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Mars NASA Technology

Launch Manifest For NASA's "Road To Mars" Takes Shape But Questions Remain 130

MarkWhittington writes: NASASpaceFlight.com reported that NASA's so-called "Road to Mars" is starting to take shape. The deep space program that would conclude with human astronauts departing for the Red Planet in 2039 would require just over 40 launches of the heavy-lift Space Launch System, including an uncrewed flight in 2018 and one flight a year to cis-lunar space starting in 2021 lasting until 2027. A flight in 2028 would launch something called the Pathfinder Entry Descent Landing Craft to Mars as a precursor for a human landing. Then the Mars program begins in earnest with a mission to Phobos in 2033 and missions to the Martian surface in 2039 and 2043.
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Launch Manifest For NASA's "Road To Mars" Takes Shape But Questions Remain

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  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2015 @01:57PM (#50584489)

    Something doesn't add up here - afaik the outer-space radiation problem hasn't been solved yet. The Apollo moon landings were all short-duration flights, and the MIR and ISS operations take place inside the somewhat protective Van-Allen belts. What is going to protect the astronauts on the long-duration flights to Mars and back again from solar bursts and other deep-space radiation hazards?

    Am I missing something here?

    • The American government has declared that solar bursts and deep-space radiation are illegal.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Not really, Obama just issued an executive order for it. Congress isn't onboard yet.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Wow, there are so many Republicans on /. now. He did not sign an EO stating that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MrTester ( 860336 )
        No no no, you uninformed ninny!
        As Fox news will tell you solar radiation is actually a lie spread by the UN as part of their plans for world government.

        Its unclear to anyone, including the UN, exactly what one has to do with the other, but its in the plan, so....
    • All this time, money and effort would be better spent designing and building an actual space ship that could leave orbit, come back, be resupplied, go somewhere else, etc. A phalanx of ion drives, the EM drive (if it's real), etc. powered by a multi megawatt reactor, a rotating crew module for artificial gravity, long cycle life support systems, magnetic shielding, etc. The Real Deal.

      Then you could go to Mars, asteroid belt when you want and come back when you want.

      • 2039?
        That's like 12 congressional election cycles from now. Might as well be fornever.
        • And by then CEO Musk, head of the Martian colony, will greet the NASA astronauts as they arrive at the Sagan Memorial Spaceport

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Coren22 ( 1625475 )

      That is a solved problem. If the crew quarters are surrounded by their water, it will absorb most of the harmful radiation.

      Once on Mars, the habitat just has to be built underground. As we suspect we have found lava tubes, very large lava tubes at that, that would be a good place to build the hab.

      • That is a solved problem. If the crew quarters are surrounded by their water, it will absorb most of the harmful radiation.

        Uh, most of the harmful radiation?

        Is Douglas Adams being channeled here? This reminds me of that time we upgraded the definition of Earth to mostly harmless.

        • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Coren22 ( 1625475 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2015 @03:15PM (#50585093) Journal

          Yes, most. Gamma rays need some serious shielding to block, but aren't very harmful.

          http://www.passmyexams.co.uk/G... [passmyexams.co.uk]

          Cosmic rays can be harmful to electronics, and there isn't much that can stop them (other than serious magnetic fields or large quantities of heavy metals).

          Different radiations have different penetration depths, and different effects on the human body.

          Most radiation damage happens when you ingest an alpha emitter, alpha waves can be blocked by a sheet of paper, but once inside the body, they can do serious damage to DNA. But, a spaceship made out of anything stronger than paper would block most alpha particles, and the sources of those particles.

          Radiation is a complex subject.

          • Yes, most. Gamma rays need some serious shielding to block, but aren't very harmful.

            http://www.passmyexams.co.uk/G... [passmyexams.co.uk]

            Cosmic rays can be harmful to electronics, and there isn't much that can stop them (other than serious magnetic fields or large quantities of heavy metals).

            Different radiations have different penetration depths, and different effects on the human body.

            Most radiation damage happens when you ingest an alpha emitter, alpha waves can be blocked by a sheet of paper, but once inside the body, they can do serious damage to DNA. But, a spaceship made out of anything stronger than paper would block most alpha particles, and the sources of those particles.

            Radiation is a complex subject.

            Clearly complex. Thanks for the info, interesting about alpha emitters.

      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        If they lofted a multi-megawatt reactor, they could generate a magenetic shield [physicsworld.com] to protect from radiation.

        • by dryeo ( 100693 )

          How would a multi-megawatt reactor function in space? Need coolant and generally a reactor boils water or such which is used to drive a turbine+generator and then the steam is cooled down to start the cycle over. The part I'm not sure about is the cooling down of the steam, especially the amount to generate multi-megawatts. Then there is the shielding etc that would be needed to have the reactor running on a space ship.
          Even on Mars it'll be a bitch to generate much power using fission for the same reasons.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Probably a flat area to land will be a requirement, especially if supplies are launched first. Lava tubes are often on volcanoes, not the easiest thing to land on.
        Of course that raises the question of just how they're going to land. Rockets are about the only option, which means packing a lot of fuel.

    • It's not as big an issue as you make it out to be. Most prospective designs include a storm shelter to ride out any solar events, and the Van Allen belts don't protect against deep-space radiation events. The biggest protection ISS has against these is the fact that 50% of the "sky" is blocked by the Earth
    • What about a 100 megawatt fusion reactor generating an artificial ionosphere, or more likely an elongated ionotorus? Plus tricks such as tungsten on Kevlar for suits. http://www.sciencedaily.com/re... [sciencedaily.com]
      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        How would a 100 mega-watt reactor work in space? You need to turn that heat (and a 100 mega-watts of heat is quite a bit of heat) into electricity, usually done with a fancy steam engine, and you're not going to have a handy river, ocean or even evaporation towers with you to cool down that steam for another cycle. I guess with big enough radiators you could do it but I hate to think how big the radiators would be as they would only work by radiating the heat away.

    • Radiation isn't a big problem if you make several assumptions. First, is the Mars/Phobos crew only make *one* trip in their lifetime. Second, you have a "storm shelter" for solar flares, which produce high peak radiation doses. The storm shelter is a small space surrounded by water or water-bearing items like food. That provides enough shielding to keep the crew from excessive doses, and anti-radiation drugs can help a bit. They just hide in the storm shelter for a day or two until the radiation from t

  • by Coren22 ( 1625475 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2015 @01:58PM (#50584501) Journal

    Where is the manifest? Both of these articles talk about it, but don't actually include it.

    It looks like this manifest being referred to is behind a login prompt.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      More interesting to me is the fact that I'll be 60 by the time an American steps on Mars. I'm really hoping someone else gets there earlier, I don't want to be worrying that the inevitable delays mean I never see it.

      • More interesting to me is the fact that I'll be 60 by the time an American steps on Mars. I'm really hoping someone else gets there earlier, I don't want to be worrying that the inevitable delays mean I never see it.

        Don't worry, by that time the Singularity will have come and we'll all be living in silicon eternity and able to land a "man" on the "Sun" if we want to.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    one flight a year to cis-lunar space

    No flights to trans-lunar space?

    SOMEONE ALERT TUMBLR!

  • I won't live that long. Oh, well nothing to see here.
  • by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2015 @02:03PM (#50584557)
    WTF? How the responsible hopes that the Congress will approve a mission spending so many launches for sending a single crew? And expecting to use a rocket that not even exist yet?
    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      Surprisingly, it turns out that sending humans to Mars is somewhat difficult. :)

      • I know that... The problem is that it seems a ludicrous proposal (read: really unnecessarily expensive) even for someone like me who know how difficult it is.
        • Its in fact a very modest program that has only maybe a 30% chance of success as conceived, I'd say (assuming its carried through as planned, I'm talking about mission/technical risk, not political risk). Probably 70% chance of issues leading to massive cost increases to deal with unknown hazards/issues/requirements. Then even if you launch something on this agenda, there's a pretty good chance it isn't going to get where you sent it with a functioning crew, lander, etc. 2039 is only 24 years, BARELY enough

          • That's the real problem with this mission plan - not enough bang for the bucks. An alternate approach follows up the small asteroid retrieval mission (4 meter/60 ton rock) with a bigger asteroid tug that can haul 11 meter/1000 ton loads, and repeat missions every few years. After you science the shit out of the first rock, you then use it as a testbed for mining and processing. You deliver a crew habitat and surround it with the first load returned by the bigger tug, creating radiation shielding. Keep a

            • I'm sure there's details that would change in reality of course, but I don't see where this is wrong at any basic conceptual level. I think we should built some NTR/NER 'tug' vehicles that can move heavy stuff around autonomously and move materials where we need/want them. Maybe starting on the Lunar surface makes more sense, I'm not entirely sure what order is most efficient, but the elements all seem right at least. NASA's LAT and Lunar mission planning is pretty advanced. We could DEFINITELY be at the so

    • The ISS took quite a few launches too, and it still gets resupplies from Earth.

    • mission spending so many launches for sending a single crew?

      the thing about space is, it's not a check off item on a bucket list. Once you begin, you keep going, don't stop. Keep building.

    • This is called the "canned pork" strategy. It has the best chance of being funded by Congress.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are radiation protection and food logistic issues that remain, however, the biggest problem is mental. Being couped up for 3 years on a small capsule is not doable given human dynamics for the need of private space and the needs to both roam and to be alone at times. The idea of suspended animation is one that needs to be resurrected from the pages of SciFi- it saves resources, reduces human psychology issues and it preserves the body from developing in flight medical issues.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2015 @02:57PM (#50584999)

      you forgot the most serious challenge. 2015 - 2039 is 24 years. That is 6 Administrations, 4 Congressional Terms and 12 terms for the House of representatives.
      I do not see any NASA Program survive 24 years of dividing up the Pork. The only way this is going to happen is when it becomes a matter of national security or a new space race takes place. Both of these are external circumstances and fully out of NASA's control.

    • I wonder if NASA has actually thought of what kind of drugs they might need to give astronauts to keep them from going bonkers.

      Some kind of low-grade hypnotic that wouldn't too badly hamper cognitive ability but allow astronauts to go into a kind of hypnotic trance for hours at a time.

  • If they really wanted to get to Mars, they would use an architecture like Mars Direct [wikipedia.org] which could be done in 10 or so years, using today's technologies, without even expanding NASA's budget.

    Instead, this is really built to show as many SLS launches as possible (read: most inefficient architecture imaginable) to make it appear as though the insanely expensive rocket to nowhere has a nice full launch manifest.

  • This'll be exciting for someone.

  • To be frank, Mars is pointless right now. When we get to the point where we have a few orbiting colonies with sustainable closed ecologies (which we can't even do on Earth now), we can push two off to Mars to arrive at leisure. One can go down as living quarters and the other can stay in orbit to provide space based power plant maintenance and emergency transportation.

    Instead, of course, we'll just throw some bodies at Mars so we can grab our collective genitalia while grunting "First!"

    • An orbiting colony is far, far more challenging than a Mars colony would be. You've got your cart and horse switched.

      • Really? Please explain how the absence of a year long trip, close proximity to air and water shipments, a single gravity well, a large planet to shield one from those pesky solar radiation bursts, and close proximity to Earth in case of emergency count as impediments.

        All Mars has is gravity, which an orbiting environment has if it's large enough and you spin it.

        I ask again, what advantages does Mars have for extraterrestrial colonization? Specifically.

        • Really? Please explain how the absence of a year long trip, close proximity to air and water shipments, a single gravity well, a large planet to shield one from those pesky solar radiation bursts, and close proximity to Earth in case of emergency count as impediments.

          All Mars has is gravity, which an orbiting environment has if it's large enough and you spin it.

          I ask again, what advantages does Mars have for extraterrestrial colonization? Specifically.

          Trip: the ISS can endure for 6 months without resupply currently, and it hasn't even been specifically built for that. Long trips are no problem.

          Radiation Shielding: Are your orbiting colonies perpetually in LEO? If so, they need constant fuel burn for station-keeping, and you can't move close to resources or interesting science objectives, if not, you are in much worse shape for radiation than you would be on Mars.

          The big advantages of Mars - resources aplenty. There's an unlimited supply of CO2 that can b

      • An orbiting colony is far, far more challenging than a Mars colony would be. You've got your cart and horse switched.

        Nope. You'll essentially need an orbiting colony for the trip and back to Mars. They won't be the same thing as the deep space habitat needed to go to Mars, but will develop much of the tech and engineering needed to build one. This depends on what you mean by "colony" but also what is planned for Mars. Still, until you have an orbiting space station that can be on it's own for a few years, there's no realistic way of going to Mars.

        • Still, until you have an orbiting space station that can be on it's own for a few years, there's no realistic way of going to Mars.

          This shows otherwise: Mars Direct [wikipedia.org]

          For comparison, how many launches would be required before an orbiting colony could generate its own water, oxygen, CO2, and rocket fuel?

  • We are never going to get to Mars so long as NASA is projecting on these time scales. There is no accountability to the current staff as the timespan is longer then their tenures. This is just a means to keep their paychecks funded and to show they are following the president's directives. We have the technology to launch in just a few years, but no one wants to take the actual risk, nor provide for a real amount of funding.

    My vote is for Elon Musk at this point.

  • I'm a space fan but there is no economic or military payoff for going to Mars and the science part can be handled by robots.
    • Real estate development. You may say Mars is just worthless desert, but then so was most of the American west at one time. You start with geological exploration and mining camps, and grow from there.

      • Mining Mars is worthless given current orbital lift costs, you wouldn't be able to use the materials anywhere except on Mars. For mining purposes the asteroids would make a lot more sense.
  • Surely Pathfinder is the mars rover mission that has already gone, not any mission slated for 2028. This article looks like nonsense.

  • ... in order to be a witness to this.

    *stashes plans for early exit*
  • "Then the Mars program begins in earnest with a mission to Phobos in 2033 and missions to the Martian surface in 2039 and 2043." Then the monkey flies out of the unicorn's ass...

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