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Mars Government NASA Space The Almighty Buck Transportation

NASA Safety Panel Finds Concerns With the Journey To Mars (examiner.com) 155

MarkWhittington writes: NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel issued its annual report on various space agency programs. The panel found a number of areas of concern surrounding the Journey to Mars program, virtually all of them stemming from inadequate funding. It suggested that NASA's plan to launch the first crewed mission on the Orion, which would use the heavy lift Space Launch System to go around the moon, in 2021 was unrealistic given current, anticipated funding. The panel also suggested that lack of a clear plan for the Mars program is compromising its viability. It also suggested that the decision not to return to the moon should be revisited in view of the desire of international partners to do so and the need of low gravity surface experience in advance of going to Mars
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NASA Safety Panel Finds Concerns With the Journey To Mars

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  • He will be the first to drive a Tesla on Mars.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We first went to Mars in 1964 [wikipedia.org], and we've never [wikipedia.org] stopped [wikipedia.org]. We've done all [wikipedia.org] kinds [wikipedia.org] of amazing [wikipedia.org] science [wikipedia.org] there, on an ongoing [wikipedia.org] basis [wikipedia.org], and we continue [wikipedia.org] to do so. [wikipedia.org].

    Seriously, sending humans is silly. Humans are frail, highly expensive to maintain due to all the extra mass that must be taken along to keep them going, and increase the price of missions by two orders of magnitude. Let's get the most science for the dollar, which is not done by "flags and footprints". It's done by continuing to push the envelope of robot

    • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @12:13PM (#51300491) Journal

      Perhaps you don't get as much science by sending a human, but humans relate to the experience of another human far better than what can be done remotely via camera and sensor.

      When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in 1969, which was hardly one of the most peaceful years on record, the whole world stopped and watched. An entire generation of aerospace engineers was energized and motivated. It was a seminal moment in a turbulent era that defined what humans are capable of when we try.

      The Apollo program was worth 10x what we paid for it, and as a highly taxed citizen of the US, I'd happily pay to see my generation's moment when we step onto another planet for the first time in our species existence.

      • Perhaps you don't get as much science by sending a human, ...

        Perhaps not as much science for the money spent, but perhaps more flexible science. With robotics, you have to decide *all* the science up front and bundle it with the machine. Humans can do all that and improvise and adapt. We can go places, see and do things robots cannot. Of course the reverse is true for really human-hostile places - for example, I do not want to be the first man to land on the Sun.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Rei ( 128717 )

          Really? Humans can improvise and adapt? So the human is supposed to build a mass spectrometer out of duct tape and discarded food pouches?

          Modern science isn't conducted by rubbing two sticks together and seeing what happens, it requires complicated equipment. Whatever we send, that's going to be the equipment that does the science, whether it's a rover or a human behind it.

          Humans can "go places and doing things" by means of us sending them and a huge amount of mass to support them, mass that could have m

          • Really? Humans can improvise and adapt? So the human is supposed to build a mass spectrometer out of duct tape and discarded food pouches?

            Don't be obtuse and/or an ass. If you send people, you'd probably *also* send the same/similar equipment you'd send for a robotic mission. By "improvise and adapt" I meant things like people could select samples that might outside the operational parameters for a robot - too big, out of reach, etc... Humans can explore places a robot isn't designed to go.

            The rest of your argument is, of course valid, but it ignores my statement that agrees sending humans would provide: "Perhaps not as much science for t

          • Modern science isn't conducted by rubbing two sticks together and seeing what happens, it requires complicated equipment.

            Sometimes it's not much more complicated than rubbing two sticks together [independent.co.uk], no complicated equipment required.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Rei ( 128717 )

              You should see the setup they use to produce the graphene before separating out the layers with tape.

              Also, may I add: it's a stupid assumption that robot operators can't innovate either. Because they do this sort of stuff all the time, inventing new techniques - using the hardware they sent - to do things that weren't expected at the time. From rovers dragging wheels to expose buried sediments while they roam, to New Horizons' doubling its planned data throughput by the realization that they could run bot

          • by lgw ( 121541 )

            Really? Humans can improvise and adapt? So the human is supposed to build a mass spectrometer out of duct tape and discarded food pouches?

            It like you've never seen a SciFi movie, or something.

            Humans just simply cannot compare, gram for gram.

            Depends on the goal. You were responding to a post about "the science", and in that context, sure, that's clear. But I've never seen that as the point of the space program - science is a happy byproduct.

            The point is to inspire. To inspire people to care about science and engineering. To inspire people to think beyond their neighborhood or nation. To inspire people to want to become scientists. It takes humans on grand adventures to do this.

          • You're robot isn't going to get much science done when MY astronaut kicks it over the nearest cliff.

            • by dryeo ( 100693 )

              Of course your astronaut isn't going to do much after breaking his foot trying to kick a 1000kg robot

      • Perhaps you don't get as much science by sending a human, but humans relate to the experience of another human far better than what can be done remotely via camera and sensor.

        I don't know -- maybe we just need to make a movie about sending a human, make that human act like he's having an emotional experience, and everyone will just think the story is true [slashdot.org]?

        When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in 1969, which was hardly one of the most peaceful years on record, the whole world stopped and watched. An entire generation of aerospace engineers was energized and motivated. It was a seminal moment in a turbulent era that defined what humans are capable of when we try.

        It also was a different era. Although concern about things like Vietnam and culture wars with college students was heating up, there still was less cynicism than today.

        For average people, you'd probably get much more "bang for your buck" by making movies like The Martian ("Based on a 'true' story") in terms of inspiring the

      • by raind ( 174356 )
        Are you sure our species has never been on another planet?
    • Let's get the most science for the dollar, which is not done by "flags and footprints". It's done by continuing to push the envelope of robotic exploration.

      That is an interesting assumption. Do probes actually give us more "science" for the dollar?

      Did we learn more about the Moon from the Apollo missions than the Soviet Union learned from all of their Luna missions? I'd argue that we learned more than they did. But it cost us more money. Unfortunately, there isn't really a good way to know the actual cost of the Luna missions (socialist governments and all) so it's tough to compare the cost/knowledge.

      In reality, sending human beings is the best option. Hu

  • Funding (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14, 2016 @11:50AM (#51300347)

    "The panel found a number of areas of concern surrounding the Journey to Mars program, virtually all of them stemming from inadequate funding."

    Then the panel is considering the wrong things. The areas of concern regarding a journey to Mars are many, all much greater than any funding consideration. Basically, sending people to Mars with current technology is a stupid idea. The moon is _right next door_. Let's figure out how to live there first.

    • If you had a "nano" straw to Earth from the moon, could you sip air from it?

      • by dominux ( 731134 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @12:10PM (#51300477) Homepage

        no, and sticking nano on the front of it doesn't make much difference.

        You know how barometric pressure used to be given in inches of mercury? well that was the number of inches you could suck a pool of mercury up a straw (don't do that!) before you end up with a vacuum at the top of your straw and you are sucking away and nothing is rising any further because the pressure of the atmosphere won't push it up any more. Turns out you can't suck it up that far before it would rather not go any further. If you use other fluids the same kind of thing happens, but more so, because mercury is heavy. For water I think it is about 13 meters For the atmosphere itself the distance you can suck it up a straw is exactly the height of the atmosphere!

        • by PSXer ( 854386 )

          Maybe you could blow the air instead? Granted, it'd have to be a pretty magic straw since the earth-moon distance changes by 26,000 miles through it's orbit. Not to mention that the pumping station would have to be mobile unless you want the straw to wrap around the Earth.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          no, and sticking nano on the front of it doesn't make much difference.

          I nanodisagree with you.

      • If you had a "nano" straw to Earth from the moon, could you sip air from it?

        No, that takes MEGA MAID and the combination to Druidia's atmosphere.... Be sure to get the switch in the right position...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think more important things need to be done on Earth then a sending people to Mars. So far, all the unmanned vehicles have not provided any real reason to send a human to Mars. We dream to go there because our technology does not provide any other manageable travel to anything else. We go to the Moon again, or Mars.
    It's like not being able to go to Hawaii so let's go to Disney World again. We go go to Mars many times for the price of one human trip. Why would we do that?
    To plant yet another flag?

    • I think more important things need to be done on Earth then a sending people to Mars. So far, all the unmanned vehicles have not provided any real reason to send a human to Mars.

      Sure they have. It's another freakin' planet. Or haven't you seen the photographs? You think another planet wouldn't be awfully interesting to explore in person?

      It's like not being able to go to Hawaii so let's go to Disney World again. We go go to Mars many times for the price of one human trip. Why would we do that? To plant yet another flag?

      Because we would hugely advance human knowledge by going. On trip involving humans would require advances in medicine, life support, shielding, power, communications, propulsion, ground transport, and even possibly agriculture just to start with. More technology would have to be developed than you will see from 100 years of robotic probes. You

  • That it would be a easy trip to California [youtube.com]?

    La cucaracha, la cucaracha...

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @12:05PM (#51300451)

    The panel found a number of areas of concern surrounding the Journey to Mars program, virtually all of them stemming from inadequate funding.

    They needed a panel to figure this out? Shit, I have nothing at all to do with NASA and I thought that was bleeding obvious from the cheap seats where I sit. The Apollo program required funding about 4X [wikipedia.org] what we see today as a percent of federal budget. I don't really see us getting back to the moon within my lifetime (much less mars) without a very substantial budget increase. It's been 40 years since we landed on the moon and we haven't been out of low orbit since. I see nothing in the current plans that will change that.

    • Showing NASA's budget as a percentage of the entire Federal budget isn't a very good comparison, as the Federal budget has ballooned into an unmanageable pork buffet with each and every member of Congress swilling at the trough, as well as each and every corporation that can find space to dip their own snouts.

      Our elected officials are not nearly the stewards of the country's treasure as they once were.

      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        A better comparison from the same page is Cost of the Apollo Program [wikipedia.org] which estimates that the total Apollo cost was around $136B in 2007 dollars. Yet Mars One says it will only cost $6B to put the first 4 people on Mars and $4B per 4 people after that. That's a hell of a difference compared to the cost per person of putting people on the Moon (about $11B per person all up).

      • Showing NASA's budget as a percentage of the entire Federal budget isn't a very good comparison

        There are plenty of others if you prefer. Pick any one of them. My point stands. We are spending less on the space program by whatever inflation adjusted measure you care to use. Thinking we are going to get to Mars which is MUCH harder than getting to the moon while spending less is pretty naive I think.

    • Replying to cancel moderation. Meant +1 Insightful
    • The panel found a number of areas of concern surrounding the Journey to Mars program, virtually all of them stemming from inadequate funding.

      They needed a panel to figure this out?

      They probably needed a panel to officially tell the public this. If any particular official would happen to call bullshit on the government's claims of wanting to send people to Mars, they'd probably find themselves alone and in hot water. Form a p[anel, collect the facts, dot their i's and cross their t's and announce what everybody knows and see if anybody cares now that official notice has been given.

    • I don't really see us getting back to the moon within my lifetime (much less mars) without a very substantial budget increase.

      Then the problem is easy to solve. with Nasa's recent announcement [slashdot.org]:

      1. Reorganize Nasa as a military branch
      2. Retitle the Planetary Defense Office as the Planetary Defense Force as suggested by Slashdot user hey! [slashdot.org]
      3. Designate Mars as an ideal forward observation post
      4. Watch that sweet sweet defense spending money roll in (bonus if they Photoshop a turban onto an asteroid)
  • Can we stop this ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gx5000 ( 863863 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @12:12PM (#51300489)
    Let's go back to the moon and stay in high orbit.

    Let's stop pretending humans can survive in deep space or or Mars.
    It doesn't take a week of reading articles @ JPL to realize we're not built for longterm weightlessness or different gravities.
    Let's send remote devices that can do our bidding now.

    Maybe one day when we start either manipulating our DNA or build ships with artificial gravity....but landfall is going to be unhealthy
    and not in anyone's lifetime that can even see this page. It's all a con.
    • To me, the problem isn't so much gravity or technology but radiation.

      Space is a NASTY place to try and stay alive in. If you can survive the weightlessness and vacuum with the right technology but the radiation is going to kill you. Providing shielding is theoretically possible, it's just not practical. Some kinds of radiation don't respond to magnetic or electric fields so they cannot be deflected, only blocked by using mass, lots of mass. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out why having lots

      • Some kinds of radiation don't respond to magnetic or electric fields so they cannot be deflected [...]

        In that case, wouldn't those of us on Earth have the same problem?

        • No, we live on this thing called Earth which has a really deep and dense atmosphere which shields us from the really bad stuff that makes it though the magnetic shielding which naturally exists...

      • NASA Ames had an interesting concept for that, which is not only to use the large amount of water a long-duration mission would need as shielding, but to use the "waste products" of the astronauts to replace that shielding as the water was lost (extremely hard to avoid small losses even with really good recycling tech).

        Getting the mass off Earth is expensive but not difficult per se. Re-usable launchers will change that game, because the amount of mass per launch is flexible, unlike launching a giant space

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      "Artificial gravity" is actually a well understood technology - centripetal/centrifugal force. We still need prototype testing though before we try it out, particularly if we want to do it with tethers rather than rigid structures (our experience with tethers in space has been less than stellar). It also imposes minimum size constraints on the diameter of the craft, as you don't want people exposed to too much tidal forces between their head and their feet.

      Regardless, while living in space isn't "good for

      • Stop peddling your fictitious forces! We're not buying it!

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Come now, do you really expect me to do coordinate substitution in my head while strapped to a centrifuge?

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Just so. It's all about the cost-to-orbit IMO. And to go beyond high orbit, it's mostly about the cost to get fuel into orbit. I do think mankind will be traveling the Solar System one day, and not just sending robots, but we're not going to get very far without near-free fuel available in orbit. And that of course requires making it there from asteroids.

        Robotics has moved so far in the past 20 years that this no longer seems like a fantasy. Turning a CHON asteroid into a fuel depot opens up the Solar

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It depends on how its done, the timing is the most important thing. Getting there and retaining enough muscle and bone mass for Mars 1/2 gravity is doable if its timed right and if the crew sticks to a vigorous workout program.

      It's the return that is the killer. By the time they got back the astronauts bones would be too brittle to handle earth's gravity and muscle atrophy would be even further advanced.

      This is really the best case argument for going to the moon first, so we can build a small rehabilitation

    • This is the usual "oh, look at all the insurmountable problems/medical disaster" Chicken Little stuff. Since day one, there has been one scare story after another about how people aren't designed to be in space and that some unresolved disaster is waiting just a bit beyond current experience. Virtually ALL of it has proven to be nonsense or a pretty-easily-resolved problem. Same people were around when the steam engine was invented, they/you were wrong then, and you are wrong now.

      There's absolutely nothing

    • Let's go back to the moon and stay in high orbit.

      Trouble is, the people not paying for a Mars trip don't have any interest in paying for a moon trip either.

  • I've been saying for ages that this push to skip the Moon and go straight to Mars with manned missions was a bad idea.

  • Who needs to be on Mars when the own planet is in peril. Just a mind-distraction from currently unsolved issues.
    Seems to be some firmware bug in human brains. Fixing that one, maybe a collective reboot is needed....
    Good luck!

    • Fixing that one, maybe a collective reboot is needed....

      Advocating for another mass extinction event eh? Yea, that's the ticket. Let's wipe civilization off the face of the earth....

      • by no-body ( 127863 )

        Fixing that one, maybe a collective reboot is needed....

        Advocating for another mass extinction event eh? Yea, that's the ticket. Let's wipe civilization off the face of the earth....

        Nope - will first go into another mode and maybe comes to it's senses, like firmware/kernel update on a running system. If you look at the dysfunction of political systems across the board, appearance of pseudo authorities killing everyone not following their programming - IS comes to mind - then terrorizing more democratic systems, Europe for example, those systems going bonkers in reaction.

        Interesting times. Ah - I forgot Trump becoming president, where did he get his money from and how many underlings w

    • "Who needs to explore the New World when we have plenty of unsolved issues right here in Europe"

      The Natives here would have been happy I guess, but this line of thinking isn't how to make technological progress.

    • It's what makes us human. We need to explore.
  • There's many risk during space flight. I'm impressed with our rover track record. what many people don't realize is the martian magnetosphere is very week. It's not strong enough to protect DNA from damaging radiation. The solar and cosmic radiation bombarding mars will need to be dealt with. We've learned how to build a life support system.. but even the ISS needs oxygen, nitrogen, and water and depends on supplies sent. I don't think we have the technology to support a 150 - 300 day flight
  • by macson_g ( 1551397 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @12:58PM (#51300873)
    So trip to Mars is dangerous? Go figure...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Mars dreams give targets, but shouldn't dictate policy or actual project goals. Sci-Fi is fiction, and there's a reason it is often paired with fantasy - super colony ship is just as much a fantasy as Puff the magic dragon. Create practical technology and an actual "in-space" industrial base by continuing efforts in LEO and work on handling the risks we face now. Those are primarily the recovery of sattelites for repair, control of waste/wreckage, and maintaining the agreements against space-based weaponry.

  • They need to establish resupply dumps all the way there and back to ensure the potato supply does not run low. In fact if they grow a sufficiently large potato in orbit that could solve all of their problems including shielding the crew from space radiation. The only risk then will be the question of if a sufficiently large potato could become sentient and decide they would make good fertiliser or somehow enslave them as a source of poo.
  • First you build a shipyard in orbit, then you build a long-term interplanetary research vessel, deploy, rinse and repeat. Do that and Mars will naturally follow.

    The present mode of expensive one-off mission after another is horribly flawed.

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