Having decided on a destination and the mission objectives, the next task is to develop a mission architecture. The term ‘mission architecture’ is one that you'll hear a lot if you spend time with those who design space missions, but what does it actually mean? Well, it depends on the mission. The mission architecture for an unmanned mission will be very different from that for a manned mission. That's because ‘architecture’, when it is used by space agencies, means the framework and processes within which a mission is designed. You see, space agencies develop mission architectures for specific missions so, for a manned mission, the major drivers will always revolve around the crew. For those tasked with designing human space exploration architecture, this means first having to consider time away from Earth because it is this factor that increases the risk of the mission, such as mission failure due to systems malfunction, radiation exposure, increased bone loss, etc. Time away from Earth also affects the mass of food required for the mission and the design of the life-support system (LSS), and, of course, this affects the total mission payload. To reduce the mission payload and mitigate the effects on the crew, mission designers try to come up with the fastest trip time, which often means choosing a fast propulsion system. Once they have decided on the propulsion system, they consider factors such as vehicle options and LSSs.
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