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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 eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:49PM (#29292651) Journal

    'Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip.'

    Colonists heading to the new world were heading from a place of high resource (to live) contention to a place of low resource contention. A smart move if you wish to succeed--the resources were there for the taking. The astronauts, however, are not just heading to a place of higher resource contention they are heading to a place of no resources. None for living anyway. You might find platinum ore on Mars but you aren't going to find fur trapping, fishing and logging. This isn't little house on the prairie, this is the cold deadness of space.

    You're sending them there on a one trip for one reason and one reason only: saving money. You're not sending them to a new world with more people there and more people coming and food everywhere ripe for the picking. They will eke out a miserable existence and remember earth fondly and try to be live off of what they are doing for humanity.

  • by BlackusDiamondus (945259) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:50PM (#29292673) Homepage
    'Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip.' Indeed, they often did back in the old days, however, I am fairly confident that at the very least, they expected a breatheable atmosphere at their destination.
  • by Abreu (173023) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:53PM (#29292695)

    Exactly.

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

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:58PM (#29292761) Journal

    They will eke out a miserable existence and remember earth fondly and try to be live off of what they are doing for humanity.

    There's no delusions of extended survival mentioned. That doesn't take away what they would be doing for humanity though.

    If we can figure out the kinks we have in our biodomes, I don't see why trying to start a colony there, even if it takes 3 or 4 seperate space missions of people willing to die for it - it would be as revolutionary as the moon landing.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:00PM (#29292791) Journal

    The astronauts, however, are not just heading to a place of higher resource contention they are heading to a place of no resources. None for living anyway. You might find platinum ore on Mars but you aren't going to find fur trapping, fishing and logging.

    Living resources might not matter as much if you can find other resources that make the enterprise economically viable. Every single British attempt at colonizing the New World failed (in spite of the ability to trap, fish, log, etc) until they find a profitable product [wikipedia.org]. Once they found that the settlements took off and the rest is history as the saying goes. There are lots of potential profitable products out in the solar system right now -- there will be even more if we are indeed running out of resources [slashdot.org] here at home.

    I doubt we'll see anything resembling colonization in our lifetimes (it took generations to carry that out right here on Earth in a much more friendly environment) but I do think it will happen eventually. We should be laying the groundwork for it and soaking up as much knowledge as we possibly can.

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:01PM (#29292793) Homepage

    Extremely well put. There's little on Mars to bootstrap a civilization with. Back in the pioneer days, you could show up with nothing more than the clothes on your back, a hatchet, a musket, a small chunk of lead, and a shot mold (plus a little food and water to keep you going until you got settled). Earlier human settlers didn't even bring such modern weaponry with them and did just fine, knapping knives and spearpoints and arrowheads.

    That sort of thing doesn't work on Mars. Colonists will be entirely dependent on modern technology to merely keep the things that keep them alive running. Try tracing back random pieces of modern technology to all of their component parts/materials, and all of those's component parts/materials, and so forth, with the components needed for manufacturing/refining along the way, and if any of those are consumable, trace those back. The challenge of building a colony is ridiculously daunting. This wouldn't be a colony; it's going to be a base. A cramped life support shelter with more and more things breaking every year. They'll be living largely off what they brought from Earth and what gets sent as resupply until the day they die (with the possible exception of local ice and a few other things).

    But you know people would volunteer nonetheless.

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:03PM (#29292815) Journal

    not only that but what exactly is the point of sending astronauts to another planet knowing the whole time they're doomed? Are we planning on not returning to Mars again? If that is the case why bother sending anyone at all. Mars is important as a potential second outpost in the solar system not just because of the pretty rocks there. Mars is important enough to return and thus sending people to their deaths to get there a few years earlier for a few dollars less sounds nigh despicable.

  • by rhook (943951) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:12PM (#29292903)
    Sure they will, there's already bacteria in their bodies.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:12PM (#29292913)

    I would. In a heartbeat.

    If that's true, why were you afraid to sign your name?

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:14PM (#29292935) Homepage

    A smart move if you wish to succeed--the resources [in the Americas] were there for the taking.

    Umm, no they weren't. The resources were controlled by a bunch of societies with millions of people. The attempts at colonization 1607 and 1620 were successful, but the resources in the Americas weren't just lying around free for the taking.

    Consider also that at least 2 previous colonization attempts (Vinland and Roanoke) were wiped out, and the Massachusetts colony only barely survived its first winter in Plymouth.

  • by spazdor (902907) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:19PM (#29292987)

    What temperature and atmospheric conditions are they comfortable in?

  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:20PM (#29293003)

    There's no delusions of extended survival mentioned. That doesn't take away what they would be doing for humanity though.

    If there is any nation willing to do this, it certainly won't be the US. We can't even let terminal patients die without wasting vast sums to slightly prolong their misery.

    So if it happens, some other country will do it. But I guess that's good for us - we don't have to be jealous of their success if we can spin the whole thing as an inhumane travesty.

  • by LordKronos (470910) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:21PM (#29293015) Homepage

    Great, so now the astronaut gets there and discovers a vast wealth of economic resources. That's wonderful. Now he can use them to.....trade for things that the other astronauts on his ship brought with them? Oh wait, they've found the vast resources on Mars, too.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:25PM (#29293067) Journal

    The medication works by suppressing the "suicide mechanism" of cells hit by radiation, while enabling them to recover from the radiation-induced damages that prompted them to activate the suicide mechanism in the first place.

    That's pretty interesting. So our cells have the ability to repair radiation damage but don't normally bother to try? Any molecular biologists around who would care to explain this in more detail than the aforementioned link? I always thought that ionizing radiation damaged the body on a molecular level beyond any healing ability that it may have.

  • by al0ha (1262684) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:28PM (#29293111) 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.

    In the short term, meaning next 20 years, this money would be much better spent repairing antiquated and unsafe bridges, damns, levies and sewage systems than it would be sending anyone to the moon or mars.

    Significantly more people will benefit through lives saved and catastrophes averted by wisely spending money instead of wasting it in a time when what we have to gain from space exploration by humans is very little in comparison

    Let's fix the continental infrastructure!
  • by rbanffy (584143) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:29PM (#29293117) Homepage Journal

    Which will be eventually killed by the temperatures, vacuum and intense radiation

  • by thrillseeker (518224) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:32PM (#29293133)
    We can't even let terminal patients die without wasting vast sums to slightly prolong their misery.

    We're all terminal, son.
  • by LordKronos (470910) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:34PM (#29293157) Homepage

    Well, you are here on Earth, you are one among millions, and you are going to die eventually. Why don't you just get the inevitable over and kill yourself right now. What's that? You value the experience of living too much? Oh, ok. Well, how do you think the guy that goes to mars is going to feel after doing very little day after day? Nowhere to go and nothing to do except sit in whatever tiny vessel he arrived in. The novelty is going to wear off pretty quick. He can't even do all that much exploring because he need to carry enough oxygen and food for a round trip. That kind of limits the range he can travel. And there isn't even much to see there. All and all, it's kind of like all of the downsides that Antarctica has, combined with all the downsides it doesn't have. At least the scientists down there can 1) go home, 2) breath air, 3) see animals.

  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:37PM (#29293191)

    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.

    Why not just package it up from here on Earth, send it over to Mars and have it waiting for the astronauts? We've sent objects to Mars before (granted, with various outcomes)- why can't we send a fuel canister over there before we send any manned craft- we could either try to land it (probably not the best idea) or set it in orbit around the planet (probably better idea.)

  • by cetialphav (246516) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:37PM (#29293193)

    That doesn't take away what they would be doing for humanity though.

    Which is what? This does nothing for humanity. It isn't like we don't know what is on Mars. We know exactly what Mars is like. For hundreds of billions of dollars we can send an almost limitless series of rovers equipped with a variety of instruments to explore and run tests. Having a couple of humans just trying to survive, is not going to provide a scientific breakthrough.

    The only point of sending men to Mars is to prove the point that we can send men to Mars. It's the same reason most people run marathons or attempt to climb Mount Everest. You just want to know that you can do it.

    Personally, I don't see the value in that (at least not a few lives and billions of dollars worth). Others may disagree and say that "because its there" is a good enough reason to try, but that still doesn't make it a breakthrough moment for humanity.

  • by joh (27088) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:39PM (#29293209)

    But you know people would volunteer nonetheless.

    Yeah, and *none* of these being even remotely qualified or even sane enough for the job. Who's willing to throw his very existence away for a few weeks or months on Mars just has no idea what he's actually talking about and very probably has many other illusions as well. You're not really thinking that you can successfully train someone to do the year-long transfer flight to Mars just to die there? You'd risk that they would be *begging* to do just a fly-around and come back instead after they've been through this. Everyone sane enough to manage that task would be too sane to do a one-way mission.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:48PM (#29293299) Journal
    And those going to Mars will also have a breathable atmosphere. It is just that it will be a limited confinement.

    Look, just because you are afraid of the unknown, does not mean that others are. Many would willing give their life to help build an establishment for their country or just for science. When my children are adults and able to take care fo themselves, I would volunteer (though my wife is likely to nix that). Why? BECAUSE IT IS A BETTER FUTURE FOR ALL. We NEED to take RISKS. Without those, you do not have the opportunity to make huge discoveries.

    Personally, I am tired of those that want to conqueror others on this planet for their resources (read murder), but then get upset about out taking risks that MIGHT kill a person. The west use to be heroic and be willing to get it done. Now, we act like our individual life is all that. Give me a break.
  • by ozbird (127571) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:48PM (#29293303)
    Start with the Moon first. It takes less resources to get there, and a rescue mission if something goes wrong is feasible (though still unlikely.)
  • I'll go (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:54PM (#29293359) Homepage

    I'm 53, and I'd go on a one way trip to Mars in a heartbeat. Where can I sign up?

    There are things in life more important than personal safety. I think too many have forgotten that.

  • by Kral_Blbec (1201285) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:55PM (#29293369)
    No, its about the legal industry. Doctors and hospitals are mostly fine with allowing terminally ill to die, but there are always lawyers who try to take the "patients best interests" to heart and sue to delay pulling the plug.
  • by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:00PM (#29293429) Homepage
    I suspect the first person to set foot on mars will be remembered for at least a thousand years beyond anyone who is currently living.
  • by MrNaz (730548) * on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:01PM (#29293435) Homepage

    "Americans, of which I am one, have often displayed a willingness to risk life and limb for progress and discovery."

    Some perhaps, but the space race as well as health care are both the result of political and commercial greed. The suit wearing decisions makers don't give two shits about human progress, and are only focussed on their own political and financial gain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:02PM (#29293447)

    The theory is simple: why bother repairing a damaged cell when you might screw up the DNA repair and cause cancer, when you can just get rid of the cell and make a new one? Simply put, it's safer.

  • by drdrgivemethenews (1525877) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:05PM (#29293489)
    There are thousands of lines in the federal budget. Why pick on this one? Why not sacrifice a jet fighter instead? Or a bridge to nowhere?
  • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:11PM (#29293539)

    I have to say this is completely idiotic. Think about why you would want to send humans to Mars in this particular stage of scientific development. It is clear that there is not a practical reason. Anything useful that can be done on mars at this point of technological development of the human race can be done easier by robots than by humans. Even if your goal is to prepare mars for human colonization you will do this faster if you send robots first until you can build a base on mars that produces its own oxygen, food, water as well as fuel for the humans' return trip.

    So why send humans now? Well the obvious answer is you do not send humans now. But let us assume for the moment that that we are to send humans. What is the only possible benefit for it? Well the only possible benefit is psychological, or spiritual or what have you. Just knowing that humans have stepped on Mars will make us all feel better about ourselves. And of course the country that sends the people first will have special propaganda benefits. Those were pretty much all the benefits of the moon landings. (And I am not knocking them, they were very real benefits, especially in the 60's when everyone in the US was scared of the Soviets)

    Now lets think about it for a second. Will this benefit exist if we send someone on a ghastly mission to die on mars. Would we all feel better as human beings and/or as american citizens that we have sent someone on a suicide mission to mars. That we have exported one of our corpses to the red planet, if you will. Of course not. The idea of sending someone out all by themselves to die alone millions of miles from the nearest other human beings is just terrible. Nobody will be happy or uplifted by such a mission.

    Therefore this type of mission would remove the only benefit of sending humans to Mars.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:20PM (#29293655)
    At this point in history, technological advances (like things provided by programs like space research) are the only reason we can actually build bridges, dams, levies, and sewage systems. Technological innovation has been the predecessor to all of those comforts of civilization. If you cease attempting to advance technology, you stagnate. One interstate bridge collapses, a state-sized hurricane hits a coastal city, and suddenly we need to stop funding science research?
  • by Andrew Cady (115471) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:28PM (#29293757)

    An interesting consequence, if Mars was indeed solid gold and it was economical to bring back the gold: eventually [in fact, probably very quickly] an equilibrium would be reached, as rocket fuel prices went up and gold prices went down. Ultimately this would be quite a loss for humanity, since the value of gold is something of a popular delusion, while the value of rocket fuel is more in the nature of objective physical fact.

  • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:39PM (#29293881)
    They're not loading up rockets with those dollars. That money is spent on research, design, engineering, and invention. Historically, the money spent on throttling men through space CANNOT be spent better when it comes to improving technology or your way of life. It's difficult to overestimate the importance that space travel has on your modern conveniences.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:54PM (#29293981)

    Exactly, just like you could never train a person to fly a plane loaded with explosives into an enemy ship because someone so delusional as to commit such an act could never master the flight of a complex aircraft. Never mind the countless examples of such things happening in the historical record.

    People are often far more interesting creatures than they are given credit for. If a soldier throws himself on a grenade in Iraq for the good of a few men around him, he is a hero and is awarded medals in his death. If a scientist gives the rest of his life for the good of all humanity, he must have something wrong with him. Or maybe the right explanation is that people are, in general, capable of great acts without being defective in any way.

  • by Risen888 (306092) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:59PM (#29294023)

    We have rovers on Mars now. Two of them, Spirit and Opportunity. You can learn more about them here [nasa.gov]. It's fascinating stuff. They're incredible machines.

    They also average about 0.02 miles per hour. One of them has been stuck in a patch of sand since May.

    Send people.

  • by slashtivus (1162793) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:05PM (#29294073)

    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.

    That is $23.97 a day, what the heck are you eating? I can have beer and smokes + eat like a king for that much. Also, even the camping / survivalist food is only good for about 10 years.

  • by cetialphav (246516) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:24PM (#29294207)

    Oh come on. You can do better than that. If you disagree, tell me what you think. Don't put your pretentious labels on me in lieu of a thoughtful argument.

    Tell me how sending a few men and women to breathe their last breath on Mars with no hope of return to Earth benefits humanity. Tell me why there really is no better way to spend a few hundred billion dollars. Tell me what the scientific value is for having a few humans there versus hundreds of exploring rovers. If you want to participate in the discussion, then please think of something to say.

    For the record, I think being able to colonize Mars is a fantastic goal. But colonizing means turning it into a self-sustaining long-term home. That is a far cry from the suicide missions being proposed. We are so far from being self-sustaining on Mars that there is no point in talking about sending men there. Show me a machine that can generate enough oxygen and water for people to survive (you have to grow your own food, too). Show me how we can generate sufficient electricity, even in the Martian winter. Show me that we can land heavy equipment very near other equipment and people with pinpoint accuracy. When we master those things (and more), then we can start thinking about getting people there.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT com> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:29PM (#29294249) Journal

    Historically, the money spent on throttling men through space CANNOT be spent better when it comes to improving technology or your way of life.

    Unfortunately, the same can be said about war as a technology accelerant. It's why Hitler was Time magazine's Man of the Year, and almost won the Man of the Century, as the person who had the most impact on the 20th century. War gave us ARPANET which gave us the InnerToobs. War gave us the cold war which gave us the space race which gave us integrated circuits which gave us cpu-on-a-chip and vlsi circuitry and all the other goodness we enjoy today. War gave us the impetus to research ways to treat injuries quickly and effectively and stabilize patients in forward positions, which gave us better techniques to treat trauma. War gave us soldiers who had to be treated, and the budget and will to try to create more effective treatments. War gave us practical radar. War gave us practical ICBMs which gave us satellites. War gave us higher-strength metals.

    But as humans, we'd be better off funneling the money into space. Problem is, we'd rather fight.

  • by Progman3K (515744) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:43PM (#29294363)

    The only point of sending men to Mars is to prove the point that we can send men to Mars.

    To not have all our eggs in one basket.

    If the Mars settlers can achieve sustenance, the human race will have taken a small step toward the preservation of our species.

  • by dakameleon (1126377) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:47PM (#29294387)

    Gold's actually a very useful metal in its own right, being corrosion-resistant, extremely malleable, high conductivity and a great alloy. It's not just a pretty element, y'know.

  • by failedlogic (627314) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:49PM (#29294405)

    I agree with you. Your point isn't cynicism in the least. The point of this travel is getting someone to survive on the planet long enough for a human to collect valuable scientific information for future trips. I'd gather with what we currently know about space and what we learned from Moon landing and Mars probes, that we at least know enough that we can probably get a human to touch foot on Mars and survive the landing - on the first try is not guaranteed though.

    I'd admit it would be a fascinating experience.

    But when I look at Wikipeida (I'm not familiar with astronomy in the least), the Apollo 11 mission took a few days to fly to the moon and land. Assuming the same type of craft is used for the Mars rover missions, it took about 6 months to land a rover on Mars. I'm hoping this makes sense. This basically means that you have a person sitting in a dark space capsule with relatively no sense of time, no one to interact with for months on end - on a mission that they know they will make it back from.

    I know some pretty dedicated people. But I can't think of anyone in a right frame of mind that would actually welcome the experience after a week. Its going to be really tough to find someone willing to do this.

    And yes, the survival point is most important. I'm not sure what landing a person on the ground for a few days is going to tell us that a rover can't. Unless you ask the guy to rip his helmet or protective suit off. Seriously.

    Some of the scientists involved in the Biodome thought they had the self-sustaining environment thing figured out to the T. That didn't work so well. I'm not knocking them down, but if we really want something of value, we should figure some of this independent survival in space stuff more. We're sending someone to their death. If you want to motivate them, you should at least help them find comfort in that they're being taken care of.

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @09:50PM (#29294413) Homepage Journal

    How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet, by Robert Zubrin, Three Rivers Press (2008), Paperback, 224 pages, ISBN: 978-0307407184.

    Once again, Zubrin delights and informs like no other. This concise, easy-reading, laugh-out-loud, little volume is packed with more solid scientific and engineering information about Mars, Mars exploration and settlement than even "The Case for Mars." Whereas the latter was informative and interesting, but fairly straight-laced, Zubrin here takes a decidedly more lighthearted approach, creating a fictional, early 22nd century guide to surviving and thriving on the new frontier.

    As usual, Zubrin's strongest suit is his ability to turn his caustic wit against the foolish, timid, bureaucratic, cowardly, thoughtless paralysis which presently cripples the aerospace establishment, and indeed, Zubrin suggests, the entirety of terrestrial "civilization" (if what we have down here still merits the term.) Perhaps my favorite example is the following passage detailing water reclamation from the exhaust of a space suit's methanol/oxygen fuel-cell (used to provide electric power) in order to extend the endurance of Martians on EVA.

    "The water you obtain will include a significant quantity of carbon dioxide in solution, which is why NASA has banned systems that plumb fuel-cell wastewater directly back to the suit canteen. However, despite the claimed medical problem, it is a fact that in the twentieth century, many people chose to drink carbonated water as a matter of preference."

    I do not hold with those who regard Zubrin's political asides as an interruption of an otherwise interesting presentation of scientific or engineering information. Zubrin's ability to decisively skewer folly of all sorts, technical, medical, political, social, is the primary reason that he has always impressed me, and in my opinion, constitutes the single best feature of this particular book.

    Zubrin's brutal and sustained critique of bureaucracy toward the end of "How to Live on Mars" is positively brilliant. If it doesn't make you yearn to give up the soul-destroying stagnation and conformity of Earth to live on a planet full of misfits, outcasts and rugged individualists, then there's just simply no trace of idealism, romance, nobility or heroism left in your black, flabby, little heart.

    I'm pleased to see Zubrin take such a radical turn, or maybe simply to more openly embrace the radicalism which he has never been able to entirely prevent from seeping into his work. This one is not going to win Zubrin any friends in high places, but I suspect it will contribute to the immortality he achieves when the Martians (descended from pioneers who will make the first crossings in Mars-Direct inspired spacecraft) finally throw off their tyrannical Earthling overlords and establish a truly civilized branch of humanity for the first time in far too long.

    Review by Eli J. Harman, stolen with impunity.

    Shoulda put it in the previous post.

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:06PM (#29294525) Homepage

    "The problem will be downloading updates. Pretty much, whatever you take with you is what you'll be playing for the rest of your life."

    Actually, unlike food, water and air, digital information could be transferred pretty easily. How do you think we got the rover's data?

    "If the team lasts say 10 years, you'll run into other problems, like clothing and maintaining the shelter."

    Really? My grandma has clothes older than that, and she doesn't have NASA's budget to buy them.

  • by cenc (1310167) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:07PM (#29294531) Homepage

    I wonder what sort of economic boost a trillion dollars thrown at an international project to move human kind forward like going to the moon and mars by end of the next decade would have done for the U.S. and international economy vs. simply bailing out a bunch of paper tiger banks.

    We don't even have a frigen way to get in to space anymore (or at least soon). We are back in the frigen 1950's space wise.

  • by Korey Kaczor (1345661) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:08PM (#29294559)

    It's just a slow news day. We're not sending anyone to Mars for a long time, and certainly not for one-way voyages.

    We haven't sent anyone to the moon in decades, because nobody wants to fund NASA for it. They're not going to fund NASA for Mars, either.

  • by AmigaMMC (1103025) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:17PM (#29294609)
    Americans, of which I am one, have often displayed a willingness to risk life and limb for progress and discovery

    In part. The other half of the reason was beating the russians.

  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:22PM (#29294661) Journal

    The only point of sending men to Mars is to prove the point that we can send men to Mars.

    If we were only going to send men then you'd be correct. However the real, long term goal is to send women as well as men and establish a permanent colony. The reason for this is to hugely increase the survivability of our species and probably other species as well. Once we have a self-sustaining colony on Mars it becomes a lot harder for nature to wipe us out. Obviously you cannot just land a self-sustaining colony there all at once - or at least we cannot yet - so this is just the first of hopefully several steps along the path.

  • by MouseR (3264) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:32PM (#29294751) Homepage

    Just make sure someone's unscrupulous wife is on board.

  • by symbolset (646467) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:34PM (#29294773) Journal

    The only point of sending men to Mars is to prove the point that we can send men to Mars.

    No. The point of sending men to Mars is to establish a foothold on another planet. It's a step toward colonization. Eventually humans will establish themselves throughout our solar system and use the resources we find there travel to the stars. Or we'll die out. There is no third choice.

  • by ChrisMP1 (1130781) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @11:37PM (#29295275)
    A funeral isn't for the person who has died, it's for the family which has lost him.
  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:00AM (#29295397)
    Something to not is food is not the only crucial consumable.

    Consumables need to include, toothpaste, medicines, sanitary needs, shampoo/washing detegents. Clothing (wears out with use and washing)

    Yet a /. poster probably uses less of these than average. *ducks*

    Foods can be stabilised for years such as military MREs (Meal: ready to eat) packets that can have a 3-5 year shelf life. But most of the essiential nutrients in food are prone to break down over time. This is before you consider the effects of ambient radiation speeding up this process.

    Mars colonists would have no choice but to have a complete self contained bio recycling system right off the bat. And that manurfacturing capacity better be pretty comprehensive too, for everything from cleaning products through to chemotherapy drugs.
  • by twostix (1277166) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:11AM (#29295491)

    Convict ships used to take six months at sea to travel from England to Australia and no the convicts weren't allowed off at the distant supply harbours.

    The first attempts to cross the Arctic and Antarctic required more mental strength than you suggest would be needed for mars mission. Considering that they were in pretty much imminent danger at all times and had absolutely *no* technology to help do it or even know where they were to any great degree.

    Some of the comments on here are very telling of what the western middle class has become. Just because you can't imagine having the mental and physical strength to survive life outside your safe, over privileged looked after cradle to grave existence doesn't mean it isn't possible. And compared to the feats of men of history, sitting in a comfortable capsule with new tech to keep you entertained, being able to speak to your loved ones and teams of specialists daily and having plenty of food is so far from being comparable to say crossing a desert or the arctic by foot pulling a four hundred kilo wooden boat full of supplies for six months or being lost at sea for months as to almost be a joke.

    Asia is going to absolutely *dominate* the west over the next few years if this attitude continues.

  • by symbolset (646467) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:15AM (#29295809) Journal

    22 people have lost their lives in spaceflight. Roughly 5% [wikipedia.org] or one in twenty of all the people who have been in space. And a greater number of ground crew. To send robots for a while is all well and good, but real humans on the ground can do far more.

    Over the past half century many trillions of dollars and millions of lives have been spent over the temporary control of an arid patch of sand in the middle east that spans from Afghanistan to Iraq. Yes, there's some oil there, but really - Out There are entire moons made of hydrocarbons, entire desert planets to despoil, more mineral wealth than was ever mined, more energy each day than has been produced in all of human history - and that's just the stuff in our local neighborhood. Maybe most importantly for the human spirit, out there is the Frontier, with elbow room and an outlet for those few among us who must struggle at great peril against impossible odds for fame and glory. Without that outlet our carnivorous nature will turn against itself toward war.

    If we were serious about exploring space we would do it more. It was my parent's generation who went to the moon and then quit. I hope my children are made of sterner stuff. If we and they whine too much about the danger and the expense, they might set that goal aside forever. Yes, it's costly in both blood and treasure. But even early space travel has paid tremendous benefits in the sciences.

    The Earth's gravity well has been great for the development of humans, but escaping it is more than 99% of the risk and 99% of the cost. A colony outside of this gravity barrier will not have these impediments to exploration once established. Only then we can begin to learn things in earnest and capture the wealth of the universe which is ours for the taking.

    But to arrive, you have to start. Every argument about risk and cost is an argument not to start. If we don't start then no matter what else we do mankind is doomed to die on this rock, a lost potential.

    Let's GO!

  • by strangedays (129383) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:32AM (#29295923)
    1. Professor Stephen Hawking is probably right, we do need to get off this rock, sooner rather than later. "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species"

    2. We evolved to survive on an unguided mudball, third rock out from a slightly variable star; we haven't found the thermostat yet. Sooner or later, our luck will run out, one natural extinction level event and it's game over.

    3. It's worth boldly going somewhere that will probably kill you, if and only if, there is a damn good reason to be bold.

    4. Our current space drive technology consists of throwing stuff as hard as we can in one direction so we get a bit of usable thrust in another. It's a losing game, a pathetically inadequate method, compared to our needs and dreams.

    5. Mars has a deep gravity well, with an unbreathable, and (worse) unflyable atmosphere. We have no known scientific or commercial reason to go there, or means of survival if we did.

    6. Robots are expendable, cheap to make, specialized, and inexpensive to remotely control, even in space. Humans, are expendable, cheap to make, generally useful, but ridiculously expensive to operate, especially in space.

    7. Robot probes in space, historically have produced vastly more science per dollar expended, than humans. We should boldly go somewhere when we intend to colonize, not to send back wish you were here postcards... 8. To colonize, there must exist usable resources, in vast and accessible quantities, easy pickings. At minimum we will need Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen (CHON), plus metals, trace elements and usable energy. There must be shielding from radiation and the other obvious space hazards. Such resources do in fact exist in limitless abundance, in open space, as the larger comets and asteroids. The orbital vectors and masses (that we know about) are currently a little inconvenient.

    IMHO:

    a. We (Humans) need to invest heavily in science and engineering that may lead to much better space propulsion, techniques for mining and commercial and civic use of such open space accessible resources.

    b. We need to develop much better remote probe and manipulation technology, so the robots can investigate anywhere we want, and possibly alter the orbits of low mass, high value objects, as cheaply as possible.

    c. We need to develop space habitats, on comets and asteroids, to exploit their resources as a long term (effectively infinite) space habitat.

    d. Our most likely cause of extinction as a species is our non-existent space colonization strategy. We are led by a clueless collection of dumbass politicians who cannot see beyond Buck Rogers pointy spaceship sci-fi and (much more importantly) their own short term military and pork barrel political aims. There is no coherent, international, long term, human survival and colonization oriented strategy.

    e. When some damn big rock arrives at 5 miles per second, we are all going to look equally stupid and just as extinct; fossilized human politicians will look almost identical, as the "intelligent" humans remains.

  • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe@nOsPaM.jwsmythe.com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @02:07AM (#29296101) Homepage Journal

        What was the overall success rate for getting a mission to mars? 50%? It'd suck to wait a year for a supply launch to be readied and launched, just to miss, and continue to drift off into space. There are other errors too. They could miss the landing zone by 1,000 miles. They could fail the reentry and have it burn up. And of course there's the chance of it getting stolen by aliens. :) In any situation other than getting nabbed by aliens, you've lost your supplies. 1,000 miles is an awful long way to trek with no gas stations, or roads.

        Even still, they'll have to learn to be self sufficient. If they can supply themselves, it's far better than waiting for the next launch. Who knows what would happen. Eventually the mission could be scrapped, and they'd be left wondering if they'd get a new supply ship down. What if the economy finally tanks? Or if the US gets restructured (like, in a revolution). I'd hate to be on the ground there, and get the radio message "Sorry, World War 3 has broken out. By the time you get this message, there will be no survivors here. Good luck, you'll be the only surviving humans in the universe."

        All that is with the assumption that everything is utopian at the landing site. Isolation from the rest of the human population can take it's toll. Consider ships at sea. A mutiny wasn't an unheard of thing, and they may have only been out for a few months at a time. Political unrest on a martian colony could be disastrous.

  • Sample mission (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arlet (29997) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @02:36AM (#29296241)

    I'd much rather spend the resources on a mission to collect some martian rocks. Sending humans over to plant a flag is a nice accomplishment, but the science value is limited.

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @04:40AM (#29296873)

    And you just know that the exact moment you reach the point of no return, Murphy's Law dictates that someone will discover a cheap, effective cure.

  • by skornenicholas (1360763) <skornenicholas&gmail,com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:36AM (#29298053) Homepage
    Or, you know, we could stop wasting trillions playing games with nature. Things like building below sea level or trying to force the planet to accomodate us instead of trying to adapt ourselves to the enviroment.
  • by that IT girl (864406) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:10AM (#29298393) Journal
    But we're not all weak or in pain with no *hope* for the future, and that makes all the difference.
  • by xkcdFan1011011101111 (1494551) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:54AM (#29298991)
    But developing the technology to go to the moon is what spurred development of: computers, guidance systems, rocket technology, GPS, etc... That's what is exciting about exploration, you don't know what you'll learn until you do it. Sometimes the tools you must develop have unintended yet excellent future use in society.
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:21AM (#29300215) Homepage Journal

    Mars has Forests, wildlife, water, and air we should do this, until then it's NOTHING like the pilgrims.

  • by aaandre (526056) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @02:01PM (#29302135)

    Feel free to ride without a helmet and not buckle up in your car.

    I find your analogy lacking. Addressing high-risk situations with tools improving the chance of surviving accidents is not being being risk-averse. Avoiding the situations is.

    Rust or asphalt do not improve the monkey bar experience. Removing the monkey bars, or forbidding children to run in recess is the real issue.

  • by sean.peters (568334) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @02:52PM (#29302901) Homepage

    IAASE (I am a safety engineer), and I think this argument is nuts.

    When the Apollo program was in full swing, monkey bars of rusty steel stood on fields of asphalt.

    Yeah, and lots of kids were cracking their skulls when they fell off of them. Our society made the choice that the risk of kids getting brain injuries was not worth the benefit of monkey bars surrounded by asphalt... so they surrounded them by mulch beds instead.

    Cars had lap belts but nobody used them. Babies rode on their parent's lap, bigger children rode on the parcel shelf, and nobody wore a helmet on a bicycle or knee pads while skating.

    And again, our society (being run by adults and all) decided that the awesome benefits of being able to let your kids roam free in the car didn't justify the risks of permanent injury or death, so we banned that whole practice. I could go on and on, but I'll stop. But the idea that making life safer for people makes us somehow less "grown up", is quite frankly stupid.

  • by mstahl (701501) <(marrrrrk) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @02:56PM (#29302977) Homepage Journal

    I don't think many people in the US are willing to admit it, but part of the reason why the Russians beat us into space was that they were willing to accept more risk than us. The US has a space exploration record largely lacking in tragedy, and the Russians definitely have had more incidents, but as a result they were able to move forward slightly faster than us.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with that as long as the people you are sending to their potential demise know the risks and know what they're getting into. No matter what the risk though there are people out there who would sign up for this without hesitation. I say there's nothing wrong at all with looking into it.

  • by sbeckstead (555647) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:37PM (#29313545) Homepage Journal
    We have enough problems... We always have enough problems, there is never a better time than now and when you think like that you wind up dying a bitter old man who never got out and did anything because you always had enough problems for now.

Never invest your money in anything that eats or needs repainting. -- Billy Rose

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