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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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  • Heard this before (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jthomas2 ( 102083 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:14PM (#3533896)
    Sounds good, very reminicent of the National Space Commission report except that had more emphasis on return to the moon versus Lagrange points.

    (Of course I know a little bit about Lagrange points, r.html,

    We do have some stuff to publish soon.)

    Well, as always, I'd like to believe.

    -Jay Thomas
  • by Etcetera ( 14711 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:18PM (#3533916) Homepage

    One of the problems with these various large scale concept/projects is that things can flounder forever in the planning stages.

    For those of you familiar with large bureaucracies, everything lies in the funding. By forcing the funding of something and laying out a defined timetable, this bill would IMHO stand a good chance of actually causing this to become a reality. (Technical delays notwithstanding.)

    I agree, this probably won't pass... but it would a very clear signal, a strident first step, and a more exciting two decades if it did.

    So write your Congressmen, damnit! =)
  • Re:10 Bucks... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by snilloc ( 470200 ) <jlcollins@hot m a i l . com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:25PM (#3533956) Homepage
    First, nice sig

    Second, that couldn't happen in the House because of rules about the germaneness of amendments. A Senate version could have all sorts of "Christmas tree ornaments" (as Bush-41 sometimes called them) because they have no rule about amendments being germane.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:39PM (#3534025)

    Good bill. It's always refreshing to see politicians work toward dreams in science, technology and exploration. The time table for this bill may need to slow down a bit to be realistic, but what is really needed to make the human Mars exploration and the further exploration of the solar system after Mars practical and economical is the development of nuclear propulsion, something that has always been a political hot potato.

    Without nuclear propulsion, a manned mission anywhere farther than the moon will always take too long be too costly and have a much too small margin of error to be acceptable.

  • by IdahoEv ( 195056 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:48PM (#3534080) Homepage

    I have to say I disagree that the logistics are unreasonable. We made it to the moon 33 years ago - a third of a century - before we even had modern computers. Getting to and from mars is simply a matter of scale... it takes longer and takes more thrust to get back off the surface. But that doesn't remotely mean it can't be done. The distance is phenomenal, yes, but in space distance just becomes time. Possibly the biggest logistical problem is medicine ... in the apollo program there was a maximum return time of about 4 days... if someone gets sick you can get them home to go to a doctor. For Mars, that's not an option because you're 6 months away with limited opportunities for orbital transition. But there are a *lot* of people working on this very problem, even while NASA hasn't yet made concrete plans for a mars mission.

    Take a look at some of the plans invented by groups outside of NASA, most notably Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct [] concept. I'll spare you going into detail but this plan has so many fail-safes it's ridiculous. The entire thing uses more-or-less existing technology.

    Meanwhile, there are two experiments already running to study the difficulties of having people live isolated on Mars for an extended mission (many months until the next launch window floats around). Check out the Mars Arctic Research Station [] and the Mars Desert Research Station [] (site temporarily down?). All this research and work is already being done, independantly of NASA. (usually is a great reference... at the moment it seems to be undergoing maintenance or something. Bad timing.)

    Technologically, it can be done; I think there's little question about that. As for the policital will and the money, that's a different issue. But maybe this bill shows that there is some interest after all.

    Personally, I put my money on commercialization of space being the primary driving force in the next 20 years. The profit motives and the opportunities of space tourism and potentially near-earth asteroid mining will outstrip anything the US government will deliver in the near future.

  • by clem.dickey ( 102292 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:49PM (#3534088)
    Redundant: In 1969, Vice-President Spiro Agnew committed the United States to a manned Mars mission by the year 2000. That beats this bill by 22 years. [As a side note, the Vice-President has traditionally been the administration's point person for space activity. That is why Apollo mission responsibility shifted from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Mission Control in Texas (Lyndon Johnson's home state) as soon as the Saturn V cleared the launch tower.]

    Toothless: There are no penalties for failure to execute. If the mission is not completed on schedule, NASA bosses should be looking at some hard prison time. Otherwise, what's the point?

    'Nuff said.
  • by Yorrike ( 322502 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:17PM (#3534201) Homepage Journal
    what boon would we receive from a small, self-contained dome on Mars that needs resupply every so often from Earth?

    The same boon we received by sending humans to the moon - huge technological advances being made in short amounts of time. As a species, we need to do this. With one self sustained dome will come another, and another. It would be less of a giant leap and more of a 3 1/2 second Wright Flyer hop.

    But there needs to be competition involved. The reason the Apollo missions were so successful is because you Americans were obsessed with beating the Russians. Perhaps a multi country backed privatised race?

  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:18PM (#3534210)
    Don't give me no bullshit about not being ready. Look at what they flew in during the apollo days. What we really need is someone in charge with some BIG NUTS.

  • by kruhft ( 323362 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @10:40PM (#3534303) Homepage Journal
    I think that the mars landing would do something far greater even without a plan as you're saying. With such a huge project no one country is going to get there alone, which requires sharing the engineering and financial burden with other countries of the world. Now where do you think that almost all of the world's population would be when that capsule is broadcasting live about to land on the surface of this new planet?

    The result: total unity of the world's population. At least for that moment, but the reprocussions could be far reaching.

    Granted, the project may not have the practical uses that you seem to require, but the cultural ramifications would be massive. I wasn't alive for the moon landing, but I can assume what all of america felt when watching those first steps. I know i would be glued to the tv during those first moments and would never forget those first grainy images of the surface of mars. I know i'm not alone.

    Of course, making the world's population "feel good" isn't always an important requirement for most projects. Who knows what the next step in human evolution (reaching and colinizing other plants) will lead to down here?
  • Re:2022? AHAHAHAHAHA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett&gmail,com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @11:09PM (#3534513)
    You are not thinking clearly. From the end first, to the beginning last.

    China or Russia will go to Mars before us.
    What an absolute joke. Really. First off, Russia is an economic position that is at best unstable and at worst massively disasterous. Their currency is weak against nearly everything, they are struggling with inflation, they can't get investment for core necessities, their military is aging rapidly, new growth is slowing, the world oil market faces increased pressure (Russia is #2 supplier of oil worldwide), the space agency has taken to piracy of money/resources to pay for workers just to show up. It would take a fairly major miracle to get Russia into a decent enough position to undertake this project in 10 years, let alone 5. Perhaps if everything goes right for them in the next 10 years, and if they get a handle on organized crime, corruption, and ill internal policies they could start the process of rebuilding their space agency. Maybe. As for China, that is again a simply infeasible prediction, untenable except with the most bare facts. China will be facing a major population problem more and more over the coming decades. The political situation is likely to change drasticatally in that time. Additionally, their are simply to many youngish males in the country. Chances are better than even-money that they will be engaged in a major conventional war within the next two decades.

    I mean damn, If we are going to pollute earth shouldnt we be preparing mars.
    This is an utterly redicioulous position. This type of exploration has nothing to do with earth-genesis. Lets be straight: colonization of Mars isn't even on the table at this point by reasonable people. It is simply to far past our abilities in a purely technical, political, and sociological sense. The proper solution is to handle and manage localized pollution, not find new land to exploit/pollute. There are arguments made for landing on Mars - to make it Earth 2.0 is simply not a useful place to start.

    Second by 2022, we should be building on mars, not sending the first man to mars.
    Again, simply not going to happen, and for many reasons. But more importantly, it makes no sense. What are we going to be "building" on mars? Hotels? Skyscrapers? Research facilities? Its pretty simple - people need reasons to take risks. There isn't any benefit other than "ohh, neato" and perhaps some secondary/tertiary spins offs to be had by getting to Mars and building on it right away. It doesn't make sense.

    First USA may not even exsist in 2022 if we dont stop terrorism.
    Talk about FUD. Terrorism poses no long-term threat to the United States. Furthermore it will never stop, ever. It will forever be a clear and present danger. Always. Forever. No matter what. It has *always* been that way. Read A People's History of the United States if you need proof. No amount of bombs or suicide explosions, or anything will stop the country. If it ever did get *really* bad, all it would take would be a few fairly small changes in policy to eliminate most all terrorist threats. Finally, the funniest line in your whole assine post:

    its cheap Americans who want tax cuts
    What a joke. Let me explain it to you. The purpose the government isn't to send people to Mars. We don't want tax cuts, we demand them, and deserve them. My "tax freedom" day is coming up soon - its going to be the last week of May. That means all the money I've made so far this year will go to *government*. Its nearly 50% of the way through the year. When that magic 51% comes, I am going to just stop working and live off the dole. Quite simply, politicans and government agencies are incapable of restraining themselves in spending. We all know that if this Mars mission gets funded a good portion of that money will be wasted, go towards overhead, and general be frittered away. The bottom line is that the benefits do not even begin to outweigh the costs.

    Until someone can present to me a clear and viable reason to expend this money, that fits within our notion of government, my vote will always be 'no' to this type of project.

    Man on Mars? Yeah, it'd be cool. Is there any cultural, moral, social, or political imperative to accomplish this task today, tomorrow or anytime in the future? Absolutely without qualifications and with resounding clearness "no".
  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:14AM (#3534863) Homepage
    Ironic, isn't it? One of the benefits of using a nuclear craft would be that, by reducing the duration of the journey, it would reduce astronauts' exposure to radiation.
  • by bogasity ( 517035 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:22AM (#3534889)
    Mr. Lampson is the congress-critter for the area around the Johnson Space Center, which is about to get hammered for inducing a $5 billion overrun on the International Space Station. The Houston Chronicle recently had an article [] stating that 4000 jobs were at risk at JSC (out of ~16,000 total). Lampson wants to be able to say that he tried to save jobs at JSC in order to bolster his re-election chances.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:37AM (#3534935)
    "It's a bit like Columbus discovered America and now we've been to American 6 times"

    Columbus stumbled across the New World in 1492. How many permanent European settlements were established between and the end of the 15th century? Heck, let me be generous: Between then and the end of the 16th century?

    We got to the moon and back six times in a span of half a decade or so. Starting from 1492, when's the first time that there were six expeditions to the New World in such a small time frame?

    "it's a vacuum"

    For a planet with no atmosphere, it sure seems to have a lot of dust storms. Not to mention all the erosion that's apparent on the surface...

    "We need to mine something that isn't at the bottom of a gravity well."

    As I recall from my physics courses, if it's something, by definition it's in the bottom of a gravity well.

    And while we're on the subject of asteroid mining, sure they tend to have lots of heavy elements, but if you're looking for light stuff (say, oh, I dunno... reaction mass!?!), you need a heavy duty gravity well to hang on to it and collect it.

    "Phobos or Deimos- yes."

    After expelling enough reaction mass to get to Mars in a reasonable amount of time (ie. before the crew gets microwaved into crispy critters), you honestly think bringing enough fuel to reach Martian escape velocity (remember, 1/3 G) is really going to make that much of a difference? Heck, landing on Mars has the advantage over its satellites in that it at least has SOME atmosphere, so you don't need near as much shielding once you get there. Especially when you consider how long you're going to have to be there until Earth catches up with you again (even if you're using nuclear rockets).

    "a NEA or a comet, yes"

    Instead of going on a manned interplanetary expedition to someplace we run into once or twice a year or so, you're in favor of trying to catch up with and land on something that doesn't come anywhere near here for a few centuries or millenia? And what will the crew do when they get there? Start digging their own graves?

    "Mars? Later."

    "If not now, when? If not us, who?"
  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @12:43AM (#3534963)
    For geeks going to Mars is a technological achievement, a cool thing to do with no material benefit returned to the people (taxpayers) investing in it. Even the lowest estimates for a Mars mission run in the tens of billions for a single mission. Tens of billions of dollars to...plant a flag, take some measurements, and shoot some pictures? Apollo was a similar sort of mission though they actually had some nice returns on the investment because the technology to accomplish the mission didn't exist. The universities and contractors that designed and built equipment or just worked the numbers for the Gemini and Apollo missions gained immense amounts of knowlage about working in space. Had Apollo not needed small powerful computer systems which didn't exist at the time, slashdot probably would not exist and neither would your PC. The problem with a Mars mission is we have much of the technology needed to get there meaning putting an investment into the project isn't going to give you much of a return. It is inefficient and wasteful to mine Mars or even fabricate materials there for export. Say you had a Mars colony with a space launch infrastructure, it would cost them about as much to send something to Earth as it would cost us to send something to Mars. It is much more efficient to send a self sufficient manufacturing/refinment system to a much less massive body like an asteroid and have it send material back down to Earth. It's like mining the top of a mountain and rolling stuff downhill. As long as you've got a method to stop stuff it requires much less effort than trying to send your material up hill.
  • Re:-1:Uninformed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @08:03AM (#3536154)
    Russia is unlikely to go to Mars by themselves, but as the only country with much relevant BFB experience (I understand that much of the Saturn 5 blueprints have been lost).

    It's not that the Saturn V blueprints are missing, more that all those 1960s components are no longer in production, and all those engineers are retired... NASA are having to scour eBay for 8086 processors for the Shuttle, so finding the parts for a Saturn (which last flew six years before the first Shuttle) would be a nightmare!

    The Russian Energia rocket is much more recent, but it would still be difficult to reactivate. It's heartbreaking to see Buran as a lawn ornament... But realistically our best bet for a BFB is the US Magnum, which is basically Energia built out of Shuttle technology. Shuttle tanks, engines and SRBs *are* still in service, and the components and engineers are readily available.

    The Russians would be a key partner though for anyone else. In particular they still have the most expertise for long-term missions, in particular of building stuff that is maintainable.

    Yep, that's their big advantage. You'd want the Mars ship to be Russian-built. They kept Mir alive through disaster after disaster, seven years after it was supposed to be replaced. That sort of durability is an absolute must for interplanetary work.

    Question: could we supply a Mars ship by leaving a string of Progress drones along its path, and let it collect 'em along the way?

  • by hoytt ( 469787 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @08:36AM (#3536298)
    In my opinion, no country, how powerful and rich they may be will ever be able to cough up the money for a mission to mars, let alone the things that might come after that. So I think the best way to do it is to make a world wide coalition to get ppl sent to mars. If we can get the ESA, NASA, and NASDO into this and perhaps even the russians, (they have a huge knowledge on living in weightless conditions), this project might have a better chance than when the US would do it alone.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!