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Mars Earth Space Science

First Mars-Goers Should Prepare For a One-Way Trip 528

Posted by timothy
from the buy-round-trip-tickets-to-slip-past-tsa-though dept.
Luminary Crush writes with this excerpt from PhysOrg about the permanance of leaving Earth for Mars, at least for early travelers: "The first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives there, in the same way that European pioneers headed to America knowing they would not return home, says moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. '[the distance and difficulty is why you should] send people there permanently,' Aldrin said. 'If we are not willing to do that, then I don't think we should just go once and have the expense of doing that and then stop.'" On the other hand, maybe they'll catch a ride back with Carrie-Anne Moss.
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First Mars-Goers Should Prepare For a One-Way Trip

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  • by s7uar7 (746699) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:54PM (#25485627) Homepage
    Do we get to nominate people to go?
    • by AioKits (1235070) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:57PM (#25485697)
      I would go. Nominate me. Just let me play Last Resort by the Eagles on my trip there. Is all I ask.
    • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thelasko (1196535) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:19PM (#25486087) Journal

      The first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives there, in the same way that European pioneers headed to America knowing they would not return home

      I call BS! Columbus was backed by a government and made several trips back and forth. It was only after he went that settlers followed.

      The settlers were people who were so fed up with the way their government was run that they would risk everything they had to escape it. Although I'm sure getting the ship and supplies was expensive for the day, it's no where near as expensive as it will be to get to Mars. Therefore Mars settlers will have to be unhappy with the government and require a great deal of money.

      [sarcasm]Perhaps future Mars colonists will be republicans escaping the Obama administration.[/sarcasm]

      • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Goblez (928516) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:33PM (#25486341)

        The settlers were people who were so fed up with the way their government was run that they would risk everything they had to escape it.

        Where do I sign up? Get to go to another planet (boyhood dream) AND get away from the three centuries of built up corruption? Deal.

        Side note: Why do you think people in the past have chosen to leave over fixing what is wrong with their governments? Is it due to the vast number of entrenched bureaucrats that are satisfied to maintain the system that they think benefits them? Or that people in power have a habit of maintaining that power? Is it that the only other good alternative is Revolution?

        • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ari_j (90255) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:45PM (#25486587)
          As they discovered, revolution was unavoidable anyhow, so it doesn't really matter.
        • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rakishi (759894) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:45PM (#25486593)

          You're assuming that those who went somehow represented the view of he majority of people and that their idea of "fixing" the government was what most people wanted. One modern day example may be a hard core communist who wouldn't be happy with anything but communism. To him the government is horrible and should be torn down then rebuild among glorious marxist views. To almost everyone else he's an insane nut case who should be locked away. Even those who don't like the government wouldn't want his ideal put into place since to them it's much worse than the status-quo.

          Most likely you'll get to experience all new forms of corruption which aren't bound by centuries of safety measures. Except you'll never be able to get away from any of the idiots and politicians (ie: dictators likely) who now control your very life.

          • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @04:25PM (#25487425)

            I can imagine a future where entire planets are "one" ideology... maybe a Muslim planet, a Christian planet, a Communist planet, a Scientology planet, etc. And probably at war with each other. While extreme, we've got huge amounts of money and plenty of smart people in Muslim countries, we've got a Christian government in the US (flame suite on), we've had a couple of Communist governments putting people into orbit, and well, the last one might be possible with private space travel...

            The years change. The places change. People do not.

            • by Reziac (43301) *

              "I can imagine a future where entire planets are "one" ideology... maybe a Muslim planet, a Christian planet, a Communist planet, a Scientology planet, etc. And probably at war with each other."

              Crap, I think I've fallen into Star Trek!!

          • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Reziac (43301) * on Thursday October 23, 2008 @04:53PM (#25488133) Homepage Journal

            "Most likely you'll get to experience all new forms of corruption which aren't bound by centuries of safety measures."

            Hmmm... Puritans. Salem witch trials. There's something to what you say, all right... OTOH, early settlers had the whole continent to escape to, if they had the balls and some luck. But those Martian settlers ... it's a bit harder to escape when you've got to plan where your next breath of air is coming from.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MeanSquare (572322)

            People in areas that are sparsely populated and/or geographically isolated tend to have relatively weak government (think Scottish highlands vs rest of England, or England vs mainland Europe, or Japan vs China, or sub-Saharan vs N. Africa, or Guinean Highlanders, or native Americans, or...). There aren't enough idle people for an entrenched bureaucracy and a monolithic government capable of crushing all resistance to be established.

            Essentially any sort of authoritarian government like communism or theocrac

        • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by al3 (1285708) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:49PM (#25486685)
          As a bureaucrat, I can speak for myself and many around me that we often want to change things in government for the better from within. There are entrenched elements, but they're not insurmountable given time and patience. Perhaps the notion that good government [wikipedia.org] is possible has something to do with the country I come from, and revolution doesn't immediately spring to mind as "the only other good alternative".
        • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @04:07PM (#25487059) Journal

          get away from the three centuries of built up corruption?

          "Sorry but wherever you go, there you are." In other words, your nature will follow you. History has shown that even the best intended utopian groups ended up dissolving in the same old conflicts.

        • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:5, Informative)

          by mikael (484) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @04:09PM (#25487105)

          Side note: Why do you think people in the past have chosen to leave over fixing what is wrong with their governments?

          In England (if not Europe) at the time of the settlers, you had a feudal system with all the land owned by someone and titles granted by the king. Even in the rural villages, what personal freedoms the crown didn't decide, the church would dictate (Even failing to attend church on a Sunday would result in a fine). There wasn't anywhere where you could try and set up your "alternative way of living" without having to get permission from one authority or another to acquire land, employ builders or farmers.

          • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @05:45PM (#25489169)

            That seems disappointingly similar to today where I need permission from the government to move a wall inside my house, take a railing off a staircase etc. etc. I might own the property in theory but in practice there isn't a whole lot I can do with it without government consent.

            Even if I were to be waaaaayyyy out in the boonies I'd still need consent on building code, environmental stuff etc. etc. Practically this may not be an impediment since they wouldn't bother to come look, especially if the only way in is air or boat, but still the control is still there technically.

            • by mikael (484)

              I noticed that when playing any sort of 'civilisation' or empire building game like 'dope wars'. It's always intuitive as to how you can make money to buy things, but when you try doing that in the real world, it's not so easy. While you can go around fields looking for gold with a metal-detector any large treasure becomes the property of the state.

              If you want a shop to sell stuff, you have to put together a business loan, approach a bank to get a loan, sign a lease, buy the stuff you want to sell at wholes

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by evilviper (135110)

              I need permission from the government to move a wall inside my house

              This is a democracy. YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT.

              So, YOU have decided it is in YOUR best interest that YOU have to seek expert advice before making potentially dangerous changes to YOUR home.

              The reason for this should be obvious... in the event of disaster, the safety of your home has a serious impact on others, so the modest restriction of professional inspection has been deemed necessary and reasonable.

              • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Friday October 24, 2008 @02:39AM (#25494497)

                This is a democracy. YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT - NOT ME.

                So, YOU have decided it is in YOUR best interest that I have to seek expert advice before making potentially dangerous changes (you claim) to MY home. This is called the tyranny of the majority.

                The reason YOU give for this is bogus... in the event of disaster, the safety of my home will have no impact on others if the nearest neighbor is miles away, so the invasive restriction of professional inspection is unnecessary and unreasonable.

                Really, you have to invoke disaster to try to justify the government telling me I can't make a simple modification to an interior (and non-supporting!) wall in my home??? Sorry but that's just BS, plain and simple.

                and btw, you completely missed the point of my post so your response is rather irrelevant.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tisha_AH (600987)

          I do not think there would be a shortage of skilled people who would be excited at the opportunity of being the first to colonize another planet.

          You would live your life out on Mars. It would be a hard, difficult and dirty existence, eke out a life for yourself and hopefully your children, eventually to die and be buried under the soil of another planet.

          Colonization of other continents and islands have been the greatest adventures. The sailors of the HMS Bounty and Polynesians on Picarin Island found it was

        • In fact, it was addressed pretty well at Universe Today back in March [universetoday.com]. They focused on a proposal called "Spirit of the Lone Eagle" by NASA engineer Jim McLane. I could say more but I'll leave it at RTFA.
      • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Gospodin (547743) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:36PM (#25486389)

        Columbus was backed by a government and made several trips back and forth. It was only after he went that settlers followed.

        Not only that - plenty of American settlers went back home. Check out the history of the first Roanoke colony. (The first one, not the one mysteriously wiped out that left only the word Croatoan carved into a tree. The first one was taken home by Walter Raleigh when they realized they were in over their heads.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by i2878 (736937)
        A great many of these one-way travelers were fleeing religious persecution (obviously a few years later) - limited not necessarily so much by transportation technology, but by conviction to not bow to the governing church - and willing to die for it.

        Haven't you gone to an elementary school Thanksgiving play lately? Oh wait - we can't talk about US Christian history in schools anymore.

        Where's my ticket?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jedidiah (1196)

          Yes, these are the 1640 edition of neocons that weren't so
          much complaining about whether or not they could do what
          they felt like but felt the need to meddle in the moral
          decisions of everyone else.

          They left Holland because it was "too tolerant". They
          couldn't have their children growing up "metropolitan".

          The idea that they were "persecuted" in England is mainly
          American mythology. They came here so that they could be
          free to be the persecutors.

          Many of our early colonies were formed by people fed up
          with or banis

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by evilviper (135110)

            They left Holland because it was "too tolerant". They
            couldn't have their children growing up "metropolitan".

            Last I checked, there was a (yet another) European war looming, and the prospect of Holland getting involved seemed likely, required them to fight, which they did not agree with.

            And Holland wasn't exactly a religious paradise. It was growing less and less tolerant at the time. Xenophobia was increasing, and foreigners often weren't able to take on just about any job, requiring many of them to surviv

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by justinlee37 (993373)

          Haven't you gone to an elementary school Thanksgiving play lately? Oh wait - we can't talk about US Christian history in schools anymore.

          If you think that an elementary school Thanksgiving play has anything to do with "history," then it's probably a good thing that they've stopped, since adults shouldn't be getting their lessons from fairy tales that are designed to indoctrinate the weak minds of children.

          Seriously dude. Thanksgiving plays are all about how the Pilgrims were nice, innocent, could-never-do

          • Re:Who Chooses? (Score:5, Informative)

            by evilviper (135110) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @11:53PM (#25493225) Journal

            Yeah, the puritans were escaping religious fascism, but they were religious fascists themselves. The reality is that those pilgrims burned "witches" at the stake,

            No, they didn't. Though their offspring eventually did...

            By the standards of the day, the Pilgrims were much less fascist than those they were escaping.

            and committed genocide upon the Natives.

            They cooperated with the local tribes, in general. the Pilgrims and the Natives shared their knowledge and resources, and there most certainly was a Thanksgiving feast that lasted for about 3 days, though decidedly far less idealized than it is imagined now (thanks to oversimplification of 30 minute school plays, not any form of propaganda).

            They did fight with some neighboring tribes, and killed many, no doubt, but not just because they could. They did so when some of their own people were killed or resources were stolen, but it should be pointed out that they did so in alliance with their local (friendly) tribe. As part of their alliance with their local native tribe, they also risked their lives fighting in tribal wars that they had no stake in.

            In reality, they simply didn't have the option of doing anything you're accusing them of. They could barely keep a hundred of their own people alive, let alone working, so executing a few healthy individuals for religious failings would have been suicidal. They were heavily outnumbered by natives, and greatly needed the support and trade of some the local natives, so genocide would also have been suicidal, not to mention extremely beyond their means...

            I get the feeling you're confusing the Pilgrims with the Spanish Conquistadors. Completely different area, completely different agenda, completely different capabilities. Completely different history.

            But, hey, you're righteously indignant over SOMETHING, so you get modded up for your ignorance.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:46PM (#25486603)

      This joke is so old, that only /. COBOL programmers might get it, ca. 1961:

      Reporter: "Mr. President (John F. Kennedy), when will we send a man to the moon?"

      JFK: "As soon as Senator Goldwater has his bag packed."

      Please feel free to recycle this joke by replacing Kennedy and Goldwater with Obama/McCain/Bidden/Palin/Britney Spears/David Duchovny/etc.

  • by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:56PM (#25485657)
    Would it be by lottery?
    Perhaps, you buy your way?
    Convict Volunteers?
  • by delong (125205) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:57PM (#25485699)

    The American pioneers were preceded by explorers that not only did not intend to stay permanently, but (mostly) returned home safely to tell the tales. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any maps to guide the pioneers later.

    The first explorers on Mars should use modular equipment that can be used to build up a permanent infrastructure for use by a later permanent outpost staff. Zubrin's approach makes use of modular hab units that can be connected to create a permanent outpost from individual (temporary) missions. That makes sense. Sending astronauts to Mars to stay permanently, without any experience of the efficacy of the technology, is inviting disaster. Jamestown over and over and over again.

    • by Eric Smith (4379) <eric.brouhaha@com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:09PM (#25485901) Homepage Journal
      It's a very different situation. We can do reconaissance of Mars without sending people, and have already done so. We also would have two-way communications with people we send.

      Some explorers from Europe to North America might have been willing to go on a one-way trip if they'd had the equivalent.

    • by mr_matticus (928346) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:10PM (#25485907)

      And if this were 1606, I'd agree.

      However, we already have maps of Mars. We have reasonably fast communication capability and data uplinks. People "on the ground" can relay useful information without sailing two months back to the motherland (not to mention the incredibly wasteful notions of either carrying return fuel, or carrying a fuel refinery, both of which occupy space and weight that could be better used to equip the first visitors properly for their trip.

      Sending astronauts to Mars to stay permanently, without any experience of the efficacy of the technology, is inviting disaster.

      Sending astronauts to Mars to stay temporarily, without any experience of the efficacy of the return vehicle, is inviting disaster.

      Overcomplication in mission profiles and equipment is a greater problem. The first mission there should be a simple, straight-shot delivery vehicle, loaded up with habitats, tools, and backup equipment for a one-year camp on Mars.

      The second mission, which should be launched two or three months, not years, later, could include a return vehicle with additional supplies and food. The problem at Jamestown was that they brought along insufficient resources of every kind. Dedicating half of the first mission to coming home again is the repeat you fear.

    • by notaspy (457709) <imnotaspy@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:11PM (#25485941)

      The American pioneers were preceded by explorers ....

      The first human pioneers to Mars have already been preceded by explorers. Most, if not all, of the work to be done in preparation for colonization has and will be done remotely via robots, satellites and the like, an option unavailable in the 1500's and 1600's.

    • Well, yes...and no. (Score:4, Informative)

      by mbessey (304651) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:13PM (#25485979) Homepage Journal

      Have you seen the maps that the settlers of the US western territories used? Not what you're probably thinking of when you make a mental image of "map", I assure you.

      Most navigation of the West in the early days was done landmark-to-landmark. Between and around the known landmarks was just wide open empty spaces. A lot of settlement parties tried various promising shortcuts through places like the Great Salt Desert and Death Valley, which worked out well for some, less well for others.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      The American pioneers were preceded by explorers that not only did not intend to stay permanently, but (mostly) returned home safely to tell the tales. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any maps to guide the pioneers later.

      Uh, we have maps and very good ones indeed, we can spot planets around other stars and you don't think we can see Mars? We've got plenty data on the athmosphere, climate, radiation levels and most everything else you'd need an explorer for, and they haven't run into any wild beasts or natives yet. In fact, they didn't have to return to tell us that since between then and now we've invented magic like radio. There's no reason to send an explorer, though it might be a very good idea to provide the pioneer wit

    • I question the efficacy of hab units being connectable.

      I just don't think, in practice, that we can accurately land them within a tenable proximity.

      practically everything we've landed on another planetary body, dating back to and including the moon landing, has been thousands of yards off the intended mark.

      Do you consider it feasible to carry, install, and maintain connecting corridors which are kilometers long?

  • I am pretty sure that even the Norse came, looked around a bit, and went home.
    I know that the early Spanish explorers sure did.
    That is the difference between explorers and settlers.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:58PM (#25485717) Homepage
    In his novel Red Mars [amazon.com] Kim Stanley Robinson tells of Mars being colonized by the First Hundred, a wave sent out after the first manned expedition, who would have to remain there forever. There are some interesting asides into the fact that, to want to leave behind your loved ones and all you know for a barren rock, you're probably not what the government bureaucrats who vet you would consider psychologically stable.
  • terminal illness (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jolyonr (560227) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:58PM (#25485729) Homepage

    Ok, if it were to be a one-way mission, and there wasn't even a major plan for long-term survivability when getting there, why not consider the possibility of offering a once-in-a-short-lifetime trip to people who have a terminal illness. Obviously it'd have to be something they could survive the trip out with. But what a better way to spend your last years/months alive?

    • if it were to be a one-way mission, and there wasn't even a major plan for long-term survivability

      I don't think that's what he has in mind. I believe the intention is certainly for the astronauts to survive; but, they would be on their own. The astronauts would have to become at least partially self-sufficient. Needed supplies / equipment could be dropped in advance and continuing needs could be supplied with occasional drops.

  • "The first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their long, luxurious, comfortable lives there, free from the risk of attack from unfriendly Indians and wild animals."

    • by LMacG (118321)

      Indeed, it will be a chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!

  • by Eric Smith (4379) <eric.brouhaha@com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:04PM (#25485821) Homepage Journal
    Seems crazy to me. Why not build a spacecraft that does a minimum-energy cycle between Earth and Mars orbits continuously, for shuttling crew back and forth? It would be slow, but it wouldn't be maroon anyone.

    Then you use the Constellation/Orion/CEV stuff to get from Earth to the cycler, and LEM-like craft between the cycler and Mars.

    The resources for the Mars base, including lots of emergency provisions and an escape vehicle or two (extra LEM-like craft to return from Mars surface to Mars orbit and dock with the cycler) can be sent to Mars in advance. It doesn't make sense to send people until the provisions etc. are in place.

    For redundancy, you'd probably build and launch two cyclers.

    The drawback of all this is that it takes longer to build and deploy than a one-shot Apollo-style mission, but it's worthwhile because it provides an infrastructure for maintaining a permanent base and rotating crews.

    The crews would still be committing to spending quite a few years to a mission, but not the rest of their lives.

  • by CptnHarlock (136449) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:04PM (#25485827) Homepage
    As they mention the damage from cosmic rays/radiation will probably shorten the travelers life considerably. Still, I'd go even if it takes a yer to get there and I get 2 full years of decent life there (and then 6 months till cancer takes me). I'm so there... There should be a poll connected to this article. :)

    Going to mars?
    * I'm game!
    * No way!
    * Send the Cowboy
  • by TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) <thelazyscifiauthor@gmail.com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:04PM (#25485831) Homepage Journal

    Since I was a kid, space travel has been the single most fascinating thing in the universe to me.

    It has only been recently that I've come to realize that manned space flight is perhaps not the right direction. This was an extremely difficult decision for me to make, but I've made it.

    The money spent on a a manned mars trip would be better invested in robotics research.

    We need to get off this planet. Human beings do need to go to mars, but more robots need to go first, and will need to go with humans on their trips as well.

    My (perhaps weak) analogy is that while it is possible for a human to swim the english channel unaided, it is wiser to use technology to allow the feat to be easier, safer and better in general.

  • Sign me up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by einer (459199) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:10PM (#25485909) Journal

    No Democrats/Republicans, no stock market, no poverty, no orwellian wars on drugs.... Sounds like paradise

  • What Rot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by turgid (580780) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:12PM (#25485959) Journal

    What a lot of rot. If we rely on chemical rockets, then yes, Mars will be a one-way trip.

    On-orbit assembly of nuclear powered reusable spacecraft would completely change the game.

    We need to stop thinking small and start asking, "How big can we build a Mars ship?" Heck, we know how to build a substantial space station in earth orbit.

  • The American Pioneers are not a similar example to the first explorers on Mars. The ships that brought the pioneers to America returned to Europe (to perhaps bring more people to the new world.) And many of the first colonists did travel back and forth to the old country as part of trade and political exchanges. The biggest difference was that the Pioneers knew survival was possible in America. There would be food and water (and air!), though they would have to build their own shelter and hunt or grow t

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:14PM (#25485995) Homepage

    In the early days of the U.S. space program, there was some talk of sending someone on a one-way trip to the moon, there to wait until larger rockets could deliver a vehicle able to make the return trip. One-way supply rockets would keep the poor guy alive while work progressed on the big boosters. It was a desperate plan to beat the USSR.

    Aldrin, in his astronaut days, was not one of the proponents of that scheme.

  • is that the majority of the first population WILL be women. And they will send a large number of 100s or thousands of fertilized zygotes or just eggs and sperms. The reason is for diversity IN CASE separated.
  • But HAB has been destroyed!!! What?? Who??? How??? When???

    Hey, I'll go if I can spend 6 months alone on a spaceship with Carrie-Ann Moss!!

  • Order of Operations (Score:4, Interesting)

    by viridari (1138635) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:24PM (#25486173)

    Just some bar room style conjecture. Pull up a beer and jump in.

    We should have a functional space elevator in place here on Earth first, used regularly to haul heavy cargo into orbit.

    An interplanetary vessel should be assembled in orbit from components manufactured on Earth. Once the ship is built, cargo to support the first expedition can be sent up, followed by consumables for the trip, followed by the explorers themselves.

    If the whole space elevator thing works as we hope here on Earth, a similar system should be constructed on Mars to support long-term missions. Additionally we ought to have GPS and communications satellites in orbit around Mars before sending permanent colonists.

    With space elevators in place on both ends, it becomes far less daunting to send the heavy cargo needed to build rugged and roomy shelters, greenhouses, etc.

    Sending astronauts there for short term scientific visits is indeed a waste of time, money, and other resources. If the idea is to have a more permanent presence on the red planet at some point, we should be building out the infrastructure now that is needed to ensure the first colonists have what they need to succeed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plasmacutter (901737)

      The initial ship which goes there should also be large enough and carry the proper infrastructure to remain in orbit as a permanent space station.

    • by mysticgoat (582871) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @04:33PM (#25487611) Homepage Journal

      A suggestion: we need to stop thinking of the beanstalk as only a way to move material up to orbit. It is also a way to move stuff down from orbit to Earth. It is important to keep that in mind!

      If we design it correctly, the beanstalk will use regenerative braking on material being moved downward. So long as we are moving more mass downward than we are moving upward, the beanstalk can generate energy and the cost to move things to orbit becomes no cost at all. We could even end up with surplus energy whose sale could fund other aspects of the project.

      It doesn't matter what we ship down. It could be moondust: regolith scooped up into containers just for its mass. Possibly used on Earth as building material: if the containers were designed for it, they could be loaded onto gliders on a stratospheric platform attached to the beanstalk, and delivered to construction sites within a radius of a few thousand miles for less than the cost of quarrying, crushing, and delivering native aggregate.

      If we developed the technology to capture an icy comet or asteroid, that would be even better. With solar power the ice becomes water, and then its waterwheels all the way down. That's 26,000 miles of waterwheels. That's a lot of hydropower.

      While I doubt that the technical problems of building and anchoring a space elevator will ever be solved, the advantages would be so great that I strongly favor research in this direction.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:28PM (#25486247)

    There's no reason for anyone to live on Mars. The only reason to visit Mars is because it's there. They need to plant a flag, take some pictures and then bug out, just like the moon, Mount Everest or the Mariana Trench.

    Supporting a settlement on Mars would take continual resupply missions from earth costing hundreds of millions each. (There is no way that they locally could manufacturer all of the nutrition needs, drugs, advanced equipment spare parts, etc. they would need to maintain a colony.) This money would be better spent on other space missions, and the population on earth would quickly get bored of supporting a bunch of people sitting around twiddling their thumbs in an airless desert. It would undoubtedly be cheaper just to pay for one return trip for a Mars expedition.

    What's more, life there would just suck. They would have to live below ground like rats in holes to try to shield themselves from deadly cosmic rays, occasionally darting into the sunlight before their max radiation doses were exceeded. They would never see a body of water, a natural plant, a cloud, or breath non-artificial air again. At any time whole groups of them could be killed by a single mistake with the life support systems. (Not to mention one of their team flipping out and intentionally pulling the plug.) Their resupply missions could get threatened by political turmoil on earth. It would be like a life sentence in prison, but much more lonely and powerless.

    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:50PM (#25486717)

      It is not pointless to colonize mars.

      Establishing and growing a colony to the point of self sufficiency exponentially increases the durability of our species as a whole, as well as increasing our pool of resources and livable space.

      With a colony on mars, we don't have to worry so much about a space rock crashing to earth and causing human extinction.

      While we're on this premise, calculations show that even if humanity survives such an event, the utterly massive EMP from the impact would wipe out even the most shielded systems. Off-site backups of the most important pieces of human knowledge anyone?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tmosley (996283)
      Two words: mineral rights.

      Imagine an entire planet's worth of rare and valuable metals that hasn't been touched in all of history.

      A sustainable biosphere could easily form given enough space. All they need to do is build a giant compound and populate it with the various microorganisms, plants, and animals that it needs. Take in CO2 from outside, and release excess O2 as well as any greenhouse gases you make, and before too long you have a pretty nice atmosphere. It could all be built on the miner
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MrEkted (764569)
      Some really smart people disagree [digg.com] with the "pointless" part.

      "The human race must move to a star outside our solar system to protect the future of the species," physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.
  • by yogibaer (757010) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:28PM (#25486255)
    Highest regards for Buzz Aldrin, but that seems to me to be another classic case of pionieering gone wrong. Underestimate the terrain (Well, Houston, that surely LOOKED like ice from back home) Loose your crops get lost yourself and basta! Robinson Crusoe comes to mind. Read the classic and consider for a moment the hardships Rob had to endure without having to care about water, air and heating. (Or if you need something more visual, watch Tom Hanks in "Cast Away"). That should give you a pretty good perspective on how many things we take for granted in our daily lives and that we depend on for our (better than 50 % chance of ) survival (with a life expctancy of more than 45). Things that are produced, manufactured and maintained by hundreds of people. Ok, maybe no man eating savages on Mars (maybe not right away "Lord of the Flies" anyone?) Even with a monthly supply train, a bad tooth would kill you faster than a bullet, never mind taking the appendix out of your fellow astronaut. How many waves would Buzz be willing to sacrifice before establishing a viable foothold? There is absolutely no escape, when the next starbucks is one year away. That could be my limited perspective at the beginning of the century. On the other hand: Maybe they'll call it: "The Aldrin Barbecue".
  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:36PM (#25486397) Journal

    The question is, is it cheaper to organize a return trip, or is it cheaper to have them settle there permanently which means sending more equipment and making them pretty much self sufficient or supplying them with what they need including oxygen. These are your only 2 options (unless you're willing to abandon astronauts to die on Mars).

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @06:15PM (#25489641)

    Every time space travel appears on Slashdot...I get another opportunity to remind you'all that your country is broke. Which means that there isn't going to be a grand 21st century manned space program to other planets.

        You can't lose a three trillion dollar war, buy-out the bunko mortgage of every half-wit burger flipper who scammed a half-million 'loan' for a McMansion, give 700 billion dollars to Wall Street sleezos and have a grand glorious space program on other people's money. Not anymore. No matter how many times that you remind them that you have 10000 hydrogen bombs.

        You're broke. Your so-called government has spent already spent every tax dollar that you and your children and your grandchildren are ever going to have taken out of their paycheck.
    And you got nothing out of it. You can't even get your teeth fixed. Do you have dental insurance? Every one else in the civilized world does. You don't.

        There is no future manned space program. It's a fantasy.

        Once again, I must remind you of this fact.

      Thank you for your attention,

    The rest of the world

    P.S. you can go back to your comic book movies now.

  • Sounds like (Score:3, Funny)

    by ignavus (213578) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:22PM (#25490569)

    The first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives there

    Sort of like an old folks home.

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

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