Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
Mars NASA The Almighty Buck United States

NASA Releases 'Journey To Mars' Plan -- But Not a Budget (nasa.gov) 170

MarkWhittington writes: NASA released a document describing the steps involved in its Journey to Mars program (PDF). But, as the Wall Street Journal suggests, the "plan" has a conspicuous lack of specifics. It doesn't go into how much the program will cost or what intermediate steps have to be taken before human beings set foot on Mars in the 2030s. This is likely because of the upcoming and subsequent changes of governing administrations — the space agency's deep space exploration goals are likely to get a reevaluation. The plan serves as a public relations document more than anything else.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Releases 'Journey To Mars' Plan -- But Not a Budget

Comments Filter:
  • concept only
    • Movies go through various phases. This seems more like a pitch than a story treatment, let alone a script. The concept part of going to Mars has been done to the death. So if we're ever going to go to Mars we need to go beyond colorful Adobe InDesign'ed brochures.
    • Well, Slashdot had a story not too long ago, that a lot of folks believe that "The Martian" is based on a true story. I'm guessing that some of them are sitting in Congress. So when a funding bill for a NASA trip to Mars comes up, some Congress folks will chime in with:

      "Why do we need to fund this again! We already went to Mars! I saw the movie about it!"

      • Well, Republican voters are morons, and they elect moronic Tea Party representatives to Congress, so that is to be expected.

        Barry Goldwater is probably turning in his grave now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How much does it cost to pretend that we're going to send people to Mars, compared to how much it would cost to actually send a few rovers to Europa?

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @09:04PM (#50701459)

    Shuttle project cost/pound to leo $118 actual $8000/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    SLS/ORION is now looking at 14 billion +/ launch

    http://www.thespacereview.com/... [thespacereview.com]

    If NASA has a hundred billion for the mission expect to cost several trillion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2015 @09:37PM (#50701601)

    Let's ignore how cool it is to go into space. Let's ignore the benefits of aerospace technology on our daily lives. Let's teach our kids to uphold the status quo and be good little slaves to their corporate overlords. Let's let the MBAs and their accountant lackeys use their spreadsheets and declare this a waste of money.

    I hope an asteroid GUTS this worthless planet. We as a species deserve to die if we're too stupid to see the value of getting off this damnable rock.

    • Yes, try to guilt us because we're not agreeing with your cold war nostalgia.
      By secretly hoping to become a billionaire and fly into space before you die, you're helping your corporate overlords just fine.

    • Oh please. There's a lot more to the planet and the human race than the USA and its imbecilic inhabitants who utterly suck at electing decent leaders.

      And this "rock" is really a lush paradise; what's really stupid is how much we're trashing it. We should be doing much of our resource extraction in space and moving heavy industry there so we can preserve this place.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @09:42PM (#50701623)

    "..or what intermediate steps have to be taken.."

    This is always a problem: incrementalist thinking, the idea that one can achieve the revolutionary through small intermediate steps with an evolutionary process. This is very limited (and limiting) thinking, and people who think that way will never achieve anything truly revolutionary. If you think like this, you should probably get the hell out of the way of those of us who don't. We'll come back for you. Some day. Maybe.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Indeed :) Don't get me wrong, one can achieve great things through small steps but only if those steps are part of a long-term process planned out in advance with the ultimate goal in mind, and full committal from all interested parties (particularly those funding your endeavor) to follow it through to the end. Otherwise, you're just building castles in the sand to be washed away when the tide comes in.

      Is the goal to go to Mars just to check off an entry on our species' bucket list, or is to move toward th

    • by KeensMustard ( 655606 ) on Sunday October 11, 2015 @03:04AM (#50702571)

      This is always a problem: incrementalist thinking, the idea that one can achieve the revolutionary through small intermediate steps with an evolutionary process.

      There's nothing particularly revolutionary or even evolutionary about sending humans to Mars: there's robots already there, and robots can cater for any foreseeable need for a presence on the surface of Mars. If anything, humans are an evolutionary step backward: humans are ill adapted to Mars and our time and effort on the surface of Mars will be spent catering to our own survival rather than doing anything useful.

      If you think like this, you should probably get the hell out of the way of those of us who don't. We'll come back for you. Some day. Maybe.

      You do realised you aren't going to Mars? and that no amount of 'thinking big' will change that?

      You aren't going to Mars.

      It's conceivable that we might suppress our better judgement and send some humans one day, but the chances of it being you are about 1 in a billion.

      • If anything, humans are an evolutionary step backward: humans are ill adapted to Mars and our time and effort on the surface of Mars will be spent catering to our own survival rather than doing anything useful.

        Right. So what you're saying is you want a whole bunch of autonomous robots, capable of doing pretty much anythings humans can do. Unsupervised on another planet. Full of resources and energy. With a lower gravity well.

        I for one, would welcome our new Martian overlords.

    • Yet, it's by slow steady intermediate steps and evolutionary processes that practically every one of mankind's major breakthroughs, advances, and achievements have been accomplished. They're not visible to the narrow minded or the the clueless - but they're there none the less.

      The problem isn't with "limited (and limiting) thinking", it's with idiots who have no patience and no grasp of how the world works... who think things just happen magically.

    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Sunday October 11, 2015 @04:29AM (#50702783)

      "..or what intermediate steps have to be taken.."

      This is always a problem: incrementalist thinking, the idea that one can achieve the revolutionary through small intermediate steps with an evolutionary process.

      But that's where revolutionary ideas come from. Progress is a long series of small intermediate steps and some of those steps turn out to be the revolutionary ones. That's why you get things like Alexander Graham Bell's "race" to the patent office, or Darwin finding out that Wallace had also discovered natural selection. Revolutionary ideas need a solid foundation of incremental discoveries.

      But that's actually kind of off-topic for this story, we have all the revolutionary technology already, it's simply a matter of cost and will, and "incrementalist thinking" is a great way to make each of these easier.

      This is very limited (and limiting) thinking, and people who think that way will never achieve anything truly revolutionary. If you think like this, you should probably get the hell out of the way of those of us who don't. We'll come back for you. Some day. Maybe.

      I suspect you have it backwards. If you're only interested in the revolutionary you'll never get anywhere because you'll be missing all the intermediate steps. If you want to move forward start by doing all the incremental things, eventually you'll have done enough that the revolutionary is in sight.

    • "..or what intermediate steps have to be taken.."

      This is always a problem: incrementalist thinking, the idea that one can achieve the revolutionary through small intermediate steps with an evolutionary process. This is very limited (and limiting) thinking, and people who think that way will never achieve anything truly revolutionary. If you think like this, you should probably get the hell out of the way of those of us who don't. We'll come back for you. Some day. Maybe.

      Revolutionary v.s. evolutionary is a false dichotomy. Some of the most revolutionary developments have been incremental by nature, but each increment could also be seen as a minor revolution.

      Think of the miniaturization of electronics, or Moores law. Each year businesses that make CPU:s, GPU:s and other chips make incremental progress, but most of those increments required some (relatively minor) revolution in the way that one thinks about chip-making.

      Rockets went from tiny fireworks in the late 1800:s to t

      • Maybe one day it'll be space elevators instead of rockets. Maybe. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that a space elevator will be better or cheaper than rockets. That largely depends on how expensive it will be to build the elevator, how often it will need maintenance and how long it will ultimately last until you need to scrap it and build a new one.

        Or what happens when you use a conductive material like carbon nanotubes to connect the huge positive charge of the ground to the huge negative charge of the ionosphere and many millions of amps flow through it, vaporizing your nanotube, making a pretty plasma, and causing something much worse than ordinary lightning at that site on the ground.

        The earth is built like a giant capacitor. Air is a pretty good insulator. Ordinary lightning is what would be called leakage current in any other capacitor. Wh

    • Yeah, obviously humans didn't come about that way. They must have been created whole. Despite all the physical evidence which says otherwise, because you can't get something revolutionary like a human through small intermediate steps with an evolutionary process.

  • Let's just not do it. There is no real reason to send humans to Mars.

    Now, establishing a real and long term presence on the Moon has real actual benefits.

    I always think of Space 1999 [wikipedia.org]...

    • Imagine Space 1999 on Mars! (Even if it was just a movie)

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @10:39PM (#50701825) Homepage

      If we wanted to send humans anywhere that would pay the most benefit, I really think Venus (cloudtops) would be best. Venus is so under-studied that any mission (manned or otherwise) has the potential to yield huge scientific benefits, and the ability to real-time control probes exploring the surface (aka, where their time that they can spend near the surface is limited before they have to head up to re-chill their cooling reservoir and recharge their batteries, and you don't want the lag time of commands sent all the way from Earth) would be of significant benefit. And in terms of future mining potential, Venus probably has the most useful geology - the types of lava flows found by the Soviets, and the additional potential of carbonatites, combined with the "high radar reflective" precipitated minerals, all are very promising signs for enrichment of rare and economically valuable minerals. Phase-change balloons can descend to the surface and bring minerals up to the cloudtops, and are eminently achievable with current technology - hardly more complicated than the old Soviet Vega probes. Since you're floating, you can move anywhere on the planet in a relatively short period of time (due to superrotation, you really have no choice in the matter ;) ), so you're not limited to whatever resources happen to be close to your base. And the cloudtops are a very hospitable environment to humans - at 52-56km a person may even be able to step outside with nothing more than a mask on (oxygen provision and eye protection are a must, but the CO and SOx levels may be low enough to not be problematic to bare skin - the pressure and temperature are fine). The significant atmosphere overhead provides a good deal of radiation protection, even though there is no dynamo-driven magnetic field.

      The moon is nearby and a conveniently low gravity well, but as far as minerals go, it's pretty boring - to the point that the best people have come up with is "helium 3 fuel" to power reactors which don't exist and which probably will never be an idea fusion fuel (if you can fuse it and can make an economic case for it, you can probably also fuse P-B which is much better and cheaper). And it will always suffer from "been there, done that" syndrome.

      • If we wanted to send humans anywhere that would pay the most benefit,

        I think a trip to Vegas would be beneficial.

        In case anyone's asking.

        • Sounds like it might a gamble to me.
        • Actually, this would be an important topic of research: Lap and Pole Dancing in the Gravity of Mars. If NASA wants to get the general public interested in visiting Mars, the first thing Joe Sixpack will ask is if Mars has blackjack, gambling and lap & pole dancing.

          Definitely worth an Ig Nobel, at least.

      • The moon is nearby and a conveniently low gravity well, but as far as minerals go, it's pretty boring

        Huh? How exactly do we know this? Because of some rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back? I admit, I'm not a geologist, but don't you need to do a lot more exploration to determine if a body the size of the Moon (which is one of the larger bodies in the solar system actually, at #14, with only 4 moons larger; it's even #11 by gravity) has useful minerals? Such as exploring the "dark side", doing some d

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          First off, our knowledge of the moon is not "some rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back". The Moon is one of the most studied bodies in the solar system, perhaps the second most studied. We have a pretty good idea of what makes it tick. There have been 70 successful or partially successful (overwhelmingly completely successful) missions to the moon, plus some considered "spacecraft failure" that still returned data. 6 of the successful missions are operational right now. There have been 16 missions to la

          • This is extremely informative, and if Slashdot's moderation system weren't such a broken mess, I'd mod you up.

            However, I do have some questions and concerns, but realize I'm not a geologist as I stated before. Do you work for NASA or something?

            The main problem I see is that it seems like you're making a lot of assumptions based on geology here on Earth, such as which minerals are likely to be present at sites with particular geologies. Doesn't that depend a lot on the early planetary formation?

            Also, corre

            • by Rei ( 128717 )

              The main problem I see is that it seems like you're making a lot of assumptions based on geology here on Earth, such as which minerals are likely to be present at sites with particular geologies. Doesn't that depend a lot on the early planetary formation?

              Chemistry works the same everywhere. What elements readily form compounds with other elements is the same everywhere. At what temperatures minerals begin to crystalize out of magma is the same everywhere. Etc. Economically valuable deposits of resources are

              • This all sounds interesting, but I don't really agree about the cost of mining bit. Yes, launch costs are high, but once you have all the stuff you need on-site on the Moon (or wherever, but obviously the Moon is cheaper than Mars or Venus), the only costs are getting workers to the Moon (and tired ones back home), and whatever it costs to send (hopefully refined) material back to Earth. Basically, it's a one-time cost to get the infrastructure up there. If you're doing enough mining up there (between th

    • I don't believe NASA could send another capsule to the moon, let alone Mars. The organization seems to be a big P.R. "money hole".

      If we need to rely on the Russians to hitch a ride to ISS, that tells much about our decline in ability for space exploration.

      I don't believe NASA could manage a reasonable budget for manned Mars exploration as well as likely inability to manage the spacecraft development required to accomplish the task.

      It's a tired, bureaucratic albatross. "Lost In Space".

      • If we need to rely on the Russians to hitch a ride to ISS, that tells much about our decline in ability for space exploration.

        It's not just space exploration. America, in general, is in decline. Our time is over, it's just like the later days of the Roman Empire.

    • There might be benefits to sending humans to Mars, but I agree, the Moon should be the first big step. It's very close, and likely has significant mineral resources. It also has less gravity, and would be a good base for doing asteroid-capture missions and low-g refinement and manufacturing close to the Earth for easy material return. It'd be a great place for tourism too: you could build a luxury resort there and people could take 2-3 week vacations there, since each trip is only 3 days, unlike Mars whe

  • Footprint photo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @11:18PM (#50701943)

    The footprint photo at the end of the brochure is 50 years old and we haven't been back. NASA has been talking about a manned mars mission 20 years in the future for the last 50 years. OK to be honest it was 10 years in the future 50 years ago.

    The space age is over.

    Eventually some civilization, mayl find the Apollo landers and and wonder why we gave up with the stars withing our grasp. We won't be around for them to ask.

  • 1. Go to Mars
    2. Come back
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

  • Why send humans down to the surface when you can just send expendable android avatars which can be operated from geostationary orbit by teams working in shifts to maximise the work done for the mass transported down to the surface? When you leave you don't have to retrieve anything but samples and that takes a much smaller rocket, or allows more samples than if you need to also retrieve humans off the surface. Make the androids smart enough and they will learn enough before you go to continue a lot of the w
    • by Yosho ( 135835 )

      Why will this not be doable by the 2030s?

      Because making the androids "smart enough" to replace a human is insanely hard and nobody thinks we'll have that by the 2030s, and repeatedly bringing samples up into orbit will be more expensive than just putting a lab (and people) on the surface.

      Currently, having a human do collection and analysis directly is orders of magnitude faster and more effective than a remotely-controlled robot, and there's no reason to think that will change by then.

    • One word: conquest.

      If it weren't for that drive, we wouldn't bother to go at all. At this point, and for the next hundred years or more, we're going to do nothing more than a brief visit. But putting people on the surface - that's a Fuck Yeah! moment. People won't pay for robots, but they'd all chip in if some dude went and wrote his name in Martian sand in pee. *shrug*

      BTW - I agree that robotic missions make much more sense.The manned program has always sucked NASA dry on a year to year basis, but if you a

  • Last time NASA came up with a human mission to Mars Congress got a sticker shock at I believe $450 Billion (a bargain compared to many defense programs). Then a group of Mars enthusiasts came up with a far cheaper and easier program that some in NASA immediately set out to sabotage because it involved a simple three launch system instead of a logistical nightmare involving stations, fuel depots and dozens of craft.

Say "twenty-three-skiddoo" to logout.

Working...