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Space Science

One-Way Ticket to Mars? 1242

Posted by michael
from the all-aboard dept.
ahogue writes "Paul Davies, who has written several very accessible books on physics and cosmology, proposes an interesting way to get a manned mission to Mars - leave them there. [NYTimes, free reg. req.] While it may sounds shocking at first, the financial and exploratory benefits seem to outweigh the social negatives. Any volunteers?" Reader docanime writes with some sober news: "All this recent talk about Mars rovers and orbiters has made one space fan checking out how well Mars has been deflecting and destroying the space probes. The Mars Scorecard lists all the known fly-by, orbital, and landing attempts/failures made by humans. In case you're curious, Mars is winning 20 to 16."
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One-Way Ticket to Mars?

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  • Parts (Score:5, Funny)

    by panxerox (575545) * on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:19PM (#7998563)
    Can't you just hook up one of my legs to a life support system and send it there? at least we will have a "part" of a man there. And I can say I have 1 foot in this world and 1 in the next.
    • Re:Parts (Score:3, Funny)

      by jkeegan (35099)
      Wow.. I know we all sit in front of computers a lot, but I never thought any of us would get so used to it that we volunteered to give up our legs! :)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:55PM (#7999084)
      Not www.goatse.cx [nytimes.com].
    • Freeze them! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Inflatable Hippo (202606) <inflatable_hippo ... k ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:03PM (#7999202) Journal
      OK, your somewhat graphic concept gave me an idea that marries the one way trip with a potential ethical escape clause.

      The astronauts freeze themselves "before they die".

      It works like this: we send them with no ability to return but with the (mythical) cryogenic equipment to freeze themselves pre "death".

      The poles are pretty cold it would take less energy there.

      They and their families can at least cling to the hope that one day we'll return with the technology to bring them home and revive them.
    • Re:Parts (Score:5, Funny)

      by Inflatable Hippo (202606) <inflatable_hippo ... k ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:05PM (#7999240) Journal
      > Can't you just hook up one of my legs to a life support system and send it there?

      "This is one small step for man..."

    • Re:Parts (Score:5, Funny)

      by EyeSavedLatin (591555) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:06PM (#7999241) Journal
      Can't you just hook up one of my legs to a life support system and send it there?

      Oh sure, and play right into the Martians hands!? Lazy Martians, can't even come to Earth and collect body parts, now we've got people volunteering to send them up to Mars for them! Sheesh!

  • by sirinek (41507) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:19PM (#7998569) Homepage Journal
    I nominate George W Bush to be first in line. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:20PM (#7998584)
    "Mars needs men!"
    A few days after landing...
    "Mars needs women!"
  • by glinden (56181) * on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:20PM (#7998586) Homepage Journal
    • the financial and exploratory benefits seem to outweigh the social negatives
    What are the social and exploratory benefits of a manned mission? How do they outweigh the costs?

    While I'm a big fan of robotic probes to Mars and elsewhere, I have never seen a compelling economic argument for manned exploration of Mars, at least in the short and medium term.

    The argument for seems to be based entirely on the assumption that we need to colonize Mars as quickly as possible and this is a first step. But why do we need to colonize Mars as quickly as possible? Until we've exhausted what we can learn from unmanned probes, why send manned missions at all?
    • by October_30th (531777) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:25PM (#7998650) Homepage Journal
      Until we've exhausted what we can learn from unmanned probes, why send manned missions at all?

      Because we can?

      We should go to Mars just because we can. Not because it might make economic sense or serve some social/exploratory benefits.

      We (not just the USA but the world) should do it just because we can.

      • by Josh Booth (588074) <joshbooth2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:37PM (#7998823)
        But at the expense of using the money for something that will more directly affect mankind? We can't even spare 8 x 10^9 dollars on a nice particle accelerator, let alone what it would take for a moonshot. The Apollo program cost 25 x 10^9 dollars 30+ years ago [nationmaster.com]. Inflation should make the modern cost much more, even though we already have most of the research to get to the moon. So, why not build a 40 mile particle accelerator BECAUSE WE CAN? But that doesn't get you reelected.
        • Two answers (Score:5, Insightful)

          by siskbc (598067) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:48PM (#7999736) Homepage
          But at the expense of using the money for something that will more directly affect mankind?

          First, look at all the crap (in addition to Tang) that was developed as a direct result of the space program and the incredible challenges that have been overcome in the process, including computers, etc. Technology spending returns well on investment. Spending on technology research advances mankind.

          That said, what is an example of something that will more directly affect mankind? I presume not bandaid solutions for problems? Because the return on investment there is 0.

          Admittedly, I'd at least turn the American public school system into something functional before going back to the moon, which we already did 35 freaking years ago.

          But outside of that, I see space exploration as being a problem so difficult that it acts as a spur to develop innovative, useful solutions. It also is a goal with so many inherent problems that it requires a diversity of engineering solutions - unlike a particle accelerator, which while expensive, doesn't require innovative engineering to accomplish, and only advances one kind of basic science. Not to say that's not cool, but I think space exploration ends up being more useful to all of us.

      • by b1t r0t (216468) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:40PM (#7998878)
        We should go to Mars just because we can.

        No. First of all, why do you think we went to the moon? Just because we could? Wrong. We went because space was the next frontier of the Cold War.

        We went into orbit because we didn't want the Russians to be the only ones up there, free to put up orbiting nuclear launch platforms. We went to the moon because we didn't want to lose prestige if the Russians got there first. (And possibly there was some worry about the Russians setting up a base with nuclear missiles up there too. Except they never got a man on the moon anyhow.)

        Once we had gotten there, nobody cared. Apollo 13 would have been the third landing, and the media had already lost interest in space launches by then.

        • by Goldsmith (561202) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:05PM (#7999227)
          You're giving the reasons the politicians did those things.

          But, why did the Russians go? Why did it even occur to us to go in the first place. For all the intelligent people here, I'm amazes at the complete lack of understanding of the scientific progress.

          We (as in scientests) went to space, as we do ALL science, because we can. To get funding we might give other reasons, but what drives the scientests and engineers is the challenge, and possibility of understanding more about the universe and ourselves. Who cares it's usefull right now? Who cares if it might not work? Who cares what the politicians think?

          From the scientest's point of view, the rest of the world is here to support me. We have all this government and industry so that the equipment I need is available, and the conditions are amenable to research.

          The question of why to go to mars is the same as why we are here as a race. Do we have a purpose, and what might it be? If our future is to sit around in this little rock and argue with eachother for the next few million years, that's fine, but I sure as hell am going to do everything I can to change that.
          • by Slowping (63788) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:33PM (#7999563) Homepage Journal

            The question of why to go to mars is the same as why we are here as a race. Do we have a purpose, and what might it be? If our future is to sit around in this little rock and argue with eachother for the next few million years, that's fine, but I sure as hell am going to do everything I can to change that.


            Wish I had points to mod you up.
            I think many people also fail to realize that many social problems are incrementally improved by advances in how we, as a society and race, view and understand our role in the universe.
        • by Lancer (32120) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:30PM (#7999538) Homepage
          Apollo 13 would have been the third landing, and the media had already lost interest in space launches by then.

          And we should, of course, base all of our decisions on what the media considers interesting.

    • by korTdev (36381) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:28PM (#7998700)
      Well, I think that mankind need to learn how to escape its home planet as fast as it can.

      As we do not know how long it will take, today is not too early to begin.

      Benefits are for the future.
    • Politics (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Flyboy Connor (741764)
      It's just political. It's doubtful that Bush really thinks we should put a man on Mars, or even send a mission there. But doesn't it sound really patriotic? "The First Man On Mars Will Be An AMERICAN!" No sissy robots, which can't even cook or do the dishes. No, a real, honest-to-god, white American male. It's bound to get him some votes.
      • Re:Politics (Score:5, Funny)

        by josquin00 (675292) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:43PM (#7998914)
        No sissy robots, which can't even cook or do the dishes. No, a real, honest-to-god, white American male.

        Which most likely can't cook or do dishes either... maybe not such a bad idea after all.

    • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:30PM (#7998724)
      If there had to be a compelling economic argument for everything we do we'd still be living in caves! We should goto Mars because it's there!! And it's interesting and a challange! Who needs more of a reason?!

      Plus all humanity is stuck on one planet. That's bad! There are numerous things which could wipe out the entire race. But put humans on other worlds, and you begin to ensure the race has a future.
    • by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:33PM (#7998759) Homepage
      I have never seen a compelling economic argument for manned exploration of Mars

      What does this have to do with money? Humans are naturally curious. We're explorers. That's what we do. I'll tell you something else, it wouldn't take a man a week to move off the lander. A guy in a suit would have already picked up half those rocks, drilled 30 feet into the crust, and sifted for gold. No robot yet built can outdo a dude in a suit.

      • by jmichaelg (148257) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:03PM (#7999201) Journal
        The Americas were discovered and colonized due to economic factors. Spain financed Columbus in the hopes of finding a cheaper route to Asia. The Conquistadors were primarily exploring for wealth, which they found in abundance. Land, resources, power were all factors that drove the colonization of the New World. Until the Moon and Mars demonstrate that there are similar payoffs to be had, colonizing them is going to be a tough sell.

        Some might say robots can do it for less. They would be partially right. Robots have a ways to go before they can move over and observe unfamiliar terrain as well as a trained human. One of the painful lessons JPL learned when they sent a prototype rover out to look for life was it missed a plant because the plant was just outside the rover's field of view.

        One technique we used back in the 1800's was to give away land to whomever would go West. 160 acres to anyone who would build a house and occupy it. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific were driven by greed to build the transcontinental railroad. They not only got government backed financing, they also got land and anything on it. So while the Union is fighting the Civil War, it's also driving the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Union could do both because the railroad didn't cost the Union anything. The land had zero value because no one was there and the bonds got paid off by the railroads. California gold and free land were a huge incentive to risk your life crossing the Humboldt sink or Death Valley to look for that perfect piece of land to call home. Seems to me that if a nation made a similar offer of lunar soil and financing, we'd see a lot more activity than we have to date. We won't know what's of value on the Moon and on Mars until people have poked it all over.

    • by jabberjaw (683624) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:34PM (#7998772)
      It could be a manifest destiny [wikipedia.org] thing, however I suspect other motives. Why not do a manned mission, sure it is dangerous, and yes the possibility of people dying is very real, but the old argument of "Why climb a mountain" applies. Probes cannot convey the human experience of standing on the Martain surface and running red sand through your hands, sure they do not need food/water/supplies and there is little chance of loss of life save a rocket exploding on the pad, but who here hasn't dreamed of going to Mars? It is hard coded in the human spirit to explore. From taking our first steps as a child, we have always wanted to go there (no, not Mars, a generic there), there which we have not set foot before, there into the unknown. In short, we do not need to colonize Mars as much as we want to colonize Mars.
    • by bloggins02 (468782) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:36PM (#7998804)
      Ummm, because Bush needs to get reelected?

      Just a guess :)
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:40PM (#7998884) Journal
      I agree somewhat. Robots should be used for remote exploration and discovery, as they are much cheaper and safer, and research into robotics technologies have direct ground-side benefits. Robots could also be used for autonomous construction of orbital spacecraft and Mars habitats, and then, once everything's ready, you send over human colonists (probably much earlier than you'd have with human construction). With robots you have much lower costs and no potential deaths to cause public panic.
    • by American AC in Paris (230456) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:52PM (#7999044) Homepage
      The argument for seems to be based entirely on the assumption that we need to colonize Mars as quickly as possible and this is a first step. But why do we need to colonize Mars as quickly as possible? Until we've exhausted what we can learn from unmanned probes, why send manned missions at all?

      Well, at one point in our world's history, there were a lot of people who simply couldn't comprehend why anybody would want to throw their life away by sailing off the edge of the planet. There wasn't anything fundamentally wrong with Europe that necessitated grand exploration, and most of the people leading these expeditions could have enjoyed a very comfortable life had they desired to do so. In short, the biggest thing driving the exploration was sheer curiosity (paired with the hope that these explorers might be able to find easier routes to places like the East Indies and cash in on them--a sort of Renaissance explorer's lottery.)

      Looking back, I'm quite glad they went ahead and did it, anyways. Without said exploration, me and several billion of my closest friends wouldn't have the life we have today. Say whatever you will about the ills American society has introduced to this planet, say whatever you will about how royally we're fucking things up in our adolescent pursuit of global hegemony--fact is, America has done a lot to advance global prosperity, human rights, and quality of life. Had the explorers and pioneers of old not taken the (sometimes overwhelming) risks they took, we would be far less advanced, as a planet, than we are today.

      Look forward. Know that you, your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren will never, ever, ever live to see the day when there is a self-sustaining colony on the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else. Know, too, that the sooner we start accepting the risks inherent with exploration, the sooner we'll be able to achieve the advances that come with such momentous human achievements.

    • by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:56PM (#7999093)
      I have never seen a compelling economic argument for...

      I have never seen a compelling argument that economic benefit was the only valid reason to do something. Do you have a hobby, or any goals other than "make money"? Getting money is only a means to whatever end you ultimately want - so many successful people seem to forget that.

    • by lonesome phreak (142354) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:03PM (#7999205) Journal
      Tha article memtions a few good reasons: 1) pandemic disease and 2) global war 3) some other extintion-level event (asteroid, ect). Eventually the colony would be self-sustaining by sending more people there. If it went well, within 20-40 years potentially. At least humanity wouldn't be wiped out. That is assuming, of course, that one of the acts of #2 didn't include some nuke being launched at the colony.

      Also, humans can do many more experients and studies than robots. If our rover gets stuck, that's all folks. A colony there with the proper manufactoring facilities could potentially do many interesting things, many which couldn't even be conceived at this point.

      IMHO, that's the main reason. Sending such a mission would enhance our technology in ways most of us can't even contemplate at the moment. We would have to come up with novel solutions to new problems, and those solutions would undoubtably have applications here on Earth. For example, say the colonists devised a new way to grow crops, or NASA had to design an ultra-safe reactor for the colony. Both of these could have major impact on our civilization. The myrid technologies that would be needed for this to be a reality could greatly enhance the worldwide standard of living.

      Finally, I personally feel we should go because we are, at least in America, by tradition frontiersmen without a frontier. Many of us feel a restlessness because there are few places left to go...no more western frontier where we can "make our own". Now, this still wouldn't probably happen in my lifetime (nor probably even in my grandchildrens)...but I would be content with the knowledge that someday one of my decendents could leave this overcrowded place and begin anew in the Martian Colonies.

      It's called hope for the future. It's something many of us have lost due to the Patriot Act I & II, our "jobless recovery", our world's biggest prision population, and so on. It's the potential to someday be able to leave if we feel the need. Not me, of course, but someday.
  • by asdfasdfasdfasdf (211581) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:21PM (#7998596)
    Send paypal donations to DarlMcBrideMarsTicket@yahoo.com.
  • A good idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eric S Rayrnond (739458) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:24PM (#7998637) Homepage
    I'd like to add that I think Davies has come up with a good idea, but it needs one thing - property rights. A development regime which provides some form of property rights will become increasingly necessary as space develops. Professionals foresee an integrated system of solar power generation, lunar and asteroidal mining, orbital industrialization, and habitation in outer space. In the midst of this complexity, the right to maintain a facility in a given location relative to another space object may create conflict. Such conflicts may arise sooner than we expect, if private companies begin building subsidiary facilities around space stations. Eventually large public facilities will become the hub of private space development, and owners will want to protect the proximity value of their facility location.

    It also seems likely that at some point national governments and/or private companies will clash over the right to exploit a given mineral deposit. Finally, the geosynchronous orbit is already crowded with satellites, and other orbits with unique characteristics may become scarce in the future.

    The institution of real property is the most efficient method of allocating the scarce resource of location value. Space habitats, for example, will be very expensive and will probably require financing from private as well as public sources. Selling property rights for living or business space on the habitat would be one way of obtaining private financing. Private law condominiums would seem to be a particularly apt financing model -- inhabitants could hold title to their living space and pay a monthly fee for life-support services and maintenance of common areas.
    • Re:A good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by johnjay (230559) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:38PM (#7999611)
      Let's assume that the first inhabitants carry with them property rights to a 100KM radius area from their landing spot. Who owns those rights? The explorers? Not likely, they're living soley on the charity of the country that supports them. The country? Sounds a lot like colonialism--a politically risky choice for the US. The private companies that help underwrite the mission (assuming they exist)? Unless Boeing (to take a company at random) paid for the entire launch and support, there's no way the government would let them own part of Mars. The voters would hate that.

      I agree that nothing would spur settlement like property rights. Once a US mission landed on Mars, China, Russia and the EU would be falling over themselves to get their own stake. But, I don't know how it would work in the beginning.

      The colonial model is the most logical: the US owns whatever part of Mars it's settlers are living on. But, how long does the US own the land? At what point does it revert to the settlers? At what point does the Mars-US relationship become like the American Colonies vs. the British Empire?

      It probably shouldn't be based on a strict timeline, but rather a series of developement steps. Once the Mars colony is reasonably self-sufficent (and the US has made a return on it's investment?) the land would become privately held.

      Just thinking out loud. There's probably an essay somewhere on the internet that works out these details...
  • Mars is NOT winning (Score:5, Informative)

    by Waab (620192) * on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:24PM (#7998639) Homepage

    Mars may be up against the world as a whole, but by my count, the US has been kicking some Martian tail.

    The US leads Mars 10-5.
    The USSR is trailing Mars 5-16
    Japan trails Mars 0-1
    And the ESA is up on Mars 1-0

  • by haggar (72771) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:25PM (#7998658) Homepage Journal
    Lets look into this "volunteer" thing: we are looking for a person ready to give up their whole life, move to an almost 100% barren place where he/she will soon die utterly alone!

    I don't think it would be wise to bet such a multi-ten-billion mission on a whacko like that.
    • by dema (103780) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:30PM (#7998721) Homepage
      As noted in the article, it is suggested that a four-peron crew be sent, so there would not be a total loss of human contact. Read the article, it's rather interesting.
      • Yeah, and that's eve whackier! You and 3 other fellows live together the whole time (or, you have the option to go for a walk in the nice martian parks), just the 4 of you all the time. And then you wait who's going to die first? And then the next? And then... Shit, it's even more depressing this way.

        Sorry dude, still think such individual(s) has issues.
    • The assumption is that it would be a crew of several people. Nor would they necessarily give up thier whole lives, it's quite possible technology would make the return trip practical at some point. Even given the risks involved, finding volunteers would be considerably easier than the engineering involved.

      Personally, the idea strikes me as a good one. Not only does it dramaticly cut the costs of the trip, but it leaves a long term commitment to space travel.
    • by Deanasc (201050) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:39PM (#7998870) Homepage Journal
      Well actually, only the last person to die will die utterly alone. The other 3 will have someone to hold their hand. RTFA the trip will be one way but resupply will be a regular event. As will be the addition of extra crew as the surface is prepared for their arrival. This is the way to go about it. This is probably going to be the only way to go beyond our solar system.
    • by mandalayx (674042) * on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:55PM (#7999085) Journal
      Lets look into this "volunteer" thing: we are looking for a person ready to give up their whole life, move to an almost 100% barren place where he/she will soon die utterly alone!

      I don't think it would be wise to bet such a multi-ten-billion mission on a whacko like that.


      Hmm. soldiers? Vietnam? WWII? Iraq?

      What do you think these WWI guys thought when they heard about machine guns?
    • You mean what sort of whacko would want to devote their life to exploring a completely new world, be surrounded by the most sophisticated technology available, and be known for the lifespan of humanity as the first space colonist? I'd certainly consider myself such a whacko, and imagine several other slashdotters would be eager to sign up.

      Many people spend their lives in near-isolation devoted to research, or risk their lives as test pilots to advance aeronautical knowledge and experience an incredible thr
  • Emotional Horror (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpaceRook (630389) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:26PM (#7998673)
    The worst situation isn't sending a human to mars and having them destroyed in the atmosphere. The worst situation is having them enter the atmosphere and then never hearing from them again (ala Beagle2). People could deal with straight-out death. But if we send a person to Mars and their fate is unknown, that would freak people out.
    • by nanojath (265940)
      Well, if we're talking about the one-way-ticket scenario, the worst-case scenario I can think of would probably be successfully putting them down and then listening as the impact of the fact that they are going to spend the rest of their probably short lives in a bubble in the middle of a barren waste sets in. Whatever a person thinks they're up to, the human reaction to that situation could never be predicted until they got there... Given a year, two, three...

      A person in that situation has nothing to lo

  • by andyring (100627) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:28PM (#7998706) Homepage
    In all seriousness, I would be willing to volunteer for a one-way trip to the Red Planet. Crazy? Probably. Suicide? Who knows. Incredible opportunity? Darn right. Give me 5 or more years of notice, a hefty paycheck for those years ($1 million-ish, to toss out a figure) and I would be willing to board the ship on a one-way trip there.
  • Indeed! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:30PM (#7998718)
    That's one thing I've been wondering about. If it takes a HUGE construct of boosters, launching equipment, and fuel just to escape earth's atmosphere, how exactly do we expect to return anyone from mars? We can't exactly land a launching pad on Mars in any acceptable timeframe, and it would be incredibly difficult to land a craft that would have the required fuel to escape from Mars.

    Somehow I doubt that the desire to have someone walk on Mars is going to be the magical trick that makes fusion a viable energy source. We need more general science, not just a space program.

    Ryan Fenton
    • Re:Indeed! (Score:4, Informative)

      by mcmonkey (96054) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:39PM (#7998861) Homepage
      That's one thing I've been wondering about. If it takes a HUGE construct of boosters, launching equipment, and fuel just to escape earth's atmosphere, how exactly do we expect to return anyone from mars?

      The same way they returned from the moon...Mars is smaller than and has less atmosphere than the Earth. Lift off for the return trip takes much less energy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:31PM (#7998738)
    The entire United States.

    Then the rest of us can get back to living again.
  • by gfilion (80497) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:37PM (#7998828) Homepage
    We will need to colonize Mars! Here's what I propose:

    General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

    Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

    Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.
  • by kippy (416183) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:39PM (#7998858)
    And I'd be the first one to sign up. This is after all what the ultimate goal of space exploration should be. It's the ultimate goal of life itself after all.
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:43PM (#7998928) Homepage Journal
    If we used nuclear engines, we wouldn't HAVE to leave them there. Not only would be able to build high powered, fuel-efficient rockets, but we'd be able to refuel them from Mar's own materials. Plus we could build a Mars Shuttle for orbital to surface commutes. Didn't anyone read the article on Clean Nuclear Launches a few days ago?
  • Not a new idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by J05H (5625) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:47PM (#7998989) Homepage
    "One way to stay" mission designs are not new. George W. Herbert, an aerospace engineer and regular on the sci.space newsgroups, has made several detailed proposals like this. Most of them revolve around the point that sending a life-time's worth of food to Mars is not that expensive, especially compared to the scientific and engineering returns on such a project. One way missions to Mars should be considered the start of colonizing, not "abandoning" astronauts there. Also, even with a nominal one-way flight, there is always the possibility of getting home 10, 20 years in the future.

    http://www.marsinstitute.info/rd/faculty/dportree/ rtr/ma26.html [marsinstitute.info]

    -Josh

    • The one way mission concept is really that: a one way mission.

      As the article outlines, the living conditions are likely to be incredibly demanding. The environment on Mars is so harsh that there will also be a constant risk of death due to equipment failure or mistake. If any sort of medical problem develops (broken bones, organ problems, etc.) there is no large medical infrastructure to use, so odds of recovery are diminished. Additionally, the radiation exposure on Mars is almost certainly going to be h
  • by dan dan the dna man (461768) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:59PM (#7999144) Homepage Journal
    The case for Mars [amazon.com] by Robert Zubrin has a detailed plan on how you could do this with no moonbase, no LEO station and no need to leave people stranded. Interesting read.
  • not NASA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:17PM (#7999378) Homepage Journal
    The final paragraph of the article is probably the best:

    Would NASA entertain a one-way policy for human Mars exploration? Probably not. But other, more adventurous space agencies in Europe or Asia might.

    Most of asia has a culture where the individual is seen as part of the whole society, and measured by its contribution to same.
    China would certainly have no shortage of volunteers, and no PR problems with such a mission. Neither would Japan.

  • by tstoneman (589372) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:17PM (#7999387)
    Sure, on the surface it sounds fine where a scientist says, "Okay, we have a one-way mission to Mars, there is no chance for you to get back. Are you okay with that?" And you could have plenty of people volunteer.

    But what happens when these people get on Mars? Then what? What if, after a few weeks, the video/radio transmissions back to Mission Control are:

    "OH GOD PLEASE GET ME OUT OF HERE! PLEASE I'LL DO ANYTHING! PLEASE I DON'T WANT TO DIE ON THIS PLANET!"

    Imagine how horrifying that would be to everyone involved? It would be like watching a person who was condemned to die and fighting [daytondailynews.com]it at the last minute. No matter how justified it is, I think don't think there is anything that can prepare you for someone struggling to live and begging for their lives. Imagine the outrage that people on Earth would feel when the media shows a clip of this astronaut pleading for his life? It would go down as one of the darkest days of humanity.

    I mean, they can't just shut off the radio and ignore the person.

    The humane aspect of sending a person on a one-way death mission is the aspect that the author has completely and utterly ignored. It's easy to forget that right now, but when death is about to happen, everyone will be thinking, "Dear Lord, what have we done? How could we have done this?" and we as a species will regret the entire thing.

    • by Skyshadow (508) on Friday January 16, 2004 @04:01PM (#8001333) Homepage
      Seriously, if you pick the right sort of people for this sort of venture, you'd never get a message like that. The average /.er might find it easier to associate with someone who sits down and cries when death seems certain, but we want to send the type who will fight and work and innovate right up until their last breath, because they're the ones that'll survive.

      Of course, it's also up to us to make sure it doesn't come to that. I'd want to design the mission so that even when stuff goes wrong, there's always a good fighting chance for the people on the surface. I wouldn't send people there with one oxygen generator or one inflatible crop dome or without some construction gear or anything.

      I mean, Mars isn't the moon. There are resources and things to work with all over the place -- the ground, the atmosphere, etc. And compared to space or the moon, it's a really safe place to be.

      Send construction gear. Send machine tools. With some basic gear, plenty of power and know-how, you can make all sorts of things on Mars -- shelters, oxygen, water, food, wire, plastics...

      Give me 50 skilled people, a dependable nuclear reactor and enough gear to get started and I'll make Mars a safe place for human life inside of a decade. If something breaks, I'll fix it. If we run out of spare parts, we'll mill new ones. If a few of us die, well, we'll mourn them and move on.

      Leave the weak and timid back on earth. This isn't a venture for people who aren't willing to take serious risks or who think real "work" is sitting in front of a CRT all day typing TPS reports. Give me people who know construction, farming, materials, mechanics, people who can think on their feet and who can make a round peg fit in a square hole when they need to. Give me people who will work every day to survive and I'll turn the red planet into humanity's second home.

      In short, give me pioneers.

  • Big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demachina (71715) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:19PM (#7999400)
    I've made exactly the same proposal here on slashdot numerous times. It is the only rational way to approach manned exploration of of Mars. It dramaticly reduces the difficulty and cost of the mission since you dont have to get a return vehicle to Mars, with fuel, or produce the fuel there. A roud trip mission to Mars is misguided thinking stemming from an Apollo mindset and it simply isn't appropriate for the much longer mission to Mars. The Apollo approach also proved to be a dead end. Just think if the Apollo goal had been to put a habitat on the Moon instead of go there, pick up rocks, come back, yawn.

    It also eliminates the long periods in zero G which seems to be NASA's misguided obsession (evidenced by the fact the 100 billion dollars wasted on the ISS which is now dedicated to zero G physiology research). Not sure after a long trip in zero G and a long period in 1/3 G on Mars a crew will be real happy coming back to earth's 1 G either. You also reduce the risk of radiation exposure in deep space.

    Start lobbing cargo containers, habitats, hydroponics, a nuclear reactor etc at Mars ASAP using unmanned ships. Preceed this with a bunch more robotic missions to search for criticial resource on planet like water.

    When cargo ships start arriving reliably and you have enough there to sustain colonists send one or two manned flights with a bunch of astronauts, with enough skills, to start a somewhat self sufficient colony or two. Once there there you dont NEED any more manned missions, just some more cargo flights until they learn to tap Mars resources and be self sufficient. When they are self sufficient the huge expense ends but you still have a bold expedition on Mars, in perpetuity, and we have expended our biosphere which is a priceless thing in the event man, or natural events, destroys earth's.
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:40PM (#7999644)
    Anyone who's played Missile Command knows this - we need to send probe missions out in pairs. One is a big, fat, juicy-looking decoy that we send down right around the same time the _real_ mission starts entry of Mars atmosphere. The Martians go for the decoy, and our real mission lands undisturbed.

    Either that or we nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
  • by dekashizl (663505) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:41PM (#7999653) Journal
    Yeah I got first post!!!

    Kinda laggy, but everything's looking good up here. I just found a new rock that was like a little bit redder than the other one I found yesterday. Cool.

    Please send more corn.
  • by Guncrazy (633221) on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:55PM (#7999817)
    Paul Davies isn't the first person to suggest leaving astronauts on Mars. I doubt that Henry Spencer is the first, either, but he did suggest it back in 1997, in an article [wired.com] he wrote for Wired magazine.

    Also in that magazine, just last September, a convict volunteered [wired.com] for the trip, and suggested that others in his position might also be suitable and willing to make the trip.

  • by madstork2000 (143169) * on Friday January 16, 2004 @02:13PM (#8000030) Homepage
    At last someone looks at the value of human life objectively. Our lives have an immeasurabley high value, but not so high that it is unthinkable to sacrifice one's life for the good of the group. It's just that our list of acceptable sacrifices is growing shorter.

    Sacrifice your life saving your family = acceptable
    Sacrifice your life in defense of your country = acceptable
    Sacrifice your life in hopes of new discoveries = no

    In the wake of the Challenger and Columbia disasters, there was such a loud outcry and long delays because NASA has to do everything it can to make space a safe place for people. Loss of life is simply unacceptable for us "civilized" westernerns.

    Space is dangerous, there is risk and will always be risk. We have to keep trying, and keep learning, and the risk will go down. But it will always remain. Wasting billions of dollars to make it an old program a wee bit (percentage wise) safer is ludicrous. We should set LOWER safety standards, and encourage our government to risk lives and we will have progress in SPace exploration.

    If we continue to place this high value on human lives we are doomed to low earth orbit for a long long time. We need to make dieing for scientific discovery as acceptible as dieing for terrorism. Heres a thought how much would we have learned if we lost the ~500 people attempting to establish colonies instead of fighting in Iraq?

    True there are plenty of people opposed to the war. Though, I imagine a lot more people can accept 500 deaths as the price to eliminate "terrorism" and threats of biological/chemical/nuclear arms against the US and allies, than could the nebuolous cause of better all mankind through discovery.

    Think back to the late 1400 and early 1500's. Our society was just leaving the dark ages, that set science and discovery back 500 years perhaps. We were waking up and things got done. At the time going across the ocean was a major risk, and often represented a one-way trip. We owe our modern western society to these early colonists and explorers.

    Granted they did some horrible things in the process, but we learned (and continue to learn) from the mistakes of the past. If I had the opportunity to voluteer for a harsh hard life on mars, leaving my friends and family behind, I would do it. I would encourage my children to do it. Everyone is going to die, and I'd rather I have some say in how it happens.

    Exploring in the long run is about survival of our species. All animals have the instinct to protect themselves, and to propogate. Adaptation and exploration are critical elements. As we, as a species, have gotten more intelligent we have become increasingly self centered on survival of the individual. Hence we place extremely high values on individual lives. For example, we often do things to our environment that are short sighted and produce positive effects for only a small subset of our population, while causing a negative effect for the larger community.

    Anyway, I applaud someone who has the courage to at least propose the idea. Obviously it will not get far, as it would be way too controversial for any government (at least any Western Government) to support. Maybe the Chinese would consider it?

    Another point worth mentioning is that while, we may not have the technology at the time we send them to bring them back. It is certainly possible that after a few years things will have progressed enough to send a "rescue" or retrieval mission. So if they can hold out a decade maybe there will be hope. . . .

    For what its worth thats my take . . .

    MS2k
  • by holy_smoke (694875) on Friday January 16, 2004 @02:31PM (#8000232)
    Its not so much about getting there, but what new technologies will be developed in the effort to try. New fabrics, new electronics, new radio gear, new sheilding technologies, better batteries, better solar power, etc etc. And then there are jobs, new businesses created, institutions of education focusing more on sciense, more college kids going for science and tech degrees, etc etc.

    In the end it doesn't matter at all if we actually end up going, but rather what new things we learn and develop along the way.
  • Lance Bass (Score:5, Funny)

    by telstar (236404) on Friday January 16, 2004 @02:56PM (#8000521)
    I thought the one-way trip was the plan for that N*Sync guy's trip to space....
  • by jabberjaw (683624) on Friday January 16, 2004 @03:41PM (#8001048)
    Men wanted for hazardous journey - small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
    Ernest Shackelton placed this ad to recruit applicants for his Antartic voyage. Five thousand individuals responded. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is it, save for the deep of the oceans there is little adventure left here. Everst and K2 have been summited, the globe circumnavigated, Antartica traversed. We must look elseware. We must look to the Moon and Mars. Honour and recognition await those who dare apply...
  • Citations. (Score:5, Informative)

    by rijrunner (263757) on Friday January 16, 2004 @04:41PM (#8001792)


    I really wish they would cite prior work here. George Herbert published a piece about this back in 1996, if not before. It's an old idea. It was also one of the proposals for a quick mission to the moon back in 1961. The newsgroup also sci.space.policy beats this to death every few years.

    The main issues right now are some specific unkowns when it comes to Mars. The core idea of what they are discussing is possible. NASA's baseline mission to Mars calls for a hab to be sent out in advance of the main mission. That will have working equipment running for a couple years converting the atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen and some form of fuel. Then, a few years of manned habitation, then return. It's an incremental increase in cost to make that an indefinately prolonged mission if you allow for repair and resupply.

    The author is downplaying one major item though. There is a definate conflict of resources between building a base and science. ISS is a very good example of that. A smaller crew has to be focussed on whatever task is required. I suspect that the initial crews sent would need to be focussed on building out infrastructure, then latter crews directed at the science.

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