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17 September 2014
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Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets

The Spacecraft

Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets features a host of spacecraft, designed specially for the series. If we ever do visit the planets, it may be in ships that look very like these.

Pegasus   PEGASUS

Length  1.3km
Weight  400 tonnes
See a larger image
Pegasus will carry five astronauts on a voyage around the Solar System. It will be their home for over six years.

The ship is named after the winged horse from Greek mythology and the constellation where extra-solar planets were first discovered.

This mega-structure - as long as 12 football fields - is powered by a mighty nuclear fusion reactor. Core temperatures in the reactor reach up to 100 million degrees, explosively vaporising the chilled liquid hydrogen propellant.

The frisbee-shaped disc at the front of the ship is an aeroshield constructed from steel, carbon fibre and beryllium. This protects the crew from radiation during the mission.

Pegasus can withstand temperatures of over 5,000°C. She has a 158 million horsepower engine, allowing her to reach top speeds of 288,000km/h. When passing the Sun, the spacecraft can withstand speeds of a million kilometres per hour.

The interior of the spacecraft is enormous, with enough space to hold 10 jumbo jets. Its load consists of 57 tonnes of food and 80 tonnes of oxygen. Pegasus carries five landing vehicles, as well as unmanned probes to explore more of the Solar System.

During the 2,246 days of mission, she will travel 13.3 billion km.

Orpheus Venus Lander   ORPHEUS - Venus Lander

Height  25m
Weight  35 tonnes
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Earth's nearest neighbour, Venus, is a hostile planet where surface temperatures can reach 500°C - enough to melt lead - and atmospheric pressures can crush a submarine.

The Orpheus lander, named after the poet and musician of Greek myth who visited the underworld to try to rescue his wife, has therefore been designed to withstand the harsh Venusian environment.

Its small porthole windows are hewn from a single diamond - the only material that can weather the corrosive sulphuric acid clouds.

The launch engine – a toroidal aerospike – is capable of reaching the Venus escape velocity of over 10km per second in just under eight minutes.

Ares Mars Lander   ARES - Mars Lander

Length  25m
Weight  45 tonnes
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Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is often called the 'Red Planet' due to its vivid colours. Pressures and temperatures are so low here that a cup of water exposed to the atmosphere would simultaneously boil and freeze.

Named after the Greek god of war, Ares has been designed to support a crew of three astronauts for up to a month. It carries an electronically powered Martian rover vehicle for surface exploration and has an inner core storm shelter formed from multi-laminate polythene.

The Mars Lander has a launch engine - toroidal aerospike - capable of reaching the Mars escape velocity of 5 km per second within five minutes.

It uses a paraglider canopy the size of a football field to steer itself towards the landing site.

Hermes Io Lander   HERMES - Io Lander

Height  10m
Mass  15 tonnes (2.7 tonnes on Io)
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Jupiter is a gas giant with an intense magnetic field that traps energy particles and emits dangerous levels of radiation.

Hermes, named after the Greek messenger god, is a single-person lander designed to land on Jupiter's Moon Io. It has enough air and water supplies to sustain the astronaut for 36 hours.

To protect itself from Jupiter's harshest radiation belts, the lander is specially built with radiation-hardened electronics and has two triangular windows made of aluminised 12-layer glass-polythene laminate with 10cm thick hydrogen-rich shield shutters.

Hermes also has five legs which are only strong enough to support it on the 1/6th gravity environment on Io's surface. Powerful floodlights are available to illuminate the landing site during an Ionian night.

Clyde Pluto Lander   CLYDE - Pluto Lander

Length  15m
Weight  28 tonnes (1.87 tonnes on Pluto)
See a larger image

For most of its orbit, Pluto is the furthest planet from the Sun and therefore also the coldest, with average temperatures dropping to -235°C.

The Clyde lander, named after the American astronomer who discovered Pluto - Clyde Tombaugh - is a nuclear-powered lander designed to maintained a crew of two for two weeks.

Its ultra-thin titanium skin with thick aerogel on the interior insulates it against the numbing chill of the planet.

Powerful floodlights illuminate the telescope construction site during the 26-hour Plutonian nights.

Messier Comet lander   MESSIER - Comet lander

Height  12m
Mass  29 tonnes
See a larger image

Comets are icy chunks of water and dust.

The Messier comet lander is named after the French astronomer who surveyed many comets during the 18th century. It carries bullet-proof shielding to protect it from debris clouds, and a set of three rocket-propelled harpoons to harness the comet.

Multiple motors positioned above and below the spacecraft push it towards the ultra-low gravity environment of the comet’s surface

It has also been designed with a multi-laminate self-repairing fuselage to offer extra protection against cometary debris.

Back to Space Odyssey Homepage

 TV Programmes

First shown November 2004

Programme One

Programme Two

Space Odyssey homepage

 Elsewhere on Space  Odyssey

PLAY: Space Doctor
Could you keep your crew healthy on a voyage to Mars?

Health in Space
Think a trip to space would be glamorous? Find out what it does to the body.

Pegasus and craft
Information on the Pegasus spaceship and its landers.

Crew Profiles
Get to know the crew of Pegasus and their support team.

VOTE: Mission to Mars
Your views on sending a manned mission to Mars.

 Elsewhere on

Science News
All the latest Science and Technology news from the BBC.

On this day
Multimedia guides to landmarks in the history of space exploration

 Elsewhere on the web

Visit NASA to learn more about space travel.

The European Space Agency portal features the latest news in space exploration and human spaceflight.

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