Chris Hadfield, Colonel of the Canadian Air Force and astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency, who made three space flights (two for the Space Shuttle program and one for long-term expeditions to the ISS) is known to the general public thanks to his cover for the famous song “Space Oddity” by the late David Bowie. Having retired in 2013, Hadfield nevertheless did not lose interest in space, rockets, spacecraft and even conducts online master classes on space research.
The Business Insider edition decided to interview Hadfield and ask him what he thinks about the future of rocket science and the three big players of the new space race: the Space Launch System rocket of the NASA aerospace agency, the Big Falcon Rocket of SpaceX private company and the New Glenn private company Blue Origin.
The answer of the former astronaut is unlikely to please those who would like to see the first landing of a man on Mars within the next one or two decades, not to mention those who were going to settle in the future on the Red Planet.
“Personally, I do not think that any of these three missiles will be able to deliver people to Mars. I doubt that any of them can offer a practical way of delivering people to the Red Planet, as this will be very dangerous and take a lot of time, “said Hadfield.
Most astronauts will not reach
Hadfield’s opinion is based on the fact that all three missiles to launch from the surface of the Earth and accelerate the spacecraft installed on them use a similar fuel (plus oxygen).
“I guess we will not miss Mars with the help of these three missiles and the engines they use. If only we have to do it, “- said the former astronaut.
The new launch system NASA Space Launch System expecting its debut in the 2020s will use engines that work on a combination of liquid hydrogen and solid chemical fuel. Blue Origin, a private development company, created for the finances of IT-tycoon Jeff Bezos, also plans to use liquid hydrogen in its rocket. Company SpaceX Ilona Mask is betting on liquid methane, because he believes that he will be able to extract it on the Martian surface.
Like other experts, Hadfield has no doubt that any of these three missiles will actually be able to fly to Mars. But Hadfield doubts that any of these missiles will be able to take to the Red Planet intact and secure their passengers. The probability of an explosion, radiation, hunger and other possible problems will constantly threaten the security of the mission.
“In fact, we could send people to Mars a few decades ago. That is, the technology that was used to fly to the moon, when I was still a child, could deliver us to Mars. But the risk would be too high, “said Hadfield.
“Most of the crew of the ship, which would have gone to the Red Planet, simply could not fly. They would have died. It’s because our technology is still very primitive. ”
The developers of missiles know this very well. The NASA aerospace agency, for example, and the Russian cosmonautics, on a personal example, saw that conquering space is a very dangerous enterprise, often capable of putting human life on the line. The same Ilon Mask also constantly repeats that the first people who will go to Mars on his rocket, most likely, will perish.
“The first trip to Mars will be very dangerous. The risk of dying will be extremely high. With this you will just have to accept it, “said Mask in 2016.
According to Hadfield, this risk should make us be more patient and more competently move towards the main goal of delivering people to Mars.
“In reality, we first need to clearly answer the question – why? Why should we go there? Why not simply send robots there and use them to learn much more about Mars? ”
Cross the wide ocean between Earth and Mars
Hedfield notes that the missiles currently under construction will be the first step in our journey to explore the solar system. However, using these ships to deliver people to Mars, located 300 million kilometers from Earth, even with the use of new, advanced materials and computers, will be akin to crossing the ocean by canoe or kayak.
“We are like those first ships whose captains did not know where they are, because” this “was not yet open,” said Hadfield, referring to the historic voyages of Columbus, Magellan and Cook.
“I think we need to achieve several technological breakthroughs before we can cross the ocean between us and Mars in any way.”
Hadfield himself said he knows exactly what these new technologies should be, but he noted recent advances in ion motion, as well as the returning interest from NASA in favor of nuclear reactors. It is possible that once scientists make a breakthrough in the study of dark matter and energy, which will help us in these efforts.
“Perhaps working with a magnetic alpha spectrometer installed onboard the ISS, an accelerator of CERN particles, or something else will allow us to once conquer gravity. It sounds fantastic. But we found out how to conquer electricity and learned how electrons work. Before that, everything was also considered fantastic. But in the end it revolutionized our lives and our travels. Who knows what will happen next? “