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Space Science

Bill In U.S. House Plans Manned Mars Mission 399

maddogsparky writes " has a copy of a bill laying out a roadmap for NASA to send a manned mission to Mars by 2022. Highlights include an manned asteroid landing, building a research outpost on one of Mars' moons and actually providing funds to start mission planning."
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Bill In U.S. House Plans Manned Mars Mission

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  • by Rebel Patriot ( 540101 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:15PM (#3533903) Journal
    but this will probably turn out like that manned space station we were going to be using in 1980. Plans for it were drawn in what, '64? The logistics of this are unreasonable and currently impracticle. Self-sufficient environments on other planets will remain the realm of science fiction for years to come. The largest problem to overcome IMO is distance. The distance between Mars and Earth is phenominal. Like the English who first came to America, this would be almost doomed to failure. There will be many Roanokes before one Jamestown.

    Just my $0.02.

    P.S. First post?
  • by x-empt ( 127761 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:23PM (#3533941) Homepage
    In general the /. community is interested in the Space Program and the benefits it provides to the technology community.

    As this Bill progresses it will be important to have the Slashdot (dare I say "geek" crowd) write their representatives and encourage the support of this bill.

    Please keep the Slashdot editors informed on news regarding this Bill so that more people can read about it on Slashdot and in turn write their Senators to support it.

    Seriously, the /. crowd is numerous enough to put some good pressure on Congress to do something right.

    Read the bill, it makes note of some serious issues facing the Country's space program and it's future years down the road... such as no MAJOR challenging missions after the ISS "Alpha" is assembled.
  • by nesneros ( 214571 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:27PM (#3533965) Homepage
    As much as I long to see a person set foot on mars within my lifetime, I feel like we shouldn't even bother unless we're going to give a compelling reason to go. We went to the moon long before we had any plan or reason (other than "beat the russians"), and look how far that's gotten us.

    Personally, I consider "research terraforming" to be the best of all possible reasons, and I think now is as good a time as any, but I don't see a bulk of the population realizing anytime soon how valuable another livable planet would be to the future of the human race.
  • by dstone ( 191334 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:31PM (#3533980) Homepage
    If the U.S. had a competitor in this race for Mars like they did for the moon in the late 60s, they would have a man there in a few short, focussed years. So, um, can we maybe pretend there's a competitive nation and get on with it?!
  • by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:31PM (#3533982) Homepage
    It isn't even the answer.

    We aren't at the point where Mars makes any kind of sense. It's a bit like Columbus discovered America and now we've been to American 6 times and everyone is saying- hey we've never been to Antartica! Antartica is the next step! It's the future of mankind!

    Even that is pushing the analogy too far. Antartica is a lot more habitable than Mars. Mars has no atmosphere- well just 1% of earths- it's a vacuum; the lightbulbs in your house have more gas in them. Sure we can live on Antartica, or Mars, but we can't thrive there right now. We have the technology, but the economics aren't there- it's gonna cost hundreds of millions per person. That's no way colonise anywhere. It's pure flags and footprints. We go, we plant the flags, we come back. That's it. Yeah, it'd be glorious. But so what? It leads nowhere.

    We need to mine something that isn't at the bottom of a gravity well. Mining something at the top means you can slide it downhill to LEO, or towards Mars. Until we have mining, Mars is out of reach for practical settlement; as is most of the solar system for that matter.

    Phobos or Deimos- yes. The moon- maybe, a NEA or a comet, yes. Mars? Later.

  • Personally, I would like to see space exploration start happening, and continue happening. Let's be honest: The moon missions, while probably the most significant and arguably the most complex engineering feat in human history, basically was "Wow! We made it! Now what??".

    Instead of throwing all this government money into the sh**hold where we know it will probably never come out, let's give tax incentives to get private companies into space. First company to mine an asteroid gets a 20 year tax moritorium! Same deal for space-based factories!

    The key is that space has to pay for itself. If we depend on the government to put men into space, then men in space depends on the whims of budgets and politicians. The only way to get there and stay there is to have an economic incentive to stay there.

  • by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:40PM (#3534030) Journal

    In this day and age we need to be thinking about things like making sure there is enough money going into welfare, war on drugs, war on terrorism, enforcement of gun laws, etc and not on crazy stuff like going to mars.

    Yeah, alright, we'll just put science on the backburner until every other problem is completely solved. Gees. I got news for you: we're always going to have big problems here on Earth. You need to watch a little less Star Trek. I'm all in favor of social programs but we need to fund science as well.

    Now, I'm not an expert on space and, to be honest, I didn't even read the Mars proposal, but the idea of "hold off on the space stuff until we fix problems on Earth" is one of those things that really grates on my nerves. This bill should be judged by the scientific benefits of the Mars trip alone. The fact that there are so many other needy non-space causes shouldn't enter into this.


  • This won't work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DietFluffy ( 150048 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:56PM (#3534117)
    Even if this bill passes, which I doubt it will, a simple act of Congress cannot possibly restore NASA to its former glory. Space exploration is no longer a top priority for the American people, now that the cold war is over. Once thought of as essential for national security, NASA is now suffering due to budget cuts.

    The public might still think that space exploration is "cool," but few would be willing to sacrifice other government programs or accept a tax hike in order to free up money for NASA. If the public doesn't care, why would politicians care? NASA won't win you votes at the ballot box.
  • by Dyslexic ( 112 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:02PM (#3534142) Homepage
    What the /. community seems to be missing is, that 2002 is a (re)election year. Many Senators/Reps are proposing bills that would never actually get passed (for instance the ludicrous Constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages []).

    Every politician is looking for their ticket into the next term, and it looks like Rep. Lampson is going for the space angle. Hell, he may be even trying to capitalize on the ATOC sci-fi brouhaha (it wouldn't suprise me, knowing how the political system works in the USA).

    With an administration that has been chopping NASA's budget left and right, this has very little chance of actually taking place.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:11PM (#3534176)
    1. Welfare - funds from 2
    2. War on Drugs - legalize it and tax it... before you say it won't work please check out Holland, where it's been done and drug-related crime is near 0
    3. War on Terrorism - unwinnable and currently being used to undermine everything our founding fathers stood for
    4. enforcement of gun laws - 2nd Amendment, Bill of Rights, not something the federal government can do... not to mention the fact that gun control laws only seem to control those that follow the laws...
    Any other comments? Unfortunately this is moot, as the pin head we currently have in the White House would obviously veto this, unless of course it benefited oil or military interests.
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:36PM (#3534278)
    We've got a budget deficit, a war on terrorism that has devolved to the US managing a quarter of the world, a huge catastrophe looming with social security, crumbling schools, a growing military budget....

    All of these add up to very very little money for Mars.

    I would love to be proven wrong, but I suspect that this bill will not see much debate.

  • by Morpheaus ( 523596 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:10PM (#3534516)
    June 20, 1969

    My dad was 12 years old when he first saw the television broadcast of Neil Armstrong take the first steps onto a world of wonders.

    The whole world stopped and watched. People in the former Soviet Union and the world sat dumbfounded at the accomplishment. It wasn't just 'America' that made it to the moon, it was the entire world.

    Now imagine that feeling, for one moment. What would it be like for just one second to actually have a sense of accomplishment that goes above anything and everything. Above all the petty differences regarding possessions and wealth. I would give anything to have that excitement in my lifetime. What was your feeling on Sept. 11th? I can tell you mine, horror. Can't we have something different? Something spectactularly humbling and amazing?!

    I think it's time that we as humans actually try to accomplish something more then making money and material wealth. That we prove to everything and anything out there that we will continue to survive if we actually try to work together. Think of the jobs that this type of project would create.

    I've read some other posts regarding this...ppl saying we should do this to welfare and blah blah blah. What if this created 100,000 more jobs? What if this actually motivated ppl to get off their butts and do something?

    What if for even 10 mins, you could say that you someway, no matter how minor it was, YOU contributed to something so grand, so spectacular, that nothing or no one could ever take that satisfaction away from you.

    But then again, we as humans will probably never be able to experience that feeling. We'll continue to argue about welfare, who gets what money and what possessions. Who's house is bigger. etc. etc. etc.

    I just turned 21. I hope for just one second I will be able to experience something that will atleast leave me somewhat satisfied so that before I die, I can actually relfect on the accomplishments as a race that we have accomplished. What I have accomplished will never compare to what if we all worked together to accomplish.

    I wish for that feeling my Dad had...33 years ago.

    That is my dream, and hope.

  • $$$'s (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Easy2RememberNick ( 179395 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:31PM (#3534613)
    Maybe if the government didn't give $180 billion to farmers then a mission to Mars would be possible. I know let's send the farmers to Mars.
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:03AM (#3534812)
    You are totally correct. Going to Mars is such a huge deal that there is no point going unless it is a useful trip with a real purpose. Right now the technologies needed aren't there and the cost would be astronomical with little pay off.

    At the very least some very strong basic science (with applications) in MEMs and nanotech, not only for the machinery needed to get to Mars, but for construction and terraforming. To make a large scale settlement there, we will have no choice but to build with local materials.

    Second, major advances in space travel need to happen. We could possibly cobble together something that would get there and back but it would be of little lasting value. We need to understand more about alternative propolsion and energy adaption.

    Third, we have very little useful information on human spaceflight, other than it is harmful. We need another twenty years for biotech to help offset the effects of space travel on our muscle and bones.

    Fourth, some major advances in environmental science need to happen. We can barely keep the garden of paradise from turning into a sewage pit, so there's a lot of work to be done if we hope to take something as fragile as Mars and make it liveable.

    Lastly computing still has a ways to go insofar as creating robust systems that can operate autonomously, although consumer applications from blenders to driveless monorail cars seem to be making progress.

    We'll get there, but right now we just don't have what it takes to make the trip worthwhile.

  • by redcliffe ( 466773 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:47AM (#3534978) Homepage Journal
    Creating jobs is always popular. A manned mission to mars would create millions of jobs on earth.
  • by ScottForbes ( 528679 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @04:48AM (#3535722) Homepage
    In 1990, Robert Zubrin and David Baker of Martin Marietta and Owen Gwynne of NASA developed Mars Direct, a plan that would allow permanent colonization of Mars within ten years, at a cost of approximately $30 billion. The plan uses rockets that are only slightly more powerful than Saturn V's, doesn't require building a space station or an orbital shipyard, and has half the payload requirements of a "traditional" round-trip Mars mission.

    The trick is to go there in two steps:

    Send an unmanned ship containing an unfueled return vehicle, six tons of hydrogen, and a chemical catalyst. Use the catalyst and the Martian atmosphere (primarily CO2) to create methane and water from the hydrogen (CO2 + 4H2 --> CH4 + 2H2O, exothermic). Store the methane for later use as rocket fuel. Elecrolyze the water to create oxygen gas (for later use as, well, oxygen) and more hydrogen, which you re-use to make more methane and water. This reaction eventually produces 24 tons of methane and 48 tons of oxygen; the plan calls for making an additional 36 tons of oxygen by reducing CO2.

    So far we've hauled six tons of hydrogen into space, thrown it at Mars, and used it to produce over 100 tons of rocket fuel, which is now sitting in a depot on Mars. Compare this to the cost of hauling 200 tons of rocket fuel into space, much less sending that much mass on a round trip to Mars.

    Three years later, launch the manned rocket. With the return vehicle and fuel already on Mars, your manned vehicle only needs enough fuel to get there, and doesn't need the ability to lift off from Mars again; in fact, the vehicle is designed to become a permanent, habitable fixture of the Martian landscape. Your first rocket has already explored the territory with a few roving robot probes, and is even providing a landing beacon.

    At the same time as the manned vehicle launch, launch a second unmanned rocket, identical to the first. This is your redundant backup for the incoming astronauts, in case the fuel depot springs a leak while they're in transit; at worst they'll have to wait for the second chemical factory to ramp up production, but otherwise you can have a complete failure of the first rocket and still be safe.

    Spend 1.5 years on Mars. No need to worry about getting home before your fuel runs out, because you're making more fuel as you go; you brought enough food supplies to last at least three years (and will leave some behind as a backup for the next manned mission, just in case), and you're producing oxygen and water faster than you can consume them.

    Get in the return vehicle and go home. Repeat the cycle until you've colonized Mars.

    The problems with Mars Direct fall into two broad categories: It requires a small nuclear reactor (smaller than the typical nuclear submarine's) to provide the initial power supply for the first unmanned lander, which makes the anti-nuclear lobby go nuts. The second problem is that Mars Direct doesn't scratch enough backs within the NASA bureaucracy to get funded: It bypasses the need for space stations, lunar landings, orbiting space fleets, warp drives, etc., and thus doesn't get support from any of the intra-NASA groups that want their pet project funded instead.

    The reasons we haven't been to Mars have nothing to do with practicality or affordability: Getting to Mars is achievable with current technology, and could be done for the cost of a steel tariff. It's all about politics and votes -- if half a million people marched on Washington to demand a Mars mission, we'd be there by 2010.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982