Mission to Mars

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Deckerd, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Scientists at Imperial College have been bending their big boffiny brains towards this problem.

    BBC has done them proud

    It could work!
     
  2. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This is fantastic but unless I missed it, what's the price tag? It's worth remembering the George H. Bush senior also wanted to do this 15 years ago but the price tag of $500 billion + at the time was killed by the US congress. The International Space Station replaced the Mars mission because of costs.
     
  3. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That is still less than the price tag of Iraq war II--or even the F-35 program at 1.5 trillion or so total lifecycle cost.
     
  4. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    A three-person crew? (What happened to the dreams of yesteryear? Von Braun wanted to send a fleet to Mars to begin building a colony.)

    How about establishing a Moonbase first, even a small one. It would serve as the perfect testing ground for the many technologies we need for long duration spaceflight—including the opportunity to test new engines. The Moon is also close enough to abort back to Earth in the event of catastrophic failures in the "colony."

    To borrow a phrase from Arthur C. Clarke, there is little purpose in "brief reconnaissance raids." It's not the 1950s or '60s anymore. We don't need space spectaculars just to prove that we can do it, perhaps before the other guy. "Long duration" missions should be a preface to permanent bases. They should be more than stunts, or rock gathering field trips.

    The "men are better than machines" argument is no longer tenable considering the current sophistication of robotics. Sending people is much, Much, MUCH more expensive.

    I believe private investors will build the first bases and then colonies on the Moon, Mars and perhaps elsewhere in the Solar system—if they can evade being nationalized and then looted by the parasitic governments of the world.
     
  5. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    I don't see how private investors would make any money on that kind of venture. As you say, it would be ruinously expensive and what would be the return? The only way is the way off planet activities have been funded so far, simply because nations have more money and resources and increasingly countries are working together to spread the cost.
     
  6. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    No, the citizens of nations have money and resources. Waiting for "the government" to undertake the big projects means they will never be done, or done without any vision and usually in the most inefficient manner. Governments spend, they don't invest. Private investors will be looking to fund bases or colonies elsewhere for ulterior motives, not simply for the end purpose of planting a flag and then forgetting the whole enterprise for another century.

    The US government can't even send a man into orbit right now, while SpaceX and other private industries can. So already the private industries have something they can sell for their effort. And the government won't be the only customer. A company building space hotels or wanting to put hardware on the Moon—for science or some other industry, such as mining—will talk to companies like SpaceX. The turn around on investments may not be quick, but there will be profit to continue bootstrapping to greater heights.
     
  7. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I could very easily see a private corporation offering "space tours" as it were for anyone who could drop six figures. That could easily expand into a lunar amusement park as it were. Mars? We -could- but quite simply the will isn't there.

    As Jim Lovell said about going to the moon, "It's not a miracle, we just decided to go."
     
  8. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Not sure what your first point is. As to the second, you still haven't explained how private investment will get any return that compensates for the hugely expensive outlay.
     
  9. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I did. NASA, a US government agency, has no means of reaching orbit itself and must turn to companies like SpaceX. STS (the space shuttle) was a boondoggle and did essentially nothing to return on the investment. In fact, NASA is busy selling off hardware and launch complexes. (Reiterating what I said earlier, governments spend/consume, they do not invest.) Elon Musk has much larger plans for SpaceX than merely getting to orbit. For now, the company can sell that service to those who need it. Some customers may have other money-making enterprises, if they can just get to orbit, or farther. The Mars article in the OP suggested nothing that has not already been done in Apollo and other missions. That's hardly visionary. "Three people set foot on Mars! Yay!" Now what?

    SpaceX may be operating at a loss right now, but investors (like Musk) usually have several other irons in the fire at the same time. Steve Jobs ran Pixar at a loss for years because he had a vision of what it could become. (It was part of a long term trend to sell "content," as well as the machines to run it on.) The long investment was necessary because the company was venturing into an entirely new field. It paid off so well that the rest of the industry started shutting down their 2D and traditional cel animation departments in a knee-jerk reaction.

    There are many companies reaching for space right now, and only a small portion of them are rocketeers. That's because there is money to be made. The visionaries of the 19th century rebuilt the US after the Civil War with trains, power and steel. The visionaries of the 21st will take us off-planet. And they'll make a lot of money doing it.
     
  10. Angel4576

    Angel4576 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Would love to see us put people on Mars, but yeah, have to agree with this. By comparison surely establishing a Lunar settlement would be a simpler, not to mention cheaper, prospect.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with contemplating what a future Mars mission would look like, and how we'd even be able to do it though. Fascinating read.
     
  11. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This is why I support SLS. Even the Musk/Tito flyby mission will be cramped, not unlike the plan the Russians have to go to the Moon:

    http://www.russianspaceweb.com/ptk_2013.html#june


    Different versions:

    NEP, the Bekuo
    http://nickd.freehostia.com/OrbiterVault/bekuo.html

    NTR
    http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/RT/2004/PB/PBM-mcguire.html

    I'm a Nuclear Thermal guy myself--I like that better, and dates back farther
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/07/nasas-first-piloted-nuclear-rocket-mars-study-1961/

    The war is on: NEP vs NTR
    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1896/1

    Sad to see little camps fight.

    civilian vs military
    public vs private
    winged vs ballistic
    solid vs liquid
    pressure-fed vs pump-fed
    manned vs robotic
    solar vs nuclear
    NTR vs NEP
    Moon vs Mars

    Can't we all just get along?
     
  12. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    From the article: "This means you need a huge vacuum chamber to perform any sort of accurate test of an electrical propulsion engine and the chamber needs to be capable of a very high vacuum during the test since even small amounts of residual gas can mess up electric-thruster measurements. Of course, you could test the engine in space, which is big and has vacuum pretty much everywhere."

    Thus the reason for a Moonbase. A variety of economically profitable enterprises would be easier to support closer to Earth while engines and other technologies are refined. Once advanced engine technologies are on-line, Mars missions will be more attractive (to investors). Blowing the entire wad just to set foot on Mars with nothing to allow a follow-up makes poor business sense.

    I'm gonna hurl. Mother Nature thinks very highly of competition, and it is a fundamental aspect of being human. Competition keeps us sharp. This does not mean that competition must be destructive. "Fisticuffs" will not decide which engine is better. Just don't call the Enterprise a garbage scow in front of Scotty.
     
  13. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    SpaceX has been cash flow positive since 2008. Now they really need to start improving their flight rate if they want to keep the business they've gotten.
     
  14. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The plan is nice, but I would rather see something like this get realised:
    1. SpaceX (for example) fulfil their reusable Falcon Heavy plans.
    2. Reusable Falcon Heavy cuts the price to Mars per kilo by an order of magnitude or two.
    3. 10-15 unmanned flights launch the inflatable pieces to a ground station (preferably robotic and builds itself automatically)
    4. 5 manned flights (like the ones in the OP) crew it up with a larger research team.
    5. If budget allows it, rotate crew with a couple annual flights and make the ground station permanent.

    It would be better if whoever goes to Mars, waits a little bit to achieve more than just setting our foot there.
     
  15. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    Unless you have something a heckofa lot better than chemical engines, "a couple annual flights" for crew is not possible. You have to wait for the best launch window.
     
  16. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    As this point in time, I have to ask: do we really need to do it? Space exploration, as romantic and exciting as it is, is luxury. Luxury we can't afford right now.

    The billions needed for a manned mission to Mars could be well spent in other areas. Might be a tough thing to say, but it's the truth.
     
  17. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Ah, the trump card, meaning "anything you say is already refuted." So you believe all the private investors are not entitled to do what they wish with their own money? Thanks for making my point.

    "Romantic" also shows your mindset: planting footprints. Have you read any of the above discussion? We're not talking about adventure. You also know that none of the answers to the world's problems are off-world?
     
  18. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ah, sure, I forgot the launch windows, but I wasn't trying to be specific on the schedule. Seizing the opportunity to decrease costs and accomplish more at once opens possibilities. I haven't got a clue what schedules they could use, but I am pretty sure something of the sort can be done if you've got the right price tag and the resolve.

    They could rotate the entire crew every two years, leaving the ground station unmanned for a while. That would be all sorts of amazing, imagine how creepy it must be to go into a completely empty space station.

    Also, how much travel time could be cut by constantly working ion engines? I get that the pre-prototype of the thurster intended for the cancelled Jupiter icy moon mission could get the Destiny laboratory several AU away for a year operating at maximum power (50 kW), with only 200 kg of fuel. But I've no idea if you could operate it that way.
     
  19. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, I just love how some people feel they should be able to tell others how they should spend their money. Next to that, proclaiming one's opinion as fact is a small thing.
     
  20. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    XKCD responds.


    Besides, think of the billions of dollars Americans spend on entertainment per year. That's a luxury. We could be feeding the planet with that money.