Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Mars Space

Christmas On Mars 41

At John Scalzi's blog, astronomer and science fiction author Diane Turnshek writes about spending the holidays at the Mars Desert Research Station, a place in Utah where The Mars Society is running test missions to figure out proper procedures for living in a habitat on Mars. She says, "In sim, we eat rehydrated/dehydrated food, have a 20-minute lag time for communication, spend time in airlocks before going out on the surface and conserve water (Navy showers every three days). A row of parked ATVs out in front awaits us for our more distant EVAs. We have to be careful–the nearest hospital is forty miles away on back roads and there’s no cell service here on Mars. Reports are sent via email to Mission Support every evening in which we have to clearly explain any technical or medical problems and they respond in kind. I’ve been working in the Musk Observatory, taking CCD photometry of eclipsing binary stars." You can also read the mission's daily crew reports and browse through their photostream.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Christmas On Mars

Comments Filter:
  • by Provocateur ( 133110 ) <shediedNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @03:26PM (#42389455) Homepage

    Sign me up!

  • While you're there, (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Be sure to wish each other Einy Klaveeny Klibidv'vak.


  • If they really want to simulate life on Mars they should set up an internet connection with realistic latency built in. I think after a few days of waiting 60 minutes for Twitter and Facebook refreshes they will be tearing the walls down to get back to civilization...

    • by p0p0 ( 1841106 ) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @03:42PM (#42389553)
      I think that would fall under "communications" if you re-read the summary.
    • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @04:00PM (#42389655) Homepage Journal

      I used to play a turn-based gamed called VGA Planets. It was play-by-email. Usually a turn would be played once per day. We'd complete our moves, generate a play file, UUencode it, and copy/paste into email body and send it. The host would process everybody's moves and email back the results for the next days' turn.

      With 60 minute lag internet, play-by-email could make a comeback...

      • There are literally THOUSANDS of games out there that do this with even greater lag than that. They are usually focused around people that only have time to make a few moves per day. So you get a certain number of moves that you can make at any time during the day until you run out of movement points. You regenerate so many points per day. As a result you usually log in once a day or less to make your moves, and then wait for everyone else. Any of these would work just fine from anywhere inside the solar sy

        • I'm only familiar with Urban Dead from your list, but it wouldn't work if you were on Mars. Yes, you get 1 move per 30 minutes to spend whenever you see fit, but it's (at least) one HTTP request to server per move, so you would barely be able to spend the moves faster than they regenerate.

    • by jonadab ( 583620 )
      Actually, I think the two most important things to simulate would be the extremely low atmospheric pressure outside your complex (the atmosphere on Mars is closer to vacuum than a standard physics-classroom vacuum pump can produce in a jar; simulating this outside the complex on Earth would mean putting your exterior environment under a big dome with HUGE vacuum pumps) and year-and-a-half travel time to and from Earth (which can be simulated easily: any new supplies you import must go into a waiting bin for
  • I'm curious.

    How difficult would it be to drop a NASA LTE tower on Mars and a GPS sat?

    Say what you want but about the idea... but GPS / LTE is fairly useful on earth. Interplanetary text messaging fees, knowing Verizon, would be about $140,000 each.

    • You'd need something like a dozen GPS sats in the first place. Then, you'd need a control center on Mars to keep their time bases synchronized.
  • There's no reason to think water would be that limited on Mars. How hard can it be to melt some rock into the form of a holding tank, set up solar panels, and melt ice?
    • Re:water (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @05:37PM (#42390173)

      There's no reason to think water would be that limited on Mars.

      No reason to think water would be all that limited on a ship/submarine floating in the stuff. Nonetheless, there's a reason they call it a "Navy shower" (FYI: you run the water long enough to get wet, turn the water off, soap&shampoo as needed, then turn water back on long enough to rinse off).

      In case it's not obvious, the real limiter isn't the amount of water nearby, it's the ability to purify the water that provides the limitation - water purifiers/distillers tend to be large and moderately power-intensive.

      How hard can it be to melt some rock into the form of a holding tank, set up solar panels, and melt ice?

      Not hard at all. Of course, you have to carry the rock-melter to Mars, plus power source for same. Plus solar panels (which will give you less than half the output you'd get here on Earth). Plus the fuel to move all that to Mars - adds a lot to the difficulty of the initial mission.

      For a permanent station, expect that you'd do it this way, expanding capability as resupply missions brought you more equipment. But it's pretty likely that if you were serious, you'd be expanding the personnel at least as fast as you'd be adding new equipment, and there'd always be people (to include many/most of the scientists actually on Mars) who'd prefer the lift be used to send more science equipment rather than infrastructure....

      • by osiaq ( 2495684 )
        is there a possibility to send some nuclear generator, like submarine one or this famous russian lighthouse? Or maybe 5 of them, it might solve some problems
        • by mbone ( 558574 )

          is there a possibility to send some nuclear generator, like submarine one or this famous russian lighthouse? Or maybe 5 of them, it might solve some problems

          It's gotten a lot [phys.org] of thought [technologyreview.com]. I regard it as pretty likely.

          But, you are still likely to be power limited.

        • is there a possibility to send some nuclear generator, like submarine one or this famous russian lighthouse? Or maybe 5 of them, it might solve some problems

          Note that a submarine nuke plant is quite heavy - a moderately large number of hundreds of tons (and it was that light because it could use the whole ocean as cooling fluid for the secondary loop). And still we had "navy showers".

          Yes, it would solve a lot of problems, but getting it there isn't going to happen soon (with "soon" defined VERY loosely).

        • by Fastolfe ( 1470 )

          Moving things to Mars is always going to be incredibly expensive, and if there are people willing to take the trip knowing that they'll have to work with severe power and resource restrictions, then those things are luxuries and the money can be spent on sending more useful and mission-critical things to Mars instead.

          The next major milestone on Mars will be self-sufficiency. Once you can live off the land and energy production becomes cheap, you can start producing more luxury items and make fewer sacrific

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you read up on the Mars Society, you'll find they have nothing to do with an actual science org. These guys sound like the BioSphere project, but cheaper.

  • on back roads?

    Many people here on earth would wish they were that lucky.

    • on back roads?

      Many people here on earth would wish they were that lucky.

      I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains.

      But a thousand k's to hospital really IS a major pain.

  • Wrong objectives (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @05:02PM (#42389979)
    Crappy communications.
    Poor transportation.
    Shortage of water.
    And this dude is doing astronomy. WTF?

    Dig some tunnels. Set up some infrastructure. Distil some water. Check on the microbes being bred for terraforming. Do something to improve life on mars. We have well equipped astronomers and space telescopes here at home.
  • That's not the real Santa you see, it's just Droppo wearing his clothes.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:57PM (#42391799) Homepage

    Christmas on Mars forms the climax of the 1955 George Pal movie, "Conquest of Space." The crew of the first ship to Mars has been debating whether God gave Mars to humankind to exploit, or just Earth. They all agree that according to the Bible God gave "the four corners of the Earth" to humankind. The question is whether God's domain extends to Mars.

    If God exists on Mars, then Mars belongs to humankind as well.

    Due to plot complications, the ship is forced to remain on Mars for a year, and their water supply isn't going to last that long. On Christmas Day, they are glumly playing carols on the harmonica while contemplating the prospect of their demise, when it begins to snow, providing the water they need and proving that God exists on Mars. Ergo Mars belongs to humankind, it's OK to conquer space, and the music is allowed to build to a crescendo behind the words "THE END."

    The special effects aren't too good, either.

  • Christmas On Mars

    Ooh! Let's decorate.

    A little green here, some silver and gold there. Ahhhh. We've got the red covered, don't worry about it.

  • Enjoyable reading if you want to get some idea of what it might take to colonize Mars. All the problems listed are addressed there along with a bunch of others.

    A Mars colony will be a Biodome project. They need to be as self-sufficient as possible since there's no alternative waiting outside the door.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead