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U.S. House Wants 'Sustained Human Presence On the Moon and the Surface of Mars' 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-had-them-read-kim-stanley-robinson dept.
MarkWhittington writes "Politico reports in a June 18, 2013 story that House Republicans have added a Mars base to its demands for a lunar base in the draft 2013 NASA Authorization bill. Both the Bush-era Constellation program and President Obama space plan envisioned eventual human expeditions to Mars. But if Politico is correct, the new bill will be the first time an official piece of legislation will call for permanent habitation of the Red Planet. The actual legislative language states, 'The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars.'"
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U.S. House Wants 'Sustained Human Presence On the Moon and the Surface of Mars'

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  • by Uniquitous (1037394) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:07PM (#44052851)
    The moon, Mars, deep space... just get them off this planet and out of our hair ASAP.
  • Unfunded mandate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:07PM (#44052861) Homepage Journal
    I don't suppose the house is planning to actually pay for the enormous expense of putting a permanent human colony on a different planet? They just want NASA to stop everything else that they're doing and start making manned Mars rockets? Is it any wonder NASA struggles with long term projects, with Congress meddling every year with crazy ideas and budget uncertainty?
    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:11PM (#44052899)

      I'm surprised the House admits to the existence of Mars and the Moon as separate bodies in space rather than being lights in a crystal sphere around the Earth.

    • by tpjunkie (911544) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:18PM (#44053001) Journal
      Not only that, but the funding level for NASA is actually lowered by 5% to boot. I suppose no one should be surprised that the people who seem to have difficulty with science also have difficulties with math. Unless they think going to Mars is going to be a cheap proposition.
      • It all makes sense really. Since the Apollo landing, computer generated graphics have come a long way. It should not be hard nor expensive to "travel" to the Moon and Mars, Hollywood style. Would make an excellent reality show, one that was more true to life than most of them on the small screen these days. Hell, NASA could even make money from this. Works for Industrial Light and Magic, doesn't it?

        You people are too literal sometimes.

      • by emil (695) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @04:22PM (#44053709) Homepage

        Since the planet does not have a strong magnetic field, the surface is lethal [wikipedia.org].

        The Earth is largely protected from the solar wind, a stream of energetic charged particles emanating from the Sun, by its magnetic field, which deflects most of the charged particles. These particles would strip away the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. Calculations of the loss of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere of Mars, resulting from scavenging of ions by the solar wind, are consistent with a near-total loss of its atmosphere since the magnetic field of Mars dissipated.

        As has been discussed elsewhere, at the time of arrival on Mars a person would already have received a lifetime's radiation dose.

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @05:03PM (#44054055) Homepage Journal

          Since the planet does not have a strong magnetic field, the surface is lethal.

          Sure, if you're naked. But that's true anyway since it doesn't have an atmosphere worth mentioning, unless you're mentioning dust storms.

          As has been discussed elsewhere, at the time of arrival on Mars a person would already have received a lifetime's radiation dose.

          As has been discussed elsewhere, that assumes using an existing space vehicle design, with jack for shielding. But since you'll need to take water with you in order to bootstrap the mission, you can use it for shielding.

      • This is the natural consequence of the recent finding that there was running water on Mars, which gives a strong clue that there's still lots of it around. Anybody who reads sci-fi knows that water is like the oil of the solar system, so it's only natural that the USG will want to occupy the land.

    • It doesn't say they're putting a permanent human colony on a different planet.

      It says establish a program to develop. All they actually have to do is establish a program that's intended to develop such a program that will theoretically result in such a colony way off in the nebulous future. I can see that being done on not much money. Actually succeeding, of course, will require that enormous expense.

    • Of course not. They get the headlines by telling someone to do it, but don't want to have it said that they increased funding. Unless it can be linked to beating the terrorists. Then we'd be there next year.
    • by kermidge (2221646)

      This isn't so much about the Moon and Mars as it is keeping some monies flowing into the hands of the several major aerospace consortiums. On the plus side, a number of talented, skilled people will be kept on the payroll, else all their expertise essentially vanish without handover. NASA itself will not see worthwhile funding to do little more than continual studies and reviews. Meanwhile it plays well to the constituencies and lets a few of more deluded stroke their egos.

    • Yes, they want to rob from the highly successful unmanned missions to pay for the Houston manned missions which have been highly unsuccessful if you count astronaut deaths as non successful.
    • by gtall (79522)

      You give the House not enough credit, or I should say the Republicans on the Science and Tech committee. The chairman is a bible thumping Sauropod from the Jurassic Period. He want no effort in research for how humans are affecting the earth, nor does he want any naughty asteroid capture technology to be developed 'cause if the Big One has our name on its ass, then it is G-d's will and all "deserving" souls will be raptured. Yet, the Republicans thought he'd be perfect for a committee that effects how we sp

    • And yet you think Mr. Obama and his troop plans on paying for anything yet???
    • by tsotha (720379)
      Realistically there's no money for a major space project. We're running a trillion dollar deficit - the government has no way to pay the obligations it already has let alone new ones.
    • by Nyder (754090)

      I don't suppose the house is planning to actually pay for the enormous expense of putting a permanent human colony on a different planet? They just want NASA to stop everything else that they're doing and start making manned Mars rockets? Is it any wonder NASA struggles with long term projects, with Congress meddling every year with crazy ideas and budget uncertainty?

      If we pulled out of the middle east, stop spending so much money on military, (I know, long shot here), we'd have a nice chunk of money for NASA.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:12PM (#44052933) Homepage

    ...this is it. We've got drones on Mars already. They just don't fly yet.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:16PM (#44052975) Homepage Journal

    "Get your ass to Mars!"

  • Let's send the house (and senate) to live on the surface of the moon then and they'll finally have nothing left to distract them from doing their darn jobs! Then maybe something will get done in congress. Plus, Moon Congress sounds awesome.
  • Any astronaut would be crazy to do this. Congress would be just one internal squabble away from defunding the stream of resupply ships.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      you forget politicians have to do something when people get into an emotional snit over something; the miniscule amount of money spent on space will never impact the defense contract or entitlement spending so no worries for them.

      and,there will be no lack of qualified and able volunteers

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:26PM (#44053103) Homepage
    1. insist the US Postal Service implement pension funding 75 years into the future with no known revenue source to do so, as we cannot directly defund it. pretend companies like UPS and FedEx actually want to deliver bulk mail in place of the postal service but are in fact incumbered by its existence.
    2. insist NASA pursue permanent manned installations on the moon and mars despite the fact its orders of magnitude more expensive than current unmanned operations. pretend companies like SpaceX are somehow encumbered by the existence of NASA.
  • by steveha (103154) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:27PM (#44053113) Homepage

    I want to see mankind spread out into the solar system, and ideally I'd like to see the USA at the head of it all. So I'm not unsympathetic toward the idea.

    But I really want to see the space program get done correctly. So far, every trip to the moon has been via a single-use rocket, completely used up for the one trip. It made sense when we were trying to win a race, but it also meant we hadn't built out the infrastructure.

    The right way to do things: build a truly reusable space vehicle, often called a "space pickup truck". Proposed heavy lift vehicles are more like a "space moving van", and they will have their uses, but what we need more than anything else is a spacecraft that can fly and fly and fly some more with minimal maintenance.

    We want a craft that can fly to orbit, return, and then go again tomorrow. It might need some maintenance overnight but it should be as little as possible. The space shuttle needed man-centuries of work between flights... we can do far better than that.

    Single-stage would be ideal, but two-stage might be easier to get going... just make sure both stages are reusable and don't need too much maintenance. Cargo capacity need not be huge... it would be cheaper to fly things up in multiple small loads on a truly reusable craft, than to build, launch, and use up a single heavy-lift vehicle.

    Once we have the "space pickup truck" we need to build a transportation hub in Earth orbit. It would have emergency Earth return vehicles docked, would have lots of supplies (fuel, water, oxygen, food, etc.) and would have staff on board all the time.

    Once you have all the above? The moon becomes trivial. Build a "moon shuttle" that could be basically a couple of fuel tanks and engines bolted to a frame, with some sort of shielded crew compartment and a lunar lander docked to it. It need not be pretty and it need not be tough because it will never land anywhere.

    Ideally, also we should build a "space cannon" system that can shoot things into space. This would be the cheapest way to send up inert things like oxygen and fuel, or even dried food and tough electronics. And humans living in space will need serious radiation shielding... the cannon could possibly send up lots of shielding mass.

    Imagine how expensive it would be to deliver cargo from America to Australia if we had to do it by building a single-use cargo missile. With modern aircraft the dominating factor is fuel costs. If we could get space travel costs down to chiefly the cost of fuel that would be a massive reduction in costs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wow. Let me guess, you are under the age of, say 40? This is the entire arguement for the Space Shuttle that derailed proper space development for over 20 years. FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

      Cheap(er), reliable, modular, expendable life vehicles... Like what SpaceX is doing now.

      The rest of the ideas, like a proper transportation hub in orbit, and even to some extent a space cannon, make some sense. But realistically getting into earth orbit is easiest, fastest, and chea

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Wow. Let me guess, you are under the age of, say 40? This is the entire arguement for the Space Shuttle that derailed proper space development for over 20 years. FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

        Cheap(er), reliable, modular, expendable life vehicles... Like what SpaceX is doing now.

        Uh, you do realise that SpaceX's plan to dramatically slash launch prices is... drum roll... reusing their rocket stages, right? I believe they're going to test a relight of the first stage engines for landing on one of the next Falcon 9 launches, though it will just hover before being dumped in the sea.

      • by turgid (580780)

        FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

        Shall not! [reactionengines.co.uk]

        But then, it is British, so the chances of one being built are pretty negligible...

      • by steveha (103154)

        Wow. Let me guess, you are under the age of, say 40?

        I watched some of the Saturn V moon launches on live TV when I was a kid. I had a Space Shuttle poster when I was a teen. So, no, your guess is wrong.

        This is the entire arguement for the Space Shuttle that derailed proper space development for over 20 years.

        The Space Shuttle program promised many things but did not deliver. A vehicle that requires man-centuries of labor between flights does not meet my definition of "reusable". So, the Shuttle could ha

    • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:46PM (#44053335)

      Fortunately, that's precisely what Elon Musk is building. The Falcon 9 will be partially reusable sometime next year, and fully reusable probably by 2016. (It's two stage.) A Falcon 9 launch is already an order of magnitude cheaper than a launch from the (illegal monopoly) United Launch Alliance. Once the Falcon 9 is even partially reusable, that price will fall another order of magnitude, making possible all sorts of on-orbit assembly of larger structures.

      Nobody is likely to build a linear accelerator launch system this century. Building one at all is hard enough. Building one that doesn't result in smashing your payload into atmosphere at the end is even tougher.

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Reusable Mars and moon trips require two craft - a lifter and an interplanetary. Also, a huge supply of fuel and/or ion propellant and air/water on orbit. Planetary Resources and NASA Dawn are working on this last bit.
    • by HiThere (15173)

      I don't think your proposal is practical. The "space pickup truck" idea is nice, but the idea that it should descend to and lift off from a planetary mass is unfeasible, without controlled fusion, and perhaps even then. (You could do something similar with some sort of skyhook [the PinWheel is my favorite, as being the most practical in the near term].)

      But FIRST you need to work on a nearly-closed eco-system. This "space pickup truck" will take a long time to make a long trip. It will probably be powere

    • by gtall (79522)

      Yep, but what we really need is an big, honking space gun to shoot asteroids out of our path. If we don't, nothing else will matter.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The right way to do things: build a truly reusable space vehicle, often called a "space pickup truck". Proposed heavy lift vehicles are more like a "space moving van",

      ...and they have to pay a toll on the intergalactic superhighway, hurr durr?

      The "right" way to do things is highly debatable. My money is on the space elevator. Then you only need a "space train" or perhaps a "space RV" or even "space velocipede" which makes trips between orbit and your destination. Getting out of the well is the big problem here.

      If we could get space travel costs down to chiefly the cost of fuel that would be a massive reduction in costs.

      And if we could get it down to where we didn't need fuel to get into orbit, that would be an even more massive reduction.

    • I don't think people realize how many times we've come so close to having a real space program. And that's not to knock the good engineers, managers, and astronauts at NASA, it's just a description of reality. We were laying down plans for a thermal nuclear rocket when the space race was abruptly canceled. We were getting ready to attach a small rocket to lift the external fuel tanks into orbit for use as space station components (one of which would double the usable volume of the ISS) when disaster stru

  • by Taibhsear (1286214) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:33PM (#44053183)

    You know guys, if you want these things you're probably going to have to stop slashing NASA's fucking budget every year.

  • Pork, Pork, Pork (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squidlips (1206004) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:35PM (#44053195)
    By US House, they mean TEXAS. This is just PORK for Houston and its rocket-to-nowhere--The Space Launch System (SLS). SLS has no mission, but it means money to Houston and therefor they dreamed up this ridiculous objective, And Houston will do anything to get the money, including poaching from the highly-successful unmanned mission from JPL such as Opportunity and Curiosity.
  • by johnkzin (917611) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @03:41PM (#44053269)

    Just don't drink the glacier water...

  • by T.E.D. (34228)
    It makes great electoral sense for them. A place where communications are so stretched that everybody is literally years behind the times would make for perfect Republican voters.
  • Tell them there's oil on Mars and they'll be taking the funds from the army instead of NASA.

    After all, there's always funds for the army, even when there's no funds to take care of things back home.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      There is no way that Army rockets could hit a target as small as a planet.

    • by cashman73 (855518)
      Better yet, tell them that we need to go to Mars to find Marvin's Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. After all, it is a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) capable of destroying the Earth merely because it's obstructing Marvin's view of Venus.
  • Odd timing of this, it follows a stream of wacky distractions coming out of Washington since a whole bunch of skeletons spilled out of the closet in the last few months...

  • sustained human presence

    When they cannot even sustain people in their own country properly...

  • I think these House Republicans are a bunch of doomsday preppers who think that by getting to another planet/moon everything will be rosy for the human race. What they don't understand (because of their lack of science background) is that it's a lot easier to live in SPACE than on a body with a gravity well. We should be building ships to go to the asteroid belt and/or Jupiter and Saturn not wasting our time on cold dead planets/moons. Let's go somewhere interesting and easy not hard.
  • by bmk67 (971394)

    I want a pony.

    The difference is, one of us has the power to make it happen.

    Hint: It isn't the House.

  • China does not recognize the treaties against the ownership of celestial objects and Republicans being Republicans want to squat on the two best pieces. This is as dumb of an idea as you can come up with for human exploration, but at least it's getting space programs some money. Problem is Politicians aren't rocket scientists and have no concept of the work and technology precursors needed for them to claim their pretty marbles. Asteroids and Comets... building material, water and all the precious metals
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @04:21PM (#44053683)

    Sending someone to Mars is a complete waste of money in the short term. As is finding water or even signs of life on that planet.

    And before you jump down my throat about bullshit such as Space R&D leads to beneficial offshoot technology, realize that we do not need to spend $100 Billion dollars to send someone to Mars with the offshoot of having a better memory foam for our mattresses, new flavor of Tang, or a more grippy version of Velcro.

    We have real problems on Earth. We have an energy crisis. We are running out of fossil fuel and demand more electrical energy year over year. One could argue that sending someone to Mars could lead to a solution to Earth's energy crisis. However NASA could easily spend billions on R&D for energy for a space mission and find out the best solution is to tack a nuclear reactor to the end of the spaceship because you can just eject the spent core's into the void of space. A solution like this will not benefit Earth at all.

    Instead, having a mandate to solve our energy crisis on Earth first, by finding real alternatives to using fossil fuel for energy and making technology use energy more efficiently, would lead to trivial solutions to generate and conserve energy on a mission to Mars. That is, NASA could operate on a cheaper budget and spend less time finding solutions for a Mars mission when we have real solutions to Earth problems.

    Space R&D is limited in scope and we can only hope for there to be offshoot technology that could benefit Earth. NASA is not going to design solutions with a dual purpose, to work on Mars and provide solutions to Earth. Why create a limitation on R&D when it won't move the Mars mandate further, faster.

    The problem, or course, is that a US presidency only lasts at most 8 years and its hard to hand over an easier Mars solution to the next president.

    It's simply irresponsible to waste billions on Space R&D when we have significant economic, energy and climate issues on Earth. Three days after people see someone landing on Mars on YouTube nobody will give a shit and we will be stuck with the same problems on Earth, now just with even more repressive tax debt.

    Fix Earth first, then lets see the planets and the stars. Why not have mandate to sustain life on this Planet?!

    • U.S. Public wants 'Unsustained Congressional Presence On the Moon and the Surface of Mars' where they belong... unless you believe in hell, in which case they'll be going there eventually for a lot less money.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Instead, having a mandate to solve our energy crisis on Earth first, by finding real alternatives to using fossil fuel for energy

      We have them already. Butanol for gasoline and algae into biodiesel for diesel fuel. These technologies are already-proven and would be profitable without government interference.

  • ...to the moon and Mars.
    The government is looking into out-of-this-world control!

  • by Nivag064 (904744) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @04:57PM (#44054015) Homepage

    The fastest way to get a human on Mars is to launch from Earth.

    The fastest way to get a sustainable human presence on Mars is to build a base on the Moon, and use its raw materials for shielding, fuel, etc., and only getting the hi-tech & wet-ware from Earth. Why lift a lot of mass off the Earth when it is is a lot cheaper to do so from the Moon, in the medium to longer term?

    It is only cheaper from Earth for a one-off mission, or at most a small number of Mars missions.

    For sustainable transport between the Earth and the Moon, you want at least 5 structures, 4 of which would be easy to reuse - in order to minimise cost:
    (1) Earth-LEO shuttle - the most difficult to reuse
    (2) LEO station - for transfer of men & material
    (3) LEO-LMO shuttle
    (4) LMO station - for transfer of men & material
    (5) Moon-LMO shuttle

    LEO: Low Earth Orbit
    LMO: Low Moon Orbit

    Similar reasoning applies to Moon-Mars transport, as there is no point in landing a craft capable of going between the Moon & Mars on the surface of Mars, or the Moon for that matter - though the Mars landing is the most technically challenging.

    • by gtirloni (1531285)
      To develop the technologies that would allow us to mine and transform raw material at the Moon in a safe way would be quite an improvement (or should I say miracle?).
  • by chinton (151403) <chinton001-slashdot@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @05:51PM (#44054573) Journal
    I find it odd the legislation would specify the "surface of Mars"... I guess they want to keep us away from that alien reactor.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday June 19, 2013 @05:54PM (#44054595) Journal
    All of these ppl are going for pork. Look at this:
    Republican Members [house.gov]

    Steven Palazzo, MS, Chairman
    Ralph M. Hall (R-Texas)
    Dana Rohrabacher (R-California)
    Frank D. Lucas (R-Oklahoma)
    Michael McCaul (R-Texas)
    Mo Brooks (R-Alabama)
    Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana)
    Steve Stockman (R-Texas)
    Bill Posey (R-Florida)
    David Schweikert (R-Arizona)
    Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma)
    Chris Stewart (R-Utah)

    Democrat Members

    Donna F. Edwards, MD, Ranking Member
    Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon)
    Dan Maffei (D-New York)
    Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts)
    Derek Kilmer (D-Washington)
    Ami Bera (D-California)
    Marc Veasey (D-Texas)
    Julia Brownley (D-California)
    Frederica Wilson (D-Florida)

    The ONLY one on this group who is NOT trash is Rohrabacher. The rest are seekers of pork.

    If a one of them REALLY wanted to go to the mars and/or the moon, they would be allocating money for setting up a base in Antarctica using BA's BA-330 and/or ILC Dover's equipment as well as pushing private space. But, do they? Nope.

    In addition, they would kill the SLS and instead push a COTS-SHLV for 2 SHLVs. Do they? Nope.

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