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Mars NASA Space Science

Mars Journal Issue Inspires Hundreds of One-Way Trip Volunteers 475

Velcroman1 writes "An interplanetary trip to Mars could take as little as 10 months, but returning would be virtually impossible — making the voyage a form of self-imposed exile from Earth unlike anything else in human history. What would inspire someone to volunteer? A special edition of the Journal of Cosmology detailed exactly how a privately-funded, one-way mission to Mars could depart as soon as 20 years from now — and it prompted more than 400 readers to volunteer as colonists. 'I've had a deep desire to explore the universe ever since I was a child and understood what a rocket was,' said Peter Greaves, the father of three, and a jack-of-all-trades who started his own motorcycle dispatch company and fixes computers and engines on the side. 'I envision life on Mars to be stunning, frightening, lonely, quite cramped and busy,' he said. Given the difficulties of the mission, Lana Tao, the editor of the Journal, said she was surprised by the response. 'At first we thought the e-mails were a joke... then we realized they were completely serious.'" Of course, they'd have to compete with the thousands of you who said you'd go.
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Mars Journal Issue Inspires Hundreds of One-Way Trip Volunteers

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  • by Algorithmnast ( 1105517 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @02:47PM (#34825964)
    ... my boss?
    • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @02:55PM (#34826086)
      Is how a father of three could volunteer to depart on what would most likely be a suicide mission. Exploration and the battle against entropy and all that is all good and well, but if one is a father, one has certain responsibilities that are paramount about anything else.

      I will probably get flamed to death about this, but I guess in this case, the guy must be either be completely discontent with his lot in life, or he must be the most selfish, self serving person that exists.
      • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:01PM (#34826180)

        Or, perhaps, his kids are grown?

        Perhaps his kids rarely come visit anyway?

        Who knows. Simply because one has sired offspring does not imply that they are or should be dependent upon one forever.

        Which would be more selfish-- the middle aged to retired man who wants to use the autumn years of his life to accomplish something great, or the children who insist that "pops" stick around so they can dump their kids on him, and otherwise mooch?

        That particular sword cuts both ways, you see.

        • Not that the planners would let him; but any "middle aged to retired man" who consumes a martian launch spot is suffering from a different flavor of selfishness.

          Unless the costs come down by a fair few factors of ten, there is no case to be made for sending any but the healthiest, expected-to-last-longest, specimens...
          • Men are often fertile until they die so maybe he is hoping for a spot on the breeding team!

            • They're looking at 20+ years out. By then I will be 54+ years old. My kids will be 27+ and 25+. I've had a vasectomy, so I'm no good on the breeding team. Note also that once a man hits about 40, you're still fertile but the quality drops. There's a much higher chance of birth defects.

              Let's face it -- by the time we get around to Mars, anything I know will be able to be done by someone younger, who could actually have kids on Mars, and is more likely to recover from injury and the enourmous strain of l

              • But you know...while extreme, the trip to Mars actually would be a good solution for quitting smoking!!

                I mean, once you run out....there's no one to bum smokes from!!

              • Families on Mars? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by pyrr ( 1170465 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @06:04PM (#34828906)

                Why is anyone even thinking about kids on Mars or "breeding teams"?

                I think Elton John had it right in his song on this very theme, "Mars ain't no place to raise your kids". I can think of dozens of reasons that would be a Very Bad Idea, but the major ones:

                Kids are a huge drain on resources-- not just the basic resources like food, water, and space that they'd consume, but also the time of the adult settlers who have to care for them and teach them. Mars settlers need sustainability more than they need their numbers replenished. In all likelihood, settlers would need to, on average, produce substantially more than they consume in order to get a colony set-up and make it viable. Once a colony reaches the level of sustainability that provides an excess capacity of resources (time, food, and water), then and only then would children be feasible within the colony.

                It's also pretty unethical to birth a child, who had no choice in the matter, into that sort of lifestyle. Yes, that argument could (and maybe should) also be made for a number of lifestyles, such as poverty or war, but it is possible to get past those situations with enough effort or a migration. Until 2-way travel is established, life in a Mars settlement is the only possible option for a child born there. Putting someone in that position who never consented to it is kind of shitty.

                On a related note, it probably wouldn't matter what age of adults went on the voyage, within a reasonable range, say 21-50. Not everyone would need to be young, only in reasonably good shape and able to contribute. Just like how a military tends to work, the younger, inexperienced people would do most of the labor and take the physical risks, while the older and more experienced folks would probably be able to contribute more knowledge and experience to the effort, as well as performing lighter labor. There's also the advantage of not having as much "life" to lose if something goes horribly wrong and the settlers' lives are cut short. Regardless of how or when they might die, which all the settlers will do sooner or later, they'd just become soylent anyway. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how it would have to go down, at least for a while, there is just too much water and useful stuff in a corpse to let it go to waste in a resource-starved colony.

                • From what I've read, most plans for Mars colonization don't include any sort of breeding population until after an establishment of a sustainable settlement. If you read the entire proposal you'll see:

                  "Crew selection for the initial manned mission would have to take into account several factors. Initially, colonists may be preferred who are beyond their reproductive age, because their life expectancy is likely to be 20 years or less, and secondly, the first settlers will endure some radiation damage to the

          • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:18PM (#34826516)

            That kind of presupposition trades youth for experience, which would spell disaster for such a mission.

            This is especially true if you need experienced horticultural experts, animal care specialists, and all the other "tools of the trade" types you would need to create a functioning colony.

            If you just wanted to send scientists with a prefab 'Instant research lab in a crate" that they just assemble with a pneumatic torque gun, then yes-- your argument makes sense. However, that is now what is needed by a one-way trip colonization endeavor.

            The people have to be experienced and resourceful. Things that best come with practical experience and age.

            To be successful, the mission would have to incorporate both sets-- the young and vibrant-- as well as the older and more experienced.

            I dont suggest sending invalids up mind-- There are very spry and healthy 60 year olds right now. Instead, I would suggest that all volunteers undergo a skills assessment and a physical, and if they pass both, they are included.

            • by sean.peters ( 568334 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:42PM (#34828622) Homepage

              And blow off the "why". What possible reason is there to colonize Mars? Actually, an even better question is this: how can colonizing Mars pay off? Bear in mind that it would cost billions or even trillions of dollars to get a colony established on Mars. Also bear in mind that Mars is mostly made of iron oxide and silicates - just like earth. Leave aside the enormous initial investment, how would you even recover operating costs? There is literally nothing you could produce on Mars and deliver to markets on earth that you couldn't source more cheaply on earth.

              Investors and/or taxpayers would have to shell out staggering amounts of money to make this happen... what's in it for them?

        • by tebee ( 1280900 )

          If his kids aren't grown up now the will be in the twenty or so years when the mission happens.

          But this is the sort of thing humanity has been doing for centuries if not longer , think Pilgrim Fathers and Plymouth Colony.

        • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @04:11PM (#34827346)

          >Simply because one has sired offspring does not imply that they are or should be dependent upon one forever.

          Would you please call my children and have a long talk with them?

      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:01PM (#34826182) Journal

        Mission date is +20 years. Unless he has more kids, they will all be adults by the time he takes his trip. Other than some grief during the onset of the mission, it's probably no different than the kid that moves away from the area they grew up for better opportunities.

      • Or, you know, he's left his legacy. His kids are well cared for, and perhaps of an age.

        Perhaps he's completely content.

      • If he is a father already, and the Mars mission won't be for 20 years, his children will be at least 20 years old. It's not like he's dropping off the 5 year old at the babysitter forever.
      • A quick skim of the article didn't reveal his age, but from the picture I'd guess mid-late 50s; there's every chance that his (presumably) adult children support him in this and would be happy to see him attempt to fulfil his dreams rather than stagnate, even at some significant risk.

      • by morari ( 1080535 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:04PM (#34826246) Journal

        [...] he must be the most selfish, self serving person that exists.

        Of course he is! He's a father, after all. Who else but the selfish can bring themselves to thrust children into this world of ours? You don't have children for their sake, you have them for your own. Immortality, appreciation, social status, tax credits. Children bring a wealth of benefits to the parents, even without counting less tangible things like pride and love. No one has children for any other reason than for themselves. That attitude may change later one, when care and comfort of the children itself becomes the driving force of importance, but it never starts out being about the kids.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by corbettw ( 214229 )

          You know what benefit parents give their children? Life. Beat that one, I dare you.

        • by Chapter80 ( 926879 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:21PM (#34826576)

          Who else but the selfish can bring themselves to thrust children into this world of ours?

          I totally disagree with this.

          Prior to having children, my wife and I talked about the massive expense and inconvenience, and weighed it against our responsibility to THEM, the unborn children. We literally held their lives in our hands (in the form of Birth Control devices), and decided that the right, UNselfish thing to do was to give them life.

        • You don't have children for their sake, you have them for your own.

          Then the Duggars [] must be the most selfish people on the planet.

        • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:26PM (#34826642)
          Some of us don't think this world is really all that bad. You may think so, but my kids really happy and has an excellent chance at leading an extremely happy life. If you want to crawl in a hole a die childless and hating the world, that's fine.
        • by migla ( 1099771 )

          No one has children for any other reason than for themselves.

          Ouch. I don't think every parent goes into it for selfish reasons. I think most Kids simply happen because people want to fuck. Wanting to fuck and wanting kids is probably pretty well coded into the genome. I.e. people have kids because people want to have kids.

          And, some parents may probably do it for unselfish love of the other parent.

          Anyway. Everyone can't stop having kids. That's saving humanity by ending it. Good people whoa can be good paren

      • by Altus ( 1034 )

        Well, even if his kids are in diapers now the soonest the trip could depart is 20 years from now. While I understand that many people in their 20s-40s would rather not loose a parent, its not like we are talking about leaving the toddlers behind to never know their dad.

      • Depends. Maybe if there is a good paycheck in it that can be sent to his family, it wouldn't be all that bad of an idea. Depending on the age of his kids (maybe they are all teenagers?) there isn't much of a role left for him to play. Not to mention, by the time the trip gets off the ground (literally), his kids will have grown up. Also, it's worth mentioning that even non-mars astronauts would have big problems with family life and small kids, as do many other professions. Many business people spend 80
      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        He's a father of three. A little alone time probably sounds like a really good idea about now.

      • It doesn't say how old the kids are. My dad is a father of three, and the youngest is twenty-five.

      • Most selfless (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:17PM (#34826498)

        In giving his life to explore new frontiers, he sets an example for his children, and for children everywhere, that people can think beyond just their own family and do something for the greater good of humanity.

        Seems to me you are pretty self-serving, thinking only about your own family and not the future of mankind.

      • Is how a father of three could volunteer to depart on what would most likely be a suicide mission.

        Isn't "choosing to stay on earth" a suicide mission?

      • by Ignatius ( 6850 )

        Have you - or anyone who modded this up - even bothered to check the article? How old do you rate the guy from the picture? 20 years from now, chances are his grand children will be grown up!


      • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:18PM (#34826528) Journal

        but if one is a father, one has certain responsibilities that are paramount about anything else.

        Oh - now that's something I disagree with and I'll probably get flamed more than you.

        I could be a terrible father. I don't have any children, and I don't want any for a bit (I'm still pretty young). But if I were to have 3 kids tomorrow I would much rather put them up for adoption than try raising them myself. I've still got to pay off my school debt, I've got living expenses of my own, heck I might be switching jobs soon. Money is going to be tight.

        I know it's not morally justified or anything like that, but if I had kids right now I would end up having this animosity towards them that they ruined my 20's, caused me so much stress, caught me unprepared - basically a bunch of negative energy. I'd do my best to be a loving parent but I won't deny that those thoughts would be there. As such, I'd probably make a terrible father. When there are people out there unable to have children, who are much more loving than I and would be overjoyed with being able to take care of my kids.

        Whether that's being selfish or selfless - I don't know. When one option is both better for the kids and better for me, does that make me a bad person?

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        During WW-II the chances of coming home were 50-50 and they had no shortage of fathers to line up to die.

  • offer it to people in prison / as alt to prsion there are some smart people in there who pulled off some big capers and have skills that are needed on mars.

  • People (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    People don't stop to think. It would be psychological suicide. People say yeah no problem, but in reality 99.9999% of people would not be able to do this.

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Depends entirely on how much intellectual contact you get from Earth during the trip and while you're on Mars. And whether there's something productive to do there. If you're not The Dude, then productive is optional but engaging would still be necessary. As well as a lot of vodka, kahlua, and dairy.

    • Re:People (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Stargoat ( 658863 ) * <> on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:31PM (#34826716) Journal

      Nonsense. Two hundred years ago, Yankee whalers spent 3 and more years from land. Four hundred years ago, the British Navy circumnavigated the world. And Magellan before them. Yes, there were causalities.

      American fur trappers would spend years away from their native cultures. People today spend decades in solitary confinement and come out relatively unscathed.

      And any adventure these men and women underwent would have better health associated it with any of the above adventures mentioned. (Yes, adventure. The proper use of the word.) Further, there would be every anticipation that these people would be the best and the brightest that humanity has to offer.

      There is too much mollycoddling and emphasis placed today on psychological wellbeing and, frankly, life. H. sapiens is a hardy group. We have survived pandemics, world wars, climate change, and every other predator on the planet. It's just a matter of effort to move to Mars. It should be done, and the sooner the better.

      • Yes, but those folks had the possibility of coming back, and quite a few did. A one way trip to Mars would mean that you're definitely not coming back, and will almost certainly die by either starvation or suicide once there.

        Consequently I'm not sure that it's a fair analogy.
      • People today spend decades in solitary confinement and come out relatively unscathed.

        Not so much []. The attached link is one example, and there are many others that show that solitary confinement is extremely psychologically damaging.

        There is too much mollycoddling and emphasis placed today on psychological wellbeing

        Dude, it's not about touchy-feely being nice to everybody. It's about the mission - if your crew goes crazy either while en route or on the planet due to inattention to their psychological well-b

  • by Stregano ( 1285764 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @02:52PM (#34826040)
    Isn't this how the movie Aliens started?

    I am never going to that colony. I have seen too many sci-fi movies to want to mess around with that. Deep Space exploration on the other hand, I would volunteer for
    • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @02:57PM (#34826124)

      Deep Space exploration? You mean like Event Horizon?

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:14PM (#34826426) Journal
        (Interview room)

        "So, your resume looks quite strong, and medical says that you are cleared for prolonged periods of weightlessness and are highly resistant to disorientation and nausea. Very promising."

        "Thank you, I have the greatest enthusiasm for the mission!"

        "Just one thing, before I answer any questions you might have: Purely out of curiosity, do you have any sort of latent trauma in your background that might be triggered in a fairly easy-to-do-the-special-effects-for sort of way where you, hypothetically, trapped on a derelict vessel steeped in the ultimate evil of a dimension as alien to the laws of physics as it is repulsive to the idea of a loving God?"

        "Umm... What?"
      • no no that was deep space-time exploration. Funny you mentioned that movie since I just bought the DVD last weekend.

  • There's probably at least some disconnect between those willing to go to Mars to start a colony, and those who are qualified to go to start a colony (certain skillsets, psychology, etc.) Personally, I would probably go, but I know I don't have anything to offer a colony to help it start and last.
    • Amusingly, I do have a somewhat useful skillset for such an operation...

      As far as geeks go, I am ordinary to sub par-- only knowing one programming language, and it being older then dirt-- but where I would shine would be in my other skillsets-- namely, I grew up in an agrarian environment, and am first-hand experienced with animal husbandry and ecological issues.

      (No slashnerds. that does NOT mean I am into bestiality, so don't crack jokes.)

      I also have experience operating agricultural equipment, like tract

    • I know I don't have anything to offer a colony to help it start and last.

      If you have reproductive capabilities, then you have at least one thing to offer.

  • Send up a flotilla of cargo ships with parts for the return vehicle.

    Then send up a flotilla of vehicle builders.

    Then send up your volunteer.

    • I'm sure vehicle building in a low gravity environment will work quite differently from how we do it on this nice planet of ours.

      • by blair1q ( 305137 )

        Yeah. It'll be a fuckload easier. It means we can send up a lighter crane. Just saved a few $billion right there.

  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:04PM (#34826242)
    Send all the volunteers. Send several ships with greenhouse and housing building materials. Eventually we will build the technology to rescue them. For now, they can just Tweet us from Mars.
  • . . . the person they should pick for such a mission should be a Major in the Air Force who is married, and answers to the name "Tom." :)

  • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:07PM (#34826306)

    But even my longest (currently) planned trip (a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail) still has me going into town for resupply every week at most and of course ends with me safe back home. On shorter trips I've spent a longer time away from people and civilization (60 days in the woods, but I had made several trips ahead of time to lay in supplies so I didn't need to go anywhere) and it was lonely - but again, in the end I knew I was coming back to the things I felt were "home." Despite going on those kinds of trips (which I venture to say most westerners never even come close to doing), I really can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to make such a trip and *know* that I was never, ever coming back and I would almost certainly never, EVER see any of the people and places I love, and never have the luxury of easy survival that we have here on Earth, even in some of the worst places on the planet, ever again.

    I know there are many people who would volunteer for such a trip - I certainly think it would be pessimistic to think that we couldn't find several thousand people who are qualified and capable of making the trip. Heck, maybe I'd even be one of them, but based on my experience simply removing myself from human company for 2 months, probably not. In any case, people like that "father of three" volunteering just come off as romantic and not particularly thoughtful.

    We don't have anything comparable to abandoning *for sure* everything you know and settling somewhere new in our race's living memory. We have a handful of people alive who were born in the very late 1890's - when crossing from Europe to the Americas was not unreasonable to contemplate doing twice, or being able to send for one's family, or otherwise not cut oneself off from everything you knew. Even Columbus made it here and back - there really would be nothing comparable in even the most charitable definition of modern times.

    Maybe I'm being overly dramatic, but I do wonder what people who could do this one-way-for-sure trip and survive would be like. I have lived without the streets of my city underfoot and the ceilings of my home overhead, but I can't imagine what it would do to me to have alien soil under alien skies and know I'd never set foot on Earth again.

  • You need to understand that the latency in Internet connectivity would make playing real-time online games almost impossible. Even simple IM messages could take 20 minutes or so to get across. YouTube would probably be virtually inaccessible, as would any site that depends on streaming. I'm just sayin'.

    Of course, you could play other volunteers with you, as long as some enterprising game company (no pun intended) allowed you to run a server there.

    • Games would have to run their own local servers, SMS texting would be better off than most services due to the size of the messages, ditto tweeting.

      Youtube should be fine, 20+ minute buffer for the video to start, but once something is on the local buffering proxy server, it should load up pretty quickly.

      The real question is how much bandwidth would be available to civillians writing home, scientific data back to research universities.

      How difficult would it be to have DirecTV point a feed at the Red Planet

  • It's easy to write up an e-mail and send it, especially knowing this is unlikely to ever happen. I'd say less than 2% of those volunteers are actually people who would go through with it if asked.
  • by berryjw ( 1071694 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:15PM (#34826444)
    We've been wandering off on one-way trips for most of human existence, even if most didn't completely realize the nature of the trips. Huge numbers of immigrants to the Americas *knew* it was one-way, the journey was treacherous, and none of it would be easy, and huge numbers of them didn't survive. The human animal is, by nature, an exploratory creature, of course many of us would go. Many more of us would go afterward, over the bones of those before us, armed with what little knowledge their passing gave us, because the hope of success would so mightily outshine any sense of hope left here.
  • ...didn't expect to return, either.
    • Re:Pioneers... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GreatAntibob ( 1549139 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#34826974)

      Pioneers also had a reasonable expectation of finding breathable air, arable soil, animals to hunt for food/clothing, timber and stone for building homes, and drinkable water. Yet, the death rate among most pioneer groups was also unacceptably high (by our modern standards). You almost always had a majority or all of several pioneer groups die in the attempt (Donner party?). In the more modern case of the Spanish, French, and British colonies in the Americas, the colonists had to be supplied from the home countries for years before becoming close to semi-reliant. In the case of the first few British colonies, the mortality rate was in excess of 50% for decades. Even after the US declared independence, the Americans relied on Europe for manufactured goods for most of a century.

      Simple is NOT the same as easy. There's a reason why most initial pioneering groups were often poor, felons, or other sorts of outcasts. It's easy to throw your life away if it already really sucks. And they did die. In droves.

      • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

        Consider that major pioneering efforts followed in the footsteps of explorers, who had every intention of returning and usually did, reporting back useful information about what was found.

  • If Doctor Who has taught me anything, don't drink the Martian water. Not with out an appropriate water filter of course.

  • Sending humans to Mars is just a waste of time and money. For the same resources you can send a bunch of unmanned missions and accomplish more.

  • by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:50PM (#34827002)

    In the 1960's we made it to the moon in 8 years, when NO ONE has ever been out of earth's orbit before the program started. And we got the men back safely to earth. And we did it several times.

    Now, 40 years later, we think it will take 20 years to do a ONE WAY trip to the moon?

    Our sense of ambition disappoints me. We should go to Mars and we should bring those people back. They will be heroes and we should not let them die. I understand that some people think its a waste of money, and other people would rather we go one way then don't go at all, but I'd rather we just go, and quit worrying about the cost (well, I mean we shouldn't waste money, obviously - we should do it as economically as is reasonable).

    If we took just 5-10% of *one years worth* of our hyperinflated military budget (which would give us $70 billion for the Mars trip. That should be enough.), we could go to Mars and back, in 10 years. So, 1% total from the military budget over 10 years. You think Mars is a waste of money? Our military is a waste of money. Lets take 1% of it and do some inspirational work.

  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @03:53PM (#34827080) Homepage

    In the 1600's people from Europe went to colonize the new world. They brought with them tools and provisions to start a new life. Few of them went back home, in fact some of the ships that landed on American shores were taken apart for their wood to build shelter. There is a big difference between the colonization of America and the possible colonization of Mars. (Mars can't support life without a lot of technology that must be brought along, the new world was still Earth!) But the idea of leaving home and never going back with only limited communication possible with those left behind is the same. (It will actually be EASIER for the Mars colonists to communicate with their loved ones left behind than it was for the American colonists!) Eventually as the new world colonies grew, so did trade and it became possible for the colonists to travel back to Europe, and the same will happen for future Mars colonists.

    Europe didn't start to colonize the America's until there were large fleets of ships plying the waters of the Atlantic. Until we have the same kind of access to space that 17th Century Europe had to the Atlantic I don't see us being able to colonize Mars. I also think we should establish a colony on the moon first, if for no other reason than to test the required technology.

    • by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @04:45PM (#34827856)

      A better comparison would be to the "colonization" of Antarctica, except that Antarctica is far, far more hospitable a place than Mars. Not only is it much warmer than Mars, but the atmosphere contains lots of oxygen, and there's plenty of water lying about. It's not cheap to get your gear and supplies there, but it doesn't cost a bazillion dollars per kilo, either.

      Conversely, anyone volunteering to go to Mars - permanently or not - ought to be required to live by themselves in some remote outpost in Antarctica for several years, with only a ton or two of materials and supplies with which to build shelter and sustain themselves for the duration. If you can't figure out how to do that, you have no business on Mars.

  • Purely Stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <sherwin@ami[ ].us ['ran' in gap]> on Monday January 10, 2011 @05:34PM (#34828510) Homepage Journal

    This is dumb, dumb, dumb.

    There is only one reason this is described as a "one-way" mission; Mankind's incredibly stupid reliance on chemical rockets. Chemical rockets *will not* allow us to explore any of outer space in a meaningful way, with the possible (and expensive) exception of near earth orbit.

    We already have the technology to jet where-ever we want around the solar system. Project Orion [].

    There was a BBC show [] on it.

    The short story: It was a design to use small nuclear explosives to push up against an abalative impact plate with shock absorbs. One pulse every 120 seconds. Significant levels of acceleration, and a mass to energy ratio that would make any rocket scientist blush. We could *easily* send a million ton spacecraft to Mars, with more than sufficient fuel to return several massive (10s of thousands of tons) spacecraft back to earth.

    We could do round trips every 6 months without blinking an eye, with the added side effect of using much of the world's weapons grade nuclear fuel. Enhancements to the design switched from Fission to Fusion; at which point Orion spacecraft would be able to start to move around interstellar space. Early designs using current materials could achieve 0.05-0.1c . Designs using future materials (or possible relying upon non-solid ablative surfaces (this includes a plate that is sprayed with an oil solution before each blast)) could theoretically achieve .8c . This would make round-trips to Alpha Centauri possible.

    How do you get around the nuclear radiation issues? Simple. First, there's no serious issue with radiation in space; build it in orbit, and there's not much to worry about. Second, the fallout/radiation from direct planetary launches would be dwarfed by weapons tests that occurred in the past, and probably by fossil fuel plant emissions, as well. The total fallout released from a planetary launch of a 6,000 ton vehicle would be equal to a 10-megaton nuclear blast (roughly one worldwide instance of cancer per launch), even using thermonuclear blasts. Further refinements to the technology could significantly reduce that; and mankind has pursued far less interesting pursuits that have caused a great deal more fallout (and heighted rates of cancer) than a real, "nuclear" space program.

    In an ideal world, we'd build a few *huge* orion stations, and launch them into orbit. I'm talk multi-million ton hulks. The fallout from these launches would be significant, but would still be smaller in magnitude than the fallout from the various nuclear weapons tests that occurred during the cold war. These stations would contain the industrial complex needed to build additional ships, and smaller vessels capable of mining the needed materials from the moon. Hopefully, there are sufficient levels of fissionable and fusible materials on the moon. At that point, man kind could return to using chemical rockets as ferries to get into space; to deliver small cargos and personnel to the constructions stations.

    How would you pay for this venture? That begs the question: Whats the best way to profit of a massive nuclear pulse drive in space? To move asteroids! Mining of the asteroid belt would be a serious proposition, and the low gravity (and lack of atmosphere) makes the usage of our Orion drives even more palpable. It would be necessary to figure out a cheap way to return these metals to earth; however, initial studies have suggested that even very small asteroids (1 mile diameter) can contain tens of trillions of dollars of metals.

    The loss rate would be terrific, but one could imagine breaking asteroids into 500 m chunks, surrounding them with layers of ceramic heat shield, and them aiming them for the middle of the ocean, Siberia, or other wasteland type area. I have a feeling we can devise a more elegant solution over time.

    This could happen in our life

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