Explorers to Mars

Tom and Tina

An Explorer-minded Human Mission to Mars.
Go Light, Fast and Cheap to unlock Interstellar Space Travel in our Lifetime.


Travel light.
Land on Mars.
Return to Earth.

Who we are

Tom and Tina Sjogren, with unique background in extreme technology and expeditions. Residents in California.

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The Age of New Worlds

The Age of Discovery, led by Columbus and other explorers, bridged the Middle Ages and the Modern Era. In one of the most significant events in history, contact between the Old and New Worlds produced a wide transfer of new materials, knowledge and meetings between distant civilizations. The game-changing influences ignited a new worldview that transformed everything.

Scientific American, Jan 2013
Led by ambitious private companies, we are entering the early stages of the migration of our species away from Earth and our adaptation to entire new worlds.

Mars is the stated goal of Elon Musk of PayPal fortune; polar explorers Tom and Tina Sjogren, who are designing a private venture to Mars; and Europe's privately funded MarsOne project, which would establish a human colony by 2023.

The colonization of space is beginning now.

The voyages were not led by boat-builders (engineers) or governments (NASA) but individuals who envisioned and executed their own projects at great personal risk.

Finding new worlds in space is the next, great leap for humankind. A manned mission to Mars is the 'Dream Mile'. Once achieved it will be repeated by many.

We believe that the voyages will become a permanent reality if the exploration is guided by the practical, determined and lightweight approach of ancient pathfinders such as Amundsen (South Pole), Columbus (America), Shipton (Mount Everest), and Cook (North Pole).

Exploration of our solar system will unveil new tools and possibilities providing stepping stones for missions into Interstellar space and Pythom's ultimate goal: to find, explore and inhabit other planets like ours, in our lifetime.

Columbus "Contrato" with Queen Isabella

Finances played a major role in the discoveries of our Earth. Contrary to popular belief, successful explorers were not financed by gilded establishments sending off royal expeditions in search of progress.

Amundsen was constantly on the run from his creditors and Cook was thrown in jail for alleged money fraud. Columbus had to match the Queen's investment with private funds and was imprisoned when the monarchs refused to stand by their financial agreement with the explorer.

The trailblazers suffered but the world prospered by their exploits. The discovery of America led to a financial advantage for Europe that lasted 500 years.

A much greater abundance awaits in space. Our planet faces an increasing burden on its resources while other bodies in our solar system carry materials to solve all the Earth's needs and more. There is natural stainless steel, gold, platinum, uranium, water (captured in comets), iron, nickel, and materials not yet identified at a value in the thousands of billions for each rock.

Hundreds of the asteroids orbit so close to Earth that they are easier to reach than our moon. Simple landing and takeoff targets they also provide free rides to other planets and their moons.

In addition to the raw materials the space environment offers new technology. Microgravity enables mixes of materials that are impossible on Earth. We'll get new fuel solutions, purer chemicals, and stronger materials. New drugs including better vaccines will improve human health and possibly extend lifespans, comparable to the medical breakthroughs we derived from findings of new plants in the Amazon rainforest.

We believe that exploration of space will change the world as we know it, creating wealth and progress at an astronomical scale.

Occam's razor.
Simple expeditions are usually more successful.

Our approach in short:

1. Travel Light
2. Land on Mars
3. Return to Earth

Graph Pythom Space "Alpine Style" approach to a Mars expedition radically lowers weight to less than a tenth of NASA.

Tweaked by JPl into a more austere version NASA's DRA5 2009 Mars proposal still by far surpasses the Pythom approach. Compare tonnage and cost in this isolated example of a Mars descent.

DRA 5 Austere (total 150t); Mars Descent and Ascent Vehicle (46t), Surface Hab (52t), Rovers and Science gear (52t).

Pythom Space (total 6t); Mars Descent and Ascent Vehicle (3t); Mobile Mars Hab and gear (1t); Life Support (2t).
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Key word in the Pythom Mission is affordable. Key to affordable is light-style.

Proven technology will be favored on the first mission. Food, water, and oxygen will be brought in their original form (not manufactured onboard) to ensure maximum success and safety. This was also NASA's strategy on the Moon missions and remains main approach on the International Space Station (regularly supplied with oxygen, water, and food by cargo spacecraft).

Light style unwraps a range of opportunities such as freedom and choice between existing rockets.

There are two man-rated systems and 4 functioning cargo vehicles available as of today, with capacity ranging between 3000 and 7000 kgs. We will build the hab and command module in house.

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"BaseCamp" with inflatable unit, unit for Mars entry and command unit.

Base Camp will be an inflatable hab at 100 cubic meters placed in LEO. We will follow some weeks later in a Soyuz or equivalent, to test and acclimate with easy abort possibilities. An external support module will arrive with fuel, life support etc, likely over 2-3 deliveries. The end size will almost equal that of Apollo.

We will depart Earth in a Hohmann transfer to Mars late June 2020. It will take 260 days to get to Mars orbit where we will circle the planet for 2-3 months before descent.

Compared to Earth, Mars entry will be just as hot, but there’s less atmosphere to slow us down. Mars Science Lab came in through direct entry with Curiosity at 6 km/s. The load was 3300 kg and that’s the most we have ever entered with on Mars.

Entering from Mars orbit instead of direct entry we’ll slow to 4 km/s which will make our descent exponentially cooler. Other advantages include time to assembly the heat shields, fix gear, wait out health issues, hang on for weather and make final checks of our landing site.

Our final EDL (entry-descent-landing) strategy is to do an aerocapture from Mars lower orbit using an inflatable heat shield, a supersonic parachute and assist propulsion. We plan 2 descents: the first with ascent fuel and ascent vehicle. If it is successful we will follow in a matter of weeks with life support.

The technology is new but also straightforward. The inflatables have been tested by NASA 3 times with good results and are currently in work by several commercial companies. All the other components of the descent - the parachutes, propulsion assist etc have been done since the Viking era.

Leaving Mars will require a mass ratio of 1:12. We don't plan to manufacture fuel on the planet and will consequently have to ascend back to orbit in a setup that's super-light. We’ll do it in our space suits inside an unpressurized, composite mini-spacecraft.

Following only one hour of ascent we will rendezvous with BaseCamp on March 1st in the year of 2020 and point our stern back to Earth one month after that.

260 days later we will descend to Earth in the same command module that brought us up. Base camp will remain in the upper section of LEO, awaiting new expeditions.

With our spaceship parked in LEO other missions will become easier and more affordable. New targets include rocky moons, Lagrangian points, other planets and asteroids.

Judging from human exploration history, other space voyages will follow. The three ships for Columbus first voyage - the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María - carried 90 sailors and set out for America from Spain on September 6, 1492. Only one year after, on September 25, 1493, at least 17 ships and over a thousand of men set out to colonize the New world.

Q & A

Q Why should I believe you can do it?

A We climbed Mount Everest (unguided), skied to the South- and North Poles (unsupported), trekked around the world and sailed across several oceans. We have pioneered extreme technology and built businesses on two continents. We are doers from simple backgrounds who accomplished everything under our own steam. We have researched a human mission to Mars since 2006 and are confident that it can be done. We have committed the rest of our lives to this expedition and space.

Q Is this project for profit?

A Yes. "Charity is not sustainable, there has to be a business model," said low-cost cardiac care pioneer Dr Devi Prasad Shetty (building a chain of hospitals in India that will carry out heart surgeries at the cheapest rates in the world). Only if space missions are profitable will they become permanent.

Q What's with the name Pythom?

A Our name came to us from a line in the book Rain of Iron and Ice. It said: "The Egyptians traced the origin of their civilization to Pythom, which was apparently a comet." Panspermia, right there.

Q Can I come?

A The more the merrier. We welcome sister ships but you'll have to command your own enterprise.

Q Have you reached out to the other private projects?

A We emailed Inspiration Mars and offered to share resources. The team wished us best of luck. We have similar experiences with other private initiatives at this point.

Q Why land on Mars?

A Human steps on another planet will be such a powerful experience. Imagine Columbus's voyage had he not touched land.

Q What will you do on Mars?

A We are explorers and plan to roam the planet. We'll recycle the existing rovers (another big difference between our and NASA's budgets) for transportation. We'll climb Mount Olympus, descend into the canyons and go to the poles.

Q Do you plan to colonize?

A Explorers are trailblazers, not settlers. We think that successful colonization of space will happen over several stages. The crew Columbus left behind in the West Indies didn't fare too well and neither did other people lured into premature settlements of territories. It may be a good idea to check if Mars is worth inhabiting at all. There are other spots in our solar system that could prove better options.

Q How much will it cost?

A According to our feasibility study around $2 billion which is less than the cost of JPL's latest Mars Rover project. We plan to match the cost with revenues and in the end reach a profit.

Q How will you raise the money?

A Judging from our forebearers will have to beg, steal and borrow :) We are prepared to give it everything it takes.