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Mars Space Science

Will Mars be a One-way Trip? 724

Posted by samzenpus
from the please-send-paris-hilton dept.
alexj33 writes "Will humans ever really go to Mars? Let's face it, the obstacles are quite daunting. Not only are there numerous, difficult, technical issues to overcome, but the political will and perseverance of any one nation to undertake such an arduous task is huge. However, one former NASA engineer believes a human mission to Mars is quite possible, and such an event would unify the world as never before. But Jim McLane's proposal includes a couple of major caveats: the trip to Mars should be one-way, and have a crew of only one person."
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Will Mars be a One-way Trip?

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  • I mean... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Corpuscavernosa (996139) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:57PM (#22658404)
    ... shouldn't you at least PLAN on a round-trip ticket, assuming all the obstacles can be overcome, even if it's a long shot?
    • by Rigrig (922033) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:10PM (#22658530) Homepage
      You should at least pretend to do so, that way you'll have more volunteers.
    • Re:I mean... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pvt. Cthulhu (990218) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:36PM (#22658752)
      a round trip isnt really feasible. the moon was a round trip because all they needed was the dainty little capsule to leave the moons gravity and reenter the earth's. a round trip to mars would require the vessel to have a mechanism for standing itself back up once it landed (to accomplish this with something like the space shuttle, you would need your one man to build the infrastructure of a launch site), and still have room for a second tank of gas. i believe it would be a better idea to first send a few drone ships to land and automatically prepare a base to receive humans.
      • Re:I mean... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MrNougat (927651) <ckratsch AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @09:48AM (#22662206)
        Not entirely true. The moon missions had a capsule ship in orbit around the moon. The only thing the lander had to do was get back up to that capsule ship. The capsule that returned to Earth never touched the surface of the moon. I don't see a problem with having an orbiting ride home, and taking a lander down and back.
    • Re:I mean... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by schon (31600) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:45PM (#22658818)
      This whole article is stupid, and makes some of the most ridiculous comparisons imaginable.

      C'mon - comparing flying a single person to Mars with no chance of coming back is like Lindburgh flying to Paris??? Is he saying that Mars is populated with (to quote the Simpsons) cheese-eating surrender monkeys? Or maybe he's suggesting that upon arriving at Mars, the astronaut will have an unlimited supply of hot women and baguettes?

      And the whole 'constant communication' - umm.. last time I checked, Mars was between 3 and 21 light-minutes from Earth.. that means you say something, and get a response in a half-hour later.. yeah, that's really constant. It would be more like a video postcard than a conversation.

      This article is *really* poorly thought out.
    • Re:I mean... (Score:4, Informative)

      by jaaron (551839) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:52PM (#22658858) Homepage

      The slashdotted article has a few details not in the summary, including:

      • There would first be a series of unmanned missions to provide supplies and a base
      • The first mission would be followed by other manned missions

      So it's more of an advanced scout mission, though the chance of returning is very low

    • Re:I mean... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BlueStraggler (765543) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:56PM (#22658900)

      Round-trip tickets are only useful for tourists, and the real reason to go to Mars is to colonize it, not to take some snapshots and then go home again. We are doing that already with robots, so there's really no point in doing it with people.

      The interesting idea here is not the one-way thing, but the one-man, one-way thing. The author is right, it's initially kind of a shocking proposal, but when you stop to think about it, we're just a bunch of wusses. Our ancestors did this kind of risky one-way shit as a matter of course. (Think of how the Polynesians colonized the entire Pacific in simple canoes.) There shouldn't be anything shocking about it at all. We're just not worthy. Some other culture will do this, and we'll talk about how barbaric they are for trading so callously in the lives of their astronauts. But I guarantee the astronauts will go willingly, and while we tut-tut their backward ways and high mortality rate, they'll be conquering Mars.

      • Re:I mean... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:03AM (#22659424)

        We're just not worthy. Some other culture will do this, and we'll talk about how barbaric they are for trading so callously in the lives of their astronauts.

        Lucky we don't do anything barbaric or callous with the lives of our young people, like sending them to Iraq or something. So we might kill one cosmonaut or astronaut. Big deal. We kill hundreds of soldiers and civilians in Iraq, it doesn't even make the news headlines any more.

      • 1. Parent is dead on; wish I had mod points.

        Mars could already be a shorter trip (each way) - that we know MUCH more about, and have more ability to deploy resources for - than Magellan's was, just as an example.

        But, I have two opposing points:

        2. Think of the robots. Basically, we have robots now, which simply are better for this kind of exploring. So we don't need a human there to EXPLORE Mars (or the moon.) Obviously the current rovers are massively, massively cheaper than a manned mission... and I think we could get more done with hundreds of rovers than some dude. a) For any given cost, the robots will probably do the exploring better. In other words, I think we should send a person to Mars when it's economically profitable to send a _person_ there compared to the robots. We just don't NEED some guy to go there anymore.

        b) I think the cost involved in a human mission would be tremendous if the gain is largely symbolic. You don't go there just to touch it, you go there to find out a lot more about all sorts of things you didn't know.

        c) So the other reason to go there is to _colonize_ to really expand the scope of human life to a new place.

        c) in my opinion involves either: i) generate resources FROM Mars instead of spending a ton to be there or to ii) have a sufficient breeding population of humanity off earth that we'll survive a colossal extinction event. I believe i) will come before ii) AND I think i) is more likely to be done by remote control, too... or at least most of it. So wait for a NEED for a person - which personally I feel like will be a long time coming; the robots will get better faster than our ability to cheaply get a person there So maybe the first person will be a paying tourist.

        3. While I think Mars is close enough to be within reach, there are things we've skipped. I think all of the above applies to the moon, but I think it's so significantly cheaper to send stuff to the moon than to Mars. We're just finally going to put a telescope on the moon... For that matter, I think we should have orbiting solar power pretty soon.

        We only have like 3 people living outside our atmosphere. I think that's shameful in some ways... but there's no reason we need to "touch" Mars with a real person before we have commercial occupation of something closer / cheaper* - the technology we need for that to be sustainable - longer term, more sustainable, cheaper inhabiting of harsh environments - is something we can demonstrate much closer.

        *unless it turns out a person on Mars would help us mine something ridiculously expensive, or something. But a cluster of robots could have a higher chance of finding that for less money.

        I'd certainly accept that having the nice thin unbreathable atmosphere there might involve some cost savings in radiation damage/shielding, pressurization, etc. But that's only a justification if those costs are going to outweigh the much-higher lift costs and the much-lower chance of a bail-out.

        The good news is we're getting there - commercial boost to space is becoming practical, commercial space tourism is growing, and that means soonish a space hotel could be a reality - and as costs drop, hopefully attendance will increase. And by all means explore Mars extensively before we're ready to go there... just don't waste a ton of money on symbolism; spend that money wisely.

      • Re:I mean... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @01:15AM (#22659898)

        (Think of how the Polynesians colonized the entire Pacific in simple canoes.)
        ...
        Some other culture will do this, and we'll talk about how barbaric they are for trading so callously in the lives of their astronauts.

        Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if another culture will do it, and I wouldn't be surprised if they do it as a return trip.

        Other propulsions systems could make a round trip feasible by allowing solar powered launch. A culture that believes big, loud, exciting rockets are the only way to lift things into orbit, that will not commit any funding to alternative designs which work in computer simulations and have been around since the late nineteen eighties while supporting development of further rocket technology, that culture will fail to go much beyond the moon return.

        To take the canoe example, do you think the Polynesians powered their canoes by facing backward and throwing shit overboard?

    • by ppanon (16583) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:05AM (#22659434) Homepage Journal
      Think of the possibilities!

      For immunity contests you could have:

      A Mt. Olympus climb,
      Resource prospecting activities,
      Water ice collection trips,
      Locking down solar panels, antennas, and other breakables before dust storms,
      Environment leak repair due to a puncture from a sandstorm.

      The winner gets *$10 million*!

      If there are hidden hostile intelligent martians, then you just keep the contestants around for a second season called "Lost: Mars"
  • Redundancy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:58PM (#22658412) Homepage Journal
    So every system except the human will be doubly or triply redundant? What's wrong with this picture?
    • Re:Redundancy? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:02PM (#22658456) Homepage Journal
      The human will be redundant in and of himself. He's symbolic, not operational!

      -Peter
      • Re:Redundancy? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:06PM (#22658490) Homepage Journal
        What's the human symbolic of if he/she dies en route?
        • Re:Redundancy? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:13PM (#22658548) Homepage Journal
          Our mortality!
          • Re:Redundancy? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:52PM (#22658852)
            Hooray, someone that gets it!

            Nobody else seems to be reading between the lines here. The person who accepts this mission is going to Mars to die. Whatever happens.
            We normally pick young, fit astronauts with their whole lives ahead of them. This proposed mission is philosophically profound and does have the potential to unite the world in a way that the original Moon landing did. The suggestion is a piece of genius!

            Getting to Mars is very difficult, but a return mission is bordering on impossible right now. So we pick a mature (read old), experienced astronaut who may be facing their last years and send them on the last and ultimate journey of a lifetime. The symbolism is not pointless, it is a statement of human fragility and mortality combined with enormous potential and sacrifice.

            If the first (and possibly last) man on Mars isn't top TV ratings I don't know what would be.

            Resonances of the Martian Chronicals here.
            • Re:Redundancy? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by rmckeethen (130580) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:41AM (#22660614)

              I think Kennedy said it best, so I'll let his words speak for me:

              "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard... we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun... and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold." http://www.quotesandsayings.com/sjfk.htm [quotesandsayings.com]

              Unless I'm misreading those words, sending a man to the moon in the sixties wasn't easy either, but we still managed to do it and bring everyone back safely. Sending a man or woman on a one-way mission to Mars in this century strikes me as a failure compared to Project Apollo's goals. I can't imagine any politician seriously supporting the plan. The mere idea of televising the journey seems barbaric to me. A one-way trip to Mars is clearly a death sentence to any astronaut willing to make the trip -- televising it feels like a particularly horrid version of reality TV, with a murder/suicide as the gruesome series finale. If that's our bold plan for the conquest of space in 2008, I'd feel better if we just stayed on Earth.

    • Re:Redundancy? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:03PM (#22658466) Journal

      So every system except the human will be doubly or triply redundant? What's wrong with this picture?

      The reality of large Mars missions is that the human is only along for the ride, sort of like a color commentator, to help snare the public's imagination and more funding.

      In other words, even one human is already redundant. After all, what can go wrong go wrong go wrong go wrong go I'm sorry Dave.

      • Re:Redundancy? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:25PM (#22658660) Homepage

        The reality of large Mars missions is that the human is only along for the ride, sort of like a color commentator, to help snare the public's imagination and more funding.

        Bullshit. If the mars mission is actually doing useful work, then having people physically there will make the work much more efficient. Humans on mars can make decisions in real time. The latency of radio signals makes trying to do anything significant remotely really obnoxious.

        • Re:Redundancy? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:42PM (#22659260)
          Agreed completely. The farther away, the longer the signals take to get to/from the remote destination. The Mars landers could only creep ahead because the operators here on earth couldn't risk just sending them blindly along. What allowed the Mars landers to cover so much ground was the many months they were there having operators move them around inch by inch and foot by foot.

          The astronauts on the moon were able to scoot around like crazy on the rovers. Being there and operating something in real time would be a huge benefit to research of any kind. Instead of sending the command to have a camera pan around to decide where to go next, waiting the 20 minutes or so for it to get there, waiting another 20 or so minutes for the video feed to even start arriving, and you see the issue. A human could just look around and hit the gas pedal. Yeah - that rock over there looks interesting.
  • by neapolitan (1100101) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:00PM (#22658428)
    I don't like it, and not for the reasons you'd think.

    Living alone:
    - Biosphere 2 was huge, and *on earth.* It failed. The guy would need a *lot* of support from earth. If it doesn't come during the launch window, fatal results. Come to think of it, almost every adverse scenario results in certain death.

    - We have not even done this on the moon yet. Shouldn't this be tried first? Almost all of the mars mission proposals I've seen require a moon base.

    Waste: Lots of it. This guy is not going to live in a self-sufficient environment (Biosphere argument) and thus will leave a lot of mars-debris all around. I guess this is minor and some would argue inevitable, but he is going to colonize the whole planet with his own waste products of all sorts.

    A thought question: Will a mars mission not irreversibly contaminate Mars? I have often thought about the moon - it used to be sterile, but now there is human / earth bacteria everywhere around the landing sites. NASA does not sterilize probes it sends. What's that? Bacteria can't survive? Actually, they probably can - many species are capable of withstanding cosmic rays and zero atmosphere, etc.

    Cue the "I nominate Mitch Bainwol" comments...
    • by Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:12PM (#22658542)

      The guy would need a *lot* of support from earth. If it doesn't come during the launch window, fatal results.
      The astronaut wouldn't be the first mission sent. Send enough supplies for the astronaut to survive even if two consecutive missions failed to reach Mars safely, then send the astronaut.
      Or just send someone we don't care so much about. Perhaps someone whose name starts with 'D' and ends with 'arl McBride'?
    • by ceroklis (1083863) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:30PM (#22658692)

      NASA does not sterilize probes it sends
      Sure: http://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/pp/ [nasa.gov].
    • by guardiangod (880192) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:53PM (#22658872)
      Biosphere 2 was an experiment to simulate earth's natural environment and be self-sustainable.

      The colony on Mars, on the other hand, needs only to be self-sustainable. This means that they can skip all the "pollinate with bees" crap and concentrate on producing O2 and food via artificial means.

      As for moon base, given the nature of the moon- ie radiation, micro meteor, lack of atmosphere, etc. I would say that while a moon base is easier to do in the short run, a Mars base has a much better chance of being sustainable.

      As for contamination- don't be silly, of course we have contaminated Mars. The question is, in what ways?
    • A thought question: Will a mars mission not irreversibly contaminate Mars?
      That's bad? That's the best possible solution to living on Mars. Living organisms that could convert the place to something more liveable is preferable to keeping it a dead barren planet.
  • At least two? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TibbonZero (571809) <Tibbon.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:00PM (#22658432) Homepage Journal
    Shouldn't we send at least two? Or better yet four in total at least? Men and women preferably? Seriously, if it's a one way trip people are going to go nuts without sex, and if it's one way... well at least start colonizing!
  • by Neko-kun (750955) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:00PM (#22658436) Journal
    you go to mars. Oddly enough it sounds like a decent idea if you're an uber-smart hermit. I'm still for the colonization idea though cause this almost makes me feel like the ones that go will either kill themselves or develop an elitist attitude towards Earth saying "I left it. Why should I care what happens".
  • Candidates (Score:5, Funny)

    by Reader X (906979) <{readerx} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:04PM (#22658470)
    I can think of at least two guys I'd like to volunteer for this duty. They'd be perfect, and they'll be available as early as January 21, 2009.
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:04PM (#22658476)
    I say Mars is an ideal Junket for Congressmen. They love to travel I say give them the trip of their lifetimes. They spend so much money here it's gotta be cheaper just to send them to Mars where they can do some good and a lot less harm.
  • A great idea! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:13PM (#22658552)
    And that man should be genetically engineered to live on Mars all by himself! And have a backpack computer that talks to another computer in Mars orbit!

    Hmmmn, where have I heard that before [wikipedia.org]...
  • by Wizarth (785742) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:17PM (#22658584) Homepage
    I can't see this getting off the ground, because there is no way any administrator or supporter with political backing could say "Yes we are going to send a man to Mars, but we'll leave him there". Even if the plan goes on to include autonomously dropping facilities to build himself a way off the planet, it won't matter, because the media and public reaction won't get past the abandonment part.

    No man left behind!
  • by Riktov (632) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:25PM (#22658658) Journal
    Get your ass to Mars.
  • Unify what world? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:33PM (#22658712)
    such an event would unify the world as never before

    Sure, as long as you're talking about Mars, and that's just because there'd only be one guy there. Back here on Earth, everyone would go on fucking and fighting the way they always have, though a few might pause to watch some of the news coverage.

    Unifying this world would take an alien invasion, and that would last just long enough for us to start losing badly against their superior technology, after which there would be an awe-inspiring race to stab each other in the back to curry favor with our new alien overlords. Face it, there's only so much you can do with a bunch of aggressive, paranoid primates no matter how smart they are.
  • One-way trip? Sure! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by incognit000 (1201121) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:35PM (#22658730)
    Personally, I'd be honored for the chance to be the first person on Mars, even if it meant I'd only be there for a short while, and then die. I mean, as it now is, I really don't do much. I go to work, I go home. Eventually I'll die, and a few days after that, I'll be pretty much forgotten. It'll be like I was never here. But if I went to Mars, even if I died, well then at least what I did and where I ended up would be remembered, and that's as close to immortality as a human can get. I mean, some day I have to die. Why not die for some purpose?
  • Lindbergh (Score:5, Informative)

    by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:42PM (#22658792) Homepage Journal
    Charles Lindbergh is supposed be the inspiration for this, but the guy knows jack about him. Lindbergh didn't set out to do a risky stunt. He was contending for the Orteig prize for the first aircraft to fly New York/Paris (either way) non-stop. Several previous attempts had ended tragically, and Lindbergh was convinced they failed because previous designers had not paid enough attention to various safety margins, especially those relating to weight and fuel. Thus he designed a plane that put fuel tanks in every conceivable space (including the place where any other aircraft would have had a windshield!) and did everything he could think of to minimize weight.

    That's why he flew alone: it's not that hard to stay awake for 36 hours, and so he saw a co-pilot as unnecessary extra weight.

    Ironically, he got lucky and didn't drift off course as much as he assumed he would, arriving at Paris with enough leftover fuel to continue to Rome. But he designed his plane on the assumption that he would not be lucky. He was a safety-first guy, that's why he succeeded where others failed. It ridiculous to associate him with this insane proposal.
  • I, for one, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kahrytan (913147) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:52PM (#22658856)
    ...volunteer for this suicide mission. and I do not hesitate in that answer.

    (fyi: link /.'ed)
    • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:44PM (#22659280) Journal
      No, seriously. I now have 2 children, and could not volunteer. But prior to that, I would done it quickly. In fact, on /., I have pushed for 1 way missions to mars for a long time, and before 4 years ago, I suggested that I would volunteer.

      This will not be a suicide mission. The ppl that go first, will be thought of like Leif Erickson, or Christopher Columbus (ignoring all the down sides on him). Even if my life were cut down to another 10 years, it makes the life worth living. I am amazed at the complete lack of balls on these postings. Our society has become WAY too soft. We no longer seem to put pride on our accomplishment, only on what we accumulate. That is a real sad state of affairs for the west and shows me a lot about us.

      I am truly glad that you have the balls and the foresight to see this for what it is; a chance to change the future. Hell, you would do more for earth than bill gates has.
  • Red Mars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by confused one (671304) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:55PM (#22658886)
    Kim Stanley Robinson suggested something like this in Red Mars. First bunch of people sent are highly motivated types who know they have no way to return. They are on their own, having only the supplies and equipment dropped ahead of time, and have to rely on their own abilities to survive.
  • Not quite right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:56PM (#22658902) Journal
    He is correct that it should be a 1 way mission. But he is wrong about the count. It should not include 1 person, but about 6 ppl. The reality is that the first party to go to mars should be focused on EXTENDING a base. The base should already be built by robotics. It would be fairly easy to do assuming energy. So where do get the energy from? 3 possible sources.
    1. Nukes is about our best bet. Sadly, ppl fight that. But the Japaneses system that is designed to support 10-100 MW would be ideal (20 MW, for 30+ years).
    2. Solar being beamed. A simple power sat above that beams down the energy. Probably not a bad way to disribute power around the planet, but I would not want to depend on it.
    3. Geo-thermal. There is some very good indication that there is heat close to the surface in several areas. That could change everything. Provide clean power and heat. I would still prefer the above as well.
    Once we have energy there, it is easy to have robots build. Even a remote control arm can work at burying several Bigelow systems. Once buried AND a garden is started for food, then we are good to go. There is no doubt that many ppl would volunteer. I know that If I were younger, I would.

    BTW, one weird idea would be to send a bunch of women and have them serve as incubators. In particular, if we send several missions of women AND zygotes, then we can grow a colony there. It may be a lot cheap approach to guarantee bio-diversity. In fact, I would think that once we have several small groups there, that we should send not just human zygotes, but also seeds and a number of animal zygotes. it would be useful for just in case.
    • by BalorTFL (766196) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:47PM (#22659306)

      BTW, one weird idea would be to send a bunch of women and have them serve as incubators. In particular, if we send several missions of women AND zygotes, then we can grow a colony there. It may be a lot cheap approach to guarantee bio-diversity. In fact, I would think that once we have several small groups there, that we should send not just human zygotes, but also seeds and a number of animal zygotes. it would be useful for just in case.
      Not to make any sweeping generalizations here, nor to imply anything about your pornographic preferences, but how many women do you know who'd be willing to give birth to livestock personally?
  • What's the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by z-j-y (1056250) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:02PM (#22658958)
    Why are we so fascinated by the idea of someone physically being somewhere?

    But I'd volunteer if the one-way mission is a reality. I don't find it necessary to live among other humans in close distance. And once on Mars, I won't do shit. What, are they gonna fire me?
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:10PM (#22659036) Homepage

    Werner von Braun's plan for going to Mars was published in the 1950s. It's worth reviewing it.

    1. Build a two-stage rocket that can lift reasonable loads to Earth orbit. The first stage, the big booster, is recoverable with parachutes. The second stage can re-enter on wings.
    2. Build a large number of these rockets, hundreds of them. This is the big difference from NASA's current one-off thinking.
    3. Build a big wheel-type space station in Earth orbit, using several hundred launches of the big boosters. This is the base for the Mars shot.
    4. Use about 400 launches (!) to move the Mars fleet of 14 rockets into Earth orbit, along with the necessary fuel.
    5. 14 rockets take off for Mars, with about a hundred people.
    6. The rockets land on Mars on wings. (This wouldn't work. Von Braun didn't have data on Mars' atmosphere. Back then, it was thought that Mars had maybe 20% of Earth's atmospheric pressure. The actual number is about 0.6%. This is a serious problem. We do not, in fact, know how to land a big load on Mars. The combination of heat shield and parachute used for small robotic craft isn't enough. Power is required, which means lugging fuel for landing.)
    7. A sizable base is built, exploration takes place.
    8. Some of the rockets return to Earth, to dock at the Earth space station.

    Ah, the good old days of industrial production. If China does a Mars program, it might look like that.

  • by sudog (101964) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:40PM (#22659240) Homepage
    You all are looking at this in completely the wrong way. The cost of getting stuff up into space doesn't have to be significant. We can send tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of crap up there relatively inexpensively, and the vehicle to do it would be reusable and have a significant lifetime. Just build an Orion spaceship. Piece of cake. We can send thousands of people up, tonnes of supplies.. heck we could launch an entire colony in one shot, and not really have to worry much about carefully conserving every gram of fuel.

    What's an Orion?

    Glad you asked: Orion Spacecraft Rule [wikipedia.org]

    Nuclear pulse propulsion behind giant push-plates on springs, man! With a payload measured by the tonne rather than the kilo!
  • by Captain Spam (66120) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:55PM (#22659376) Homepage
    Sure, the summary might make it hard to fathom the sheer loneliness and inevitable disposability of the astronaut in question, but it stops just short of the key element. Quoth Mr. McLane immediately afterward:

    "And to that end, I will humbly suggest the honor go to Dr. Horace Biggles, the professor in the office next to mine with lifelong dreams of exploration. I do not wish to toot my own horn and put on a humbler-than-thou air, but I am perfectly willing to forgo this amazing opportunity to my esteemed colleague. I am even willing to forgive him for his constant 'borrowing' of my office supplies, leaving the coffee pot empty, stealing every girl I have ever gone out with, and having the nerve to show me up at the space grant conference with his stupid, worthless moon buggy design that is so stupid and worthless and what're you gonna do with it on MARS, pretty boy? Huh? Yeah, let's see that Nobel Prize-winning super-efficient ventilation system of yours work in an iron-rich atmosphere! Advanced heat dissipation my ass!

    "In conclusion, Dr. Biggles would be the perfect person to shoot off to Mars, alone, on a one-way trip. I believe we can begin testing tomorrow, before he gets to the coffee machine."
  • by guidryp (702488) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:44AM (#22659700)
    I don't think analogies apply here, this is nothing like Lindburg, this is so far beyond that.

    Even without resupply and a likely limited lifespan (say two years) I would do it.

    Face it, most of us will lead mundane 9 to 5 insignificant lives and will likely die a forgotten death lingering in a hospital bed. Why wouldn't you trade that for a chance to blaze a completely new trail for humanity, to truly go, where no one has gone before.

    I am sure there are a lot of scientist who trade the rest of their life for 2 years studying Mars in person.

    Besides that, he is talking about sending company, resupply etc.

    On top of that, this would be a volunteer mission. I don't quite get the nervous nellies who have a problem with someone else making this choice. It might not be for them, but they should at least be able to realize that for some this is an inspirational idea.

    I just can't believe the amount hand wringing over this.

    Though I think it is immediately clear that this will never be done because of the tender sensibilities of the public. If even the slashdot crowd are getting bent out of shape, the general public would frothing at the mouth.

    We seem to be becoming a world of spineless weepy nannies.

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