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Mars Space Science

Mars One Contracts Paragon To Investigate Life Support Systems 118

thAMESresearcher writes with news about the progress of Mars One. From the article: "Mars One has taken a bold step toward their goal of establishing a human settlement on Mars in 2023 by contracting with its first aerospace supplier, Paragon Space Development Corporation. ... The contract will enable the initial conceptual design of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) and Mars Surface Exploration Spacesuit System. During this study, Paragon will identify major suppliers, concepts, and technologies that exist today and can be used as the baseline architecture for further development. The ECLSS will provide and maintain a safe, reliable environment for the inhabitants, providing them with clean air and water. The Mars suits will enable the settlers to work outside of the habitat and explore the surface of Mars."
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Mars One Contracts Paragon To Investigate Life Support Systems

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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @03:20AM (#43146527)

    This most likely won't result in much more than spending a bunch of money on a design study. Just look at how many times NASA went through billions in studies to come up with zilch eventually. The main difference here, being the private sector, is that sane investors will pull the plug before it reaches mere millions, not billions.

    Wake me up when they start building something. Until then, it's PR.

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @04:22AM (#43146707)

    Sure, getting there doesn't have to require anything fancy. Surviving the trip will be considerably more difficult. Actually establishing a Mars base - nothing quite so audacious has been attempted in all of Human history.

    Mars offers some serious hurdles compared to the moon.
    - It's further away with a considerably greater orbital specific energy, so considerably larger rockets are necessary especially since:
    - There's going to be a much longer trip outside the Earth's protective magnetosphere, so much heavier shielding and/or much greater speed will be necessary, and we don't really have much experience with actually providing such
    - Longer trip times (most plans I've seen call for at least 1-6 months, one-way) means we need much better life support systems. A lot of that has been developed for the ISS, but operating without hope of resupply makes things dicier.
    - Extended stay on Mars: this is a serious endeavor. Maybe we can just drop an ISS-equivalent system and have it function well enough for a while, but more likely we'll need a more self-sufficient ecosystem, and there's still very limited research as to how to actually pull that one off.
    - Return trip: Not only is Mars much further away than the moon, it has a far more substantial gravity well: so we'll need a bunch more fuel, almost as much as for the trip out. The obvious solutions are to either make it there (a potentially major undertaking on a hostile planet), or send it ahead, probably via the interplanetary transport network (in which case we need to worry about what years of radiation exposure is doing to it) Also:
    - Takeoff could be a problem. While SpaceX and others are working on it no-one has (so far as I know) ever successfully built and tested a reusable launch vehicle, which means we need to design something new that can land and take off again, even if only under 1/3 G.

    None of those are inconsiderable problems, and we don't have a Cold War dick-waving competition going on to anymore to goose things along. Part of me wishes the war could have lasted another decade or so to actually get us established in space - then again considering how close we came to WW3 on multiple occasions it's probably just as well it ended when it did.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @10:19AM (#43148533) Journal

    A colony near/attached to a suitable asteroid would have access to plenty of water and other raw materials. With the benefit of not being stuck in a gravity well. And in the main stations you could have the benefit of a proven 1G environment for actual living (rather than mere survival). You won't get that 1G on Mars as easily and cheaply as you can in space.

    How much extra safety and time do you think Mars atmosphere will give you to respond to an emergency? Mars' atmospheric pressure is typically less than 1/100th the pressure of the Earth's atmosphere. How's that going to help much?

    And unless you have reasonable evidence that people can live well in 0.3G, I don't see how it would be better for long term high population colonization:
    1) The G is wrong.
    2) The atmosphere is wrong - so you'd still need "space station" like infrastructure for every part that humans have to live in. Thus you need about the same amount of raw materials to provide the same amount of liveable space, if not more.

    If you can manage with low g, you could stick your settlement in an asteroid for radiation shielding.

    Travel amongst suitable asteroids might not be as expensive as travel amongst suitable mining spots on Mars. There are no roads, you have to contend with terrain. The very thin atmosphere prevents easy flying (thin air + same inertia = hard to turn), the presence of 0.3 gravity does not help much

    The first step though would be to build a space station with 1G and radiation shielding. The first test station doesn't necessary have to be near an asteroid. It does not have to be a ring or tube style space station - it could be just a "bucket" (living area) + tethers+docking hub+ tethers+counterweight.

    The first real step for a colony outside earth is not Mars. Settling on Mars is like trying to jump before being able to crawl. Settling on the Moon would make more sense than Mars (due to proximity to Earth). But settling in space near decent asteroids would make even more sense.

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