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Mars NASA The Almighty Buck

NASA Will Award You $5,000 For Your Finest Mars City Idea 156

coondoggie writes with this snippet from Network World: NASA this week said it would look to the public for cool ideas on how to build a sustainable environment on Mars with the best plan earning as much as $5,000. With the Journey to Mars Challenge, NASA wants applicants to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations that are needed to set up and establish a technically achievable, economically sustainable human living space on the red planet. Think air, water, food, communications systems and the like.
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NASA Will Award You $5,000 For Your Finest Mars City Idea

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  • That a week ago KSP went out of Beta?

    Time to check whether the base mods have been updated yet.

    • Where's my $5K?

      On Mars.

      • Where's my $5K?

        On Mars.

        But only after you stay for 10 years will they let you cash the check they had JPL put inside Spirit....

      • by Falos ( 2905315 )
        To receive it, you have to spend at least one night in the manor!
        • To receive it, you have to spend at least one night in the manor!

          Dude... i don't know if you mean what i think that you mean,,, but i am Greek... i don't know what you think about us Greeks (don't believe the barbarous lies), but i will decline the offer... blame your pseudonym!

    • You gotta make the core hot and turn it into liquid so it spins. You might need a battery to excite the coil.

      • Superconducting coil around the equator power by solar panels seems feasible.

        • Heh, maybe in 500 years...

        • by delt0r ( 999393 )
          It is not quite as easy as it sounds. If we assume we want a field strength close to what earths is, ie about 65 micro T, from the radius of mars of 3390km, we would need a current of 350MA. That is quite a bit. But even worse is the force this wire is under. The tension is 77.276 GN. The total energy in the magnetic field is 6.3MW/h.

          Well it seems sort of plausible.
          • by PaulBu ( 473180 )

            It does not have to be a one-turn coil, 350 turns would require only a MA of current, or only about 10000 times more than a big car starter motor uses! :)

            Paul B.

            • by delt0r ( 999393 )
              True, but the forces and energy are the same. ie a million superconducting wires will need a 350A current. It should be noted for 77GN your looking at something with a 5-10m diameter. So this is not small. But a bit more plausible that i originally thought.
          • by aXis100 ( 690904 )

            The static energy / current requirements seem plausible, but that may only be a small part of the picture. Any conductor moving in that feild - vehicles, people, ions from solar wind - will then generate an EMF and dissipate energy in the process.

            • by delt0r ( 999393 )
              Turns out that a superconductor won't lose that field. The items moving around the field have work done on them. But that is directly via forces on those objects. It won't suck energy out of the coil. In other words its a really big almost perfect permanent magnet. Of course this is once its all started. During start up there will be extra energy required for such dissipation effects, and well iron in the core will change things quite a bit.

              I did the calculation to show that it was a silly idea (need ca
        • Superconducting coil around the equator power by solar panels seems feasible.

          Could you somehow use solar wind itself to induce the current that produces the field that repels it? That kind of shield would be very useful for manned spacecraft.

      • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

        You gotta make the core hot and turn it into liquid so it spins. You might need a battery to excite the coil.

        Battery? No, what we need are nukes, a subterranean (submarsean?) vehicle that can travel to the core to place them, and a team of misfit heroes.

        • by cHiphead ( 17854 )

          Get Aaron Eckhart on the phone, stat!

        • No, what we need are nukes, a subterranean (submarsean?) vehicle that can travel to the core to place them, and a team of misfit heroes.

          We can't leave a mission of such important to misfits. This clearly requires politicians, lobbyists and corporate executives.

    • NASA says that must not be your finest idea.
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:00PM (#49631387)
    maybe a middle-schooler will win some.
  • Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:01PM (#49631395)

    Build the city on earth instead. Breathable atmosphere, easy resupply missions, plenty of water.

    • Even easier... Change the name of an existing city to "Mars" and you are done...

      Oh yea, "I came home from Mars just last week.".. Or, "I'm going to Mars to live for the next 10 years."

    • Build the city on earth instead. Breathable atmosphere...

      Not for long [softpedia-static.com]

      ...plenty of water...

      For me to poop in [theneweconomy.com]

      And, you know, there's this [rottentomatoes.com]. Mars is a warehouse, who wants to live in a warehouse? Let Amazon handle it, with Huey, Dewey, and Louie...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You are a cow. A cow says moo. MOOOOOOO! Moooooooo! Mooo cow moooooo! YOU COW!

    • Until that extinction level event rock comes cruising along and wipes out humanity because of the whole "all our eggs in one basket" thing....

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        Build an underground shelter, with sufficient supplies to last until the dust settles. Much cheaper, and much higher chance of survival.

        • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU1QPtOZQZU

          Where should we build it? On the part of the continent that gets flattened by the impact, or the continent that gets turned to lava by the thermal shock? If you can build something that would allow a breeding population of humans to survive something even a fraction as bad as that I think it'll be far more expensive than a Mars colony.

          • by itzly ( 3699663 )

            Build a couple, spread out over the earth. Keep in mind that small mammals were able to survive the previous huge impact by digging a hole in the ground with their paws. I'm sure we can do better than that.

            • They were able to survive *some* of the huge impacts. There were a few, including the one that created the moon that would not be survivable by any digging. But it's not just impacts. There are a whole host of other disasters that could take out a one planet humanity.

              • by itzly ( 3699663 )

                There were a few, including the one that created the moon that would not be survivable by any digging.

                That was a small planet, and it's gone now.

                There are a whole host of other disasters that could take out a one planet humanity.

                There are at least 100 times as many that can take out a fragile settlement on Mars, so by building such a place, you've increased the odds of humanity's survival by 1%. It's not worth the trouble.

                • So if you came down with cancer and the treatment had a 1% success rate you'd just not bother?

                  No offense, but Stephen Hawking thinks it's worth the bother, and some guy on Slashdot named itzly doesn't. I'm going to go with Hawking's recommendation

                  http://www.space.com/8924-stephen-hawking-humanity-won-survive-leaving-earth.html

        • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

          Build an underground shelter, with sufficient supplies to last until the dust settles. Much cheaper, and much higher chance of survival.

          This is a good plan. Nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely. Greenhouses could maintain plantlife. Animals could be bred and slaughtered. Selecting survivors need not be difficult -- a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross section of necessary skills.

          Naturally, they would breed prodigiously; there would be much time, and little to do. And, with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females

          • Watch out for those nubile females, they want our fluids!

          • Naturally, they would breed prodigiously; there would be much time, and little to do. And, with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, society could be rebuilt. Though since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

            Apart from not mentioning beer, your argument seems compelling.

    • For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. —H. L. Mencken

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt.nerdflat@com> on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:02PM (#49631405) Journal

    It occurs to me that a feasable plan for a sustainable mars colony is worth a *HECK* of a lot more than just $5K....

    Try increasing that by *AT LEAST* a couple of orders of magnitude.

    Offering only $5K for a practical idea that once successfully implemented is going to be quite frankly worth trillions of dollars is really undervaluing the significance of coming up with a workable plan in the first place.

    • Yeah, really, I won't even change a lightbulb without getting a signed contract.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        I never change lightbulbs because it's a hardware problem, and I'm a software guy.

    • If most of the ideas in the proposal pan out, you make it into the history books for all time. Most likely, the final plan would barely resemble anything that comes out of this, so it seems like more than a fair deal to me. This is just an example of a public private partnership in its simplest form. It'll save the government some time and money by jumpstarting the initial phase of designing a colony. And who better to lay out initial requirements than potential future colonists?
    • That's still better than the market rate of $0.10 for 12 ideas. In fact, you'd probably go bankrupt if you offered that rate, which is why they're limiting it to the top 3 ideas only.

      Presumably the plan here is to not overlook anything "obvious" that their experts somehow didn't think of. Obviously, the actual plans in full detail will be developed by the experts.

    • Offering only $5K for a practical idea

      Well, the probably had a big budget increase!

    • It occurs to me that a feasable plan for a sustainable mars colony is worth a *HECK* of a lot more than just $5K....

      Don't worry, they're not actually looking for ideas. They have tons of ideas. They have people whose whole job is to come up with ideas. They have an army of very knowledgeable volunteers in groups like The Planetary Society who'd write detailed thousand-page treatises on solid waste recycling on Mars, in exchange for just knowing that the human race has an off-world outpost. They're not l

    • by Snufu ( 1049644 )

      worth a *HECK* of a lot more than just $5K....

      Don't be greedy, that's half the NASA budget for 2015.

  • Barsoom always needs more egg hatcheries. And air generation stations along the canals.

  • Easier to get to, less radiation (but enough for solar panels to work), lots of water, no huge gravity well to surmount when coming home.

  • Surface? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:05PM (#49631437) Homepage Journal

    My first idea is to dig in. Put the people underground, as much as possible. Put critical infrastructure underground as well. No matter how you build, or what you build with, surface structures are going to be vulnerable. Put greenhouses on the surface, put solar panels on the surface, put hazardous research and fabrication on the surface. Put the PEOPLE underground. Dig them in where they can sleep soundly, knowing that they are safe from piddling little things like storms, or meteors, or whatever.

    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      What's the point of going to Mars and then live underground ? You can dig a hole right here, if you want.

    • So you want to put the people underground where they'll be safe, and their source of food and fresh air (the greenhouses) where they're going to be, as you yourself say, vulnerable.

      The greenhouses need to be underground as well. So does the power generation, which means a fusion plant. Good thing they're only 20 years away, just like they were 20 years ago.

      • So you want to put the people underground where they'll be safe, and their source of food and fresh air (the greenhouses) where they're going to be, as you yourself say, vulnerable.

        The greenhouses need to be underground as well. So does the power generation, which means a fusion plant. Good thing they're only 20 years away, just like they were 20 years ago.

        You can put greenhouses above ground. Just make sure you have an underground failsafe and enough emergency reserves to make it through a disaster.

        Even then it's probably not feasible. Look how expensive it is to go underground on earth, now consider how tough it will be on Mars when you're walking around in spacesuits and have to transport heavy duty excavation and construction equipment from earth.

        More likely just put everything above ground and distributed. If an asteroid takes out a greenhouse or a house

      • Keep the greenhouses on the surface, so they can use the existing fusion plant.

    • Develop a drilling or excavation machine that can operate mostly autonomously (ideally, using something like industrial lasers to avoid mechanical wear on the drilling apparatus) and send one or more to Mars several years/decades ahead of when you want to send the humans. Have them drill at a downward angle into the side of a crater, and once you've gone sufficiently far then start having them dig or drill to the side. Ideally, by the time the colonists reach Mars all they need to do is install airlocks at

      • There may be some leaks but hopefully the colonists can make some sort of cement out of the Martian dirt to plug them.

        Lucky you covered that last point, I was getting worried your plan was insanely risky.

  • If NASA wants my design, it'll cost them a lot more than $5000. For $5000, maybe I can whip something up in crayon.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You are a self-centered egoist and egocentric guy... blocking all humanity for a few bucks... you insensitive clod!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am quite sure with just a few reforms, some of the underground cities used by Martians in the past can be put back into shape - there seems to be too few inhabitants left around there to claim for the vast urban infrastructure that should have been in place back them.

    • I am quite sure with just a few reforms, some of the underground cities used by Martians in the past can be put back into shape - there seems to be too few inhabitants left around there to claim for the vast urban infrastructure that should have been in place back them.

      Finally, the voice of reason.

  • Just watch Bio-Dome.
  • Only 5K?

    We're talking about NASA here people... if they are going to be that cheap in compensation for a great idea... they can go phuck themselves.
  • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:08PM (#49631463)

    First, we have to find the alien reactor...

  • I could use the $5K, so don't steal my idea.
  • Anyone remember the Thunderbirds 2086 episode KUDZILLA?

  • Give $1000 to charity (won't make any difference to Elon Musk) and give the other $4000 to whoever designs the rest of the city around Tesla's Gigafactory and Powerwall products. Unless Tesla are secretly developing oxygen systems for their already ongoing space concern.

  • Just make a huge bouncy castle and drop it from orbit. They're already good at that!

  • Here [lego.com], here's a technically feasible Mars idea.

    But wait, that's not a city. Not quite. How about this [lego.com]. There. That was about $5000 worth of work. Pay the man.

  • City? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Translation Error ( 1176675 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:37PM (#49631757)
    What I want to know is where in the world the word 'city' came from in the article's title. There's nothing anywhere close to a city mentioned in the article itself, with the goal of the challenge being to 'establish a technically achievable, economically sustainable human living space'. I don't know about anyone else, but to me, that sounds like an outpost rather than anything like a city.
  • Easy ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:45PM (#49631797) Homepage

    So, you put 10,000 lawyers and politicians into a hermetically sealed bag ... you launch that bag into space.

    Once you've done that, get back to me and I'll tell you the rest.

    • by qzzpjs ( 1224510 )

      So, you put 10,000 lawyers and politicians into a hermetically sealed bag ... you launch that bag into space.

      We'll call it the B Ark! Just make sure we keep the telephone sanitizers...

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:45PM (#49631799) Homepage Journal

    "NASA is working on... the rocket expected to launch the [Mars] mission -- the Space Launch System"

    My plan:

    1. Kill the Senate Launch System and bury it in a landfill
    2. Fire everyone who thought it was a good idea
    3. Wait around a few years and play Kerbal Space Program
    4. Buy a ride on Falcon Heavy R and save a billion bucks per launch
    5. Now you can afford to haul more stuff to Mars for a city

    Thank you, I'll take the $5000 in cashier's check, Visa or Mastercard.... but definitely NOT American Express.

  • The answer is 3D printers. They solve all known problems. Just 3D print a massive spaceship, then fly said spaceship to Mars and 3D print yourself a city, then 3D print a breathable atmosphere and magnetic field.

    • The answer is 3D printers. They solve all known problems. Just 3D print a massive spaceship, then fly said spaceship to Mars and 3D print yourself a city, then 3D print a breathable atmosphere and magnetic field.

      I understand that we'll be able to do that in about twenty years time. In the meantime, we need a short term solution in case an asteroid wipes out all life on Earth tomor

  • I am going to do a Kickstarter with a $100,000 goal to be used to come up with a good idea within a year. The $5000 from NASA will represent a 5% return on the investment, which is very good these days.

  • Screw Mars! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @02:17PM (#49632101)
    Build a floating city [cnn.com] in the upper atmosphere of Venus.
    • whoops. You beat me to it. Yes, I never understood why we'd want to colonize a planet with .4G, no hope of an atmosphere, relatively resource-poor, and further away. You figure out how to keep the platforms buoyant, and you can walk around outside in not too much more than a fireman's suit and a breather mask. Be good practice for doing the same out on Saturn or Neptune.
      • EDIT: no hope of a breathable atmosphere. Figure out how to sequester all the CO2 on Venus, you could even one day get down to the surface. We will never be able to have open-sky colonies on Mars, but doing so on Venus only requires solving a problem that we're going to have to solve on Earth soon enough anyway. For all the extra solar energy, well, that's not really even a problem from the right point of view.
      • NASA originally planned for an Apollo flyby of Venus [wikipedia.org] in the 1970's as a practice run for the Mars mission. Alas, the Apollo program got cancelled.
  • by edawstwin ( 242027 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @02:23PM (#49632153)
    For communicating, just use T-Mobile. For the quality of the signal that I get, I can only imagine that Mars is where they place all of their towers.
  • Watchmen (Score:4, Funny)

    by magarity ( 164372 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @03:35PM (#49632885)

    My favorite structure on Mars is the giant clockwork thing in Watchmen. But I guess that doesn't quite meet the breathable air requirement.

  • Volunteer the entire Tea Party to go colonize Mars.

  • That's my suggestion. Biosphere 1 and 2 were both failures. We don't know enough to make sustainable closed biospheres work on Earth, much less in orbit or on Mars. When we have something that lasts 10 years, we might be on to something. Until then, practice, practice, practice... Baby steps. How about an L5 or two to start.

  • Screw Mars. Cloud cities on Venus is much more feasible long-term.
  • We're scouring the galaxy for Earth-like planets when Earth's twin lives right next door. Sorry, but it's not Mars. We just have to adjust the thermostat a bit...

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