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Mars Networking Space

Building an IT Infrastructure Around Mars 121

bfwebster writes "Space.com has an article talking about the efforts to observe the arrival of the Phoenix lander on Mars this coming May using current Mars orbiters. This community will likely be intrigued to see the ways in which NASA is using existing landers and orbiters to prepare for, and then monitor, that landing. This includes using the landers Spirit and Opportunity to simulate transmissions from Phoenix as a testing procedure in advance of the actual landing; using the Odyssey orbiter as a high-speed data transmission link from Phoenix to Earth during the landing; and using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Express orbiter as backup data stores for Phoenix data transmissions during the descent. How long until we get a terabyte solid-state dataserver (running IPv6, natch) in orbit around Mars?"
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Building an IT Infrastructure Around Mars

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  • by infernalman7 ( 1144421 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @08:10PM (#22630514)
    This is too much! Someone should do something with Australia's data allowance per month first. 2GB a month for $29 is just ridiculous.
  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @09:09PM (#22630944)
    That actually raises a few questions of a legal, political, physical and commercial nature. Ergo;

    1. Who does the scientific data belong to? OK, most likely the hardware will be Chinese or American (built in Taiwan tho), and after some amount of political wrangling some of the Apollo/Ranger data was shared with other superpowers eventually. Who owns the raw data being stored or relayed by said hardware?

    2. As to commercial storage. What would the legal position be if some entity like TPB had a hosting platform up there for tracking data? How secure is secure? Underground? Orbital? And what happens if an orbital platform is found to be hosting "illegal" material? I'd hate to see the bill if the **AA gets a warrant and orders a shutdown of a rack hosted on the ISS. Or the technical ramifications, for that matter.

    3. The United States Government were mighty white to share the technology embedded in their GPS system for commercial use, albeit in a limited nature. How willing would they be to share storage in this obviously very secure situation on the same terms, on the assumption that they not only fronted up the technological knowhow but also the financial backing whether Government or privately?

    4. How would such a system cope with radiation, solar storms, etc? For example, in Lunar orbit there are two main types of radiation: proton events, and cosmic background radiation. Both are deadly to electronics, CBR is the more worrying for human habitation outside the Van Allen radiation belt and the Earth's magnetic field (the two factors which prevent harmful radiation hitting the Terran surface and microwaving us all). There is no appreciable magnetic field or radiation belt around Mars, hence any electronic system would be extremely vulnerable to particle discharge (the probes that have so far landed on Mars have been solid state and very well shielded; such shielding places prohibitive limits on actual payloads to the point where I don't think an extraterrestrial hosting platform would be practical nor economically viable).

    5. Is this, all told, a viable scientific, commercial or politically-driven project? Or, like the Gemini/Apollo program, is it just there for bragging rights? Let me put it another way. In 36 years, has there been even a hint of progress toward putting a permanent human presence on the moon? Here's your answer: to date, 12 men have walked Luna, the last in 1972. That's a generation and a half ago. The last probe to land on the Moon before the recent flurry of orbital probes was in 1976.

    Footnote: some commercial ventures are offering limp cargo shots at Luna for one thousand US per gram. Others are offering Lunar vacations (I think trips of a week or so, just to fly round) at a hundred million a seat. Such ventures I think are the most likely method of getting a permanent presence on our nearest neighbour. No government in today's world of paranoia, the war on "terror", tinfoil hats, global recession, overtaxation, poor economic management, poor environmental management, starving African children, exploding Afghan wedding parties, or the rush for ever dwindling hydrocarbon reserves, could afford the billion Dollars a shot to send large enough vehicles at Luna which we'll need rather than the poxy little 3-man capsules we sent in the 1960's.

    The same could be said for pretty much any other kind of permanent presence, manned or unmanned. We're feeling the pinch now with the ISS. Not even the mighty USA could afford to go solo on that hunk of junk. OK, it looks a little thrown together, it is, but the spacefaring countries of the world are learning to work together to exploit space. We need to get even closer to feel the benefit of it /down here on Earth/.
  • Re:Crossover point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Monday March 03, 2008 @09:23PM (#22631060) Homepage Journal

    One should be engaged (and I hope the folks at NASA are reading this) in a serious discussion of what is the information retrieval rate of a space probe (robotic explorer, etc.) vs.a human being?
    http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/news/expandnews.cfm?id=849 [nasa.gov]

    According to Kathy Clark, chief scientist for NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS), while the Sojourner Mars rover was a tremendous achievement, "Sojourner spent two weeks analyzing half a dozen Mars rocks. A human geologist could have done that same work in 30 minutes--then turned the rocks over to see what was hiding underneath."
    A biased source, but it's probably true - a human could travel the four miles Spirit has travelled in several years in about an hour. A little slower considering the sampling they'd be doing, but not by that much - you can pick it up and look at it on the way home (or when you get back to Earth). They could kick a deeper hole with their shoe in seconds than the rover can dig, ever.
  • Re:Crossover point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pintpusher ( 854001 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @09:40PM (#22631156) Journal
    I'd like to see us send a significant number of cargo laden missions first. Sure stick a couple rovers on them to get some science done, but make the mission to get a critical mass of supplies up there first. Send a whole mess of them a month or two apart with the people in the last few. That gives you many launches to fix any problems that arise. You can make a reasonable effort to land them all within a certain radius. If you lose a couple on the way, it's okay because they're just supplies. YOu can always supplement with another cargo load.

    I know if *I* was sitting there on the long ride to mars, I'd be a lot happier knowing there was a good stash of stuff to live with waiting for me. I'd even be willing to sign on for the one way trip provided there were adequate supplies a head of me (especially tools and DUCT TAPE!!).
  • Re:Consider the cost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:12AM (#22632160) Journal

    "Similarly, a human can do much more than Spirit, but you can probably send 10000 rovers like that for the same amount it costs to send one human."
    That's a good point--the question is, will you have fewer limitations?

    Human beings are pretty good tool users. So you send a geologist with lots of geology tools. He can wander across the plains of Mars looking for interesting rocks. Those rocks he finds that are interesting, he can bring back with him to the base where he has more tools. He can chip off a bit of rock with a hammer and look at it under a microscope.

    In short, figure out how to keep said geologist alive and productive on Mars and you've come a long way in getting some really interesting science done.

    To me, the investment made in figuring out how to keep someone alive and productive on Mars seems like it could mean that we could send people there and figure stuff out much quicker than just throwing the same money at more robots which will all have the limitations that the parent described. Of course, it will take considerably longer to figure out how to keep someone alive on Mars than it would to just send a bunch of probes. Still, once you solve that problem...

    To draw an analogy, should we not bother creating a heavy-lift rocket and, instead, launch a bunch of light-lift rockets and assemble things in orbit? Would that be better?

You're at Witt's End.