Don’t worry this is not a birth announcement. Well, actually it could be! MISS in this presentation stands for Mars International Space Station. That’s right a good focus point for our future exploration of our solar system is the creation of orbiting space stations that provide both observation and launch points for the study of our planetary neighbors.
MISS would be constructed in the same manner as the present ISS orbiting Earth. Like the ISS, MISS would be built in a LEO environment with the needed propulsion units to eventually move it on its way to Mars. Right, it would not be a high speed rocket trip to Mars, but as a moving space laboratory it would be gathering a host of new data enroute.
Well, forget it right? We just shelved the shuttle So we take that glorious design and expand upon it and create a super shuttle that gives us the load capacity to carry the required components for MISS. We are planning on building a new HLV anyway, so lets make it an HLV that will put a super shuttle in LEO.
MISS will be bigger and provide for eventual lander missions to Mars, and because of the extreme distances the duty time of its international team will be longer. This is a challenge and the data we have from the ISS will help, but because of increased solar radiation hazards MISS will be of a heftier design. MISS, however, is expected to still chug along at a speed that will put her in orbit around Mars in just under 5 months or less.
What about crew exchange and emergency relief? Well we have several designs already on the books, we just need to update and develop propulsion systems that will move the crew modules at top speed back and forth to the MISS. The same HLV that puts up the super shuttle will move the “Orion” style crew vehicle in LEO where its own VASIMR type propulsion system take over. I use VASIMR as an example, it could be any other variation of these new innovative propulsion systems. Fusion engines would be ideal, but we should not delay MISS while waiting for that eventuality.
By the way, the crew modules remain in space. When they return to LEO they are met by the super shuttle. The returning crew transfers to the shuttle for the trip down to Earth. Repairs or upgrades to the crew modules are done in orbit.
Hopefully, you have noted that the real innovation with MISS is really already proven and that is “in-orbit” construction. We need to expand on this and MISS is the ideal opportunity. MISS construction will underscore the ISS success and lay the groundwork for the future construction of all DSV’s (Deep Space Vehicles). Additionally, it takes the incredible performance history and functionality of the shuttle and puts it back in its rightful place as a major and critical factor in all future space exploration efforts. We should remember that aerodynamic sleekness is needed only when we need to enter, re-enter or exit planetary environments. DSV’s and MISS type spacecraft do not need this. Only modules that will be deployed as landers may need these design qualities.
One major mission in all of this is the clearing away of space junk. If we are going to do in orbit construction we need to sharply reduce the mass of orbiting debris in order to keep the area impact safe. Not to degrade the super shuttle, but it could easily become the space junk interceptor. A fairly undramatic task and critically dangerous, but we already know how dedicated and courageous our astronauts are. So we get on with it.
Politics can’t be shoved aside so we must advocate for this program. Up to now, we have been somewhat slack in this regard. Well lets not miss out on MISS. It will truly “be a giant leap for all humankind”