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Mars Government NASA Science

Next Mars Mission Selected For Funding 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-deck dept.
First time accepted submitter Dr Bip writes "Flush with the good news coming from Mars, NASA has announced that JPL has won funding for the next mission to Mars. It seems that the lander will be carrying a self-driving mole developed by the German space agency (DLR). Commiserations to the two other projects that were also in the selection finale (TiME and CHopper). Note the DLR mole's last attempt to get to Mars was with the Beagle 2 lander, fingers crossed for this second attempt."
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Next Mars Mission Selected For Funding

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  • by drcheap (1897540) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:02PM (#41060451) Journal
  • by xynopsis (224788) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:03PM (#41060475)

    ...but insanely exciting missions: a robotic boat that would have floated on a methane lake on Saturn’s moon Titan and a comet explorer. I would prefer the robotic boat. You never know what lurks beneath those lakes (TMAs?). This is unfortunate though. Seems NASA has mastered the technical hurdles of Mars but rested on its laurels instead, sticking to tried and true approaches.

    • by SomePgmr (2021234)

      I think it's safe to assume every mission to Mars is pretty complicated and risky. And while I agree that the boat idea for Titan sounds really interesting, I'm sure there's plenty of useful work for the mission that was approved.

      • After Columbia broke apart in 2003, the vision for space exploration laid out a plan for Mars. Two of the precursors before a manned landing was a large rover, which ended up being Curiosity, and the next mission being a drill mission, this one. Each step relies on the last, and so far we are right on track.

        Titan is great, and will still be there in 20 years, but we can't do everything at once. Space Exploration doesn't move at the same speed as things such as memory density. We are pushing our boundaries
    • by mark_elf (2009518)

      Agreed! Titan deserves another mission, Cassini-Huygens has been amazing. On the other hand, they have to follow the money or cease to exist. Mars is big right now so it was probably a marketing decision. The fact is, we should be doing all three missions.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        What we need to do is, start engineering up the tech to go to Titan to take a look in person. Yeah, it's a couple decades down the road, but no reason why we can't start drawing on the cocktail napkins now to figure out what we might need...
        • by mark_elf (2009518) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:42PM (#41061043)

          Personally I'm less certain that people need to go to these places. Kind of a stunt, right? Because we have such great imaging and 'bots now.

          My friend works at JPL, he told me Carl Sagan once gave a talk to the staff there and basically said as much... No we don't need to send people there, but enthusiasm over manned space flight is what pays for all these robotic science missions.

          Either way, we need better propulsion systems. If we're sending people, we need better toilets.

          • by Nethead (1563)

            And for those that missed the toilet humor check out Packing For Mars [amazon.com] by Mary Roach. A very excellent book on the nitty gritty of space travel.

    • by BenJury (977929)

      Seems NASA has mastered the technical hurdles of Mars but rested on its laurels instead, sticking to tried and true approaches.

      Think you might be underestimating the task somewhat! I'd still say shooting something that size from this plannet and getting it to the ground safley is a big ask!

    • Completely agree, Titan is extremely interesting. The problem is that government funding systems have a way of rejecting higher risk projects, even if they are higher payoff.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:15PM (#41062239) Homepage

      ...but insanely exciting missions: a robotic boat that would have floated on a methane lake on Saturnâ(TM)s moon Titan

      A Titanic boat? They should name it "The Unsinkable" and fund it by selling the movie rights to Hollywood.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      OMG. Wrong in many ways. Decelerating via heat shield, then a super sonic parachute, then the sky crane?
      Resting on laurels? They get 0.5% of the GDP, almost nothing and they did this and more.

      Titan is much farther away, the delay between order and response is huge. Dependence on a form of AI, that does not exist, materials to handle the temp and pressures that could handle the liquid methane have to be developed. Much more expensive a project and WAY to far into science fiction.

    • by petsounds (593538) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:34PM (#41063581)

      I too am very disappointed in NASA's decision to send yet another mission to Mars with our tax dollars. And not even a rover, but a stationary lander that has no applicable benefit to a future manned mission. I'm sure planetary geologists are excited and detecting Mars-quakes is kinda cool, but ultimately InSight checks very few boxes.

      By contrast, TiME (Titan Mare Explorer), the Titan mission to land on a methane sea, checks many boxes:
      * Only the second mission to this highly-fascinating moon we know very little about
      * Would be the first human craft to land on the ocean of another world
      * Taking pictures of said ocean... enough said
      * Determine the chemistry and other properties of Titan's oceans. Study the meteorology of the local atmosphere. We know very little about this.
      * TiME was set to test a new, more efficient type of RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator), as solar panels are not feasible on Titan. Testing new tech is IMO a high priority for the low-budget Discovery missions.
      * Due to its use of a RTG, TiME should have enough power to continue operating for at least 14 years. A very cost-effective investment of public funds.
      * All of the above add up to huge emotional interest by the public, which is vital for any NASA mission given the funding situation.

      Comparing these two missions, I find it baffling that NASA administrators chose the Mars mission. I find it hard to believe there was political or internal bias towards InSight. It's almost like NASA has forgotten there are other worlds (and IMO more interesting ones) to explore in the solar system. With the dry-up of NASA funds, I feel it is very inappropriate of them to put all their planetary chips on Mars. They've missed an important chance for exploration here. And I can't imagine any Joe or Jane Taxpayer being excited about InSight.

      P.S. -- TiME could not actually be considered a boat. It has no propulsion device; instead, it is designed to float around a Titan sea. Any motion through the sea would be due to ocean waves or Titan winds.

      • This, a million times this. I am very disappointed TiME was not selected. Hopefully there will be a 'next time' for Titan.

        BTW TiME would have had a 'mast' with sensors, that in effect would have acted to some degree as a sail. NASA had gone so far as to model the winds over Titan's seas, primarily to see if the vessel could reasonably function there, but the possibility of using the mast to get some wind propulsion surely was being considered. So, a boat, yes.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Seems NASA has mastered the technical hurdles of Mars but rested on its laurels instead, sticking to tried and true approaches.

      Where do you get your "information" from? Your crack dealer?

      Tried and true?? The two small rovers landed in air bags, that had never been done before. How did you miss the "seven seconds of terror" when Curiosity landed? That thing came down attached to a rocket-propelled sky crane that had never been done before and was impossible to test, because Mars' gravity is lower and it has

  • Are they going to leave it up to the 'mericans (with a strong accent) & JPL to fly it this time?

  • That's nice, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by milbournosphere (1273186) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:04PM (#41060495)
    I had kind of been rooting for the Titan mission. It's far riskier, but would give us some valuable information about the ice and methane lakes on the moon, and some hope to find microbial life.
    • by uigrad_2000 (398500) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:10PM (#41060581) Homepage Journal

      Same here, minus the "kind of".

      Current theories are that the methane rain falls in giant (3 inch) droplets, but just gently floats down due to the increased atmosphere and lower gravity. I'm really hoping that we get more images of this truly alien world sometime within my lifetime.

      The TiME proposal seemed unusually inexpensive, and it pains me to think that it's not going to happen. As much as I dislike James Cameron's movies, I hope he suddenly gets an urge to pitch in some additional funding here :)

    • Yes, and the rover could have sent "I'm on a boat!" for its first message home.

  • Oh well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:08PM (#41060543) Journal

    I guess we'll never build base camp on the moon. It would be so much cheaper to send some 3D printers up there to melt some rocks and build and launch the next probes

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Aren't you supposed to send your mole to infiltrate them before you start firing your laser guns at them? [slashdot.org]

  • Cue pre-Glastnost spy-novel jokes in 3...2...1...

  • by dwywit (1109409) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:16PM (#41060661)

    Wasn't the self-driving mole one of Thunderbird 2's pod payloads? Carry on, then. International Rescue on standby.

    • You're correct. Unfortunately the Thunderbids were decommissioned and replaced by the World Police: Team America.
  • I'm tired of the European national programs. Why don't we go together with ESA. I know that every country want to get its money back and that ESA is a administrative mess, but let's try it. (ok I may be one of the few people dreaming of a really unified Europe (or better, World) on every subject)
    • by jamstar7 (694492) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:41PM (#41061017)

      I'm tired of the European national programs. Why don't we go together with ESA. I know that every country want to get its money back and that ESA is a administrative mess, but let's try it. (ok I may be one of the few people dreaming of a really unified Europe (or better, World) on every subject)

      Probably because ESA will want to lay off some of the costs on NASA, and NASA will get defunded because of the ESA investment. It's happened before, it'll happen continually. Same thing with a UN-funded space program. Lotta people want it, nobody wants to fund it, so it'll never happen.

  • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:40PM (#41060999) Journal

    I remember the original viking landings and had one of the first Carl Sagan book afterwards with pictures from Mars (Cosmos). At that time it was abso-fucking-lutely mindblowing to have actual pictures from the surface of another planet (moon not included). I remember those pictures had a much stronger orange-pink colour to the sky because of the atmospheric gas composition.

    Now the new pictures aren't showing a blue earth sky or anything, but they do seem to be less drastic than the old viking pictures. They are also orders of magnetude better pictures of course. But are these also better in terms of colour correctness or have they been altered for some reason. i.e. is this really what things look like on the surface?

    That aside, the pictures are so mind numbingly crisp and high resolution that you can't help but think it was taken by someone in some desert here on Earth and photoshopped. I don't think it is a conspiracy at all. It's just that the pictures are so clear you can almsot feel like you can go there and take a look at the rover doing it's thing. Except for the 45 million mile thing. It is somewhat disconcerting.

    • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:38PM (#41061767) Journal
      There are generally two types of images that you'll see in the news, the non-white-balanced and the white-balanced images.
      eg non white balanced:
      http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/?ImageID=4431
      white balanced:
      http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/?ImageID=4429

      The white balance information comes from taking pictures of a color calibration pattern on the rover. The new pictures are less drastic because of this, and they HAVE been altered to allow geologists to better study the environment.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      From what I remember, Viking had various color filters on the camera and a color correction table on the side of the lander which could be used to correct them (i.e. it had known colors for the camera to record so the pictures could be fixed on Earth). So you may have seen uncorrected pictures with colors direct from the camera.

    • by zmooc (33175)

      This is a good read about the colors of Mars:

      http://www.donaldedavis.com/PARTS/MARSCLRS.html [donaldedavis.com]

      So is this one:

      http://www.thelivingmoon.com/43ancients/02files/Mars_Blue_Bird_Color_01.html [thelivingmoon.com]

      I remember those pictures had a much stronger orange-pink colour to the sky because of the atmospheric gas composition.

      While sometimes they turn a bit reddish/yellow/orange due to dust clouds, the skies on Mars are about as blue as those on earth, albeit a bit darker since the sun is less intense. In general, it would be pretty

  • Time to start looking for another planet. Great success there on Mars time to take another leap for mankind and land on something more interesting.

  • From TFA, "heart-stopping" is the perfect way to describe the sky-crane. It was all over so fast and left a great sense of awe.
  • Boooooooorrrrrring.
  • It just looks like they'll be able to fund only two new ones the rest of the decade rather than the half dozen they hoped for. Both political parties want to cut NASA further, for different reasons.
  • Drill, baby, drill!

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