“That’s one small step for man”¦” The words were actually a misquote on the part of Neil Armstrong, as he stepped onto the moon. It’s understandable that several days worth of work ahead had been strenuous on him, and he was living out the most exciting moment anyone could ask for. It could cause anyone to miss one syllable. But how long would it be until we would get the chance to say another famous phrase as we step onto another entity in space? There was always a problem with getting enough fuel in one place to get a manned vessel to Mars, and the expense of it all, but it seems one of the greatest road-blocks in the way of humans reaching Mars may have finally been solved thanks to the ingenuity of a NASA engineer named Robert Adams.
The technique is called the two-burn maneuver, and is all but completely forgotten in the field of rocket science. Though almost lost to the annals of time, the two-burn maneuver could be the secret that sends us to Mars, and could easily cut travel time from Earth to The Red Planet in half. Previously, it would take a crew six months of waiting in the cockpit to reach another planet, along with a considerable amount of fuel to get the rest of the fuel off the ground. Of course this is a basic principle of Rocketry, the craft’s own fuel being its greatest burden.
The trick, while remembered by Adams and re-engineered to work with a trip to Mars, was originally based on Hermann Oberth, one of the fathers of modern rocket science. It depends upon the basic scientific principle that objects with a greater velocity will always have more energy than objects with lower velocity. For example, a weight falling towards earth at terminal velocity would require much more energy to slow down and then stop than the same weight which had just begun falling. It’s this very reason that cars require more energy, and therefore time to stop when speeding as opposed to crawling along at fifty-five.
So you’re in a spaceship at a refueling station in Earth’s orbit near the moon (possibly after visiting a nearby moon-base which is being considered), you thrust back toward the planet, letting the force of gravity accelerate your craft, then just as you crest yourself around the orbit toward your intended destination, you fire off the rockets again, and there you are, coasting off toward the red planet without having to use up all your fuel breaking Earth’s terminal velocity. Instead, you just have to hover in mid-air and look out the porthole as you realize you are further from earth than any human ever has been. Well, at least as far as we know.
This technique is essentially a coupon not only for manned spacecraft to get to other planets, but for our own unmanned craft which survey the planets. It could cut rocket costs several times over. With the moon being explored again as a potential place to set up bases, and Mars on the slate as a possible colony location in the future, we truly have entered a world where science fiction will have to be redefined.