, such as tethers, that need to be fully investigated as well.  In some things, it’s good enough simply to have a solution that works.  But in the case of overcoming micro-g, we want the best system available.  Would you bet your life on less than the best system, or on a system that has only been determined to work theoretically?

            We need to be up front and tell the whole story, or we’ll be refighting the battle from scratch for every step, and ruining our credibility with the decision makers.

            I firmly believe that up front, whole picture presentations should be applied to all proposals.  History shows that we’ve only screwed ourselves by trying to make anything look better or cheaper than it really is at the outset.  To my mind, that’s one of the advantages that “new space” has going for it — they don’t have the decades of experience that the “old space” companies have, but neither do they have the decades-long record of misrepresented costs.

            It is a mistake to ask for wheels, axles, a handle and a wagon bed when what you really need is a cargo transportation system. Likewise, it’s a mistake to ask for a centrifuge when what you really want is a system for overcoming the effects on humans of living in a micro-g environment.


    • kcowing says:

      ISS is a splendid analog for a vehicle traveling to a destination and how a crew can use that time to prepare for landing. I totally agree with your suggestion about sending them somewhere remote on Earth to do real surface ops – directly after returning to Earth from space. If 500 days in zero G followed by several months working in a remote research base works then you have a valuable data point for what you do and do not need to include in your Mars transit vehicle i.e. do you need some sort of centrifugation or will zero G be tolerable.  I think the zero G mode is possible if enough exercise is worked in. What is not accurately modeled is the radiation exposure and despite those who dismiss it this is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent suggestions.

    • Steve Pemberton says:

      “psychological adaptation studies”

      This is a critical component and should be simulated as accurately as possible. All Earth facing windows need to be shuttered.  There should be a time delay built into all communications with Earth which increases as the mission progresses.  Only in an emergency would there be any live communication. Ideally there would be no visiting crewed spacecraft during the simulation.

      Why is this important?  Long term space travel will be very difficult due to the isolation and tedium, and we better find out now how to get people through two to three years of near total isolation.   ISS expeditions as currently flown are quite lacking in terms of being psychological analogues.

      Based on listening to a lot of interviews over the years, ISS expedition crew members seem to be unanimous that the following three things make their stays tolerable and even enjoyable:

      1. Viewing the Earth  (they never seem to get tired of this)
      2. Living and working in microgravity (they never seem to get tired of this either)
      3. Talking to friends and family by telephone and occasional video calls.

      Hobbies such as reading and movie watching are sometimes mentioned but not nearly as often as the three that I have listed. 

      A mission to Mars will take away the spectacular views of Earth that astronauts enjoy in LEO.  Their views of Earth will be through binoculars, and eventually through a telescope, and will not be nearly as mesmerizing as cruising 250 miles above Earth in a spiral pattern that covers nearly the entire planet on a daily basis.

      Talking to friends and family will be replaced by voicemail and videomail which is not the same thing.  Remember Frank Poole’s birthday greeting from his parents in 2001, and how emotionally detached he was when he watched it?  Compare that to how engaged Dr. Heywood Floyd was when he had his live video chat with his daughter to wish her a happy birthday.  Okay it’s a movie but I think it paints a vivid and accurate picture of the difference.

      And then what if on top of this microgravity is taken away?  In interviews with ISS members back on the ground they often list microgravity as the one thing that they really miss about being in space. This should be taken into consideration when thinking about artificial gravity.   Centrifuges that astronauts sleep in, if that turns out to be adequate for mitigating biological effects, would be preferable to constant artificial gravity induced by spinning a spacecraft or using tethers. 

      I realize that some people will dismiss all of this as powder puff thinking and will assert that we just need to send people with the “right stuff”.  Maybe so, but people aren’t machines.  Two to three years of near total isolation in an environment of constant danger is something that will push the psychological limits of anyone who goes, and it should not be taken lightly.

      • Steve Whitfield says:


        I agree with your suggestions, all around.  I would also consider adding some things that ISS doesn’t have, to see if they help travelers tolerate the long trip and dislocation.  For example. I’d add more on-board memory storage than you’d ever need for operations, and then I’d have support people on Earth sending up data (books, reports, newspapers, new movies, anything and everything that might be of interest to the travelers) in a continuous stream.  Don’t wait for requests.  There may also be value in things like personal diaries (separate from ship logs), where each traveler might keep two diaries, one that’s entirely personal and one that gets downloaded to Earth daily.  The basic idea behind the things I’m thinking of is, since you don’t have real-time comm, the next best thing is continuous comm (as much as reasonable) so that there’s always something new in the pipe to provide both interest and feedback.


        • DTARS says:

          Having most of your space travelers be couples might be just a little better than video mail for oveous mental health reasons.

  3. Jeff2Space says:

    Too bad ISS doesn’t have a centrifuge.  

    • kcowing says:

      It used to … indeed, I was the Payload Accommodations Manager for the 2.5 meter Centrifuge Facility on Space Station Freedom … I was sorry to see this deleted since we could have had a lot of real answers about long term zeroG exposure and possible countermeasures by now.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yet another example of short-term thinking damaging prospects in a very important area. Sad.

  4. Nassau Goi says:

    This a bad idea, this long in microgravity will be almost a sure bet for osteoporosis in females at some point, not to mention permanent vision changes for most male crew members willing to do it.

    This requires a centrifuge as been the case for decades. ISS was intended to be a interplanetary launch point, until the Russian inclination killed it.

    “In his first major policy speech last month, Sean O’Keefe spoke passionately of inspiring the next generation of explorers ” as only NASA can.””

    These people are trying to put band aids on bad design and mission architecture in the first place. Not really a good thing build inspiration on.

  5. Lyle Wood says:

    A. Learn from Arthur C. Clarke
    B. Any team heading for Mars is going to HAVE to have artificial gravity or be worthless when they land despite the fact that Martian gravity is less than Earths and no matter how many C.O.L.B.E.R.T.S. they take along.
    C. Train on the moon. Go to the moon. Live on the moon. Test the equipment on the moon. Learn from one’s mistakes on the moon. Get used to and learn to cope with less gravity, solar radiation, air and water recycling, growing food, and, in general, living off-earth yet be within rescue distance…on the moon.  Then and only then…
    D. Go to Mars.
    E. C’mon, folks, simulating part of a Mars mission is exactly what they ARE doing now on the ISS by simply spending six months in a can. It’s the existence part on the surface AFTER getting to Mars that’s the tricky part and THAT can only be learned on the moon…not in Antarctica, the Sierra Desert on Montana. 
    Mr. Clarke had it all absolutely right. Just read his works. It’s all there including the fact that if one builds a space station in the shape of a wheel one can have the best of both worlds… zero gee in the center and one gee at the edge… look ma, no more physical torture and wasted time exercising. Wow.

    • Donald Barker says:

      Unfortunately I disagree with B and C. We have crews returning from 6 month rotations regularly, and they are not completely useless upon return; some even have to fend off wolves after landing in the Great Steppe. The question we don’t understand is how Mars gravity will affect our bodily systems for periods of a year and more. My belief is that our bodies will fare much better with this gravity level and this will not inhibit such missions. This also argues against the any need for any centrifuge type architectures. Second, the moon is just as bad an analogue as the ISS since the gravity is significantly smaller again, there is no atmosphere for radiation protection, and most of the systems and science done on the surface will be very different due to types of geology, resources, dust variety and again because there is no atmosphere on the moon. Again, Antarctica is much a better analogue for Mars than the moon. Just because it’s in space does not make it more relevant to Mars. Oh, PS, I am not knocking the moon, I actually am working with lunar samples now, I just think it not worth the cost as a Mars analogue.

      • newpapyrus says:

        It will be extremely dangerous for humans to explore Mars without some simple outpost deployed on the Martian surface first.  Permanently manned facilities in orbit around Mars, sustained by resources mined from Deimos and Phobos,  would   also probably enhance safety.

         A lunar out post would give us a chance to test the reliability of such an outpost for several years before deploying a similar one on the surface of Mars.

        A lunar out post would also give us a chance to test various levels of radiation protective mass shielding using lunar polar resources for interplanetary vehicles and ground bases such as: lunar regolith, water, liquid hydrogen, and maybe even liquid CH4.

        Marcel F. Williams

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s important that we recognize the long-term effects of weightlessness, especially as KC points out, the lesser known effects. It’s also important that we begin experimenting in LEO to determine the optimum amount of artificial gravity needed to maintain overall health on long missions. One-quarter G may be enough, or 3/4 G may be necessary–at this point, we don’t know, and finding out will require lengthy studies at different amounts of artificial gravity. If we are serious about working and traveling beyond LEO, this is one of the most important areas of research we need to conduct, and if it were up to me, I’d start now (Well, I would have started in the 1970s. Unrealistic, I know.). Unfortunately, as it stands we have no data at all on the effects of varying amounts of artificial gravity, and before we risk crew on long missions, we need it.

      • Paul451 says:

        Don’t forget >1g intermittently. It’d be useful to know if time at higher-than-1g would offset or delay the effects of low and micro-g.

        Some of this can be tested now, using a very large centrifuge on Earth to “build up” astronauts for varying periods before an ISS mission. Ideally, matched pairs with previous ISS flights and similar micro-g responses.

        You know, research.

        • Anonymous says:

          Excellent idea. Some double-blind studies here would be very interesting, and we could conduct them with equipment already available and control groups here on the ground and aboard the ISS. The N wouldn’t be very large, and we might miss some minute effects, but even so, it’s well worth doing.

          • Paul451 says:

            Errr, how would you double-blind them? Or single-blind them? The astronauts are going to have a fairly good idea whether or not they’re in the centrifuge or on the ISS… 🙂

  6. dogstar29 says:

    it’s only natural to exaggerate problems when your research funding depends on it, but the stories that come out every year or two that we have just discovered some kind of horrifying roadblock are absurd. To anyone who has actually met astronauts after their return from months in weightlessness the remarkable thing is how LITTLE deficit most of them have. The vast majority are back to essentially normal performance within a few days. On a Mars flight the risk of death from spacecraft malfunction is many times greater.

    That said, we need to demonstrate that the ISS can accomplish productive work in LEO before we think about going BEO, and that includes have cost-effective ways to get there. With current technology maintaining a human presence on Mars is completely unaffordable.

  7. Steve Whitfield says:

    Whether we choose the ISS, Moon, Mars, or another place in space, I feel strongly that there are still too many “every day living” things that have yet to be translated into a “space mode.”  The logistics of supplying the ISS, after all these years, is still unsustainable, in my opinion.  Food, clothing, air, almost everything needed to live is prepackaged and sent up from Earth, and then basically thrown in the trash after a single use.  This system is extremely expensive and there’s no way it would work out for either a Mars mission or a long-term lunar base, and it’s long past time people faced up to that fact.

    If we seriously want to “colonize” other places, a word that more people are encouraging us to use these days, or even just stay anywhere farther than LEO for an extended period of time, then we need to learn how to LIVE in space, or on other planets/moons, not just pack a great big suitcase, and then throw the suit case in the garbage and send up another one after its contents have been used once.

    This, to my mind, should have been the ISS’s primary mission from day one — learn how to LIVE IN SPACE, not just pack a suitcase and go on vacation.

    Some of this can be done at remote locations on Earth, some at the ISS, some with inflatable habs, some on the Moon, and much of it could probably be done in any of these places, but after all of these years we’re still not doing it, not learning to live “in space”!

    There needs to be an overall plan to accomplish this, over time, and it needs to be taken seriously. Otherwise, for all our cool accomplishments, we’re not going anywhere at all.

    One final comment; anyone who thinks that this can’t be made interesting and exciting has no imagination.


    • DTARS says:

      🙂 learn to live in space? What a novel idea lololol

      rat wheels or teathered flight growing your own food

      let NOT just study how bad weightlessness is on humans. Lets fix the problem!!!!!!

      should be testing a dragon lander there too.

      2 stage LEM like dragon with trunk with legs then use another dragon with a refueled falcon second stage as a service module.
      test the lander near ISS dock the parts on a beam added to ISS. Then use a falcon heavy to send up a booster to push that family of spacex stuff to the moon.
      do it apollo like and land a tesla there first while you test fly everything.
      maybe leave your big booster at L1 or L2
      maybe have the service module come back to ISS for reuse

      we need to get on with making man a multi planet species and stop pretending to be studying for the future. and burning money.

      falcon apollo like moon mission for the 50th birthday a robot lander if we don’t get there in time. ISS crew needs stuff to do test landers

      I want go to space moon mars where ever not PRETEND to go to mars.

      Spacex has the building blocks all nasa has to do is put them together.

      use ISS cots cargo and DRAGON rider money to get the lander parts and fuel to ISS for assembly and testing. and storing for flights

    • Anonymous says:

      I would have liked to have seen an ISS module devoted entirely to sustaining life. That is, hydroponics for studying the problems and practicality of growing vegetables and renewing the atmosphere. We have done a lot of work on Earth to determine what it would take to support humans without resupply, but something like this would have given us a good baseline for operations beyond LEO.
      I’m sure I’m not alone in my view that the ISS isn’t being used to its full potential as a testbed for the techniques and methodologies required for deep-space travel. Now that it is fully fleshed, it’s time to use it to help us toward the skills we need to go beyond. Crystal growth, et al, is fine so far as it goes, but there are many other important things we could be doing up there but aren’t.

  8. Nox Anonymous says:

    I like a lot of the comments that I am reading here, but we need to stop talking and actually do stuff. Given those constraints, lets utilise the ISS to do this experiment. It’s not a perfect experiment, but for (expletive)’s sake let DO something and stop talking.

    • DTARS says:

      I AGREEEEE   lolol

    • Anonymous says:

      We certainly have a knowledge base that would allow us to do some very ambitious things in cislunar space, Nox. I, too, would like to see a freeze on perpetual study, and a move to actual missions.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Steve_Whitfield, agreed.
    Among the things we need to know are the differing abilities of tethered modules and centrifuges to maintain health. Coriolis force could be a major issue with centrifuges, but we have no data on their use in micro-gravity yet even though they might be the least costly solution.
    Tethered modules would be less susceptable to coriolis issues because of their overall diameter, but again we have no data. Longer tethers and higher spin rates would suggest higher costs.
    Also, as mentioned, we need information about the long-term health effects of varying amounts of G. Those experiments will take time.
    These are not just health issues, but spacecraft-engineering issues, as the various solutions to delivering artificial gravity could greatly effect the cost of a deep-space craft for obvious reasons.
    Ideally, this is research that should have begun decades ago, and it is research we will need to do before we can send crew into deep space for long durations with a clear conscience.

  10. John Gardi says:


    It’s good to see so many of you hit the nail on the head about why ISS wouldn’t make a good analog for simulating a trip to Mars. We will not go anywhere far in microgravity. On a coast cruise to Mars it only makes sense to  spin up the craft to produce a semblance of gravity. Recent studies have shown that long periods of microgravity can do permanent damage to folks eyesight.

    A real test would be to build a centrifugal test platform. Build a long spine with habitation modules on each end and a docking port in the center. Make it about two hundred meters long so that it can simulate a wide range of ‘gravity’. Worried that the docking hub in the center would drift from different weight distribution at the ends? Don’t. Think boom crane. A counter-weight of cargo on rails or two fuel tanks with a pump between them along the truss could balance the whole unit so the docking port is at the gravitational center. Orbit/build the platform in the ISS orbit and keep it in lock-step a safe distance but close enough to lend support.

    Then we could do a real BEO simulation… or we could just build the thing and actually go somewhere with it. Damn the torpedoes!


  11. Littrow says:

    Many of the components to build an artificial-g cis-lunar spacecraft are available using ISS as the basis. Build a sortie R&D vehicle using components like the US Hab, MPLM, Node and Cupola. The Node goes in the center. The axial ports allow vehicles to come and go. The radial ports allow attachment of permanent elements. The Hab at one end. The MPLM at the opposite. A tunnel allows personnel to transfer  between them. Initially the vehicle co-orbits with ISS. Over time different propulsion options and module reconfigurations are tried, including different spin rates for different levels of artificial-G. Over time the vehicle flies further from ISS, coming back periodically in order to re-outfit and upgrade; eventually it goes on expeditions to GEO, L2, and around the moon. This is an R&D effort analogous in many ways to the 1950s X-plane era. It takes us places incrementally, not requiring massive expenditures to re-invent old technologies and not requiring a continuous assembly line of unaffordable Orions. The same expertise working ISS today expands on that expertise to apply their systems to a new configuration instead of the fits and starts required by the old NASA way of doing things.

    • Anonymous says:

      Littrow, I like the idea. It should work well as a general approach, though if you want to disassemble the ISS, you might run into some opposition 🙂

  12. Anonymous says:

    Paul 451: You’re right. I should have said “controlled experiments.” A dumb, pre-coffee mistake.

  13. Saturn1300 says:

     Actually a tether artificial gravity experiment has been done.Gemini.They said you could see a pencil move.I was glad to see someone agree that low cost access to LEO is the key.He said get that and everything else will follow.SpaceX is not the answer.Too expensive.They need to cut costs.I did not see a single robot on their floor.What is needed  to build rockets is to be  completely automated like the space station that repaired Enterprise.Use electronic computers not brains to run it however.I think that GAO will do a study on not hiring private companies to build NASA rockets and spacecraft.I would like to see the comparison on what the cost of NASA building the dummy 2nd stage and Orion,compared to hiring a private company would have been.Was NASA’s cost only the cost of material?Would that make a good model for NASA making all of their on rockets and spacecraft? Just convince the President and Congress.I am working on it.
     A good place to look for how much radiation there is in space is the Lunar Orbiters.Each one had a radiation experiment.

  14. DTARS says:

    Mr. Cowing

    It is Saturday morning and I have just made a few posts in
    the ISS mars study thread.

    Even though I have said many things in the past that could
    be looked at as ISS bashing  I believe
    that ISS is very important to getting us off this rock. I don’t think that ISS
    should ever be de-orbited. The program should be changed to be more useful and

    I believe that this mars simulation should done has fast as
    possible. Where is the Bigelow rubber room that was planned 8 years or so ago?
    Why is Bigelow on hold? Because NASA didn’t get that going for whatever reason?
    I think that the Mars simulation should be very realistic. What can be done to
    have them grow their own food too.

    I get angry why I read how little ISS is being used to get
    us into space. It should be transformed into a space port, a space city.

    I worry that ISS will only be used an excuse to say we are
    studying gravity while it just sucks money.

    I so wish that flights there could be made cheaper soon so
    it can grow not die.

    Replace the modules with Bigelow rubber rooms and build moon
    landers and spaceships there .

    Let’s make it what it should be.

    I wish I knew how!

    Thanks again for all you do Keith

    George H. Worthington IV

    PS I recall when Greeson said we should be settling Space
    and Everyone went YESSS!!! And I went you mean we are not ???

    One thing I think all the groups should agree on is NASA
    needs to make Space flight cheaper to do anything at all. 

    Thank heavens for ELON

  15. DTARS says:

    Don’t we already know that weightless for long periods won’t
    work for humans. Why not let the ISS crew test a moon lander? And test fly
    tethered spacecraft or get a rat wheel up there in a Bigelow hab


    Let’s have a manned mission on the moon for the Apollo’s
    moon landings 50th for CHEAP

    How could we do it?

    First Mr. C says we need a lander

    Ok we take a few seats out of a dragon rider and test it on
    the cots flights to ISS.

    We use the same super dracos to turn a dragon trunk into a
    landing stage just like the LEM.

    We design the legs to this trunk so they fold underneath the
    trunk so it is easy to launch. Since the dragon is the lunar return/liftoff
    vehicle we add external fuel tanks. We use a falcon nine to get this to leo and
    test it. Test fly it around ISS . dock it at ISS on an added beam where we
    store used falcon stages.

    Now we need a command module

    We send a dragon to ISS with its second stage still

    Now at ISS you have your lander and command module and all
    you need is more fuel.

    So you launch a falcon heavy with a falcon 9 booster/or BIG falcon
    second stage booster has its payload. The booster flies near ISS where your ISS
    crew, dock their command module and lander to it. Transfer some fuel and boost
    the whole falcon family to the moon for a Apollo like mission.

    Of course you  send
    this to the moon as a robot mission first. Maybe land that tesla rover first.

    News Flash

     Dragon robot mission
    falling to the moon. A dragon LEM like vehicle drops straight to the moon and
    lands while a test lunar command module goes into orbit around the moon. Once
    on the moon the dragon lunar return vehicle will hop off its landing stage and
    land nearby, like dragon rider lands on earth. It will lower its rover and then
    fly back to its orbiting command module, test dock and then dragon will be
    boosted by its service module/falcon2 stage home to earth for a landing in Florida.
    And the service module goes into earth orbit to make its way back to ISS for

    Once tested couldn’t you leave a dragon command module in
    lunar orbit as a emergency backup?

    What is so hard or expensive about this?? Spacex has the
    building blocks Lets just put them together ?


    Can’t Spacex develop the lander using ISS cots missions to
    test it for just a billion bucks or so?

    Can’t a dragon rider, plus a fueled  falcon second stage be an Apollo command
    module, no added cost there?

    Couldn’t dragon ISS cargo missions or dragon rider missions
    carry some fuel in the trunk for lander testing??

    Does  one falcon heavy
    flight have enough fuel to do this mission? Boost this on orbit family to the

    Maybe the empty booster parks in L1 or L2 to be  a future fuel depot

    Well I know that this is still a throw away mission and
    doesn’t help much to build a permanent space railroad. But it sure doesn’t look
    all that hard to me. Dragon cargo and dragon rider missions to ISS could pay
    for lots of the lander testing and ISS crew could do that testing and assembly
    so they have something to do.

    Do it the easy way


    If Some one could outline how you should do a moon mission
    using L1 or L2 with Spacex building blocks.

    It sure would be nice to hear.

    Couldn’t my two stage lander easily be turned into a 1 stage
    lander that can get back and forth to an L1 or L2 fuel depot?

    Couldn’t that  L1 or
    L2 depot be made out of Spacex falcon boosters serviced be falcon heavies?

    Falcon heavy fuel truck you just add to the size/length of your
    center core right?

    Wouldn’t your fuel type be for Merlin’s first before
    converting over to hydrogen later once you have an economic technical foot hold
    on the moon?


    : ( what the hell are we building SLS and ORION for??? Let s
    go to the moon instead!

    Some one  please let
    me know if these ideas are not practical and how it could be done better.



  16. DTARS says:

    Let do this at ISS NOW! start this year!

    Dragon Trunk Moon and Planet Lander

    We at ISSR Inner Solar System Railroad are looking for
    Aerospace engineers to help us design the lander that will help man to land on
    nearby moons and planets in the near future. We are currently working with
    Spacex ‘s Dragon Trunk Program to develop an affordable all purpose lander,
    which will then be used to provide landing services to our public/nasa and
    commercial Space customers.

    ISSRs trunk /lander goals.

    Robot  lander which
    tests hardware for final product which is a manned lander.

    The first Dragon Trunk Design should be a Robot
    Lander/rover. The lander/trunk would have a standard Draco landing package at
    the top of the trunks cylinder. It would have 4 foldout landing legs similar to
    the L.E.M.. These legs would have electric powered wheels that receive their
    energy from the battery pack located at the center of the cylinder. The leftover
    Draco fuel would be used to fuel a generator for emergency and night time use(customer
    provides his own nuclear power). This trunks skin should be solar cells as well
    as have foldout solar panels that track the sun. This rover/trunk/lander will
    also have the ability to use its Draco’s rockets to hop from one location to
    the other. Should it get stuck or need to relocated for better exploring . Space
    for customer Science packages and robotic arms and eyes will be provided at the
    bottom perimeter of the trunk cylinder per the customer’s requirements.

    Later after flight testing and commercial robot use. This
    trunk design can be used as a man lander while mated to dragon. Our general
    design should be easily modified to provide robot and man lander solutions for
    all planets and moons,  smaller than
    earth in our solar system. Foldout heat shields can be added for  MARs and Titan. Lol For venous landings call
    the Russians! : ) lol

    Yup we plan to put a lot in a Dragon trunk!

    Come help us start designing our way to the future.

    Inner Solar System Railroad Inc.

    PS well Mr. C  We have
    ISS. We have cots cargo missions to ISS.

    We soon should have cots dragon rider missions to ISS.


    Isn’t that why we built ISS to be a stepping stone to outer

    There is your robot testing for human space/landing vehicles
    Mr. C.

    Sure doesn’t seem all that difficult to me. WHY do we insist
    on doing ever y thing the hard way.

    IT SURE  Doesn’t take
    a rocket scientist !!!!!!

    Cancel SLS

    Cancel Orion and let’s get started on the new Commercial
    Space age.