Life Support for Deep Space and Mars
Jones, Henry W.
Hodgson, Edward W.
Kliss, Mark H.
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How should life support for deep space be developed? The International Space Station (ISS) life support system is the operational result of many decades of research and development. Long duration deep space missions such as Mars have been expected to use matured and upgraded versions of ISS life support. Deep space life support must use the knowledge base incorporated in ISSbut it must also meet much more difficult requirements. The primary new requirement is that life support in deep space must be considerably more reliable than on ISS or anywhere in the Earth-Moon system, where emergency resupply and a quick return are possible. Due to the great distance from Earth and the long duration of deep space missions, if life support systems fail, the traditional approaches for emergency supply of oxygen and water, emergency supply of parts, and crew return to Earth or escape to a safe haven are likely infeasible. The Orbital Replacement Unit (ORU) maintenance approach used by ISS is unsuitable for deep space with ORU's as large and complex as those originally provided in ISS designs because it minimizes opportunities for commonality of spares, requires replacement of manyfunctional parts with each failure, and results in substantial launch mass and volume penalties. It has become impractical even for ISS after the shuttle era, resulting in the need for ad hoc repair activity at lower assembly levels with consequent crew time penalties and extended repair timelines. Less complex, more robust technical approaches may be needed to meet the difficult deep space requirements for reliability, maintainability, and reparability. Developing an entirely new life support system would neglect what has been achieved. The suggested approach is use the ISS life support technologies as a platform to build on and to continue to improve ISS subsystems while also developing new subsystems where needed to meet deep space requirements.