Partial Beanstalks for Mars Exploration

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B. Parkinson (2005), JBIS, 58, 197-200

Refcode: 2005.58.197
Keywords: Mars exploration, space elevators

Space elevators proposed for the Earth require novel high-strength materials and a substantial counterweight for their implementation. The problem becomes easier for Mars. There is no available “counterweight” for a synchronous “beanstalk,” but Phobos provides a substantial anchor in a non-synchronous orbit. A tether extending 1456 km from Phobos could release objects into an orbit just entering the Martian atmosphere, providing a launch and recovery device for Mars Excursion Modules. Extending the “beanstalk” to a length of 5832 km would place the end at the fringes of the Martian atmosphere. The tip velocity would be only 573 m/s relative to the Martian surface, and could be reached by a modest transfer vehicle. The mass of such a “beanstalk” would still be between 100 and 200 t. The paper considers some of the engineering issues involved, and concludes that “partial beanstalks” provide useful improvements to access to Mars in the opening stages of human activity of that planet.


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