Why Moderate Sized Rockets Are Better

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  • The Mars Quarterly is a very fine magazine published by the Mars Society. In the winter 2009 issue Scott “Doc” Horowitz has an article putting forth his reasons for building the Ares V. I understand his argument. It is, as he writes, “intuitively obvious.” However Horowitz fails to look at the big picture. If there were to be just one human mission to Mars in the history of the human race, his argument would be perfectly valid. Sending up three rockets, two of them Ares Vs would have three chances to fail and ruin the mission while sending up eight smaller rockets would have eight chances to fail and ruin the mission. If on the other hand sending a human mission to Mars is worth doing a dozen times, there will be spares of things that need to be launched for any one mission. If one of the smaller eight rockets needed to launch a Mars mission fails, its payload will tragically be lost, but the corresponding components from an upcoming mission will be moved up in line and the mission will go on. The mission component that can not be replaced is the crew. They would not be launched on an Ares V in any case. There are more chances for failure with the smaller rocket, a larger loss per failure with the bigger rocket. The big effect of the Ares V would be eating up the lion’s share of the budget to first construct the construction facilities, then build the rockets, then maintain the outsized facilities for construction and launch of rockets that get used every other year. This would prevent the reasonable development of lunar resources for another twenty years with the lunar missions turned into a circus with twenty-thousand dollar a pound astronauts eating twenty-thousand dollar a pound freeze dried food rehydrated with water from a twenty-thousand dollar a pound water recycler, lifting from Luna in a twenty-thousand dollar a pound ascent vehicle and mating with a ten-thousand dollar a pound Earth return vehicle that uses a ten-thousand dollar a pound heat shield for reentry. After using Luna as a staging base for Mars missions, NASA would then scratch moon off of its list and go on to Mars.
  • It is understandably hard to admit that one has been going at things in the wrong way when one has invested great effort and great sacrifices in what one has been doing. If anyone can show this to be in error, respond in the discussion section. Otherwise members of the Mars Society and members of the Moon Society should consider joining in calling for the cancellation of Ares V.