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MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-10, 04:25 AM
Ok, we’ve had various discussions related to this, but this thread is intended to deal with one thing, the priorities for Mars missions. This would include what kind of missions should be sent, and in what order.

I will enumerate what I think are the most likely priorities so that they can be responded to by number. I’d appreciate it if responses can be kept to comments on the subject, without any personal comments such as “you don’t know what you are talking about” or “that’s your problem” or “you clearly haven’t done the research” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. If we keep this civil, perhaps we can actually have a productive discussion. :)

These are posted in no particular order of priority. If there are any other suggestions to add to the list of priorities, I will try to add them. (although “edit” doesn’t always work).

1. Alien Life: Look for signs of alien life, either past or present.

2. National Pride: Get there first and show we are still number one in space. T\IMO, this was the primary reason for the early “space race”.

3. National Security: Get there first and set up military bases to prevent other countries from gaining a military advantage. This may have been one of the underlying reasons for the early “space race”.

4. National Territory: Get there first and claim all of Mars (or the prime real estate) for the USA.

5. Economic: Be the first to begin processing and using resources that may be on Mars for commercial purposes.

6. Security for Mankind: Set up a self-sufficient colony on Mars to continue the human race in case of a globally fatal catastrophe of any kind. That could be any catastrophe including, but not limited to, asteroid/meteor strike, massive volcanism, nuclear war, unstoppable epidemic, etc.

7. Just plain human curiosity. Sometimes we just have to know what is on the other side of the hill, or at the top of the mountain. Men have spent a lot of money for no other reason but this.

After the priority of missions can be established, then perhaps we can also discuss which missions would best support those priorities. :) Meanwhile, can we focus on the priorities of the missions? First things first.

JonClarke
2007-Dec-10, 10:01 AM
8. Because its there "Adventure. Delight. Increasing the depth and breadth of human experience." (UK LeGuin).

9. International pride "Tomorrow, together, where might we not go?" (Frank Borman)

10. Impetus to technological development (George H W Bush, 1989)

1 is really a subset of 7.

Nation of choice can be substituted for USA in 4.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-10, 07:38 PM
The intent of this thread was to have everyone list the choices in order of priority, highest priority first. Specify your criteria, such as “What I think the priorities should be”, or “What I think the actual priorities are now”, or “What the priorities will be in 10, 20, 30 years” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-10, 07:42 PM
ICMO, the priorities should be:

6. Security for Mankind:
3. National Security:
4. National Territory:
5. Economic:
1. Alien Life:
7. Just plain human curiosity:
2. National Pride:
10. Impetus to technological development
9. International pride

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-11, 01:58 AM
I think Security For Humankind should come before National Anything.
In the semi-long run, Archeological Conservation of Human Artifacts on the surface would be something to focus on.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-11, 04:56 AM
The question is: What should the priority be, vs what is it likely to be? Many opinions have been offered, but realistically, what will be the inevitable driving force to get humans to Mars in person?

galacsi
2007-Dec-11, 08:36 PM
Priorities :

8. Because it is there , for the thrill of doing it.

7. Science exploration

1. Alien life in fact 1 is really a subset of 7 as said JC

10. Improving our technology. learning living in space by doing it.

I don't believe mars can be a lifeboat for Earth. The Earth future is on Earth.

I hope competition between the nations and war will not be brought to the heaven.

JonClarke
2007-Dec-11, 10:37 PM
In decreasing order of importance

8 (if people can go to mars one day they will, even if there is no reason for it, just like climbing Everest)

1+7

9 nationalism is silly and regressive on the solar system scale

5 (assuming we can find anything to make money from)

6 (assuming we can settle there)

10 will happen anyway

The others I would not even dignify by mention

Jon

Hanno the Navigator
2007-Dec-12, 04:14 PM
4, and I'm not an American.

The best thing that could happen for humanity's expansion into space is the US withdrawing from the Outer Space Treaty, claiming chunks of land for itself and doing something, however minimal, to defend it from foreign landings.

galacsi
2007-Dec-13, 04:22 PM
4, and I'm not an American.

The best thing that could happen for humanity's expansion into space is the US withdrawing from the Outer Space Treaty, claiming chunks of land for itself and doing something, however minimal, to defend it from foreign landings.

Rather provocative opinion , for a non American !

can you elaborate a little please ?

Noclevername
2007-Dec-13, 05:43 PM
Rather provocative opinion , for a non American !

can you elaborate a little please ?

I think it's a pretty basic scenario, the U.S. has the money and industrialization to plant space bases on half a dozen planets and moons if we really made it a priority, especially with full military backing, and one thing that really motivates us is thinking that someone else is going to "take away" something we consider "ours".

ADDED: So it could be considered "good" overall for human spaceflight, even if it would be bad overall for international relations here on Earth.

JonClarke
2007-Dec-13, 08:52 PM
A continuation of current multinational exploration would be even better.

Jon

KaiYeves
2007-Dec-13, 09:46 PM
A continuation of current multinational exploration would be even better.
I agree.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-14, 02:50 AM
A continuation of current multinational exploration would be even better.
JonHow big would the USA be today if we had adopted that policy in the 1820? Answer: Less than 1/3rd our present size.


http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/fi/00000077.jpg

Noclevername
2007-Dec-14, 03:48 AM
How big would the USA be today if we had adopted that policy in the 1820? Answer: Less than 1/3rd our present size.


Yes, and other countries would be bigger. So? The situation presented is not analagous; our potential living space is not limited to a continent. Plenty of Universe for everyone.

JonClarke
2007-Dec-14, 04:22 AM
How big would the USA be today if we had adopted that policy in the 1820? Answer: Less than 1/3rd our present size.

http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/fi/00000077.jpg

And the relevance is?????

Jon

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-14, 04:36 AM
Yes, and other countries would be bigger. So? The situation presented is not analagous; our potential living space is not limited to a continent. Plenty of Universe for everyone.Whatever you say. However, although the Universe may be essentially limitless, the only current practical planet to colonize is Mars, severely limiting the available off-planet realestate.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-14, 04:44 AM
Whatever you say. However, although the Universe may be essentially limitless, the only current practical planet to colonize is Mars, severely limiting the available off-planet realestate.

So who needs planets? Space habitats are more practical and have a clear title; whoever puts up the money to build it owns it. According to the Outer Space Treaty, although nations can't claim ownership of asteroids or moons, anyone who mines one can own whatever materials they remove (A wacky law birthed from Cold War politics) and can build what they want from it. Why bog down in a gravity well when 1-g is only a spin away?

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-14, 04:50 AM
And the relevance is?????Geez, you don’t see the relevance? We find ourselves at a juncture in history, and a major juncture at that. While our forefathers did not necessarily grasp the full significance of laying stake to as much territory as possible when the circumstances presented the opportunity, it is fortunate (for the USA) that they chose to incorporate as much territory as possible into the Union. Relatively small decisions 200 years ago made tremendous differences today.

Imagine a lackadaisical approach to the colonization of Mars. The Chinese, or the Indians, or whoever, claim the majority of Mars as their territory. Although that may not seem significant now, a few hundred years down the road it could conceivably result in a dramatic change in the balance of power. Imagine if you will the Chinese telling the USA that the US colony is on Chinese land, and that they must leave immediately or pay taxes to China. Although there are some who would find this either humorous or possibly justice, I assure you that we would not take it lightly. IOW, it would be better to at least preeminently claim territory, than to be kicked out by others who were simply more aggressive in their approach.

Warren Platts
2007-Dec-14, 02:54 PM
Yes, and other countries would be bigger. So? The situation presented is not analagous; our potential living space is not limited to a continent. Plenty of Universe for everyone.
Not really. The Moon has an area about the size of Africa. Mars has an area about the size of the landed area on Earth.

The ability to construct free-floating space habitats is irrelevant to the question of sovereignity of celestial bodies.

GOURDHEAD
2007-Dec-14, 03:03 PM
We "know" that in a few hundred million years the Earth will present a difficult environment for our survival. Whenever that time comes at which we (our descendants) must abandon the Earth in order to survive, we will need the technology and skills to do so. These will not be acquired "overnight". We can't be sure we know of all the hazards that may befall the Earth (collision with a large asteroid, toxic "bloom" of microbial pathogens, genetic engineering gone wrong etc.,), so the sooner we develop the required technology and skills for robust interplanetary and interstellar travel, the more safe we will be. Whether by design or the luck of the draw we have a solar system that lends itself to the development of space transportation--huge fuel tanks in the gas giants and a star that emits enough energy that we can harness to propel us onward and outward from our place of birth.

With this in mind the top priority for Mars missions must be (or become) the support of the development of the technology and skills required to travel safely and comfortably between planets and stars with sufficient robustness to build, terraform, and colonize planets anywhere in the MW that we wish. In support of this "grand theme" the set of priorities listed previously must be set aside in favor of a set that supports the development of the technology and skills cited above with the colonization of Mars used as a proving ground and qualification test bed. Such technology and skills will take from hundreds to thousands of years to develop to the levels of safety and comfort required for space exploration.

Since I am convinced that worm hole exploitation, space folding and zero point energy harnessing are fictional concepts, fusion and matter/anti-matter sources for energy are unproven and are likely to remain risky for hundreds of years, and fission energy sources for ships carrying sufficient propellant mass for interstellar travel of 5 light years distance are "unwieldly" at best; I believe the only viable system is one incorporating power on the order of 10^18 watts beamed from near the sun from polar orbiting beam generators to beam riding vehicles with adequate photovoltaic receivers to provide thrust to ion engines and propellants provided from the gas giants via particle beams. Very important criteria for any system traveling between planets or stars is the ability to detect and avoid obstacles and to achieve orbit at destination. These criteria remove the option for coasting.

If the design details for such a system can be solved (beam focussing is a bear) at all, it will surely take tens of years to design and hundreds of years to test and implement. Time's awasting!!

Motivation based on ego feeding and curiosity won't get us there. Fear of aliens of hostile intent may help, but I hope we can avoid both the aliens and the fear until we develop the strength required for us to be hospitable neighbors. We must think in terms of benefits to our descendants living thousands of years from now.

JonClarke
2007-Dec-14, 11:16 PM
Geez, you don’t see the relevance? We find ourselves at a juncture in history, and a major juncture at that. While our forefathers did not necessarily grasp the full significance of laying stake to as much territory as possible when the circumstances presented the opportunity, it is fortunate (for the USA) that they chose to incorporate as much territory as possible into the Union. Relatively small decisions 200 years ago made tremendous differences today.

So what? If the goal is the exploration and settlement of North America, then it is irrelevant who does it. And of course North America was explored and settled by many nations, inlcuding the indigeous peoples

Imagine a lackadaisical approach to the colonization of Mars. The Chinese, or the Indians, or whoever, claim the majority of Mars as their territory. Although that may not seem significant now, a few hundred years down the road it could conceivably result in a dramatic change in the balance of power. Imagine if you will the Chinese telling the USA that the US colony is on Chinese land, and that they must leave immediately or pay taxes to China. Although there are some who would find this either humorous or possibly justice, I assure you that we would not take it lightly. IOW, it would be better to at least preeminently claim territory, than to be kicked out by others who were simply more aggressive in their approach. [/QUOTE]

So you would advocate that the US act in a way other nations from exploring and settling other planets? If you object to China acting in this way (and there is no evidence that they are or will) the why is it OK for the US?

Jon

stutefish
2007-Dec-15, 12:30 AM
1. Scientific investigation and the expansion of human knowledge
2. Aerospace R&D stimulation.
3. Thrill of exploration and discovery.
4. A satisfying sense of accomplishment.

I don't think there's anything to be gained here on Earth, militarily or economically, from missions to Mars (except perhaps as a side effect of 2, above).

It's not like a military base on Mars would be able to alter the course of battles here on Earth. And resources extracted from Mars would almost certainly cost more to send to Earth than they'd be worth on arrival.

At some point, of course, the human civilizations on Mars might be well enough established to develop their own self-sufficient economy and support their own local military-industrial complexes for the purpose of waging war against each other. But that's a whole different situation than our current Mars mission priorities...

Noclevername
2007-Dec-15, 11:15 PM
Most likely everyone who contributes to the program will have their own motivations and priorities. As with most large-scale projects, there will be a lot of compromise on that front.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-16, 07:53 AM
Most likely everyone who contributesprogram will have their own motivations and priorities. As with most large-scale projects, there will be a lot of compromise on that front.Another excellent point. But the bottom line still remains, what do you think the impetus will be for us to actually go to Mars?

Noclevername
2007-Dec-16, 07:35 PM
Another excellent point. But the bottom line still remains, what do you think the impetus will be for us to actually go to Mars?

I think the driving force, at least for the first mission, will be a combination of curiosity and national prestige. And sheer stubbornness, since we've already said we'd go and don't want to be proven wrong in front of the rest of the world.

Rue
2007-Dec-16, 11:15 PM
since we've already said we'd go and don't want to be proven wrong in front of the rest of the world.

That's true the world is watching and if a future US administration should give it the financial axe. The Chinese will gloat and say, "at least we don't have that problem."

Damburger
2007-Dec-17, 10:36 AM
Determining if terraforming is possible. It may sound like ridiculously forward-thinking, but pretty much all space exploration falls under that category doesn't it? If we want a permanant, self-sufficient colony it needs outdoor agriculture. Humans simply require too much land to sustain them for the glass domes we see in artists sketches to support a significant and growing population.

As far as I can see, we don't even know if Mars can be terraformed. Are there enough volatiles to form a biosphere? Even with greenhouse gasses, can the temperature be raised enough? Without a magnetic field will Mars be able to retain a new atmosphere without massive and continuing development?

galacsi
2007-Dec-17, 10:48 AM
Determining if terraforming is possible. It may sound like ridiculously forward-thinking, but pretty much all space exploration falls under that category doesn't it? If we want a permanant, self-sufficient colony it needs outdoor agriculture. Humans simply require too much land to sustain them for the glass domes we see in artists sketches to support a significant and growing population.

As far as I can see, we don't even know if Mars can be terraformed. Are there enough volatiles to form a biosphere? Even with greenhouse gasses, can the temperature be raised enough? Without a magnetic field will Mars be able to retain a new atmosphere without massive and continuing development?

You made a very good point. If Mars can be terraformed , it change everything. It give a very practical purpose to Mars Missions , evaluating ways and timing of terraforming.

And if the planet is populated , it will be owned. So some conflicts are possible in theory.

Damburger
2007-Dec-17, 04:07 PM
And if the planet is populated , it will be owned. So some conflicts are possible in theory.

That doesn't follow. It certainly hasn't applied on Earth all the time, so why would it apply millions of miles from Earth?

Noclevername
2007-Dec-17, 08:58 PM
If we want a permanant, self-sufficient colony it needs outdoor agriculture. Humans simply require too much land to sustain them for the glass domes we see in artists sketches to support a significant and growing population.

I agree terraforming is a worthwhile goal, but the above statement is untrue. The number of domes that can be built is limited only by the surface area of the planet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraterraforming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming#Paraterraforming)

Damburger
2007-Dec-17, 09:10 PM
I'm aware of that concept, I'm also aware of the monumental engineering challenges involved in getting a decent amount of land from it. A complex society has to be able to provide itself with basic supplies using only a fraction of its labour force, and that might not be possible if every plot of agricultural land requires a huge structure to be built and maintained around it.

If your entire population has to work full time just to feed itself, your development simply stops.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-17, 09:49 PM
I'm aware of that concept, I'm also aware of the monumental engineering challenges involved in getting a decent amount of land from it. A complex society has to be able to provide itself with basic supplies using only a fraction of its labour force, and that might not be possible if every plot of agricultural land requires a huge structure to be built and maintained around it.

If your entire population has to work full time just to feed itself, your development simply stops.

The level of effort needed to build a geodesic dome is not great. An inflated dome is even simpler. And any manned structure in space will require maintainance. I don't see it as nearly the challenge of deveolping a sustainable enclosed ecosystem for such colonies. And certainly far, far, FAR less of an engineering and ecological challenge than terraforming a planet!

Mike_c130
2007-Dec-18, 03:12 AM
The level of effort needed to build a geodesic dome is not great. An inflated dome is even simpler. And any manned structure in space will require maintainance. I don't see it as nearly the challenge of deveolping a sustainable enclosed ecosystem for such colonies. And certainly far, far, FAR less of an engineering and ecological challenge than terraforming a planet!

As I understand it, many terrestrial plants can probably be grown at Mars surface pressures (or rather close to them), so an inflatable dome could be done "relatively" simply with essentially just enough pressure to hold the dome up, making fairly large scale agriculture more attractive (though tending would probably be done robotically).

Mike

Noclevername
2007-Dec-18, 03:27 AM
By the time large-scale structures can be built on Mars, the maintainance will probably be largely automated as well, and the mining of materials and manufacture of parts will have to be at least partly automated. The initial construction will require automation anyway, since any construction crew on-site will need life-support while they're working, which will require at least a moderate-sized greenhouse. The fewer people involved at that point, the easier the logistics. But on Mars, the starter settlement need not be a totally closed ecosystem, as raw materials (CO2, small amounts of H2O) are closer than shipping them from Earth. As more advanced colony structures are built, closure efficiency will increase, if only to save energy.

MentalAvenger
2007-Dec-18, 04:11 AM
Determining if terraforming is possible. It may sound like ridiculously forward-thinking, but pretty much all space exploration falls under that category doesn't it? I disagree. “Terraforming” is necessarily on a scale too large to undertake anywhere in the foreseeable future. Almost by definition, an “Earthlike” planet will have to be the result of millions of years of evolving and changing life forms. There really is no shortcut.


If we want a permanant, self-sufficient colony it needs outdoor agriculture. Humans simply require too much land to sustain them for the glass domes we see in artists sketches to support a significant and growing population.They are artists because they are not qualified to be scientists. IMO, it is almost certain that Martian colonies will be underground, in excavated tunnels, or natural caves and lava tubes. The extent of the underground agricultural areas will be, by necessity, equal to the task of supporting the contemporary population.

Noclevername
2007-Dec-18, 05:21 AM
I disagree. “Terraforming” is necessarily on a scale too large to undertake anywhere in the foreseeable future.


Note he didn't say we'd start terraforming now, but rather to examine Mars with an eye towards future terraforming. Which is kind of a moot point; we'll be there gathering as much data as we can anyway, no matter what it's eventually used for.


Almost by definition, an “Earthlike” planet will have to be the result of millions of years of evolving and changing life forms. There really is no shortcut.
Mars is never going to be Earthlike, it's not Earth. But a few centuries work could get it up to "human-habitable without artificial aids." Millions of years is nature's way. Humans have innovated quite a few shortcuts.


They are artists because they are not qualified to be scientists.
There are quite a number of people who are both.


IMO, it is almost certain that Martian colonies will be underground, in excavated tunnels, or natural caves and lava tubes. The extent of the underground agricultural areas will be, by necessity, equal to the task of supporting the contemporary population.

Most likely some will, but that has nothing to do with population levels. And agriculture will still require sunlight; the level of shielding needed to produce viable food crops is, IIRC, much lower than that needed for human beings. Most food plants live only one growing season anyway, and can tolerate a bit of radiation and still survive well enough to produce food (I'm not sure, I think so. Anyone here an expert on radiobotany?) So growing crops aboveground is no problem.