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Given the poor track record so far for successful unmanned Mars missions (26/55, less than half), and the fact that a manned mission would have to use yet another descent method, let alone a whole lot of newly developed equipment, what would the chances for success of a first mission really look like?

Are there any studies available on how to assure mission success and crew safety? What would alternative scenarios look like for such a mission? What would possible consequences look like in the event of a breakdown?

I'm not looking for vision documents and the like I'm looking for cold hard facts.

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  • $\begingroup$ The cold hard fact is that there isn't a manned Mars mission planned right now. So there's nothing you can have an "alternative scenario" to and nothing which chances for success you can estimate. $\endgroup$ – DarkDust Apr 21 '17 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ Of course there are. Plenty of ideas. Here's one. Even the Russians, who are so crude and brutal, waft their cosmo-angels gently and safely through the sky. The "breakdown" is prevented and simply won't happen. So there're no cold hard facts about it. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Apr 21 '17 at 21:27
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The poor track record for unmanned Mars missions has good reasons. Mars was only the second planet we tried to explore, back in the 1960s when everything about spaceflight was new and unreliable. So there was a process: build a spacecraft, watch it fail, find out why it failed and apply that lesson to the next mission. The same thing happened with Venus missions, by the way.

That process caused the success rate of later missions to rise spectacularly. It's also the process that will be used to prepare for manned landings: every part of the first manned mission will be tested first. There might be an unmanned landing on Mars, or they'll find ways to test the spacecraft here on Earth.

Another factor is quality assurance. 60 years of building spacecraft has resulted in an industry that's second to none when it comes to avoiding mistakes.

Alternative scenarios and consequences of a breakdown can only be identified when a mission has been designed (and you need the spacecraft design as well for more detailed work). I don't know of any manned missions that have gone beyond the concept stage, so it's unlikely alternatives and consequences have been defined in any detail yet.

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