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cable
2003-Jan-12, 12:31 PM
why we need a man on Mars ?
are modern robots not smart enough ?
or distant Mars, makes remote control difficult/impossible ?
or a manned mission means more jobs/budget for NASA ?

Glom
2003-Jan-12, 12:39 PM
An astronaut can do far more than a robot. Compare what the Surveyor and Lunakhod probes did compared to what the Apollo astronauts did on Luna.

There is also one of those human spirit issues. Do we really want to not expand beyond the geosphere and stagnate until Sol goes white dwarf?

darkhunter
2003-Jan-12, 01:16 PM
The Earth is to fragile a basket to hold all of humanity's eggs.

Apologies for the paraphrase and not remembering who said it...just the way my mind works. I remember isolated facts but not where they came from if I'm not consantly using them. (Makes it a real hassle at work sometime to look up something I know to give the reference but can't remember exactly where...)

John Kierein
2003-Jan-12, 02:44 PM
My late friend Bill Carnahan wanted to go. He was pretty old at the time. He said "Send us old guys there. We'll be happy to stay and you won't have tp bring us back."

Bill was a neat guy who was a member of the Austin Astronomical Society and the founder of the "Association for Pushing Gravity Research" that held conferences and gave awards for papers and published some booklets on Pushing Gravity theory.

My late uncle, Homer Shoop, wanted me to arrange to have his ashes spread on Mars. Homer was the best bridge player in the world over the age of 75. He played tennis with trick shots and gave exhibitions around the world, including at Monaco where he made the Prince laugh so hard he fell out of his chair. Neither of these guys would've asked the question.

ToSeek
2003-Jan-12, 03:37 PM
On 2003-01-12 08:16, darkhunter wrote:
The Earth is to fragile a basket to hold all of humanity's eggs.

Apologies for the paraphrase and not remembering who said it.



"The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in. "
-- Robert A. Heinlein (http://home.att.net/~quotesexchange/robertaheinlein.html)

_________________
"... to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." - Tennyson, Ulysses


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ToSeek on 2003-01-12 10:38 ]</font>

Glom
2003-Jan-12, 04:21 PM
On 2003-01-12 08:16, darkhunter wrote:
The Earth is to fragile a basket to hold all of humanity's eggs.

Oh, so Earth's a basket, is it? I suppose you think that proves the Apollo photographs fake since they show a round Earth.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Glom on 2003-01-12 11:22 ]</font>

JS Princeton
2003-Jan-12, 04:24 PM
If we want to go to Mars then we need to look at the space program entirely differently. Right now we have the problem that NASA is involved in both exploration and in science. The cost/benefit analysis of human vs. unmanned missions for science is clear: it's always better to send the robot. For the price of Apollo without the astronauts, we could have found out a ridiculous amount of information.

Of course, science is not the reason for sending humans into the great beyond. Rather, there's a separate exploratory spirit that is fed by such trips. It may be worthwhile to engage in such activities, but we need to be clear why we are doing it. It is not because of science; it is because of our own human desire. Once we decide that Mars is where we want to go, nothing will stop us. However, we haven't come to that consensus yet as a society. It is up to those who are gung-ho to convince the rest of us to tap into our "wonder" emotions and get us excited about sending people to Mars.

My feeling? If we're going to send people to Mars I want them to stay. For the price of the Apollo program we could send 8 people to Mars with the intention of having them start a colony. It would be a tremendous investment, but given enough time we would see a return on it. Unfortunately, I think that such an idea would not have very many supporters as it might be viewed as throwing money away. It is a big risk, but sometimes the big risks have the biggest gains.

irony
2003-Jan-12, 04:44 PM
Because we can. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif Best answer there is.

darkhunter
2003-Jan-12, 05:59 PM
On 2003-01-12 10:37, ToSeek wrote:


On 2003-01-12 08:16, darkhunter wrote:
The Earth is to fragile a basket to hold all of humanity's eggs.

Apologies for the paraphrase and not remembering who said it.



"The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in. "
-- Robert A. Heinlein (http://home.att.net/~quotesexchange/robertaheinlein.html)

_________________
"... to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." - Tennyson, Ulysses


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ToSeek on 2003-01-12 10:38 ]</font>


THANKS! /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

g99
2003-Jan-12, 06:38 PM
I think we should. IT is the last frontier that we know of right now. We need to explore again.

But i just hope they send along a calcuator with them with the calculations on how to change feet into meters. Just incase /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

liglats
2003-Jan-12, 09:23 PM
So we ask the question, "why does NASA not go to Mars?" Well I for one believe that NASA should not go to Mars - on its own.

During the Apollo era, a huge pile of American money was spent to get American astronauts onto the Moon. Since then, no human has been back, and to add insult to injury, there's people who are trying to get us to believe that it was all a hoax.

I believe that, as a citizen of Scotland, I have no right to lobby NASA to go anywhere, however I do not think it is fair that it is only the tax Dollars of US citizens that get used to fund space travel.

It would take a concerted effort to get anyone to Mars, so I believe that all the major industrialised nations should contribute to a larger presence in space, starting with a return to The Moon and the formation of a permanently manned base, before working up to the permanent manned colony on Mars. Then and only then could we consider this to be a planetary effort rather than the effort of one nation.

I don't want to knock NASA, in fact I am in deep admiration of their achievements over the years. I also know that any effort to broaden our space efforts would rely heavily on NASA's expertise. The point that I'm trying to get at is that I want to be able to say that my country contributed to the next evolution of the human species. NASA should not go it alone.

[edited as the spelling was awful!]

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: liglats on 2003-01-12 16:25 ]</font>

Tom
2003-Jan-12, 09:32 PM
On 2003-01-12 07:31, cable wrote:
why we need a man on Mars ?
are modern robots not smart enough ?

Robots are great, but with people the mission doesn't stop because you can't cross a 6" rock.

We should send both. At the same time. An exploratory base with remote rovers, and human explorers, too!

Glom
2003-Jan-12, 09:38 PM
I agree is liglats. How better to embrace the spirit of the '67 Outer Space treaty than to not have one country make the achievement? All we need to do is get Charles Kennedy elected. We know the Scots have an engineering tradition and since his name's Kennedy, I'm sure he'll be for it.

liglats
2003-Jan-12, 10:13 PM
On 2003-01-12 16:32, Tom wrote:

We should send both. At the same time. An exploratory base with remote rovers, and human explorers, too!


IMHO, a trip to Mars would start off with unmanned vehicles being sent in advance containing oxygen, water shelter etc. Some multi-function robots could be sent in the first wave to get the lie of the land.

Also, the original Lunar Rover had a guidance system to make the return to the lander easier and not rely on directions such as "third turning past the large grey boulder". How about something like a quad bike with appropriate sensing equipment? This gets sent in advance to scout round the area, then when the humans arrive, the autonomous systems are switched off and it gets used as martian transport.

[All we need to do is get Charles Kennedy* elected. We know the Scots have an engineering tradition and since his name's Kennedy, I'm sure he'll be for it]

Unfortunately, any Scots that make it into space will have to put up with the "Scotty to Bridge, ye cannae change the laws of Physics!" stereotype!

*Charles Kennedy - Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat party. For those who don't know (or care!) about UK politics.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: liglats on 2003-01-12 17:17 ]</font>

Glom
2003-Jan-12, 10:40 PM
On 2003-01-12 17:13, liglats wrote:
"Scotty to Bridge, ye cannae change the laws of Physics!"

That's a very good impression. Do that again.

I didn't say we'd send Scots into space. We'd get them to build the spacecraft and then send Eaton graduates into space. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_lol.gif

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Glom on 2003-01-12 17:41 ]</font>

nebularain
2003-Jan-12, 11:20 PM
On 2003-01-12 07:31, cable wrote:
why we need a man on Mars ?

Well, in the immortal words of you-know-who: "Space, the final frontier. . . ."

I can put this another way: Where is your sense of adventure?!



are modern robots not smart enough ?

Think of it this way. One could say, "Why do I need to plan a trip to see the Grand Canyon when I can look at photographs of it?" But having been there, I can attest to the same claim as others who have been there: the photographs just do not do it justice! There is nothing like being there and seeing its grandeur for what it is, for how the colors change throughout the day, etc., etc., etc.

Robots can offer some useful technical stuff, but nothing compares to the human experience, really.

Glom
2003-Jan-12, 11:32 PM
So you'll probably love Valles Marineris even more.

Mainframes
2003-Jan-12, 11:35 PM
I've got to say it's all very well sending robots to Mars to gather information but it cannot compare to the magic and imagary (for want of a better description) of sending a manned mission to the red planet.

There was a helluva lot of interest in the Pathfinder mission but just imagine the interest generated by a successful manned mission.....

Peter B
2003-Jan-13, 01:46 AM
Something to think about...

Ask people, "Would you take part in a mission to Mars if you had a 50% chance of dying on the mission?" A lot of people would jump at the chance.

But ask people, "Should NASA send a manned mission to Mars if it has a 50% chance of catastrophic failure (death of the astronauts)?"

I think you'll find most people would be horrified at NASA being so cavalier with the astronauts' lives.

Cloudy
2003-Jan-13, 07:36 AM
liglats,

Your own ESA(European Space Agency) is a major player in the ISS program. It is building and funding many parts of the ISS and is sending its own astronauts to it, albeit with American and Russian vehicles.

ESA also does its own robotic exploration missions.

ESA has some quirks...each project must give a 20% share to France if France gave 20% of a project's funding, 30% to Norway if Norway gave 30%, and so forth. This is a big pain. It also has its own NASA style beauracracy.

About international projects- the worse thing about ISS is that it cannot be canceled without violating international commitments. Also..its bad enough to have to satisfy American political interests when doing a space project - give something to a powerfull congressman's district, etc. If you add European and Russian political interests in, either the cost and complexities go up eponentially or the project simply dies at the negotiating table. Fortunatly, most projects of this ilk have died at the negotiating table.

There are good things about cooperation in space. Yet it is best that one country(or international agency like the ESA) be both the prime funding source and the sole decisionmaker in each project. This decisionmake must have the ability to pull the plug on the project if neccesary.

DStahl
2003-Jan-13, 08:39 AM
Liglats, ye warm me soul! I agree that mankind as a whole should venture to Mars. NASA is not enough.

Robots can very well perform first-look analyses, and there should be several more robotic missions to Mars. But if we are really interested in planetary studies then nothing will replace human eyes on Mars. A geologist recognizes strata, concretions, fossils, bedding planes--that's hard stuff, subtle pattern-recognition algorithms, for a robot. A soil chemist will tailor experiments to match his evolving understanding of Martian soil, and by the end of a mission I would guarrantee he would surpass the possible findings of a robotic soil analyst. I wanna go! Can you imagine picking your way along one of the layered canyon walls, looking at...sandstone? tuff? wind-laid sediments? conglomerate? alien seashells?

kucharek
2003-Jan-13, 08:49 AM
On 2003-01-12 07:31, cable wrote:
why we need a man on Mars ?

Why do people climb mountains?
Why do people do bungee jumping?
Why do people watch tv?

We don't need a man on Mars, we need plenty of people there. Going to and living on Mars is the next logical step in the evolution of mankind. Not again a "go there and quickly come back"-stunt as Apollo. Having a self-sustained permanent colony on Mars is the only sure way that mankind could survive a catastrophic event on Earth, either naturally (impact), technology gone wrong or the big mushroom blossoming.

Harald

copabera
2003-Jan-13, 05:19 PM
On 2003-01-12 07:31, cable wrote:
why we need a man on Mars ?


It doesn't really matter where we go as long as we just get out there! Space exploration is inevitable, regardless of what we talk about in this forum. We have the technology, money, will, and desire to do it, so it will get done.

As alluded to, there would be several folks standing in line to go to Mars and never come back, despite the risks.
As far as cost and technical problems go, I would guess that it will be some time before any human launches off of the planet Mars. Coming off of Mars is no doubt a far greater challenge that climbing out of the Moon's relatively shallow gravity well. (see bottom).

I would bet that in the short term (over the next 50 years) there will be two types of visitors. Those that would colonize the planet and not come back, and those scientist sent to merely orbit the planet (Station Phobos?) to observe and to provide near-immediate hand-held feedback to the remotes.

So much for my $0.02.

I have a specific question to the JPLers out there: What exactly would need to get built on the Mars surface in order to launch, say, five astronauts safely into orbit to rendezvous with the "Mother Ship" for a trip home?

VanBurenVandal
2003-Jan-13, 05:41 PM
On 2003-01-12 07:31, cable wrote:
why we need a man on Mars ?


My friend was thinking about the Renaissance one day. He decided that if the Black Death had not swept though, the Renaissance would not have occurred. I pointed out the die-off was inevitable, that many people living in such conditions, with no one doing anything about it. People became complacent, went with the idea of things being “good enough”. Good enough never got anyone anywhere. The plague was a wake-up call, which kicked Europe into high gear. Next thing you know, there are colonies on distant lands. As far as my feeble mind can tell, we are living in another Dark Age. Sure, we have computers, TV, ect. Yippee. I hope it doesn’t take a nasty flu epidemic or something to convince the populous we need to do more. At the risk of sounding sappy, one of the concepts of Star Trek: Nemesis is humans are defined by trying to be more than they are (it’s not that bad of a spoiler, don’t worry). Today we are fat, lazy, and complacent. I just hope someday a history student doesn’t refer to my life as being in the “Second Dark Age”…

[Edited because I forgot to add cable's quote]
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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: VanBurenVandal on 2003-01-13 12:42 ]</font>

cable
2003-Jan-13, 06:03 PM
Cpabera,
welcome on board.


As far as cost and technical problems go, I would guess that it will be some time before any human launches off of the planet Mars. Coming off of Mars is no doubt a far greater challenge that climbing out of the Moon's relatively shallow gravity well.

perhaps not a far greater challenge, if we build a LM -- or should I say -- a MM with cryogenic engine ...
there is one exciting goal: to learn about early biology on Mars. that may help understand evolution ....

Glom
2003-Jan-13, 06:22 PM
But trying to keep supercritical helium supercritical for that long isn't easy.

daver
2003-Jan-13, 06:40 PM
On 2003-01-12 11:24, JS Princeton wrote:
If we want to go to Mars then we need to look at the space program entirely differently. Right now we have the problem that NASA is involved in both exploration and in science. The cost/benefit analysis of human vs. unmanned missions for science is clear: it's always better to send the robot. For the price of Apollo without the astronauts, we could have found out a ridiculous amount of information.



Disagree. We're getting to the point now where we could build robots that would have returned more science than the astronauts did on the Apollo missions for the same amount of money. Maybe we're past that point. We weren't there in the 60's.

Rodina
2003-Jan-13, 06:50 PM
The money on manned spaceflight, for now, is better spent on making manned spaceflight cheaper and more reliable. Although there are some great mission architectures to get to Mars (most notably, Mars Direct and Mars Semi-Direct) fairly reliably and fairly soon, if cost-to-orbit was, $500 a kilogram rather than the $10K or more a kilogram these days, mass considerations would be a lot more liberal and all kinds of cool mission plans could get us reliably back to the Moon and onto Mars.

daver
2003-Jan-13, 07:11 PM
On 2003-01-13 13:50, Rodina wrote:

The money on manned spaceflight, for now, is better spent on making manned spaceflight cheaper and more reliable. Although there are some great mission architectures to get to Mars (most notably, Mars Direct and Mars Semi-Direct) fairly reliably and fairly soon, if cost-to-orbit was, $500 a kilogram rather than the $10K or more a kilogram these days, mass considerations would be a lot more liberal and all kinds of cool mission plans could get us reliably back to the Moon and onto Mars.



Agreed. The problem is that people have been proposing low cost to orbit alternatives for at least the last 35 years, but so far nothing tangible has come of it (well, i shouldn't say nothing. The shuttle was supposed to lower costs by a factor of 3 or so (i've pulled this number from my hat--anyone remember if NASA actually had some figures they were shooting for?). Of course, it was also supposed to have a flight rate about a factor of 10 higher than its current rate).

Glom
2003-Jan-13, 07:11 PM
But there are always limitations to using unmanned space travel and there is also the issue of "we choice to do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Do we want to stagnate? Besides, a manned Mars landing attracts publicity. "Do you know what makes this bird go up? Funding makes this bird go up. No bucks, (or euros if you work for ESA) no Buck-Rogers."

Glom
2003-Jan-13, 07:16 PM
Where exactly did it go wrong? How do get your calculations off by such an amount? Did someone get a decimal point confused on their calculator?

daver
2003-Jan-13, 09:36 PM
On 2003-01-13 14:16, Glom wrote:
Where exactly did it go wrong? How do get your calculations off by such an amount? Did someone get a decimal point confused on their calculator?


There's almost certainly a good lesson in applied bleeding edge technology in there somewhere. I'm not an expert; i'll regurgitate some stuff i've read over the years, but there are a number of people out there who are better informed.

To a first approximation, there are two sets of costs to the shuttle program--fixed costs and per mission costs. The fixed costs are those that you pay regardless of how many birds fly--these would be salaries, amortized R&D, facilities, upgrades, that sort of thing. This is a large cost of maintaining the shuttle fleet. A lot of these costs would be present regardless of whether you're flying the shuttle or expendables. The other is are the per-mission costs--fuel, extra pay for the astronauts, refurbishing the shuttle, wear and tear on the shuttle, whatever.

Obviously, if you fly lots of missions, you cut down on the percentage of the fixed costs on a per mission basis. I believe that the Shuttle was supposed to have a lower marginal cost but a higher fixed cost than expendables; it could only be justified economically if all possible US flights were routed to the shuttle. Which was US policy until Challenger. Even so, i believe they had to factor in a growth factor to make things work out (something along the lines of "if you build it, they will come").

NASA had to redesign the shuttle on the fly to get military buy-in; even then, the military wasn't all that keen on it (with good reason). Some of the Shuttle's shortcomings can be blamed on the redesigns and budget limits.

As it happened, the Shuttle wasn't quite as reliable as anticipated. The engines had to be essentially torn down and rebuilt from scratch after every launch. Tiles fell off, every tile had to be inspected. Cracks developed. And so on. It became evident that the anticipated launch rate was hopelessly optimistic. Some of these were to be expected--teething pains. Still, there were a lot of them.

And then came Challenger. Which exposed a host of problems. Several key systems were redesigned (many of the redesigns were heavier, more robust, lower performance. Exactly the opposite direction i would have hoped for (design the prototypes pessimistically, remove weight and add performance as your understanding of the dynamics improves)). The space program was offline for a year. Philosophies shifted--only missions requiring the shuttle were launched on the shuttle.

Anyway, as to what went wrong, probably lots of stuff. The shuttle was sold as a space truck. But it was a truck made with bleeding edge technology. And it was a truck made to be all things to all people. And possibly it was a truck made for a task that never quite materialized.

JS Princeton
2003-Jan-14, 12:12 AM
On 2003-01-13 13:40, daver wrote:

Disagree. We're getting to the point now where we could build robots that would have returned more science than the astronauts did on the Apollo missions for the same amount of money. Maybe we're past that point. We weren't there in the 60's.



I thought someone might jump all over my comment about the cost/benefit of science with regards to Apollo. The truth is that claims of the science rewards were somewhat exaggerated by NASA. Of course the moon rocks we've got are an amazing source of information, but we really didn't go to all that many scientifically interesting places on the moon. Apollo was an engineering feat: not a scientific feat. While it's true that the kind of science that was supported by Apollo in the 60s could not have been done cheaper by unmanned missions, there was a lot of science (and engineering) that was not done because we spent the money on a human expedition and had to worry about keeping them astronauts alive and healthy. Maybe no rock samples, but if we had established a firm scientific base in the 60s and 70s we might have been able to develop more sample return missions today.

daver
2003-Jan-14, 01:01 AM
On 2003-01-13 19:12, JS Princeton wrote:

I thought someone might jump all over my comment about the cost/benefit of science with regards to Apollo.


Glad to oblige




The truth is that claims of the science rewards were somewhat exaggerated by NASA. Of course the moon rocks we've got are an amazing source of information, but we really didn't go to all that many scientifically interesting places on the moon. Apollo was an engineering feat: not a scientific feat. While it's true that the kind of science that was supported by Apollo in the 60s could not have been done cheaper by unmanned missions, there was a lot of science (and engineering) that was not done because we spent the money on a human expedition and had to worry about keeping them astronauts alive and healthy. Maybe no rock samples, but if we had established a firm scientific base in the 60s and 70s we might have been able to develop more sample return missions today.


Not sure what your point is here. First, if we had taken all the money that we spent on an Apollo mission and used it for unmanned exploration of the moon, we wouldn't have had all that money. Apollo was more about politics than exploration.

However, if somehow we could have used all that money on developing a real infrastructure, then we might have a real manned space program now. However, that doesn't appear to be what you're proposing either.

I'm not sure what "firm scientific base" was intended to mean. I don't think you meant a permanent unmanned scientific base on the moon--that doesn't seem to have many advantages over a series of Apollo-type missions, and i don't see any feasible way of doing it with existing technology--but i don't see what else you could be suggesting.

JS Princeton
2003-Jan-14, 01:18 AM
Well, daver, I imagine some of that money would have gone to projects other than the moon.

daver
2003-Jan-14, 05:42 PM
On 2003-01-13 20:18, JS Princeton wrote:
Well, daver, I imagine some of that money would have gone to projects other than the moon.


Sorry, i misunderstood the thrust of your argument.

Impossible to say what would have happened if there had been no Apollo program. There's a good chance that the space program would be healthier now. The Apollo money probably wouldn't have gone into other science programs--it would probably have gone into more military spending, more social spending, or wouldn't have been spent at all.

Launch window
2006-Jan-10, 09:51 AM
Flies take next giant step for mankind
Scottish scientists have received a massive Nasa grant to work out whether humans can successfully reproduce in space and colonise other worlds.
The team have been given £800,000 by the US space agency to breed several generations of fruit flies in zero gravity and then examine any genetic changes in the insects.
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1432006
The unique project is an essential first step towards discovering whether mankind can survive for generations in space and establish permanent homes elsewhere in the solar system.
The grant has been awarded to Dr Douglas Armstrong, a behavioural geneticist at Edinburgh University, who hopes to get his experiments into space aboard the shuttle by the end of 2007.
Four astronauts are due to fly to the moon by 2018 and later crews are expected to set up a semi-permanent base, with astronauts living there for up to six months at a time. Nasa is also hoping to have a manned mission to Mars by 2030 with a round trip to the Red Planet taking at least 30 months.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to send six astronauts on a 500-day mission to Mars, according to its final draft report on the Mars exploration program.
U.S. President George W. Bush promoted a new vision for NASA's space exploration in a speech he gave in January 2004. NASA is aiming to realize the mission before 2030.
The human mission to Mars is planned to take 2-1/2 years for the round-trip and will comprise three sets of vehicles.
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/science/20051230TDY01003.htm
According to the NASA report, the first stage of the two-part planned journey will be to launch two unmanned transport rockets carrying habitation modules and other equipment two years before the six-member crew's departure. The two rockets will enter Mars orbit after an eight-month journey. This will be followed by the launch of a transport spaceship carrying the six crew. members for a manned Mars landing.

Eckelston
2006-Jan-10, 07:38 PM
The problem with the human spaceflight program is not only that it takes money away from good science (which it may or may not do) and is inefficient. It also gives NASA a bad name. Human spaceflight does bring publicity but for the last few years it has been bad publicity. Lots of successful missions like Galileo, Hubble, SOHO, the Mars orbiters and landers, Spitzer and Chandra, Cassini, Swift etc. Most of these were good value for money too. Yet the impression is that NASA is wasting money becouse the Shuttle program and the ISS _are_ wasting money, and a lot too.

More importantly there are ways to generate publicity without human spaceflight. Although Discovery's last flight probably generated as much interest as the whole Cassini mission so far and Mars lost some of its appeal when people realized there weren't any Martians, the discovery of the first Earth-like planet will have a huge impact. It will bring something familiar to the strange world of astronomy. Which will mean publicity without the bad press human spaceflight usually gets.

Spherical
2006-Jan-10, 07:51 PM
The problem with the human spaceflight program is not only that it takes money away from good science (which it may or may not do) and is inefficient. It also gives NASA a bad name. Human spaceflight does bring publicity but for the last few years it has been bad publicity. Lots of successful missions like Galileo, Hubble, SOHO, the Mars orbiters and landers, Spitzer and Chandra, Cassini, Swift etc. Most of these were good value for money too. Yet the impression is that NASA is wasting money becouse the Shuttle program and the ISS _are_ wasting money, and a lot too.

More importantly there are ways to generate publicity without human spaceflight. Although Discovery's last flight probably generated as much interest as the whole Cassini mission so far and Mars lost some of its appeal when people realized there weren't any Martians, the discovery of the first Earth-like planet will have a huge impact. It will bring something familiar to the strange world of astronomy. Which will mean publicity without the bad press human spaceflight usually gets.


No Buck Rogers, no bucks. Robotic missions catch they eye once in a while, especially if you are an incorribible geek like me, but they fail to inspire hope or even enthusiasm.

Doodler
2006-Jan-10, 08:34 PM
No Buck Rogers, no bucks.

Well put. Especially in the United States, where spending priorities are rated in Congress based on human interests first and foremost.

There's got to be a compromise here. The fact remains that some of the best science is done by robotic missions, but those robots have definite limits. They've got the range, they've got the staying power that human missions simply do not have. Nevertheless, no robot can match human flexibility and short term capability. We deal better with the unexpected, and in exploring new areas, the unexpected is the rule rather than the exception. We adapt much better than our machines to difficulties as well. Machines to date don't fix themselves very effectively, something a human can do, even if they have to improvise a bit. In the end, it is our adventure, not theirs.

Exploration is as much adrenaline as it is education. You say space flight is expensive and dangerous...well, welcome to the human race, the vast bulk of us high maintenace adrenaline junkies at heart. We do have a paranoidly vocal group of people who live in fear of living making a lot of noise and writing constrictive rules, seldom opposed by those who don't, quite frankly, because they're out living. There's a difference between riskiness and recklessness, when you determine where the line is, the human side of the space adventure can move forward.

JonClarke
2006-Jan-10, 11:16 PM
is there a difference between science and exploration?

Jon

Doodler
2006-Jan-10, 11:24 PM
is there a difference between science and exploration?

Jon

As I meant it in my post, the difference is the human connection. I don't dismiss at all the excitement of what we learn through probes, but really Galileo, Cassini, Magellan, Voyager, Spirit, Opportunity and Sojourner are no more "exploring" as I see it than looking through a telescope. You can send cameras that can see the grains of sand for the Martian desert, but until someone leaves footprints, we've really not "explored" it. You could give Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity half credit because they've actually let us do more than drop in and look around, but its still not the same experience as being there. Its still just another remote camera view.

JonClarke
2006-Jan-11, 10:04 PM
As I meant it in my post, the difference is the human connection. I don't dismiss at all the excitement of what we learn through probes, but really Galileo, Cassini, Magellan, Voyager, Spirit, Opportunity and Sojourner are no more "exploring" as I see it than looking through a telescope. You can send cameras that can see the grains of sand for the Martian desert, but until someone leaves footprints, we've really not "explored" it. You could give Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity half credit because they've actually let us do more than drop in and look around, but its still not the same experience as being there. Its still just another remote camera view.

That's an interesting definition.

So, for you, deep sea investigations by means of side scan sonar, towed sledges, ROVs and other tools of the oceanographer are not exploration but science. Studying white smokers with a crewed submersible however is exploration, not science. However both programs are science driven and both are primarily scientific in output.

I see two other probelms with this. First, others have different definitions. ESA for example classes Mars Express and beagle as science but Exomars and Mars sample return as exploration.

Second, if you class crewed missions as exploration and robotic missions as science it risks heightening the false dichotomy between crewed missions (which don't "do" science) and unmanned missions which do.

Is there a better definition, or is the whole classification funadmentally flawed?

Jon

joema
2006-Jan-12, 12:30 AM
...The shuttle was supposed to lower costs by a factor of 3 or so...it was also supposed to have a flight rate about a factor of 10 higher than its current rate...
The shuttle's development costs and operational costs are approximately in line with the earliest official estimates. Also development schedule was not late -- it was on schedule based on the earliest official estimates. Statements about cost escalation and slippage in the development schedule are a myth. For details see the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) transcript: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html


NASA had to redesign the shuttle on the fly to get military buy-in; even then, the military wasn't all that keen on it (with good reason). Some of the Shuttle's shortcomings can be blamed on the redesigns and budget limits.
This is another myth. NASA wanted military support, but did not redesign the shuttle just to get this. NASA wanted the capability the shuttle now has, and that coincided with what the Air Force wanted. The shuttle's shortcomings are not the result of redesign and budget limits. Again, for details see the CAIB transcript: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html


As it happened, the Shuttle wasn't quite as reliable as anticipated. The engines had to be essentially torn down and rebuilt from scratch after every launch.
The SSMEs are not torn down and rebuilt after every launch. They are merely inspected. Until the latest SSME version, the turbopumps were removed and refurbished. Current SSMEs don't require that.


It became evident that the anticipated launch rate was hopelessly optimistic.
NASA never projected an extremely high launch rate. The talk of 52 launches per year were one theoretical study from an outside group. The absolute maximum launches per year were 24 per year, limited by external tank manufacturing capacity. The earliest official estimates projected possibly 10 or 12 flights per year.

In 1985 one orbiter -- Discovery -- flew four times. With a four orbiter fleet, it's obviously possible to fly 12 missions per year. Before the Columbia disaster, NASA was planning about 8 missions per year to finish ISS.


Several key systems were redesigned (many of the redesigns were heavier, more robust, lower performance.
Not sure what you're talking about here. To my knowledge there was no performance loss because of the post-Challenger safety improvements. In fact current shuttles have greater payload performance due to various performance upgrades.


...possibly it was a truck made for a task that never quite materialized.
From NASA's standpoint, as originally planned the main priority of the shuttle was to service the space station. That's exactly what it's being used for. Other uses were secondary. It was understood the shuttle would also launch both civilian and military satellites, and maybe other things. However these tasks were secondary. The main purpose underlying the shuttle's design was servicing the space station. Of course NASA understood the space station wouldn't be built for years, but nonetheless that was the shuttle's main design purpose. For details see http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html

Ilya
2006-Jan-12, 02:56 AM
From NASA's standpoint, as originally planned the main priority of the shuttle was to service the space station. That's exactly what it's being used for. Other uses were secondary. It was understood the shuttle would also launch both civilian and military satellites, and maybe other things. However these tasks were secondary.
Secondary? In the 1970's, NASA decided to phase out expendable rockets and to launch all satellites from the space shuttle. Here is a little lawsuit which resulted from that decision:

http://online.ceb.com/calcases/CA3/214CA3d1.htm

When Challenger exploded, all production Delta, Atlas, and Titan vehicles was already terminated by the US government, and consequently the entire US space lift program was shut down for almost a year. That does not sound like "secondary tasks" to me.

joema
2006-Jan-12, 05:05 AM
Secondary? In the 1970's, NASA decided to phase out expendable rockets and to launch all satellites from the space shuttle...
What I meant was during shuttle development any features needed to launch satellites were secondary next to features needed to service the space station. Payload mass, payload size, orbital altitude, cross range, orbital endurance, crew size, etc, etc, were driven mainly by space station servicing needs, not by satellite launching needs.

Of course there were plans to use the shuttle as the primary launch vehicle, not expendables.

But from a shuttle development standpoint, capability requirements were primarily driven by need to service the space station, not launch satellites. That was the shuttle's main feature development priority, because that was the envisioned top operational priority. Launching satellites could be an important and frequent task without that task being the primary driver of features during development, or the top operational priority once the station materialized.

Some aspects of this are obvious if you think about it. You don't need seven crewmembers or 2-4 week on orbit endurance to launch a satellite from the payload bay. The shuttle wasn't given those capabilities to launch satellites, but rather to service the space station.

Ilya
2006-Jan-12, 07:01 PM
Some aspects of this are obvious if you think about it. You don't need seven crewmembers or 2-4 week on orbit endurance to launch a satellite from the payload bay. The shuttle wasn't given those capabilities to launch satellites, but rather to service the space station.
So you are saying that Shuttle was not BUILT to be "all things to all people", but was USED (for a while) as "all things to all people". Which was still a terrible policy. Primary payload of Challenger on its last flight was a TDRIS communication satellite. There was no need to have seven people -- or any people for that matter, -- on board a TDRIS launch.

Joema, you keep defending the original Shuttle policy, but it remains indefensible. Whether it originated with NASA or with Congress, the "one launch vehicle" policy was moronic, and the post-Challenger "one manned launch vehicle" policy is not much better.

joema
2006-Jan-12, 10:20 PM
I'm not defending the shuttle but simply pointing out historical facts, which are often different from popular perception.

Just because the shuttle design features were primarily driven by space station servicing doesn't mean it was wrong to launch satellites from it.

E.g, you may buy a pickup truck primarily to haul wood, and the suspension, transmission, engine, tires, bed length, etc. may be selected mainly for that purpose. However you may end up frequently fetching groceries in it. Because you have a wreck going to the store doesn't mean it was wrong to get the truck or wrong to use it for various tasks.

In hindsight the "one launch vehicle" wasn't a good idea, but that's largely separate from shuttle design features, and how they originated.

My main point is many oft-repeated items about the shuttle are myths and have no basis in historical fact. This includes it being over budget, late, compromised by Air Force requirements, not meeting original flight rate projections, SSMEs totally overhauled after each flight, and made for a task that never materialized -- each of those are largely incorrect.

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-12, 10:52 PM
My main point is many oft-repeated items about the shuttle are myths and have no basis in historical fact. This includes it being over budget,


It certainly cost more than they said it would, but they also had to substantially change the design because of budget limitations and "sneak" it in under the allowed budget.



late,


It was certainly much later than predicted. Of course, the project was "stretched" - funding was put off to later years, so that increased development time.



compromised by Air Force requirements


Are you saying the Air Force didn't play an important role in shuttle design?



, not meeting original flight rate projections


Sure, just look at that amazing flight rate.



, SSMEs totally overhauled after each flight


No, but they are very high maintenance.



, and made for a task that never materialized


What, the space station? It very nearly didn't, took far longer than expected and we can barely get the shuttle off the ground now that it is there.



-- each of those are largely incorrect.

.... hummm. In your opinion.

joema
2006-Jan-13, 12:08 AM
It certainly cost more than they said it would, but they also had to substantially change the design because of budget limitations and "sneak" it in under the allowed budget
The shuttle did not cost more than the earliest official NASA estimates. You can read about that here: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html

The flyback booster wasn't selected due to budget issues, but it wasn't eliminated after development began. No flyback booster wasn't necessarily a negative thing, nor was the shuttle "sneaked" in under the budget. Because of the extreme cost and complexity it's plausible the entire program would have failed had the flyback booster been used.


It was certainly much later than predicted. Of course, the project was "stretched" - funding was put off to later years, so that increased development time.
It was not late -- it was on time. You can read about that here: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html


Are you saying the Air Force didn't play an important role in shuttle design?
The Air Force was involved, but the current shuttle features were NOT selected primarily based on Air Force needs. Rather they were selected based on what NASA needed to service the space station, which in many cases coincided with Air Force needs.


No, but they are very high maintenance.
The statement WAS NOT that the SSMEs were high maintenance. Rather that they were torn down and rebuilt from scratch. That is not correct, and that's what I was replying to. You're right, they are high maintenance and the White Sox won the World Series last year, but both of those are equally unrelated to the original statement I was replying to.




myths and have no basis in historical fact. This includes...made for a task that never materialized -- each of those are largely incorrect.
What, the space station? It very nearly didn't, took far longer than expected and we can barely get the shuttle off the ground now that it is there.
I was replying to DaveR's statement "it was a truck made for a task that never quite materialized." It's obvious the task DID materialize, as a space station is up there right now.

How long it took ISS to begin, and whether the shuttle has problems is unrelated to my reply to Dave or your reply to me.


.... hummm. In your opinion.
It's not just in my opinion. See http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-13, 02:19 AM
The shuttle did not cost more than the earliest official NASA estimates. You can read about that here: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html


This article covers most of these issues pretty well:

http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_050815.html

For instance:

At the start of 1971, NASA told the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it could build such a fully reusable two-stage workhorse for $10 billion. OMB told NASA it could have $5 billion.




The flyback booster wasn't selected due to budget issues, but it wasn't eliminated after development began. No flyback booster wasn't necessarily a negative thing, nor was the shuttle "sneaked" in under the budget. Because of the extreme cost and complexity it's plausible the entire program would have failed had the flyback booster been used.


And it is plausible that it would have reduced operational costs. That's an interesting argument, but that change and the SRBs among other things were selected due to budget constraints.



It was not late -- it was on time. You can read about that here: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html


Funny, I remember it was going to go up in time to save Skylab. It didn't make it. I also remember "budget stretching" which is common on military projects as well.



The Air Force was involved, but the current shuttle features were NOT selected primarily based on Air Force needs. Rather they were selected based on what NASA needed to service the space station, which in many cases coincided with Air Force needs.


I repeat: Are you saying that the Air Force didn't play an important role in shuttle design?

The article I mentioned provided three examples of Air Force design issues - the width of the cargo bay, cargo payload mass and extended glide slope.




The statement WAS NOT that the SSMEs were high maintenance. Rather that they were torn down and rebuilt from scratch. That is not correct, and that's what I was replying to. You're right, they are high maintenance and the White Sox won the World Series last year, but both of those are equally unrelated to the original statement I was replying to.


Okay, but it is a fact that extensive SSME maintenance issues have substantially reduced flight capability and increased operational costs - which, I thought, were the key concerns here.



I was replying to DaveR's statement "it was a truck made for a task that never quite materialized." It's obvious the task DID materialize, as a space station is up there right now.


Again: Barely. For all the good it and the shuttle are doing us, it might as well not be there.



How long it took ISS to begin, and whether the shuttle has problems is unrelated to my reply to Dave or your reply to me.


I think we're close to splitting hairs. The shuttle certainly hasn't come close to meeting expectations, it just barely managed to get some parts of a minimal ISS up very late in its lifetime, and the ISS is pretty much just sitting there. Technically, yes, it did part of the "space station" job. In practice, it is a poor result for a very great deal of money.



It's not just in my opinion. See http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html

And clearly, many look at the same history and reach different conclusions.

joema
2006-Jan-13, 06:28 AM
This article covers most of these issues pretty well:

http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_050815.html

For instance:

At the start of 1971, NASA told the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it could build such a fully reusable two-stage workhorse for $10 billion. OMB told NASA it could have $5 billion.

The article is wrong. Dr. John Logston, who was quoted in the article, heard with his own ears the truth in the CAIB testimony. I heard him ask the funding question and he heard the answer -- I saw it live on TV. Example:

Logston: "OMB gave you a budget ceiling, I believe, in May of '71...and the ultimate presentation, at least to the White House level, said you could do that, or 5.5 billion"
Thompson: "one of the big myths on the shuttle is that it was way over budget. That's an absolute myth...we prepared...a one-page letter. That letter said that we felt we could build the configuration that you now know as the shuttle for a total cost of $5.15 billion...and we'll probably fly it in early '81. That was in the document"

I'll spare further details, but you can read about it here: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html


And it is plausible that it would have reduced operational costs.
It would only have reduced operating costs if there were something to operate. It's quite possible the immensely complicated expensive flyback booster would have doomed the entire program. Just the orbiter as built was so bleeding edge there are problems today. How could something immensely bigger and more expensive even be guaranteed to work? Thompson commented on this in the CAIB hearing:

" in my judgment, it would have cost more per flight to operate the two-stage fully-reusable system than the one we built...that's what the two-stage fully-reusable system was; and I think, had the system tried to build it, we wouldn't have a shuttle program today."


That's an interesting argument, but that change and the SRBs among other things were selected due to budget constraints.
The point isn't that they were selected due to budget constraints, but whether they adversely impacted the reliability and materially affected the operational cost today. The Challenger accident wasn't a technology failure but a management failure. Any system will develop problems, and they must be managed properly. Had the shuttle used liquid fuel strap-on boosters or a flyback booster, those would also have had problems. Had those problems been equally mismanaged, the results would have been equally disastrous.

Re cost, SRBs aren't the major contributor to the high operational cost of the shuttle. Therefore selecting SRBs (for whatever reason) isn't the problem.


Funny, I remember it was going to go up in time to save Skylab. It didn't make it.
As the above indicates, the official NASA projection was first flight around 1981. You have to differentiate between what the media says and what really was.


I repeat: Are you saying that the Air Force didn't play an important role in shuttle design?
It's not what I'm saying, but what the most senior managers involved in the decision process say. Yes the Air Force played a role, but not the primary role. The primary decision criteria affecting shuttle design was what NASA needed to support the space station. The thing about the military "forcing" large wings for cross range on the shuttle isn't correct. The shuttle aerodynamic capability was selected because of NASA's needs, which happened to coincide with what the Air Force wanted.


The article I mentioned provided three examples of Air Force design issues - the width of the cargo bay, cargo payload mass and extended glide slope.
The article isn't quoting NASA, nor anybody involved in the decision process at that time.


Okay, but it is a fact that extensive SSME maintenance issues have substantially reduced flight capability and increased operational costs - which, I thought, were the key concerns here.
No, I was simply correcting the statement that SSMEs must be "torn down and rebuilt from scratch after every launch". That is not correct. Yes they are complex and require more maintenance than desirable. That's one reason the current block II engines were significantly improved to require less maintenance.


For all the good it and the shuttle are doing us, it might as well not be there.
I'm not saying the shuttle hasn't had problems. However the two disasters were not caused by out-of-the-blue technical failures. Technical problems like that happen with any complex system. The key is how management handles it. As the CAIB said, in both Challenger and Columbia disasters, the system was repeatedly sending messages there was a problem, and gave plenty of time to act, but management didn't listen.

It's important to differentiate between the final result (which is an underperforming system) vs the system design itself. In this case the main problem isn't the vehicle design but the management. Future systems, no matter what the design, will have similar disasters if management reacts similarly.


I think we're close to splitting hairs.
It's not splitting hairs when I correct a clearly wrong statement. E.g, Daver: "it was a truck made for a task that never quite materialized."

That is totally incorrect. It's not a question of semantics.

Your reply statement was "the space station? It very nearly didn't, took far longer than expected"

You're right, but that has no bearing on my correction of Dave's statement.


The shuttle certainly hasn't come close to meeting expectations...In practice, it is a poor result for a very great deal of money.

I don't disagree with that, as it finally worked out. However it's vital to differentiate between problems with the technology and problems with the associated management. E.g, the new SLDV "stick" launcher is very different from the shuttle -- conventional capsule design, series (not parallel) staged. Yet whether it will be significantly cheaper to operate is unknown. It will probably be more reliable, but that will depend on management as much as the vehicle design.

All launch systems have problems -- that's obvious because most launchers have had major failures. Even the Saturn V 2nd stage came very close to complete structural failure on Apollo 13.

The final result of the shuttle hasn't been good, but it's less than clear the technology itself or any alleged "compromises" during development caused it. Rather the human management had a greater impact than the system itself.


And clearly, many look at the same history and reach different conclusions.
Yes and in that case you must go to the original source, not popular articles which often don't even attribute a source, or when they do the source had no first hand decision making involvement.

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-13, 07:55 AM
The article is wrong. Dr. John Logston, who was quoted in the article, heard with his own ears the truth in the CAIB testimony. I heard him ask the funding question and he heard the answer -- I saw it live on TV. Example:

Logston: "OMB gave you a budget ceiling, I believe, in May of '71...and the ultimate presentation, at least to the White House level, said you could do that, or 5.5 billion"

Thompson: "one of the big myths on the shuttle is that it was way over budget. That's an absolute myth...we prepared...a one-page letter. That letter said that we felt we could build the configuration that you now know as the shuttle for a total cost of $5.15 billion...and we'll probably fly it in early '81. That was in the document"


In what way does that contradict this statement:

At the start of 1971, NASA told the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it could build such a fully reusable two-stage workhorse for $10 billion. OMB told NASA it could have $5 billion.

You're talking about the design that they came up with after OMB said "No, redesign it!"



I'll spare further details, but you can read about it here: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/20030423/transcript_am.html


I had seen that before, but it has been awhile. It has Thompson's "behind the scenes" take on the issue. Some selections with editing (see the source for the complete version):

"MR. THOMPSON: In December of '71, [...] we prepared a letter [that] said that we felt we could build the configuration that you now know as the shuttle for a total cost of $5.15 billion in the purchasing power of the 1971 dollar but that it would take another billion dollars of contingency funding over and above that to handle the contingencies that always develop in a program like this. So you need to budget 6.15 billion in the purchasing power of the '71 dollar and that we could build it and fly it by 1979 if everything went perfectly, but the $1 billion and 18 months ought to be planned in the program because that's probably what will really happen and we'll probably fly it in early '81. That was in the document.
[...]
President Nixon approved it. [...]they [OMB] took the letter and said we'll take the 5.15 billion but we won't give you the 1 billion because we never budget contingencies. We'll hold you to the 1979 launch date because we never launch budget contingencies there, and we'll put it in the '73 budget at those numbers.
So we lost two years of inflation in that little maneuver in OMB. I went back and talked to Bill Lilly. He said, "Shut up. You got your program. Go on about your business."


So the end result was that the program was stretched and the allowed budget didn't reflect the actual budget. They did, in fact, sneak it in. He later talks about being annoyed at a media question about why the project now was running over 8 billion, which is "of course" because of inflation. Regardless of what may have been requested initially, the end result of the process is a stretched, over budget project. Just because it was a way to get it through the process with a "wink wink, nudge nudge" doesn't change the reality.

On the number of flights:


"MR. THOMPSON: All right. Operating costs. [...]

Mathematica sat down and attempted to do some work on operating costs, and they discovered something. They discovered the more you flew, the cheaper it got per flight. (Laughter) Fabulous.

So they added as many flights as they could. They got up to 40 to 50 flights a year. Hell, anyone reasonably knew you weren't going to fly 50 times a year. The most capability we ever put in the program is when we built the facilities for the tank at Michoud, we left growth capability to where you could get up to 24 flights a year by producing tanks, if you really wanted to get that high. We never thought you'd ever get above 10 or 12 flights a year."


So they lied about the flight frequency and made it look like it would have a far lower operational cost then it actually did.



The point isn't that they were selected due to budget constraints, but whether they adversely impacted the reliability and materially affected the operational cost today. The Challenger accident wasn't a technology failure but a management failure.[snip]


That's all very interesting, but the primary issue I was discussing was your contention that the budget wasn't cut (it was) and that it wasn't over budget (it was).



As the above indicates, the official NASA projection was first flight around 1981. You have to differentiate between what the media says and what really was.


As you can see, the Federal government said 1979.



It's not what I'm saying, but what the most senior managers involved in the decision process say.


Which probably includes a wee bit of CYA.


Yes the Air Force played a role, but not the primary role. The primary decision criteria affecting shuttle design was what NASA needed to support the space station. The thing about the military "forcing" large wings for cross range on the shuttle isn't correct. The shuttle aerodynamic capability was selected because of NASA's needs, which happened to coincide with what the Air Force wanted.


Despite the additional issues that causes? I'm not convinced. Nor does it address other changes requested.



It's important to differentiate between the final result (which is an underperforming system) vs the system design itself. In this case the main problem isn't the vehicle design but the management.


Certainly there were major management problems. You argue that the original "pre cut" design would not have been as good, but there is clear disagreement on that. At best, we can say we will never know for certain whether it would have been a better design.

It is clear that:

The requested budget was substantially cut.

They knowingly snuck it in under the allowed budget.

It was substantially over budget.

It wasn't flown when it was said pubically that it would.

It did not begin to meet predicted flight rates.

Operational costs were radically higher than predicted.

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-13, 08:17 AM
By the way, the article "Thirty Years of Fudge (http://www.spacedaily.com/news/shuttle-03p1.html)" is where I first read about Thompson's statements. Like me, they certainly do not think his statements were a glowing recomendation of NASA's budget actions. For instance:

"Thompson delivered a whole series of bombshells [...]

The first is his casual official confirmation of the astonishing degree of deliberate, flat-out dishonesty that went into NASA's tactics to persuade Congress to approve the Shuttle program in the first place -- plus his apparent revelation that, to some extent, President Richard Nixon himself collaborated in it.

It has been known for some time that, in order to persuade a reluctant Congress to reject Sen. Walter Mondale's campaign against the Shuttle, NASA told outrageous distortions about the frequency with which it could be launched, and thus its cost-effectiveness."

joema
2006-Jan-13, 03:31 PM
In what way does that contradict this statement: At the start of 1971, NASA told the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it could build such a fully reusable two-stage workhorse for $10 billion. OMB told NASA it could have $5 billion....You're talking about the design that they came up with after OMB said "No, redesign it!"
NASA told the White House (in writing) in 1971 the shuttle program would cost $6.15 billion and would fly in 1981. That is essentially what it cost and when it flew.


So the end result was that the program was stretched and the allowed budget didn't reflect the actual budget. They did, in fact, sneak it in.
NASA told the White House (in writing) in 1971 the shuttle program would cost $6.15 billion and would fly in 1981. That is essentially what it cost and when it flew.


Regardless of what may have been requested initially, the end result of the process is a stretched, over budget project.
It was not stretched, nor did it materially go over budget. It cost what NASA told President Nixon it would cost, and flew the year NASA projected.


So they lied about the flight frequency and made it look like it would have a far lower operational cost then it actually did.
Nobody lied about flight frequency. The early statements about 52 missions per year were a mathematical extrapolation by one outside group. It did not represent NASA's position on the matter. It was physically impossible to fly more than 24 missions per year, and according to Thompson, they expected 10-12 missions per year.

Re operating cost, nobody lied about that. There are many different ways to calculate operating cost. You can use the incremental cost of adding another flight to the manifest. Or you can include the overhead costs of ground personnel during the interval between flights. Or you can include a pro-rated percentage of the capitol costs of all the ground facilities associated with the program. Or you can include a percentage of program development cost divided by the estimated number of flights over the program life.

No one way is right or wrong, and stating one vs the other doesn't mean somebody lied.


That's all very interesting, but the primary issue I was discussing was your contention that the budget wasn't cut (it was) and that it wasn't over budget (it was).
The shuttle was built within the budget and NASA told President Nixon in 1971, and flew the year NASA told him in 1971.



It is clear that:

The requested budget was substantially cut.

They knowingly snuck it in under the allowed budget.

It was substantially over budget.

It wasn't flown when it was said publicly that it would.

It did not begin to meet predicted flight rates.

Operational costs were radically higher than predicted.
The shuttle was developed within the budget NASA stated to President Nixon in 1971, and flew the year they projected, in 1981. It met the flight rates NASA expected, at least before Challenger. The shuttle flew 10 flights within 12 months, at least before Challenger. It certainly hasn't met the desired flight rates afterward.

The shuttle program isn't perfect and NASA's operational management of it has been very flawed. But statements about a compromised design being responsible for the problems aren't correct. Likewise statements about it being greatly over budget or late to fly aren't correct, based on what NASA told President Nixon in 1971 when the decision was made to start the program.

There's some evidence the shuttle didn't achieve its targeted weight/payload capability.

Did it meet the original operating cost projections? To repeat, there are many different ways to calculate operational costs. This isn't unique to space launch operations.

E.g, consider a presentation about projected per vehicle operating costs of an automobile plant. The presenters say "if we made 50,000 cars per year, our per vehicle operating costs would be $x". That in no way commits to making that many per year, it's just one perspective of many in evaluating costs.

Likewise if shuttle incremental launch costs were estimated at a hypothetical launch rate of 52 per year, that in no way commits to doing that many launches, it's just one perspective in evaluating costs.

The typical statement is "NASA promised a space truck that would deliver payloads for $100 per pound, and failed to deliver it". That is just not correct. To achieve that would require 52 launches per year which was physically impossible, and which NASA never committed to. Plus that figure was only for incremental launch costs, not the fully burdened system cost.

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-13, 09:04 PM
NASA told the White House (in writing) in 1971 the shuttle program would cost $6.15 billion and would fly in 1981. That is essentially what it cost and when it flew.

NASA told the White House (in writing) in 1971 the shuttle program would cost $6.15 billion and would fly in 1981. That is essentially what it cost and when it flew.


I don't see much point in carrying this further. I've provided the comments from Thompson himself in the testimony that you were using as evidence. What he says NASA asked for isn't what NASA got and he knew it.



Nobody lied about flight frequency. The early statements about 52 missions per year were a mathematical extrapolation by one outside group. It did not represent NASA's position on the matter. It was physically impossible to fly more than 24 missions per year, and according to Thompson, they expected 10-12 missions per year.


THAT IS NOT WHAT NASA SAID PUBLICALLY. :wall: This is getting ridiculous. Flight frequency was fundamental to operational cost, and they knew it couldn't do what they told Congress it could.



The typical statement is "NASA promised a space truck that would deliver payloads for $100 per pound, and failed to deliver it". That is just not correct. To achieve that would require 52 launches per year which was physically impossible, and which NASA never committed to. Plus that figure was only for incremental launch costs, not the fully burdened system cost.

Okay, enough. I've shown you where you were wrong, but you are still saying the same thing. What went on in negotiations, what management may or may not have known is one thing. The fact is that the shuttle was sold under false pretenses and didn't begin to match what they said it would do.

joema
2006-Jan-13, 09:55 PM
I don't see much point in carrying this further. I've provided the comments from Thompson himself in the testimony that you were using as evidence. What he says NASA asked for isn't what NASA got and he knew it.
Maybe you're mixing up NASA's official position as stated in writing to the president for the shuttle as built, vs earlier deliberations for various shuttle designs.

It's similar to early in the Apollo/Saturn program where NASA deliberated over various Saturn designs. Like the shuttle, they didn't have infinite money and had to choose what would fit the available funding. But that doesn't constitute a budget cut, as the word is normally meant, in either Apollo/Saturn or shuttle programs.

It's not a budget cut if there's no project at that point. Before starting any project you decide based on available funding how to begin. Once the project starts then you have a budget. If after the project starts you get less money than was initially agreed, that's a budget cut.

E.g, the Apollo budget was cut, which killed Apollo 18, 19, and 20. There was no significant budget cut or budget overrun for the shuttle program, based on what NASA committed to the president.

You may be thinking about the technicality whereby OMB rules didn't allow bookkeeping for the portion of shuttle development NASA classified as contingency funds. However this doesn't change the fact that NASA developed the shuttle for the amount they initially told the president.

However -- even if you hypothetically say the "official" development cost was 5.15 billion and NASA overran 1 billion, that's only a 19% overrun, which is small in historical terms for projects of this type. It's not an amount that constitutes gross mismanagement or a troubled project, as the media often states.


THAT IS NOT WHAT NASA SAID PUBLICALLY.
You're mixing up what the media commonly reported vs what NASA officially said. Can you find anywhere where NASA officially committed to 52 flights per year, or a launch cost of $118 per pound, or officially committed to launching the shuttle before 1981? I'm not saying it absolutely never happened, just that I've never seen it straight from NASA.


What went on in negotiations, what management may or may not have known is one thing. The fact is that the shuttle was sold under false pretenses and didn't begin to match what they said it would do.
The budget and flight schedule NASA committed in writing to the president was NASA's official position.

You have not shown anything from NASA or former NASA officials in a decision making capacity that contradicts that. What the media reports does not constitute reality, although many people think it does.

It is true the shuttle program as it exists today is in trouble and unsatisfactory. But the statement starting this entire line of discussion was that the current problems stem from compromises made during shuttle development. That is not necessarily true, and is what I responded to before you began.

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-13, 10:48 PM
You're mixing up what the media commonly reported vs what NASA officially said. Can you find anywhere where NASA officially committed to 52 flights per year, or a launch cost of $118 per pound, or officially committed to launching the shuttle before 1981? I'm not saying it absolutely never happened, just that I've never seen it straight from NASA.


See the testimony. I already provided quotations.

ToSeek
2006-Jan-13, 11:25 PM
You're mixing up what the media commonly reported vs what NASA officially said. Can you find anywhere where NASA officially committed to 52 flights per year, or a launch cost of $118 per pound, or officially committed to launching the shuttle before 1981? I'm not saying it absolutely never happened, just that I've never seen it straight from NASA.

Would the General Accounting Office do? Here's (http://www.stsliftoff.com/reference/oigrep/096542.pdf) an official report to Congress from 1972 (warning: PDF file), based on NASA inputs, that projects a minimum of 514 flights in the 1979 to 1990 time period.

Additionally, the letter requesting the document reads, "NASA claims that each shuttle flight will cost less than
$10 million and that the cost of placing a pound of payload in orbit can be reduced to less than $100. Thus, it is argued
that the Space Shuttle will be a cost effective vehicle for the space program."

Now, unless you can find somewhere that NASA distances itself from these figures, I have to assume they reflect what NASA was saying at the time.

joema
2006-Jan-14, 12:49 AM
ToSeek, thanks for that information, that's the kind of reasoned discussion I was looking for.

The document is very interesting and illustrates why evaluating the shuttle is much more complex than simplistic viewpoints often espoused by the media.

The document clearly shows even in 1972 the shuttle was not forecast to have significantly lower life cycle costs than expendable boosters. Thus the current shuttle cost situation should be no surprise -- the situation was known in 1972, and in public documents. It wasn't a secret.

The document also shows the original budget was about $5.5 billion (1972 dollars) with a 20% overrun allowance. NASA clearly stayed within that, as Bob Thompson said during the CAIB testimony.

Re flights per year, the document mentioned 514 missions in 10 years, but NASA never committed to that. Rather it was a paper number, a hypothetical figure Mathematica devised to illustrate per launch and per pound payload costs at one theoretical extreme of the usage spectrum.

Likewise Walter Mondale (second only to William Proxmire as opponent of space exploration) claimed (with no reference) that NASA said a mission would cost $10 million and payload cost would be < $100/lb. In reality there's no fixed number for mission cost or payload cost; it varies based on number of flights.

Furthermore in that same memo, Mondale said the booster alone (not orbiter) would cost $50 million. How could the booster cost $50 million and each mission cost $10 million? Think about it. That shows the lack of understanding by the person writing the memo, so you certainly can't rely on that memo to accurate represent anything.

The document actually said: "The shuttle's actual average cost per launch will not be known until the system reaches operational status. Consequently these costs cannot be estimated with certainty." Therefore any statements about meeting or not meeting per launch costs are questionable, in the least.

The shuttle program as a whole is clearly flawed as implemented, but not because of design compromises. It has not met reasonable expectations, but not primarily because of technical factors or design decisions.

There are many frequently made statements (as seen in this thread) which are totally incorrect: the SSMEs must be removed and overhauled after each flight, the shuttle's performance was much lower after Challenger, the shuttle problems today result from design compromises, the shuttle features were a compromise forced by the military, the shuttle was greatly over budget, shuttle development was significantly late, etc. All incorrect.

Media-espoused simplifications are often embraced by people since it's easier than doing independent thinking. However this prevents understanding the true reason for the shuttle's current problems. In turn that will cause future disappointment and confusion.

It's important to understand the true reasons for the shuttle's current situation, and not commonly-held (but often incorrect) simplifications. Not opening your eyes to the true reasons and actual shuttle development history invites future disappointment when similar problems befall newer launch systems. As philosopher George Santayana said, ""Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." You have to know the actual reality of history to learn from it.

Van Rijn
2006-Jan-14, 01:45 AM
Re flights per year, the document mentioned 514 missions in 10 years, but NASA never committed to that. Rather it was a paper number, a hypothetical figure Mathematica devised to illustrate per launch and per pound payload costs at one theoretical extreme of the usage spectrum.


That is what they sold the shuttle on. That is what they said the Shuttle could do. Here's another interesting page that goes into this in great detail:

http://www.abo.fi/~mlindroo/SpaceLVs/Slides/sld037.htm

In the end, it was Mathematica's findings which again tipped the scales that eventually launched the shuttle.

It is very well established that NASA was using the Mathematica numbers to sell the shuttle to Congress. In the testimony, it was such a joke Thompson laughed about it.



There are many frequently made statements (as seen in this thread) which are totally incorrect: the SSMEs must be removed and overhauled after each flight, the shuttle's performance was much lower after Challenger, the shuttle problems today result from design compromises, the shuttle features were a compromise forced by the military, the shuttle was greatly over budget, shuttle development was significantly late, etc. All incorrect.


Totally incorrect? We've been over this. The SSMEs required heavy maintenance, the flight rate was substantially lower after Challenger, there were numerous design comprimises, the military did have a major say in the Shuttle design, the shuttle was well over budget, and the shuttle was significantly late.




Media-espoused simplifications are often embraced by people since it's easier than doing independent thinking.


Couldn't possibly be because others reach different conclusions, could it?

joema
2006-Jan-14, 03:05 AM
That is what they sold the shuttle on. That is what they said the Shuttle could do. Here's another interesting page that goes into this in great detail:
NASA never said the shuttle could fly 50 times per year. That was physically impossible. Rather a Mathematica study said IF it flew 50 times per year the cost would be $x. If it flew 40 times the cost would be $y. If it flew 30 times, the cost would be $z, etc.

That very web site shows it was known in 1969 the shuttle would likely not result in major cost savings. THREE INDEPENDENT STUDIES showed that, including those by the GAO and Rand Corporation. It was no secret. It was known by 1971, before the shuttle program ever started. That the shuttle is a costly system today should come as no surprise and is not the result of cost cutting, cost overruns, mismanagement during development or compromise with the military.


In the end, it was Mathematica's findings which again tipped the scales that eventually launched the shuttle.

That is the opinion of one guy with a web site. It in no way constitutes an official history of what happened.

If the decision makers somehow misunderstood the hypothetical Mathematica numbers when the GAO and Rand studies indicated otherwise, then I guess we deserve the government we get.


It is very well established that NASA was using the Mathematica numbers to sell the shuttle to Congress.
Just because a web site by one guy says that means nothing. It's an Op-Ed, an opinion column, that's all.

As the GAO, Rand and other studies showed, the shuttle life cycle cost would not be dramatically lower than expendable boosters. That was known and published in 1971, and was not a secret.


In the testimony, it was such a joke Thompson laughed about it.Thompson was laughing both at the obviously artificial nature of the figures and at people who believed they were relevant.


We've been over this. The SSMEs required heavy maintenance
I was addressing the statement that SSMEs are "torn down and rebuilt from scratch after each flight", which is incorrect. They did initially require more maintenance than was desirable, but did not require rebuilding from scratch after each flight. That is why the lower-maintenance block II engines were developed, which are now in use.


the flight rate was substantially lower after Challenger
I don't deny that, in fact I've already stated it numerous times.


there were numerous design comprimises
If you mean before the shuttle program ever started, NASA's first design wasn't accepted -- yes. However the same is true for Apollo, Gemini, Mercury, and nearly every other significant development program in history.

If you mean there were design compromises that unavoidably resulted in major shuttle reliability, capability, or cost problems, that not clear at all. If you can name one, I'd like to hear it.


..the military did have a major say in the Shuttle design
I never said otherwise. The military did have a major say, but it was secondary to NASA's requirements that were the primary factor in determining shuttle features.


the shuttle was well over budget, and the shuttle was significantly late.
Both the previously-posted GAO document and Bob Thompson's testimony show the shuttle was not over budget, but within the earliest projections.

The letter given to president Nixon in 1971 stated the shuttle would likely fly in 1981, which is what happened.

ToSeek
2006-Jan-14, 04:17 AM
Re flights per year, the document mentioned 514 missions in 10 years, but NASA never committed to that. Rather it was a paper number, a hypothetical figure Mathematica devised to illustrate per launch and per pound payload costs at one theoretical extreme of the usage spectrum.

Yes, but according to the paper, 514 flights was the minimum number expected.


Furthermore in that same memo, Mondale said the booster alone (not orbiter) would cost $50 million. How could the booster cost $50 million and each mission cost $10 million? Think about it. That shows the lack of understanding by the person writing the memo, so you certainly can't rely on that memo to accurate represent anything.

From the memo: "at this point, the booster's reuse capabilty is not defined." Obviously, if the booster is reusable, then it is possible for a mission to cost $10 million.

ToSeek
2006-Jan-14, 04:19 AM
NASA never said the shuttle could fly 50 times per year.

Seems to me that they never said - to anyone who mattered - that it couldn't, leaving an awful lot of people to think that it could.

Halcyon Dayz
2006-Jan-14, 04:25 AM
Nearly two flights per day, for $10 million per pop.
We'd already be on Mars if they had pulled that off. :wall:

joema
2006-Jan-14, 05:18 AM
Yes, but according to the paper, 514 flights was the minimum number expected
Sorry, I don't see that. It just mentions 514.


From the memo: "at this point, the booster's reuse capability is not defined." Obviously, if the booster is reusable, then it is possible for a mission to cost $10 million.
If the booster is NOT reusable, it's impossible since the mission can't cost $10 million if the expendable booster is $50 million.

If the booster IS reusable, it would be vastly larger and more complex than the orbiter. It would be larger than a Titan III, manned, with jet engines for flying back to land. It's impossible to build such a booster for 1/5th the cost of the smaller orbiter it carries, which is what the document said it would cost.

Such inconsistencies are typical when upper level managers or politicians discuss such things. It's hard to tell what they really meant.

joema
2006-Jan-14, 06:14 AM
Seems to me that they never said - to anyone who mattered - that it couldn't, leaving an awful lot of people to think that it could.
I can see that viewpoint. It's conceivable that while NOT committing to 50 flights per year, NASA failed to correct people who concluded that 50 flights per year was a commitment to fly rather than a hypothetical cost evaluation. Games like that are played all the time. But I'm speculating.

To know the truth we'd have to review many more documents from that period. That would have been a good job for the media over the past decades. However they typically just repeat what the last story said, or do an easy interview with someone who had no decision making authority and may even have a biased agenda.

It's hard work and boring work for a reporter to review technical documents, which may be why it wasn't done. This is especially the case if they perceive there's little audience (hence little ratings) for the resultant story.

I'd personally like to see other documents from that period pertaining to this, but not sure how to get them.

The absolute maximum flights per year was capped by the Michoud facility ET manufacturing capacity. In theory it could be ramped up to 24 tanks per year, probably using multiple personnel shifts. With a four orbiter fleet, each one would have to fly six missions per year. Discovery flew four missions in 1985, so maybe that's conceivable for short periods but I doubt it would be sustainable.

However -- flying 24 or 50 flights per year wouldn't save any money it would COST money. It's true the more it flies, the lower the fully burdened per flight costs. That's because the fixed costs of the huge standing army, related facilities, development costs, etc are spread over more flights. However that's not saving any money, just changing one paper number. The operating costs for 50 flights per year would be huge, and somebody would have to pay for it.

Therefore if they HAD flown 50 flights per year, the OVERALL costs would be even higher than today. You'd only achieve a lower paper number -- fully burdened cost per flight.

In the CAIB session, several people laughed when Bob Thompson described the Mathematica conclusion about flight costs going down with high flight numbers. They were NOT laughing because Thompson, et al had pulled a "quick one" on Congress, rather because from their viewpoint these things seemed so obvious it's comical. That's clear from the video.

BTW the videos are available for download. I strongly suggest anybody interested to watch this one, starting at about 28 minutes into it. (warning, 271MB video file, save to local disk): http://caib.nasa.gov/videos/caib042303.wmv

CAIB top level materials: http://caib.nasa.gov/events/public_hearings/default.html

Whether NASA ever officially committed to 50 flights per year is actually a fascinating topic, although unrelated to most of the original points initiating this topic. As illustrated in this thread there's a common perception NASA openly and explicitly committed to 50 flights year, but I've never seen definitive information on that.

joema
2006-Jan-14, 06:31 AM
BTW if anybody wants definitive information describing how NASA met the shuttle development budget, it's available in these documents (unfortunately not on line):

Mandell, Humboldt C., Jr. "Assessment of Space Shuttle Cost Estimating Methods." Ph.D. Diss., University of Colorado at Denver, 1983

Mandell, Humboldt C., Jr. "Management and Budget Lessons: The Space Shuttle Program." NASA SP-6101 (02), Autumn 1989.

Launch window
2007-Feb-19, 09:39 AM
Why return to Lunar missions ?
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=21927
181 Things To Do On The Moon

Launch window
2007-Nov-24, 02:16 PM
Ex-astronaut says NASA should be focusing on Mars
http://www.chieftain.com/metro/1195890474/4

The U.S. space program is stuck in a rut, literally shuttling astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station, when the focus ought to be on exploring the distant planets, starting with Mars.

At least that's the view of retired Army Brig. Gen. Robert L. Stewart, a veteran NASA astronaut who flew on two Space Shuttle missions in 1984-85, and has logged some 12 hours in spacewalking outside the shuttle.

Stewart, 65, and a Woodland Park resident, was in Pueblo on Friday to help kickoff the Salvation Army's annual holiday fundraising campaign.

"The shuttle needs to go away. It's an old and dangerous aircraft," Stewart said. "NASA's going in the wrong direction, from my perspective. We're just doing repetitive missions now with the Space Shuttle and servicing the space station, which we ought to close down. NASA's real job is space exploration and that's what we should be focusing on again."

Stewart, who was a veteran Army test pilot before joining the space program in 1979, said private industry now can take over the job of figuring out whether space is a good place to do research or manufacturing.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-24, 05:24 PM
"The shuttle needs to go away. It's an old and dangerous aircraft," Stewart said. "NASA's going in the wrong direction, from my perspective. We're just doing repetitive missions now with the Space Shuttle and servicing the space station, which we ought to close down. NASA's real job is space exploration and that's what we should be focusing on again."

Stewart, who was a veteran Army test pilot before joining the space program in 1979, said private industry now can take over the job of figuring out whether space is a good place to do research or manufacturing.

Uh, isn't that more or less exactly what they're planning to do? As quickly as it's feasible, I mean?

Missions to Mars, both ongoing and (manned) planned, check.

Shutting down Shuttle, check.

Replacement being developed with an eye toward past-LEO manned flights, check.

Private companies doing space research, check.

So what exactly is his beef besides "I want my name in the papers too!" ;)

KaiYeves
2007-Nov-24, 11:47 PM
Why go to Mars? Oh, no, no, no, no my friend. The question is...
Why not?

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-25, 01:02 AM
Perhaps a new tact on the situation would help our chances for a manned mission to Mars. What if NASA reversed its current stand and acknowledged Hoagland’s claim that there are Martian ruins on Mars. The “face” on Mars is really an ancient monument. Downtown Cydonia really is the remnants of an ancient Martian city. Perhaps that would get everyone fired up enough to generate enough funding for near future manned missions to the red planet. Of course, once we were there, NASA could “discover” that all those were natural formations. But, hey, we’d be there. :)

jamesabrown
2007-Nov-27, 08:44 PM
What frustrates me about the current robotic missions to Mars is that they do nothing to pave the way for a human presence on Mars. Sending a rover to drive a couple of kilometers over the course of a year is quite the achievement for robotics, but a human could do what those rovers have done in an afternoon.

The early Apollo missions were not about extracting scientific data from the Moon. They were about rehearsing the steps necessary to get scientists to the Moon (and Moon stuff back to the scientists). Can we put a lander on the Moon safely? Can we dock in orbit? Etc.

I'm all for finding out if life exists or existed on Mars, but we can do that just as well if we are there. Instead of sending a rover to tootle around, let's send a lander to manufacture water and fuel from the atmosphere. Let's send a ERV to ensure it can launch from Mars back to Earth. We're doing a great job finding out about Mars, but let's kill two birds with one stone.

antoniseb
2007-Nov-27, 08:59 PM
...a human could do what those rovers have done in an afternoon...
A human could have observed two Martian years of weather in an afternoon?
Taking 100,000 images, and scores of moessbauer measurements in an afternoon would have been tough too.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-27, 09:29 PM
Let's do a sample-return first, as proof of concept. Once people are assured that, yes, we can get a return vehicle to the Martian surface and have it get back to us intact, the foundation will be laid.

jamesabrown
2007-Nov-28, 02:48 AM
A human could have observed two Martian years of weather in an afternoon?
Taking 100,000 images, and scores of moessbauer measurements in an afternoon would have been tough too.

Good point, and I retract my hyperbole. However, a rover with a human companion could accomplish far more than a rover alone. For just one example, all the stress and worry about a dust storm shutting the rover permanently down could be resolved by a human with a broom.

stutefish
2007-Nov-28, 03:42 AM
Good point, and I retract my hyperbole. However, a rover with a human companion could accomplish far more than a rover alone. For just one example, all the stress and worry about a dust storm shutting the rover permanently down could be resolved by a human with a broom.
On the other hand, adding a human with a broom to the mission would mean adding the stress and worry of keeping him alive for the journey, keeping him alive on the surface for the duration of the mission, keeping him alive for the return, providing a return vehicle, providing Mars-rated landing system for the vehicle, providing the extra fuel to move all his life support and vehicle mass, providing the extra fuel to move the extra fuel, etc... and, of course, it would mean adding the stress and worry of realising that the mission wouldn't happen at all on account of being too expensive, putting human life at too much risk, and being quite possibly beyond the capabilities of current technology.

stutefish
2007-Nov-28, 03:43 AM
What frustrates me about the current robotic missions to Mars is that they do nothing to pave the way for a human presence on Mars.
Gathering more detailed information about the Martian environment doesn't pave the way for a human presence on Mars?

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-28, 05:21 AM
On the other hand, adding a human with a broom to the mission would mean adding the stress and worry of keeping him alive for the journey, keeping him alive on the surface for the duration of the mission, All of which would be unnecessary if Goliath or Big Al were sent instead.


keeping him alive for the return, providing a return vehicle, Which would be moot if the purpose was to remain on Mars in order to properly establish the foundations of a permanent presence on Mars.


and, of course, it would mean adding the stress and worry of realising that the mission wouldn't happen at all on account of being too expensive, That, of course, depends entirely upon who is funding the mission.


putting human life at too much risk, Going into space always has been, and always will be risky. Walking down the street in New York is risky. I think we need to reassess our priorities.


and being quite possibly beyond the capabilities of current technology.
We currently have all the technologies that would allow us to send men to Mars, and return them if necessary.

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-28, 05:24 AM
Gathering more detailed information about the Martian environment doesn't pave the way for a human presence on Mars?Most of the information gained by these primitive rovers, while interesting, is not really relevant to finding a location for a permanent colony on Mars.

JonClarke
2007-Nov-28, 09:03 AM
A human could have observed two Martian years of weather in an afternoon?
Taking 100,000 images, and scores of moessbauer measurements in an afternoon would have been tough too.

Since a human mission would probably have streaming high definition video during EVAs , then yes, you would get that number of images . Thirty images a second, 8 hour EVAs, two EVAs a week, 70 weeks on the surface, that is ~120 million images.

Mossbauer measurements I'll give you. But why bother with Mossabuer when you would have several much better instruments like XRD, XRF along?

Jon

JonClarke
2007-Nov-28, 09:40 AM
On the other hand, adding a human with a broom to the mission would mean adding the stress and worry of keeping him alive for the journey, keeping him alive on the surface for the duration of the mission, keeping him alive for the return, providing a return vehicle, providing Mars-rated landing system for the vehicle, providing the extra fuel to move all his life support and vehicle mass, providing the extra fuel to move the extra fuel, etc... and, of course, it would mean adding the stress and worry of realising that the mission wouldn't happen at all on account of being too expensive, putting human life at too much risk, and being quite possibly beyond the capabilities of current technology.

The ability of an astronaut to do such simple tasks is an added bonus. The reality is a human mission offer two of three orders of magnitude better capabilty than even advanced robotic missions.

An advanced rover like MSL carries perhaps a dozen instruments and will, during its life time

Travel 10's of km.

Characterise 10's of locations

Take 100's of measurements.

Collect 100,000's of images.

Have a few 100 watts to operate.

If it meets up with a sample return mission you might be able to return a few 100 grams of sample.

I am all for such missions. I lookforward to MSL and ExoMars, and hope that there will be MSR within a decade. But eventually the time will come to step things up with people on the surface.

A simple, four person Mars mission will carry perhaps 100 instruments and, in the course of a 600 day mission:

Travel 1000s of km.

Characterise a 1000 locations

Take 10,000s of measurements.

Collect 100s of millions of images.

Have 10s of kilowatts available for experiments and other work.

Return a 100s of kg.

It will do all this with all the advantages of real time decision making by on the spot scientists and human flexibility, dexterity, and adpatibility.

On top of that the crewed mission will be able to carry out things beyond the abaility of either the two missions. Intermediate and deep drilling, excavation of trenches, exploration of caves, complex geophsyics, complex astrobiologial laboratory work. Plus a range of projects related to potential human settlement. ISRU research, engineering trials, biomedical research, plant growth investigations simply not feasible using unmanned missions.

The risk should be the same as current crewed missions. We accept those for Earth orbit, we should certainly accept them for exploring a new planet.

The cost of the two robotic missions would be about $7 billion. The human mission, using a cost per kg midway between the ISS and Apollo, would cost ~$70 billion. It will achieve hundreds to thousands of times as much as what the same expediture would on unmanned missions.

Jon

antoniseb
2007-Nov-28, 01:48 PM
The risk should be the same as current crewed missions. We accept those for Earth orbit, we should certainly accept them for exploring a new planet.

The cost of the two robotic missions would be about $7 billion. The human mission, using a cost per kg midway between the ISS and Apollo, would cost ~$70 billion. It will achieve hundreds to thousands of times as much as what the same expediture would on unmanned missions.

I'm not in agreement with your cost estimates, nor with your assessment of the risks. I'd also like to point out that I expect our ability to do interesting work with robotic missions is likely to improve dramatically over the next thirty years. Also, all of your claims about available power and mass of sample returns could be done with larger robotic missions for much less cost than a humans with life support mission.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-28, 03:47 PM
I'd also like to point out that I expect our ability to do interesting work with robotic missions is likely to improve dramatically over the next thirty years.

And likewise, our ability to send humans will also improve.

antoniseb
2007-Nov-28, 05:57 PM
And likewise, our ability to send humans will also improve.
That is the plan. Mars in about 30 years.

On the other hand, if you look at the progress made from 1977 to 2007 in computers, and compare it to the progress made in chemical rockets, I think you'll have to agree that the robots will probably improve much more than will our ability to send people.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-28, 06:06 PM
That is the plan. Mars in about 30 years.

On the other hand, if you look at the progress made from 1977 to 2007 in computers, and compare it to the progress made in chemical rockets, I think you'll have to agree that the robots will probably improve much more than will our ability to send people.

And yet robots will still not be people. The purpose of exploration is to explore, not sit in front of a TV screen! The most robots can do is pave the way for us.

Robots will likewise be unable to colonize. That, we have to do in person.

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-28, 07:21 PM
An advanced rover like MSL carries perhaps a dozen instruments and will, during its life time

Travel 10's of km.

Characterise 10's of locations

Take 100's of measurements.

Collect 100,000's of images.

Have a few 100 watts to operate.

If it meets up with a sample return mission you might be able to return a few 100 grams of sample.
Give me the funding for Goliath or Big Al and I’ll build a rover that can:

Travel 1000s of km.

Characterize a 1000 locations

Take 10,000s of measurements.

Collect 100s of millions of images.

Have 10s of kilowatts available for experiments and other work.

Return 100s of kg if it meets a sample return mission.

Perform intermediate and deep drilling and core sampling

Perform complex analyses

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-28, 07:29 PM
And yet robots will still not be people. The purpose of exploration is to explore, not sit in front of a TV screen! The most robots can do is pave the way for us. Well, that is what we are talking about, isn’t it? If we want to send men (and women :) ) to Mars, we have to find out a lot more about Mars. We have to find suitable locations for a base and for a colony. Robots will do that.


Robots will likewise be unable to colonize. That, we have to do in person.Of course. We can’t let the robots have all the fun. :)

jamesabrown
2007-Nov-28, 08:16 PM
Well, that is what we are talking about, isn’t it? If we want to send men (and women :) ) to Mars, we have to find out a lot more about Mars. We have to find suitable locations for a base and for a colony. Robots will do that.


But our current robots are not doing that (looking for bases locations, etc.) They're looking for microbial life and the remains thereof. That was my original point. The issue is not that the current probes aren't useful; it's that they're rolling down a rabbit trail. Digging twenty centimeters into the Martian dust will not make it easier for a human to dig a twenty-foot hole and analyze the sediment levels, now or thirty years from now.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-28, 08:24 PM
Well, that is what we are talking about, isn’t it? If we want to send men (and women :) ) to Mars, we have to find out a lot more about Mars. We have to find suitable locations for a base and for a colony. Robots will do that.


I agree. But not the robots we're currently sending, as great as they are.

JonClarke
2007-Nov-28, 10:04 PM
I'm not in agreement with your cost estimates, nor with your assessment of the risks.

Thy cost estimates are based on:

MSL - rounding of current estimates (1.7 billion and climbing).

MSR - statement by Mark Adler of the MER project at a lecture I attended this year, and supported by http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/missions/mars_samplereturn_000929.html . People keep trying to do it for less but indital claims of 1-2 billion soon climb up to the 5 or 6 billion once realistic estimates are made.

Crewed Mars mission. I used the Mars Oz reference mission as a baseline, which sends 250 tonnes to Mars. Per kg cost estimates for large crewed missions range from the ISS (212,000) to Apollo (342,000). These were obtained by dividing current program cost estimates by payload mass (LEO payload mass or payload mass sent to the Moon) and adjusted for inflation if required. The ISS, which uses mostly existing technology would be the low end estimate, Apollo. which developed everything from scratch, the high end. That gives 53-86 billion. I quoted a mid range figure as a Mars mission will require a mix of existing and new technology.


Now show what is wrong with my facts, reasonign, or calculations.


I'd also like to point out that I expect our ability to do interesting work with robotic missions is likely to improve dramatically over the next thirty years.

There will be improvements, but what is your evidence that they will improve by two or three orders of magnitude? people have been predicting such performance for 50 years. We don't haved it yet, and we don't know to get it. What if your hope is wrong?

Conversely we do know that with existing and developable technology will put people on Mars at no greater risk than we currently accept.


Also, all of your claims about available power and mass of sample returns could be done with larger robotic missions for much less cost than a humans with life support mission.

This is not supported by the evidence. First of all deep drilling is well beyond the capability of existing robots. Despite there being a lot of investment in this technology. Robotic vehicles that can traverse thousands of km are still a pipe dream, despite massive investment.

Robots can't do science. They can collect data, but the science is done at the end of a time delay. that is why, despite nearly 40 years of robotic developments still can't match the capabilities of the teloperated Lunakhods. The Lunakhods were more than 10 times faster than what is predicted for MSL.

Lastly robotic missions are more expensive per kg than human ones. Stationary landers cost about $1 million per kg on Mars, rovers $2 million. averaging everthing to payload sent to Mars robotic missions average $500,000 per kg, almost twice what human missions cost.

For large scale Mars exploration, it is cheaper, faster, and better to send people.

Jon

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-29, 01:57 AM
But our current robots are not doing that (looking for bases locations, etc.) They're looking for microbial life and the remains thereof. That was my original point. The issue is not that the current probes aren't useful; it's that they're rolling down a rabbit trail. Digging twenty centimeters into the Martian dust will not make it easier for a human to dig a twenty-foot hole and analyze the sediment levels, now or thirty years from now.Which is truly unfortunate. If we plan to send men to Mars, we should start ASAP in looking for base and colony locations with robots. Once we get men on Mars, we can look for signs of life etc a lot more efficiently.

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-29, 01:58 AM
I agree. But not the robots we're currently sending, as great as they are.Agreed. That’s why we need Goliath and Big Al.

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-29, 02:32 AM
There will be improvements, but what is your evidence that they will improve by two or three orders of magnitude? I believe the increase was comparative performance, as has been demonstrated over the past 30 years. While computer and robotic advancements are driven by literally hundreds of thousands of potential uses, rocketry advances are extremely limited in application. Since the trend in rocketry applications is unlikely to increase significantly, and since there is every reason to expect the trend in computers and robotics to continue to increase significantly, it is reasonable to conclude that robotics technology will continue to increase far more rapidly than rocket technology.


This is not supported by the evidence. First of all deep drilling is well beyond the capability of existing robots. Only because deep drilling robots have nor had a need to be developed. But all the technologies to develop them already exist. They need only to be combined.


Robotic vehicles that can traverse thousands of km are still a pipe dream, despite massive investment. The military now has many robotic vehicles, such as R-Gator, Black Knight. Other vehicles such as Terra Max (http://www.terramax.com/) have shown that autonomous robotic vehicles are possible with current and emerging technology.


Robots can't do science. They can collect data, but the science is done at the end of a time delay. And there is no reason a sophisticated robotic rover could not do the same. With an onboard science lab, samples can potentially be subjected to hundreds of different scientific tests.


The Lunakhods were more than 10 times faster than what is predicted for MSL.And Goliath is predicted to be 20 times faster than the Lunokhods. :)


Lastly robotic missions are more expensive per kg than human ones. Logically, robotic missions to Mars would be far less expensive than manned missions. Without all the life support required for humans, and without the return vehicle and fuel, robotic missions would be a LOT less expensive.


For large scale Mars exploration, it is cheaper, faster, and better to send people That depends upon when the exploration is to take place, and what the purpose of that exploration would be. Initially, large robotic rovers would be far more practical for finding, and perhaps even the initial preparation of colony sites. Later, after people are living on Mars permanently, and can take time away from merely surviving, THEN manned expeditions across the Martian surface will be more practical. IMEHO

JonClarke
2007-Nov-29, 09:17 AM
I believe the increase was comparative performance, as has been demonstrated over the past 30 years. While computer and robotic advancements are driven by literally hundreds of thousands of potential uses, rocketry advances are extremely limited in application. Since the trend in rocketry applications is unlikely to increase significantly, and since there is every reason to expect the trend in computers and robotics to continue to increase significantly, it is reasonable to conclude that robotics technology will continue to increase far more rapidly than rocket technology. [/QUOTE]

Impressive though the advances in robotics have been they have not translated into impressive progress in terms of field robotics on the surface of the Moon or Mars. MSL the most advanced planetary rover so far developed, will have less exploration capability than the Lunakhods 40 years before.

Rocketry does not need to advance to get people to Mars. The technology of today (and 30 years ago), is more than adequate.

Conversely the last 30 years have seen major advances in most of the other space flight necessary for humans to go to Mars. Long duration human spaceflight, management of multi year missions, large scale solar power production, orbital assembly, high efficiency life support, knowledge of the surface of and atmosphere of Mars. The main areas of development pending are EDL, rovers and suits. None of these require break though science, simply application and development of what we now know.


Only because deep drilling robots have nor had a need to be developed. But all the technologies to develop them already exist. They need only to be combined.

There has been extensive research on such technology. It has failed to deliver anything reliable beyond a couple of metres. Which is a pity, because there have been times when i could have used such a rig. Whereas a simple human operated rig can drill hundred metres.


The military now has many robotic vehicles, such as R-Gator, Black Knight. Other vehicles such as Terra Max (http://www.terramax.com/) have shown that autonomous robotic vehicles are possible with current and emerging technology.

Terra Max crashed spectacularly as I recall. Not exactly a useful system as yet.

In autonomous mode R-gator carries out simple repetitive tasks, not complex exploration. It can move at only a quarter the speed it can be driven by a human operator. It can run for only 8 hours and needs for than a kW to run its electrical system.

Furthermore it operates in close cooperation with people. In fact, it is an excellent example of the type of robot vehicle that would support a human mission as an unpressurised rover with some specialised autonomous capability. it's not a question of humans or robots, but using both to their best ability.


And there is no reason a sophisticated robotic rover could not do the same. With an onboard science lab, samples can potentially be subjected to hundreds of different scientific tests.

What is the evidence that sophisticated robots will be able to do sophisticated tests? You will always need scientists in the loop deciding which sites need to be visited, what samples should be collected and which tests should be done on them. With the time lag this will always be slower than with people on site. Even advanced robots can’t circumvent the speed of light.


And Goliath is predicted to be 20 times faster than the Lunokhods. :)

I hope you are not trying to highjack the discussion onto your hobby horse.


Logically, robotic missions to Mars would be far less expensive than manned missions. Without all the life support required for humans, and without the return vehicle and fuel, robotic missions would be a LOT less expensive.

This is not logic, this assertion. It is a fact that robotic missions cost twice as much per kg as human ones. For example:

MGS cost $538 million and massed 1,031 kg in LEO, and therefore has an LEO cost per kg of $522,000

MO cost $348 million and massed 725 kg in LEO, and therefore has an LEO cost per kg of $480,000

MRO cost $720 million and massed 1,180 kg in LEO, and therefore has an LEO cost per kg of $610,000

Phoenix cost $386 million and massed 680 kg in LEO, and therefore has an LEO cost per kg of$567,000

The combined MER cost was $900 million and they massed 2,126 kg in LEO, and therefore had an LEO cost per kg $423,000

MSL has an estimated cost of $1.7 billion and a LEO mass of 3,400 kg in LEO, and therefore has an LEO cost per kg $500,000

(All costs adjusted for inflation to 2006-2007 $)

Average cost per in LEO (exclusive of the EDS) is therefore $500,333.

For comparison the average per kg cost of the ISS and the entire Apollo program is $235,955, just over half the cost of unmanned missions.


That depends upon when the exploration is to take place, and what the purpose of that exploration would be. Initially, large robotic rovers would be far more practical for finding, and perhaps even the initial preparation of colony sites.

This is what the current generation of rovers is doing, in part. Testing the ground and preparing the way for future crewed missions.

Jon

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-29, 07:34 PM
Impressive though the advances in robotics have been they have not translated into impressive progress in terms of field robotics on the surface of the Moon or Mars. That is no reflection on the possible use of robotics, but rather a reflection on how the PTB chose to apply the technology. Your argument does not address the practicality of robotics for Mars missions.


Rocketry does not need to advance to get people to Mars. The technology of today (and 30 years ago), is more than adequate. Adequate, yes. But isn’t the inefficiency (and therefore cost) of current rocketry often cited as one of the main reasons we are not already on Mars?


Conversely the last 30 years have seen major advances in most of the other space flight necessary for humans to go to Mars. Long duration human spaceflight, management of multi year missions, large scale solar power production, orbital assembly, high efficiency life support, knowledge of the surface of and atmosphere of Mars. The main areas of development pending are EDL, rovers and suits. None of these require break though science, simply application and development of what we now know. I have been supporting that viewpoint for years. But it is irrelevant to this question because the same can be said for robotics. We can build them. We have the technology. We simply need to apply it properly.


There has been extensive research on such technology. It has failed to deliver anything reliable beyond a couple of metres. Which is a pity, because there have been times when i could have used such a rig. Whereas a simple human operated rig can drill hundred metres.
Goliath could carry a rig that could drill 20 feet in a single pass. The only restriction on drilling deeper is robotically adding sections of drill pipe. We have a machine here that bores 50-100 ft under streets to lay cable. The only thing the human operator does is drop another section of pipe onto a tray. The machine does the rest. A robot could drop a pipe onto a tray.


Terra Max crashed spectacularly as I recall. Not exactly a useful system as yet. Irrelevant. Some of our most sophisticated and reliable technology had early failures, some of them quite spectacular.


What is the evidence that sophisticated robots will be able to do sophisticated tests? You will always need scientists in the loop deciding which sites need to be visited, what samples should be collected and which tests should be done on them. With the time lag this will always be slower than with people on site. True. However, the people need to sleep and rest, while the robot can work 24 hours a day. I’d say that more than makes up for the time lag.


This is not logic, this assertion. It is a fact that robotic missions cost twice as much per kg as human ones. For example:
MGS cost $538 million and…. yadda, yadda, yadda….
MO cost…. yadda, yadda, yadda….
Phoenix cost…. yadda, yadda, yadda….
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera………………
That is perhaps one of the most representative examples of the Logical Fallacies of Hasty Generalization and Misapplied Generalization I have seen. You have taken a variety of programs spanning 45 years, with incredible changes in technology, major changes in the driving political and economic climates, and many different types of delivery systems. That isn’t apples and oranges, that is apples and quartz and squid. Adjusting the dollars is irrelevant, because the other variables are so incredibly disparate. The comparison should be the difference between manned and robotic missions using the same base technology in the same time period.

Logically, robotic missions to Mars would be far less expensive than manned missions. The food, water, oxygen, and living facilities alone would make human missions more expensive. If you leave the crew on Mars, they have to have huge amounts of supplies. If you bring them back, you have to have a return vehicle, more supplies, and fuel. That makes the manned mission even MORE expensive.


This is what the current generation of rovers is doing, in part. Testing the ground and preparing the way for future crewed missions.Hardly. None of the current generation of rovers is going to verify a settlement site, which will be the most difficult and most critical part of early exploration. There is very little more that we need to know before simply sending a flags and footprints mission to Mars.

joema
2007-Nov-30, 12:33 AM
There are two main issues here:

(1) Putting humans on Mars just for the sake of doing it, and/or for colonization, etc.

(2) Scientific study of Mars by robots vs human astronauts.

For the former, the relative science benefit and pros/cons of humans vs robots is less a factor. Humans are going there anyway in this scenario.

For the latter, the issue is how to maximize the science return per invested dollar, independent of whether humans go to Mars.

It seems clear robots are far more cost efficient than humans if science results per dollar is the primary goal.

We must remember little actual science will be done on Mars by either humans OR robots. Rather the data is captured and most of the actual scientific work is done on earth.

Humans are basically fragile biological robots in that role. On orders from earth, they deploy instruments, turn knobs, throw switches, take samples, etc. Robots can do similar things without the vast overhead needed to support humans on Mars.

The projected timeframe must also be specified in any comparison of human vs robot science return per dollar. This is because of the continuing rapid progress in computer and robotic technology. IOW, a recent time estimate for a realistic manned Mars mission is 2031 or 2037:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7116834.stm
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jkmdP908t7rFtnuI4rNSCpCl3TTQ
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/content/?cid=5048

We know what humans will be like in 2037: about like today. Rockets will be somewhat similar. By contrast robotics and computers progress very quickly and will be much more advanced. Already IBM's Blue Gene/L has simulated half a mouse brain: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6600965.stm. Blue Gene/P is about 6x as fast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Gene. We obviously won't be sending a supercomputer to Mars, but what supercomputers do today, a smaller computer can do in a few years. There are even informed projections that computers may mimic aspects of human intellect by the 2030s: http://www.jetpress.org/volume1/moravec.htm

On the robotic front, Honda's Asimo gives some idea of where things are headed. Anyone who thinks "robots couldn't do this or that on Mars" should examine this closely:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4859588171267825427&q=as

Now, there are various videos showing Asimo falling down and malfunctioning. But he's a prototype -- not remotely intended for production use. The key is NOT what can he do today, but at the current rate of computer and robotic progress, what could his successors do in 2037?

Re deep drilling, innovative robotic methods are now being developed for use on various planetary bodies, including Mars: http://www.honeybeerobotics.com/idds.html

Re the limitations of CURRENT unmanned terrestrial vehicles, this has little to do with an advanced Mars rover in 2037, for several reasons:

(1) Progress is rapid in computers and robotics. Limitations or failures today mean little for 2037.
(2) Terrestrial unmanned vehicle trials such as the DARPA Grand Challenge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_Grand_Challenge) are totally autonomous. The ground rules don't allow human intervention -- at all. By contrast a Mars rover is under earth control, using automation for limited periods. If it encounters problems it just waits for assistance. Of course by 2037, a Mars rover might need little assistance.

Re a manned mission being able to take more data, more images, etc, that's simply not true. An example of this is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It takes vast numbers of high-resolution images. Putting a human in Martian orbit to control the imaging would not improve things.

Whether in orbit or on Mars' surface, robots can stay there so long and take such high quality data precisely because humans ARE NOT there. The payload isn't squandered on humans and their support needs but can be dedicated to the scientific mission.

Putting a human on the surface would have some benefit in gathering data. But it is titanically expensive. For the cost of a manned mission (and probably at a fraction of that), a series of unmanned missions could gather far more and higher quality data.

We have already transitioned to mostly unmanned robotic exploration of the deep ocean. Decades ago, we'd send a manned deep submersible. We no longer do that, rather we use unmanned remote vehicles. It's not as exciting, but it's cheaper, safer, and we get excellent results. Likewise there's no serious plan for manned exploration of Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, etc. The entire solar system will be explored exclusively by robots, with the exception of earth's moon and Mars. We could probably put a human on Mercury or Venus, it would just be incredibly expensive. But we get better science return per dollar by using robots. The same is true for Mars.

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-30, 12:51 AM
:clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap:

Well said, joema. Thank you for all the great information.

That Asimo video is almost spooky to watch. It makes you think there must be a person inside that suit.

JonClarke
2007-Dec-01, 06:21 AM
It seems clear robots are far more cost efficient than humans if science results per dollar is the primary goal.

Evidence? Certainly robotic missions can collect some data about Mars more cheaply than human missions. But for detailed scientific studies of Mars or the Moon human presence is far superior.
We need to send people… But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans. Steve Squyres Discover magazine interview June 2004
http://www.discover.com/issues/jun-04/departments/discover-dialogue/
We are constantly aggravated by the fact that all the questions we have about Mars could now be answered by Ken and me if we could just walk around on the planet for a few days….But for about two years now Malin and I have been absolutely convinced that we're going to have to send people there. Ken Edgett National Geographic, February 2001.
…human exploration coupled with sample return unquestioningly results in the most profound scientific understanding of a planet... they are essential. ...the "New View" of the Moon that has resulted from the entire range of exploratory tools and cross-disciplinary studies has been eye-opening. It points compellingly to a model for how future planetary exploration should be conducted. Because we now know how to do it right: what kinds of missions and (in hindsight) in what order…. There is no substitute for the ultimate mobile sensor: a human... if the Apollo experience taught us anything it is that the human ability to recognize interesting features quickly and then independently act to follow up on that information can lead to important discoveries... Ross Taylor et al., Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 60, 657-704, Mineralogical Society of America, 2006.

We must remember little actual science will be done on Mars by either humans OR robots. Rather the data is captured and most of the actual scientific work is done on earth.

Robots do no science at all, they just collect observations. For field geology and biology they collect that data slowly, clumsily, and inefficiently compared to what human crews could do. This is a documented fact from the Apollo missions and from terrestrial comparisons. Despite 30 years of advances autonomous robots still cannot do as well as teleoperated machines either on other planets or on Earth. Another 30 years might bring autonomous performance up to teleoperated levels. It might not. Even then they will not perform as well as humans on the spot because of the time lag between the sensors and the people actually doing the work. Having humans on the spot will not only collect better data faster but allow on the spot science to be done, as well as much better science back home because of more and better quality data, and larger, better selected and contexturalised samples.


Humans are basically fragile biological robots in that role. On orders from earth, they deploy instruments, turn knobs, throw switches, take samples, etc. Robots can do similar things without the vast overhead needed to support humans on Mars.

Robots have limited dexterity, mobility, dexterity, adaptability to unexpected surfaces compared even to a gloved astronaut. One reason why the robotic Hubble servicing mission was dropped in favour of a human one was because it would do less with a lower probability of success.

How big an overhead will a human mission need? More than a robotic mission certainly. But robotic missions have huge overheads too. About 4000 people are or have been involved in the MER missions. A human mars mission might have 10 times or 100 times as many people working on it. But it will be at least a thousand times as productive.


The projected timeframe must also be specified in any comparison of human vs. robot science return per dollar. This is because of the continuing rapid progress in computer and robotic technology. IOW, a recent time estimate for a realistic manned Mars mission is 2031 or 2037:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7116834.stm
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5...uI4rNSCpCl3TTQ
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/content/?cid=5048

We know what humans will be like in 2037: about like today. Rockets will be somewhat similar. [/QUOTE]

Spacefaring will be considerably advanced in 30 years time over what it is at present. We don’t need more advanced rockets than we have already to get to Mars.


By contrast robotics and computers progress very quickly and will be much more advanced. Already IBM's Blue Gene/L has simulated half a mouse brain: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6600965.stm. Blue Gene/P is about 6x as fast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Gene. We obviously won't be sending a supercomputer to Mars, but what supercomputers do today, a smaller computer can do in a few years. There are even informed projections that computers may mimic aspects of human intellect by the 2030s: http://www.jetpress.org/volume1/moravec.htm

All very interesting, but what they mean for actual robot performance on the surface of Mars is just speculation.

Mouse brains don’t do science. A computer of Blue Gene performance would enhance the performance of a human crew even more that it would a robotic mission. In fact computers of such capability would generally require a protected environment to operate – like a human habitat. Fast computer speed is good, but it does not do science, only provide a better tool for people to use.

Predictions of mimicking the human intellect have been made before, so far with little to show for it. And what does “mimic” actually mean? AI research has given us search engines which mimic the human intellect’s ability to search and correlate information but much faster. But it still does not mean your PC does research. What it does is give better tools for people to use.


On the robotic front, Honda's Asimo gives some idea of where things are headed. Anyone who thinks "robots couldn't do this or that on Mars" should examine this closely:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...267825427&q=as

Completely irrelevant to Mars exploration. No payload. Can only move on flat surfaces. Needs near 400 watts to run. Has an endurance for less than an hour. Such a machine is useless on Mars.


Now, there are various videos showing Asimo falling down and malfunctioning. But he's a prototype -- not remotely intended for production use. The key is NOT what can he do today, but at the current rate of computer and robotic progress, what could his successors do in 2037?

His successors will be doing well if they could mimic what MER can do now. The MERS are much more power efficient, have unlimited endurance, diverse payload, can cross wide ranges of surfaces – rocks, steep slopes, sand. A much better question will be what MERs successors be capable off in 2037? IMHO, based on extrapolation past progress and current options, is that they might be able to mimic the performance of a teleoperated rover on the Earth of the Moon. But they will still be well below what a human could do driving the same machine.


Re deep drilling, innovative robotic methods are now being developed for use on various planetary bodies, including Mars: http://www.honeybeerobotics.com/idds.html

A contract to research technology does not equate with such technology being actually feasible. It will certainly be very slow. So far the ability to drill even 10s of metres has been unrealised. Two m is about the limit for robot technology. Whereas a trailer mounted rig operated by a human crew can drill 10’s of metres in a few hours.


Re the limitations of CURRENT unmanned terrestrial vehicles, this has little to do with an advanced Mars rover in 2037, for several reasons:

(1) Progress is rapid in computers and robotics. Limitations or failures today mean little for 2037.

Progress is indeed to expected. Experimental technology now indicates what operational technology may be capable of it 10-20 year’s time. It might be another 10 years before such technology is space qualified. So hopefully vehicles with autonomous speeds measured in kilometres rather than metres might be practical in 30 years. They might not too. Driverless cars have been actively researched for 30 years, and are still not operational.

Even if this technology is available in 30 years, such vehicles will still need to consult with mission control on important decisions, which immediately inserts 10-40 minute delays even for quick decisions. A decision that would a person on the spot 5 seconds would take 10 to 40 minutes Plus every science operation will require constant supervision from Earth, and that is where the time delay becomes crucial. Operations that would take an astronaut a few minutes would take days.


(2) Terrestrial unmanned vehicle trials such as the DARPA Grand Challenge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_Grand_Challenge) are totally autonomous. The ground rules don't allow human intervention -- at all. By contrast a Mars rover is under earth control, using automation for limited periods. If it encounters problems it just waits for assistance. Of course by 2037, a Mars rover might need little assistance.

Autonomous navigation will be very useful for many applications, not least for direct human exploration. But exploration is a lot more than being able to navigate a route. I can do that without much conscious thought. Exploration is an activity that is orders of magnitude beyond simple driving. It requires interpretation, understanding, knowledge, and experience, and something which will always be better done by a person on the spot than with a time lag.


Re a manned mission being able to take more data, more images, etc, that's simply not true. An example of this is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It takes vast numbers of high-resolution images. Putting a human in Martian orbit to control the imaging would not improve things.

MRO is an excellent example of a mission that is ideally performed by an unmanned spacecraft. This is not the sort of mission I or anyone else who has written on Mars exploration has advocated in the past 30 years. We are talking about surface missions.


Whether in orbit or on Mars' surface, robots can stay there so long and take such high quality data precisely because humans ARE NOT there. The payload isn't squandered on humans and their support needs but can be dedicated to the scientific mission.

The point is the MERs don’t get high quality data. The handful of instruments they carry are roughly equivalent to what an astronaut would carry on a pedestrian EVA to do a quick characterisation of the samples and their context. Compared to a pedestrian EVA they cover only 5-8 metres a day, instead of several km. Not that you could send people to Mars simply to do pedestrian EVAs. They would have unpressurised rovers which could cover tens of km a day, carrying more instruments than MSL. They would have pressurised rovers that could explore hundreds of km from the landing site. They would take samples back to the station and run chemical analyses that include trace elements, rather than just the majors. They could process large samples to get truly representative measurements. They could cut thin sections of the samples for petrographic work. They could run thousands of samples to chose the best samples to bring home – and bring back hundreds of kg. The human payload is not squandered but invaluable.


Putting a human on the surface would have some benefit in gathering data. But it is titanically expensive. For the cost of a manned mission (and probably at a fraction of that), a series of unmanned missions could gather far more and higher quality data.

A human mission to Mars will not be titanically expensive. Using per kg costs and reasonable mass estimates a human mission would cost 70 billion. Spread over a 10 years development period this is the cost that is currently being spent on human missions. Unmanned missions are roughly twice as expensive per kg. I have already shown good reason why this is the case.

In the politically unlikely event of similar moneys being spent on an unmanned, 70 billion might buy you 10 large rovers and sample return missions. These would achieve far less than a single human mission of the type described. They might cover between them several hundred km and return a few kg. The human mission would explore thousands of km and return hundreds of kg. Plus those samples would be characterised by people on the spot with a vast array of instruments, not working through a 40 minute time delay with a limited suite of tools. Plus the human mission would investigate a whole range of issues regarding human settlement potential which no unmanned mission can ever do.


We have already transitioned to mostly unmanned robotic exploration of the deep ocean. Decades ago, we'd send a manned deep submersible. We no longer do that, rather we use unmanned remote vehicles. It's not as exciting, but it's cheaper, safer, and we get excellent results. Likewise there's no serious plan for manned exploration of Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, etc. The entire solar system will be explored exclusively by robots, with the exception of earth's moon and Mars. We could probably put a human on Mercury or Venus, it would just be incredibly expensive. But we get better science return per dollar by using robots. The same is true for Mars.

ROVs and AUVs are enormously useful machines that greatly expand our capabilities to explore the oceans. But they have not replaced saturation divers, hard suits, surface ships, nuclear submarines, submersibles, they complement them. Furthermore most underwater robots are in fact teleoperated, taking advantage of real time human decision making and judgement. AUVs do very simple tasks. Teleoperation is going to be very important on Mars, as an adjunct to human exploration, not as an alternative.

As for crewed missions to Mercury of Venus, I agree there is no reason (at present) for human missions there. I don’t know anyone who is seriously suggesting them as a goal. These are missions indeed best served by robots. The Moon, Mars, and near earth asteroids are different. They can be reached using present day or near present day technology. Their environments are relatively benign and full advantage can be taken of relatively unimpeded human presence in every respect.

Jon

JonClarke
2007-Dec-01, 06:35 AM
This will be my last post for a week or so, I am away.

I am a great advocate of using the right mission for the task. For a great many missions robots are ideal - remote sensing, geophysical and meterological networks, reconnaissance. But there are also roles for which human crew are unequalled, this is the opinion of everyone I know who actually works in field robotics and in planetary science. Not there is not a place for humans in such missions. Robotics and teleoperation would greatly improve the effectiveness of such missions, just as they do today in underwater exploration and on the ISS.

But I would like to know why the "robots only" advocates are so adamant in their hostility to any human role in exploration and pin so much hope on quite speculative capabilities of robotics 20-30 years down the track?

Mike Griffin once wrote about the "real" as opposed to the "legitimate" reasons for space exploration. The "real" reasons were those that meant that in the end people want to see humans in space, on the Moon, Mars, and beyond for emotional and ideological reasons as well as the "legitinmate"reasons of science, and strategy. The vehermence of the opposition to human missions from some suggest that there are similar "real' reasons being held against human presence, as well as the "legitimate" (but sometimes erroneous) reasons that robots are faster cheaper better. I would like to know what these real reasons are. Is there a deep seated sense that people should stay on Earth, a belief that technological evolutionwill supercede biological evolution?

Jon

Stagger Lee
2007-Dec-01, 07:12 AM
why we need a man on Mars ?

We don't NEED a man, a woman would be fine. :whistle:

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-01, 08:17 AM
Evidence? Certainly robotic missions can collect some data about Mars more cheaply than human missions. But for detailed scientific studies of Mars or the Moon human presence is far superior.
We need to send people… Of course, but all in due time. The exploration of Mars to determine the best sites for colonization is best left to the robots. It is a long ranging, but not very detailed study that is needed for this. Later on, when humans are living on Mars in colonies, THEN is the time for detailed human exploration. When people have the time to explore, instead of spending most of their time ensuring their very survival, then they can go on detailed, extensive explorations.


Robots do no science at all, they just collect observations. For field geology and biology they collect that data slowly, clumsily, and inefficiently compared to what human crews could do. This is a documented fact from the Apollo missions and from terrestrial comparisons. Oh, come on. You are using 45 year old technology to predict performance 10-20 years from now? Please, at least keep your analogies within the same millennium.


Robots have limited dexterity, mobility, dexterity, adaptability to unexpected surfaces compared even to a gloved astronaut. In some cases yes, in other cases no. Robots are used extensively in manufacturing on Earth because they are more efficient, faster, and far more accurate in many cases.


How big an overhead will a human mission need? More than a robotic mission certainly. Not more, a LOT more, as has been pointed out.


A human mars mission might have 10 times or 100 times as many people working on it. But it will be at least a thousand times as productive. Now THAT is a totally unsubstantiated and unqualified exaggeration. As always, it depends upon the robot, the level of technology, and the application. As noted, robots are more efficient and precise in certain tasks. There is no reason to believe that decided advantage cannot be applied to exploration on Mars.


Completely irrelevant to Mars exploration. No payload. Can only move on flat surfaces. Needs near 400 watts to run. Has an endurance for less than an hour. Such a machine is useless on Mars. It isn’t the exact machine that is being presented, but the concepts and the obvious advancements in robotic technology. The right tool for the right job. Robots to be used on Mars will be designed to be used on Mars, incorporating the appropriate technologies.

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-01, 09:36 PM
We don't NEED a man, a woman would be fine.
You got that right!
I think it was Jacques Piccard who said something like:
"To dive to the ocean depths, to travel through celestial space, these are the things that make life worth living."

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-02, 02:34 AM
Fusing Jacques Cousteau and Jean-Luc Picard to make a generation spanning quote, very clever. :)

If you have seen some of my previous “200 person first mission to Mars” comments, it always includes women. That is practical, logical, and biologically reasonable.

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-02, 02:40 AM
Fusing Jacques Cousteau and Jean-Luc Picard to make a generation spanning quote, very clever.
No, silly, Jacques Piccard (Two 'c's, not one) was a famous balloonist who also designed submarines.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-02, 02:59 AM
:doh:

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-04, 01:29 AM
:doh:

It's okay, a lot of people probably don't know that at all, but now you can say that you do.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-06, 03:26 AM
Of course, but all in due time. Screw that! Let's just DO IT! We have the technology. But do we have the gumption? We could probably do it for $1011. The U.S. economy is on the order of $1013 per year. If the cost of doing it were amortized over 10 years, the total cost would only run 0.1% of U.S. GDP for 10 years. In the grand scheme of things, that's not very expensive.


The exploration of Mars to determine the best sites for colonization is best left to the robots. It is a long ranging, but not very detailed study that is needed for this. A priori considerations suggest that the lowest altitude spot on Mars (the Hellas Basin) would have the mildest conditions. The determination of an actual building site can be accomplished from orbit by using an old Keyhole spy satellite.


Later on, when humans are living on Mars in colonies, THEN is the time for detailed human exploration. When people have the time to explore, instead of spending most of their time ensuring their very survival, then they can go on detailed, extensive explorations.What time-consuming tasks are people going to have to do to ensure their survival beyond heating up some water to mix into their MRE's? Take out the trash? If there's a lot of manual labor necessary, then just bring along a few illegal aliens in order to free up the geologists' time.

Also the idea that humans are somehow "fragile" compared to machines is just wrong. How many cars are still on the road after 40 years? And have you ever seen a machine maintain or fix itself? There is no way the science that was accomplished by the Apollo project could have been done with robots. Robots can not now do the science that was accomplished on the Moon by the Apollo project. Until robots get to Bladerunner levels of capability, they will not by definition be able to do all the things humans can do. I doubt that Bladerunner-style robots will be available in 30 years, but who knows? Maybe they will. But we're supposed to hurry up and wait for 30 years to find out? That, my friend, is a councel of FUD.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-06, 04:18 AM
Screw that! Let's just DO IT! Yikes!! Take it easy, man. Have a couple shots of JD while I explain. “All in good time” meant that we shouldn’t send men to Mars until we have determined the best location. We still don’t know where water can be found and in what quantities. We don’t know the composition of the ground in any one area. If it’s flags and footprints then go home, it doesn’t matter. But if it is to be a colony, then it matters a LOT. It would be a waste of time for people to search millions of square miles of surface area for the best location. Let the robots do that.


A priori considerations suggest that the lowest altitude spot on Mars (the Hellas Basin) would have the mildest conditions. The determination of an actual building site can be accomplished from orbit by using an old Keyhole spy satellite.That is hardly the most significant requirement. Water, availability of certain minerals, and possible existing underground caves are more important to a colony. Except for the water, I’d say the top of Olympus Mons may be one of the best locations.


What time-consuming tasks are people going to have to do to ensure their survival beyond heating up some water to mix into their MRE's? Take out the trash? Again, for flag and footprints, not much at all. For starting a colony, then there would be a lot of work to do, including constructing facilities to grow food and produce oxygen.


Also the idea that humans are somehow "fragile" compared to machines is just wrong. How many cars are still on the road after 40 years? Strawman. It depends upon the machine, and it depends upon the application. For 24/7 operation, radiation resistance, no need for oxygen, food, water and sleep, machines are better. Here on Earth we use billions of machines to do specific tasks. We should let machines do what machines do best. That is what they are for.


There is no way the science that was accomplished by the Apollo project could have been done with robots. Would you care to expand upon that? Perhaps robots available at the time could not have, but current robots certainly could.


Until robots get to Bladerunner levels of capability, they will not by definition be able to do all the things humans can do. Another Strawman, since no one I have ever heard of suggests that they can. Robots do the repetitive tasks, the dangerous tasks, the 24 hour tasks, and a lot of really mundane tasks.

R.A.F.
2007-Dec-06, 04:46 AM
If there's a lot of manual labor necessary, then just bring along a few illegal aliens in order to free up the geologists' time.

How disgustingly racist of you.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-06, 05:13 AM
How disgustingly racist of you.

Speciesist maybe, but definitely not racist. ;)

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-06, 06:35 AM
Yikes!! Take it easy, man. Have a couple shots of JD while I explain. “All in good time” meant that we shouldn’t send men to Mars until we have determined the best location. We still don’t know where water can be found and in what quantities.
Since water flows downhill, the most likely place to find it would be at the lowest elevation on the planet. I'm talking underground aquifers here, not flowing rivers. However, the atmospheric pressure would reduce ice sublimation, and allow water to exist in a liquid form at least for short periods. At about 1/10th of an atmosphere you would probably still need a pressure suit to walk around in though.


[Except for the water, I’d say the top of Olympus Mons may be one of the best locations.That's an interesting suggestion. Wouldn't it be windier than Laramie up there though?


Would you care to expand upon that? Perhaps robots available at the time could not have, but current robots certainly could.A robot wouldn't have found the Genesis Rock.


Another Strawman, since no one I have ever heard of suggests that they can. Robots do the repetitive tasks, the dangerous tasks, the 24 hour tasks, and a lot of really mundane tasks.I agree, but humans have their place too. Robots and humans can complement each other.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-06, 01:44 PM
Robots and humans can complement each other.

"Hello, sir, your organic integument is looking quite healthy today."

"Thank you, my good 'bot, and your support rods are quite fetchingly shiny."

R.A.F.
2007-Dec-06, 01:50 PM
Speciesist maybe, but definitely not racist. ;)

Does it really matter what you call your ignorance? I know you're certainly not the type of person that I want to have anything to do with you, even if it's only over the internet, so congratulations, you've "earned" a spot on my ignore list.

There are other people on this planet besides yourself, and how you treat them ends up being how they will treat you....so good luck to you...you'll need it.

joema
2007-Dec-06, 01:53 PM
...the idea that humans are somehow "fragile" compared to machines is just wrong...There is no way the science that was accomplished by the Apollo project could have been done with robots. Robots can not now do the science that was accomplished on the Moon by the Apollo project...
Humans are obviously far more fragile than robotic probes. That's why hostile environments such as Venus and the deepest oceans on earth are explored by robotic (not manned) vehicles:

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/masterCatalog.do?sc=1981-110D
http://robotics.me.jhu.edu/~llw/gallery/jason_2.html

The science accomplished by Apollo could easily be done by robotic probes today, and at far lower cost.

For a hypothetical manned Mars mission 20-30 years in the future, computers and robotics would be far more advanced.

I'm not arguing humans should never go to Mars, but the specific issue of cost effectiveness. If the goal is not colonization, etc, but scientific exploration, robotic probes of the 2030s would be far more cost effective than a manned mission.

Note this is on an equal dollar basis. We can't compare a $150 billion manned mission in 2035 to (say) the $820 million Mars Exploration Rover today.

The comparison is between

(a) Equal dollars spent in the same time frame on a manned vs unmanned Mars mission, OR

(b) Estimated dollars spent on a robotic mission to equal the science return of a manned mission, both in the same timeframe.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-06, 06:27 PM
Humans are obviously far more fragile than robotic probes. That's why hostile environments such as Venus and the deepest oceans on earth are explored by robotic (not manned) vehicles:

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/masterCatalog.do?sc=1981-110D
http://robotics.me.jhu.edu/~llw/gallery/jason_2.html

Actually the deepest oceans were explored by humans first in 1960.
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h96000/h96804.jpg

The fellow on the right is Jaques Piccard. He and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsch went as deep as you can go: 35,800 feet in the Marianas Trench near Guam.

The comparison is between

(a) Equal dollars spent in the same time frame on a manned vs unmanned Mars mission, OR

(b) Estimated dollars spent on a robotic mission to equal the science return of a manned mission, both in the same timeframe.I agree, except I would rephrase it as, given that one is willing to blow $100 billion on exploring a planet, (the Moon or Mars), which program would return the most, best science: manned or unmanned?
Also, when you say that "The science accomplished by Apollo could easily be done by robotic probes today, and at far lower cost." is an unfair comparison, because the science that could be accomplished by a second generation manned Apollo program would be an order of magnitude greater still than the original program.

The market price for a manned craft in lunar orbit is now $100 million. You have $100 billion to spend (less than the original Apollo program) on exploring the Moon. The state of the art probes are 2nd-generation versions of the rovers on Mars. What would you rather send: 100 Apollo-style lunar manned missions, or 1,000 lunar probes? If the basis for deciding is the amount of quality science returned, the clearly the former is the better option. If the basis is government jobs for the 4,000 minders it takes to watch each lunar probe, then the latter might be the better option.

Think about it this way, to match the Apollo accomplishments, you'd have to have the capability to return 100's of pounds of catalogued and photographed in context rocks. To do that is going to take more than a little Estes rocket. In other words, you'll have to send an unmanned landing craft more or less the same size and complexity as the original Eagle lunar lander. So if you're going to go to that much trouble, then why not send people as well?

You all speak of the vast complexity associated with sending people, but what was the original lander but a can whose aluminum sides weren't much thicker than a beer can, a rocket engine, and a few tanks of compressed gas, and a computer to help mind things? And having a pressurized temperature controlled space onboard a spacecraft has mechanical advantages as well. With a standard Earth temperature and pressure in the cabin, a simple store-bought laptop computer could run the whole show. So if you eliminate one layer of complexity by getting rid of humans, you add another layer of complexity and expense by having to use hardened computers that can function at extreme temperatures.

Daffy
2007-Dec-06, 06:46 PM
"Hello, sir, your organic integument is looking quite healthy today."

"Thank you, my good 'bot, and your support rods are quite fetchingly shiny."

LOL!!!!!!!!!

On a more serious note, there will always be those (I am one) who favor expanding human presence as far as we can, and those who don't see the point. It's an age old argument.

joema
2007-Dec-06, 08:27 PM
Actually the deepest oceans were explored by humans first in 1960.
That actually supports my point. Ultra-deep-diving manned submersibles capable of reaching the deepest ocean (such as the Trieste) no longer exist. Today, unmanned ROVs are used.


What would you rather send: 100 Apollo-style lunar manned missions, or 1,000 lunar probes?
You wouldn't decide on that basis. Again, that's comparing prior small and simple unmanned probes to Apollo.

On an equal dollar basis, the comparison is between (a) Apollo or Constellation equivalent, and (b) the same dollars spent on optimally sized unmanned probes. You wouldn't necessarily use 1,000. The number and size would be a technical decision based on the science goals. It could easily be 10 large unmanned landers, each the mass of the Apollo Lunar Module, but capable of returning far more data and/or samples.


to match the Apollo accomplishments, you'd have to have the capability to return 100's of pounds of catalogued and photographed in context rocks. To do that is going to take more than a little Estes rocket. In other words, you'll have to send an unmanned landing craft more or less the same size and complexity as the original Eagle lunar lander. So if you're going to go to that much trouble, then why not send people as well?
Again, this illustrates my point. Most of the LM payload capacity is devoted to human passengers and life support. On average, each LM returned 142 pounds of lunar samples. By contrast the non-science LM payload needed for human support was around 1,000 lbs: astronauts, space suits, food, water, air, electrical power, extra weight for man-rated redundant systems, etc. So the sample return was on average about 1/7th the size possible from a similar unmanned mission -- because of human overhead.

For a non-sample-return mission, the advantage of unmanned probes is even greater. All the payload capacity needed to get humans back can be instead spent on science payload, since the vehicle can just stay there. E.g, most of the mass (and cost) of the Apollo CM, SM, and LM ascent stage could be spent on an unmanned lander.

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-07, 02:20 AM
Actually the deepest oceans were explored by humans first in 1960.
That's ignoring the Beebe-Barton Bathysphere in 1935 and all of the test dives made by Piccard bathyscapes.
For gosh sakes, humans did not "begin" exploring the deep ocean by waking up one morning and diving down to the bottom of the Marianas Trench! It took baby steps.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 03:34 AM
That actually supports my point. Ultra-deep-diving manned submersibles capable of reaching the deepest ocean (such as the Trieste) no longer exist. Today, unmanned ROVs are used.They still require mother ships with human crews to deploy them.


You wouldn't decide on that basis. Again, that's comparing prior small and simple unmanned probes to Apollo.

On an equal dollar basis, the comparison is between (a) Apollo or Constellation equivalent, and (b) the same dollars spent on optimally sized unmanned probes. You wouldn't necessarily use 1,000. The number and size would be a technical decision based on the science goals. It could easily be 10 large unmanned landers, each the mass of the Apollo Lunar Module, but capable of returning far more data and/or samples..
Once you get start creating machines much larger than Apollo lunar modules the marginal cost in terms of mass for humans and their support systems becomes smaller and smaller. 12 guys can sail a 100,000 ton container ship. Say their life support system takes 10 tons: then the human component only takes up 0.01% of the total weight. Of course that's an extreme example, but its there to illustrate the point that once you decide to go big, having a few humans tag along isn't a big deal.



Again, this illustrates my point. Most of the LM payload capacity is devoted to human passengers and life support. On average, each LM returned 142 pounds of lunar samples. By contrast the non-science LM payload needed for human support was around 1,000 lbs: astronauts, space suits, food, water, air, electrical power, extra weight for man-rated redundant systems, etc. So the sample return was on average about 1/7th the size possible from a similar unmanned mission -- because of human overhead.The total ascent module only weighed about 10,000 pounds. So if your 1,000 pound figure is correct, humans and their support system took up 10% of the total weight. The Apollo 17 hauled back nearly twice as much as your average figure, and could have hauled back more, I would guess. So, even with Apollo technology, the rock/humans-and-support-system ratio should be more like 1/3 to 1/2. A redesigned ascent module could haul even more.

BTW, the biggest sample returned from the Moon by an unmanned probe is 170 grams--about the same amount of mass as small cup of coffee.


For a non-sample-return mission, the advantage of unmanned probes is even greater. All the payload capacity needed to get humans back can be instead spent on science payload, since the vehicle can just stay there. E.g, most of the mass (and cost) of the Apollo CM, SM, and LM ascent stage could be spent on an unmanned lander.That's been Jon Clarke's point all along: that an expert field geologist is a scientific payload in itself. A geologist is a walking, talking scientific instrument in itself that has sensing, mechanical, and autonomy capabilities that cannot be matched by anything less than a Bladerunner-style robot. It just cannot. That's just a fact. Sorry. So if you choose to sacrifice humans, you choose to sacrifice a scientific capability that simply, absolutely cannot be replaced at any price. So, given a $100 billion budget, to exclude humans from the package is to say that one is not really committed to planetary science anyway, and the "real" reason for for space exploration is to spur robotics development.

Also, your cost figures don't take into account the development costs required to develop all these robots that are nothing more than a gleam in the eye at this point; that is, all you're offering is a promissary note that may or may not pay off in thirty years.

The manned technology, on the other hand, has been around for decades now, and it still works. We could run three 10-year manned programs in the time it will take for you to (hopefully, maybe) get ready for your first one.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 03:46 AM
That's ignoring the Beebe-Barton Bathysphere in 1935 and all of the test dives made by Piccard bathyscapes.
For gosh sakes, humans did not "begin" exploring the deep ocean by waking up one morning and diving down to the bottom of the Marianas Trench! It took baby steps.
Good point--we've already covered the baby steps part with manned space exploration--now it's time to take it to the next level.

Meanwhile a decent, unmanned sample return probe has yet to be invented. Even the most ardent unmanned advocates on this board say its going to take at least 30 more years of baby steps before unmanned capabilities equal present manned capabilities.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-07, 04:40 AM
They still require mother ships with human crews to deploy them.
Try to keep it in context. The point being made was the relative durability of the robots, not the amount of people required to run them. In any case, people don’t go down in deep submersibles alone. I’d say there are more people involved in supporting people in a deep submersible, than robotic deep submersibles.


Once you get start creating machines much larger than Apollo lunar modules the marginal cost in terms of mass for humans and their support systems becomes smaller and smaller. That depends upon the purpose of the craft. If the purpose is to carry a lot more humans, that does not hold true.


12 guys can sail a 100,000 ton container ship. Say their life support system takes 10 tons: then the human component only takes up 0.01% of the total weight. Of course that's an extreme example, but its there to illustrate the point that once you decide to go big, having a few humans tag along isn't a big deal.No, that is not an extreme example, it is an irrelevant example. There is no valid comparison between a container ship and any spacecraft ever built or expected to be built. That amounts to another Strawman.


So, even with Apollo technology, the rock/humans-and-support-system ratio should be more like 1/3 to 1/2. Not even close.


BTW, the biggest sample returned from the Moon by an unmanned probe is 170 grams--about the same amount of mass as small cup of coffee.What was used then has no real bearing on what we could do now. Again, try to keep it all in context. Try to keep comparisons within the same decade, heck, within the same millennium.


That's been Jon Clarke's point all along: that an expert field geologist is a scientific payload in itself. A geologist is a walking, talking scientific instrument in itself that has sensing, mechanical, and autonomy capabilities that cannot be matched by anything less than a Bladerunner-style robot. It just cannot. And no one I know of has ever claimed that. Most of us are merely advocating the proper mission for the job. Roving over hundreds or thousands of kilometers to take samples would be a waste of human talent and the expense required to take them there and bring them back. Let the robots do the mundane routine work of widespread initial exploration. Let the scientist spend their time examining in detail the interesting sites found by the robots.


So, given a $100 billion budget, to exclude humans from the package is to say that one is not really committed to planetary science anyway, and the "real" reason for for space exploration is to spur robotics development.Again, I don’t know anyone who advocates that, though there may be a few. It’s the right mission for the right job.


Also, your cost figures don't take into account the development costs required to develop all these robots that are nothing more than a gleam in the eye at this point; that is, all you're offering is a promissary note that may or may not pay off in thirty years. I disagree. Current robotic technology is quite sophisticated, it just hasn’t been applied to the space program the way it has been applied to industry.


The manned technology, on the other hand, has been around for decades now, and it still works.So has robotic technology.


We could run three 10-year manned programs in the time it will take for you to (hopefully, maybe) get ready for your first one.Not so. We already have robotic missions.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-07, 05:31 AM
Meanwhile a decent, unmanned sample return probe has yet to be invented.The term is not “invented”, it is merely “developed”. That means putting current technology together in that particular configuration. Big difference.


Even the most ardent unmanned advocates on this board say its going to take at least 30 more years of baby steps before unmanned capabilities equal present manned capabilities. I haven’t seen that anywhere, and no one I know of suggests that. Robotic missions have their advantages, and manned missions have theirs. One more time, it is the right mission for the job. It really is as simple as that.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 06:10 AM
Try to keep it in context. The point being made was the relative durability of the robots, not the amount of people required to run them. In any case, people don’t go down in deep submersibles alone. I’d say there are more people involved in supporting people in a deep submersible, than robotic deep submersibles.
When you have an autonomous unmanned craft that can be launched from a dock in Wood's Hole, sail to any point in any ocean without refueling, and then dive to any depth and return with all the data that any oceanographer could ever want from an area, then you will have a true, robotic submersible worthy of the name. If a human drilling crew takes a core sample from 4 miles down in the ground, we don't call that "unmanned" exploration, even though there's not a human inside the drill bit. An ROV is just a fancy drill bit operated by a human crew. It's manned exploration.


No, that is not an extreme example, it is an irrelevant example. There is no valid comparison between a container ship and any spacecraft ever built or expected to be built. The point is that the bigger you go, then the cost for human support systems becomes more marginal.


Not even close.I'm going off joema's figure of 1,000 pounds for the human support services built into the Apollo lunar lander. Apollo 17 brought back 240 pounds of material. If the other two missions that were originally planned had actually been carried out, it's not unreasonable to believe they could have jacked up the amount to 333 pounds. 1000 / 333 = 3:1.


What was used then has no real bearing on what we could do now. Again, try to keep it all in context. Try to keep comparisons within the same decade, heck, within the same millennium.I would, except for the fact that performance in this millennium has been even more dismal. Remember the return craft that crashed in Utah?


And no one I know of has ever claimed that. Most of us are merely advocating the proper mission for the job. Roving over hundreds or thousands of kilometers to take samples would be a waste of human talent and the expense required to take them there and bring them back. Let the robots do the mundane routine work of widespread initial exploration. Let the scientist spend their time examining in detail the interesting sites found by the robots.Do you know any academic field geologists with an interest in planetary science? I have a degree in geology myself. Just about every geology class I took involved field trips to look at rocks and fossils in context. I took two classes that were nothing but field trips. There's a reason for this--and it ain't because the museums in Chicago aren't packed chock full of rocks, minerals, and fossils. Also, here's a quote from Jon Clarke's post just a few posts back:

There is no substitute for the ultimate mobile sensor: a human... if the Apollo experience taught us anything it is that the human ability to recognize interesting features quickly and then independently act to follow up on that information can lead to important discoveries... Ross Taylor et al., Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 60, 657-704, Mineralogical Society of America, 2006.[Note the millenium.]
Like I said before, there's no way one of those Martian rovers would have found the Genesis Rock that Jim Irwin noticed. (The Genesis Rock that we use to date the entire solar system.) In fact, I have never met a single geologist who has said a robot could do his or her job as good or better. Imagine a robot looking for fossils on Mars! It can't be done except by a Bladerunner-style robot. If the job is to find out for sure whether there is/was life on Mars, it's going to take humans to figure it out. The robots sent since the 1970's up till now have so far delivered only negative results. Is that a reflection of the reality on Mars, or is it because the toys we've sent so far lack human competance?

I agree that we need to send the right mission for the job at hand. And I agree that robotic missions have their advantages, and manned missions have theirs. So maybe the reason we disagree on the mission is because we disagree on the job. If the job is merely to plant the flag and take pretty pictures of craters for people to post on their desktop computer screens, then robots are the way to go. But if the goal is a definitive understanding of the planet, only humans can get the job done. Robots can only deliver tantalization; humans can deliver real results.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 06:36 AM
The term is not “invented”, it is merely “developed”. That means putting current technology together in that particular configuration. Big difference.

Really? So if someone gave you enough $$$, could you put together a team that could "develop" an autonomous vehicle using current technology that can leave Sheridan for the badlands of South Dakota and then return with a half-ton of catalogued dinosaur fossils? Because that's what it's going to take to deliver the goods on Mars. Anything less is unacceptable! If robots can't do that, then robots are the wrong mission for the right job. If humans can do that, then humans are the right mission for that job.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-07, 06:52 AM
When you have an autonomous unmanned craft that can be launched from a dock in Wood's Hole, sail to any point in any ocean without refueling, and then dive to any depth and return with all the data that any oceanographer could ever want from an area, then you will have a true, robotic submersible worthy of the name. You are confusing “robotic” with “autonomous”. No one else here is. “Robotic” is a pretty clear concept, whether autonomous or remotely controlled. You really need to keep the two concept separate for the purposes of this discussion.


If a human drilling crew takes a core sample from 4 miles down in the ground, we don't call that "unmanned" exploration, even though there's not a human inside the drill bit. That is because there is no “man” down there.


An ROV is just a fancy drill bit operated by a human crew. It's manned exploration. Nonsense. “Manned” insinuates, (and I believe EVERYONE else here takes it that way) that there is a “man” (or woman) there at the site of exploration.


The point is that the bigger you go, then the cost for human support systems becomes more marginal.Perhaps. But that only applies if you are going a LOT bigger than is practical. That is why your example was both non-representative and irrelevant. It didn’t even come close to practical applications for robotics on space missions. Even my Goliath or Big Al rovers were only SUV sized.


I'm going off joema's figure of 1,000 pounds for the human support services built into the Apollo lunar lander. Again, apples and oranges. You are ignoring the considerations that went into the purpose and design. Again, context is the key to comparisons.


I would, except for the fact that performance in this millennium has been even more dismal. Remember the return craft that crashed in Utah? Irrelevant. Individual failures are to be expected. Overall, the technology is advancing at phenomenal rates.


Do you know any academic field geologists with an interest in planetary science? I have a degree in geology myself. Just about every geology class I took involved field trips to look at rocks and fossils in context. I took two classes that were nothing but field trips. There's a reason for this--and it ain't because the museums in Chicago aren't packed chock full of rocks, minerals, and fossils. I happen to live in an area that is abundant with both fossils and other sites interesting to geologists. Every year, several van loads of student from a university in Illinois came to a formation just a few hundred yards from my house to study the strata. At 11 years old, my younger brother gave a lecture at the University of Wyoming on a new and unique fossil he had found. I fully understand the concept. The point was, that searching for a colony site would not require the detailed and intelligent exploration of a human crew. THAT can be done by never resting 24/7 robotic explorers. When the site has been located, and the colony established, THEN the humans can go about their business of detailed exploration.


Like I said before, there's no way one of those Martian rovers would have found the Genesis Rock that Jim Irwin noticed. (The Genesis Rock that we use to date the entire solar system.) How could you possibly know that?


In fact, I have never met a single geologist who has said a robot could do his or her job as good or better. Again, you are totally missing the point. Once more, THE RIGHT MISSION FOR THE JOB.


Imagine a robot looking for fossils on Mars! It can't be done except by a Bladerunner-style robot. That is a very large, unsubstantiated, and unsupportable assumption.


If the job is to find out for sure whether there is/was life on Mars, it's going to take humans to figure it out. Perhaps. But before that, we have to find out enough about Mars to enable humans to spend enough uninterrupted time there to do that. That means establishing a colony.


The robots sent since the 1970's up till now have so far delivered only negative results. Is that a reflection of the reality on Mars, or is it because the toys we've sent so far lack human competance? You said the magic word “Toys”. IMO, so far, the robots that have been sent to Mars are mere toys compared to what is really needed. But then, my concept of a PROPER Mars mission has been attacked by many people.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-07, 07:03 AM
Really? So if someone gave you enough $$$, could you put together a team that could "develop" an autonomous vehicle using current technology that can leave Sheridan for the badlands of South Dakota and then return with a half-ton of catalogued dinosaur fossils? Catalogued? Given enough money, and it wouldn’t take that much, getting the fossils would not be that big of a challenge. The cataloguing could be done after the fact as is virtually ALL of the information returned from Mars. Really, that even includes all of the manned missions. The data is ALWAYS analyzed, regardless of whether it was obtained by men or robots.


Because that's what it's going to take to deliver the goods on Mars. Anything less is unacceptable! Good grief!! Do I have to do this again? It all depends upon the purpose of the mission. No one, I repeat NO ONE that I know of has ever said, indicated, alluded to, or suggested in any way whatsoever that robots can do exactly what men can do. And once again, very few people, except for the Hoglandites, is expecting fossils to be found on Mars. Please, try, try, try, to keep this in context. Please.


If robots can't do that, then robots are the wrong mission for the right job. Job one, find the best place to establish a viable colony on Mars. Job two, send men to Mars to establish a viable colony. Job three, perform all the tasks required to ensure the safety and viability of the colony. Job four, explore the area in detail, and look for any signs of life, past or present. It is a matter of priorities.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 03:36 PM
You are confusing “robotic” with “autonomous”. No one else here is. “Robotic” is a pretty clear concept, whether autonomous or remotely controlled. You really need to keep the two concept separate for the purposes of this discussion.

No, I'm the one keeping the distinction straight. Robotic exploration of Mars will require autonomous robots. The present rovers aren't properly described as autonomous. It takes one day of fooling around to get the rovers to simply move 10 feet. That's not a sustainable model for detailed exploration.


That is because there is no “man” down there.

Nonsense. “Manned” insinuates, (and I believe EVERYONE else here takes it that way) that there is a “man” (or woman) there at the site of exploration.
Nobody describes drilling a wildcat oil well as "unmanned oil exploration", even though the drill pipe might extend 20,000 feet underground. Yet when we send an unmanned ROV down 20,000 feet underwater we gleefully proclaim the triumph of unmanned exploration over the puny, "fragile" humans, when in reality, such "unmanned" exploration is about as unmanned as the steam drill that replaced John Henry, or a bucket that Captain Cook might have used to sample the ocean bottom.


Perhaps. But that only applies if you are going a LOT bigger than is practical. That is why your example was both non-representative and irrelevant. It didn’t even come close to practical applications for robotics on space missions. Even my Goliath or Big Al rovers were only SUV sized.
If you're going to have an SUV sized robot, then why not add a compartment for a couple of humans? Think of the human as just another scientific instrument. And then when your SUV gets stuck, the human can get out and dig it out. And when its solar panels get dusty or fail to deploy properly, the human can get out and wipe off the panels and fix things. And your insanely expensive SUV robot is loaded with moving parts; it would seem a shame that such an expensive machine did not last ten times longer than it did simply because nobody was around to change its oil!

I happen to live in an area that is abundant with both fossils and other sites interesting to geologists. Every year, several van loads of student from a university in Illinois came to a formation just a few hundred yards from my house to study the strata. At 11 years old, my younger brother gave a lecture at the University of Wyoming on a new and unique fossil he had found. I fully understand the concept. The point was, that searching for a colony site would not require the detailed and intelligent exploration of a human crew. THAT can be done by never resting 24/7 robotic explorers. When the site has been located, and the colony established, THEN the humans can go about their business of detailed exploration.We're getting back to the question of just what the right mission is that could justify spending $100 billion of public funds. To my mind, the only thing that could justify such an expense would be a definitive study of Martian geology that would settle the question of whether there is or was life on Mars once and for all. And that can only be done by humans for the forseeable future; moreover, such an expedition would not require the construction of a permanent colony. A shipping container and a year's supply of freeze dried food is all that's required.

If some superbillionaire wants set up hotel on Mars, then he or she should feel free to do so, but that shouldn't be subsidized from the public till. And what is a mere colony set up for its own sake but a Mars hotel for glorified high school students with Ph.D.'s to sit around in?

But if mere colonization--and not science--were the ultimate goal of a $100 billion program, it still does not make sense to wait 30 years for robotic technology to get better, and then spend the $100 million looking for a colony site, so you can spend another $100 million on the colony itself 50 years in the future. If you want a colony, just get on with it, and spend the $100 million on the colony itself, rather than spending it on agonizing and mulling over what the very best perfect colonization site is. To pick a colony site, all you need is a spy satellite with a 1 foot resolution to pick out two or three potential sites and then maybe send one Opportunity-style rover to each prospective site in order to decide. (Or just skip this step, pick one site from the satellite images, and just get on with it.)


How could you possibly know that [Opportunity wouldn't have found the Genesis Rock?]
Because Jim Irwin almost missed it himself. There was something about it that caught his eye. Irwin himself wasn't sure if maybe God had put him on that rock. (Certainly, mere robots don't have a direct line to God! :D) Moreover, the Genesis rock was perched on top of a boulder IIRC. The low perspective of the Mars rovers would not have been able to see it, and even if it did, and even if some human on Earth also saw it, there would be nothing the rover could do about it since it couldn't reach it, and it certainly couldn't return it to Earth for radioisotopic analysis.


That [robots don't make good fossil hunters] is a very large, unsubstantiated, and unsupportable assumption.
Frankly, I'm still of the belief that an 11 year-old kid makes a better fossil hunter than our best robots. But go ahead and show me how I'm wrong, and then draft an article for New Scientist because I'm sure the rest of the world would like to hear about such mind-blowing news.


Again, you are totally missing the point. Once more, THE RIGHT MISSION FOR THE JOB.
What exactly is your idea of the right mission? It's got to be something worth $100 billion taxpayer dollars.


You said the magic word “Toys”. IMO, so far, the robots that have been sent to Mars are mere toys compared to what is really needed.

And since what is really needed is a robot that can replicate ALL human capabilities, we will be stuck with toys for the forseeable future, unless we send humans in the meantime.


Catalogued? Given enough money, and it wouldn’t take that much, getting the fossils would not be that big of a challenge.
Ever been on a dinosaur dig? Do you really think a robot can be built that can identify dinosaur bone strata, then climb on top of the formation, quarry down to reach the bones, carefully dig them out and then do the whole plaster thing, and load the whole thing without breaking it, and then bring everything back by itself?


The cataloguing could be done after the fact as is virtually ALL of the information returned from Mars. Really, that even includes all of the manned missions. The data is ALWAYS analyzed, regardless of whether it was obtained by men or robots.
My point is that there is more to collecting rocks than going around with a bag and filling it up.


And once again, very few people, except for the Hoglandites, is expecting fossils to be found on Mars. Please, try, try, try, to keep this in context. Please.
It is very much an open question whether there were at one time liquid water oceans that harbored life on Mars. If there was life, then we would expect to find something like the fossil-containing, Precambrian, stromatolite and banded-iron formations we find here on Earth. The rovers on Mars have found sedimentary rocks, but they're not equipped with the tools to analyse such rocks for signs of fossil life.


Job one, find the best place to establish a viable colony on Mars.
We don't need to find the "best" place, and in any case, there's no defining what "best" means. All we need to find is a fairly decent place. This can be done with satellites from space. It's going to be hell, no matter where you go. Get used to it.


Job two, send men to Mars to establish a viable colony.
The Job three, perform all the tasks required to ensure the safety and viability of the colony. Job four, explore the area in detail, and look for any signs of life, past or present. It is a matter of priorities. These three jobs can be performed simultaneously.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-07, 07:36 PM
No, I'm the one keeping the distinction straight. Robotic exploration of Mars will require autonomous robots. In your opinion, and an unsupported opinion at that. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous, or remote controlled. As was pointed out to me in another thread, and I agree, semi-autonomous would be appropriate for Mars.


The present rovers aren't properly described as autonomous. It takes one day of fooling around to get the rovers to simply move 10 feet. That's not a sustainable model for detailed exploration.Another Strawman. No one I know or have heard of is suggesting using “present rovers” for that job.


Nobody describes drilling a wildcat oil well as "unmanned oil exploration", even though the drill pipe might extend 20,000 feet underground …..yadda….yadda….yadda….. Yet another Strawman. They say neither manned nor unmanned in that instance because there are currently no unmanned (robotic) drilling rigs (according to Jon Clarke). All rigs are manned. Undersea robotic rovers can be controlled, but not manned.


If you're going to have an SUV sized robot, then why not add a compartment for a couple of humans? Because you don’t just need a compartment, you need life support. On long missions that type of rover would be used for, you would need hundreds of pounds of food, hundreds of gallons of water (or a recycling plant) and probably several thousand pounds of full oxygen bottles.


And then when your SUV gets stuck, the human can get out and dig it out. Perhaps you haven’t seen some of the new designs. Getting “stuck” would not be an issue.


And when its solar panels get dusty or fail to deploy properly, the human can get out and wipe off the panels and fix things. Wipers such as used on every automobile would solve that problem. Nuclear power wouldn’t require solar panels.


We're getting back to the question of just what the right mission is that could justify spending $100 billion of public funds. To my mind, the only thing that could justify such an expense would be a definitive study of Martian geology that would settle the question of whether there is or was life on Mars once and for all. Ok, that is your opinion. That does not appear to be the general consensus. For most people, that would be a side issue, and certainly not worth $100 billion to investigate. Mars is big, and evidence of life could be there somewhere, and a dozen such expeditions could still miss it.


A shipping container and a year's supply of freeze dried food is all that's required.And they starve for the rest of the 6 months to a year?


And what is a mere colony set up for its own sake but a Mars hotel for glorified high school students with Ph.D.'s to sit around in? Most people understand that a self-sustaining (eventually) viable colony on Mars could prevent the annihilation of mankind in case of an Earth killing asteroid strike. But more than that, moving off the Earth and into space is inevitable. It isn’t about tourism, it is about exploration, expansion, and security.


But if mere colonization--and not science--were the ultimate goal of a $100 billion program, it still does not make sense to wait 30 years for robotic technology to get better, and then spend the $100 million looking for a colony site, so you can spend another $100 million on the colony itself 50 years in the future. We don’t have to wait 30 years. Robotic explorers of the type required could be built today.


Because Jim Irwin almost missed it himself. Another Logical Fallacy.


Moreover, the Genesis rock was perched on top of a boulder IIRC. The low perspective of the Mars rovers would not have been able to see it…………..Again, we weren’t talking about the current toy Martian rovers. The Martian rover I was referring to would be capable of seeing, retrieving, and analyzing that rock.


And since what is really needed is a robot that can replicate ALL human capabilities, we will be stuck with toys for the forseeable future, unless we send humans in the meantime.False, and another Strawman.

publiusr
2007-Dec-07, 08:44 PM
I disagree. That is not another 'straw-man'

We can't even replace a podunk cop with bomb disposal robots.

Trust me--try to have Spirit replace dino digger Bob Bakker--and see what it comes up with.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 09:19 PM
Because you don’t just need a compartment, you need life support. On long missions that type of rover would be used for, you would need hundreds of pounds of food,
So? If you just made your robot the size of one of those Arc II Winebago units, you could buy yourself a human-staffed laboratory that could do just about anything a biochemical or geological lab could do on Earth.


hundreds of gallons of water (or a recycling plant)
No big deal.


and probably several thousand pounds of full oxygen bottles.
Probably not because oxygen could be extracted from the atmosphere or silicate rocks or just recycled.


Perhaps you haven’t seen some of the new designs. Getting “stuck” would not be an issue.
HA! I've heard that one before!


Wipers such as used on every automobile would solve that problem. Nuclear power wouldn’t require solar panels.What if the wipers break or wear out? And if you're going to go so big that you need nuclear, then you'll have plenty of room and power for all the humans you'll need to maintain your machines.


Ok, that is your opinion. That does not appear to be the general consensus. For most people, that would be a side issue, and certainly not worth $100 billion to investigate. Mars is big, and evidence of life could be there somewhere, and a dozen such expeditions could still miss it.Some would argue that indigenous life forms would ethically imply that humans should not colonize Mars. And while I agree that negative results from a $100 million manned expedition to find life would not be conclusive proof that Mars is completely sterile, such a mission would at least establish that Martian life is not obvious anywhere and that colonization could go forward with a clear conscience--at least with respect to Martian life.


Most people understand that a self-sustaining (eventually) viable colony on Mars could prevent the annihilation of mankind in case of an Earth killing asteroid strike. But more than that, moving off the Earth and into space is inevitable. It isn’t about tourism, it is about exploration, expansion, and security.
The government's already got that taken care of with it's underground shelters designed to save the government elite at least.


Robotic explorers of the type required could be built today.

Another Empirical Fallacy.


Again, we weren’t talking about the current toy Martian rovers. The Martian rover I was referring to would be capable of seeing, retrieving, and analyzing that rock.Only if a human staffed lab piggybacked on top.
I mean if your robots are that good on Mars, then there's no need for humans on Earth either! Maybe that day will come, but only when Blade-runner-style human replicants are available.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-07, 09:37 PM
I disagree. That is not another 'straw-man'Which one, he had several.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-07, 10:03 PM
So? If you just made your robot the size of one of those Arc II Winebago units, If you had humans along, you’d need something the size of a Winebago.


No big deal.200 gallons of water would weight 1600 (Earth) pounds. The big deal is that if you add humans, you don’t just add a compartment. You have to include ALL the other things they would need.


Probably not because oxygen could be extracted from the atmosphere or silicate rocks or just recycled. This would be a rover, not a station. Extracting Oxygen from the atmosphere would require more equipment and a lot of power. You don’t just “add a compartment”.


HA! I've heard that one before! I guess you have not seen the new designs.


What if the wipers break or wear out? What if the crewmen get sick?


And if you're going to go so big that you need nuclear, then you'll have plenty of room and power for all the humans you'll need to maintain your machines. Nuclear does not mean big, just efficient.


Some would argue that indigenous life forms would ethically imply that humans should not colonize Mars. That would only apply if there was a current intelligent civilization, which there clearly is not. That makes your point moot. Even then, it might not stop us. It never has before.


The government's already got that taken care of with it's underground shelters designed to save the government elite at least. With food for a few weeks, months at most. The Earth may not be habitable again for years or decades.


Only if a human staffed lab piggybacked on top. Not necessarily.


I mean if your robots are that good on Mars, then there's no need for humans on Earth either! Maybe that day will come, but only when Blade-runner-style human replicants are available. Boy, you really like your Strawmen.

Since you seem to have a penchant for replying with extreme exaggerations, irrelevant examples, and outright Strawmen, I think I will suspend discussion of this subject with you for now.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 10:34 PM
It isn’t about tourism, it is about exploration, expansion, and security.
If American imperialism in space is your goal (a goal I heartily agree with BTW), then sending American boots on the ground is absolutely mandatory.

joema
2007-Dec-07, 10:44 PM
When you have an autonomous unmanned craft that can be launched from a dock in Wood's Hole, sail to any point in any ocean without refueling, and then dive to any depth and return with all the data that any oceanographer could ever want from an area, then you will have a true, robotic submersible worthy of the name.
You don't need such autonomy. ROVs gather data from hostile environments by remote operation. In essence they extend human eyes, ears and hands.

Likewise a future robotic Mars probe would extend human senses to Mars. It's not necessary it have HAL-9000 intelligence. At closest approach the Earth/Mars communication time lag is only 3 minutes. A significant degree of near-immediate oversight from earth would be possible. As the distance increases, more autonomous procedures would be used. But humans would still be closely overseeing and controlling the exploration.


...when its solar panels get dusty or fail to deploy properly, the human can get out and wipe off the panels
As you can see from this image, future more sophisticated rovers won't use solar power, so the whole issue of cleaning panels becomes moot: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA08488.jpg



...the bigger you go, then the cost for human support systems becomes more marginal.
We're talking plausible real world scenarios. There wouldn't be ore freighters in space with million ton payloads. Due to the extreme distance and transit times, human payload overhead would be much worse for Mars than the moon. Every pound would count. Payload cost for human life support for a multi-year manned Mars mission would be huge. In an equal comparison, you'd expend that same total payload on unmanned missions.

With unmanned missions, you also have the option of a one-way architecture, which obviously isn't possible for manned missions. Namely you'd evaluate the tradeoffs between sample return vs using that payload to instead place on Mars greater robotic laboratory analysis. It would at least be an option.



...Like I said before, there's no way one of those Martian rovers would have found the Genesis Rock that Jim Irwin noticed....Imagine a robot looking for fossils on Mars! It can't be done except by a Bladerunner-style robot.
The possibility of a Martian Genesis Rock is a viable question. Remember we're talking about future manned vs unmanned Mars exploration OVER THE SAME TIME PERIOD, and USING SIMILAR EXPENDITURES.

Reasonable projections for a manned mission are in the 2030s, cost estimates vary from $70 to $400 billion. Robotic and computer technology from 2035 would easily be able to find a Martian Genesis Rock under similar conditions to that on the moon. Why? Because the robots aren't doing 100% of the work -- it's being overseen from earth.

With the investment expended on a manned mission, a robotic probe of 2035 could easily stream back stereoscopic, ultra-high-definition video. Using virtual reality equipment on earth, it would be as if you're standing on Mars. The difference is that would be possible for every scientist on earth, not 1 or 2 on Mars.

You obviously wouldn't have real time control, but at closest approach it would be just a few minutes. At longer distances, control procedures would adapt and adjust to the time delay.

Also robotic probes can work 24x7, never get tired, never need food, water, etc. It's easily possible the more extensive exploration this facilitates could enable Genesis-Rock-like-finds that human explorers on Mars could miss due to needing sleep, life support backpack exhausted, etc.


...if the goal is a definitive understanding of the planet, only humans can get the job done...
For either a robotic or manned mission, the bulk of analysis and understanding will come from humans on earth. The question is what quantity and quality of data do you provide earth's scientists to achieve that understanding. Sending humans to Mars inevitably reduces this, as a large payload fraction is spent on human life support, not science payload.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-07, 11:27 PM
Since you seem to have a penchant for replying with extreme exaggerations, irrelevant examples, and outright Strawmen, I think I will suspend discussion of this subject with you for now.
Thanks for generously giving me the last word. (Although I'm bummed we'll never get to hear your theory about why the top of Olympus Mons is the best spot for a human colony.)


If you had humans along, you’d need something the size of a Winebago.
Which is pretty small when you have a $100 billion budget.


200 gallons of water would weight 1600 (Earth) pounds.
Nonsense. 200 gallons of water would weigh 601.6 Martian pounds.


The big deal is that if you add humans, you don’t just add a compartment.
Exactly! You add a suite of capabilities that robots utterly lack. As publiusr aptly noted, a robot that could reliably defuse bombs better than a human can would be very nice. But heck, I'd settle for one that could clean my house!


This would be a rover, not a station.
Gee, since your such the logical fallacy expert, I'm surprised you missed that one! It's called the fallacy of the excluded middle. Just because rovers exist and stations exist, it does not logically follow that roving stations do not exist. After all, the typical RV that clogs our summer highways is a roving station.


Extracting Oxygen from the atmosphere would require more equipment and a lot of power.
You said nuclear was a viable option.


I guess you have not seen the new designs.
That's what they said to people who wondered why there wasn't enough life boats on the Titannic for everybody.


What if the crewmen get sick?
Since your robots can do everything you say they can, then surgery should be no problem.


[Environmental ethics] would only apply if there was a current intelligent civilization, which there clearly is not.
You're fond of the wishes of the consensus. Thus I shall inform you that the consensus view is that endangered species have a right to continued existence. This principle has been legally enshrined in the U.S. Endangered Species Act and other laws. Presumably, any U.S. sponsored Mars colonies would be required to comply with the Act.


That makes your point moot. Even then, it might not stop us. It never has before.
If my point truly was moot, then you would have a point here, because moot points rarely stop anything.


The Earth may not be habitable again for years or decades.
If it's possible to build self-contained habitats on Mars capable of surviving the permanent nuclear winter there, then just think about how much easier it will be to build them right here on Earth!


Boy, you really like your Strawmen.
You're projecting again.

Bottom line: You have nothing to offer but pie-in-the-sky frosted FUDcake. If robotic technology had a fraction of the capability you say it now has, we'd see robots everywhere, and not just cooped up inside factories tended over by swarms of humans.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-08, 12:23 AM
For either a robotic or manned mission, the bulk of analysis and understanding will come from humans on earth. The question is what quantity and quality of data do you provide earth's scientists to achieve that understanding. Sending humans to Mars inevitably reduces this, as a large payload fraction is spent on human life support, not science payload.
What do you mean by "this"? Quantity or quality? The quantity part is debatable. (As you know, the Apollo program brought back 1,000 times the amount of lunar material that the Russian unmanned missions did. Furthermore, a human can do in five minutes what it takes a Mars rover a week to do. So you have no practical, historical basis for your contention that robots can deliver more quantity than humans. Yeah I know that the wonderbots of the future will be everso much better than the ones constructed so far. So be sure to let us know when one is built. My advice in the meantime: don't try holding your breath until it happens.)

But the quality part just is not debatable. Humans are simply better at doing field science than are robots. That's just a fact. A fact that will not change in 30 years. I see by your profile that you are some kind of consultant. Judging by your overestimation of the capabilities of robots and your underestimation of the capabilities of human field scientists, I would hazard the guess that your consulting practice does not require you to go outside much.

All you offer are a priori, probably wrong speculations on how mass requirements get translated into real scientific theory, an economics of scarcity, and theoretical possibilities of wonderbots in the future that are nothing but artistic renderings at this point. All for making the buzzkilling argument that the best thing for us humans to do is to sit around here on Earth and wait and see what Japanese robotics engineers will come up with next.

Sports psychologists tell us that constantly mulling and brooding and (above all else) delaying over our fear, uncertaintly and doubt is unhealthy. Better to just DO IT! There comes a time when the thinking and worrying must come to and end and action must begin. We've waited around long enough.

:hand:

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-08, 12:44 AM
http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=72177

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-08, 12:51 AM
http://world.honda.com/HDTV/ASIMO/200412-run/index.html

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-08, 05:06 AM
Proto-Bladerunner robot playing violin (http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=72177)

a slooooooowww link to Asimo (http://world.honda.com/HDTV/ASIMO/200412-run/index.html)

Thanks for the links. You made my own point better than I could have: that Bladerunner-style humanoid robots are the only hope of the robotic approach.

I wonder why? Could it be that natural selection settled on the same design millions of years ago?

Noclevername
2007-Dec-08, 05:10 AM
Thanks for the links. You made my own point better than I could have: that Bladerunner-style humanoid robots are the only hope of the robotic approach.

I wonder why? Could it be that natural selection settled on the same design millions of years ago?

A human-shaped robot and a human are two very different things. And there are plenty of nonhumanoid designs that would work as well or better. More arms, 360 degree sensors, more stable balance, etc. (I'm not arguing against manned exploration, far from it. But I want it to be discussed with the right information.)

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-08, 01:25 PM
A human-shaped robot and a human are two very different things.Yeah, robots make lousy musicians. But I like the way they dance. :clap::dance::clap:


And there are plenty of nonhumanoid designs that would work as well or better.
Like R2D2!


More arms, 360 degree sensors, more stable balance, etc.
What's the use of six arms when you only use 2 of them 99% of the time? And humans do have 360o sensors: they're called ears and noses and nerve cells. As for why humans don't have eyes growing out the back of their head: Would you consider a potential mate with an eye growing out the back of her head a sign of increased fitness? There's a reason humans have only two eyes--the same reason most robots use two cameras.


(I'm not arguing against manned exploration, far from it. But I want it to be discussed with the right information.)The type of robots being discussed so far for the purposes of exploring Mars are SUV sized wheeled contraptions: Opportunity on steroids basically. I said these don't make the best explorers; however, I did concede that true Blade-runner (humanoid body plan) robots might someday equal the capacities of human field geologists. They've got a long way to go though. But human explorers could still bring Asimo--he could be the camp cook! You know, take care of all the menial chores associated with survival while the ladies and gentlemen focused on the science.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-08, 01:53 PM
What's the use of six arms when you only use 2 of them 99% of the time?
For that other 1% of the time, when you need them and don't have them.


And humans do have 360o sensors: they're called ears and noses and nerve cells.
None of which work well in a Martian environment. A person in a spacesuit wouldn't have access to them anyway and a robot could have sensors that more than make up for the lack.

As for why humans don't have eyes growing out the back of their head: Would you consider a potential mate with an eye growing out the back of her head a sign of increased fitness?
:confused: What does that have to do with planning a Mars mission??


There's a reason humans have only two eyes--the same reason most robots use two cameras.
Most robots don't, actually. They have sensors fitted to their purpose.



The type of robots being discussed so far for the purposes of exploring Mars are SUV sized wheeled contraptions: Opportunity on steroids basically.
No, that's just the kind MentalAvenger is discussing. There are a near-infinite variety of other options.


I said these don't make the best explorers; however, I did concede that true Blade-runner (humanoid body plan) robots might someday equal the capacities of human field geologists. The part that matters for this purpose is how well they can explore, examine, and gather information, not body plan.


They've got a long way to go though. But human explorers could still bring Asimo--he could be the camp cook! You know, take care of all the menial chores associated with survival while the ladies and gentlemen focused on the science.

Why waste mass and space on a robot just to do things that can be built into the living quarters' walls?

joema
2007-Dec-08, 02:22 PM
For either a robotic or manned mission, the bulk of analysis and understanding will come from humans on earth. The question is what quantity and quality of data do you provide earth's scientists to achieve that understanding. Sending humans to Mars inevitably reduces this, as a large payload fraction is spent on human life support, not science payload.


What do you mean by "this"? Quantity or quality? The quantity part is debatable. (As you know, the Apollo program brought back 1,000 times the amount of lunar material that the Russian unmanned missions did.
Once again, you're comparing a $140 billion manned program to a tiny unmanned lander.

The issue is what's more cost effective from a science standpoint -- spending equal dollars on a manned or unmanned Mars program. For that we don't compare a future $150 billion manned mission to a $900 million rover today. Rather we compare similar amounts expended over a similar timeframe -- likely the 2030s.


....you have no practical, historical basis for your contention that robots can deliver more quantity than humans...
For a given dollar investment, an unmanned mission will deliver far more terabytes of data, or kg of samples, than a manned mission. The reason is obvious -- human support and overhead constitutes the majority of the payload for a Mars mission. Every kg spent on that is a kg you don't use for scientific instrumentation, data gathering, etc.

Unmanned missions of similar cost could send back far more data, of higher quality, at higher bandwidth, from more sites, than a manned mission.

You don't need "Blade Runner" robots for that. Future more sophisticated robotic rovers, closely overseen and guided by humans on earth, can achieve that.

I'm not arguing that humans will never or should never go to Mars. This may happen for political factors, "manifest destiny" in space, or colonization.

But concerning the return on investment of scientific exploration, there's no question unmanned missions are more cost effective.

It's obvious people tend to compare past unmanned missions (which are quite small and modest) to Apollo and Apollo-scale future manned Mars missions. Obviously if you spend 100x the money, despite the handicap of humans on board, there is an advantage.

But on an equal dollar basis, future unmanned missions would have a huge advantage for various reasons:

- much greater scientific payload fraction
- cheaper non-man-rated systems
- robotic probes can work 24x7, never get tired, don't need to sleep, eat, etc.
- higher bandwidth data returned to earth
- can cover more geographic sites, and traverse greater distances at each site
- far greater payload on each one-way mission, since (unlike humans) robots can just stay there.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-08, 04:21 PM
Your entire argument depends on the assumption that humans are nothing but dead weight and the assumption that the cost of space exploration depends on nothing but mass lifted (m = $). (E.g., you leave out the development costs of all these robots that have yet to be invented, whereas the technology required for human space flight has already been developed. )

Let's take the quantity issue and leave it aside for now. I disagree with it because if we've learned anything from the Mars rovers, it is that playing with RC toys on Mars is a painstaking, tedious, sloooooooowww process. Being awake 24/7 is pretty meaningless when it takes an entire day to get the thing to move 10 feet. And that it takes a year for a robot to do what a human can do in a weekend. Let's just leave all that aside for now. For the sake of the argument, I'll stipulate to your point that robots can deliver more petabytes of data than humans.

Because that's not the main issue for advocates of manned exploration. The key issue for them is the quality of the data returned. That's been Jon Clarke's point all along--that one expert geologist on the ground will be able to deliver higher quality research than robots controlled from Earth.

You completely ignore the possibility that a single, well-designed and well-funded manned expedition could deliver results qualitatively better than 100 rovers.

You all give lip service to the idea that humans have some capabilities and robots have others. Prove you're an honest debater then, and tell us what some of those capabilities are.

Because whenever I bring up any human attribute--like the capacity to staff a fully equipped laboratory on Mars--you always say oh we can invent a robot to do that even better than a human. So I would like to know about any human traits that can't yet be replicated by robots.

Because if you say that there are no such traits, then you need not be taken seriously any longer. Because if there are no such traits, then humans would already be obsolete right here on Earth--let alone Mars--and that's clearly not the case.

And if there are traits that humans have that robots do not have--like the fact that humans are generalists par excellence--then you have to explain why such traits aren't important. In other words, you have to explain why sheer quantity of data is overridingly more important than the quality of that data.

joema
2007-Dec-08, 07:09 PM
...if we've learned anything from the Mars rovers, it is that playing with RC toys on Mars is a painstaking, tedious, sloooooooowww process. Being awake 24/7 is pretty meaningless when it takes an entire day to get the thing to move 10 feet...it takes a year for a robot to do what a human can do in a weekend
Once again, you are comparing a $150 billion manned Mars program to a $900 million rover. You base your arguments on that.

A $150 billion unmanned program of 2035 would not use "RC toy" rovers. We get some vague ideas of what capability might be used from the DARPA Grand Challenge, which in 2005 used totally autonomous vehicles to cover 132 miles of off-road terrain in about 7 hr. Note that was totally autonomous, with no human guidance. On Mars, such autonomy isn't necessary but would be useful. Progress is very rapid in this area, by 2035 they will be far more advanced: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_Grand_Challenge_%282005%29


...one expert geologist on the ground will be able to deliver higher quality research than robots controlled from Earth.
Actually he said a manned Mars mission would deliver "thousands of times" the scientific results as THE SAME MONEY spent on unmanned missions.

Since unmanned missions on that scale would cover far more geography, work longer, harder, collect more data of higher quality, I have difficulty understanding his point.


...I would like to know about any human traits that can't yet be replicated by robots...
Humans obviously have many physical, emotional and intellectual traits that computers can't yet replicate. However "Blade Runner" robots on Mars are not necessary.

All those wonderful human analytical traits in the thousands of scientists on earth will facilitate Mars exploration. The issue is how to deliver the best quality and quantity of data to them. E.g, high bandwidth Mars comm sats could stream back vast amounts of data to earth: http://marsnet.jpl.nasa.gov/why-do-it/why-do-it.html

Of course you could postulate that for manned missions as well, but for a given dollar investment the resources would be much more robust for an unmanned mission.

That's the problem with manned expeditions -- it subtracts from scientific payload and results in few data byes and fewer sample kg from fewer areas than an equally-funded unmanned program.


...you have to explain why sheer quantity of data is overridingly more important than the quality of that data.
An unmanned program of equal investment to a manned program would not necessarily have lower quality data. It would cover more geographic area, at more locations, acquiring much more data than an equally-funded manned program. The rovers could have ultra-high-resolution stereoscopic video forwarded at high bandwidth to earth. Everything they saw would be seen by many scientists on earth. For equal dollar investments, all the scientists on earth would see higher quality, higher resolution data than a manned mission would permit.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-08, 08:55 PM
Once again, you are comparing a $150 billion manned Mars program to a $900 million rover. You base your arguments on that. Good point. We have to keep these comparisons in perspective.


Actually he said a manned Mars mission would deliver "thousands of times" the scientific results as THE SAME MONEY spent on unmanned missions.I recall that claim. He also attempted to make comparisons between technology from 5 different decades to arrive at that conclusion. He also ignored the cost of the life support and the return of the men.


That's the problem with manned expeditions -- it subtracts from scientific payload and results in few data byes and fewer sample kg from fewer areas than an equally-funded unmanned program.Agreed. In addition, it is important to note that most robotic advocates are not dismissing human expeditions at all. Instead, we advocate using the rovers for the initial wide-ranging surveys, preparing the way for the eventual colonies. Once the colonies are set up and operating, humans can go do the detailed surveys. A rover may test 1000 locations, and find 5 of interest. Let the rovers go find the oases so that the humans don’t have to spend so much time wandering the open desert.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-08, 09:13 PM
Actually he said a manned Mars mission would deliver "thousands of times" the scientific results as THE SAME MONEY spent on unmanned missions.

Since unmanned missions on that scale would cover far more geography, work longer, harder, collect more data of higher quality, I have difficulty understanding his point.
That's because his point comes from hard-won, personal, decades-long experience as a field geologist at locations all over the world. And I agree with him 100%. I'm not a professional geologist, but I have a degree in geology, and I have worked as a field biologist for the USFWS and others that required spending entire summers in a tent at remote locations in Alaska. So I know that humans are a pain-in-the-butt to transport and keep supplied. And I also know that remote sensing is the latest thing--it's the rage these days in ecology; jobs in field biology are not disappearing as a result, however.

So me and John are well aware of the costs that humans require--we have personal experience in that area. So we know all about the costs. So then, why would we insist humans are well worth the cost?


An unmanned program of equal investment to a manned program would not necessarily have lower quality data. It would cover more geographic area, at more locations, acquiring much more data than an equally-funded manned program. The rovers could have ultra-high-resolution stereoscopic video forwarded at high bandwidth to earth. Everything they saw would be seen by many scientists on earth. For equal dollar investments, all the scientists on earth would see higher quality, higher resolution data than a manned mission would permit.

A human mission would probably consist of a manned rover rather like the old Ark II TV series. Basically, 2-6 humans would live inside a bus sized rover with a mass on the order of 25 tons including everything. A couple of ATVs would be attached to rack on the back.

http://www.prevostcar.com/DB/markets/market_motorhome_4high.jpg

It would be rough duty, but there's no shortage of volunteers.

Now, the types of rovers you and MentalAvenger (like the one's in the DARPA contest) get fairly large themselves. Hummer large. So a Hummer-sized probe loaded down with all those scientific instruments that humans would be too stupid to remember to bring with them would have a mass on the order of 5 tons.

Great! you say. . . . So we could send 5 unmanned Hummers instead of 1 human manned Prevost bus (http://www.prevostcar.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?page=market_motorhome). Wow! What a deal!

But wait! Don't forget about all the rocket fuel it takes to get to 5 landing sites instead of one. Sure, you could MIRV the 5 Hummerbots and land them in 5 locations for the same amount of rocket fuel it would take to land one Provost. But what about all those kilograms of rock samples you promised us? So you'll either have to have each Hummerbot load itself down with catalogued rocks, and then rendezvous at the top of Olympus Mons to meet the mother ship, or else you'll have to send 5 separate launchers to meet up with each Hummerbot. All the mass for the rocket fuel and the rockets have to come out of your mass budget, which means you have to sacrifice the number of Hummerbots in order to pay for the increased geographical coverage.

Where's your 5 to 1 advantage now???

So, realistically, the Hummerbots would have perhaps a 3 to 1 or 2 to 1 advantage in terms of the geographical area they could cover.

But wait! The human team never has to sit around and wait for Earth to tell it's supposed to go left or go right. So the increased flexibility of the human team actually is an advantage in that humans can cover more ground than robots in a shorter time.

Also, humans can get out and walk around, and climb up terrain where even the "New Designs" can't get to.

Also, one Prevost bus can haul more rock samples than can 2, or 3, or 5 Hummers--even with people onboard the bus.

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-08, 10:18 PM
Like R2D2!
Do not diss Artoo, he is my favorite Star Wars character.

joema
2007-Dec-09, 01:32 AM
...A human mission would probably consist of a manned rover rather like the old Ark II TV series. Basically, 2-6 humans would live inside a bus sized rover with a mass on the order of 25 tons including everything...the types of rovers you and MentalAvenger (like the one's in the DARPA contest) get fairly large themselves...realistically, the Hummerbots would have perhaps a 3 to 1 or 2 to 1 advantage in terms of the geographical area they could cover...
NASA's latest manned Mars archticture calls for about six Ares V launches and one Ares I launch. That's about 800 metric tons in LEO, total. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/leag2007/presentations/20071001.drake.pdf

Of this the total landed mass on Mars might be about 60 metric tons: http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/40251/1/06-2976.pdf

Much of that mass (for a manned mission) would be life support-related. It would also include vehicle/propellant for the Mars ascent, which of course is carrying six humans and life support.

On Mars, they might have a simple base and manned rovers, or possibly a combined base/rover as you described. They'd obviously be at a single site.

By contrast an unmanned mission could use the 60 metric tons to deploy many rovers across Mars, each far more capable than the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/, which is about 775 kg landed mass. If each rover was about 4x the mass of MSL (about 3 tons) that would be 20 rovers at different locations.

If you wanted a return sample, that could also be accommodated. Each rover need not bring its sample back to the return vehicle. You might have, say 5 rovers return samples from a several hundred km radius to an unmanned return vehicle, plus 10 non-sample-return rovers spread more distantly across Mars. The instrument package of each could be optimized for the location and mission. There are many different possibilities and ways to trade off the available landed mass.

Which concept would have the best chance of finding a Mars "Genesis Rock"? In one case you have a single human crew at a single location, or traversing a single track.

In the other case you have 15 - 20 rovers at different locations, each with ultra-high-definition stereoscopic video recording a 360 degree perimeter as it moves. Each moment of video would be scrutinized by dozens of scientists on earth. Each rover would be working 24 hours a day, without need to sleep or rest.

JonClarke
2007-Dec-09, 04:05 AM
The exploration of Mars to determine the best sites for colonization is best left to the robots.

This is an assertion on your part. You have not provided any evidence or reasoning in support of this.

Nor is the determination of the best sites for colonisation the sole goal of Martian exploration. It is one of several. You have not provided any evidence for which of these goals unmanned exploration is superior.


It is a long ranging, but not very detailed study that is needed for this. Later on, when humans are living on Mars in colonies, THEN is the time for detailed human exploration.

We are not talking about human settlement, but about crewed missions in general. I know that a particular settlement roadmap is your hobby horse, but that is not the subject under discussion here, so please stop trying to hijack the thread.


When people have the time to explore, instead of spending most of their time ensuring their very survival, then they can go on detailed, extensive explorations.

Please give evidence from past, present, and future missions and mission studies that justify that the crew of mars expeditions will be "spending most of their time ensuring their very survival"

Originally Posted by JonClarke
Robots do no science at all, they just collect observations. For field geology and biology they collect that data slowly, clumsily, and inefficiently compared to what human crews could do. This is a documented fact from the Apollo missions and from terrestrial comparisons.


Oh, come on. You are using 45 year old technology to predict performance 10-20 years from now? Please, at least keep your analogies within the same millennium.

That 45 year old technology you scorn outperforms the best unmanned planetary surface exploration to date and that planned for the next few decades.

No robot on the horizon actually thinks for itself and can do field science. They are just tools. What ever advanced robotics are developed, they will work better when operating along side the humans who control them. Or do you so despise human abilities?

As roboticist Bill Clancey at Ames has said:

If we start instead with an inflated view of machines, we get a diminished view of people, and the design process focuses instead on mitigating human failures. Thus, fantasized, idealized machines become the yardstick for critiquing human work and reason.

And

For the public, and perhaps indeed many scientists, the “robotic geologist” and “robotic explorer” metaphor has been taken literally, to mean that we do not need to send people to explore Mars, for we already have robotic explorers on the surface. This confusion extends to a kind of “Wizard of Oz” phenomenon: Transfixed by the images of Mars, we mythologize “the little rover that could”; and few attempt to grasp the complexity of the scientists’ work “behind the curtain.”

http://homepage.mac.com/WJClancey/%7EWJClancey/WS0610ClanceyW.pdf

Originally Posted by JonClarke
Robots have limited dexterity, mobility, dexterity, adaptability to unexpected surfaces compared even to a gloved astronaut.


In some cases yes, in other cases no. Robots are used extensively in manufacturing on Earth because they are more efficient, faster, and far more accurate in many cases.

As a roboticist friend of mine wrote (details can be sent by PM):

The power of machines to manipulate the environment is another problem that needs progress. The ability of factory robots to cut, drill, weld, paint and assemble the components of cars and other products should not deceive us into thinking that such services will be quickly available from robots in the field (on Mars or anywhere else). Those machines are working in extremely controlled environments where well-lit, identical, mass-produced objects can be manipulated in relatively fixed, if complex, ways. The problem is far more difficult when the environment is cannot be controlled, and the kinds of manipulation that might be needed cannot be specified. A simple repair task for a person would likely completely defeat today's most capable robots, and that is likely to remain true for many years. It is significant that despite more than thirty years of robot exploration, the largest hole ever dug on Mars is probably trench about a meter long a few centimetres deep dug by a Viking lander. A human explorer with a shovel could beat that in seconds.

Please explain the relevance of robotic assembly which involves tightly constrained repetitive tasks to exploration of Mars and field science. Or do you think that that field science is the same as an assembly line? What is your expertise for such a judgement?

Originally Posted by JonClarke
How big an overhead will a human mission need? More than a robotic mission certainly.

Not more, a LOT more, as has been pointed out.

As a matter of fact, I was the one who pointed out the relative masses and human work forces associated with human and unmanned missions. You didn't.

For the record the Space Shuttle as a total workforce in the order of ~15,000 to 18,000 people - compared with Apollo's 400,000. The MER program had some 4,000 people involved in it. I don't see why a human mission to Mars would have a larger workforce that the Shuttle program.

Originally Posted by JonClarke
A human mars mission might have 10 times or 100 times as many people working on it. But it will be at least a thousand times as productive.

Now THAT is a totally unsubstantiated and unqualified exaggeration.

Assertion again. I have already given evidence why I think this the case. You have not. You are consistently not producing facts in support of your case.

As for productivity, my numbers are quite reasonable. I have already given estimates for what can be done with advanced unmanned missions. You have mocked them but not addressed them or countered them with better facts and reasoning.


As always, it depends upon the robot, the level of technology, and the application. As noted, robots are more efficient and precise in certain tasks. There is no reason to believe that decided advantage cannot be applied to exploration on Mars.

Which tasks? We are not talking about making cars or domestic appliances in an assembly line on Mars, we are talking about exploration. You have not given one bit of information that shows that robots are better for exploration, just fact less assertion.

[b]Originally Posted by JonClarke
Completely irrelevant to Mars exploration. No payload. Can only move on flat surfaces. Needs near 400 watts to run. Has an endurance for less than an hour. Such a machine is useless on Mars.

It isn’t the exact machine that is being presented, but the concepts and the obvious advancements in robotic technology. The right tool for the right job. Robots to be used on Mars will be designed to be used on Mars, incorporating the appropriate technologies.

What aspects of ASIMO will be useful for Mars? It's unnecessary bipedal gait? It's no existent payload? It's limited range and inability to cope with real world surfaces. If you are going to talk about capabilities use ones that are actually useful. And yes, unmanned spacecraft are all read useful for exploration. More advanced machines, both autonomous and teleoperated with be enormously useful on crewed Mars mission, and will make the human crews even more effective at exploring the planet.

Jon

JonClarke
2007-Dec-09, 05:10 AM
This was from slightly earlier

Originally Posted by JonClarke
Impressive though the advances in robotics have been they have not translated into impressive progress in terms of field robotics on the surface of the Moon or Mars.


That is no reflection on the possible use of robotics, but rather a reflection on how the PTB chose to apply the technology. Your argument does not address the practicality of robotics for Mars missions.

Of course, the PTBs who include the world's greatest experts in robotic planetary exploration, happen to be be wrong, and you, who are neither a roboticist or a planetary scientist or published anything on human missions, happen to be right. How who this different to the Hoaglandites or the Moon Hoaxers? I will take the expertise of Steve Sqyyres, Bill Clancey, Ken Edgett, Mike Malin, and Ross Taylor over your opinion in this areas any day.

Originally Posted by JonClarke
Rocketry does not need to advance to get people to Mars. The technology of today (and 30 years ago), is more than adequate.


Adequate, yes. But isn’t the inefficiency (and therefore cost) of current rocketry often cited as one of the main reasons we are not already on Mars?

Cited by whom? What makes them right?

Originally Posted by JonClarke
Conversely the last 30 years have seen major advances in most of the other space flight necessary for humans to go to Mars. Long duration human spaceflight, management of multi year missions, large scale solar power production, orbital assembly, high efficiency life support, knowledge of the surface of and atmosphere of Mars. The main areas of development pending are EDL, rovers and suits. None of these require break though science, simply application and development of what we now know.


I have been supporting that viewpoint for years. But it is irrelevant to this question because the same can be said for robotics. We can build them. We have the technology. We simply need to apply it properly.

Except the current robots are not good enough to match human capabilities. Prototype robots are not good enough, and neither the projects of the next generation robots. The only ones that can exist only in the minds of fantastists who say "robots can do anything".

Bill Clancey again http://homepage.mac.com/WJClancey/%7EWJClancey/WS0610ClanceyW.pdf

The starting point for HCC is clear thinking about the differences between people and current technology. If we start instead with an inflated view of machines, we get a diminished view of people, and the design process focuses instead on mitigating human failures. Thus, fantasized, idealized machines become the yardstick for critiquing human work and reason.

Originally Posted by JonClarke
There has been extensive research on such technology. It has failed to deliver anything reliable beyond a couple of metres. Which is a pity, because there have been times when i could have used such a rig. Whereas a simple human operated rig can drill hundred metres.


Goliath could carry a rig that could drill 20 feet in a single pass. The only restriction on drilling deeper is robotically adding sections of drill pipe. We have a machine here that bores 50-100 ft under streets to lay cable. The only thing the human operator does is drop another section of pipe onto a tray. The machine does the rest. A robot could drop a pipe onto a tray.

Goliath does not exist except in your imagination. Have you done a detailed study, involving power and mass budgets, communication requirements, power sources, instruments? No you haven't. Go ahead an do one,m and them come back with a meaningful comparison.

Do you have a link to the type of drilling machine you mean? I have seen similar ones, I think. If they are similar The operator does a lot more than "drop another section of pipe onto a tray". The corer is driven using complex feedback between a range of sensors such as pressure, temperature, vibration speed, and orientation.

Were such a complex process capable of automation, there is still the question of deciding when and where the hole is to be drilled using which data sets (radar, magnetics, EM, conductivity, resistivity, seismic, neutron beam, structure, chemistry), which bits are to be used, how the sample is to be recovered, processed, an analysed. A robot can't do that, people have. The people can either do that on the end of a time lag that is never less than 10 minutes and sometimes more than 40 minutes, or they decide do on the spot. Then there is the question of what to do when something goes wrong. How does a robot unbog rods jammed 30 metres below the surface by flowing sands? That needs instant feedback between machine and operator and rapid decision making. That's why robot drilling technology for Mars - the inchworm mentioned earlier - use quite different techniques that are very much slower.

Originally Posted by JonClarke
Terra Max crashed spectacularly as I recall. Not exactly a useful system as yet.


Irrelevant. Some of our most sophisticated and reliable technology had early failures, some of them quite spectacular.

Not irrelevant at all. It has taken 30 years of research to get to vehicles that can crash spectacularly. How many more decades before such autonomous technology will be reliable on earth, and how many more before they can be reliably applied to planetary rovers? When achieved such technology will be very useful as an adjunct to human drivers on Mars. It certainly isn't a replacement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonClarke
What is the evidence that sophisticated robots will be able to do sophisticated tests? You will always need scientists in the loop deciding which sites need to be visited, what samples should be collected and which tests should be done on them. With the time lag this will always be slower than with people on site.


True. However, the people need to sleep and rest, while the robot can work 24 hours a day. I’d say that more than makes up for the time lag.

How many planetary rovers operate at night? None.
Are you going to equip them with night vision systems (always lower resolution than day vision)? Headlights and floodlights? Have you included that in the power budget?


Night time is not wasted time for the human crew. Not only is it essential repair and maintenance of the irreplaceable field scientists and the engineers needed to keep the spacecraft (and sophisticated robots) functioning, it can be used to run analyses and process data. Or have you not seen how analytical machines run samples in batches?

Originally Posted by JonClarke
This is not logic, this assertion. It is a fact that robotic missions cost twice as much per kg as human ones. For example:
MGS cost $538 million and…. yadda, yadda, yadda….
MO cost…. yadda, yadda, yadda….
Phoenix cost…. yadda, yadda, yadda….
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera………………


That is perhaps one of the most representative examples of the Logical Fallacies of Hasty Generalization and Misapplied Generalization I have seen. You have taken a variety of programs spanning 45 years, with incredible changes in technology, major changes in the driving political and economic climates, and many different types of delivery systems. That isn’t apples and oranges, that is apples and quartz and squid. Adjusting the dollars is irrelevant, because the other variables are so incredibly disparate. The comparison should be the difference between manned and robotic missions using the same base technology in the same time period.

And this is the finest example of refusal to engage presented facts that I have seen on these boards out side a Moon Hoax believer, a young Earther or a Hoaglandite.

You have failed to engage the data, only hurled abuse at it. You have provided no analysis as to why it is wrong, only asserted that it is. You have accused me of using a "logical fallacy" which seems to your favourite tactic when you fail to have any factual information to refute an argument. I don't buy this. You can do better.

Show why a simple cost per kg does not work. Show how it gives invalid results.

If you think you can make a better analysis, then do it. Don't just keep stating your opinion.

if you can think of a better metric, then say what it is.

And, BTW, all the unmanned missions are from from between 1996 and 2009. You are welcome to find better missions. This period also covers that in which most of the ISS costs were incurred. Apollo was a different era and represents a worse case scenario because almost everything had to be developed from scratch.


Logically, robotic missions to Mars would be far less expensive than manned missions. The food, water, oxygen, and living facilities alone would make human missions more expensive.

So you keep saying. But you need to show it. Logic is meaningless without facts and correct reasoning. I do not accept that it is logical just because you say it is. Particularly since your grasp of what is involved with field science and exploration, let alone manned and unmanned missions, is so poor. OK, I might be wrong. Then show me. Otherwise you are no different to a Hoaglandite who keeps saying that it is "obvious" the face on Mars is artificial.

[QUOTE=MentalAvenger;1123476]If you leave the crew on Mars, they have to have huge amounts of supplies. If you bring them back, you have to have a return vehicle, more supplies, and fuel. That makes the manned mission even MORE expensive.

You honestly think that these are not factored into the study I quoted?

Originally Posted by JonClarke
This is what the current generation of rovers is doing, in part. Testing the ground and preparing the way for future crewed missions.


Hardly. None of the current generation of rovers is going to verify a settlement site, which will be the most difficult and most critical part of early exploration.

Again you persist in thinking that Mars missions are all about Mars settlement. They are not. But even if they were, let's look at what the Mars rovers have already provided useful


There is very little more that we need to know before simply sending a flags and footprints mission to Mars.

Better models of the atmosphere for EDL would be useful. But for a short stay mission you are probably right. But why do a short stay mission when for about the same or less cost you can do a long stay one?

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-09, 07:13 AM
I have neither the time nor the energy to address all those points at once. I will try a few for now.


This [that The exploration of Mars to determine the best sites for colonization is best left to the robots.] is an assertion on your part. You have not provided any evidence or reasoning in support of this.Since no mission of that caliber has been done, there would be no “evidence”. But I gave many valid reasons.


Nor is the determination of the best sites for colonisation the sole goal of Martian exploration. It is one of several. You have not provided any evidence for which of these goals unmanned exploration is superior.The paragraph above states it, looking for the best site for colonization. IMO.


We are not talking about human settlement, but about crewed missions in general. Ok, let’s look at that. IMO, using crewed missions to locate the best settlement sites would be a waste of time and resources, so sending crewed missions before a settlement is at least started would be illogical. Also, sending crewed missions to Mars would be a lot easier, safer, and less expensive is there was a thriving settlement, or two, or three there to take care of them during their stay. It would also make human exploration of Mars a lot easier and much more productive and cost effective. I shouldn’t have to explain why working out of a settlement with all the services would be better than working out of the spaceship that brought you. And that, after all, is the point. Use the proper tools to do the job. Use robots to find the settlement sites, use humans to do the detailed work later on.

But, if settlement is not the goal, then why spend all that money to send people there just to dig around? To find what, and why? It would end up being another Apollo scenario, lots of fuss and bluster at first, tapering off to no more missions eventually.


I know that a particular settlement roadmap is your hobby horse, but that is not the subject under discussion here, so please stop trying to hijack the thread.Who the hell are you to TELL me what to post? Like you, I am presenting my opinions. And I AM advocating manned missions to Mars, just in the proper sequence.


Please give evidence from past, present, and future missions and mission studies that justify that the crew of mars expeditions will be "spending most of their time ensuring their very survival"Again, there can be no “evidence” from missions that are not representative or have never happened. But, if a spacecraft arrives on Mars, and they intend to stay for 1 ½ - 2 years, then return home again, the only reasonable sequence of events would be setting up durable shelters, outfitting those shelters, setting up oxygen production/recycling stations, making sure the return vehicle is ready and able to handle the return trip, and THEN they can go about their scientific mission.

If the scenario was setting up a viable settlement, then the time required to ensure survival would be much longer, because such things as reliable food production and permanent shelters would have to be taken care of first.


That 45 year old technology you scorn outperforms the best unmanned planetary surface exploration to date and that planned for the next few decades. Irrelevant, and I don’t scorn it. It has it’s place as does everything else. I only scorned your attempt to use that technology as an analogy for technology which will have to be quite different in many aspects.


No robot on the horizon actually thinks for itself and can do field science. No one I know of or have heard of believes that, so why even bring it up. That is Strawman.


They are just tools. Exactly. As I have said many times, the right tool for the right job.


What ever advanced robotics are developed, they will work better when operating along side the humans who control them. Or do you so despise human abilities? No, humans are (currently) the ultimate machine. IMO, their place on Mars will be what they do best, detailed study, not monotonous wide ranging scouting looking for a good homestead.


Please explain the relevance of robotic assembly which involves tightly constrained repetitive tasks to exploration of Mars and field science. Or do you think that that field science is the same as an assembly line? As previously explained, that would be the kind of repetitive assembly line tasks used inside the rover to analyze samples. (yeah, robots inside the robot) Again, the right tool for the right job. IIRC, even voyager had a simple sample and test robotic function.


Assertion again. I have already given evidence why I think this the case. You have not. You are consistently not producing facts in support of your case.Actually, I don’t recall you giving any “evidence” of why a human mission would be 1000 times more productive than a robotic mission, but rather a lot of unsubstantiated opinions. Actually, since you made the extraordinary claim, it is up to you to back it up with relevant facts.


As for productivity, my numbers are quite reasonable. I have already given estimates for what can be done with advanced unmanned missions. You have mocked them but not addressed them or countered them with better facts and reasoning. That is your opinion. Remember that my viewpoint is not between robotic or manned missions doing the SAME job, and it never has been. It is, and always has been about using the proper mission for the application.


Which tasks? We are not talking about making cars or domestic appliances in an assembly line on Mars, we are talking about exploration. You have not given one bit of information that shows that robots are better for exploration, just fact less assertion.Sample processing, driving across featureless expanses without the need for sleep, to name a couple. But, when you include the extra payload available without life support, and the huge savings in not having to have a return of the crew to Earth (with all that life support too), initial exploration by robotic rovers would be more cost effective. Off hand, I’d estimate we could put 3-4 big rovers on Mars, each going in different directions, for the price of one manned mission which included return to Earth.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-09, 05:12 PM
NASA's latest manned Mars archticture calls for about six Ares V launches and one Ares I launch. That's about 800 metric tons in LEO, total. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/leag2007/presentations/20071001.drake.pdf

Of this the total landed mass on Mars might be about 60 metric tons: http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/40251/1/06-2976.pdf

Much of that mass (for a manned mission) would be life support-related. It would also include vehicle/propellant for the Mars ascent, which of course is carrying six humans and life support.

On Mars, they might have a simple base and manned rovers, or possibly a combined base/rover as you described. They'd obviously be at a single site.

By contrast an unmanned mission could use the 60 metric tons to deploy many rovers across Mars, each far more capable than the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/, which is about 775 kg landed mass. If each rover was about 4x the mass of MSL (about 3 tons) that would be 20 rovers at different locations.
Look, if you get to give yourself a 40% weight reduction and then naively divide 60 tons by your weight per rover to figure the number of rovers in order to make your figures come out better, then so do I. So 25 tons less 40% = 15 tons. Thus for 60 tons, I get 4 human staffed labs on wheels in four separate parts of the planet.

So to answer your question: What would I rather have 20 Hummerbots at 20 different locations, or 4 Ark II's capable of covering a transect thousands of kilometers long over the course of one tour? I'll take the four Ark II's any day, because the quality (and quantity) of the research will be incomparably better.


If you wanted a return sample, that could also be accommodated.
In order for your argument to work--that robots will deliver higher quality research than humans--sample returns of involving thousands of kilograms of rock is not an option. It is mandatory.


Each rover need not bring its sample back to the return vehicle. You might have, say 5 rovers return samples from a several hundred km radius to an unmanned return vehicle, plus 10 non-sample-return rovers spread more distantly across Mars. The instrument package of each could be optimized for the location and mission. There are many different possibilities and ways to trade off the available landed mass.
If 5 vehicles have to rendezvous in order to meet up with a mother ship, then what's the point of sending 5 vehicles? The mass could be combined to make 1 human staffed Prevost rover that could then drive to all the places that would be visited by the 5 vehicles, and do it more efficiently, since it wouldn't have to backtrack.


Which concept would have the best chance of finding a Mars "Genesis Rock"? In one case you have a single human crew at a single location, or traversing a single track. In the other case you have 15 - 20 rovers at different locations,
If you get 15-20 Hummerbots, then I get 3-4 manned Provost rovers. But even if I was limited to 1, I'd still bet on the humans, because a Hummerbot can't get out and walk around, climb up a steep scree slope to get to an outcrop, knock chunks out of it and find that fossil that is the Holy Grail of any Mars mission.


each with ultra-high-definition stereoscopic video recording a 360 degree perimeter as it moves. Each moment of video would be scrutinized by dozens of scientists on earth.
You've brought up this point about high res video more than once now--as if a manned expedition would be too stupid to remember to bring a decent camera? :confused:


Each rover would be working 24 hours a day, without need to sleep or rest.

You and MentalAvenger keep bringing up this point as if its worth discussing, as when he writes:


[rovers can drive] across featureless expanses without the need for sleep.

This demonstrates such a naiveté that it makes it hard to take anything else you all say seriously. Humans on Mars will deal with the need for sleep the same way truck drivers handle the featureless expanses of Wyoming: they'll take turns!

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-09, 07:38 PM
Who the hell are you to TELL me what to post? Like you, I am presenting my opinions. And I AM advocating manned missions to Mars, just in the proper sequence.
Then surely you won't object if I respond to your latest salvo of bombast.

Let's cut to the chase: you yourself said you don't give a rat's excrement about science on Mars. You said it's boring and that it doesn't justify spending $100 billion. Your opinion, and you're welcome to it. Jon and I are of the opinion that the question of other life in the universe is one of those grand scientific questions that would be well worth such an expense to try to answer. That's our opinion.

Now, you said yourself that humans are better at doing the detailed sorts of study that quality science requires:


No, humans are (currently) the ultimate machine. IMO, their place on Mars will be what they do best, detailed study, not monotonous wide ranging scouting looking for a good homestead.

Therefore, you agree with us that humans are in fact the best option for doing quality science.

Therefore, your objection to sending humans to Mars before we spend $100 billion on robots first is not because humans are the right tool for the job of quality science, but rather is that quality science is the wrong job.

In fact, as you yourself have said, your argument is (1) that the right job is to set up a human gene bank on Mars in case an asteroid hits the Earth rendering it unihabitable. And then (2) you argue that the best way to achieve that goal is to spend $100 billion on Hummerbots to send into Indian country like Lewis and Clarke to look for a good homestead.

Both arguments flawed for the following reasons. The risk of the Earth being hit by an extinction-causing asteroid in the next 10,000 years is utterly negligible. There is convincing evidence of only one impact event in the last billion years that would have been capable of causing the extinction of humans. Thus, there is on the order of a 1 in a billion chance per year that we will go extinct due to an asteroid impact. In other words, on average, about 6 people per year die from asteroids. The worth of a human life is perhaps $3,000,000. At least that's roughly the average settlement that courts give out for negligently causing death. So, in other words, it might be worth spending $20 million per year to try to save these lives. You on the other hand want to spend $10 billion per year in perpetuity--and you can't even promise that you'll be able to save these lives.

Thus if the goal is to protect human lives from asteroids, we're better off spending the money on asteroid impact mitigation--that is, identifying Earth orbit crossing rocks, and developing the means to deflect such entities as the need arises--if ever--which it probably won't for millions of years.

Of course, you'll counter that saving individual human lives is not important. What matters is ensuring the survival of the species. Again, if we're going to spend $10 billion per year in order to prevent the extinction of humans, then its better to spend it on self-contained shelters right here on Earth. Better to restart the human species with a few million individuals right here on Earth than to rely on an inbred colony of Martians.

Therefore, your idea about what the "right job" is is based on a Chicken Little argument that the sky could literally fall one day; but your plan isn't even the best way to address that "problem".

But even granting for the sake of the argument your point that a Mars colony is necessary in order to guarantee the survival of Homo sapiens, your idea that it is necessary to spend $100 billion on fancy robots to "scout out a good homestead" is just the most bass ackwards way to achieve that goal that I have ever heard of.

Your four Hummerbots will barely scratch the surface of Mars, and there is nothing important that they will find out that can't be found with a single spy satellite like we routinely use on Earth that are capable of 1-10 cm resolutions and perhaps even better.

There is no need to waste $100 million and 50 years on an unnecessary Lewis & Clarke expedition better suited to the 18th century.

I mean if you really want a colony--then just DO IT! What are you really afraid of?

And that's what bugs me most about your arguments. Not only are they chicken-little and so totally incoherent that they aren't worth responding to except for the sake of the 4th grader lurkers who don't know any better, but they are also buzzkilling, enervating, soul-sucking, woosified
FUD!

Dude, get a spine!

ToSeek
2007-Dec-09, 08:02 PM
And that's what bugs me most about your arguments. Not only are they chicken-little and so totally incoherent that they aren't worth responding to except for the sake of the 4th grader lurkers who don't know any better, but they are also buzzkilling, enervating, soul-sucking, woosified
FUD!

Dude, get a spine!

This is a good discussion. I would hate to close it due to personal attacks (like the above), or impertinent rejoinders (like MentalAvenger's "yadda yadda yadda" a few pages back). Please try to bring the level of rhetoric down a couple of notches. Thanks.

ToSeek
BAUT Forum moderator

antoniseb
2007-Dec-09, 08:07 PM
BTW, I did close it, but I can reopen it if requested. MA, JC, and WP have all been expressing ideas mixed with things that read like personal attacks. So this is an official warning to all three.