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Buzz Aldrin To NASA: Retire the International Space Station ASAP To Reach Mars (space.com) 349

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: If NASA and its partner agencies are serious about putting boots on Mars in the near future, they should pull the plug on the International Space Station (ISS) at the earliest opportunity, Buzz Aldrin said. "We must retire the ISS as soon as possible," the former Apollo 11 moonwalker said Tuesday (May 9) during a presentation at the 2017 Humans to Mars conference in Washington, D.C. "We simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year of that cost." Instead, Aldrin said, NASA should continue to hand over activities in low Earth orbit (LEO) to private industry partners. Indeed, the space agency has been encouraging that move by awarding contracts to companies such as SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Boeing to ferry cargo and crew to and from the ISS. Bigelow Aerospace, Axiom Space or other companies should build and operate LEO space stations that are independent of the ISS, he added. Ideally, the first of these commercial outposts would share key orbital parameters with the station that China plans to have up and running by the early 2020s, to encourage cooperation with the Chinese, Aldrin said. Establishing private outposts in LEO is just the first step in Aldrin's plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on "cyclers" -- spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth.
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Buzz Aldrin To NASA: Retire the International Space Station ASAP To Reach Mars

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  • OR - (Score:5, Funny)

    by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @03:07AM (#54398181)
    - attach boosters to the ISS and SEND IT TO MARS.
    • Re:OR - (Score:5, Funny)

      by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @05:58AM (#54398527)
      What a waste of a good space station. Attach boosters to it and send it to congress.
      • Re:OR - (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11, 2017 @07:00AM (#54398679)

        If you're trying to send a message, you don't need to land something as heavy as ISS at congress's doorstep. Just use a small launch vehicle (Pegasus, for example), with a small reentry vehicle (deploys parachute, jettisons fairing, needs a rather low CEP), whose payload consists of, in order from bottom to top:

          * Crush zone
          * Paper bag filled with frozen dog poop (reinforced as necessary), a small amount of accelerant, and an ampule of a hypergolic ignition fluid designed to rupture on impact (or equivalent electrical igniter).

      • What a waste of a good space station. Attach boosters to it and send it to congress.

        No member of Congress will notice unless you tape a few $100,000 bills to it.

      • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

        Can I do the math for this?

  • by m.alessandrini ( 1587467 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @03:25AM (#54398203)
    I think that, yes, in a few decades it could be theoretically possible, given the proper money, to send some people there and back. But then it's so far, so expensive and so uninhabitable, that I'm afraid it will remain a proof of concept, and Mars will be forgot for the following century, much like going to the moon.

    Maybe it would be better to start sending material and structures, and only then sending actual people. It's sad in my mind, but maybe we should give up seeing men on Mars in our lifetime, if we want it to be something more than a passing experiment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Seeing as the world can't even make a simple semi-permanent habitation on the moon, something that's only four days away with current rocket tech, there's zero chance at putting people on Mars. Space propulsion engineering has barely moved on from the 1960s, and that was based on German 1940s long distant bombs.

      The whole "Mars" wankfest is a job creation scheme to empty the tax payers' pockets into a select few mega-corp pockets with a few crappy factories popping up to justify it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Maritz ( 1829006 )

        The whole "Mars" wankfest

        Mars wankfest? Is that a thing in your head or something?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Lots of things are actually easier on Mars. The atmosphere removes a large portion of propulsive braking; the Moon requires 100% propulsive braking. On Mars, return fuel is easily available in substantial regions of the planet; on the Moon, return fuel is available on the south pole, and only if your fuel is hydrolox. Gravity is more bearable, too.
        • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 11, 2017 @01:41PM (#54400915) Homepage

          Lots of things are actually easier on Mars. The atmosphere removes a large portion of propulsive braking; the Moon requires 100% propulsive braking.

          No, landing is actually harder on Mars - the gravity is too high to use propulsive braking, and the atmosphere too thin for aerodynamic braking. Which means mixed mode braking, and freakin' enormous parachutes. Not long ago it was estimated that a LEM sized lander would need total parachute area larger than a baseball infield - and they'd have to go from packed to fully inflated in under .1 seconds. (Meaning that at one point in deployment, the edges of the chute and the shroudlines would be moving faster than the local speed of sound.) It's much harder to land on Mars - which is why the various rovers have had to use such Rube Goldberg methods.
           

          On Mars, return fuel is easily available in substantial regions of the planet

          In theory. In practice... well, we don't know. None of the hardware required has moved off the prototype bench and none has been tested with anything resembling the toxic materials that make up Martian soil.

    • "Maybe it would be better to start sending material and structures, and only then sending actual people."

      The most powerful proof-of-concept would be landing and operating a device to make fuel from Martian atmosphere, as Zubrin proposes.

  • by getuid() ( 1305889 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @03:37AM (#54398213) Homepage

    Call me a communist if you need to, but I'd rather not see something as important in humanity's future as space exploration in *exckusively* private hands.

    Just look at how well privately owned essential infrastructure works out for the masses all over the world so far, e.g. with internet, mobile phones, water, public transportation, health...

    Some perspective: 3.5 billion is less than the military spending of the USA in one single day. Less than even the *increase* in budget from 2016 to 2017, by more than an order of magnitude.

    • by slew ( 2918 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @04:34AM (#54398347)

      Call me a communist if you need to, but I'd rather not see something as important in humanity's future as space exploration in *exckusively* private hands.

      Just look at how well privately owned essential infrastructure works out for the masses all over the world so far, e.g. with internet, mobile phones, water, public transportation, health...

      Some perspective: 3.5 billion is less than the military spending of the USA in one single day. Less than even the *increase* in budget from 2016 to 2017, by more than an order of magnitude.

      Okay, I'll call you a communist. Historically, it's been the case with nearly all "public" infrastructure outside of communist countries that private companies, plan it, design it, organize short-term financing for it, build it, maintain it. Of course with public infrastructure, the government is there to consult, kibitz, cajole, zone, and regulate it, and inevitably foots most of the bill, but of course owns the artifact at the end of the day.

      Often as an incentive to reduce public outlays, concessions are offered to the public companies to reduce the actual net present cost to the public for the infrastructure. E.g., build a dock or railroad and you get this adjacent land for development, design a spacecraft for us and you can take the technology to build rockets for private launches, etc, etc...

      Eventually, these *concessions* to private companies can form the seed for whole new private enterprise that accelerate the economy of a country. Call me an evil capitalist, but that's the way it works... the even the socialist (pseudo-communist USSR and China) world...

      How does this work in your theoretical communist world?

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @06:05AM (#54398543) Homepage

        The whole "public vs. private", socialism vs. capitalism debate is a big red herring when it comes to launch services. Because:

        1) Most spacecraft are already built by private companies, either in part or nearly in whole; and
        2) New private startups are offering far lower prices than the old traditional providers.

        It's idealism vs. pragmatism. I don't care what ideology you have; new companies like SpaceX are vastly undercutting NASA and its traditional private partners (Boeing, Lockheed, etc).

        • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @07:52AM (#54398775) Journal

          It's idealism vs. pragmatism. I don't care what ideology you have; new companies like SpaceX are vastly undercutting NASA and its traditional private partners (Boeing, Lockheed, etc).

          If someone wants to rely purely on free market capitalism to fund a manned trip to Mars, good luck to them. Presumably the fact that they have costed it and realise it would just lose them money is the main stumbling block?

        • It's idealism vs. pragmatism. I don't care what ideology you have; new companies like SpaceX are vastly undercutting NASA and its traditional private partners (Boeing, Lockheed, etc).

          A public space program gets funded because people think it's a good idea.

          A private space program gets funded because it actually is a good idea (return exceeds investment).

          The problem with manned space exploration is that it's generally a bad idea. And I don't say that from a public vs private space exploration standpoi

          • The problem with manned space exploration is that it's generally a bad idea.

            That depends entirely on what your actual goals of space exploration are. I support both manned and unmanned space exploration, but for two entirely different reasons. Robotic missions are best for long range exploration and scientific discovery. Naturally, you can cut many, many expenses when you don't have to support a human life, or have to worry about a return voyage.

            I want humans going into space for perhaps less logical reasons: an innate desire to explore and settle the universe. One could also a

            • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
              Human colonization of space is meaningful because it's redundancy. If earth ever gets wiped out somehow, we have backups.
        • The whole "public vs. private", socialism vs. capitalism debate is a big red herring when it comes to launch services. Because:

          1) Most spacecraft are already built by private companies, either in part or nearly in whole; and 2) New private startups are offering far lower prices than the old traditional providers.

          It's idealism vs. pragmatism. I don't care what ideology you have; new companies like SpaceX are vastly undercutting NASA and its traditional private partners (Boeing, Lockheed, etc).

          Even though they are all building rockets doesn't mean they are trying to achieve the same thing. NK builds their rockets on a shoestring budget and sometimes they even manage to complete a flight path, quite a successful program for their purposes. NASA, the Air Force, and the various Spy agencies asked Being and Lockheed to build rockets that are reliable as possible and that's what they got, at eye watering costs of course. SpaceX and the new breed see a whole new type of a business plan, one where they

      • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @09:31AM (#54399221) Journal

        Historically, it's been the case with nearly all "public" infrastructure outside of communist countries that private companies, plan it, design it, organize short-term financing for it, build it, maintain it.
        That is completely wrong.

        Historically nearly all infrastructure in Europe was state owned (Railways, Telephon, Roads, Water distribution, Gas distribution, Electric Grids, Post/Mail, Power Plants etc.)

        Since the mid 1990s most European countries started to privatize parts of the infrastructure. Some countries with success, some failed misserable in certain areas, e.g. the British railway system.

        E.g. the French Power Company is still 85% state owned.

        • by slew ( 2918 )

          Sigh... I think people need to study history more.

          Let's just take German railway history as an example. Please google the Deil Valley Railway Company (one of the first joint stock companies in Germany). It wasn't until later that railway operation like these were taken over by the Bergisch-Markisch Railway Company and only later these private enterprises were nationalized by the the Prussian State Railway.

          Nearly all the other public works in Europe have a similar history, sure they belong to the governmen

          • by slew ( 2918 )

            And lest we leave out the "post office", please read this wiki entry on the Thurn-und-Taxis Post [wikipedia.org]. This was a private company. Nearly all german states still continued to contract with this company to handle postal service after they were finally given the right to create their own postal service. Eventually this was nationalized by Prussia as well.

            In contrast, in the USA, the postal service has been a government monopoly from the get-go.

            I think people's general observation about the government owning ever

            • Obviously we are talking about times when "socialism" was a word to recon with.

              Why you bring up "private companies" especially companies run by nobility before even a democratic and socialist regime exists is beyond me.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        and inevitably foots most of the bill

        That's kind of the core issue on whether a project goes ahead or not mister market forces.
        An invisible hand is not getting us to Mars just as it didn't get Columbus to America.

      • Call me a communist if you need to, but I'd rather not see something as important in humanity's future as space exploration in *exckusively* private hands.

        You are absolutely right. Right now, spece exploration is exclusively in private hands. That is because public sector funds are not being spent on manned space exploration. Look at all that (zero) progress.

        On the other hand, the private sector is obviously more efficient in developing ways of making a profit than government. So, why not let the government offload non-useful enterprises like the ISS to the private sector? Let the private sector develop commercial infrastructure to sustain the ISS (for

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      3.5 billion is even more less than the non-discretionary spending that keeps Grandma from coming to live with you. Frankly, I think you should let her move in.

    • "Just look at how well privately owned essential infrastructure works out for the masses all over the world so far"

      Because Mars will not have "masses" to be exploited by any business monopoly until colonization is already underway, by which time the inhabitants will be developing their own legal system per the UN Space Treaty. NASA performs best when it deploys scientific missions, not when it runs high-risk manned missions. Let the private sector take the manned missions and the whole 'priorities' argument

    • Actually it is not 3.5 will fund the defense for a little over 2 days, using current funding levels and a year of 365 days. Even that number would be a little off because DoD pays some of the costs of the space station.
  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @03:41AM (#54398217) Journal

    His Interplanetary (Mars) Colonial Transport is so much more economical than the other proposed alternatives ($500,000 for a first ticket dropping to 140K later) that even if he's off by an order of magnitude it'll still be (much) cheaper.

    Will he be able to pull it off? Frankly I have no idea but if you had asked me 10 years ago if he could get a 10 story booster to fly back to its launch pad and land, or build an electric car company worth more than GM or become one of the biggest solar providers in the U.S. I wouldn't have stopped laughing.

    Give him a chance, it's almost assuredly better than you or I or certainly those idiots in Washington (maybe not the scientists but certainly their politician masters) could do

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @06:37AM (#54398623) Homepage

      Every time you try something radical it's a toss of the dice. Musk's successes don't mean that everything he does will be successful. I generally am in agreement with the logic processes that lead him to each approach he wants to try to revolutionize new industries (it's generally just looking at them as a ruthless optimization problem, requiring as few new technologies as possible - for example, with the Boring Company: tunnel costs are roughly linearly proportional to boring cross section, while diameter is constrained by number of lanes, space per lane (which is much higher than the width of a car), shoulder/pulloff space, etc. So have cars ride on automated sleds to reduce space per lane, move them very fast to increase throughput and thus reduce the number of lanes (while simultaneously cutting travel times), cut the tunnel width in half, and you're cutting the boring cost by 75%, at the cost of having to engineer and build sleds; combine that with simultaneous casing rather than bore/stop/case, borehead improvements, etc, and push it down further if you can). But there's always a gamble with everything he does, and there can always be failure. Past success is no guarantee of future success.

      ITS has an unusually large gamble involved, even by the standards of Musk's companies. Just to pick issue one of many: it's cryogenic composite tanks. Composites and cryogenics don't play well together; there have been attempts in the past, and they were failures. Musk is wanting to take us from "zero launch vehicles of any size using composite cryogenic tanks" to "by far the largest launch vehicle ever built, fully reusable up to a thousand times (for the booster), out of composites". That's a huge jump. Now, to be fair to them, there has been a lot of low level research in the past several decades, and attempts to improve the technology seem to have been going well. And it's also understandable that they'd want to move away from aluminum to composites - the strength to weight ratios are far higher, and strength to weight is everything when it comes to high payload fraction rockets. But it's a risky endeavour.

      To get costs down as far as they want requires revolutionizing everything, from the pad to range services to telemetry to thermal protection to the state of the art on reentry design and so on down the line. They're also working on insanely high pressure, full flow staged combustion engines with a rarely used propellant mix, used up to a thousand times each with low maintenance (although their initial signs on that front are promising - your biggest concerns are erosion, and they're reporting that with the new alloys they're using erosion appears to be minimal). The scale of the challenge they're taking on with this one is much bigger than that they took on when founding SpaceX, or Solar City, or Tesla - and I'd argue bigger than Hyperloop and the Boring Company as well (although not as extreme as what they're taking on with Neuralink). Expect long timescales. Expect glorious, pad-destroying failures. Expect initial prices much higher than their ultimate goal, and long periods of time to get them down. And to fund it, their satellite venture is going to have to play out. Which it probably will (improving communications and satellite technology has thrown this opportunity in their laps - Blue Origin is trying for a piece of the potentially massive market as well), but it's another case of breaking-new-ground which throws another risk into the process.

      But kudos to them for trying. With everything, really.

      • And NASA's best contribution to such an effort would be to keep plugging away at the science, answering questions like 'What is the exact composition of the soil in a variety of locations?' If Elon is going to make bricks or plant anything, he needs to know this.

      • ITS has an unusually large gamble involved, even by the standards of Musk's companies. Just to pick issue one of many: it's cryogenic composite tanks. Composites and cryogenics don't play well together; there have been attempts in the past, and they were failures. Musk is wanting to take us from "zero launch vehicles of any size using composite cryogenic tanks" to "by far the largest launch vehicle ever built, fully reusable up to a thousand times (for the booster), out of composites". That's a huge jump. ...

        They're also working on insanely high pressure, full flow staged combustion engines with a rarely used propellant mix, used up to a thousand times each with low maintenance...

        Ordinarily I'd agree with you. If we were talking about the usual suspects (NASA/Boeing/LockMart), they'd have a pile of paper at this stage and not much else.

        But SpaceX has (had) a giant carbon fiber tank [twitter.com] which they successfully burst tested [businessinsider.com] to 2/3rds the design pressure back in November, then blew up [reddit.com] testing with liquid nitrogen on February 17th 2017. (Judging by the pictures, it failed at the equatorial seam.)

        They've built and tested [youtube.com] a 1/3rd scale Raptor engine (which I presume you already knew, but ot

  • $3.5 billion, pfff. Imagine the leaps in science and space exploration we could make in no time if those silly humons just got along ..
    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @04:40AM (#54398365)
      $3.5 billion, pfff. Imagine the leaps in science and space exploration we could make in no time if those silly humons just got along ..

      Sorry, but a world where 7 billion people magically get along with each other is a fantasy.

      It would be laudable, however, if humanity would just spend a little less money and effort on not getting along.

    • You don't understand our priorities. $3.5bn is a lot of money until it's time to declare war on something. Then, money is no object. We've got to declare war on Mars. Convince Trump that ISIS has a secret base hidden on Mars and we'll have boots on the ground there in no time. Cost be damned.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's way more costly, risky and frankly, rovers can do an equivalent job.

  • NASA to Buzz Aldrin: Whatever. You won't be going on it, Mr Did-it-second.

    • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @06:14AM (#54398571)

      NASA to Buzz Aldrin: Whatever. You won't be going on it, Mr Did-it-second.

      Out of a population of over seven billion humans, a total of twelve of them have walked on the moon.

      First, second, or last, it's one of the most exclusive clubs in the history of mankind.

      • NASA to Buzz Aldrin: Whatever. You won't be going on it, Mr Did-it-second.

        Out of a population of over seven billion humans, a total of twelve of them have walked on the moon.

        First, second, or last, it's one of the most exclusive clubs in the history of mankind.

        Clearly OP should have put a "hashtag joke" or smiley face on the end to give you a clue.

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @04:36AM (#54398351)
    We are still lacking the technology for establishing even a somewhat self-sufficient colony on any celestial body.

    Here's the short list:

    Power. Except for the moon, Venus and Mercury, where solar power may be feasible, I don't see any option other than nuclear fusion for sustainably fulfilling a colony's power needs.

    Flexible, small scale chemical engineering. We need a way to synthesize almost arbitrary chemical compounds out of simple precursors. Basically, a machine that will produce a spoonful of sugar out of CO2, H2O and power. Or one does of acetaminophen out of H2O, CO2 and NH3.

    Flexible, small scale manufacturing. We need to reduce the size of the smallest manufacturing unit that is capable of producing a copy of itself as well as producing other useful outputs.

    Medical technology. We need better ways of easily diagnosing and treating a number of diseases, especially cancer (which will be a problem on any extraterrestrial colony).

    Launch-to-orbit technologies. Especially ones that don't involve the vehicle having to contain all of the fuel and reaction mass necessary to reach orbit.

    Life-support and maintenance. The colony needs to remain habitable for decades or centuries, unlike our current and past space stations that were simply de-orbited when they became too dirty.

    Easy and flexible genetic engineering of microorganisms, plants and possibly animals, to adapt them to the colonys needs.

    • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @04:44AM (#54398377) Homepage

      Power. Except for the moon, Venus and Mercury, where solar power may be feasible, I don't see any option other than nuclear fusion for sustainably fulfilling a colony's power needs.

      Wilfully blind to nuclear fission, I see.

      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @05:11AM (#54398423)
        Wilfully blind to nuclear fission, I see.

        No, not willfully blind. I have excluded fission after careful technical consideration. Nuclear fission requires very specific resources that may cost more energy to acquire and process on an extraterrestrial settlement that the amount that can be gained from them as fuel.

        And a colony that depends on regular shipments of fuel from Earth fails one of the very basic criteria of self-sufficiency. It is an option during the ramp-up phase to self-sufficiency.

        To be more precise: The technology needed is at least D-D fusion. Deuterium should be common enough on most celestial bodies (especially those farther away from the Sun than Earth) that self-sufficient energy supply is possible.

        • a colony that depends on regular shipments of fuel from Earth fails one of the very basic criteria of self-sufficiency

          Duh, all we need to do is find a small asteroid made mostly of uranium, nudge it into orbit around Mars, then Bob's (*) your uncle.

          (*) Robert Heinlein described this very scenario in one of his early science fiction works. Probably.

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            If it was that simple the Manhatten Project would probably have happened in 1850.
            Not all Uranium is equal. Getting enough of the right isotopes for fuel out is not trivial.
      • Power. Except for the moon, Venus and Mercury, where solar power may be feasible, I don't see any option other than nuclear fusion for sustainably fulfilling a colony's power needs.

        Wilfully blind to nuclear fission, I see.

        Technically he's right, because nuclear processes are not 'sustainable', in that they use up fuel. The sun itself is not sustainable, because eventually the hydrogen will be depleted.

        But since we don't know what a fusion plant will look like yet, the most likely power source for extraterrestrial use will be variations of the one we already use when space power needs exceed what sustainables can provide in a given part of the solar system.

        We have recently found that 14C makes a good, long-running "nuclear ba

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          A "nuclear battery" supplies not a great deal of power for not a great deal of time. Wikipedia will help.
      • Wilfully blind to nuclear fission, I see.

        For submarines it's a very good choice - aerospace where every gram counts not so much, but the complex fuel cycle kills it dead once you go off planet.
        The fuel does not stay useful forever and shipping in new fuel at intervals would be very difficult to sustain.

        It's fine to be a big fan of nukes but in some situations they are not so good a fit.

    • Pah! Mere implementation details.

      Where's your vision?

      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
        Where's your vision?

        Design engineer here. I get paid for implementation, not for visions. I'd be really rich if it was the other way 'round.

    • Well, I read your post, and I disagree with everything you said.

      Power, nuclear exists, so it's not a problem. Chemical engineering, life support, genetic engineering, etc; not necessary. Build a dome. We actually know how to do that part. Then put plants in it. We already have a sampling of plants which will grow in the martian regolith, even food plants which are edible.

      Launch to orbit, that makes it expensive, but still within the realm of possibility.

  • Hasn't he read Seveneves? We need Izzy for the survival of mankind!

    • "Hasn't he read Seveneves? We need Izzy for the survival of mankind!"

      But if you did read Seveneves, you would recall that Hillary Clinton, as President in that scenario, pops in on the ISS and screws everything up.

  • by 4im ( 181450 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @05:39AM (#54398479)

    Why not sell the US parts to either the international partners or to potentially interested private companies? I'm quite sure some of the partners would be interested in keeping the station running, it is certainly a question of money though.

    There's been talk about putting a station around the moon, I'm not sure if it would currently be feasible to push the ISS that far - or even to a lagrange point (e.g. L5 as proposed in The High Frontier).

    I'd certainly prefer to see NASA just staying on with the ISS, but getting a higher budget - it certainly needs it much more than the seemingly utterly wasteful US military complex.

    • Re:or sell it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @06:49AM (#54398659) Homepage

      ISS is not designed to operate out of LEO. There are plans to build a new station around the moon (in a rather curious orbit). NASA wants it to be effectively a Mars spaceship, just parked around the moon, while the Russians want it to be a permanent fixture around the moon. So the plan appears to be to develop it so that a "Mars spaceship" portion can undock from the rest at an arbitrary future date.

      Who knows how far along the design and development will actually get.

      As for buyers... great if you can find them, and sure, get whatever money out of it that you can. But let's not fall for the sunk cost fallacy here. In a way, building an ambitious space project is akin to buying a computer. It may be the shiniest sleekest piece of modern technology when you make it, and it serves your purposes, but it's quickly rendered obsolete by advancing technology. ISS is increasingly obsolete, with modern technology allowing for structures that are lighter, more maintainable, and more capable for a given cost. For example, compare ATK Megaflex or Ultraflex to the ISS's solar arrays. Furthermore, part of the whole point of building such things is to advance technology. You don't advance technology by continuing to use old technology and just incrementally improving it. That may be the best option for a period of time, but eventually you need to start over with a new design that incorporates the knowledge accrued since your last design.

  • Don't get me wrong, I'm all for space exploration and travel and all that but why do we currently have such a boner for Mars? Yeah I get the whole was there/wasn't there life question, but other than that what can we actually learn from Mars and is that question worth it? Why is it worth sending people there rather than say, building a moon base or extending our orbital presence?
    • It's not so much about Mars itself (other than to say "hell yeah, we put people on another planet!"), as it is about the spinoff technologies it will create.

  • by Angeret ( 1134311 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @07:51AM (#54398767)

    Sending people off to Mars before we can prove survivability is a really dumb way to get people killed and possibly kill future off-world exploration. First, we need to prove we can sustain a colony on our nearest neighbour, the moon, and ONLY then start thinking about sending people off to another planet. Are the people who want a Mars colony *now* the kind of people who'd send a newly upright toddler off to drive a busload of other toddlers across the country? Probably.

    Pick a spot on the moon suitable for a test colony, seed the area with redundant supply drops, THEN send a risk aware space trained construction crew to build the habitats. Spend at least 5 years learning how to live off-planet, working out all the bugs and expanding, then consider Mars. And FFS, make it a multi-national effort or there'll be so much political fallout it'll kill the project as sure as explosive decompression.

  • by zedaroca ( 3630525 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @07:53AM (#54398777)

    Only someone paid for that would claim we cannot afford 3.5 billion.
    It's hard to consider any other points made when the lack of good faith has been established.

  • If Bigelow or another private company wants to put up a module and fly tourists to it fine, but I don't think private industry is ready to run the ISS. A better way to lower the cost is to get more counties involved, China being the most obvious choice. India might also be interested.
  • by mhollis ( 727905 ) on Thursday May 11, 2017 @10:50AM (#54399699) Journal

    I met Buzz Aldrin some years ago when he was on a book tour signing books. Very nice guy. I respect him but I think he is wrong on this issue.

    Firstly, right now, they are testing how fire works in micro-gravity on the ISS. Knowing how to deal with fire aboard a craft on the way toward Mars is essential research. Some people on earth don't know how to deal with a kitchen fire and training astronauts in necessary knowledge can prevent unnecessary deaths. Apollo 1 happened in my lifetime (as well as Buzz Aldrin's) and that was caused by fire in 1G. Apollo 13 had an explosion (fire) that could have killed three astronauts on the way to the Moon.

    We continue to learn more about long-term weightlessness on the ISS. We continue to learn more about EVA (spacewalks) and repairs to the exterior of a spacecraft. We continue to learn about how the surface tension of various liquids works and we are learning about how to grow plants (that can process Carbon Dioxide into oxygen safely) in micro-gravity.

    In short, the ISS is serving an excellent function.

    What Buzz Aldrin needs to to is to start encouraging a priority change for NASA. When we mounted the Apollo program, NASA's budgets were very high. After all, we were in a space race. We did not achieve all of the planned Moon landings because NASA's budget was cut. Surely Aldrin recalls this. So, were I to meet up with the distinguished gentleman again, I would ask why we're spending so much on war that could be spent on NASA and engage many of the same companies who are lobbying for war contracts. We need to change the US priority from war to the peaceful use of much the same technology for exploration.

    Oh, and Martian regolith may well be poisonous, [nasa.gov] so were we to begin colonizing Mars, we would need to address that.

  • How about we solve the radiation problem of sending people to Mars first. You know... having gone to the moon, those bright flashes you saw in your vision even when your eyes were closed... those comic rays are NOT good for humans...

    Let's go to the moon first and figure out how to deal with the radiation problem first... then we'll go to Mars.

Take an astronaut to launch.

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