MMP – Mars Moons Project
The Case for The Martian Moons.
The most economically interesting extraterrestrial body in the solar system for export to Earth.
Before a Mars colony can reach self-sustaining sizes it will find itself with a large population completely dependent on expensive technology imports from Earth. Somehow this must be paid for.
This project suggests a novel approach towards dramatically decreasing export cost from the Mars system to Earth’s orbit.
Using material from Deimos to make products instead of Mars itself and novel orbital manoeuvres (via L1 Halo orbit) requires around 5 times less delta v for exporting goods compared to launching from Mars’ surface, aided also by lower thrust requirements (fewer engines).
For the other half of successful export to Earth, cheap aerocapture at Earth’s atmosphere, a large reusable nickel superalloy spacecraft (a “semi-cycler”) travels with the freight to aerobrake just enough for elliptical orbital capture.
Its large size permits aerobraking without the use of disposable heat shields and greatly simplifies maintenance. Inbound freight from Mars now captured in a steep ellipse and detached from the semi-cycler, this freight can then gently aerobrake without the semi-cycler over many passes until low Earth orbit is achieved.
The detached aerobraking spacecraft follows a steep ellipse to Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1, loitering until the next launch window where it launches outbound to double as a cycler-style living space for Earth->Mars passengers, hence the name semi-cycler.
Storing orbital energy at a Lagrange point enables minimal outbound fuel costs and launch date flexibility.
Together, the semi-cycler and use of Martian Moons for source material may provide as much as 50 times lower export costs than shipping naively from the Martian surface, making an entire new industry possible.
The export of thousands of tonnes of satellite components and other goods at a profit from Mars could thus enable much quicker development of a Mars colony.