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NASA Science

Sending Astronauts On a One-Way Trip To Mars 917

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-don't-come-back dept.
The Narrative Fallacy writes "Cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, writes in the NY Times that with the investment needed to return to the moon likely to run in excess of $150 billion and the cost of a round trip to Mars easily two to four times that, there is a way to reduce the cost and technical requirements of a manned mission to Mars: send the astronauts on a one way trip. 'While the idea of sending astronauts aloft never to return is jarring upon first hearing, the rationale for one-way trips into space has both historical and practical roots,' writes Krauss. 'Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip.' There are more immediate and pragmatic reasons to consider one-way human space exploration missions including money. 'If the fuel for the return is carried on the ship, this greatly increases the mass of the ship, which in turn requires even more fuel.' But would anyone volunteer to go on such a trip? Krauss says that informal surveys show that many scientists would be willing to go on a one-way mission into space and that we might want to restrict the voyage to older astronauts, whose longevity is limited in any case. "
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Sending Astronauts On a One-Way Trip To Mars

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:02PM (#29292801) Homepage Journal

    The cost savings of a one-way trip are minuscule now as everyone has accepted that ISRU of propellant on Mars is an essential part of any mission plan. You don't take with you all the fuel you need to get back.. you make it there.. and most of the plans call for a fully fueled return-to-earth vehicle to be sitting ready on the surface before you send astronauts from Earth to it.

    The real problem is radiation exposure. 6 months there, 500 days on the surface, 6 months back. Any astronauts you send will never fly in space again and may have trouble getting x-rays for medical problems in the future. The only known solution to this is to make the habitat module more massive.. which of course requires more fuel...

  • by rhoder (690061) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:17PM (#29292969) Journal
    The Israelis have discovered a drug which combats radiation sickness. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3748014,00.html [ynetnews.com]
  • by dokebi (624663) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:22PM (#29293677)
    Actual US 2007 Outlays [1]:
    NASA: 15.9 Billion USD
    DOT: 61.7 Billion USD
    DOD: 529.9 Billion USD (excluding War on Terror)

    We could cut 10% of DOD's budget, and increase NASA's budget by over 400%. Or DOT's budget by 85%.

    Clearly, we need to give space exploration a military spin (like we did in the 60's).

    [1]: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/USbudget/fy09/browse.html [gpoaccess.gov]
  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:51PM (#29293963) Homepage

    You didn't do what I stated. Tracking *everything back*, and everything needed to make that, and so forth. Let's just say, for example, you needed to make a replacement teflon seal. Let's go with a greatly oversimplified version. You first need a fluorspar mine. The fluorspar enters a crusher. It can then optionally undergo dense material separation (the ore is poured into a substance slightly denser than fluorspar's 1.4 g/cm^3 density, so it floats to the top; on Mars, this would probably best be organic farm-produced liquids, such as oils, or perhaps dense petroleum compounds). It then goes to a ball mill where it is crushed to a fine powder, and mixed into a slurry. Then any number of the following can happen: the slurry can be slowly pumped upwards in a jig; the lighter materials like fluorspar make it to the top more readily than the heavier contaminants. The slurry can go on to a shaking table - an expanse with riffles parallel to the flow which vibrates; the heavy minerals get deposited on earlier riffles (the vibration encourages them to move of to
    the side).

    After the fluorspar is concentrated by any number of the above, it is mixed with a slight excess of 93-99% sulfuric acid in a kiln in a
    continuous process. HF gas is released, leaving tailings of silica, carbon, sulfur, calcium carbonate, phosphorus pentoxide, and a host of other
    tailings generally not worth recovering mixed in with bulk fluorogypsum.

    Gaseous HF is condensed enough to liquify it to remove impurities such as SO2 and SiF4, which remain gasseous. The condensed HF is 99.98%
    pure. The exhaust gasses, which still contain some HF, are mixed with sulfuric acid in an absorption column. The sulfuric acid is then mixed back
    in with the original process stream in another absorption column. This concentrates the fluorosilic acid and precipitates silica, which can then be
    removed (and if desired, purified and used in other processes).

    An alternative production route to HF is through using byproduct fluorosilicic acid, using a process developed by Kvaemer Process Technology
    AG of Switzerland. The fluorosilicic acid is concentrated and reacted with concentrated sulfuric acid to produce a mixture of SiF4, HF and
    H2SO4. This is fed into the same concentration/scrubbing system described above.

    In either method, the concentration of the recirculating sulfuric acid must be maintained. Integration with the sulfuric acid production
    process would be nice to this effect.

    Note that hydrofluoric acid is best stored in plastic or teflon-coated containers. It has varying degrees of compatabilities with
    metals (lead works reasonably well), but famously eats through glass despite being a weak acid (the fluorine ion is more problematic than the hydrogen
    ion). In addition to this, all general concentrated acid storage methods should apply.

    Now we need sulfuric acid.

    Sulfuric acid is a fundamental industrial chemical. While many methods have been discovered throughout the ages for sulfuric acid
    production, one of the most promising for Mars is "relatively" simple. Iron sulfates are heated in the presence of oxygen and steam. The sulfates
    absorb progressively more oxygen, before finally releasing a sulfur trioxide and leaving behind iron oxide. The sulfur trioxide combines with the steam
    and enters a condenser lined with many radiators/heat exchangers, where it precipitates out as concentrated sulfuric acid. The input iron sulfates are
    cycled through in a batch process, with new sulfates added into the reaction chamber at the top and hot iron oxide removed from the base (which can then
    be sent on to steel production).

    Potentially, raw, highly sulfur-rich iron ore could be ground in a ball mill, dumped into the reaction chamber, and baked; while some heat
    would be wasted heating non-sulfates, it would pass straight into steel production from there, utilizing the gained heat. Note that the entire
    system, from the moment that the ore enters the reacti

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:52PM (#29293973) Homepage

    How the heck are those astro/cosmo/taikonauts going to find food and drinking water to subsist, let alone colonize?

    I did a calculation one time about how much food we would have to stock for it to last the rest of our lives. It was entirely doable. If memory serves the cost for 20 years of food was something like $175,000 per person. Certainly within NASA's budget. You'd basically be packing enough consumables for a lifetime, which I'm guessing would be about the weight of the return fuel. Some rocket scientist here could give you a better estimate. They might be able to find ice on Mars for water, otherwise it's just another consumable. One that can be recycled to conserve.

    Some kind of underground dwelling, nuclear power source. Excavating equipment to site it. Back up power source, maybe two back ups with an optional resupply in 10 years in case something bad happens. I know the Russians have small scale reactors that have been in service almost that long. Some satellites are still transmitting after 30+ years. An underground greenhouse with nuclear heat and solar power might even be able to produce plants and some spare oxygen. Martian atmosphere has plenty of CO2. If it was built right they might even have some natural light coming in through the roof.

    With a resupply that consisted of manufacturing equipment, they might be able to make a go of it. Discovery of natural fibers probably isn't going to save them, but you take the good with the bad.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:59PM (#29294019) Journal

    spending any more tax payer money to send humans into space, to the moon or mars, is a ridiculous waste considering the catastrophic infrastructure breakdowns we are now facing in real time.

    Oh, come off it. NASA's human exploration budget is less than $10 billion, which is about 0.156% (or 1/640th) of US government spending. Because of how prevalent it is in the public mindset, people are under this mistaken illusion that its funding is much higher than it actually is.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:02PM (#29294045)
    Poppycock. If it takes $10,000 to extend somebody's life by 50 years vs. $50,000 to extend somebody else's life by 3 weeks, there is no comparison. To say they are equal is actually gross favoritism in favor of the latter.
  • by magarity (164372) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:04PM (#29294071)

    While animals do taste great, meat is very inefficient in terms of how much energy goes into first growing the plants then growing the animal. It would be 10x more efficient to just grow soy beans and other high protein meat substitutes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:11PM (#29294117)
    19th Century invention, the earth was known to be round for thousands of years - it was also known to have twice the diameter Colombus tried to convince half the heads of state of Europe was when he pulled his fast one. If they hadn't bumped into the Bahamas, he'd have been the first to become mishoui.
  • by Waste55 (1003084) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:20PM (#29294191)
    Stephen Hawking Wrote:

    Going into space won't be cheap, but it will take only a small proportion of world resources. NASA's budget has remained roughly constant in real terms since the timeof the Apollo landings, but it has decreased from .3 percent of U.S. GDP in 1970 to .12 percent now.-Even if we were to increase the international budget 20 times to make a serious effort to go into space, it would only be a small fraction of world GDP

    There will be those who argue that it would be better to spend our money solving the problems of this planet, like climate change and pollution, rather than wasting it on a possibly fruitless search for a new planet. I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, but we can do that and still spare a quarter of a percent of world GDP for space.-Isn't our future worth a quarter of percent?"

    Replace climate change and global warning with any of the issues you listed and this still applies.

  • by trawg (308495) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @03:32AM (#29296503) Homepage

    I thought this was interesting so just went to wikipedia's hemp page [wikipedia.org], which tells me hemp nut is around 30% protein by mass.

    This information is cited in Wikipedia as sourced from http://www.wcranchohemp.com/info.php [wcranchohemp.com], which states the information is sourced from http://www.thehempnut.com/ [thehempnut.com], which is a site that sells hemp foods. The data no longer appears to be there though, so I am not sure exactly how it was gathered. A quick Google indicates that data has been spread all over the Internet as seems to form the basis of most nutritional assumptions, so YMMV with the data. This [drbronner.com] and this [earthfriendlygoods.com] have slightly different numbers that seem to agree.

    Not sure if there's some sort of official authority for this sort of data that is reliable though !

  • Re:I'm all for it... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @05:11AM (#29297013)
    Why send scientists & astronauts when we have politicians and we can send more of them because they are full of hot air :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:33AM (#29298011)

    Ahem. [wikipedia.org]

    Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[3] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System [wikipedia.org] for long-duration manned spaceflights.

  • by Convector (897502) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:32PM (#29301723)
    Yeah, it's hard to get to Mercury. That's why MESSENBER has to go though this punkerish orbit involving gravity assists from an Earth flyby, two Venus flybys, three Merc. flybys and a total of five deep space maneuversbefore orbit insertion. You can see the trajectory here. [jhuapl.edu] 7 years and 15 orbits of the Sun to go essentially 1 AU away. That's the same amount of time it took Cassini to get to Saturn. The last flyby is at the end of the month.

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