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NASA Space

First Details of Manned Mars Mission From NASA 329

OriginalArlen writes "The BBC has a first look at NASA's initial concepts for a manned Mars mission, currently penciled in for 2031. The main vehicle would be assembled on orbit over three or four launches of the planned Ares V heavy lift rocket. New abilities to repair, replace, and even produce replacement parts will be needed to provide enough self-sufficiency for a 30 months mission, including 16 months on the surface. The presentation was apparently delivered at a meeting of the Lunar Exploration Management Group, although there's nothing on their site yet."
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First Details of Manned Mars Mission From NASA

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  • Re:Slow boat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:57PM (#21510483)
    Wow, talk about taking the slow & expensive boat to China.

    From on of the links:Estimates of the cost of mounting a manned Mars mission vary enormously, from $20bn to $450bn.

    You know that really going to be over a trillion dollars for the project by 2031. And, the way things are going with the World economy and the US' specifically, I'm not so sure we're going to have the money. On the other hand, China will.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:02PM (#21510561) Journal
    There are MANY ppl on this planet that would be willing to take a 1 way ticket to Mars. Seriously, I would, but I also know that I am too old for that. My belief is that the first mission will be a 1 way ticket (in spite of what NASA wants now). The reason is that it takes a LOT of work to get the ppl back. OTH, if we send supplies/equipment ahead of time, and build a small base, then a small group of ppl can go there and build out. I am also guessing that before 2025, the private world will already be heading there, with just the set-up I described.
  • by $lingBlade ( 249591 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:08PM (#21510617)
    Can someone please explain to me (and this is NOT meant to be a troll-post) why someone can't volunteer for a manned mission to Mars, raise funding from private companies/organizations and just go to Mars? Yes it would be a suicide mission, known up front and with the intent of it being for pure research and in the name of science, why the hell couldn't someone hit up a few big businesses and/or private investors for the cash to make a ship, buy or make the equipment for data analysis and the necessary supplies to get there and transmit back pictures and data? And more than just the Mars Rover, being able to survey the planet much faster and with more detail.

    Is NASA a governing body in the sense that they can mandate who can go into space and moreover, where in space? It is my understanding that when Columbus wanted to find a route to the far East, he submitted his plans to various people and it took two or three tries before they finally granted him the money and ships he needed and I read that some of the terms of the agreement were such that they (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) didn't expect him back... why not something similar for Mars? Setting aside things like training, time to build a ship, and most importantly cost, can it be done? Privately? And no, not the Astronaut Farmer-type thing. I'm talking about a legitimate, scientific exploration, in the name of pure science and discovery, privately funded, privately built and controlled, government and nationally independent.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:18PM (#21510739) Homepage Journal
    I think we have to face facts that once the Shuttle program shuts down and the Russians lose interest in losing money and the ISS reaches the end of its service life that apart from the Chinese and Indians sending a few Nauts into orbit that manned spaceflight is going to take a VERY long break. Perhaps a century or more. Countries and societies seem to have almost no interest in it. Coupled with the enormous ignorance and misinformation about it e.g. a quarter of all Americans think NASA's budget is greater than the Pentagon, coupled with the increasing weaponization of space there just doesn't seem to be any future in it.
  • Chemical Rockets? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by turgid ( 580780 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:44PM (#21511067) Journal

    As long as they piddle about with chemical rockets, they won't be doing much more than a very expensive, long and dangerous flag-planting exercise.

    Von Braun et. al. were working on a nuclear rocket back in the day for such a mission. Just look up NERVA.

    And before anyone jumps on the "danger radiation" bandwagon, I'm not advocating a nuclear rocket for getting from the earth's surface into earth orbit. It would be quite safe to build a reactor, launch it into orbit and to install it on the spacecraft there. It would be quite harmless having never have been taken critical for the first time.

    The crew could easily be shielded. Think nuclear submarine. The craft could be much bigger than one chemically-powered. There could be additional shielding for protecting the crew from solar radiation. There would be extra living space, more scientific payload and it would be easier to insert into Mars orbit at the other end.

    Fission reactors have been about for 60 years now. We know how to make them safe and efficient. It would be absolutely stupid not to use a nuclear reactor to go to Mars. They could have one designed, built and tested in under 5 years if they put their minds to it.

    But they won't. They'll leave that to our grandchildren...

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:11PM (#21511381)
    Don't be an idiot. If this thing only costs $450 billion over a quarter century, that's cheap. The Iraq War has cost $1 TRILLION over just a few years, and hasn't produced anything of value, whereas the space program has produced all kinds of spin-off technologies and economic benefits. NASA's budget has always been a tiny fraction of the DoD's budget.
  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:17PM (#21511459)

    The western world is not in ascendency, it is in decline. The fact that Orion, a project with the same capabilities on paper as Apollo had, is set to take longer than it did in the 1960s is proof of this. Given the escalating costs of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and soon Iran, I can't see how NASA can maintain enough of a budget for 25 years.

    Modern politicians seem aware of the dire state of things, and their attitude towards public services is to make as much money for themselves and their friends out of them, before everything implodes. Why would NASA be any different?

  • Priorities... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZombieRoboNinja ( 905329 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:48PM (#21511893)
    I love all the posts criticizing the priorities of the American government.

    "If we REALLY had our priorities straight, we'd dump $100 billion right now and be on Mars in 2012!" Well, maybe we could. But what exactly is so damned urgent about getting some dudes on another planet RIGHT AWAY? Yeah, it'd be a better expenditure than the Iraq war, but pretty much ANYTHING would.

    If we've got $100 billion to spend, how about putting some of it into running doubt the multi-trillion federal debt, or fixing the US health care system, or Social Security? How about funding some OTHER research, finding a cure for cancer or juvenile diabetes or some other tragic and widespread illness? Or hell, fund some damned energy research, get us all in plug-in hybrid cars fueled by safe nuclear plants, and maybe we can stop pumping quite so much carbon into our atmosphere.

    Getting to Mars would/will be cool, and I don't doubt the scientific initiative will introduce lots of unexpected technological advances, so we can all fasten our shoes with ULTRA-Velcro in thirty years. But that doesn't make it the most urgent thing on our plate.
  • Re:Ares V? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter AT earthlink DOT net> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:43PM (#21512483) Journal

    As for electronics, aside from some electronic controls, I doubt rocket technology has changed very much since the Saturn V era.

    As a rocket engineer myself, I can reaffirm this statement. Given the catastrohpic and costly nature of rocketry failures, rocket scientists are extremely conservative folks.

    And fundamentally, nothing in chemical rocket propulsion has changed much in the 40 years since Apollo started, especially for the kinds of liquid engines required for a manned interplanetary mission. (Ion propulsion, hybrid motors, and other niche propulsion techniques have made some significant strides, but are impractical for manned missions.) Structurally there are new materials available, composites, cermet, etc., that provide marginal improvements in performance. By the 2020s when a mission like this is in the design phase, I expect even more materials improvements will have been made.

    And yes, electronics has advanced by orders of magnitude. However, given the radiation environment of interplanetary space, most microelectronics would not survive the trip without being quintupally redundant, heavily shielded, or custom designed and processed from the substrate up. And remember, we're talking about ultraconservative rocket scientists designing a manned space mission.

    The problem is, Moore's Law works to the detriment of radiation tolerance. As structures get smaller and smaller, they become more susceptible to damage by the small amounts of energy deposited by ionizing radiation and especially to heavy ions (cosmic rays). The circuits and structures have to be designed specifically to tolerate the damage from radiation without altering the microcircuit function too dramatically.

    No, for a manned interplanetary mission, you're very likely to see most electronics be several generations old technology, and critical systems will be designed with failure-tolerant and radiation-immune technology like electron tubes and relays.

    You may think I'm joking, or being hyperbolic... but I'm not.

    Of course, by 2031, who knows what will be either radiation tolerant and/or "several generations old."

  • by Javit ( 68742 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:19PM (#21512829)

    For example, 98%+ Americans do not spend much time worrying about where their next meal is going to come from [...]

    Unfortunately, I believe a fairer estimate is more like 85%+. We have a pretty embarrassing problem with poverty for a developed country.

  • Re:Ares V? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:27PM (#21513367) Journal
    The point is that even putting a tiny computer in lead is amazingly expensive, propellant-wise, due to the additional dead mass you need to loft to orbit (IIRC, to stop the heavy particles, you are talking **feet** of lead, not inches). So it is wiser to go with older, "rad-hardened" hardware that doesn't require shielding whatsoever. It doesn't really matter, the computational requirements for orbital corrections and system observation are pretty low, so it really doesn't matter - in 2004 the Shuttle cockpit was 'upgraded' to 386's.
  • Re:2031?! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blitziod ( 591194 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:56PM (#21513951)
    you can get out of it...just take a goverment job for Galveston County, Texas..or one of the few other US county goverments that opted INTO a pilot program back in the 60's allowing their employees to privately invest SS funds. The retirement these boomers are getting is average of 2500 per month( and I can promise that most of them did not even pay in the MAX yearly for SS) as of 2004's numbers.
  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @12:30AM (#21514175)
    Certainly, it's likely that much of the necessary interstellar travel technology will be developed while we travel in the Solar System.

    Right, so lets hold off on the Mars trip for now until we have some practical means of more efficient propulsion to get there other than chemical rockets and ion drives. Mars will still be there when we get around to it. If we are going to make the Mars trip then we should do it for the right reasons and combine the mission with other technology tests so that we can make the trip more worth the expense and the risk. What good does a rush job space cowboy boots on the ground type mission with 30 year old rocket technology get us right now other than the most spectacular publicity stunt since the Apollo 11 landing?

    If we were to go anytime soon then it would be a quick there and back mission. At the very least we need to develop better and more efficient long term life support systems which are self sustaining. Again we need to make a few more important breakthroughs before the manned Mars mission really starts to look attractive. We are still learning from the probes that we currently have on the surface so lets continue sending better probes and working the ones that we have got before we sink 100 times the cost into a manned mission.
  • Re:Ares V? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter AT earthlink DOT net> on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:35AM (#21515031) Journal

    Couldn't electronics like this be used with heavy radiation shielding?

    Yes and no. To be effective, shielding needs to be extremely thick, not only to stop the primary radiation (the incoming stuff), but also to absorb the secondary radiation "knocked loose" when the primary radiation interacts with the shielding. In some radiation environments (e.g., polar Earth orbit), shielding intended to reduce total dose exposure can actually make the situation worse -- trapped protons and cosmic rays can create more secondary radiation than the primary radiation it blocks.

    However, an interplanetary mission a solution to another problem that can be used synergystically as radiation shielding for both electronics and humans. Water (and other hydrogen-rich liquids like ammonia and paraffin) makes an effective shielding material. And the human crew is going to need plenty of water. Solution: design the vehicle such that critical microelectronics enclosures are surrounded by lead (or iridium) water tanks.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham