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Mars Space

Visiting Our Red Space Neighbor 209

Posted by Zonk
from the just-next-door dept.
Enthusiasm for visiting our red space neighbor seems to be growing. m4dm4n writes "A study carried out by MIT's Aeronautics and Astronautics department has concluded that getting men to Mars in the 2020 timeframe is possible. The intelligent re-use of crew habitat modules, propulsion stages, and engines in various missions will enable NASA to significantly reduce their initial timeline which was well past 2030." Relatedly, ErikPeterson wrote to mention a Space.com article where Neil Armstrong says getting to Mars may be easier than getting to the Moon was back in the day, because of the hurdles they had to overcome. From the article: "It will be expensive, it will take a lot of energy and a complex spacecraft. But I suspect that even though the various questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many as those we faced when we started the Apollo (space program) in 1961." We're starting to understand more about the red planet as well, as madstork2000 writes "The BBC is reporting on the possibility of active volcanoes on Mars. So now there is water, heat, and soon big business when 4Frontiers gets there. Hopefully we'll get a Google Mars soon to check it out up close."
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Visiting Our Red Space Neighbor

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  • Business on Mars (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geomon (78680)
    So now there is water, heat, and soon big business when 4Frontiers gets there.

    What will they make and who are they going to sell it too? I'm open for making money on Mars, but I haven't read one proposal that looks like it would make money.

    I can see why a country would want to go to Mars. There is always the national honor, staking territorial claims, etc. for a Mars landing. I just can't see spending billions of dollars for no financial return at all.

    How much money has a business made from the US landing o
    • How much money has a business made from the US landing on the Moon?

      About 16 billion? The company is known as Halliburton, aka Brown and Root.
      See also Mohole, Vietnam, TVA nukes, Iraq...
      • Someone made 16 billion bucks just from us sending a few guys to the moon?

        Damn, that's fuckin' cool.

        I wish I was a good enough businessman to make that sort of coin off of such a pointless project...

        Holy shit, thank you for posting that... I now have a newfound respect for Halliburton.
    • by nunchux (869574) on Friday September 09, 2005 @08:46PM (#13523925)
      I can see why a country would want to go to Mars. There is always the national honor, staking territorial claims, etc. for a Mars landing. I just can't see spending billions of dollars for no financial return at all.

      The most obvious is all of the tech that will be discovered along the way, which would be valuable both to private industry and the military. And that company would hold the patents. This would also establish that organization as the premier space exploration/transport company... Think what it would mean to their earth-based enterprises.

      The second answer is marketing. This company would be in the news every day for years, and they would certainly be in every schoolchild's history books for centuries to come. Doesn't Coke have a roughly $1.5 billion advertising budget? Not saying they'd be the one to do it (though Virgin does have a cola, too...) Putting this kind of money into the greatest technological accomplishment in history may be worth it...
         
      • by flyingsquid (813711) on Friday September 09, 2005 @09:14PM (#13524044)
        The most obvious is all of the tech that will be discovered along the way, which would be valuable both to private industry and the military.

        You could do the same thing far more efficiently by directly funding research through the National Science Foundation. Unfortunately, the NSF has seen its budget cut while funding for NASA has been increased.

        I think that NASA's unmanned programs do some valuable research and they should continue, or even be expanded, but the manned program is just a publicity stunt. I mean what did the Shuttle program ever discover, other than a bunch of science-fair projects along the lines of "does classical music make plants grow better... in SPACE?" Their biggest single contribution to research has been repairing a robot- the Hubble Space Telescope. I think that says something about where space exploration is going. The sooner we get humans out of space exploration entirely, the more progress we'll make. Likewise, if there really is any way to make money from going to Mars, it will doubtless be cheaper to send robots to do it, instead of sending humans.

        • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Friday September 09, 2005 @09:57PM (#13524235) Homepage
          Yeah but think of the patenting opportunities!

          Method for locking a door... IN SPACE!
          Method for input of data... IN SPACE!
          etc.

          Then you have the meta-patents...

          Method for input of data.. ON A COMPUTER! IN SPACE!
        • by CiXeL (56313)
          "I mean what did the Shuttle program ever discover, other than a bunch of science-fair projects along the lines of "does classical music make plants grow better... in SPACE?"

          Do you know how many of those useless projects were paid for by the national science foundation?
          • Re:NSF (Score:3, Interesting)

            by flyingsquid (813711)
            I can say for a fact the NSF does fund useless projects- they've funded me to study dinosaurs, after all.

            But the thing is, the NSF is a bargain. It costs about 5.5 billion a year and funds things as diverse as biotech, computing, and fisheries management. It funds undergrads, graduate students, and professors, and it buys equipment and pays for research projects. In the process it cultivates basic research in the United States, in all areas of the sciences. Yet NASA gets over three times that- 16 billion t

        • The sooner we get humans out of space exploration entirely, the more progress we'll make.

          Our problem isn't putting humans in space, our problem is attempting to put them in space without an efficient enough energy source to propel and sustain them for the long distances meaningful space travel requires. Our ships are too slow and our fuel doesn't last long enough and takes too much space to store. There's nothing wrong with putting humans in space, but we shouldn't be spending all the money to do so ri
          • In other words, it's like crossing the Atlantic ocean on a wooden raft. It can be done, once, if you really like taking risks, but it is completely impractical.
      • The most obvious is all of the tech that will be discovered along the way, which would be valuable both to private industry and the military.

        I think this is a very frequently overstated benefit of space projects for several reasons:

        Surely there are serendipitous inventions that may reduce costs and increase reliability, but ideally you would want to avoid having to invent something to finish a project you are starting right now- newly created or discovered things are typically much more expensive, are diff
    • I can see why a country would want to go to Mars. There is always the national honor, staking territorial claims, etc. for a Mars landing. I just can't see spending billions of dollars for no financial return at all.

      How much money has a business made from the US landing on the Moon?

      If you count the techonology the US had to invent to get ther,e billions upon billions.
    • Real estate (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149) *
      Anyone with even a half of ounce of vision knows the real (and very profitible) reason to go to Mars - first dibs at real estate.

      Funny or insightful? Your choice!
  • Kuato (Score:2, Funny)

    by jeffvoigt (866600)
    Does this mean that soon, I too could wake up next to Sharon Stone and lead a martian revolution [imdb.com]?
  • by Cerdic (904049) on Friday September 09, 2005 @07:41PM (#13523636)
    Considering that the government has severely increased spending (Iraq, Katrina) while decreasing money input (less taxes taken in), something is going to suffer.

    Education is almost always at the front, and I'd say that NASA is second in line for the big axe.
    • Total income at the federal level is up.

      The tax cuts enabled economic growth, which put people to work which allowed.....more incomes to be taxed!

      Tax cuts are actually, at certain taxation levels, a way to INCREASE net income. It has been made clear that the Bush tax cuts were made at this level.
      • by CiXeL (56313)
        Where is the growth? Where are the jobs so they can tax us? Everywhere I go i see people desperately clinging to their jobs both in california and now here in florida.

      • Total income at the federal level is up, yes. Total spending at the federal level is up much much more, and this is what I would credit with the increase in tax revenues.

        If we simply paid the additional spending to someone, and taxed them, we would realize a bigger increase in net income than we have. Of course, we'd still have this completely unsustainable, crushing debt that we're running up just stupidly fast, but hey, net income is up! Want to increase your net income? I'll pay you five bucks if yo
      • Glad to hear that all those rumours of your government running a huge deficit are false.
        Revenue is up spending (in keeping with republican ideals) is down, great. Perhaps you could return that 5 billion you stole from us (illegal softwood lumber tariffs)
    • Well, the NASA budget did increase last year - so it would be odd to chop it apart after increasing it before, especially now (as others have noted) tax revenues are up.

      Are you also of the mind that little girls selling lemonade on a corner for $20 a dixie cup will make more than ones selling cups at $.25C each? But one clearly is collecting more money!
    • Education is almost always at the front, and I'd say that NASA is second in line for the big axe.

      You must already be on our "red planet neighbor". Here on Earth (well, in the US, anyway), Education funding has doubled in real terms over the last thirty years, although there hasn't been any appreciable increase in test scores to justify it. It's gone up 50% since Bush (damn liberal) took office.

  • by AaronStJ (182845) <(AaronStJ) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday September 09, 2005 @07:42PM (#13523639) Homepage
    "Visiting our Red Space Neighbor?" What the hell? That's a terribly headline. What's wrong with saying "Mars?"

    "Excuse me honey. I have to go to the big toilet room neighbor."

    • If only I had mod points for this....
    • Would you rather "Red State Neighbor?"
    • It's a reminder of what Mars really represents. Think about it. The hazy red tint to atmosphere and surface alike, the uniformity of the boundless desert, the complete lack of any obvious habitation at all... the planet Mars obviously depicts the end stage of a Communist takeover. After all, all the workers will finally be equal when they're DEAD. And the means of production will be well out of the hands of exploitative capitalist pigs once they're blasted into to small bits of rock.

      Face on Mars? Heh. Those
  • Mars, shmars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pauljlucas (529435) on Friday September 09, 2005 @07:44PM (#13523644) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to see this [nasa.gov] happen sooner. Even if there is life on Mars, it's probably only at the microbial level. However, on Europa, there could be bigger things swimming around in the ocean under the ice.
    • They might be micro, but even microbes can still kill if the immune system that can stop them. Do you want to go first, be my guess.
      • They might be micro, but even microbes can still kill if the immune system that can stop them. Do you want to go first, be my guess.

        They can onyl kill you if they have some way to itteract with you. The reason why most plant diseases don't harm people is because they have no significant way to interact with our biological systems.
      • microbes can still kill
        As the Martians would find out if they invaded Earth. But what are the chances of that happening?
    • However, on Europa, there could be bigger things

      swimming around in the ocean under the ice.

      Which Europa would that be? Are these things that might be swimming in it alive? Do they know they are swimming? Are they wearing swimming trunks, and if so where did they get them? What are they bigger than? Are they bigger than Europa? Or just bigger than each other? Are there more than two of them?

      I'd love to reply, but your post brings so many questions to mind, I don't know where to start--or rather,

  • Efficiency (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Friday September 09, 2005 @07:46PM (#13523655) Journal
    the study suggests that the most efficient scheme for lunar exploration would involve sending a spacecraft non-stop to the Moon's surface, and then back again

    This conclusion is probably 100% accurate. Direct shots are, in general, probably more efficient. Efficiency, however, is not the only criteria.

    Griffin's plans involve launching large interplanetary payloads into LEO to which a manned CEVs are docked prior to interplanetary injection. The very large benefit of this design is crew safety. The mass goes up using immense, dripping wet, snarling 100t+ boosters. People go up in small, simple, reliable systems.

    Rockets fail frequently. Dramatic detonations on the pad, missed orbits due to failed stages, etc. Why are most people oblivious to this? Because there are no people on board when it happens.

    NASA has got to stop killing astronauts. Griffin intends to launch people using the simplest, safest system he can come up with. That intention will probably lead to something other than enormous non-stop direct flight vehicles.

    would actually increase mission safety, by decreasing the number of critical maneuvers required, such as orbital rendezvous and docking

    There have been a lot of rendezvous and docking maneuvers in space and no one has yet been killed as a result. Mir was almost lost due to a fender bender with a Soyuz, but that's as close as it has gotten. I question the risk value assigned to these events in this analysis.
    • Rockets fail frequently. Dramatic detonations on the pad, missed orbits due to failed stages, etc.

      They do so about .1% of the time - which is not 'frequently' except in the most extreme mis-use of the term.

      Why are most people oblivious to this?

      Because almost none of them make CNN.

      would actually increase mission safety, by decreasing the number of critical maneuvers required, such as orbital rendezvous and docking

      There have been a lot of rendezvous and docking maneuvers in space and no one has yet bee

  • Armstrong is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09, 2005 @07:54PM (#13523701)
    It won't be easier to get to Mars than to the Moon because the US manned space program is no longer run by engineers, but by greedy defense contractors, paper-pushers, and ass-covering PHBs. In short: NASA no longer has the Right Stuff.

    And this talk of "the" CEV is disturbing. Sounds like the same "let's-make-one-spaceship-that-can-do-it-all" approach that gave us the Shuttle.

    PS - Am I the only person in this country who thinks putting a manned spacecraft (the new CEV) atop a solid rocket (Thiokol SRB; as used by Shuttle) is a really bad idea?
    • by HBI (604924)
      What makes you think that it wasn't back then, too?

      They made it work in spite of all of the above, not because they weren't there.
    • "It won't be easier to get to Mars than to the Moon because the US manned space program is no longer run by engineers, but by greedy defense contractors,"

      You do realize that Apollo was the first US space program that didn't use a stock ICBM from those "greedy defense contractors," right?
  • Look, a blimp! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by N8F8 (4562) on Friday September 09, 2005 @07:59PM (#13523718)
    Ever wonder is this fantastical stuff is an attempt to distract from their current manned mission problems?
    • Ever wonder is this fantastical stuff is an attempt to distract from their current manned mission problems?

      You raise an interesting point, but- Hey, look! Bigfoot riding a unicorn!

  • Spacecraft (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ajwitte (849122)
    I suggest building one of these [wikipedia.org] and sending an entire city to Mars. Why visit when you can colonize?
    • I suggest we all get ponies [wikipedia.org]. Why can't the cost of any future space projects be measured in the # of citizen who could be given a pony if the money was used for pony purchases instead?
  • Google Mars is Now! (Score:4, Informative)

    by IanDanforth (753892) on Friday September 09, 2005 @08:35PM (#13523882)
    Google Earth Hacks [googleearthhacks.com] has overlays of all the planets! So if you have Google Earth [google.com], you can have Google Mars! [googleearthhacks.com]
  • we need a spaceship (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GrmpyOldPgmr (824319) on Friday September 09, 2005 @08:38PM (#13523893) Journal
    It'll never happen by 2020 to 2030. Why? Because first humans have to design a real spaceship, not some skinny ass 1960's style rocket or some slightly modified space shuttle with the heat shielding falling off every third takeoff. I'm talking at least on a level with something like the ships in the original Alien movie or something on that level. It's a lot farther to Mars than to our moon. Sure we've come a long when since then but I don't think people realize there's a hell of a long way to go before we're zipping around our solar system much less our galaxy in a real spaceship. A whole new type of propulsion system needs to be designed at the very least. Also, I don't recall hearing about anyone solving the problem of astronauts being bombarded with cosmic radiation both on the way to Mars as well as once they're on the surface of Mars. I'd love to watch people strolling around on the surface of Mars as much or more than anyone else but let's face it. It's a long ways off and thinking we'll be there in 2020 or 2030 is kind of ridiculous. Just because this is the 21st century doesn't mean we're living like the fscking Jetsons yet.
    • I can understand your concerns but the Mars Society (which has a lot of space engineers as part of this interest group) has been studying the very issues of how to get humans to Mars safely and living on that planet for a year or more in a single spacecraft.

      Thanks to advances in very small (and very safe!) pebble-bed nuclear reactor technology in the last 20 years, with a concerted multinational effort we could build a spacecraft powered by descendants of the NERVA nuclear rocket engine tested during the 19
  • Robots do a better job. And they can stay and work there longer than humans.

    I would only agree with it if it were permanent . That's right . Build a station with robots first and then send people to live there for 5 or 10 years.

    That would make sense. A short term trip is stupid and just flag waving , index finger pointing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jingoism [wikipedia.org] .

    Real science please.
    • I would only agree with it if it were permanent.

      Perhaps we'll be able to count you onboard then. Look here [cleveland.com]:

      "The NASA brass is considering reworking the Prometheus program to develop a nuclear reactor to serve those purposes."

      That "NASA brass" bit is Griffin. The existing Prometheus program is an attempt to design a nuclear propulsion system. Griffin is, right now, redirecting funds for Prometheus to the US Navy. Why the Navy? Because they are really good at building and operating small nuclear power pl
    • Robots do a better job... Build a station with robots

      Robots do a better job driving around on the terrain collecting samples, but I haven't seen any examples of robots doing a better job constructing or repairing any type of physical structure. The latency alone would be a serious challenge to overcome for anything other than a mostly autonomous building robot(s).

      I frankly think the whole thing is a big waste of money, unless we're tapping into the innovations that these big relatively useless challenges p
    • Robots do a better job. And they can stay and work there longer than humans.

      I would only agree with it if it were permanent . That's right . Build a station with robots first and then send people to live there for 5 or 10 years.

      That would make sense. A short term trip is stupid and just flag waving , index finger pointing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jingoism [wikipedia.org] .

      Real science please.


      Expendable and capable robots will require 20 to 50 years of reserach, but expendable people are here now! lets start shipping l
  • by MontyApollo (849862) on Friday September 09, 2005 @09:10PM (#13524028)
    The other part of the problem is maintaining public interest. The mission would last a minimum of a year, and the general public would get their fill of Mars coverage. Trying to fund the *2nd mission* to Mars would be just about impossible.

    I can imagine the public response: "It costs a billion dollars, and we've had people already spend a year there. Why spend any more?"

    I personally don't think it is worth the effort to go to Mars unless we already have the technology and infrastructure in place to maintain a permament settlement. Otherwise it will be the Moon program all over again: Plant the flag, hit some golf balls, come home, cancel the follow-up missions.
    • From a practical perspective the benefits from going to the Moon or Mars is in the trip itself. Actually sucessfully getting someone there and back requires a huge amount of spending (economic stimulas) and develops residual technologies that can be used in day-to-day industries. The public is right to question spending billions of dollars to go back to the Moon or Mars to do what... collect rocks, dirt, troll around for a bit looking for something? Even a permanent settlement is of no real practical val

  • It wasn't just American ingenuity and willpower that got us to the moon. It was the threat of the Soviet Union beating us to the punch. The Soviets had already beaten us into orbit with Sputnik (a secret development project) and to put a human in space.

    All that is necessary for our mission to Mars to happen in record time is the threat of China getting there first.

    Hell... since I'd love to see us get to Mars in my lifetime... I suggest we all start the rumour that China is working on a secret Mars project
  • by qwerty shrdlu (799408) on Friday September 09, 2005 @10:16PM (#13524308)
    They could do it now with the images on file from US, ESA, and Soviet spacecraft but for the zoom-way-in effect we all love we'll have to wait for the Mars Reconnaissance Observer to build up some data. Details here: http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/mro/ [nasa.gov]
  • What's the point? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhysSurfer (872187) on Friday September 09, 2005 @10:32PM (#13524375) Homepage
    Before we get to Mars, we need to stop and ask why we want to go. As far as I can see, our reason is pure conceit. We want to say that people have reached Mars. What does reaching Mars accomplish? Mars is an inhospitable desert. We can't do much research there that wouldn't be better done here, except for investigating Mars itself. Aside from research, why go? It's not profitable, and earth is still inhabitable enough so that establishing colonies on Mars isn't necessary.

    All the money spent on making Mars spaceships and reasearching how to protect the astronauts, etc, would be better spent on improving our earthships (cars) and figuring out ways to make civilization much more energy efficient. This HAS to get done in the near future with Peak Oil and the end of cheap energy approaching. Unfortunately, we definately don't have enough money to do both types of research. With the current trends, we could be even a lot worse off by 2030.
    • Why is it in the peak oil discussion noone brings up the concept of breeder reactors? you can make endless more fuel with breeder reactors enough to run the whole world on nuclear power. you can then save all that other oil for all our consumable goods made of plastic.
    • "We want to say that people have reached Mars."

      That is a gross oversimplification of the reasons behind exploring other worlds.

      "Mars is an inhospitable desert."

      So is the moon. So are several areas on our own planet. That doesn't mean it's worthless to go there and explore. Or even live.

      "We can't do much research there that wouldn't be better done here, except for investigating Mars itself."

      Not true. Mars has about a 1/4 of Earth's gravity. That makes doing a bunch of sustained low g research extremely easy
  • by idlake (850372)
    Mars needs Women [imdb.com], not men.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Friday September 09, 2005 @11:46PM (#13524608) Homepage
    The articles linked aren't specific about mission details, but NASA planners acknowledge that a major problem on any Mars mission will be radiation exposure. Getting to Mars and back at all with chemical rockets requires either taking a long slow trajectory or using gravity assist from other planets, making any Mars mission more than a year-long prospect and exposing the crew to radiation beyond the allowable lifetime limits. The shielding method that stands head and shoulders above others is plain water. A double hull spacecraft with about a foot thick layer of water between the hulls would cut radiation exposure by more than half -- far better than anything else proposed. The water hull would also provide micrometeorite shielding. The outer few inches would freeze. If a micrometeorite penetrated the hull, water leaking out through the hole would freeze re-seal it immediately. The water hull would also provide an enormous heat sink that would eliminate the need for a complex refrigeration system to get rid of heat from human bodies and equipment. But to haul that much water weight around is beyond the current capabilities of chemical rockets.

    One possible solution is to use nuclear rockets to get there and back. For sheer power they leave chemical rockets in the dust. A nuclear powered rocket would enable "point and shoot" missions, essentially aiming at the spot in the sky where the destination will be in a few months, overcoming planetary gravity by brute force. Here's an interesting article [nuclearspace.com] about a design for a fully reusable, non-polluting nuclear rocket based on the Saturn V form factor, that could lift one thousand tons of payload into Earth orbit and return intact to a powered landing. No solid fuel boosters, no jettisoned fuel tanks. Just a big rocket that takes off and comes back.
  • When we are sending women to Venus?
  • I submit that sending people to Mars at this point in time would be a most illogical thing to do. Here are some reasons:

    • We've barely been to the moon. Went there a long time ago, stayed there a day or two each time, ran back and were happy not to have had too many casualties. That's like saying you've been to Iraq, when you take a flight to Baghdad airport, stay at the airport and take the next flight back out.
    • We barely manage near-Earth space. These days, missions to terrestrial orbit are knuckle-gnawin

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