Mars Direct is called the suggested mission of Man to Mars which is believed to be cost-effective and possible with the use of current technology. Robert Zubrin and David Baker, both NASA engineers, first suggested it in a research paper in 1990. It was detailed in 1996 in â€œThe Case for Marsâ€ by Zubrin. Currently, Zubrin is the Mars Societyâ€™s head.
The project Zubrin enounces implies several launches. Him and his project partners assert that the heavy-lift boosters that will be needed are about the size of the ones used in the Apollo missions and could even derive from components of Space Shuttle.
For the first flight, a vehicle with no humans in would land on Mars and then return to Earth. The Vehicle contains a chemical plant, hydrogen supply and a nuclear reactor of small size. The purpose of this first flight is to create about 112 tons of oxygen and methane out of 8 tons of hydrogen from the Vehicle and the Martian carbon dioxide of the planetâ€™s atmosphere. The reactions used are the Sabatier reaction and the electrolysis. Of the 112 tons of gases, 96 would be used for the return of the vehicle and the rest for Mars rovers. The projectâ€™s initiators approximated a duration of 10 months for the experiment to be completed.
Following the launch of the Vehicle that would return to Earth, 26 months later, another vehicle would be launched. The second one is called "Mars Habitat Unit" and it would carry four astronauts on board. However, its launch is conditioned by the success of the chemical reactions of the previous vehicle. It is predicted to take up to 6 months for this vehicle to land on Mars. To make the experiment more close to reality, artificial gravity could be simulated in the Habitat Unit.
The Habitat Unit would be aerobraking into the orbit of the red planet and it would softly land close to the Earth Return Vehicle. The first lander would guide the precise landing by the means of a radar beacon. The astronauts are supposed to spend 18 months on the Martian surface. They would use a rover vehicle to assist them in the research they would conduct. The rover vehicle is supposed to be carried aboard the Habitat Unit. The crew would return on Earth aboard the Earth Return Vehicle, while the Habitat Unit would remain on Mars for other explorers to use it.