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Mars Space Transportation Science

Scientists Propose One-Way Trips To Mars 839

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thousands-would-do-it dept.
vortex2.71 writes "Invoking the spirit of Star Trek in a scholarly article entitled 'To Boldly Go,' two scientists contend human travel to Mars could happen much more quickly and cheaply if the missions are made one-way. They argue that it would be little different from early settlers to North America, who left Europe with little expectation of return. 'The main point is to get Mars exploration moving,' said Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University, who wrote the article in the latest Journal of Cosmology with Paul Davies of Arizona State University. The colleagues state — in one of 55 articles in the issue devoted to exploring Mars — that humans must begin colonizing another planet as a hedge against a catastrophe on Earth."
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Scientists Propose One-Way Trips To Mars

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  • by cronco (1435465) on Monday November 15, 2010 @12:07PM (#34232078)
    They had to spend months with only what drinkable water they could carry, which was at that time as daunting as it is now to carry the fuel(energy) needed to get to Mars
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday November 15, 2010 @12:10PM (#34232154) Homepage Journal
    Well, if sending LIVE people...is this voluntary, or can we vote who goes to Mars one way.

    Frankly, I've got a LOT of politicians in mind that I'd happily vote off the planet!!

    :)

    But seriously, if nothing else, why not take volunteers from people on death row, that were sufficiently intelligent? Go through training, go to Mars, stay there and you get to live.

    I figure some of them might take the choice, and we'd be solving a few problems at once that way...

  • by sick_soul (794596) on Monday November 15, 2010 @12:15PM (#34232244)

    hey I am not in a death row, and I would volunteer. I am already well trained for that mission.
    If they provide enough resources for a lifetime, I would not feel more alone on Mars than right now here among billions of people who do not give a shit about me.

  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @12:32PM (#34232478) Journal

    Any settlers to Mars would need certain things provided to them, regularly, for the foreseeable future (at least a year or two):

    * air
    * food
    * water

    There's no technical reason not to launch all the equipment the settlers would need to be self sufficient in those areas all at once in a Project Orion [wikipedia.org] vehicle.

  • Re:Unfortunately... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sznupi (719324) on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:19PM (#34233200) Homepage

    At most, very, very few people would be able to be transported to Mars - meaning that neither I nor any of my direct descendants are very likely to personally benefit.

    That's actually not so clear - most recent common ancestor of us all lived most likely in historical times; and when limiting to "...of people of European descent", probably only a millennium ago. With the level of travel and intermixing nowadays, that will probably shorten significantly in the coming centuries.

    How much do "direct descendants" even matter? Do we care about our direct ancestors? (can you tell me, without checking, when and in what city your grandfather from the side of your mother was born? What was the maiden name of your grandmother on the side of your father? Or something as basic about your great-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandmother (from the side of your mother, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-g-grandmother, g-g-g-grandmother, 4g-grandfather, 5g-grandmother, 6g-grandfather) as the continent on which she lived, century in which she lived, lifespan to the nearest decade, or linguistic family? Even if that information is somewhere - do you care to remember?). Too bad we can't recognize our relative insignificance as individuals... (estimates put the number of dead homo sapiens at 100+ billion; and, averaging, we don't even keep track of practically anybody who is actually living)

    Yes, we can't - what you said will of course mostly remain to be the case (emotional level, et al). But there are perhaps ways to exploit it, and for good results: embryo colonization (or even egg & sperm) - that way we can send millions of people to Mars even almost right now (living colonists will need genetic diversity anyway). Of course, some prevalent "moralities" might get in the way of that approach...

    (that said, I do agree how, except for cataclysms in which Mars probably wouldn't make a difference anyway, efforts to survive on Earth would be almost always much more efficient. And luckily colonies need to "only" achieve self-sufficiency...)

  • I'll go. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RMingin (985478) on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:24PM (#34233298) Homepage
    Send me, a half dozen inflatable greenhouses, enough plants to eat/breathe from, and some quonset-type buriable shelters. I'll be standing by for any other stuff you'd like done, can get a lot more science done than a rover, and will be happy to have my paycheck handed over to my wife and kids here. Of course, if you end up sending along my wife and kids, and some other folks, I'll plant a flag, declare independence, and do my best to sieze the planet as soon as I'm self-sufficient.
  • Re:Terraform! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NatasRevol (731260) on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:40PM (#34233574) Journal

    Here's a question. Why haven't we already sent large pods of photosynthesizing/oxygen producing bacteria or rugged desert plants to at least see if it's feasible.

    Who's it going to hurt?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @01:46PM (#34233666)

    Anyone with an objective viewpoint can see in today's Austrailian society that it did NOT work out so well.

    Anyone want to ban GTA V while promoting a social environment that is only at it's apex of potential when no fewer than 85 drunken pub brawls occur simultaenesouly throughout any given metro area?

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:55PM (#34234740)

    And what if an asteroid does it?

  • by Americano (920576) on Monday November 15, 2010 @04:23PM (#34235810)

    The reality is there are many people who would leap at the chance to be the first settlers on Mars - certainly thousands, and possibly many more.

    That's fine, but how many of those "certainly thousands" are *actually qualified* - physically, mentally, and psychologically, to be a Mars settler?

    I get a strong impression that most people saying "I'd do it" are (choose one or more):

    1) Ridiculously naive about the hardships and privations it would involve, and the physical and psychological stress that would place them under; Look at the death rates, disease, and physical hardships endured by colonists in North America when they arrived, and then consider that they had breathable atmosphere, arable land, many sources of water, and natives there before them who were disposed to trade and interaction, and that they arrived primarily as farmers and laborers, which don't require multiple PhD's and an extra 10-20 years of research & training to become an "expert" in.

    2) Woefully underprepared physically - a lifetime of reading sci fi novels and hacking open source doesn't necessarily translate to surviving and thriving in a harsh physical environment which demands peak physical conditioning; Not all geeks are out of shape, but a good portion of them are due to an overwhelmingly sedentary lifestyle.

    3) Psychologically incapable of understanding the stresses because they view martian colonization as some sort of fun "getaway" from all the "stupid people" back here on earth. Being a "loner" who hates other people is not a plus in cramped quarters where you will have NO privacy, and be unable to survive without relying on MANY other colonists, who in turn must rely on you. There is a difference between being "self sufficient" and being a misanthrope. I suspect a lot of the people chiming in saying "I'd volunteer" fit more closely into the second category, making their psychological state suspect at best for an endeavor of this sort.

    Of the thousands that were interested in volunteering, I'd be surprised if more than a handful were able to pass the requisite physical & psychological tests, and had the mental acuity & training to be of much help. Going to colonize the new world, you could take people along as farmhands. Going to Mars, even your "farmhands" need PhDs. And let's not forget that to make this colony "viable" as anything other than a death sentence, you need women, and you need to be able to have (conceive, deliver, care for, and raise) children, too. Otherwise, you'll end up with a rapidly aging population (stress and hardship do harsh things to a body) with nobody to replace them, resulting in a geriatric colony unless you commit to: supplying them constantly with new members, and (hopefully) shipping injured/sick/too-old-to-be-helpful people back to earth - I say hopefully, because the other option would be to implement a death penalty when they become too much of a drain on the colony to support.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @04:54PM (#34236126)

    In North America as well. According to wikipedia, about 50,000 convicts were sent there during the 18th century, Australia was used only after the US gained independence.

  • Re:Sign me up! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:04PM (#34238204)

    Heck, I did a stint in the Navy. It's not like those ships aren't out at sea for 6 months at a time. Where you're bunking in really tight quarters, and not necessarily with people that you got along with. And no, I'm not talking about the cushy officer's quarders, I'm talking enlisted. Where you crawl out of your coffin-spaced rack and if not careful you're stepping on somebody.

    Oh yeah, don't forget - a long trip in space probably requires some drills. In part to break up the routine, but also so you're ready in case shit really does happen. All it would take is a fire or micrometeorite to make you realize the voyage isn't entirely a pleasure cruise. For that reason, it's not all going to be sitting back and watching the stars go by. But so you don't get too stressed out by an interrupted sleep schedule, I suppose the pacing would be something like once every two weeks.

    Anyhow, once finally on Mars there's opportunity to have a lot of space of your own. In that regard, it's much better than the Navy. Hell, I doubt one has to be too much of a scientist to build some kind of sealed perimeter foundation, mount an inflatable dome to that, put up some solar panels in addition to running lines from a reactor for power, find your water source, get the O2 generator online, get the compressors working, and once you have one atmosphere and heat inside a dome, it's just a matter of treating the soil inside it with various bacteria, and taking a stab at growing things. (And not forgetting to bring along some earth soil, just in case.) If you're alright at growing plants using Mars' own CO2, not only do you have extra food but now you can put the O2 generator on standby, etc. Might also be good to do some aquaculture and farming tilapia or doing something like growing mushrooms, because for most people just eating only veggies would get old really quick. And while those things take their time, go driving around in a rover and collecting rocks and finding water. From the looks of things, a lot of this Mars work is actually suited more to a general technician with a half decent mechanical aptitude. Other than the locale, it's really something that wouldn't seem all too strange for a farmhand or a factory maintenance worker. Should a PhD be necessary? The majority of tasks are busy work to keep things up, and perhaps various construction and excavation tasks for further settlement. If your main thing on Earth was writing theses and not turning a wrench, you're probably going to suck at keeping yourself alive. All the science stuff can be done by occasionally following instructions in email and sending pics and lab results back home. Even if you were a lazy-ass on that part, you could still accomplish 100x of what a rover could.

    I don't really have any plans for having kids and dealing with all that, but damn, my physical health probably isn't up to it at this point in life. If it wasn't for that, I'd readily throw my hat in the ring for such a crazy job. That's what I get for enjoying sitting at a computer too much.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:54PM (#34238842)
    Transfering between Mars and Earth orbit is actually quite a low energy trip, if you are prepared to take a long time like a year or two.

    The solution is simple.

    Send equipment and infrastructre their in long slow ships, perhaps using spent rocket boosters to hold it all. Aero brake into the atmosphere and park it at a landing site.

    Send canned primates there fast in a very small minimal ship. Perhaps even no bigger than an Apollo capsule, just punch it up to high speed with technology in reach like a plasma rocket. 14-25 days to Mars anyone?

All the simple programs have been written.

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