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Mars NASA Science

Mars Mission Back In the Cards After Budget Cuts 146

Posted by Soulskill
from the dependent-on-the-success-of-john-carter dept.
ananyo writes "NASA has said it will re-design its Mars exploration program, and that the new architecture would include input — and money — from the human program as well as the space technology division. Orlando Figueroa, the former deputy director for space and technology at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is to head up a seven or eight person committee, and to start developing mission concepts in the next month. One of those concepts would be a possible $700 million mission launching in 2018. The news offers a grain of comfort to a community still reeling from massive cuts to the Mars program."
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Mars Mission Back In the Cards After Budget Cuts

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  • 700 million? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:22PM (#39188113)

    A single shuttle launch costs that much, in today's dollars.

    Seriously, guys?

  • Give it a rest (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:38PM (#39188297) Journal

    Until we have an established moon base, we shouldn't even attempt Mars.
    Consider:

    • Gravity is similar.
    • Atmosphere is similar (0 vs 0.006bar)
    • Radiation exposure is similar

    So just shine an orange light on the moon and call it Mars.
    The moon is better anyway

    • Closer, safer, cheaper
    • We could actually mine the moon for trace elements
  • One way Mars mission (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:42PM (#39188335)

    One way I've read several times to cut the cost of a human Mars mission is to make it a one-way mission.

    Take away the expectation of returning- you save a bunch of costs associated with returning. Naturally- not everyone would want a one-way ticket to mars but there are lots of people who would.

    Naturally, the technicality is you have to find some way to make them able to live there long term. Mars has lots of natural resources and tecnically could be self-supporting- but this could be complicated.

    Those first people who go would have the mission of making the planet ready for the next wave of scientists. I think we should set our sites on a one way mission rather than bite off more than we can chew with our first mission to mars.

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:47PM (#39188397)
    Stop building a brand new probe each time you want you carry a new instrument to Mars, Venus or some asteroid. Just make a design that fits most needs and build a dozen of them. Launch four at a time or a dozen to cut down on launch costs. Smaller probes like Hayabusa or Smart-1 are quite effective and light enough that you could easily put a dozen of them into space using a single Delta IV or Ariane 5 launch. Even the mars rovers like Spirit and Opportunity wouldn't need a dedicated Delta II launch each, four or five could be launched at a time. Sure, instrument choice will be limited, but so will be the price and effort of building it and sending it to space.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:17PM (#39188761)

    What's not mentioned in the article is that the plan is to save Mars exploration by gutting outer planets research. If you wanted to know more about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Europa, Io, Titan, Enceladus, Triton, the Kuiper belt, or anything else, forget it. Because of the long travel time, scrapping the projects currently being planned may mean you won't hear anything new about those places for decades.

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:18PM (#39188771)

    A recent discovery of long term space exploration is that being in low gravity for too long literally folds parts of your eye. Causing astronauts who spend too much time up in space to have permanent vision changes that leave them very far-sighted and required to wear reading glasses. Just six months in low gravity was enough for major changes in vision.

    Imagine a missions to Mars that takes six months just one way? These astronauts would be blind under our current understanding of how space travel affects sight by the time that they came back.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/20/nation/la-na-blind-nasa-astronaut-20110921 [latimes.com]

    "What we are seeing is flattening of the globe, swelling of the optic nerve, a far-sighted shift, and choroidal folds," said Dr. C. Robert Gibson, one of authors of the study published in the October 2011 issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "We think it is intracranial pressure related, but we're not sure; it could also be due to an increase in pressure along the optic nerve itself or some kind of localized change to the back of the eyeball."

    The study identified new risks for those who live in space for at least six months. Blurred vision was the primary issue reported by the seven astronaut test subjects.

    "After a few weeks aboard the [station]," said Astronaut Bob Thirsk, a Canadian Space Agency physician who spent six months as a member of the Expedition 20 and 21 crews in 2007, "I noticed that my visual acuity had changed. My distant vision was not too bad, but I found that it was more difficult to read procedures. I also had trouble manually focusing cameras, so I would ask a crewmate to verify my focus setting on critical experiments."

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/Astronaut_Vision.html [nasa.gov]

    The way I see it is that there are two options. The first one is we only send replicants to Mars or more unmanned flights. The other is that NASA gets some awesome new understanding of vision loss or develops technology to overcome vision loss. Either way this would be quite the benefit for society if NASA can develop some new things to combat vision loss.

  • by Feyshtey (1523799) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:27PM (#39188887)
    But by God we can spend :
    $120 million in retirement and disability benefits to federal employees who have died
    $30 million to help Pakistani Mango farmers
    $550,000 for a documentary about how rock music contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union
    $10 million for a remake of “Sesame Street” for Pakistan
    $764,825 to examine how college students use mobile devices for social networking.
    $113,227 for a video game preservation center in New York
    $765,828 to subsidize a “pancakes for yuppies” program in Washington, D.C.
    $100,000 for a celebrity chef show in Indonesia
    $175,587 for a study on the link between cocaine and the mating habits of quail
    $606,000 for a study about online dating$17.80 Million in Foreign Aid to China – (Department of State & U.S. Agency for International Development)
    The Super-Bridge to Nowhere – (Alaska) $15.3 Million

    This is of course just a fraction of the stupidity.

    Personally, I'd rather send an unmanned mission to Mars.
  • Re:Give it a rest (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hartree (191324) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:33PM (#39188979)

    The big problem with learning how to run a planetary base at Mars is the minimum 6 month trip if something goes wrong.

    The moon is two days away and doesn't have a return window only at certain parts of the planetary orbits.

    So either abandoning it for safety reasons, medivac, or sending up emergency supplies/repair parts, etc is much quicker on the moon.

    But, this argument has been gone through many times. Most often with needlessly heated rhetoric on both sides.

    Though I'm more for a return to the moon, the answer that I'd be delighted with is: Do either of them, but actually DO IT.

    Don't make grand political statements, and then stretch out the program with anemic funding and mismanagement until it gets shut down. We've all seen that way too many times.

  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @05:17PM (#39189513)
    Why not just use corporate sponsors. Apple alone could donate almost $1 Billion by just donating 1%of its cash reserves alone.

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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