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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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  • by pgrote (68235) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:53PM (#2375802) Homepage
    I like NASA's new approach to things. My primary concerns about the mission though are the following:

    1) What can we do by inspecting the rocks in person we can't do remotely? We should be able to do everything except touch it.

    2) What other benefits do we get out of the mission?

    3) Will there be additional scientific study accomplished on the ground? I mean NASA's track record on landing things on Mars hasn't been great ... this doesn't even include shooting things back.
  • Mars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crumbz (41803) <.moc.liamg>maps ... uj>maps_evomer> on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:58PM (#2375833) Homepage
    I support an unmanned mission to Mars and back. I think the costs of sending men now versus 20-30 years from now are out of proportion with the results. Twenty years hence we may have lighter, faster propulsion technology and better materials for the ship. The ISS will certainly provide additional research that will be directly applicable to such a trip.
    Robots are the way to go!

  • by Drizzten (459420) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:58PM (#2375843) Homepage
    I'm pretty sure the lab work NASA wants to do simply cannot be done if the equipment must be squished into a small surface lander. Besides, I'm certain they want to LOOK at it in person. I'd want to. :)
  • by thehun101 (218731) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:16PM (#2375928)
    NASA has had so much trouble getting stuff TO Mars, and now they think they can get a craft there AND back.

    It's probably the only way they could get funding after there last two blunders with Mars.

    --the Hun
    I probably shouldn't be so mean, but, whatever.
  • by HRB (307853) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:25PM (#2375975)
    I think this could give a definite proof if there
    has been life on mars (and I am speaking here about bacteria).

    If there once was life on mars, there is strong evidence, that life is more likely on other planets than we have ever thought. This would lead to the question whether life formed itself on earth or whether it was sort of planted by impacts of comets.

    The only hints so far have come from meteorits which have been found on earth - but there is more speculation than hard evidence.

    On the moon we saw, that it contained no life. The mars is different in this respect - it has an atmosphere. An atmosphere is a necessity for life, because it filters the hard cosmic radiation.

  • Put the ISS to use!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Garak (100517) <chris&insec,ca> on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:32PM (#2376004) Homepage Journal
    This should be a job for the ISS to collect the samples from mars. Then when the next resupply mission stops by the station it isn't leaving with an empty hold.

    Why do they send the space shuttle up say to fix hubble, why don't they move the hubble into the same orbit as the space station and to the eva's from the station.

    Maybe the ISS isn't into the right orbit todo this but its something they should have considerd. The ISS should be the center of all low earth orbit activity. Maybe a little unit could be built that could go out and grab satlights and bring them to the ISS's orbit where they can be fixed and upgraded.

    IMHO the ISS in its current state is not much good for anything useful.
  • by PingXao (153057) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:08PM (#2376145)
    This should be "NASA Would Like to Bring Back Martian Rocks". NASA would like to do a lot of things. Draconian budget cuts in recent years have put a major crimp in their style, however. They are currently not "planning" to do anything of the sort. They are simply groping about for a project that will let some of them keep their jobs by hitting on something that will engender public and Congressional support (and dollars). That's about as far in advance as their "planning" allows these days.

    It seems like every 6 months now they some out with some new "discovery" that turns out to be just a rehash of old science with a new twist. Truth is, if you think along the lines of timothy here, you could also say that:
    • NASA Plans on Sending Astronauts Back to the Moon
    • NASA Plans on Sending Satellite Fleet to Jupiter
    • NASA Plans on Searching For Life on Titan's Oceans
    • NASA Plans on Tripling Space Station Size
    • NASA Plans on New Hubble Replacement
    The list goes on and on. I love NASA, don't get me wrong, but the only serious stories worth looking at are the ones that start with NASA Receives Budgetary Committment From Congress For [insert project here]. That's the point where any serious planning really starts.
  • by Alsee (515537) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:43PM (#2376268) Homepage
    What can we do by inspecting the rocks in person we can't do remotely? We should be able to do everything except touch it.

    By returning the samples we can bring to bear the full might of Earth's Laboratories, scientists, and infrastructure. A lander can only carry a few specific and limited tests. If we discover something unexpected we could even build new equipment to preform tests never before concieved.
  • by kwashiorkor (105138) on Monday October 01, 2001 @08:41PM (#2376550)
    I think he made some extremely valid points. At least with the promise of research into the extraction of materials from NEAs, you could attract far more private sector capital.

    You see, the first step towards becoming an interplanetary society (don't hold your breath btw) is ... [drumroll] ... economics. Quite simply, we won't go into space unless space can make us money.

    Sure, I agree that going to Mars would be incredibly cool. Putting a person on another planet would be an unbelievable achievement, however it is not a prudent thing to do. Face it, we are ruled by prudent capitalists not free spending humanitarians.

    You say that "Space mining at this point is unrealistic" and go on to explore that statement. However I would say that "Manned Mars missions are unrealistic" for the same reasons you state about NEA exploration. The difference is that with the NEA exploration, the promise of return on investment is much higher than on a manned Mars mission.
  • Bad mindset (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZigMonty (524212) <.moc.xobnitsop.ytnomgiz. .ta. .todhsals.> on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @01:57AM (#2377263)
    IMHO NASA is having trouble because they are sticking with a 60s/70s mentality that just doesn't work anymore. Running the space shuttle and re-supplying the ISS isn't what NASA should be doing. NASA needs to hand some of that stuff over to the commercial sector. Then they could use the lowest bidder for launches. Ariane 5 [arianespace.com] cheaper than the shuttle? Then USE it. Stop making every thing home made, use off the shelf components. Making everything made sense when they were the only ones making space components but now there are competing products.

    NASA should be focusing on things that the private sector can't do, like expensive R&D, non profitable science missions, going to mars, etc. They need to stop competing with private companies and start working with them. NASA has something like $13.6 billion a year to play with. The reason they only have a couple of hundred million left over for mars missions is that they are currently building a white elephant [nasa.gov] in low earth orbit.

    NASA has screwed up priorities. Here is what I would like to see them doing:

    • Help fund private missions that look promising.
    • Do R&D on new propulsion, launch mthods, etc. Think long term. Asteroid mining is something that will probably be important in the future so do more NEAR [nasa.gov] style missions.
    • Lead operations to go to Mars and other interesting places. Design and fund them while relying on other companies to build everything and launch them.
    NASA needs to approach space the way the NSF approaches science, grants etc.

    Another thing, try to make some money out of space. Put advertising on the side of spacecraft, etc. Install HDTV cameras everywhere. Strap IMAX cameras to the side of the shuttle and get some fantastic footage that could help make space interesting again.

    Right now if you do a word association test with someone on the street and say "NASA" and they will probably say something about the recent Mars probe losses. We need to get that back to being "Cool!!"

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