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Space Science

Men on Mars by 2020, Maybe 23

Posted by michael
from the NASA-will-fake-this-one-too dept.
nerdygeek writes "According to this article from the BBC, NASA chief Daniel Goldin has predicted there will be astronauts on Mars by 2020. We've heard things like this before, but not as strongly worded, especially when he speaks of robots and people heading for other stars."
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Men on Mars by 2020, Maybe

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Spending six months eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom in O G can't be fun.

    Don't equate "space == weightlessness". In space you have the CHOICE of having gravity or not. To have artificial gravity, you simply give a spin to the spaceship and people will glue to the hull. It takes no energy.

    Surely NASA knows about this. If they dismiss this simple solution, it must be because all these 0 G awkwardness and rapid bone decalcification aren't that serious after all. The pros outweight the cons.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    From the article:

    NASA planned to send a crew to Mars as early as 1984 but abandoned it -- and other alternatives -- in favor of building the space shuttle.

    As long as NASA bureacrats are planning the space program, we'll never do anything more interesting than Glorified Mailman Service (space shuttles). Well, unless you count the Infernally Stupid Station. That will get funded, I'm sure.

    ...because the American people are feeling good about themselves, and their spirit is rising, we're going to see astronauts on the Red Planet.

    --Dan Goldin


    Yep. Feelin' good here, goldy-mon. Got me some hot grits and a rectal thermometer... mojo risin' on up to mars. Whoop woop.

    Get a fucking clue, goldboy. It takes someone with the balls to make decisions to do things like go to the moon; if 1967's NASA had been the same NASA we have today, Apollo 1 [nasa.gov] would have been the first and only manned Apollo rocket.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    So, when do we send women to Venus?
  • I can handle 3 solitary years no problem!

    You surely must have meant "3 solitaire years".

  • by boarder (41071) on Thursday May 10, 2001 @08:06AM (#233078) Homepage
    Actually, here is a possible schedule for a good Mars mission (from rev.3 of the NASA DRM):
    6 month outbound journey
    ~560 day stay on Mars
    6 month return journey

    That's damn near 3 years for either 4 or 6 astronauts (rev.1 and 2 had 6 people on the mission, but I don't remember about rev.3). Of course, if we are spending $60 billion US on this mission then they are going to be doing some science work during the outbound journey and ALL science during the stay on Mars. They won't get much chance to get bored. On the way home, they won't have a damn thing to do except relax, read, watch movies, and talk.

    Russia has had cosmonauts up on Mir all alone for between 9 months and 1.5 years (I don't remember exactly, but that long by yourself has to be hard). They have also had full crews up there for long periods of time (again around 9 mos. and 1.5 years). NASA has also been putting crews into big isolated facilities with full resource recycling for 3 months at a time to simulate Mars journeys. They haven't had any mental breakdowns yet.

    I totally agree that the mental aspect will be one of the toughest obstacles the crew will face, but I know that I could do it (and luckily I'll be qualified to do it in about 3 years so maybe I'll be selected for the crew, woohoo!) and others, too.
    I also know that the "constant horror that a small accident means instant death every single day" won't even bother the astronauts. Think how many people skydive and extreme ski and do other dangerous sports.
    The last point you brought up was about the commander being required to land them after a long mission. This isn't the case; the landing will be completely automated for that reason among other technical issues.

    My senior design course was a mission to Mars so I know the feasibility of this mission. The crew survivability rate will be about 85-90% and the mission success rate is going to be about 80%. For something as momentous as this, I think these numbers are pretty good.

  • > We've heard things like this before, but not as strongly worded

    Well, really, we have [marssociety.org]. And that was 2 years ago. And not much has changed - except a couple more Mars probes have been lost, and the budget [nasawatch.com] has gotten a little smaller. Sigh...

  • Well, technology will probably be a lot better in 2020 than in the 60s, I'm sure they will be able to make a much more convincing Mars landing video than the Moon landing video. What would REALLY be nice is to land a man on the moon by 2020 for real.
  • Come on, people! Years on a tiny tin can with several other people wouldn't be bad at all. Especially if you got to hang out with astronauts! I guarantee I could do it, and I could do it better than any astronaut and with less training and complaining.
    Anyway, just give each astronaut a Powerbook and pop an Airport in there, and let them play Unreal Tournament against each other. And other games too. Networked video games would keep them focused and aware, and it would also help them get used to using controls so the pilot could land the rig more easily anyway.

    In summary, send ME up on the rocket, I can handle 3 solitary years no problem!

  • Sure, harking a Mars 2020 propaganda may get NASA more cash in the near-term. But, will building off of Kennedy's original ultimatum for the moon in the context of inter-planetary exploration going to aid NASA in the long-term?

    As part of an AIAA competition, I worked with some fellow undergrads at Georgia Tech to respond to an RFP for a Mars infrastructure plan. Basically, our 100-page proposal answered the question, "How do we get a navigation, mapping, communication, and autonomous exploration infrastructure in place on Mars by 2015?" Our findings were varied: it's very doable, and also very expensive to do. Sure, there are two or three opportunities between 2010-2015 to launch convoys of equipment to Mars to support a human mission, but the cost is way more than NASA has currently, or has budgeted for the near future.

    "But," you may ask, "we don't need an infrastructure. We just need to send a few people over there and have them put the flag in the ground and take a few rocks!" Well, while this plan is more doable, it's also more wasteful. Given the number of months it takes to get to Mars each way, it would be a psychological and financial waste to send a few people over just for the photo-op. Real science needs to happen, and as a result, real infrastructure needs to be in place for that to happen.

    What's my point? I don't believe 2020 is feasible for a full research team to go out to Mars and do productive work, given there's no infrastructure in Mars presently and given the budgetary limitations of NASA at the moment. I think NASA should concentrate on building this infrastructure rather than setting ultimatums that may not be feasible.
  • by FortKnox (169099) on Thursday May 10, 2001 @06:22AM (#233083) Homepage Journal
    The biggest problem I forsee is the astronauts psycology. It'll be, basically, a 9 month trip in something a little less comfortable than a school bus:
    • Probably not as much room as a school bus.
    • And seeing the same people, in close proximity, every morning/afternoon/evening/night for the next 9 months with very little privacy.
    • The constant horror that a small accident means instant death every single day.
    • Plus the trip to Mars is long, drawn out, and boring (not exactly sure how long it'll take. Like 2-months?) then the commander will need to be completely focused to land. Mir had a cosmonaut that was up for several weeks and couldn't dock an unmanned satelite to Mir (the cause was most likely that he was just bored for so long he lost his focus)
    They'll need to stock up on coffee and try not to kill themselves, or let the environment get to them. Easy task, right? I think not!
  • I see your point entirely, but that's not going to stop it. Lets face it, this will happen eventually (barring some world wide disaster), maybe not in 2020, but sometime. However, lets face it, we can design robots to do a lot, but having a human there does allow a greater possibilty of actions. Part of it is definitely a public relations move, lets face it the Apollo moon landing was a huge publicity generator.
    But, at some point, humans are going to attempt to colonize another planet, Mars being the most likely. The first step to colonization will be a visit - not for any really GOOD reason, but it will be the first step.
  • Why?
    Publicity, pride and fame would be the top reasons I guess, though I don't think its purely a US thing, I think its a human thing. Look at it from a species survival angle. The more planets, solar systems, etc. that we colonize, the more likely humans are to survive. With the talk of an asteroid or comet crashing into earth, I think the human civilization as a whole would feel better (aside from various groups) knowing that even if the Earth was destroyed, human kind would live on. Of course this is assuming that any Mars colony would be or could be self-substaining.

    As our technology grows, I'm fairly confident that we will begin things like terraforming, making Mars a suitable habitat for humans. At which point some of your above reasons come in: lots of space, and land. Not too mention that there probably are some minerals that we value on Mars. I'm no expert on this, but I'm sure there is something there we would find a use (abuse?) for.

    Besides, as the ISS becomes bigger and better, we'll start making these flights from there, as opposed to the surface, which significantly reduces the cost (even if we have to get the materials up there beforehand).
  • "lets face it the Apollo moon landing was a huge publicity generator."

    Thats all the Apollo moon landing was. The US spent something like 5% of its GDP for 10 years simply because it was embarrassed that the USSR beat it into space unmanned, with an animal, with a man, and for a complete orbit. I'll admit that the space race was a little less insane than the arms race though.

    "But, at some point, humans are going to attempt to colonize another planet, Mars being the most likely. "

    Again the question why rears it's head. What is the point in going to Mars and living there? I realise that the colonisation myth is deeply embedded in the US psyche, but it does not make sense. There was a point in colonising the America's. There was lots of gold, there was lots of space, animals to eat, and land. This is just not true with Mars. It mean there are various deserts around the world, which people could choose to live in, but don't.

    I think its feasible that at some stage we might open mines on Mars, although I don't know what mineral wealth we would find there. It would have to be incredibly valuable weight for weight though to make it economically worthwhile.

    I really can't see it happening.

    Phil

  • Of course the biggest question that has not got answered here is why? Is there actually any purpose to sending a man to mars?

    The usual reason for using a human is that they can react quickly on their own initiative. Now by and large there is very little reason for having this. Mars has been there for billions of years. If you choose to explore it with a robot which has a ten hour response time, then this is fine. The robot can move forward a bit. Think about things. Stop, get more orders. Nothing bad is going to happen whilst its waiting. And of course you can keep the robot going for ages, whilst humans are on a very very limited time span.

    Ultimately the conclusion that I have to draw from this is that its a big public relations exercise for NASA. Fair enough, but what an expensive way to increase "national pride". Why not do something meaningful like say, free medical care for the population instead?

    Phil

  • Getting them back? Now that's quite another story.

    Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
  • Seriously, why would they need condoms?

    The potential crew will be gone over with a fine tooth comb, I bet any STD would keep you from being approved.

    So, the Pill, or sterilization would work. Collect a few vials of sperm from the male astronauts, and vasectomize them. When you get back, your wife probably wouldn't want testes that have been irradiated for 3 years to be producing sperm, and there's no milkman to mess things up while you're enroute.
  • Russia has had cosmonauts up on Mir all alone for between 9 months and 1.5 years (I don't remember exactly, but that long by yourself has to be hard).

    Mir usually had three people on board at any one time. It occasionally had two, during the initial shakedown period, and during the last (privately funded by MirCorp) maintenance mission. There was never a time when there was only one cosmonaut in orbit. Individuals made extended stays while crewmates came and went. The longest stay, of 438 days, was by Valeri Polyakov in 1994-95.

  • OK - given that all the above is true

    Where do I sign up?

  • From what I've read, life on Mir was anythingbut boring.

    Mir had a cosmonaut that was up for several weeks and couldn't dock an unmanned satelite to Mir (the cause was most likely that he was just bored for so long he lost his focus)

    There were also equipment failures with the docking system on Mir. When Cosmonauts on the ground reproduced the equipment failures in a simulator, they couldn't dock manually either. Several of them "successfully reproduced" the collision in the simulator.

  • he biggest problem I forsee is the astronauts psycology. It'll be, basically, a 9 month trip in something a little less comfortable than a school bus:

    Maybe they need to talk to submariners rather than fighter jocks. They've been enduring conditions much like this (except for weightlesness) for decades now.

    Isolation? Cramped quarters and lack of privacy? Constant horror that a small accident may lead to instant death? Long mission duration? Boredom? Constantly seeing the same people? All these human factors and more have long been adressed in the submarine community.

    The fighter jock mentality was fine in the era of 'single combat warriors'. Time now for NASA to start looking at other communities to provide the astronauts and explorers.

  • Actually, it's more like 2 1\2 year trip.
    It takes at least 6 months to get to Mars, then more than a year on the surface (waiting for Mars to get into the right position for launch), then another six months to get home.

    As for comfort, I'd say it would be worse than a bus. Spending six months eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom in O G can't be fun.

    And boredom isn't exactly the biggest problem on the trip.
    • Food supply for 2+ years
    • Efficient recycling of water
    • Radidation from solar wind
    • Bone and muscle loss. By the time they get to Mars they will be too weak to stand up. It will take a little time before they can do anything.


    On another note, if the crew is made up of men and women, will NASA provide condoms?
    (How likely is it that this 2+ year mission will end without a little bada-bing going on?)
    Or will the crew come back with an extra member?
    An idea for the bordeom...maybe they can get a special deal with DirceTV to get free HBO.
  • >Mir had a cosmonaut that was up for several weeks and couldn't dock an unmanned satelite to Mir (the cause was most likely that he was just bored for so long he lost his focus)

    There was an excellent BBC documentary on this incident with video footage of said cosmonauts face as he piloted the cargo module into Mir, as well as frank and open interviews with the crew back on earth.

    The cosmonaut was under extreme pressure, as mission control made it clear that he would lose up to 2/3 of his pay for the 9 months or so that he had been in mir. He had to manually dock the cargo module the emergency manual system which consisted of a joystick, a small video monitor showing a camera aboard the module, and a range readout from which he could judge speed. The first attempt at a manual docking was aborted at the last second, resulting in a near miss due to severe inteference with the video link to the progress module by the radar rangefinder. Mission control ordered him to try again having switched off the rangefinder.

    Other highlighs include:-

    - Footage of crew abandoning a meal of caviar and vodka as smoke floods the station due to fire in the fuel and oxygen storage area.
    - Footage of cosmonaut screaming ESCAPE! ESCAPE! in russian as mir is rocked by the cargo ship collision.
    - An account of the two 12 hour total power failures (lights, computers, lifesupport) that occured as a result of the collision.
    - Account of the discussion that occured after the fire when it was realised that there were 5 people on mir and one 3 seater soyuz.
    - Space drama without Tom Hanks!
  • "Trust No One" (especially the idiot that came up with that phrase!)

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