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Mars NASA Space Science

NASA Looking For Ideas To Explore Mars 176

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-little-help-here dept.
ZeroExistenZ writes "NASA plans to make another trip to Mars in 2018 for which they want to devise a plan by this summer. To come up with ideas for this mission, they turn to the public to tackle a few challenge areas. Participants must submit a brief abstract (no more than two pages) outlining the idea, and indicating in which of the topical areas the idea belongs. Abstracts are due no later than 5:00 p.m. U.S. Central Daylight Time May 10, 2012."
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NASA Looking For Ideas To Explore Mars

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  • by Haxagon (2454432) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @05:47PM (#39696055)

    ... they need to stop thinking in a round-trip paradigm. We would be able to get a lot more accomplished, a lot quicker, if we drew upon the pool of astronauts and possible-astronauts who are willing to do a long-term mission in the name of science.
    Pour as much money as they can into psychological screenings and legal documents making sure that they are absolutely not liable, and send them off. The real reason we've stayed on Earth and its orbiting bodies is that we've concentrated too much on packing enough fuel with them for a round-trip, and not enough on finding ways to allow Humans to live indefinitely in enclosed Martian settlements. The current model of "go to star, get data, come home, instant hero" is just not feasible for meaningful space travel beyond what we have today.

  • Step by step. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday April 15, 2012 @06:12PM (#39696193)

    1. A cheap way to launch supplies into Earth orbit. No people will be shipped this way so even a huge cannon would be good.

    2. Prep the supplies from #1 in orbit (need a space station or shuttle for this) and use cheap, slow engines to get them to Mars.

    3. The supplies enter Mars orbit and stay there until they are signalled from the ground to come down.

    Keep up a steady stream and roll any improvements into the system and you should be able to supply a mission for however long you want to keep them alive.

    Getting them back to Earth will be a problem.
    Are there any volunteers for a one-way mission?
    At least until they can assemble their own launch pad to get their people back into orbit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, 2012 @06:40PM (#39696317)

    It's a good idea, but in terms of price per euthanasia it's just not cost effective.

    Aside from that, the elderly could be great astronauts. It'll be a long voyage to Mars and back and the elderly would have the wisdom and the coping skills for such a long, monotonous, and boring trip. And logistically, they're a better pick: they need as much food to support their bodies.

    And considering the danger involved, well I think most elderly people I know have come to peace with the idea that they don't have much longer. In addition, I think we don't give old people enough credit and in turn it creates a self fulfilling prophecy of decline. Why should one keep oneself up if you're going to be cast away? We're no longer a hunter gatherer or agrarian or industrialized society where a strong back is needed most of all.

    Patience and wisdom would be quite a value on a long monotonous space mission.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @06:43PM (#39696347) Journal

    Fuel for a return trip is mostly an excuse. You just need to do the return trip in two hops: bring enough fuel in the lander to get yourself to orbit, then dock with a giant tanker that carries enough fuel for the rest of the trip. Mars gravity is only about twice that of the Moon, and we got a lander into lunar orbit over fifty years ago, so I can't imagine a Mars ascent being that much of a leap.

    The harder part is actually landing a pod big enough to provide long-term living quarters. You could probably do it with inflatable buildings and large air compressors, but you'd still need a supplemental oxygen supply and either a steady supply of food and oxygen or a means of producing your own.

    The ideal solution would require landing somewhere with water ice. Water can provide oxygen by electrolysis. Sure, there are other ways to get oxygen (using CO2 electrolysis, for example), but that won't provide them with the water they'll need for other things like cooking, bathing, etc., so landing somewhere with an ample supply of water would be a big plus.

    So combine some very powerful air compressors with oxygen generators, lots of heating coils, some inflatable buildings, some disassembled airtight greenhouses, two or three shipments containing large, rolled-up solar panel sheets, etc. and it might actually be feasible to create a long-term habitat on Mars for not a lot more than the cost of a few rover missions. Remember to provide at least three of everything so that they won't be screwed if one of them doesn't work, preferably in separate bundles within reasonable walking distance of a single drop zone. Then provide a small lander with enough reserve oxygen and power to last them a month or two just in case it takes them longer than expected to get things set up.

  • Why bother (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @06:50PM (#39696385)
    We'll sit back and let other countries do it. We're done with space exploration.

    And spare me the Spacex stuff. Unless they are immune from liability, and bankruptcy. A few mishaps, some dead space tourists, and we're permanently grounded.

  • This is nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shiftless (410350) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @07:15PM (#39696553) Homepage

    Why should anyone waste their time sending NASA anything? We already have enough goddamn ideas already. What we need now is someone to put them into action, not more meetings to plan more meetings.

  • Re:Send criminals (Score:4, Interesting)

    by garlicbready (846542) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @07:47PM (#39696721)

    Or how about Mars big brother
    it should be fun to watch the 'astronauts' or contestants slowly lose they're sanity while trapped in a metal can on the way to mars
    being watched on camera everywhere they go
    of course you'd have to dedicate a large chunk of the craft to the cameras and the big chair
    and to keep those supplies coming, we need ratings
    send a couple of bots called Huey Dewey And Louie (see Silent running), or for a bit more deranged fun how about that bot from Saturn 3

  • Re:Step by step. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday April 16, 2012 @12:05AM (#39697813)

    Step one is a VanNeuman machine. Go ahead and dream, but realize that it's tougher then you think. Historically, it took lathes and surface grinders to build mills and rotary grinders, if that helps your thinking. All those presuppose metal mining, refining, casting, heat treating etc etc. I'd pre-assume cutting tools and the like come from earth.

    You might also get some real world manufacturing experience. Check that, it would contaminate your purity. Maker bots can do anything or will be able to soon.

    I think they need to start with metal processing in space: In the asteroid belt, using robotic vacuum processes, large reflectors and solar sail powered tugs (that pre-heat the ore asteroids on the way to the metal sputtering sight. Useless on earth; start with mission one. Purpose: capture a nickle iron asteroid with solar sail probe and heat using sail, optional: melt it. Final option. Blow a bubble with it. Second final option: Sputter a beam onto a thin wire starter, see how long you can get it to grow, continuous process, feeding out the wire. Hot metal plus solar wind should sputter. Might have to be very hot metal.

    Then again I might want to get some real world space experience. Check that...

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