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Getting the Latest Rover To Mars 191

Posted by timothy
from the ftd-take-note dept.
derGoldstein writes "New Scientist has a great video up detailing every step of how the latest Mars rover will reach its target and get deployed. It's drastically different than the bouncing air-bag delivery system previously used (YouTube video)."
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Getting the Latest Rover To Mars

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  • Awe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spigot the Bear (2318678) on Monday July 25, 2011 @03:33AM (#36868282)
    I am in absolute awe after watching the video about the new rover. As people bicker over whether NASA's miniscule budget is worth it, because "space isn't important", it's nice that NASA can still bring out that child-like wonder in me. How can you not be amazed that we can send a robot like this to another planet, land it safely with precision, and study the composition of the planet from millions of miles away? Isn't that awe worth a few billion dollars a year, even if "it doesn't benefit me"?

    (Also, it has a laser tricorder. I mean, come on.)
  • Re:The Moon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Monday July 25, 2011 @07:31AM (#36869082) Homepage

    The only permanent, extra-terrestrial life-supporting, man-made object is the ISS. That needed 14 years of construction (predicted to last only about 14 more once it's finished), needed the Americans, Soviets, Europeans and Japanese to all abandon their individual projects and concentrate on only that, costs about 100bn Euros, and is 200 miles away.

    The Moon is 200,000 miles away. Mars is 150,000,000 miles away.

    There will be no short-term supply trips to give people several years worth of food (i.e. the time until we can send a "real" supply) - hell, food would constitute the vast majority of their payload because you won't be growing anything self-sustainable on the Moon/Mars for at least a year even under ideal "Earth-like" conditions simulated inside some kind of greenhouse (it's called farming - plant stuff, wait a year, eat it).

    There's a hell of a lot less heat and you're going to be constantly pumping heat into a cold void in order to keep things at room temperature (considering we can just about rustle-up a handful of watts for the Mars rovers, or a couple of hundred for the new ones using radioactive materials, your heating bill is going to be... well... astronomical). We just about managed it for a handful of days in the past, for just spacesuits. The Apollo astronauts barely stayed a day.

    There will be a bit more than the ISS's 10 major incidents in that time (not counting the VASTLY increased chances of problems with the travel outside the Earth's influence, landing and living on another rock that we can barely keep a rover running on) and no backup to send spare parts within weeks like we've done with the ISS.

    Just think about the first few days - if you don't manage to ship enough stuff and people to build a air-tight shelter against the dust storms, warm enough to keep a human happy, pumped full of oxygen, large enough to hold decent amount of food, people and living space, in one of the most hostile environments that humans would ever have set foot upon, you're dead before you even start. That's assuming those humans even make it there - most of the stuff we've sent to orbit Mars hasn't made it at all or lasted anywhere near it's planned lifetime - the exceptions don't bring up the averages much.

    Humans are literally two-three days away from death at any time. Rovers can live for decades and we can send 100 of them for the cost of one man (just in a single mission, if we so wanted). It was estimated recently that Apollo cost $170bn (adjusted for today) for a handful of people to walk on the moon for a day. The Mars rovers cost US$820 million originally, nearly $1bn with all the extensions. Curiosity costs about $3bn. That entire program cost less than 1-2% of the cost of putting a couple of men on the Moon for only a day.

    Humans aren't built for travel. Wherever we go we have to take Earth with us. And that, quite literally, costs the Earth each time.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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