Ballistic capture lowers risks and costs involved in Mars missions

Until now, sending spacecrafts to Mars requires huge investments, soaring up to as high as hundreds of millions. However, with the new method, known as the ballistic capture, the costs could be brought to much lower levels, enabling perhaps easier and more frequent expeditions to the red planet. By adopting ballistic capture method, scientists could also open up the opportunity for manned journeys as well as robotic missions. In addition, it could also pave a way to take a step further into boosting colonization efforts.

In this context, NASA’s director of the Planetary Science Division, James Green, commented that the step could help NASA to achieve something that they are always on the lookout for. It will help them save resources and in turn boost capability.


The new route requires that Mars remains in its orbit, and the spacecraft meet it in its orbital path. This is the conventional method employed for Hohmann transfer. In the method, the spacecraft is thrown in an orbit resembling that of Mars. This helps the spacecraft fly ahead of the planet. Scientists explained that in this case, the usual launch and leverage costs are still the same.

But the process helps save the costs involved with hitting the Martian bull’s eye. In ballistic capture, the spacecraft travels in its own orbit around the Sun. The pace however is slower than that of Mars, allowing it to be gravitationally absorbed into Mars’ orbit in due time.

Apart from the cost effectiveness of the new solution, the ballistic capture method provides another scientific advantage. The previous method limits the launch cycle to only 26 months because it requires that a particular alignment of the Earth and Mars.