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NASA Space

First Details of Manned Mars Mission From NASA 329

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the martian-rocketship-looking-for-cone-shaped-head dept.
OriginalArlen writes "The BBC has a first look at NASA's initial concepts for a manned Mars mission, currently penciled in for 2031. The main vehicle would be assembled on orbit over three or four launches of the planned Ares V heavy lift rocket. New abilities to repair, replace, and even produce replacement parts will be needed to provide enough self-sufficiency for a 30 months mission, including 16 months on the surface. The presentation was apparently delivered at a meeting of the Lunar Exploration Management Group, although there's nothing on their site yet."
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First Details of Manned Mars Mission From NASA

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  • 2031?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:51PM (#21510383)
    Just think, when Kim Stanley Robinson released Red Mars [amazon.com] he settled the first Mars mission in the late teens and colonization in 2024, intending to be on the safe side in his future chronology compared to much science-fiction. And now our lack of vision as a nation and bureaucratical hassles have pushed the date even beyond that. It's a sad time to be an American. If only we had the drive of the Apollo era.
    • Re:2031?! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by smashin234 (555465) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:56PM (#21510463) Journal
      NASA does not have the funding it had during the apollo era, so they are doing the best they can on low budgets.

      On the other hand, I am just glad to see that instead of sending teachers and other non-astronauts into space they are actually trying to go forward and do something productive. The mission more resembles what was seen in the movie Red Planet where everything was made to be self-sustainable and there was really not much room for problems.

      Of course, the plot to that is much different then this is going to be, but whatever.
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Jugalator (259273)
        Imagine what giving them just 0.5% more of the US budget would do in comparison to how little the last few additions of 0.5% did to improving the situation in Iraq. :-/

        That's really depressing to think about, IMHO...

        (the total NASA budget is about 0.6%... err, that is, not 24% [thespacereview.com] as estimated by an all too large share of the US population)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by earthforce_1 (454968)

        What is sad, is that we could be on the ground there before 2015 if it was budgeted like the Iraq war.
      • BVLLSH1T! (Score:3, Informative)

        "NASA does not have the funding it had during the apollo era, so they are doing the best they can on low budgets"

        The whole manned space program from mercury to apollo cost $25 billion.

        Each Saturn 5 cost $100 million.

        Contrast that with the "reusable" space shuttle that has to be pretty much rebuilt from the ground up after every mision - $500 million dollars a flight.

        Add to that that the Saturn 5 has 5x the payload capacity (125,000 kg into LEO) of the shuttle (25,000 kg) and this doesn't add the po

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "NASA does not have the funding it had during the apollo era, so they are doing the best they can on low budgets"

          The whole manned space program from mercury to apollo cost $25 billion.

          Each Saturn 5 cost $100 million.

          Contrast that with the "reusable" space shuttle that has to be pretty much rebuilt from the ground up after every mision - $500 million dollars a flight.

          Add to that that the Saturn 5 has 5x the payload capacity (125,000 kg into LEO) of the shuttle (25,000 kg) and this doesn't add the posibbility of increasing the Saturn 5 payload capacity with SRBs, to between 250,000kg and 350,000 kg)... even taking into account inflation, the shuttle is what has been bleeding NASA. A modified Saturn 5 would need a lot fewer missions to assemble shit in orbit, like the ISS.

          You are completely full of bullshit.

          * Each Saturn V would cost around $500 million today due to inflation. That is for the rocket alone.
          * Comparing the payload capacity of the Saturn V to the Space Shuttle is misleading. You are comparing an empty rocket to a spacecraft. If you compared the Apollo stack, they you would realize that the Apollo stack only had a few tons of payload ability outside of the spacecraft itself while each Shuttle mission has over 20 tons of payload ability. If you are talking a

        • Re:BVLLSH1T! (Score:5, Informative)

          by DerekLyons (302214) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [retawriaf]> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:08PM (#21513227) Homepage

          Each Saturn 5 cost $100 million.

          Each Saturn V cost $100 million to buy - it cost another $75-100 million to checkout and launch. (In addition to this there is also is each flights share of the annual infrastructure costs.)
           
           

          Contrast that with the "reusable" space shuttle that has to be pretty much rebuilt from the ground up after every mision - $500 million dollars a flight.

          Wrong on both counts.
           
          First a Shuttle isn't anywhere near 'rebuilt' between flights. (And don't hand me that "they rebuild the engines after every flight". They don't, and haven't for nearly a decade.) Second, the marginal cost of a Shuttle flight (I.E. adding a flight to the manifest) is under $100/million a flight. Just like the Saturn V, it's low flight rate means the per flight cost is dominated by that flight's share of the fixed annual costs.
           
          At the end of the day - the difference in cost between the two is much, much less than urban legend has it. (Especially because Shuttle flights include the costs of the manned portion, the capsule if you will, and the Saturn costs... don't.)
           
           

          A modified Saturn 5 would need a lot fewer missions to assemble shit in orbit, like the ISS.
          Sure, you could assemble it faster - if you were willing to pay in excess of a billion dollars a shot. Saturn V class payloads don't come around too often, so all those infrastructure costs come back and bite you in the ass when you have to amortize years of support costs across a handful of flights.
    • Re:2031?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:00PM (#21510539) Journal

      If only we had the drive of the Apollo era.

      We were kinda missing a fully-committed competitor for prestige and bragging rights, like we had when we were pushing to the Moon in competition w/ Russia.

      Also, nothing (aside from a metric assload of money to go with the initiative) is stopping private interests from giving space a shot. Although there is a lot of work being done in that direction (Scaled Composites, Armadillo Aerospace, etc), I fear that most will stop cold or die off before they really get things going full-time, and some appear to be stopping short just on what they've done - e.g. Scaled Composites may become just a neat-o space tourista thingy to get into sub-orbit, but otherwise won't bother any further.

      But then, I'm prepared to be pleasantly surprised and proven wrong when it comes to this ideal.

      (Hell, the only reason NASA appears to be getting back into the manned-mission-to-space thing again is because the Chinese got one of their own into space, and Russia+India want to put folks on the Moon... kinda sad that it takes ego just to get people working towards what should be a solid ideal in the first place).

      All that said - someone call me when an average guy can get into space without spending a shitload of cash or his whole career kissing bureaucratic arse.

      /P

      • The funny thing is that the Russians never intended to have a manned mission to the moon - they only started trying after they found out the Americans wanted to go to the moon. Yet the reason why the Americans went to the moon is because they thought the Russians would go there next. Hence someone needs to start spreading rumours about every space faring nation having a super advanced manned mission to mars and before you know it the plan will be pushed forward to next thursday.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kaiser423 (828989)
          No, we did not go there because we thought that the Russians would go there first.

          We were getting our asses handed to us with regards to the space race. They put satellites orders of magnitude larger than we could into orbit. They were hitting the moon with objects and sending objects around the moon. We could do none of those things.

          So, when the brass came down and said "Let's beat the Russians!" We had to pick something that was an order of magnitude harder than what the Russians were currently d
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What I find telling is that I am reading about the proposed mission on a British news site, not an American one. The American people really don't care.

      Now, what makes more sense to me than sending a manned mission to Mars is one [space.com] to an NEO [space.com]. There's some neat science to be had from a manned mission to Mars, but there's not a whole lot of practical benefit.

      A near-Earth object is a different story. There's a real chance of a large object hitting Earth in the near future; we need to get our hands dirty study

    • by MetaPhyzx (212830) *
      Oh, we can shave that time in half. All we have to do is come up with "The Case for WMD's on Mars". Call up Mr. Zubrin.

      Then again, maybe that interplanetary ship sailed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OriginalArlen (726444)

      And now our lack of vision as a nation and bureaucratical hassles have pushed the date even beyond that. It's a sad time to be an American
      Yeah, because my sense of self-worth is inextricably bound up with whether my country goes to Mars in this decade or that decade. Look how the US is being left behind by all those other manned Mars missions being run by the Russians, the Europeans, the Japanese, Chinese and Indians. oh wait -
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by david_bonn (259998) *
      There's probably more to it than lack of will.

      I think the major problem is that everyone has massively underestimated the cost and technical complexity of building reliable launch systems. We have even more massively underestimated the technical complexity of building inexpensive launch systems. Yes, there are some smart people working on the problem, both in the private and public sector. Yes, there could be more money spent on development of better launch systems. Yes, NASA has turned into a somewhat
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Just think, when Kim Stanley Robinson released Red Mars he settled the first Mars mission in the late teens and colonization in 2024, intending to be on the safe side in his future chronology compared to much science-fiction.

      Well, he was wrong. I don't know that you can compare speculative fiction to reality in this manner and I certainly don't think you can use any writer's vision of the future as a benchmark for progress. After all no matter how educated and imaginative the writer is, he is still creati
    • Re:2031?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:41PM (#21511771) Homepage Journal

      And now our lack of vision as a nation..

      Dude, what the fuck are you talking about? There's no lack of vision. You sound like you have plenty of it.

      It's lack of desire to make the tradeoff, pay the cost. How much are you personally willing to pay, to send someone?

      Ok, maybe you decided to chip in a few thousand dollars out of your own pocket -- you're willing to eat Ramen for 3 months every year, or give up internet access, or otherise bear that cost at expense to your life style. But now imagine you're not a science-valuing nerd. How much are you willing to pay then?

      Answer: as a non-nerd, you're willing to pay about as much as a nerd is willing to pay for $USELESS_GOVERNMENT_PROGRAM. (Fill in that var with something you don't like. Maybe it's the war in Iraq. Maybe it's cancer cure research. Maybe it's tobacco farm subsidies. Surely there's something the government spends money on that you don't feel is worth the expense.)

      We have plenty of vision. What we don't have, is consensus on what things are worth. Going to Mars is "cool" but it's not worth the same amount of sacrifice to everyone. And that's a pretty good reason to keep government out of this. Let people pay what they want to pay. Now go write your check and eat your Ramen.

    • Re:2031?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:01PM (#21512091) Journal
      And now our lack of vision as a nation and bureaucratical hassles have pushed the date even beyond that. It's a sad time to be an American. If only we had the drive of the Apollo era.

      It's in a bold step of aggressive direction that the 'Prez has led us to this great vision of greatness, to reach Mars sometime in about 15 years! Children not even born yet will be in Junior High when we make it!

      Er, not.

      This is just political posturing. The lame-duck President gets kudos for being "visionary" without actually doing anything but talking out his arse. NASA gets some (much needed) press, and the Chinese get a message that maybe we aren't completely out of the race to space round II.

      But it means nothing, the administration will change, priorities will change LONG before we even get a prototype ANYTHING constructed, and the "vision of the trip" to Mars is half-hearted, even if its proponents aren't.

      Personally, this hurts all involved since NASA will end up with ANOTHER black eye of "Well, you didn't get us to Mars, either, did you!" while the real underlying problem, which is that NASA gets about 1/2 of 1% of the budget that the US Military gets. [thespacereview.com]

      But most people think of NASA as this huge, labyrinthine gubbmint agency with nearly unlimited dollars. But when you look at it, we spend 200 times as much money killing people as we spend putting anybody in space.

      And yet, space projects have had an amazing ROI. For example, the amount of money spent deploying the GPS system is dwarfed by the taxes earned by all the products and services based on the GPS system, notwithstanding its original military-oriented benefits. Research that went into solar panels, rechargeable batteries, materials research, etc. continue to provide incredible economic benefits today, year after year.

      It's like somebody upstairs is intentionally shooting us all in the collective foot - just pisses me off to no end.
      • Re:2031?! (Score:5, Funny)

        by Simonetta (207550) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:00PM (#21512657)
        But when you look at it, we spend 200 times as much money killing people as we spend putting anybody in space.

            That's because all the people who need killing are here on earth.
        If they were in space, then we would be spending a lot more money on killing them ... in space. But since they aren't in space, then there isn't any sense in spending all that money on space when we have so... many... people who need killing right here on earth.

            It's all a matter of priorities.
    • Re:2031?! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Simonetta (207550) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:43PM (#21512485)
      Actually 2231 is more like it. We have some prescheduled things arranged for 2031 that don't include billions of dollars spent on a trip to a red dot in the night sky. Which is all that Mars is. To us. Here. On earth.

          Earth that is running out of oil. Earth that is on the verge of massive climatic change due to massive CO2 overproduction in the 20th century and the first quarter of the 21st. Earth that is so overpopulated in regards to the local economies that major religions are putting aside spirituality in order to replace it with mass suicide-warrior cults. Earth where melting ice caps threaten to disrupt ocean currents to the point of creating new ice-ages for our most productive regions.

          Are these problems solvable? Sure. Will they be solved? Not a fucking chance! This is where some bozo jumps up and says that this is the exact reason that we need a space program to preserve the earth's civilization and science because the earth is doomed.

          But with all that will be on the plate by 2031, there isn't going to be enough resources left to entertain such fantasies as Mars travel.

          Basically, Mars travel fantasies for 2031 are what flying-car fantasies by 2007 were in the 1960's.

          Realistically, by 2031, we'll be lucky to get the broken windows at the local McDonald's fixed. By 2031, there will be another three billion people wanting to come to your town and either kill you for some idiot god or take your job. By 2031, all the new cardboard and sheet-rock $750000 new McMansions built in the early 2000's will be rotting slums. And all the people who bought them will be bankrupt. Which means they aren't going to be paying taxes for fantasy space voyages. Because all the money that they do manage to pay in taxes will be going to pay for the Iraq war, which will be by then just a distant memory. But the 30-year notes will be due, and no one is going to buying the new US Treasury notes that were expected to replace them. With US dollar so worthless that it takes a hundred of them to buy a loaf of bread.

          Mars voyages by 2031? Absurd. Try 2231. Start thinking of the 1000 year future.
  • Ares V? (Score:5, Funny)

    by iknownuttin (1099999) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:52PM (#21510403)
    Those of us who are into classic rockets prefer the old muscle rockets - Saturn V, baby! The new rockets just have too much electronic junk.

    That's right! Put some mag chrome nozzles at those old babies and nothing beats the classics!

  • The main vehicle would be assembled on orbit over three or four launches of the planned Ares V heavy lift rocket.

    One would think a craft of that form factor, named after Ares, would be referred to as a "missile"
  • 'course, the TFA is right - self-sufficiency is going to be a primary skill. OTOH, I didn't see any mention of Zubric(sp?) and the Mars Society -- and more importantly, the work they did (along w/ NASA) in helping to establish some of the techniques and simulations, let alone the concepts and work put into helping establish a lot of that self-sufficiency.

    But hey - as long as someone makes it there and back sometime before I die, cool.

    /P

  • by Chris Tucker (302549) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:53PM (#21510419) Homepage
    Fry: Back in the 20th century we had no idea there was a university on Mars.
    Professor Farnsworth: Well, in those days Mars was a dreary uninhabitable wasteland much like Utah; but unlike Utah, Mars was eventually made livable.
  • by ravenspear (756059) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:53PM (#21510423)
    We could have been going in 5 years instead of 25 if we as a species/world community had better priorities.

    (example: 500 billion in Iraq, more than enough to fund the complete development and production of everything that would be needed)
    • by zappepcs (820751)
      Not to worry, at the rate the US is turning out hobbyist engineers, I'm fairly certain that cheap hobby launches to Mars will be commonplace in 10 years at the lunar Googleplex... http://stellarmaps.google.com/sol/ [google.com]
    • *sigh*

      Yeah, I often think something like that when reading about manned spaceflight. Or when reading sci-fi. It's sad, we really haven't moved forward much in terms of space exploration. We've had space flight for 50 years. Compare the advances in information technology over the last 50 years to space advances. Heck, much of the sci-fi written 50 years ago seems to have very primitive information technology by modern standards.

      I know that space is extremely expensive, but it's a new frontier for mankind. If
    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:58PM (#21511229)
      If we as a species/world community had better priorities.

      It is an unfortunate reality that not everyone has the same priorities. The priorities of a person living in the first world for example are very different from those of a person living in the third world. For example, 98%+ Americans do not spend much time worrying about where their next meal is going to come from, but in large parts of Africa this a serious and growing concern. That is why it is so important to bring sustained economic growth to those areas because sustained economic growth is the difference between a modern first world existence where things like a mission to mars are within our reach and living in a mud hut and trying to scrape together enough food to feed your family. As long as these economic problems remain unsolved we will continue to have lots of wars, lots of violence, and plenty of terrorism to act as a sink for our time, money, and resources.
  • Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by bwintx (813768) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:55PM (#21510447)
    From TFA:

    Plants would be grown onboard to feed the crew and contribute to the "psychological health" of the astronauts.
    Well, looks like the NASA PR machine no longer is worried about whether its crews appear to be "flying high," so to speak.
  • 2031? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mmcuh (1088773) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:03PM (#21510573)
    If NASA aren't planning to get there until 2031 I can almost guarantee that they wont get there first.
    • by smaddox (928261)
      I fail to see how a private company could ever fund such an endeavor. The reason commercial spacecraft are becoming more viable is because companies need to put satellites into orbit, and they are willing to pay a lot to do it.
      • He might have been referring to another government, although I tend to doubt that possibility as well.

        I think it is highly unlikely a manned mission to Mars of any kind will be happening in the next 20 years, unless it is designed from the start as a one way mission.
  • Robots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:04PM (#21510575)
    The funny thing is, the longer they wait to launch a human mission to Mars, the smaller will be the advantage compared to a robotic one. Spirit and Opportunity can already do a lot of exploration on their own but, currently, humans, could do a lot better, faster, etc. I'm not so sure that this will still be true in the 2030-2035 time frame. Regardless of the state of AI then, robots will be a lot more autonomous, capable of fairly advanced decisions and exploration capabilities. And they will be immensely cheaper to deliver to Mars (and anywhere else for that matter). So, the longer they put a human mission off, the least sense it makes.
  • by $lingBlade (249591) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:08PM (#21510617)
    Can someone please explain to me (and this is NOT meant to be a troll-post) why someone can't volunteer for a manned mission to Mars, raise funding from private companies/organizations and just go to Mars? Yes it would be a suicide mission, known up front and with the intent of it being for pure research and in the name of science, why the hell couldn't someone hit up a few big businesses and/or private investors for the cash to make a ship, buy or make the equipment for data analysis and the necessary supplies to get there and transmit back pictures and data? And more than just the Mars Rover, being able to survey the planet much faster and with more detail.

    Is NASA a governing body in the sense that they can mandate who can go into space and moreover, where in space? It is my understanding that when Columbus wanted to find a route to the far East, he submitted his plans to various people and it took two or three tries before they finally granted him the money and ships he needed and I read that some of the terms of the agreement were such that they (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) didn't expect him back... why not something similar for Mars? Setting aside things like training, time to build a ship, and most importantly cost, can it be done? Privately? And no, not the Astronaut Farmer-type thing. I'm talking about a legitimate, scientific exploration, in the name of pure science and discovery, privately funded, privately built and controlled, government and nationally independent.
    • by Qzukk (229616)
      Yes it would be a suicide mission, known up front and with the intent of it being for pure research and in the name of science

      You'd have to find someone suicidal enough to do it, but not so suicidal they kill themselves before they get around to doing any science.
    • by forkazoo (138186)

      Can someone please explain to me (and this is NOT meant to be a troll-post) why someone can't volunteer for a manned mission to Mars, raise funding from private companies/organizations and just go to Mars? Yes it would be a suicide mission, known up front and with the intent of it being for pure research and in the name of science, why the hell couldn't someone hit up a few big businesses and/or private investors for the cash to make a ship, buy or make the equipment for data analysis and the necessary supp

      • Well in today's business climate, I'd be tempted to say that some company or investor would be interested in "sponsoring" such a project and overlooking the obvious suicidal overtones for the sake of technology, patents, discoveries being kept in their name or kept in their control. Imagine if some biological discovery is made there, or by some miracle, some technological discovery or method is discovered... it could mean big things for any company or individual involved. So, I'm taking up your suggestion
      • by Toonol (1057698)
        Most private corporations just aren't that interested in donating money to kill a man a Mars.

        But that would be so cool!!!
    • I seem to remember that an early plan proposed to get to the moon this way was refered to as the 'poor bastard' plan.

      How much science is your poor bastard really going to be able to accomplish by himself up there? A few days worth? A few weeks? Is the knowledge we'd gain so absolutely vital that we can't wait until we have the means to go get it and come back alive? If not, then why would any company invest billions to get it? Not to mention that it's hardly the kind of endorsement most companies look for:
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      It's pretty easy to speculate that you could "hit up a few big businesses and/or private investors for the cash", but what exactly would be their return on investment? About the only way this could happen is if Bill Gates got an interest in space all of a sudden and gave away his entire fortune.

      • There is a group in Florida who is planning just this. I am sure that you have seen words from Musk/Bigelow which say that they are looking to provide the transportation/living quarters/etc to these places. And it will not cost BG fortune to do it. IT MIGHT if the ppl were to be returned right away. That would be a very EXPENSIVE trip. But sending equipment there, with robotics to set up a base, followed by 1 year later sending ppl there on a fast 1 way trip. My guess is that is why Musk wants to build a re
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          Those are very long term plans... and the idea is to make the (very rich) passengers pay.

          In the short term, SpaceX will make some money from sat launches and COTS.. and I think we'll see them taking passengers to visit the ISS, which will probably be the most expensive private field-trip-to-a-government-facility ever. It will be interesting to see who buys these modules from Bigelow - assuming we even get access to that information.

    • by B3ryllium (571199)
      To answer your question, simply ask yourself why YOU haven't started gathering funds for a mission - odds are, that same reason is why no one else has.

      Can someone please explain to me [...] why someone can't [...] raise funding from private companies/organizations and just go to Mars?

      Go ahead. Try.

      Unless you're able to put one or more billion of your own dollars on the line, few other people will have any confidence in the investment Just think back to the original European colonization of America, and wh

    • And NASA could ask him to fix the darn wheel on that rover and clean off the solar panels for them while he's there. :)
    • by pragma_x (644215)
      I'll bite: I think the reason is purely psychological. Moreover, its tied to our cultural values here in the USA.

      Take a look at any documentary that features the hard working folks that actually make shuttle parts - like the guys that tackled the foam shedding problem on the external tank. These people have a boatload of pride in what they do, even if its spraying foam insulation on a massive gas tank. In their own way, they're putting stuff, and people, into space.

      I'd like to belive that this kind of e
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OriginalArlen (726444)

      Can someone please explain to me (and this is NOT meant to be a troll-post) why someone can't volunteer for a manned mission to Mars, raise funding from private companies/organizations and just go to Mars?
      Because no private organisations have $250-400 billion in spare cash lying around to fritter on a quixotic dream for no better reason than neo-imperialist flag waving?

      hey, don't shoot the messenger. You did ask.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Red Flayer (890720)

        Because no private organisations have $250-400 billion in spare cash lying around to fritter on a quixotic dream for no better reason than neo-imperialist flag waving?

        Not for nothing, but a one-way trip would not be nearly so expensive. If the passenger anticipates dying anyway, the planners could easily forego such luxuries as plants in the passenger area, sufficient food (what's a little undernourishment to a condemnee), fuel to escape Mars' gravity, etc.

        The only concern, other than survival of the "vo

    • by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:11PM (#21511375) Homepage
      I think allowing someone to go on a suicide mission to Mars defeats the entire purpose of going to Mars in the first place.
      Mars isn't a war to be won, it's a quest for humanity.
    • Are looking forward to doing just this. But it is not intended to be a suicide mission. But the idea IS to send ppl on 1 way missions. In addition, I believe that they are looking at this before 2025. Bigelow's first goal is to get to the moon before 2020 and he has talked about 2015. Likewise, Musk has said over and over, that he wants to provide the cheap launch to get there.
    • why the hell couldn't someone hit up a few big businesses and/or private investors for the cash to make a ship, buy or make the equipment for data analysis and the necessary supplies to get there and transmit back pictures and data?

      The same reason why most single individuals, with the possible exception of a few of the worlds richest (who probably don't want to give you 90% or more of their fortunes for a one way trip to mars), cannot do other similarly large projects with their own limited means. The A
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by njvic (614279)
      Maybe this is what really happened to Steve Fossett?
  • those astronauts will be hungry when they arrive on the "red" planet
  • by cowboy76Spain (815442) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:13PM (#21510683)
    I read in a book about curious annecdotes (supposed to be true) that, in the Middle Age, an astronomer told the Pope that the Antichrist was born in Sicilia. The Pope asked what age he might have at that moment, and was told that about three or four years. Then the Pope thougt about it, and said: "Then it will be my successor's trouble!" and it was the last time it was heard about that problem

    A program that completes in 25 years gives all of the top staff at NASA time enough to retire and leave the details to the people to come (who will blame his predecessors :-) )
    It would be more credible if there was a middle step (what about a long -3, 4 months- to the Moon, to check that the technology is improving and see what is still lacking?)
  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:18PM (#21510739) Homepage Journal
    I think we have to face facts that once the Shuttle program shuts down and the Russians lose interest in losing money and the ISS reaches the end of its service life that apart from the Chinese and Indians sending a few Nauts into orbit that manned spaceflight is going to take a VERY long break. Perhaps a century or more. Countries and societies seem to have almost no interest in it. Coupled with the enormous ignorance and misinformation about it e.g. a quarter of all Americans think NASA's budget is greater than the Pentagon, coupled with the increasing weaponization of space there just doesn't seem to be any future in it.
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      Yeah, it's worrying. When Griffin talks about the time between the shuttle retiring and the replacement craft he never mentions what is supposed to fill the gap. Which is kinda bad, because it is his idea: COTS. Space-X and their Dragon capsule will most likely fill the gap.. but Griffin doesn't want to be seen getting behind them.

    • manned spaceflight is going to take a VERY long break

      Frankly, that is precisely what it should do. There remains very little more to be learned from continuation of the manned space flight program as it exists today, especially in low or near Earth orbit. For my own part, I have long advocated the following:

      The manned program should be relegated to a rocket oriented modular launch system that can be built and upgraded easily as necessary to support the manned missions that may be needed, from time to
    • by megaditto (982598)
      You seem to imply that abandoning space exploration for a few decades would be a bad thing.

      But consider that the funds could be used better elsewhere: nanotech research, artificial intelligence, molecular engineering, de novo genomics, neuroscience including brain/machine interfacing, cold fusion, particle physics and antigrav...

      Come to think of it, I'd say fuck Mars.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrKaos (858439)

      that manned spaceflight is going to take a VERY long break. Perhaps a century or more.

      Let's hope not, because whether you realise it or not you are talking about the survival of our civilisation as we know it, and it won't be some benign "oh well we didn't make it into space, so lets just do something else". I hope you're wrong, so so wrong, because at best you are talking about a decline into orwellian nightmare and at worst a die-off of people NEVER seen in human history and thats presuming we don't get

  • I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Don't worry, the local oil revenue will pay for the whole thing.

  • Chemical Rockets? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by turgid (580780) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:44PM (#21511067) Journal

    As long as they piddle about with chemical rockets, they won't be doing much more than a very expensive, long and dangerous flag-planting exercise.

    Von Braun et. al. were working on a nuclear rocket back in the day for such a mission. Just look up NERVA.

    And before anyone jumps on the "danger radiation" bandwagon, I'm not advocating a nuclear rocket for getting from the earth's surface into earth orbit. It would be quite safe to build a reactor, launch it into orbit and to install it on the spacecraft there. It would be quite harmless having never have been taken critical for the first time.

    The crew could easily be shielded. Think nuclear submarine. The craft could be much bigger than one chemically-powered. There could be additional shielding for protecting the crew from solar radiation. There would be extra living space, more scientific payload and it would be easier to insert into Mars orbit at the other end.

    Fission reactors have been about for 60 years now. We know how to make them safe and efficient. It would be absolutely stupid not to use a nuclear reactor to go to Mars. They could have one designed, built and tested in under 5 years if they put their minds to it.

    But they won't. They'll leave that to our grandchildren...

    • by QuantumG (50515)
      Indeed. And that's the primitive technology that we understand today. The potential of fusion rockets, antimatter rockets, and propulsion methods we can't even imagine are the stuff of dreams.

  • 2031 (Score:4, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:51PM (#21511141) Homepage
    I'm scheduled to be alive for this, Awesome !
  • Give me a break... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RichardtheSmith (157470) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:09PM (#21511365)
    It would have been an interesting article if it had gotten into how this "cryogenic" propulsion system will actually work. The biggest problems are (1) fuel for the outbound and return trip (2) how to land the craft that has humans in it and (3) how to get off the planet again. Mars' atmosphere is too thin for parachutes, and the gravity is too heavy to use conventional chemical thrusters to brake the landing all the way down (which isn't possible anyways due to the mass of the fuel you would have to haul all the way from Earth with those "cryogenic" thrusters).

    No one has an answer to this question yet. There may not be one. It's not just engineering, there are basic scientific barriers. This is why SF always invents Warp Drive or some other back door - the constraints imposed by Newton's Third Law and the limitations of chemical propulsion make this whole thing a big pain in the ass. Funny how all these articles never bother to review the basics before launching into all the speculation.
    • by yeremein (678037)
      "cryogenic" in this context typically refers to liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen; in other words, this ischemical propulsion.

      Also, parachutes have been used on Mars, by the Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover missions (albeit in conjunction with retrorockets and airbags).
      • Did you see Red Planet? You really think they'll use airbags on a landing craft with real people in it? That was the best part of the whole movie, showing how f*cked up the airbags were for a craft of non-trival mass.
  • Does anyone know the long term (or even medium-term) effects of leaving the protective bubble of Earth's magnetic field and being bombarded with all the subatomic particles spewed by the sun? The only humans so far who have done this were only out there for a week or so. From what I understand, high-orbit satellites suffer greatly from this problem and they have to use special electronics designed to deal with it. Normal silicon chips die pretty quickly out there.
  • by damburger (981828) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:17PM (#21511459)

    The western world is not in ascendency, it is in decline. The fact that Orion, a project with the same capabilities on paper as Apollo had, is set to take longer than it did in the 1960s is proof of this. Given the escalating costs of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and soon Iran, I can't see how NASA can maintain enough of a budget for 25 years.

    Modern politicians seem aware of the dire state of things, and their attitude towards public services is to make as much money for themselves and their friends out of them, before everything implodes. Why would NASA be any different?

  • The real WTF is that we need the British Broadcasting Corporation to tell us what the American Space Agency is doing.

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