The objective of my project was to find out if humans can land on Mars and return to Earth using existing rocket technology. I hypothesize that this can be accomplished although it will take many launches.
First, I designed a theoretical Mars mission and calculated its mass. Then, I figured out how much propellant it would take to get it to Mars and back. Next, I added the propellant mass to the mass of the vehicle and found the total launch mass of the spacecraft. Finally, I divided this number by the amount of mass an existing heavy-lift rocket can carry to Low Earth Orbit to find the number of launches necessary.
I concluded that the mission would have a total mass of about 1,218,000 kg. It would take 49 launches of a Delta IV Heavy rocket to get this mass to Low Earth Orbit. This proves my hypothesis correct.
My hypothesis was correct: humans can get to Mars but it is not feasible with current technology. Forty-nine launches would require too much in-orbit assembly. The mass can be reduced, however, by employing mass saving techniques such as aerobraking into Mars orbit and in-situ resource utilization on Mars. For comparison, if the old Saturn V rocket were used, it would only take 10 launches to carry the spacecraft into Low Earth Orbit because the Saturn V was a more powerful rocket.
This project is to find the launch mass of a manned spacecraft to Mars and calculating the required number of launches using an existing rocket.
Science Fair Project done By Mark A. Chodas