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Space Science

NASA Plans On Bringing Back Martian Rocks 184

Posted by timothy
from the what's-a-couple-of-billion-for-some-rocks dept.
FortKnox writes: "In this Y! article, NASA is planning on sending a robotic mission to Mars in an attempt to bring back Martian stuff (rocks, soil, etc...). Looks like its a tough mission to plan for; they are calling it 'Apollo without the astronauts.'" I would like to go to Mars in person, but if they're spending my money already, I'd like them to please use robots for a while.
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NASA Plans On Bringing Back Martian Rocks

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  • More Information... (Score:5, Informative)

    by robbyjo (315601) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:04PM (#2375875) Homepage

    Here [nasa.gov] is the lab of Jet propulsion labs that does the robot thingie. This [nasa.gov] is the software to test the robustness of the robots. NASA has learnt from several failures apparently.

    A picture of martian rock [nasa.gov] with some explanations [nasa.gov], if you're interested. Along with some interesting [nasa.gov] rock with bug patterns!

  • by robbyjo (315601) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:08PM (#2375890) Homepage

    Here [nasa.gov] is the link of the actual Mars mission along with the status [nasa.gov] and risks [nasa.gov]. And check out all the robotics projects [nasa.gov] behind the scene. Cool...

  • Re:Hubris (Score:3, Informative)

    by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:32PM (#2376003) Homepage
    NASA, and other international groups, has already thought of that and long ago addressed it. Even the Apollo missions were carried out so that the Moon rocks were kept in a quarantine, at negative relative pressure. Scientists worked with them via those glovey things you see in labs. Admittedly, the Apollo mission's planetary protection was done rather half-heartly (I won't regale you with stories, here). But Mars is taken a lot more seriously, as is Europa (Europa is the reason that Galileo is being sent to crash into Jupiter while we still have control of it, rather than let it continue to orbit indefinately). Any Mars mission has be decontaminated to where they're gauged as having less than 1 change in 10,000 of contaminating Mars. Martians samples are to be treated as hazardous until we are certain they are not.
  • by _typo (122952) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:41PM (#2376031) Homepage
    Anything which pushes the boundaries of the engineering -- getting the unmanned probe to launch itself back to Earth -- will have great impact on both the Space program and terrestrial spin-offs.

    Shortly after the Apolo 12 mission the russians landed an unmaned probe on the moon and brought it back. Considering the fact that Apolo 12's computer was spewing errors throughout the descent this was a great achievement for the time.

    Naturaly it didn't achieve the media coverage of the apolo mission but IMHO was a much larger feet than landing a duct-taped together mission.

    Did you know Nixon alrealy had the speech written in case the astronauts weren't able to come back from the moon?

  • Re:Billion with a B (Score:3, Informative)

    by KingRygel (398150) <[geychaner] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:53PM (#2376090) Homepage
    To give you an idea of just how much (or how little) a billion dollars is:
    • The California 210/30 freeway extension costs approximately one billion for 28.2 miles of freeway. [The Big Dig in Boston is over 10 times more expensive, for you easterners.]
      [www.dot.ca.gov] [ca.gov]
    • The federal government spends about one billion to pay interest on the federal debt each day.
      [www.publicdebt.treas.gov] [treas.gov]
    Really, one billion dollars isn't as much money as you think it is. It's enough to pay 1,000 people $100,000/year for 10 years...and you have to figure that it takes at least 10 years and 1,000 people to build, support, and fly a spacecraft to Mars and back. Not to mention materials costs.
  • by Galvatron (115029) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:55PM (#2376096)
    Did you know Nixon alrealy had the speech written in case the astronauts weren't able to come back from the moon?


    Well, I would certainly expect so. After all, if the mission failed, the country would have been pretty hard hit. Apollo was the first time that America pulled ahead of Russia in the space race. Had it failed, an awful lot of people would have started to wonder if we were really on the winning side. So, a deep, stirring, well written speech would be a must. I imagine he spent much more time on the "if it fails" speech than the "if it succeeds" one.


    Speaking of historic events, I'd really like to see video footage of Kruzchev (sp?) banging his shoe on the table at the UN. Anyone know where such a thing could be found?

  • Re:Billion with a B (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2001 @07:40PM (#2376254)
    Where does it go? It's not like we're sending a ship full of money into the sun or anything. All that money stays right here on Earth, and ends up at aerospace companies, and presumably, in employees' and investors' wallets.

    One of the reasons everything NASA does costs so much is that NASA tends to take bids on a "Cost plus x%" basis, so it is in whatever company that wins any particular bid to do the job as inefficently as possible. That way they get more money. Kinda backwards way to go about it.
  • by Millyways (262662) on Monday October 01, 2001 @07:45PM (#2376284) Homepage
    Working in a physical Sciences research department you get to see the size of most of the equipment used in this field. Particle Accelerators used for analysis techniques such as carbon dating (just and example) can way thousands of tons. Even a humble electron microscope used in almost every form of material research in its usual form would have to way at least a ton. And the sample preperation techniques used would be very dificult to automate and again take advantage of some pretty heavy equipment.

    Then there is the question of powering these big power hungry machines. Are we sending powerplants to mars too now?

    I realise that none of the equipment we use in our labs is state of the art in terms of miniturisation, but I doubt that we will ever be able to shrink the research equipment available to just one University down small enough to send to Mars, let alone the entire world's research equipment. Of course it is a good idea to bring the samples back.
  • by mkasei (77963) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:59PM (#2376628) Homepage
    NASA would love to do a Mars sample return. However in reality no such mission is going to happen anytime soon. Last October NASA outlined [spaceref.com] its long term plan for Mars exploration with a sample return slated to start in 2014. However recently [spaceref.com] it became known that the October plan is now more or less dead. The only Mars mission not touched at this time is the 2003 twin rover mission (MER 2003). The 2005 orbiter mission is still a tentative go, however everything after that is up in the air.

    NASA's budget is being used to pay for the ballooning space station cost overruns which means other programs get the axe. The space station is at least 4 billion over budget. NASA's budget is about 14 billion. Do the Math. The Bush administration has told NASA to get the station budget under control. So NASA has to cut a lot of programs including Mars. Look to the Europeans to potentially do a Mars sample return first with some NASA participation.

    Useful Link: A Year of Mars News: It was the worst of times; it was the best of times. [spaceref.com]

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