Traveling to Mars is expensive, and can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, the launch time is limited to only every 26 months, as this is the time when Mars and Earth are optimally aligned. Now, mathematicians have found a new route to Mars that solves these problems and makes traveling to Mars cheaper and easier.
Gizmodo reports that Edward Belbruno and Francesco Topputo have found a path to Mars that takes advantage of the planet’s own motion. The method, which is called ballistic capture, can help in manned Mars expeditions, robotic missions, and even colonization.
James Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, says that the discovery of the new path is a huge development, as opposed to the Hohmann transfer method.
“It could be a big step for us and really save us resources and capability, which is always what we’re looking for.”
According to Scientific American, the new path to Mars will not lessen the costs for the launch and cruise. It will, however, lessen the spacecraft’s fuel load, as traveling via the new path will mean that the spacecraft won’t need as much fuel to brake as it nears Mars. The mathematicians explained everything in further detail.
“Instead of shooting for the location Mars will be in its orbit where the spacecraft will meet it, as is conventionally done with Hohmann transfers, a spacecraft is casually lobbed into a Mars-like orbit so that it flies ahead of the planet.”
“For ballistic capture, the spacecraft cruises a bit slower than Mars itself as the planet runs its orbital lap around the sun. Mars eventually creeps up on the spacecraft, gravitationally snagging it into a planetary orbit.”
Belbruno explains the ballistic capture as a “flying formation.” In addition to lessening the load of the spacecraft, ballistic capture also does away with the waiting period for the optical alignment of the planets that takes 26 months.
Though the new Mars route looks promising, it also has its downside. Following the new route means adding several months to the half-a-year journey to Mars, which is already mentally and physically taxing for the astronauts.
Despite this, the ballistic capture is still an interesting way to travel to Mars.
[Image via Telegraph UK]