Will the rockets currently built by NASA and the two private space companies SpaceX and Blue Origin actually take people to Mars? Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield thinks that it’s unlikely.
In a recent chat with Business Insider, Hadfield was asked to comment on the future of the three rockets that are presently being developed for humanity’s first exploratory missions to the Red Planet.
The space race is on, and each of the three major players is working on its own project, striving to be the first one to put people on Mars.
NASA is getting closer and closer to completing the Space Launch System (SLS), designed to be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V that took astronauts to the moon.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is diligently working on the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) — or, as Musk likes to call it, “Big F***ing Rocket.”
At the same time, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is developing its own heavy-lift orbital rocket called the New Glenn, which Bezos thinks will hold an unusual advantage over SpaceX rockets, the Inquisitr reported earlier this year.
But Hadfield has major doubts that the SLS, the BFR, and the New Glenn will actually meet the expectations and ferry humans to the Red Planet.
“Personally, I don’t think any of those three rockets is taking people to Mars,” the retired astronaut told Business Insider.
‘Dangerous’ And Impractical
According to Hadfield, the technology used in building these three rockets, and particularly their fuel system, is not practical for a journey to Mars.
“I don’t think those are a practical way to send people to Mars because they’re dangerous and it takes too long,” the former astronaut said in his interview with Business Insider.
As Hadfield sees it, the problem with the rockets currently built by NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin is the way their engines are powered. Both the SLS and New Glenn are designed to work on a combination of liquid hydrogen and solid chemical fuels, whereas the BFR is intended to burn liquid methane, which SpaceX believes can be generated on Mars.
However, Hadfield is unconvinced that those are the best ideas.
“My guess is we will never go to Mars with the engines that exist on any of those three rockets unless we truly have to.”
We Need ‘Outlandish’ Technology To Get To Mars
The former astronaut has seen his fair share of space travel. Before hanging up his wings in 2013, when he retired from the Canadian Space Agency, Hadfield went on three spaceflights and has ridden inside both NASA space shuttles and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
He was the first Canadian to walk in space and to assume command of the International Space Station (ISS), which he helmed in 2013 during Expedition 35.
After flying two space shuttle missions and launching to the ISS, Hadfield knows a thing or two about spaceflight.
While he believes that the SLS, the BFR, and the New Glenn are key stepping stones in our endeavor to explore the solar system, the technology needs to be greatly improved before we can actually go to Mars.
“I think we need some more improvements in technology before we’ll cross the ‘oceans’ that are between us and Mars in any sort of practical way.”
In his opinion, other technologies might be a better bet than the plan to fuel our rockets with liquid hydrogen or methane. For instance, Hadfield points to ion propulsion and nuclear power as safer choices.
Another option would be the manipulation of gravity, which might one day be achieved with the help of the science experiments carried out by the particle accelerator at CERN and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on board the ISS.
“It sounds outlandish, but we figured out how to harness electricity and what electrons do, and that seemed crazy and it’s revolutionized life and travel. So, who knows?” Hadfield told Business Insider.
Sending Robots To Mars First Might Be A Better Idea
This is not the first time Hadfield has spoken out on the risks of sending astronauts to the Red Planet. As the Inquisitr recently reported, the former astronaut suggests that a manned mission to the moon might be safer and easier to pursue ahead of thinking about going to Mars.
Just to be clear, it’s not that Hadfield thinks we’re never going to make it there.
“We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk,” he points out.
The retired astronaut believes that “the technology is still quite primitive,” which is why most of the first space travelers to set foot on the Red Planet will probably never return home again.
“The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn’t make it,” Hadfield told Business Insider.
According to the media outlet, Musk himself warned that our first trip to Mars will result in casualties.
“The first journey to Mars is going to be really very dangerous,” Musk said in 2016 at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. “The risk of fatality will be high. There’s just no way around it.”
Given the major risks, Hadfield recommends that a robotic mission to the Red Plant might be a better starting point until we can upgrade out spaceflight technology.
“Why wouldn’t we just send robots for quite a while until we learn a lot more about Mars?”