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eric_marsh
2008-Dec-08, 05:56 PM
I've been listening to the Astronomy Cast series about the Moon, as well as watching/listening to programs about sending humans to Mars. I'm really starting to develop the feeling that spending a lot of money to send fragile humans to these places is (at this time) a bad idea. IMHO we would do just as well to invest that money into advanced robotics and "visit" these and other places virtually. We could achieve much greater results in terms of bang for our buck and if we lose a few robots there won't be the political impact of losing humans.

Comments anyone?

Ilya
2008-Dec-08, 05:59 PM
This issue has been beaten to death on BAUT already. When I have time, I can dredge up the threads which go over it.

Swift
2008-Dec-08, 06:05 PM
I know we've debated this previously, maybe on multiple occasions, in Space Exploration (but I have no problem bringing it up again - I only add that for reference).

I think there are two counter arguments for the manned approach.

First, in lots of ways, humans are still better than robots. The Mars rovers or Phoenix, for example, have done amazing things. But something that takes them a day or two to do, a person could have done in an hour or two. I suspect, as we move forward, this gap will become smaller and smaller.

Second, there is the need for humans to do it or to be there. Such arguments are not amenable to a straight forward cost-benefit analysis. I suspect, by that approach, robots will always be the more logical way to do things. But humans are naturally an exploring, curious species. We will never be fully satisfied till we have put our footprints (even through our spacesuit boots) on the ground, on Mars or elsewhere.

Just my humble opinion.

jt-3d
2008-Dec-08, 06:07 PM
Indeed it has. However, IMO what you get with real folks on new planets is more area covered. You can indeed study the same rock for a week with a robot but with manned missions, you can grab up the same rock and bring it back and study it for years. You don't cover much area with robots. I don't know how much area the rovers have covered on Mars but I think even apollo 11 covered more area than those two bots have covered in how many ever years its been. Certaintly the later missions did.

Bang for buck, sure robots are comparatively cheap. But the pace robots set is really really slow and we're never ever going anywhere if we keep screwing around with toys.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-08, 06:12 PM
That's why I spoke of investing in advanced robot technology. It's correct that people are much more flexible in what they can do than robots are. But I would imagine that for the cost of a human Mars flight we could undertake significant robotics research to bring them up to speed and have money left over. And as is the case with other space research the benefit of that research would be extended to everyone, probably in more significant ways than other knowledge that we might gain from taking humans to mars. The nice thing about super-robots is that they could then be produced in mass and instead of just exploring one world, we could explore everywhere that we could send them.

What would the result of a "moon shot" effort into advanced robotics?

The astroid belt or Jupiter anyone?

For that matter, how about a robot to clean your house?

jokergirl
2008-Dec-08, 06:13 PM
Because We Can.

;)

Swift
2008-Dec-08, 06:28 PM
Because We Can.

;)
:clap:

mugaliens
2008-Dec-08, 07:16 PM
Because the tourists aren't as well-trained?

:think:

Swift
2008-Dec-08, 07:44 PM
Because the tourists aren't as well-trained?

:think:
:lol:

Plus, the tourists only take pictures of each other, standing in front of the neat rock. Which just leaves the JPL/NASA Principle Investigators yelling "Get out of the way, I want to see THE ROCK!".

JustAFriend
2008-Dec-08, 10:34 PM
IMHO we would do just as well to invest that money into advanced robotics and "visit" these and other places virtually.


You can have 'virtual' sex, but is it as good as the real thing???

You can drop a climbing bot on a mountain or fly over it in an airplane and take pictures.... is that a substitute for explorers??

You can have a computer string together random sentences until you get enough to write a novel.... is that a substitute for a real novelist??

The whole concept of doing things 'virtually' is really just not there yet... come back when someone invents a real holodeck....

Whirlpool
2008-Dec-08, 11:47 PM
But the replacement is to preserve the human life .
And Robot is still under the command of a human.

And for the things you mentioned , I think , it's a different matter , like virtual mating.

:doh:

Chuck
2008-Dec-09, 12:35 AM
We could cut the cost of the manned mission in half by not bringing them back. We could send them a much cheaper resupply mission every couple of years which would include new equipment. If they could use local water and solar power then they could be sent dehydrated food and would not need to receive oxygen or fuel. The new equipment would be set up and tested by the astronauts before being sent out and could be rescued if they broke down or got stuck before having gone too far away. One broken part would not ruin an entire robot since a spare part could be sent on the next resupply mission. Sample return rockets could be packed with a much more carefully selected variety of samples since humans are much more mobile than current robots.

Best of all, getting continuing funding would be easy since congress wouldn't vote to let the astronauts die.

The astronauts would eventually die on Mars, but they'd die here as well. All of them should have some medical training and could be sent new techniques, equipment, and medications on the resupply missions. If space travel becomes much cheaper in twenty or thirty years then maybe replacement astronauts could be sent and some survivors returned if they wanted to come back. The gravity difference might be a problem, though. They might decide that they'd rather stay.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-09, 12:36 AM
You can have 'virtual' sex, but is it as good as the real thing???

You can drop a climbing bot on a mountain or fly over it in an airplane and take pictures.... is that a substitute for explorers??

You can have a computer string together random sentences until you get enough to write a novel.... is that a substitute for a real novelist??

The whole concept of doing things 'virtually' is really just not there yet... come back when someone invents a real holodeck....

These are good questions and I think that the answers one is likely to give really depend on one's world view. I'd say that these questions are somewhat timely too. Check this out:

http://www.telepresenceoptions.com/2008/12/swapping_your_body_becomes_a_v/

So if you could have a plausible experience of walking on Mars while your body is here, is it really better to actually be on Mars risking life and limb?

Of course the speed of light is a significant obstacle to long distance telepresence but for the time being let's set that aside.

Personally, the more I think about it the more I'm coming to the conclusion that for the time being sending people to Mars is not a great idea, unless it's going to be a one way trip. We could do much better focusing on robot technology and then letting the robots do the ground work to prepare the place for humans who would come later.

AGN Fuel
2008-Dec-09, 12:53 AM
There's no doubt that robotic/unmanned/rover missions have an important role to play, but I've still yet to see the machine that can observe a scene and go "Hmmm. You know, that looks odd".

That's where the paradigm-breaking discoveries are made.

samkent
2008-Dec-09, 01:22 AM
Let’s compare
Cost of MSL 2.2 billion after we were led to believe 800 million.
Cost of Mars direct

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Direct

The initial cost estimate for Mars Direct was put at $55 billion, to be paid over ten years.

But as we all know NASA can’t brush their teeth on budget so the actual cost would be double or triple or more. You can robot yourself silly for 55 billion and not have to mourn the loss any crews. Imagine the publicity if a craft breaks into Mars orbit with a dead crew. What do you do then? If you lose a couple rovers out of the fleet “C’est la vie”.

cjl
2008-Dec-09, 05:18 AM
I don't see why that would be any different than if a craft were to burn up on the pad in an atmosphere of pure oxygen, killing all onboard. Or if a craft were to be flown in previously untested flight conditions, causing a failure mode that was already suspected and killing all onboard.

Of course, it's not like that's ever happened before...

Van Rijn
2008-Dec-09, 05:45 AM
IMHO we would do just as well to invest that money into advanced robotics and "visit" these and other places virtually. We could achieve much greater results in terms of bang for our buck and if we lose a few robots there won't be the political impact of losing humans.

Comments anyone?

More of a question than a comment: If not now, when, or under what conditions, would you want to start sending people to space? Are people supposed to stay on this planet forever?

Sticks
2008-Dec-09, 06:14 AM
I have moved this to the Space exploration section as it is essentially a debate between human spaceflight and robots

danscope
2008-Dec-09, 06:39 AM
I've been listening to the Astronomy Cast series about the Moon, as well as watching/listening to programs about sending humans to Mars. I'm really starting to develop the feeling that spending a lot of money to send fragile humans to these places is (at this time) a bad idea. IMHO we would do just as well to invest that money into advanced robotics and "visit" these and other places virtually. We could achieve much greater results in terms of bang for our buck and if we lose a few robots there won't be the political impact of losing humans.

Comments anyone?

Hi Eric, When I last posted about this subject, I made the point, even before the financial troubles, about the very real problem with the money and effort it would take to "Send people" to the planets for fun and (profit?) .
Now, those posts seem to ring true, yea prophetic.
You make an excellent point of sending a robotic presence to such places
with more success and with less risk and less financial impact of our beleaguered treasury. Simply put, the facts of life are catching up with
the times and advocates of manned space exploration. I shall always be an advocate of a manned presence in eart orbit, developing better ways and designs to boost men and materials within that theatre ....which indeed has generated fun and profit and given us a superb eye on the universe.
Best regards, Dan

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 08:39 AM
Sigh.

The anti manned exploration brigade almost always seem to base their arguments on some variant of "robots are faster cheaper, safer, better" than people.

Each of these statements is questionable. Unamnned missions are in reality extremely slow, much more expensive per kg, and have very limited data returns, compared to manned missions. While they don't risk astronauts, they are not risk free - unmanned launches have killed hundreds round the world.

But that is not the point I want to discuss, as it would cover well trodden ground.

danscope, samkent, and eric marsh, as the people in this thread so far arguing against crewed missions, I have some questions. For it to be justified in you eyes a crewed mission to Mars would have to be:

How fast?Ten, hundred, thousand times faster in terms of ground covereage compared to a unmanned rover?

How cheap? Per kg, half, quarter, tenth the cost of a top end unmanned mission (about 2-3 billion a tonne BTW? Overal, twice, five, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred times the aggregate cost of a top end unmanned mission (about 3-5 billion BTW)?

How safe? The chance of a crew death of one in ten, one in one hundred, one in a thousand, one in ten thousand?

How much better? In terms of number of instruments carried by a top end unmanned rover (~10), twice as many, five timess, ten times, one hundred times? In terms of return sample (unmanned sample return is typically <1 kg these days), ten times, hundreds, thousand times more?

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 08:43 AM
two related questions for danscope, samkent, eric marsh, and anyone else who thinks we should only go to Mars with unmanned missions:

1) Do you see Mars a potential place for human settlement?

2) If your answer is yes, how to you propose we find out whether humans can actually settle there without sending people?

Jon

Ilya
2008-Dec-09, 01:49 PM
two related questions for danscope, samkent, eric marsh, and anyone else who thinks we should only go to Mars with unmanned missions:

1) Do you see Mars a potential place for human settlement?


No

djustdee
2008-Dec-09, 02:01 PM
Heya,


I have moved this to the Space exploration section as it is essentially a debate between human spaceflight and robots

This is a debate that I never could understand. Sometimes machines are better and sometimes people are better. However, the best option is the one were already which is using both simultaneously. Send a probe to learn what you can and then send people to put that knowledge to practical use. Do it again. In the words of the shampoo bottle - lather, rinse, repeat.

As to the question of Why send people.There is the philosophical rationale that I think was best stated by Sinclair in Babylon 5.

Sinclair: No. We have to stay here. And there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes…[and] all of this…all of this…was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars.

Dee

samkent
2008-Dec-09, 05:18 PM
I'm not saying robots are better. I knoe that humans can do a better job much quicker than any robot. You can compare this debate to traveling 100 miles on earth. Do you fly on a plane for such a short trip? No you take a car. The plane is safer and quicker but you still take a car. Why? Because you can afford it! We can't afford men on Mars. Plus we still don't have the technology to do it.

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-09, 05:55 PM
But how will we get the technology, unless we put some effort into it? In 1948, we didn't have the technology to send a a ball into orbit, let alone a man on the moon. But a determined effort gave us that technology. And so in 1969, we landed on the moon.For taking pictures and long range measurements on long missions, like Voyager and New Horizons, for going to places we can't, like Venera, sure, unmanned missions are supreme. But when a lander and rover get the same capabilities as a human being on the surface, the same intuitiveness and independence, then I say, we aren't doing exploration anymore, they are. They are just sharing it with us.
I know, I know, 'because it it's there' is not a very good reason, logically anyway. But neither is 'we don't have the technology'. It is as bad as an Apollo Conspiracy Theorist who says because somebody said in 1959 the chances of getting to the moon were a bazillion to one, that means it was impossible in 1969. Technology gets developed, research is done, engineering is done. Much of the technology needed is either very experimental or on paper, but consider this. On March 16, 1926, the first successful liquid fueled rocket flew up 41 feet, and landed in a cabbage patch. Let us say someone said that in 43 years, that same type of rocket would land 2 men on the moon. Your reaction would likely be less then believing. But that is what happened.

Ilya
2008-Dec-09, 07:02 PM
two related questions for danscope, samkent, eric marsh, and anyone else who thinks we should only go to Mars with unmanned missions:

1) Do you see Mars a potential place for human settlement?

No.

Less flippantly, I repeat what I said on Man Plus = F Minus (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/80554-man-plus-f-minus-2.html#post1354617) thread:


The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanticize it because it's so hard to reach.


I expect few hundred years from now Solar System to be like Sibiria, Antarctica, or bottom of the sea writ large. A place where people go to work and/or to do scientific research*, and accept the risks and the unpleasantness, and then come home to enjoy beaches and sunshine, and to spend their danger pay. NOT a place to raise children -- which to me is the defnition of "settlement".

At least as long as people remain Human 1.0, ridiculously maladapted to vacuum, radiation, and low gravity.

And as for Sinclair's quote from Babylon 5 -- sorry, but it is a hollow argument. By the time Sun begins expanding into red giant, we'd be lucky if our descendants (if there are any) are even biological. Trying to plan escape routes for that eventuality today is as silly as blue-green algae a billion years ago making plans to deal with then-upcoming crisis of atmosphere filling with corrosive poisonous oxygen.

* And sometimes go for fun -- like today some peolpe climb Himalayas or dive to deep wrecks for fun. But they don't live there.

danscope
2008-Dec-09, 07:07 PM
two related questions for danscope, samkent, eric marsh, and anyone else who thinks we should only go to Mars with unmanned missions:

1) Do you see Mars a potential place for human settlement?

2) If your answer is yes, how to you propose we find out whether humans can actually settle there without sending people?

Jon

Hi, I think many people would agree that it would many magnitudes easier to live on or under the ocean than to attempt living on Mars.
Just because mars is "There", is not sufficient reason to expend the funds.
It should have become abundantly clear to the most casual observer within the last month that we have work to do here on earth. How can the myopic view of the mars dream compeat with the pressing needs facing these generations?
I don't see manned expiditions to mars as necessary as air and bread, or education, shelter, nutritious food, clean water, transportation infrastructure
and the rest.
I do see robotic as a reasonable compromise with sufficient expectation of success , and getting funding.
And ceratinly, a manned presence in LEO,....a successful presence, proving the concepts of "recycling" etc etc etc will must needs be "perfected", with all that implies, before you could, even if you wanted to....go to mars....
for fun and profit. I submit that there is no profit, and it remains to be seen how much "fun" is in the trial.
Best regards,
Dan

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-09, 07:25 PM
Why a manned presence in orbit then? If it is all about costs and benefits, what is the point? On the ISS they are doing experiments in recycling for long duration flights, but what is the point of that unless we have long duration flights? Knowing how the body reacts to long periods of weightlessness is only fascinating in the strictest scientific sense, unless we are planning trips where such information is useful. What is the point of growing plants in microgravity, unless we are planning to need them. Most other experiments could be done by some kind of probe, especially with the low light speed delay of low earth orbit.
Why keep people in orbit, if we aren't planning anything else?

Swift
2008-Dec-09, 07:34 PM
I don't see manned expiditions to mars as necessary as air and bread, or education, shelter, nutritious food, clean water, transportation infrastructure
and the rest.

I understand that positon. But given that criteria, I don't suspect man will even attempt such things for hundreds of years, because we won't solve all those "basic" problems for at least that long. And if we should expend all our resources on those basic issues first, then why should we also spend money on music, the arts, or for that matter, robotic probes to Mars, or the Hubble Telescope, since those won't put bread on the table either.

Why does everything we do have to be judged by a cold cost-benefit analysis? I personally like the "because its there" argument. The world is kind of a dull, depressing, problem-filled place without it.

Lastly, I don't agree with the argument that since we won't live on Mars, we should not have people explore it. As Ilya said, no one lives on top of K2, but I don't think that means we should not visit it, even if for no other reason than to say that someone has.

Does all of our exploring just have to be to find new places to live and build houses?

All this stuff reminds me of the periodic comments that governments should not support basic research, only applied research that has some immediate public benefit. Just think of all the knowledge we have missed out on if all we looked for is what is going to put food on the table next.

Ilya
2008-Dec-09, 07:38 PM
Why keep people in orbit, if we aren't planning anything else?
Actually, I think ISS is a terrible use of both money and astronaut skills. Personally, I'd prefer if US government had astronauts spend their time building large-scale orbital structures such as SPSS for power production and electromagnetic launch rails for interplanetary probes. Both of which can be scalable, MOSTLY automated, and eventually usable for many different purposes. Including those impractical at present.

Ilya
2008-Dec-09, 07:55 PM
As Ilya said, no one lives on top of K2, but I don't think that means we should not visit it, even if for no other reason than to say that someone has.
In 1969, at enormous expense and effort, US government succeeded in putting men on the Moon. Thirty nine years later we have no ability to do it again, significant portion of world's population does not believe it happened, and significant portion of the rest think it was a pointless stunt. Not as inspiring as it could have been.

I am extremely wary of very expensive long-term government projects with fixed goals. Once complete, such projects tend to die without much left to show for. If a huge, $100+ billion NASA effort results in landing few men on Mars in, say, 2030, what do you think will happen in 2032? "We are done, time to cut the budget", and whatever specialized vehicles were built for Mars Effort will go out of production. Apollo redux, IOW. OTOH, if and when spaceflight gets cheap enough that a manned Mars expedition could be privately financed (which I do not expect until 2100 at the earliest), such expedition would almost certainly be a part of a sustained effort. When people spend their own money, they are much more interested in having a long-term return.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 08:59 PM
No

Why?

Swift
2008-Dec-09, 09:04 PM
In 1969, at enormous expense and effort, US government succeeded in putting men on the Moon. Thirty nine years later we have no ability to do it again, significant portion of world's population does not believe it happened, and significant portion of the rest think it was a pointless stunt. Not as inspiring as it could have been.

....

If a huge, $100+ billion NASA effort results in landing few men on Mars in, say, 2030, what do you think will happen in 2032? "We are done, time to cut the budget", and whatever specialized vehicles were built for Mars Effort will go out of production. Apollo redux, IOW.
I'm sure you are right. Heck, I'm sure a vast majority of the world thinks climbing K2, or writing a symphony, or finding the Higgs boson is pointless, whether they do it, or someone else does. I just find that attitude depressing.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 09:09 PM
I am extremely wary of very expensive long-term government projects with fixed goals. Once complete, such projects tend to die without much left to show for. If a huge, $100+ billion NASA effort results in landing few men on Mars in, say, 2030, what do you think will happen in 2032? "We are done, time to cut the budget", and whatever specialized vehicles were built for Mars Effort will go out of production. Apollo redux, IOW. OTOH, if and when spaceflight gets cheap enough that a manned Mars expedition could be privately financed (which I do not expect until 2100 at the earliest), such expedition would almost certainly be a part of a sustained effort. When people spend their own money, they are much more interested in having a long-term return.

It is not so much they tend to die as they are wound up because they have completed their goals. This does not mean to say that all or even most government exploration programs are like this. The ODP and polar exploration programs have run for many decades. NASA has also been carrying outopen ended unmanned exploration programs.

Private exploration programs are far more likely to get cancelled by government ones, as the goals of commerical exploration are very short term. I have had too many commerical exploration programs cancelled from under me to think otherwise.

Jon

Ilya
2008-Dec-09, 09:12 PM
Why?

See my post #26 (and the link in it).

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 09:13 PM
I'm not saying robots are better. I knoe that humans can do a better job much quicker than any robot. You can compare this debate to traveling 100 miles on earth. Do you fly on a plane for such a short trip? No you take a car. The plane is safer and quicker but you still take a car. Why? Because you can afford it! We can't afford men on Mars. Plus we still don't have the technology to do it.


Once again I ask, in a slightly different form, what do you think is affordable?

What technology don't we have?

Jon

Ilya
2008-Dec-09, 09:14 PM
It is not so much they tend to die as they are wound up because they have completed their goals. This does not mean to say that all or even most government exploration programs are like this. The ODP and polar exploration programs have run for many decades. NASA has also been carrying outopen ended unmanned exploration programs.

That's why I wrote "very expensive long-term government projects with fixed goals". Open-ended projects are a different matter. But all NASA proposals I had seen for manned Mars mission are very much in "flag and footprints" category.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 09:17 PM
That's why I wrote "very expensive long-term government projects with fixed goals". Open-ended projects are a different matter. But all NASA proposals I had seen for manned Mars mission are very much in "flag and footprints" category.

That is because NASA's role is to determine technology. It is for politicans to determine goals. tTe same technology can be usefor for fixed or open ended exploration.

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-09, 09:19 PM
The vast expense is why we have to keep at it, not just do it, then stop. We are in the process now of making spaceflight, if not available to the masses, lots of rich people then. Already we have made it safe enough and cheap enough that Russia can make a profit off of sending well padded tourists into space in orbit. I say it is time to move on, take the next step, and make the next step, making moon flights as common as orbits today. We have 3 countries presently with human orbital launch capabilities, and others working on it, and private companies as well. Until we have another revolutionary boost in individual human productivity, say some form of nanotechnology and assembly, space is going to be expensive. But that doesn't mean we should sit on out butts waiting for the future to come, because that way, the future will never come. We need to grasp it with both hands, and make it ours.Why? Because out there is the last horizen, the final frontier. In 4 years, it will be the same distance between us to Apollo 11, as Apollo 11 and Goddard first flight into the breath taking altitudes of 41 feet. If w e can do that, can't we, if over a longer time, do equally impressive things? We have giants to stand on, let us see how far we can see.

aquitaine
2008-Dec-09, 09:21 PM
On the other hand, while mars is much more technically challenging and (at least initially) expensive, it does provide more than extra place to dump people. It can be a way point for exploration of the outer planets as well as an additional base to push for further industrialization & colonization of space, since its gravity is not as strong as the Earths.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 09:21 PM
See my post #26 (and the link in it).

Thanks, I missed the follow on.

Your Gobi analogy is perhaps flawed, because thousands of people live in the Gobi desert and have done successfully so for many thousands of years.

A better anology would be Antarctica or the continental shelves.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-09, 09:41 PM
Dan, You still have not answered my questions!

For it to be justified in you eyes a crewed mission to Mars would have to be:

How fast?

How cheap?

How safe?

How much better?

Please have a go at uantifying your answers.

As for the rest,


! think many people would agree that it would many magnitudes easier to live on or under the ocean than to attempt living on Mars.

Would it? Living under the oceans has many challenges that living on Mars does not.


It should have become abundantly clear to the most casual observer within the last month that we have work to do here on earth.

Which is why we always have spent more on those concerns and will continue to do. How does meeting those needs preclude us doing other things?


How can the myopic view of the mars dream compeat with the pressing needs facing these generations?

How is the mars dream myopic?


I don't see manned expiditions to mars as necessary as air and bread, or education, shelter, nutritious food, clean water, transportation infrastructure and the rest. I do see robotic as a reasonable compromise with sufficient expectation of success , and getting funding.

So back to my question - how cheap does a manned exploration program have to be before you would support it?


And ceratinly, a manned presence in LEO,....a successful presence, proving the concepts of "recycling" etc etc etc will must needs be "perfected", with all that implies, before you could, even if you wanted to....go to mars....

We have over 25 years of experience occupying space stations already. By the end of the ISS program we will have another 10 at least. How much more experience will be needed for our technology is good enough for you?


...for fun and profit. I submit that there is no profit, and it remains to be seen how much "fun" is in the trial.

Do you see no profit in expanded horizons of human experience and knowledge?

You don't think the fact that no space traveller to date appears to have regretted the experience sufficient indication that Mars will be fun?

stutefish
2008-Dec-09, 10:03 PM
It seems to me that the best argument in favor of sending humans to other planets (indeed, into space at all) is because we want to. The other rationales strike me as ad hoc, pasted onto that raw desire after the fact, in an attempt to justify it.

The truth is, humans are extremely optimized to operate here, on Earth. Any other environment--even the extremes of our own homeworld--is profoundly inhospitable to us. Traveling there, let alone living there, requires herculean efforts and great expense. The only time it makes any practical sense whatsoever is when our desire to go outweighs the benefits our robots can offer.

timb
2008-Dec-09, 10:34 PM
It seems to me that the best argument in favor of sending humans to other planets (indeed, into space at all) is because we want to. The other rationales strike me as ad hoc, pasted onto that raw desire after the fact, in an attempt to justify it.

The truth is, humans are extremely optimized to operate here, on Earth. Any other environment--even the extremes of our own homeworld--is profoundly inhospitable to us. Traveling there, let alone living there, requires herculean efforts and great expense. The only time it makes any practical sense whatsoever is when our desire to go outweighs the benefits our robots can offer.

Your are right that this is all about desire, the desire to see childhood fantasies made real, but who is the we who will be suffering this great expense? Mercifully not me. If Jon wanted to spend a trillion dollars of his own money setting up a base on Mars I don't see anyone trying to stop him. The trouble is that he wants to use the money of American taxpayers who have alternative uses for it. Such as fixing the grade school system, or fixing medical care, or addressing the many environmental problems, or financing a trillion dollar tax cut so they can fix their personal finances. The question a responsible politician asks is "How do I allocate the funds available to provide the greatest benefit to the public?"

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-09, 10:38 PM
Well, Apollo did much of what Luna program did, and did at least one aspect cheaper.
Three of the Luna program brought back 326 grams of lunar material, and the whole program cost about 4.5 billion dollars. Apollo brought back 381 kilograms and cost 135 billion dollars. As well, the Apollo astronauts could pick and choose from a variety of rocks, picking the most interesting ones, and get them from farther a feild, especially on the last three missions. And Apollo was 'spend money, not time' program. For a mission like say the Grand Tour, or an orbital survey, or a landing in even more then unusual conditions, probes are best. But for bringing stuff back? Humans are best.

slang
2008-Dec-09, 11:12 PM
I'm not saying robots are better. I knoe that humans can do a better job much quicker than any robot. You can compare this debate to traveling 100 miles on earth. Do you fly on a plane for such a short trip? No you take a car. The plane is safer and quicker but you still take a car. Why? Because you can afford it! We can't afford men on Mars. Plus we still don't have the technology to do it.

You don't take the car when it's 100 miles across water. Or when it's across enemy lines to deliver havoc encased in steel. Perhaps it's a 100 miles across such difficult circumstances that a small Cessna might actually be a cheaper option than to design a ground vehicle.

I've stretched your analogy, probably beyond its intended use, but my point is that mission requirements and environment determine the best tool for the mission. Whether that tool be breathing or not.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 12:09 AM
Well, Apollo did much of what Luna program did, and did at least one aspect cheaper.
Three of the Luna program brought back 326 grams of lunar material, and the whole program cost about 4.5 billion dollars. Apollo brought back 381 kilograms and cost 135 billion dollars. As well, the Apollo astronauts could pick and choose from a variety of rocks, picking the most interesting ones, and get them from farther a feild, especially on the last three missions. And Apollo was 'spend money, not time' program. For a mission like say the Grand Tour, or an orbital survey, or a landing in even more then unusual conditions, probes are best. But for bringing stuff back? Humans are best.

I have been trying to find a cost for the Luna sample return program, so I am intrigued by the 4.5 billion cost. Do you have a source?

It is also worth noting that half of the Luna sample return missions crashed. Unmanned missions are sometimes for fragile than manned ones

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-10, 12:25 AM
I have been trying to find a cost for the Luna sample return program, so I am intrigued by the 4.5 billion cost. Do you have a source?

It is also worth noting that half of the Luna sample return missions crashed. Unmanned missions are sometimes for fragile than manned ones
I looked and the only source I have been able to find is the unfortunately unreliable Wikipedia. Where whoever put that figure got it, I have no idea. However, I highly doubt it cast 1000th what Apollo cost. I admit one of the beauty's of an unmanned mission is that if it fails, life goes on. If a manned mission fails, it is a disaster. If someone dies, it is even worse.
However, though even if they are cheaper then manned missions, if unmanned missions ever get as capable as a manned mission, with the same intuitiveness and decision making skills, we may have to stop treating them so cavalierly, if only from a peoples rights point of view.

djustdee
2008-Dec-10, 01:13 AM
Heya,


And as for Sinclair's quote from Babylon 5 -- sorry, but it is a hollow argument. By the time Sun begins expanding into red giant, we'd be lucky if our descendants (if there are any) are even biological. Trying to plan escape routes for that eventuality today is as silly as blue-green algae a billion years ago making plans to deal with then-upcoming crisis of atmosphere filling with corrosive poisonous oxygen.

Let me see if I understand your counter-argument. By the time it is necessary for us to move to avoid the expansion of the sun we will be evolved enough to simply up and leave. I have two problems with this. One, the inherent idea that we don't have to plan for such things because someone else will solve the problem before then. Two, that all the incidents that could derail that solution before it happens will be avoided.

Both assume that humans will get lucky before then and both are dependent on the goodwill of the universe.

I prefer to start working on the path now in all directions simultaneously.
Dee

samkent
2008-Dec-10, 02:32 AM
I’ll support a manned mission to Mars when it is cheap enough for companies or investors can bear the entire expense. Don’t spend my social security benefits on it unless I get to go.

We may have 25 to 35 years in manning space stations but they all required resupply every couple of months. Imagine if the queen had to send resupply ships with all the food, water, fire wood, and wind that Columbus needed. If that were the case the Indians would still be walking and using tomahawks.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-10, 02:51 AM
Wow - it looks like this thread has really taken off. There are a lot of comments that have been made and questions asked and since I started this thread I'm going to weigh in on at least some of them.

AGN Fuel says: I've still yet to see the machine that can observe a scene and go "Hmmm. You know, that looks odd".

Good point. But machines would be under the oversight of humans whom I presume might do so.

VAn Rjin asks or muses: "If not now, when, or under what conditions, would you want to start sending people to space? Are people supposed to stay on this planet forever?"

One of the biggest problems with manned exploration is that at this point we need to lift everything out of Earth's gravity well. It seems to me that a smart strategy would be to bide our time while machines do the necessary preparatory work to exploit resources on the Moon, Mars and perhaps the astroids, most specifically water which could be used to make oxygen, drink and even use as a propulsion mass. In addition, if we could de-orbit an icy astroid of sufficient mass the astroid itself might be used as a spacecraft which would offer some protection from solar radiation as well as more room to move around in. Then we could go to Mars in style with greater numbers of explorers and possibly have a better chance of survival.

JonClarke asks: Do you see Mars a potential place for human settlement?

That's a very good question. It seems unlikely that a self sustaining human settlement on Mars is possible in the next century or so at least unless we have some significant technological breakthroughs.

ravens_cry asks: "But how will we get the technology, unless we put some effort into it?"

Obviously we never will. I'm not saying that we should never send humans to Mars, just that there may be better short term strategies. I really do believe that if we put a "mars shot" effort into advanced robotics (including significant leaps forward in AI) it would have greater benefits than the same effort would have at putting a handful of men on the red planet. Heck, we might even make a quantum leap to the next evolutionary step and render ourselves obsolete. ;) Then our new robot masters could do what we are too frail to do. :)

Swift writes: "I'm sure you are right. Heck, I'm sure a vast majority of the world thinks climbing K2, or writing a symphony, or finding the Higgs boson is pointless, whether they do it, or someone else does. I just find that attitude depressing."

True - I'm not against humanity (or our trans-human offspring) expanding to new horizons (is that the right word?) beyond our world. I just think that there are smarter and less expensive ways to do so than a moon shot on steroids.

aquitaine writes: On the other hand, while mars is much more technically challenging and (at least initially) expensive, it does provide more than extra place to dump people. It can be a way point for exploration of the outer planets as well as an additional base to push for further industrialization & colonization of space, since its gravity is not as strong as the Earths.

If we just want to dump people, how about spacecraft on the cheap, like C.M. Kornbluth wrote of in The Marching Morons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Marching_Morons) :think:

Seriously though, eventually we may find ourselves in that position. I'm just arguing for an "outside the box" solution to an extremely difficult problem.

PraedSt
2008-Dec-10, 03:26 AM
I've been listening to the Astronomy Cast series about the Moon, as well as watching/listening to programs about sending humans to Mars. I'm really starting to develop the feeling that spending a lot of money to send fragile humans to these places is (at this time) a bad idea. IMHO we would do just as well to invest that money into advanced robotics and "visit" these and other places virtually. We could achieve much greater results in terms of bang for our buck and if we lose a few robots there won't be the political impact of losing humans.
Sorry, I'm late to this thread. Just to clarify, you are talking about US government expenditure, correct? Now if, say, India and China decide to go through with their manned space programmes, what happens then? Do you think the US should maintain its lead in manned Space exploration? Is this lead valuable enough? Just curious.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-10, 03:31 AM
Sorry, I'm late to this thread. Just to clarify, you are talking about US government expenditure, correct? Now if, say, India and China decide to go through with their manned space programmes, what happens then? Do you think the US should maintain its lead in manned Space exploration? Is this lead valuable enough? Just curious.

Why would we want to maintain a "lead?" For propaganda purposes? Military purposes? What knowledge would we expect to gain and what is it worth to gain that knowledge?

Already space is becoming so expensive that exploration is commonly becoming collaborations between nations. It might just turn out that the task of going to Mars is just too great for any single nation.

PraedSt
2008-Dec-10, 04:01 AM
Why would we want to maintain a "lead?" For propaganda purposes? Military purposes? What knowledge would we expect to gain and what is it worth to gain that knowledge?

Already space is becoming so expensive that exploration is commonly becoming collaborations between nations. It might just turn out that the task of going to Mars is just too great for any single nation.
Of course. That was my question. Power and influence. They've have always been powerful motivators, if not the most powerful. Other countries certainly care about these things, and what they care most about is having power over the top dog. How could you not?

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 07:45 AM
Your are right that this is all about desire, the desire to see childhood fantasies made real, but who is the we who will be suffering this great expense? Mercifully not me.

Why not you? Do you live on one of those few countries that does not have a space program?


If Jon wanted to spend a trillion dollars of his own money setting up a base on Mars I don't see anyone trying to stop him.

Why would a Mars mission cost a trillion dollars? What if it cost a lot less? Why don't you try answer the question I asked the anti-Mars mission people - how cheap does it have to be before you think it would be worthwhile?


The trouble is that he wants to use the money of American taxpayers who have alternative uses for it.

Who said anything about the American tax payer? If the US decides to opt out of sending people to Mars that will be its collective choice. But nations, other entities, may well think differently.


Such as fixing the grade school system, or fixing medical care, or addressing the many environmental problems, or financing a trillion dollar tax cut so they can fix their personal finances. The question a responsible politician asks is "How do I allocate the funds available to provide the greatest benefit to the public?"

How would sending people to Mars preclude any of these worthy objectives?

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 08:00 AM
I looked and the only source I have been able to find is the unfortunately unreliable Wikipedia. Where whoever put that figure got it, I have no idea. However, I highly doubt it cast 1000th what Apollo cost.

Thanks


I admit one of the beauty's of an unmanned mission is that if it fails, life goes on. If a manned mission fails, it is a disaster. If someone dies, it is even worse.

It is a personal disaster if a unmanned mission fails. Steve Squyres put 15 years of his life into getting the MERs to Mars. What if they had crashed and burned? That's more than a third of his working life.

Sometimes people get another go. Mars Observer was lost in 1992, wasting more than 10 years of work. The instruments eventually got to Mars, on Mars Observer and Mars Odyssey, another 9 years. That means that people working on the instruments devoted more than 20 years to get them to Mars, before they even start doing science.

Of course there is no promise that people will get a second change. The Mars 96 instruments have not been reflown and have no prospect of doing so. The same with those on Beagle 2.



However, though even if they are cheaper then manned missions, if unmanned missions ever get as capable as a manned mission, with the same intuitiveness and decision making skills, we may have to stop treating them so cavalierly, if only from a peoples rights point of view.

That is already the case. Missions are not sent to the most interesting landing sites, they are sent to the ones that meet the safety criteria. The scientists get to chose the least uninteresting among these. Even when they are on the surface, concerns about safety preclude many interesting observations. Opportunity could not access many interesting sites in Endurance and Victoria craters because of safety concerns.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 08:13 AM
I’ll support a manned mission to Mars when it is cheap enough for companies or investors can bear the entire expense.

What if there are no profits for industry?


Don’t spend my social security benefits on it unless I get to go.

How cheap would a mars mission have to be not to impact on your social security?


We may have 25 to 35 years in manning space stations but they all required resupply every couple of months.

We resupply space stations every few months because of the capacity of the supply missions. The space stations thermselves operate for years. if you want them to operate for longer than a few months between ressupply, send more supplies per mission. Logistically, with respect to earth based supplies, a Mars mission is just a space station that carries 900 days of supplies with it. Thanks to the 25 years of space station experience to date, more than 35 years by the time we get to mars, we have a pretty good idea what the logistic requirements are.


Imagine if the queen had to send resupply ships with all the food, water, fire wood, and wind that Columbus needed. If that were the case the Indians would still be walking and using tomahawks.

Columbus's ships had to carry all the food, water, fuel, etc. they needed for the voyage. They could only restock once they reached their destination, and only then on what they could find, essentially food and water and unseasoned timber. There was no lamp oil in the Americas, no gunpowder, no iron for tools and weapons, no cloth for clothes and sails.

A Mars mission would be much the same. Propellants, solar power, water, breathing gases, regolith for shielding on the surface are all available on Mars. Everything else you have to bring with you.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 08:59 AM
I'm not saying that we should never send humans to Mars, just that there may be better short term strategies. I really do believe that if we put a "mars shot" effort into advanced robotics (including significant leaps forward in AI) it would have greater benefits than the same effort would have at putting a handful of men on the red planet. Heck, we might even make a quantum leap to the next evolutionary step and render ourselves obsolete. ;) Then our new robot masters could do what we are too frail to do.

"Advanced robotics" have consistently fallen short of what has been promised for the past 50 years. There is no evidence that this will change in the future. True AI (as opposed to better automation) is a failed paradigm. Even Roombas are a failure.

If we put a "Mars shot" effort into advanced robotics we will end up with machines that are better than those we have now but will still be extremely slow, with limited mobility, dexterity, and science capability. If we put a" Mars shot" effort into putting people on Mars we will produce an expedition that will so far outperform even the most advanced robotics that people will wonder why we were every so deluded into thinking that robotics alone was the solution. Of course such a mission will take advantage of the best robotics available. The best robots today are human centred, and there is no reason to think this will change.

We can't build robots that can out perform people as explorers, we don't know how to build robots that can out perform people as explorers, we don't know whether it is even possible to build robots that can out perform people as explorers. Conversely we have a good idea in principle and in many cases in detail how to do every stage of a crewed Mars mission, we just need to commit to doing it.

As for frailty, unamnned planetary exploerrs are extremely frail too. More than half of the unanned Moon and Mars landers failed. Spacecraft computers are less resistant than people to radiation, which is why the most advanced computers in space are laptops in the ISS. They can function there only because it is temperature and pressure controlled and moderately well shielded.
Jon

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-10, 11:08 AM
I agree that AI has turned out to be a more challenging problem then first expected. That doesn't mean that it's an intractable problem, merely that it's a challenging one. Considering that processing power is growing at an exponential rate and that the supercomputers of past decades are today's laptops it's reasonable to assume that it's just a matter of time before the AI nut is cracked, at least sufficiently well to do the task at hand.

As for computers being fragile, it doesn't seem even reasonable to compare them with humans. Yes, computers are sensitive to radiation but can be turned off if necessary and the hardware and supplies necessary to support a robot are miniscule when compared to the life support necessary for a human.

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-10, 11:55 AM
While CPU solves a lot of problems, and considering WE can think, (or at least think that we think ;)) I wouldn't call the AI problem intractable, when we make a machine that's as flexible as a human, we won't be exploring anymore, they will. And I wish them all the best, the future scions of the human race, but I want the meats to go out and explore as well. And it isn't always cheaper, if the numbers I got for the Luna program are in any way accurate. It's safer, no squishy meats to get hurt, but if we make an AI that is as smart as a human, I say we have to start looking into the prospect of giving it the same rights as a human.

Zvezdichko
2008-Dec-10, 12:18 PM
What a long thread... And nobody has mentioned Robert Park yet. I'm surprised:

http://www.space.com/opinionscolumns/opinions/park_000211.html

Also, take a look of that article:

http://www.idlewords.com/2005/08/a_rocket_to_nowhere.htm

Actually, I'm very disappointed by the fact that astronauts are no going further than 300-400 kilometers overhead. Each week I travel almost the same distance between cities and towns.
However, we know there are unique situations where astronauts are needed. For example, Hubble/COSTAR. It was impossible to install COSTAR with a robot.
As for the ISS, hmmm... I'm impressed when they add new modules and so on, but what kind of science is actually being done there? Studying cockroaches and spiders is not impressive.

Zvezdichko
2008-Dec-10, 12:53 PM
Thanks
Of course there is no promise that people will get a second change. The Mars 96 instruments have not been reflown and have no prospect of doing so.


Not exactly true. HRSC camera flew aboard Mars Express. Bulgarian instruments on Mars 96 are now sheduled to take off aboard Phobos-Grunt. Plus, an instrument of this type already flew aboard Chandrayaan-1.

But yes, there are some unique instruments that will ever fly soon.

Much of the Phoenix team worked on Mars Polar Lander. After 9 years they finally put a polar lander on the Red Planet.

Ilya
2008-Dec-10, 01:21 PM
Your Gobi analogy is perhaps flawed, because thousands of people live in the Gobi desert and have done successfully so for many thousands of years.

A better anology would be Antarctica or the continental shelves.

I am fairly certain that most people who currently live in Gobi desert (or did in the past) would rather live somewhere else if they had a choice. More importantly, there is a total lack of desire to immigrate to Gobi among technologically advanced peolpe -- the only kind who could conceivably colonize Mars. Some Westerners, Russians and Chinese go to Gobi desert for professional reasons (e.g. paleontologists), but they do not settle there.

I am aware some Westerners WANT to immigrate to Mars, but to repeat Bruce Sterling (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/80554-man-plus-f-minus-2.html#post1354617), only because of the "mystique of far away". Once people actually visit Mars it will sink into collective consciousness that Mars is a cold, ugly, economically worthless desert, and mystique will disappear. Some will continue going there for scientific reasons. Some will go "just because it's there", like they climb K2 and dive to Titanic. Nobody will SETTLE on Mars.

[Edited] I can not be certain that Mars will remain economically worthless. For all I know, something so valuable will be found on Mars that one could actually make a profit going there (although I can not imagine what it would be). But if space travel remains expensive and slow, no effective economic exploitation of Mars is possible. If space travel becomes cheap and fast, then returning from Mars is also cheap and fast. Then we end up with "offshore drilling" model -- people go to Mars (asteroids, whatever) to make a lot of money in exchange for danger and discomfort, then return to Earth to spend it on sunny beaches. Again, no settlement.

jt-3d
2008-Dec-10, 02:06 PM
It's clear that Ilya has forgotten the pioneering spirit which has driven man over the millinea. Maybe it's dead but hopefully not.

And IMO the Gobi/Sahara nomad folks live there because they get to decide their own fate. They answer to no man, unlike the densly inhabited parts of the world. I think that spirit is still alive in man and those are the types that would want to move to Mars. Sadly I'm not one of those types though. I'm a spoiled city boy who would starve within a week of the grocery stores closing. :(

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-10, 02:14 PM
Or you have the Klondike situation. Lots of people go, most come back, but some stay.
And the people in the Gobi desert, they know it isn't the most hospitable land in the world, but it is their home.
And I find Mars quite beautiful. Not Earth beautiful. but the beauty of a desert, of the whispering wind, and the skiffs of dust tumbling over the rocks and ridges.

Ilya
2008-Dec-10, 02:56 PM
It's clear that Ilya has forgotten the pioneering spirit which has driven man over the millinea. Maybe it's dead but hopefully not.

And IMO the Gobi/Sahara nomad folks live there because they get to decide their own fate. They answer to no man, unlike the densly inhabited parts of the world. I think that spirit is still alive in man and those are the types that would want to move to Mars. Sadly I'm not one of those types though. I'm a spoiled city boy who would starve within a week of the grocery stores closing. :(

I never met any desert nomads. I had met and spoken to indigenous Arctic people, both in Russia and in US. They do not actually live their ancestral lifestyle any more -- it's mostly show for the tourists. They like their snowmobiles and satellite TV's. Without tourist trade and government subsidies, they'd be in warmer climes in no time.

And notice that "pioneering spirit" only succeeds where there is money to be made, whether from crops, furs, mining, or ranching. Always. No pioneer ever succeeded if he had to rely on mother country subsidies. (And in fact people who live in Klondike today get a lot of subsidies.)

Incidentally, that was detail that struck me in Pournelle's "Birth of Fire", which is basically "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" set on Mars. What is the basis of Mars economy? There isn't any. When convicts/colonists rose up for independence, all Earth really had to do was cut off all shipping. They'd starve within a decade.

samkent
2008-Dec-10, 05:40 PM
With the dissent shown here on an astronomy site towards boots on Mars. Imagine how little support the general public would have.


Even Roombas are a failure.


I disagree here as well. I have one and my girl friend has another. They clean areas we feel are too much of a pain. Under things, behind things. The reason there aren’t more is due to the price. If they sold for $50 half the households would get one.

Back to the cost side of a Mars mission. Knowing what we know now about the ISS, would we sign up again? I doubt it. The experience doesn’t justify the huge cost. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. I might be able to purchase a Lexus but I would have to give up on a great deal of other things I value. Pay TV, meals out etc. The general public would not be willing to give up their freebie’s to watch video of men 4 wheeling around on Mars. We have that on PPV.
I doubt you could get a multi national effort due to the pride and money side of things. There is no future for man on Mars other than a one time stunt.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 09:25 PM
I agree that AI has turned out to be a more challenging problem then first expected. That doesn't mean that it's an intractable problem, merely that it's a challenging one. Considering that processing power is growing at an exponential rate and that the supercomputers of past decades are today's laptops it's reasonable to assume that it's just a matter of time before the AI nut is cracked, at least sufficiently well to do the task at hand.

This is a statement of hope, rather than based on actual evidence. Fifty years ago a number leaders in the AI field thought that human level AI would be available before the end of the 20th century. We have had technologival advances far beyond what they could imagine but human level AI is nowhere in sight. The problem seems harder than ever. We can't plan space exploration based on a whole host of unspecified breakthoughs that may or may not happen. Saying we should explorer Mars based on an expectation of SF technology is the same as planning on the assumption of fusion technology. That is not planning, that is dreaming.


As for computers being fragile, it doesn't seem even reasonable to compare them with humans. Yes, computers are sensitive to radiation but can be turned off if necessary and the hardware and supplies necessary to support a robot are miniscule when compared to the life support necessary for a human.

Even a 486 lab top in space needs the same level of radiation shielding as a human. The same pressurisation and temperature control is good too. More advanced computers will need even more protection. And still offer nowhere near the performance of humans.

Are you actually aware of what a unmanned mission has to be able to do to to match a manned one? It will have to be be able to traverse at least 1000km, return, at least 100 kg of samples, and carry 30 or 40 scientific instruments. Come up with such as design and I will take your claim seriously. But remember that nobody has designed such a unmanned mission. We have no idea how to design such a mission. We don't have any idea how such a mission will be powered, collect and process the samples, carry out the analyses. No appeal to SF is allowed - no atomic micropiles, positronic brains, hyperspace communicators, human level AI, unobtanium construction.

While you are thinking about this, how about you actually answer the questions I have asked you? Here they are again.

For it to be justified in you eyes a crewed mission to Mars would have to be:

How fast?

How cheap?

How safe?

How much better?

Is possible human settlement of Mars an exploration goal?

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 09:31 PM
What a long thread... And nobody has mentioned Robert Park yet. I'm surprised:

http://www.space.com/opinionscolumns/opinions/park_000211.html

Why should we? He hasn't got a clue about space exploration.



Also, take a look of that article:

http://www.idlewords.com/2005/08/a_rocket_to_nowhere.htm

Outdated, irrelevant, and inaccurate on many, many counts.


Actually, I'm very disappointed by the fact that astronauts are no going further than 300-400 kilometers overhead. Each week I travel almost the same distance between cities and towns.
However, we know there are unique situations where astronauts are needed. For example, Hubble/COSTAR. It was impossible to install COSTAR with a robot.
As for the ISS, hmmm... I'm impressed when they add new modules and so on, but what kind of science is actually being done there? Studying cockroaches and spiders is not impressive.

Thousands of papers have been written on the results of ISS research. None of which could have been done by unmanned spacecraft.

But this not a thread about the ISS, it is manned missions to Mars.


Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 09:36 PM
While CPU solves a lot of problems, and considering WE can think, (or at least think that we think ;)) I wouldn't call the AI problem intractable, when we make a machine that's as flexible as a human, we won't be exploring anymore, they will. And I wish them all the best, the future scions of the human race, but I want the meats to go out and explore as well. And it isn't always cheaper, if the numbers I got for the Luna program are in any way accurate. It's safer, no squishy meats to get hurt, but if we make an AI that is as smart as a human, I say we have to start looking into the prospect of giving it the same rights as a human.

Except of course we don't even now where to begin bulding such an AI. Every alley has proved blind. It is not my assessment that AI is a failed paradigm, it is that of people in the field. Posulating human equiavlent machines is fantasy. All very entertaining, but you can't plan exploration programs on fantasy.

Of course, lots of very useful robotic technology has been developed, and greatly increase what human missions can achieve. The most advanced robots are always human centred.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 09:40 PM
Not exactly true. HRSC camera flew aboard Mars Express. Bulgarian instruments on Mars 96 are now sheduled to take off aboard Phobos-Grunt. Plus, an instrument of this type already flew aboard Chandrayaan-1.

But yes, there are some unique instruments that will ever fly soon.

You are quite right. I was aware that Mars express is in many sense a reflying of the Mars 96 Orbiter. I had meant to specify the landers. There is no chance of any of the lander instruments flying at any time. Some of the penetrator instruments hopefully will get their chance to fly again on MetNet. Near a quatter of a century after they were conceived.


Much of the Phoenix team worked on Mars Polar Lander. After 9 years they finally put a polar lander on the Red Planet.

Plus to 10 or more years development before then, that is 20 years. People have been growing old waiting for their chance to fly their experiments.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 09:49 PM
With the dissent shown here on an astronomy site towards boots on Mars. Imagine how little support the general public would have.

Opinion polls indcate otherwise. An an astronomers are not neccesary those particular interested in planetary exploration. Any more than geologists and biologists are that interested in galaxies. And even if you were right on both counts, it does not mean that people everwhere at all times in the future will be of the same opinion.





I disagree here as well. I have one and my girl friend has another. They clean areas we feel are too much of a pain. Under things, behind things. The reason there aren’t more is due to the price. If they sold for $50 half the households would get one.


Only a 10th of the units have been sold that were expected to be sold. That is a commerical failure.


Back to the cost side of a Mars mission. Knowing what we know now about the ISS, would we sign up again? I doubt it. The experience doesn’t justify the huge cost.

There is no evidence for this opinion what so ever. And we are not discussing the ISS, we are discussing Mars missions. Why change the subject?


Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. I might be able to purchase a Lexus but I would have to give up on a great deal of other things I value. Pay TV, meals out etc. The general public would not be willing to give up their freebie’s to watch video of men 4 wheeling around on Mars. We have that on PPV.

For the second time, what evidence have you that you are anyone else would have to give up on these things for a Mars mssion?

Once again, for the third time, I ask you, for it to be justified in you eyes a crewed mission to Mars would have to be:

How fast?

How cheap?

How safe?

How much better?



I doubt you could get a multi national effort due to the pride and money side of things. There is no future for man on Mars other than a one time stunt.

Wht would a Mars mission be a one time stunt?

Is possible human settlement of Mars an exploration goal?

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-10, 09:55 PM
I never met any desert nomads. I had met and spoken to indigenous Arctic people, both in Russia and in US. They do not actually live their ancestral lifestyle any more -- it's mostly show for the tourists. They like their snowmobiles and satellite TV's. Without tourist trade and government subsidies, they'd be in warmer climes in no time.

And notice that "pioneering spirit" only succeeds where there is money to be made, whether from crops, furs, mining, or ranching. Always. No pioneer ever succeeded if he had to rely on mother country subsidies. (And in fact people who live in Klondike today get a lot of subsidies)

We are getting ahead of ourselves a bit. Before settlements are even possible we need manned exploration, which is the subject of this thread.

I agree that permanant settlement will require an economic basis, for which we have no idea how it may be done.

But long term scientific stations are a possibility, even without a direct economic basis, crewed on a rotation basis which rotations several years long. Since some stations in the Antarctic already have the same people living there for years and raising children, this may well be a possibility of Mars.

Jon

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-10, 11:14 PM
For it to be justified in you eyes a crewed mission to Mars would have to be:

How fast?

How cheap?

How safe?

How much better?

Is possible human settlement of Mars an exploration goal?

Jon

How fast pretty much has to be driven by how long astronauts can safely spend on a trip. There are trade-offs in the amount of weight in fuel necessary for a fast trip vs. weight in supplies for a slow trip. There is also the increased risk of death by radiation by exposure to solar flares in a slow trip. There is also the risk of death by insanity in a long trip and the increased physical damage done to the astronauts bodies by extended exposure to zero G.

I can't put a dollar amount on "how cheap" because it depends on what we can afford. Right now we can't afford much. Hopefully that will change. But for the sake of argument lets say the same amount of NGP that the Apollo missions took.

How safe is a political question. I'm sure that there are astronauts who would be willing to make a one way trip. But the public may turn their backs on a project if the team is lost. Also, we want to be pretty sure of at least one way success or it will be a lot of money essentially wasted and could really damage future manned space exploration.

How much better compared to what?

I think that people will alway look at Mars with an eye to settlement but realistically just getting there and back is questionable. Settlement is a much bigger problem, one that is probably to big to really be feasible for a long long time.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-10, 11:18 PM
Even a 486 lab top in space needs the same level of radiation shielding as a human. The same pressurisation and temperature control is good too. More advanced computers will need even more protection. And still offer nowhere near the performance of humans.


But keeping a laptop warm, pressurized and shielded is not even close to the problem of keeping a human being warm, shielded, pressurized, fed, watered, and providing breathable air not to mention a myriad of other challenges to keeping us alive in an extremely hostile environment.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-10, 11:21 PM
This is a statement of hope, rather than based on actual evidence. Fifty years ago a number leaders in the AI field thought that human level AI would be available before the end of the 20th century. We have had technologival advances far beyond what they could imagine but human level AI is nowhere in sight. The problem seems harder than ever. We can't plan space exploration based on a whole host of unspecified breakthoughs that may or may not happen. Saying we should explorer Mars based on an expectation of SF technology is the same as planning on the assumption of fusion technology. That is not planning, that is dreaming.


It seems to me that this is a red herring. Human level AI is not what is being asked for here. Humans store a wealth of information irreverent to the task of exploring space. A more limited but more focused knowledge set should be adequate.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-11, 02:23 AM
Economic viability of a Mars mission, or space in general, is a good question, but it is often mistaken as a non-starter by the anti-man-in-space crowd. We need more economists in discussions like these, because they can often see profitable ventures where others presume nothing but loss. After all, it should be common sense that increasing the manned presence in space should result in reduced costs to access space, not higher. Sure, the total cost for space systems might increase, but the per-unit expenditures would reduce. This should result in a net increase in returns on investment.

Reducing costs for space access is part of the issue, but increasing costs for terrestrial resources is another part. As much as people want Plug-in hybrid cars, to save the world or to save a dollar on fuel, some claim that there is not enough accessible lithium on the planet to satisfy even a small fraction of the potential automotive demand (lithium is almost everywhere, but in very low concentrations). However, the moon has a similar composition and this may be more aggressively mined. Strip-mining large tracts of the earth's crust for lithium would be ecologically devestating, however doing the same to vast areas of the moon would be less ecologically and socially and politically burdensome. This is just one example based on current markets not fantasies of He3 fusion, there may be many others.

If the population growth and, more importantly, the increasing standard of living outpaces the ability for the earth to provide for that standard of living, then we will have to get resources from elsewhere. Or will people graciously go back to living in straw huts? I suspect they will want to invest in off-world importation of resources. Even if it's just lithium from the moon or solar energy from orbit, once we're heavily invested in space for even one or two marginally profitable goals, access costs will plummet and then mars will be only a hop, skip and a jump away.

Mars doesn't have to be a primary national goal. By trying to solve the more pressing problems of the modern world, a mission to mars becomes inevitable.

Ilya
2008-Dec-11, 02:38 AM
Mars doesn't have to be a primary national goal. By trying to solve the more pressing problems of the modern world, a mission to mars becomes inevitable.
Or at least much more possible.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-11, 03:02 AM
I guess my point is that it doesn't have to be either-or. In fact, I think the debate detracts from the more important issue of finding a reason to be there and getting there.

jt-3d
2008-Dec-11, 07:01 AM
I never met any desert nomads. I had met and spoken to indigenous Arctic people, both in Russia and in US. They do not actually live their ancestral lifestyle any more -- it's mostly show for the tourists. They like their snowmobiles and satellite TV's. Without tourist trade and government subsidies, they'd be in warmer climes in no time.

True, though I'm not sure about the warmer climate thing. The desert nomads actually transport salt so it's not a matter of just wanting to live there. Still they could move into a town if they wanted to. The salt trade is just a way for them to make money and trucks are cutting into their action these days. So I saw on a TV show once anyway.


And notice that "pioneering spirit" only succeeds where there is money to be made, whether from crops, furs, mining, or ranching. Always. No pioneer ever succeeded if he had to rely on mother country subsidies. (And in fact people who live in Klondike today get a lot of subsidies.)

I partially agree but I think it comes back 'Ok, we're here, now how are we going to make a living?' At least some of the time. Sometimes it's about getting away from perscution. None of it applies to going to Mars. There's still places here to go.


Incidentally, that was detail that struck me in Pournelle's "Birth of Fire", which is basically "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" set on Mars. What is the basis of Mars economy? There isn't any. When convicts/colonists rose up for independence, all Earth really had to do was cut off all shipping. They'd starve within a decade.

I'm not familiar with that book.

Maybe the answer lies with the 'new start' thing. Only the dregs of society will be interested in going, at least at first. However, the groundwork needs to be layed by the pros. And I think you're right, it would take a monitary incentive. Sad. I guess I'll have to be satisfied watching robots. Maybe my grandkids will get to see astronauts on Mars. Probably not.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 07:30 AM
Thanks Eric for responding to these specific questions.


How fast pretty much has to be driven by how long astronauts can safely spend on a trip. There are trade-offs in the amount of weight in fuel necessary for a fast trip vs. weight in supplies for a slow trip. There is also the increased risk of death by radiation by exposure to solar flares in a slow trip. There is also the risk of death by insanity in a long trip and the increased physical damage done to the astronauts bodies by extended exposure to zero G.


I can't put a dollar amount on "how cheap" because it depends on what we can afford. Right now we can't afford much. Hopefully that will change. But for the sake of argument lets say the same amount of NGP that the Apollo missions took.

So that is $143 billion in 2007 dollars, say 12 billion a year. GPD in 1969 was in 2007 dollars $4.51 trillion, so Apollo cost ~2.66% of GDP.

For a Mars mission you would spread this over a 20 years program (10 years development, 10 years operations), say $8 billion a year, about than half of NASA’s current budget.

US GDP in 2007 was $13.8 trillion, so 2.66% was $367 billion. In comparison $8 billion is 0.06% of GDP.

And some people think this is unaffordable……


How safe is a political question. I'm sure that there are astronauts who would be willing to make a one way trip. But the public may turn their backs on a project if the team is lost. Also, we want to be pretty sure of at least one way success or it will be a lot of money essentially wasted and could really damage future manned space exploration.

So what do you[b] think is an acceptable level of risk? A chance of death of 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000? What do you think the politicians will wear? The public? I am interested in [b]your specific opinion here.


How much better compared to what?

Compared to an unmanned mission. How much more distance covered, instruments carried, sample returned, could a manned mission have to achieve compared to a top end robotic mission for it to be worthwhile in your option? For reference, a top tend robotics mission (or network of such missions) would cover up to 100 km, carry 10-20 instruments, and return perhaps 1 kg of sample. Now much better than this would a manned mission have to be before you would think it worthwhile?


I think that people will alway look at Mars with an eye to settlement but realistically just getting there and back is questionable. Settlement is a much bigger problem, one that is probably to big to really be feasible for a long long time.

So in other words it is a goal, albeit a long term one. So how do you propose we assess its viability for human settlement without sending people there?

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 07:32 AM
But keeping a laptop warm, pressurized and shielded is not even close to the problem of keeping a human being warm, shielded, pressurized, fed, watered, and providing breathable air not to mention a myriad of other challenges to keeping us alive in an extremely hostile environment.

Correct. But it still needs a lot more in the way of life support than the very simple computers than run an orbiter, which have radiation hardened circuits but no shielding and no pressurisation. As a minimum even a laptop equivalent computer will need temperature controlled between what, -10 and 40 degrees? It will need an environment pressurised to at least half an atmosphere (N2 is probably adequate) and at least 20 g/cm2 of shielding. Then there is power, at least 1.5 kWh per day. That is two to five times what the MERs have averaged for their power supply over their mission. More sophisticated computers will need much, much more power. And that just for the computer, let alone moving, sampling, analysing, communicating and life support. And you still won’t have a machine that is capable of even a thousandth of what a manned mission will do.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 07:33 AM
It seems to me that this is a red herring. Human level AI is not what is being asked for here. Humans store a wealth of information irreverent to the task of exploring space. A more limited but more focused knowledge set should be adequate.

Then please define what you mean by the level of AI that you think is feasible, the type of performance it can deliver, in terms of number and type of instruments carried, distance explored over a specific time span, samples returned. Please specify the sort of

You also need to define what this is likely to cost, in terms of mass, volume, power requirements.

It is very easy for people to say things like “robots will soon be so good that we don’t need to send people”. But I have yet to see anyone actually deliver a meaningful proposal for an unmanned spacecraft (or network of unmanned spacecraft) that even remotely delivers what a manned mission will.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 07:35 AM
I guess my point is that it doesn't have to be either-or. In fact, I think the debate detracts from the more important issue of finding a reason to be there and getting there.

I agree entirely. It is a false dichotomy and hides the real questions.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 07:51 AM
Some quotes to ponder:

http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v12n02_AI_gone_awry.html
After more than 50 years of pursuing human- level artificial intelligence, we have nothing but promises and failures. The quest has become a degenerating research program (or actually, an ever-increasing number of competing ones), pursuing an ever-increasing number of irrelevant activities as the original goal recedes ever further into the future — like the mirage it is.

http://www.wired.com/culture/geekipedia/magazine/geekipedia/artificial_intell
Artificial vision gets sharper all the time. Artificial walking has made great robot strides. But artificial intelligence is brain-dead….

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/12997
Virtually all predictions made by robot experts throughout the 20th century have turned out to be false... one new development is that some scientists are realizing that the whole AI (Artificial Intelligence) project was unrealistic from the start.

http://homepage.mac.com/WJClancey/%7EWJClancey/WS0610ClanceyW.pdf
…the history of artificial intelligence (AI) research demonstrates… computer scientists have notoriously used anthropomorphic language to describe their programs…. Thus, we have socalled expert systems, intelligent tutoring systems, and autonomous agents. More recently, the human-robotic interaction (HRI) community often uses the terms “collaboration” and “teamwork” with little discriminating consideration of what these words mean in human affairs…

If we start… 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.

http://www.ars-journal.com/ars/Free_Articles/Lawrence_Kamm.htm
There was, and is, the pervasive, and deliberately planted, confusion of science fiction and science truth. There was an unusually high level of professional conceit among the technical promoters [of robots].

http://www.barrett.com/robot/products-hand-articles-MHT-1.htm
Today, the evidence is growing that people and robots have highly complementary skills. Technology spun off from MIT's Whole-Arm Manipulator development project is now creating robots designed to cooperate literally hand-in-hand with people, rather than replace them.

http://www.improve-education.org/id25.html
Three NEW laws of robotics Law I: everything that is easy for robots is hard for us. Conversely, everything that is easy for us is hard for them. Law II: for a robot to function in the world as well as we do, it has to know as much about the world as we do. Law III: a human-like robot is not one thing that one genius will one day invent. A robot is a thousand sub-systems that will be created one by one over decades and centuries.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2004/jul/18/research.highereducation
The problem… is that you can recreate 60 per cent of one particular aspect of a human's behaviour in a robot quite easily, but to get it to the 70 per cent level you have to double your initial effort and expenditure. Then you need the same effort again to get to 75 per cent, and then to 80. After that, each increment of 1 per cent requires the same cost and effort that was required to get you to 60 per cent.

In addition most experts believe Asimov's vision of a robot contains a basic misconception. The science fiction writer assumed that brains would be the costly, difficult part of an android's construction. Their bodies, and arms and legs would be relatively easy. So intelligent androids would be built to multi-task and make the most of those costly brains. It was a reasonable assumption in the 1960s, but it has not stood the test of time. Electronic brains, ie microprocessors, can now be manufactured for a few pounds, while progress in developing the science of artificial limbs and robot movement has been painfully slow. As a result, robotics has developed by simply taking electronic brains and fitting them to existing domestic devices. Thus we now have washing machines with chips attached, clever toasters and intelligent fridges that will tell you when you are about to run out of milk. No need for android maids or butlers with that kind of technology around.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/06/28/softky_robots_part_two/
The consumer robot business today is manned by avid tinkerers because there is neither a technology for autonomous gadgets, nor a business model to support them even if they did exist

Moore's law doesn't apply to gears.

The truth… is that hardware is not the reason we have no intelligent robots. In fact motors, sensors and even processors are very cheap now, and a desktop computer core with a video input and a few motorized wheels could be mass-produced for a few hundred dollars. But the software to animate it is quite literally priceless, because it doesn't yet exist. Worse, no one even knows the principles on which to write it.

Of course people can write software specialized for specific hardware to do a specific task… but such programs won't generalize to new hardware, sensors, and environments: no one yet has software which "learns" the way brains do, mostly because science doesn't even know what brains do. If we don't understand how we (or even mice) interact gracefully with an uncertain world, how could we expect to program anything else to?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/25/softky_robots_part_one/
Consumer robotics is a business built mostly on play, hope and tinkering - rather than profit or technical accomplishment

the main appeal of robots, their "autonomy" and "intelligence," are decades away from reality even in the lab… those vaunted features - if real - would still have negligible economic value, since they can be supplied by any human for next to nothing.

http://www.cs4fn.org/alife/robot/riserobots.php
machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do- Herbert Simon (1956)

Within a generation ... the problem of creating artificial intelligence will substantially be solved. - Marvin Minsky (1967, which means that the prediction should have happened by now)

http://blog.modernmechanix.com/category/robots/
You will own robot slaves by 1965 (1957)

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 08:04 AM
More quotes to ponder:

STEVE SQUYERS
Discover magazine interview June 2004
http://www.discover.com/issues/jun-04/departments/discover-dialogue/
Q: Can we answer all our questions about Mars with unmanned robotic missions, or do we need to send people?
A: We need to send people. There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me. That is what I do. But I believe firmly that the best, the most omprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans. Maybe you can argue that if you spend enough time and effort and money on robotics, eventually they’ll be able to mimic human capability, but I think we are so far from that that ultimately sending humans would be the right thing. The sooner the better, as far as
I’m concerned.

Q: So why not skip all these incremental robotic missions and throw that money into a dedicated program to send humans to Mars?
A: There are two answers. One answer is that it makes sense, before you commit the enormous resources necessary to send humans, to learn enough about the planet so that when humans get there they can use their precious time and capabilities most
effectively. Mars is an incredibly diverse and complicated place. If you have to pick one place to put humans down, where is the best place? If you pick wrong, you’ve wasted a lot of money. So it makes a lot of sense from a scientific standpoint to do
precursor missions. Secondly, there is the simple reality that sending people to Mars will require an enormous amount of political will and commitment of national, and probably international, resources. If we’re not ready to do that yet, the way to make
progress toward that goal is to explore the planet robotically.

Astrobiology Magazine October 2004
http://www.astrobio.net/news/article1249.html
“We are very far away - very far away - from being able to build robots that have anything like the capabilities that humans will have to explore, let alone to inspire. I'm not going to see it in my lifetime. When I hear people point to Spirit and Opportunity and say that these are examples of why we don't need to send humans to Mars, I get very upset. Because that's not even the right discussion to be having. We must send humans to Mars. We can't do it soon enough for me. I'm a robot guy. I love Spirit and Opportunity - and I use a word like love very advisedly when talking about a hunk of metal. I love them. But they will never, ever have the capabilities that humans will have. And I sure hope we send humans soon.”

MSNBC News January 3 2005 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6776380/#050103a
"Anyone who would point to the success of Spirit and Opportunity and say, 'Oh, this means we should just spend our money on robotic programs, we don’t need to send humans to Mars,' is missing the point completely.

"I love sending robots to Mars. That’s what I do, OK? I'm a robot guy. But even I believe that the best exploration — the most successful, the most inspiring exploration — is ultimately going to be done by humans. And I’ve always viewed our mission as robotic precursors — being advance scouting missions. If you’re going to go through the enormous cost and dangers of sending humans to Mars, you better be sending them to the right places, and doing it for the right reasons. So I view our mission as very much laying the groundwork for that by helping to find the right places to go on Mars, by helping to frame the scientific questions that astronauts are going to Mars to try to answer.
"I think 'humans vs. robots' isn’t even the right dialogue to have. The right dialogue to have is, 'How do you use the two together in a complementary fashion to achieve the best science?'"

MIKE MALIN AND KEN EDGETT
National Geographic, Feburary 2001.
"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."

"It's unusual to hear people like us argue for manned space exploration. But for about two years now Malin and I have been absolutely convinced that we're going to have to send people there."

ROSS TAYLOR
"...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.

"Lesson #3: 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... One of the most famous examples occurred during the Apollo 15 mission, when a suspiciously white rock was spotted sitting atop a small pedestal of soil... The "Genesis Rock"... turned out to be nearly pure sample of the kind of anorthosite that... might compose the lunar highlands... The near-instantaneous recognition and collection of the sample by the astronauts is nothing like the laborious process of finding it with a rover and then programming the rover to travel and collect the sample. Humans are completely autonomous and process large amounts of complex information very quickly.

"Another example, which illustrates a very different advantage of human explorers, is the story of the "seatbelt basalt".... Scott spotted an unusually vesicular rock along the way, judging that they would not be given permission to make an unscheduled stop for the sole purpose of picking up a sample, Scott instead stopped to "fix a seatbelt"... Outside of science fiction, robotic rovers do not fib or otherwise evade instructions in order to take advantage of a scientific find. Humans are independent and creative.

"A third famous example is the collection of the orange glass by astronaut Schmitt on Apollo 17.... A geologist's instinctive attraction to an unexpected and possibly significant color, and his ability to act instantly upon a serendipitous discovery, led to the collection of the orange glass soil.

"The point of these anecdotes is not to advocate that all planetary exploration should be done by human missions - that is not realistic. Rather, it is to emphasize the kinds of discoveries that are possible when humans are present: ones that require quick decisions, astute judgement arising out of intense training. And the ability and willingness to take quick advantage of serendipity (even if it means sometimes using subterfuge to do so!). Our knowledge of the Moon would be much poorer if we had not sent astronauts. There is no question that similar discoveries will be made when (hopefully) we send astronauts to Mars."

"Earth-Moon system, planetary science, and lessons learned" S. R. Taylor, C. M. Pieters, and G. J. MacPherson In "New views of the Moon", edited by B. L. Jolliff, Wieczorek, M. A., Shearer, C. K., Neal, C. R., Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 60, 657-704, Mineralogical Society of America, 2006.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 11:18 AM
Apologies for the length of this last quote. While it is more than 10 years old, the fact that it represents the consenus view of the highest scientific level in the US means that it is both authorative and carefully nauced. I don't think anything has happened to change the conclusions since it was written.

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES SPACE STUDIES BOARD
Scientific Opportunities in the Human Exploration of Space (1994)

ROBOTS AND HUMANS: AN INTEGRATED APPROACH
Most concepts for Moon/Mars exploration envision a mix of robots and humans. However, the criteria for deciding how each of them should be used, and in what combination, are not usually stated and probably were never formally developed. The result is that the concepts are biased according to the background of the study group; human exploration advocates tend to minimize the use of robots, whereas traditional space scientists tend to downplay the potential of human presence. CHEX believes that decisions regarding the mix of robots and humans to explore the Moon and Mars, and to carry out other scientific investigations in space, should be made with explicit cognizance of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each evaluated in the context of well-defined and specific tasks to be performed.

RELATIVE ADVANTAGES
Human presence can bring to planetary exploration a level of capability representing an essential aspect of scientific methodology: an iterative process of observing, hypothesizing, testing, and synthesizing. Activities ideally suited to humans include those requiring the techniques of intensive field study and tasks requiring complex, physical articulation combined with expert knowledge and the ability to adapt to new situations. Humans conducting scientific observations on planetary surfaces can perform their work with an inherent flexibility not easily equaled by the more cumbersome and delay-ridden methods of remote control, especially at significant radio-delay distances (for example, at Mars). Assessment of complex natural systems makes excellent use of the human capability for serendipitous discovery and response. This human advantage is, for the time being, taken to pertain also to the activities of machines manipulated remotely by humans in near-real-time (that is, in a relatively local control loop with a short time delay).

Robots have several obvious advantages. They are inherently expendable and thus should be used in situations in which the risk to humans is excessive or for which there is no clear advantage to using humans. Robots excel at performing repetitive, tedious tasks that are amenable to programming and that do not need or take advantage of unique human capabilities. Lastly, robots can have a duty cycle that is uninterrupted by the need to rest, sleep, or perform the mundane tasks that devour so much time in the everyday life of humans.

RELATIVE LIMITATIONS
Although humans offer specific advantages in the exploration of planetary surfaces, they have their limitations as well. Because of the harsh environments of the Moon and Mars and the amount of challenging physical work involved, safety considerations will always constrain the amount of time available for people to explore and perform scientific tasks. Humans working in spacesuits will always have less mobility and flexibility than humans working on Earth, despite anticipated improvements in spacesuits. In addition, scientific activities are not the only things people will be doing during human exploration missions. Routine maintenance of the habitat and other equipment is likely to occupy a significant fraction of the astronauts' time (as has become apparent for space station activities). Because of the broad range of scientific investigations proposed for human exploration, the crew (like robots) will not be expert in all relevant activities, although every attempt should be made to select crews that are highly qualified scientifically. Lastly, as was demonstrated in the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the potential for rapid human reaction in response to a local stimulus or observation has a concomitant potential for rapidly introducing errors.

Robots likewise have limitations. The creation of nearly autonomous machines with humanlike cognitive abilities continues to elude the robotic research community and may well do so for a considerable time into the future. At the moment, robots are capable of only simple manipulation; techniques for human-quality dexterity have yet to be demonstrated. Given current capabilities, robots require considerable human control and interaction to accomplish most scientific tasks. Their capabilities are appropriate for simple reconnaissance or prescribed activities in which no major difficulties are encountered. Whether their capabilities will remain at this level will depend on advances in robotic technology prior to the initiation of a program of human exploration. Lastly, even though robots are inherently expendable relative to humans, their cost can be sufficiently large that they ought not be exposed to excessive risk. This limitation can be overcome to the degree that inexpensive robots are developed.

THE OPTIMAL MIX OF HUMANS AND ROBOTS
As a result of its deliberations, CHEX is convinced that the humans-versus-robots controversy is outmoded. The space program has perpetuated this antiquated either/or dichotomy for too long. Examining various aspects of exploration in terrestrial situations clearly shows the proper approach to be a mix.

Considerable experience has been gained in assessing the relative capabilities of humans and robots operating in hostile environments for the location, development, and operation of underwater oil and gas fields. Divers are used primarily to perform tasks beyond the manipulative capability of robots. Robots are used, increasingly, to perform programmable repair tasks and to assess the physical state of systems. Similarly, robots are increasingly used in the hazardous environments presented by nuclear accidents and hazardous waste cleanup. Clearly, safety and risk minimization are paramount determinants in terrestrial situations; no less should be acceptable in human space exploration.


A particularly germane example of the mix of human and robotic activities is in undersea exploration. Even though their exact role is still actively debated, robots are routinely used in oceanographic surveys to scan the ocean floor, emplace sensors, and collect samples. Even when human presence is desired, scientists do not usually study the deep ocean bottom in diving suits (read “spacesuits”) but, rather, in pressurized submersibles using teleoperated manipulators and/or robotic devices to probe and acquire samples. The analogy to potential lunar and martian exploration by humans and robots is clear: a synergistic mix based on safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness must be the goal.

Given the relative strengths and weaknesses of humans and robots, CHEX envisages that their relative roles in a Moon/Mars program will evolve as knowledge increases and as technological capabilities advance. The initial phases, largely an extension of current space science and involving such activities as global orbital reconnaissance and the deployment of geophysical and meteorological networks, will be conducted exclusively by robots controlled from Earth or operating with varying degrees of autonomy. Further technical developments are needed in both robotics and operational capabilities (e.g., life support systems and exploration tools) to permit humans to survive and function effectively on planetary surfaces. These will lead to a subsequent phase consisting first of a mix of advanced robotic missions, such as those designed to return samples from Mars to Earth for analysis, and, eventually, the first human expeditions.

CHEX envisions further evolution into advanced exploration performed by a synergistic mix of humans and sophisticated robots. Such a mix could, for example, include human operation on Mars supported by robots teleoperated in near-real-time by astronauts on, or in orbit around, Mars.

One might think that an important issue bearing on the relative contributions of humans and robots in a Moon/Mars program would be cost-effectiveness. Ideally, the relative mix of humans and robots used for achieving a particular scientific goal would be based on cost-effectiveness. The concept of cost-effectiveness is, however, difficult to adhere to in a human exploration program, because even though it is axiomatic that robotic missions would cost less than those involving humans, the basic decision to proceed with human exploration is not rooted in science. In that light, CHEX recognizes that at any given time opportunity plays a significant role in prioritizing scientific projects and selecting means of implementation.

Rather than dwell on cost-effectiveness, a more realistic principle, stated in the first CHEX report, is that, “Robotic options should be used until they provide enough information to . . . define a set of scientifically important tasks that can be well performed by humans in situ. . . . It cannot be demanded that these tasks be best and most cost-effectively performed by humans.” Subsequently, a mix of robots and humans should be used to optimize performance from both a scientific and a safety point of view.

samkent
2008-Dec-11, 01:11 PM
That’s just so much bla bla. It comes down to money!
MSL weighs 2000lb. And cost over 2 billion.
A pre landed supply depot would weigh 10 times that much and cost at least 10 times the amount. A pre landed fuel making station would cost even more.
Plus you would have to land redundant of both types for a safety margin.
I can’t begin to imagine the cost of the transit craft. But WIKI says 55 total mission cost over 10 years. You had better double or triple that price. We know their bean counters are never right. They can’t blow their noses on budget. Then you have to add in the very real possibility of mission failure. How do you come back to congress and say “Our pre positioned lander crashed. We need another 40 billion.”? Or “ We lost the crew in transit due to a defective valve.” Sorry about the 100 billion.
No president or consortium of countries are going to sign on for something like that. It’s a 150 billion dollar dead end.

We have answered your question of “How cheap”. It has to be private funds not public.
How fast? We don’t care as we are not going to fund the mission.
How safe? Since it’s private money it doesn’t matter to us.
Human settlement? It’s not going to happen. 30 billion/year going one way for resupply with nothing coming back. No way.

marsbug
2008-Dec-11, 02:36 PM
Just because mars is "There", is not sufficient reason to expend the funds.
It should have become abundantly clear to the most casual observer within the last month that we have work to do here on earth. How can the myopic view of the mars dream compeat with the pressing needs facing these generations?
I don't see manned expiditions to mars as necessary as air and bread, or education, shelter, nutritious food, clean water, transportation infrastructure
and the rest.
I do see robotic as a reasonable compromise with sufficient expectation of success, and getting funding.


There is little profit (directly I mean, people do make profit in the support and logistics) in mountain climbing, hiking, sailing, hang gliding, parachuting, and very little fun in it for large parts of the population. Some people want to do crazy things, overcome new challenges, experiance things no-one else has.

If we wait to fix our problems here on earth we will never go, and we want to go. Thats been said many time before but its still got a ring of truth to it.

I may be being very cynical here but I seriously doubt the money not spent on a manned mars mission will be directed into curing any of this worlds ills.
If it could be garunteed it would, and that those ills would be sorted out by it when the money was spent, I would be happy to postpone manned missions to mars.

I love robotic exploration, it's great science, exploration, and it gives me a kick to see the deserts of mars or the rings of saturn up close. I would describe robotic exploration as and end in it's own right, not as a compromise between putting people on mars and not going at all.

I grew up with Apollo as history, and I feel like I missed out on one of the biggest moments in history. I know it was a cold war publicity stunt in many respects, and that doesn't detract from the wonder of it at all for me. It would be great if I could live to see something as amazing achieved again.

I want my kids to grow up happy healthy, well looked after, with safe transportation. I also want them to grow up knowing that fantastic and inspiring things can still be done, and seeing people walk on mars would show them just that.

stutefish
2008-Dec-11, 03:36 PM
There is little profit (directly I mean, people do make profit in the support and logistics) in mountain climbing, hiking, sailing, hang gliding, parachuting, and very little fun in it for large parts of the population. Some people want to do crazy things, overcome new challenges, experiance things no-one else has.
And you'll notice there's very little government funding for such activities. The people that want to do these things make their own arrangements, with their own sources of funding, as private individuals. Which is the whole point of this discussion, at least as far as I'm concerned. If extreme sportsmen and adventure tourists want to travel to Mars, they're welcome to do so, and I for one will celebrate their accomplishments. But I'm not really all that enthusiastic about the idea of them going to the government with their hand out, saying "give me money, and technology, and infrastructure, and expert support, so that I can have an exciting trip to Mars and back".


I want my kids to grow up happy healthy, well looked after, with safe transportation. I also want them to grow up knowing that fantastic and inspiring things can still be done, and seeing people walk on mars would show them just that.
Of course the most straightforward way to get the things you want, for yourself and your children, is to go out there and get them for yourself. I'm not sure the government should necessarily be in the business of bankrolling fantastically expensive novelties, simply for propaganda purposes.

djellison
2008-Dec-11, 03:48 PM
It has to be private funds .


Why?

joema
2008-Dec-11, 04:46 PM
The topic is about sending humans to other planets, not just the moon and Mars.

There is no serious planning to send humans to any other planetary body, such as Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, etc. They are just too hostile and/or distant.

Our entire solar system will continue to be explored exclusively by robots, with the two possible exceptions of the moon and Mars. So in a sense the decision has already been made.

The moon's close distance imposes little time lag for real time telerobotic and VR telepresence operation. Today and in the near future, it will be possible to build a completely immersive, high definition telerobotic/telepresence exploration system. The operating environment could be similar to real time multiplayer computer games, only with more capacity, resolution, tactile feedback, etc. The technology is already well developed and in use.

An astronaut or scientist would still be exploring in near real time, only located on earth. He would have high resolution stereo 3D vision, and use telerobotic remote manipulators as hands.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immersive_virtual_reality
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality

The lunar vehicle might be wheeled, tracked, or a bipedal humanoid robot like Asimo: http://world.honda.com/ASIMO/

For deep sea exploration, this transition has already happened. No longer do deep sea explorers venture downward in heavily armored Bathyscaphes. Increasingly sophisticated ROVs rendered them obsolete.

That leaves Mars as the single suitable target for possible human exploration. It's definitely a more challenging environment for robotics, as you can't rely on real-time operation.

However computers and robotics are advancing at a rapid pace. In the 36 years since Apollo 17, those advances would allow achieving all Apollo science objectives using today's telerobotic technology.

One plausible date for a manned Mars mission is 2037 (29 years in the future). In what state will robotics be then? We don't know exactly, but it will be far more advanced than today.

It would indeed be ironic if a human Mars mission launched in 2037, while Asimo's great grandchildren were restricted to serving coffee in Mission Control.

samkent
2008-Dec-11, 05:26 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by samkent
It has to be private funds .


Why?

For all the reasons I have stated. Look I see no reason to send men back to the Moon either. The safety issue has little to do with it. It's the value for money again.

What benefit does the US of A get by sending boot back to the Moon?
What benefit do we get by boot on Mars?

If you spend tax payers money on something then the tax payers should get value for their money.

The claim of "A future outpost" doesn't hold water. Outposts only survive as long as we spend tons of money to supply them. They return little to us.

I'm not saying we should dump space exploration at all but robots give us much higher value to our dollars spent.

Imagine if the gov spent the billions meant for a lunar landing on a an effort to cure diabetes. That would give us a greater return.

Lets just stick with robots until there is a compelling reason to send humans. "Because" is not good enough.

danscope
2008-Dec-11, 08:37 PM
Hi, Let me add that it is not simply tax payers money. But every dollar of that "Taxpayer's money" must be borrowed, and at increasingly higher
INTEREST.
We must pass on the extraordinary debt , often brought on by peculiar and self interested fools to some several generations, who might be interested in going to university themselves or some other trivial needs. THAT fact has brought us to our present position. We borrow from those unborn.
In view of this, I am afraid that such extraordinary expenditure of funds is quite out of the question.One has only to look around instead of up.

Dan

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 09:00 PM
Thank you am for finally beinging to engage these issues.


That’s just so much bla bla. It comes down to money!
MSL weighs 2000lb. And cost over 2 billion.
A pre landed supply depot would weigh 10 times that much and cost at least 10 times the amount. A pre landed fuel making station would cost even more.
Plus you would have to land redundant of both types for a safety margin.

What do you base your cost estimates on? Show me your reasoning.


I can’t begin to imagine the cost of the transit craft.

If you can't even begin to imagine the cost how do you know you are right? What you you base your opinion on - prejudice? Ideology?


But WIKI says 55 total mission cost over 10 years. You had better double or triple that price. We know their bean counters are never right. They can’t blow their noses on budget. Then you have to add in the very real possibility of mission failure. How do you come back to congress and say “Our pre positioned lander crashed. We need another 40 billion.”? Or “ We lost the crew in transit due to a defective valve.” Sorry about the 100 billion.No president or consortium of countries are going to sign on for something like that. It’s a 150 billion dollar dead end.



We have answered your question of “How cheap”. It has to be private funds not public.

"We"? Other than yourself, who do you speak for?

Do you object to government funds being spent on unamnned space exploration? Astronomy? Polar exploration? The ODP?

Are these long term, high cost projects also be left to the private sector?

Cost is also a factor for the private sector. Hoew cheap would a manned mission have to be before it can be considered competative?


How fast? We don’t care as we are not going to fund the mission.

Again the "we", what if other "we's" think otherwise?

Speed and efficiency choices also effect the private sector also. How much fatser at collecting data does a manned mission have to be before it would be preferable to an unmanned one?


How safe? Since it’s private money it doesn’t matter to us.

The safety of private activities is very mch a matter of public concern. So safety is still an issue


Human settlement? It’s not going to happen. 30 billion/year going one way for resupply with nothing coming back. No way.

What if some thing did? Do you think it possible then?

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 09:07 PM
And you'll notice there's very little government funding for such activities. The people that want to do these things make their own arrangements, with their own sources of funding, as private individuals. Which is the whole point of this discussion, at least as far as I'm concerned. If extreme sportsmen and adventure tourists want to travel to Mars, they're welcome to do so, and I for one will celebrate their accomplishments. But I'm not really all that enthusiastic about the idea of them going to the government with their hand out, saying "give me money, and technology, and infrastructure, and expert support, so that I can have an exciting trip to Mars and back".


Of course the most straightforward way to get the things you want, for yourself and your children, is to go out there and get them for yourself. I'm not sure the government should necessarily be in the business of bankrolling fantastically expensive novelties, simply for propaganda purposes.

The government actually does fund people to do a whole range of exciting and adventurous activities in the course of research, polar research, marine research, and the military. They do not do this out of the goodness of their hearts, but because they see the goals that require these activities as worthwhile.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 09:20 PM
The topic is about sending humans to other planets, not just the moon and Mars.

There is no serious planning to send humans to any other planetary body, such as Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, etc. They are just too hostile and/or distant.

Our entire solar system will continue to be explored exclusively by robots, with the two possible exceptions of the moon and Mars. So in a sense the decision has already been made.[/QUOTE]

Don't forget NEAs are also reachable with current technology. Main belt asteroids and dwarf planets are also achievable with Mars level techology. Venus orbital missions using teleopeated surface robotics are very feasible.


For deep sea exploration, this transition has already happened. No longer do deep sea explorers venture downward in heavily armored Bathyscaphes. Increasingly sophisticated ROVs rendered them obsolete.

Wrong. ROVs and UAVs have their place but manned submersibles are still being built and used. Saturation divers are still in great demand.


However computers and robotics are advancing at a rapid pace. In the 36 years since Apollo 17, those advances would allow achieving all Apollo science objectives using today's telerobotic technology.

While apsects of this might be feasible, such a mission would be at least as large as a human one mass size and, like the plans to telerobotically service Hubble, such a mission would still chieve less than a human one, have a higher chance of failure, and cost much more. Top insist on using robots for such a mission smacks of ideology. Use robots for mission they are ideal for, and perople for mission they are best for. Don't try to get the one to do the other's job.


One plausible date for a manned Mars mission is 2037 (29 years in the future). In what state will robotics be then? We don't know exactly, but it will be far more advanced than today.

But what will be the best way to use those machines? On their own, with all the limits that imposes? Stop basing your opinions on what unmanned missions can do on SF and do so on reality.

Do you realise how much better than current machines an unmanned mission has to be to approximate a manned one? Work it out.

By saying that unmanned missions will be able to do it all you are putting all your eggs in one basket. What if the progress is not as fast as you imagine. Robotics have developed far slower tha anyone imagined and has been consistently oversold in the past. Why should the future be any different?

Robotics will advance. But so will manned space exploration technology. By using both we maximise the chance of success.


It would indeed be ironic if a human Mars mission launched in 2037, while Asimo's great grandchildren were restricted to serving coffee in Mission Control.

Not ironic at all, but the way it will be, maybe not in 2037, but whenever and whoever does decide to go.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-11, 09:37 PM
Hi, Let me add that it is not simply tax payers money. But every dollar of that "Taxpayer's money" must be borrowed, and at increasingly higher
INTEREST.
We must pass on the extraordinary debt , often brought on by peculiar and self interested fools to some several generations, who might be interested in going to university themselves or some other trivial needs. THAT fact has brought us to our present position. We borrow from those unborn.

This is true only in some circumstances and some periods. It is not true everywhere and at all times.



In view of this, I am afraid that such extraordinary expenditure of funds is quite out of the question.One has only to look around instead of up.



What evidence do you have that a Mars mission would be an extraordinary expenditure of funds?

At what level would it not be extraordinary and therefore acceptable to you? I have asked you this question several times, please answer.

Jon

djellison
2008-Dec-11, 10:20 PM
Lets just stick with robots until there is a compelling reason to send humans. "Because" is not good enough.

What reason is there to send a robot? What would be a compelling reason to send humans?

danscope
2008-Dec-12, 01:44 AM
Hi Jon,
I take it that you don't appreciate the financial jeopardy facing my country, now and for as long as it would take to get to ngc51.
If I were to refer to our budget as a ship, I would call it a collander.
There is simply very little left over to do some of the esoteric adventures
that so many crave.
When you have to pay the existing bills for such silly things as food,
heat, electricity, and the mortgage, you have to say"I can't afford a big flat screen TV. That is the plain truth which you don't care to listen to.
I understand. I cannot alter the truth or the future. I am giving it to you straight, just like congress will. If we manage to do a few robotic missions, it will have to be sufficient. This is a financial reality check, and it has been cashed in the last few weeks. I am sorry if I cannot sugar coat it.
We are lucky to maintain our eyes in the sky and on the ground.
Be happy and grateful for that.
Best regards,
Dan

JonClarke
2008-Dec-12, 01:59 AM
Hi Jon,
I take it that you don't appreciate the financial jeopardy facing my country, now and for as long as it would take to get to ngc51.
If I were to refer to our budget as a ship, I would call it a collander.
There is simply very little left over to do some of the esoteric adventures
that so many crave.
When you have to pay the existing bills for such silly things as food,
heat, electricity, and the mortgage, you have to say"I can't afford a big flat screen TV. That is the plain truth which you don't care to listen to.
I understand. I cannot alter the truth or the future. I am giving it to you straight, just like congress will. If we manage to do a few robotic missions, it will have to be sufficient. This is a financial reality check, and it has been cashed in the last few weeks. I am sorry if I cannot sugar coat it.
We are lucky to maintain our eyes in the sky and on the ground.
Be happy and grateful for that.
Best regards,
Dan

You still miss my points Dan, which arethree fold.

1) Financial crises don't last forever. When they end the US will be better placed to consider things like manned missions to Mars.

2) Not every country in the world has the same debt issues that the US has. There is no reason why the first manned mission to Mars needs to be a US one. If the US thinks it can't afford it, other countries, or consotia of countries, may do so.


3) Regardless of the current crisis, the US will still be spending multi-billion dollar science and technology programs in many areas.

So, once again, how cheap does a manned mission to mars have to be before you think it is affortdable, whether by the US or anybody else?

Jon

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-12, 06:34 AM
And you'll notice there's very little government funding for such activities. The people that want to do these things make their own arrangements, with their own sources of funding, as private individuals. Which is the whole point of this discussion, at least as far as I'm concerned. If extreme sportsmen and adventure tourists want to travel to Mars, they're welcome to do so, and I for one will celebrate their accomplishments. But I'm not really all that enthusiastic about the idea of them going to the government with their hand out, saying "give me money, and technology, and infrastructure, and expert support, so that I can have an exciting trip to Mars and back".

Are you sure about that? How about national park maintenance, roads leading to the destinations, airports leading to the destinations, fuel subsidies for the vehicles and aircraft that travel to those destinations, wars with and foreign aid paid to other nations to secure fuel and access to those destinations, special tax reductions and incentives for such locations or for the manufacturers of equipment that's used at such destinations, government research and development of materials and equipment used at such locations and for vehicles designed for use at such locations. And that's just scratching the surface.


Of course the most straightforward way to get the things you want, for yourself and your children, is to go out there and get them for yourself. I'm not sure the government should necessarily be in the business of bankrolling fantastically expensive novelties, simply for propaganda purposes.

That last bit is two separate arguments. If there are national propoganda purposes, then it shouldn't be anyone other than the government paying for it (e.g. I don't want to see any more unelected blow-hards like Randolph Hearst talking us into war again). Whether government should engage in propoganda is a separate question, probably off-limits for this board. As for novelties, it's hard to see where such novelties will end up. I'm sure some people derided ENIAC and big telescopes as nothing more than novelties at one time.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-12, 06:59 AM
Hi, Let me add that it is not simply tax payers money. But every dollar of that "Taxpayer's money" must be borrowed, and at increasingly higher
INTEREST.
We must pass on the extraordinary debt , often brought on by peculiar and self interested fools to some several generations, who might be interested in going to university themselves or some other trivial needs. THAT fact has brought us to our present position. We borrow from those unborn.
In view of this, I am afraid that such extraordinary expenditure of funds is quite out of the question.One has only to look around instead of up.

Dan

A present issue, but by no means necessarily true for the future. If the country starts generating a surplus again, then it won't have to borrow and pay interest. The US was generating a surplus less than a decade ago, and could again with appropriate management. Then we can start being fiscally responsible and take it directly from taxes again. Or the consortia or governments or both could offer bonds to pay for it.

As long as we have the resources capable of doing it, funding becomes merely an inconvenience.

eburacum45
2008-Dec-12, 11:22 AM
Robotics will advance. But so will manned space exploration technology. By using both we maximise the chance of success. There is every chance that robotics, and AI technology, will continue to advance here on Earth whether we have a space program or not. If we abandon space now, in 200 years time (or less) a new space program will emerge, with competent AI spacecraft and no humans involved at all.

I think it is far better to have a program of exploration in the near future, using humans for the things they are good at and robots for the things they are good at, rather than waiting until the robots are good at the human things too. That will take a long time- it will take a long time for robot evolution to replicate the 500 million years of neurological evolution that has produced humanity. But once it does happpen, space could become the province of competent AI- and humans will not necessarily be needed on the voyage.

Establishing a human presence in space should be a goal of the space program- if not, it will happen without us, and we'll just be left behind.

eburacum45
2008-Dec-12, 11:58 AM
What economic benefits can there be in exploiting space? The economy of the Solar System could be, and should be, based on a number of elements.
Resources; there are massive amounts of resources of all sorts in the solae system, far more than on Earth. Asteroids, moons, even whole planets like Mercury and Venus which have little chance of ever becoming habitable. A particular problem with exploiting the resources of Earth is that most of the planet is covered in a biosphere; we have damaged that in the past- I believe that at far as possible we should avoid more damage to the Earth's surface. That realy limits us to extracting only a fraction of the resources of the Earth. But the resources of the Solar System are there for the taking.
Energy- in total there is a trillion times more energy coming out of the Sun than we currenly use on Earth in our civilisation; there is an ultimate limit of growth, unless we can use the helium and deuterium from the gas giants in fusion reactors as well. That is, however, a limited, though mindbogglingly vast supply.

In a thousand years time, we could be imbedded in an economy a trillion times as large as the one we are in now. This would, I believe, benefit our own economy- we could exchange rare earths which are fairly difficult to find out there in the Solar System, for energy from solar power satellites, for example.

Perhaps the solar system economy will be entirely run by competent AI, and we will barter with them for scraps from their table. Do we really want that to happen?

marsbug
2008-Dec-12, 02:55 PM
If we abandon space now, in 200 years time (or less) a new space program will emerge, with competent AI spacecraft and no humans involved at all.

I doubt we could abandon space completely without massively restructuring our way of life. Civil space flight is worth 7 billion pounds a year in the UK alone, and satellite technology is used in everything from high end intelligence gathering to tracking and co-ordinating the gritters that de-ice our roads.


In a thousand years time, we could be imbedded in an economy a trillion times as large as the one we are in now. This would, I believe, benefit our own economy- we could exchange rare earths which are fairly difficult to find out there in the Solar System, for energy from solar power satellites, for example.

Perhaps the solar system economy will be entirely run by competent AI, and we will barter with them for scraps from their table. Do we really want that to happen?

I enjoy arguments like this one, but I doubt any elected politicians would be swayed by it! Our goverments exist to serve their people; if enough people want to see a human walk on mars, regardless of practical value, then they should be working towards that goal. I don't think it need be anymore rationalised than that.

I would prefer the first person on mars to be a wealthy adventurer who went there out of their own pocket, but goverments usually lead the way in developing new areas, they have the biggest pool of expertise and resources to call upon.

Danscope, Removed some text
I doubt that it is, and even though it's on the downturn the US still has lots of money for it's other non-essentials, so I don't think manned spaceflight is on it's way out just yet!

samkent
2008-Dec-12, 06:22 PM
jonclark

What evidence do you have that a Mars mission would be an extraordinary expenditure of funds?

I think you just want to be argumentative without substantiating your position.

You don’t have to go to a Lexus dealership to know you can’t afford one.


Since you think we can afford a manned mission.
What do you think it will cost?
How fast can we do it given what we know how to do today?
How safe will it be?

JonClarke
2008-Dec-12, 09:51 PM
There is every chance that robotics, and AI technology, will continue to advance here on Earth whether we have a space program or not. If we abandon space now, in 200 years time (or less) a new space program will emerge, with competent AI spacecraft and no humans involved at all.

First of all human spaceflight uses robotics. The most advanced space robots are human centred, and it take shuman presence to make oit worth using those advanced robotics.

Second, even were spacefight abandoned, the technology base will in rests on will advance - materials, propulsion, power supply, commincations, information mangement, medicine, life support. provided of course that there is not a general collapse of civilisation, in which case robotics won't advance either.

Third, we have no evidence that AI and robotics will advance to the point that they can deliver what humans could on Mars. This is a statement of faith, not of evidence. Such advances are fantasy, along with mass converters, hyperspace communications, and time travel.


I think it is far better to have a program of exploration in the near future, using humans for the things they are good at and robots for the things they are good at, rather than waiting until the robots are good at the human things too. That will take a long time- it will take a long time for robot evolution to replicate the 500 million years of neurological evolution that has produced humanity. But once it does happpen, space could become the province of competent AI- and humans will not necessarily be needed on the voyage.

I agree.


Establishing a human presence in space should be a goal of the space program- if not, it will happen without us, and we'll just be left behind.

I agree it should be a goal, but we won't be left behind. Robots have no sense of identify, not will, no conciousness, no agency beyond being able to follow simple orders. They aren't partners, certainly not rivals, they are tools, pure and simple.

Jon

Van Rijn
2008-Dec-12, 10:21 PM
Third, we have no evidence that AI and robotics will advance to the point that they can deliver what humans could on Mars. This is a statement of faith, not of evidence. Such advances are fantasy, along with mass converters, hyperspace communications, and time travel.


That type of AI does appear to be a difficult problem. However, it is incorrect to compare it to hyperspace communication, time travel, etc. Those are concepts that do not appear to be physically possible, but clearly human like intelligence is physically possible.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-12, 10:28 PM
jonclark


I think you just want to be argumentative without substantiating your position.

Quite the opposite. You are on the one making the claim that it is too expensive. Therefor the onus is on you to establish it. Look at the forum rules. That is why I have asked four or five times now for you to answer these questions.


You don’t have to go to a Lexus dealership to know you can’t afford one.

If I wanted to buy a Lexus you would have to give me reasons why I could not afford it.



Since you think we can afford a manned mission.
What do you think it will cost?

Based on extrapolation from the ISS and Apollo, between 200 and 400 million US$ a tonne we send to Mars


How fast can we do it given what we know how to do today?

How fast can we do it? Depending on resources and priorities, in 10-30 years, if the US is involved. if the US is not involved, then make that 30-50 years. Provided we commit to go beyond LEO.

How much faster than an unmanned mission? I expect a human mission to cover ground at least a thousand times the rate of an unmanned rover, covering a hundred times the distance. It will have perhaps 10 times the scientific payload, and return at least 100 times the sample. I expect manned mission will be collecting data at ten to hundred thousand times the rate of an unmanned mission


How safe will it be?

Based on current spaceflight statistics the chance of a loss of crew will probably be about 1/150 and we should aim for 1/200

Jon

danscope
2008-Dec-13, 02:51 AM
Hi Marsbug,
If you read my posts, you will recall that I am a firm supporter of manned presence in LEO, where it does the most good, servicng our satelites,
deploying the most delicate and complicated, and upgrading masterpieces like Hubble sts. We can and will learn much from a presence on a space station,
all of which will be hard won funding in an age of difficulty. But these projects in LEO can be justified, and accomplished on budget,such as it is.
You may find more obstruction when you apply for funding of such esoteric projects as going to mars and the moon and calisto etc. with the promise of
some very expensive gravel in return. This is not my call. It remains within the realm of Congress. If you think it is hard to get 12 billion dollars to save our auto manufacturing base and spare parts system , a very tangible thing,
wait untill you ask the same people to spring for a 500billion dollar program
to go to mars......for fun and esoteric profit.
It is not an inehaustable well.
Best regards, Dan

JonClarke
2008-Dec-13, 03:33 AM
Hi Marsbug,
If you think it is hard to get 12 billion dollars to save our auto manufacturing base and spare parts system , a very tangible thing,
wait untill you ask the same people to spring for a 500billion dollar program
to go to mars......for fun and esoteric profit.
It is not an inehaustable well.
Best regards, Dan

Don:

How do you know it will cost 500 billion to go to Mars? Over what time period would this be spent? One year, five, ten, twenty?

If 500 billion is too much, what do you think reasonable? This must be the fourth or fifth time I have asked you this....

I am far more interested in what you think reasonable, not what you think is unreasonable.

Jon

djustdee
2008-Dec-13, 12:18 PM
Heya,


Those are concepts that do not appear to be physically possible, but clearly human like intelligence is physically possible.

However, it may be that such intelligence cannot be duplicated by electronics and programming. It may simply be the result of biological development. I am not insisting that this is the case but it may be. The evidence so far would tend to support it since we have had the best and brightest of biological intelligence trying to develop electronic intelligence without any success.

Dee

clint
2008-Dec-13, 12:30 PM
For that matter, how about a robot to clean your house?

I subscribe to that!
My roomba (http://store.irobot.com/category/index.jsp?categoryId=3334619&cp=2804605&ab=CMS_RobotSuper_Roomba_102308) still leaves way too many dirty jobs undone...

eburacum45
2008-Dec-13, 01:46 PM
Heya,



However, it may be that such intelligence cannot be duplicated by electronics and programming. It may simply be the result of biological development. I am not insisting that this is the case but it may be. The evidence so far would tend to support it since we have had the best and brightest of biological intelligence trying to develop electronic intelligence without any success.

Dee
The links Jon Clarke provided are very good, and seem to support that position. Artificial intelligence is not only much more difficult than the theorists of the fifties and sixties supposed, but artificial intelligence turns out to be very useful for things that we never suspected.
But we are really only at the start of the work of producing an artificial mind;
here is a project looking into reproducing the mammalian brain;
http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/Jahia/site/bluebrain/op/edit/pid/19094

The study of the real organisation of a real mammalian brain could shed light onto the way that consciousness emerges. It may be that once all the data is in, some as-yet unknown phenomenon or process prevents the recreation of consciousness in a non-biological simulation. If Roger Penrose is right, there may be physical reasons why consciousness may not be replicable.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_penrose#Physics_and_consciousness

Penrose's ideas are not generally accepted, as far as I can make out, and even if he is right, there may be ways to replicate (and improve on) consciousness by using processes which are not purely digital.

But all this is, it seems to me, work that might take dozens, or hundreds, of years to come to a conclusion.

In the meantime, the ways in which robotics and data processing can be used in the real world today can benefit the space program, but for best effect, a human presence is required if we really want to acheive anything, and will be for the foreseeable future.

eric_marsh
2008-Dec-13, 02:34 PM
I've thought about it a lot and my personal conclusion is that consciousness is a function of biology. Thus, it is unlikely (IMHO) that computers will ever become conscious. But that's really a red herring. We are not interested in whether or not a machine is capable of consciousness, we are interested in it's ability to do a job.

Nature has created us to be massively parallel computing devices. It seems likely that we won't be creating machines on the same level, at least not anytime soon. But that's not to say that it shouldn't be possible to emulate the behavior of a massively parallel computing device. Yes, it would be significantly slower but I think that could be overcome to a sufficient extent with clever engineering.

There have been a lot of people talking about how we have not solved the machine intelligence problem in all the years that we have been working on it. I think it's worth noting that all of the research teams have been relatively small when compared the the number of engineers and scientists that developed Apollo. But even so, some of those small teams are still doing well. Take a look at the DARPA race. I think that if we threw the same effort at robotics that we did at the moon shot we would be able to produce some breakthrough results.

marsbug
2008-Dec-13, 02:36 PM
Hi Marsbug,
If you read my posts, you will recall that I am a firm supporter of manned presence in LEO, where it does the most good, servicng our satelites,
deploying the most delicate and complicated, and upgrading masterpieces like Hubble sts. We can and will learn much from a presence on a space station,
all of which will be hard won funding in an age of difficulty. But these projects in LEO can be justified, and accomplished on budget,such as it is.
You may find more obstruction when you apply for funding of such esoteric projects as going to mars and the moon and calisto etc. with the promise of
some very expensive gravel in return. This is not my call. It remains within the realm of Congress. If you think it is hard to get 12 billion dollars to save our auto manufacturing base and spare parts system , a very tangible thing,
wait untill you ask the same people to spring for a 500billion dollar program
to go to mars......for fun and esoteric profit.
It is not an inehaustable well.
Best regards, Dan

Fair points, I'd not really appreciated the magnitude of the cost for a manned mars mission. I still want to see it happen, and I think we should be pushing boundaries with manned spaceflight, but perhaps we should working toward bringing the cost of a mars mission down to something that governments will be willing to spend on.

I still think a return to the moon and expanding our presence in earth orbit are reasonable goals for humankind (as a whole, no reason why one nation should foot the bill), but I'll admit actually getting funding for a manned mars mission would be almost as big an achievement as going there!

danscope
2008-Dec-13, 07:17 PM
Hi, Well said.
Mind you,....I am just pointing out the difficulties ahead for such things in view of our economy. I often think that many have not quite percieved how deep our problems go . We will be talking bread and butter issues for quite a long time, and frankly, the "Luxury" of going to mars with boots on the ground will not figure prominently in those deliberations.
It won't be our call. It will be heard in congress. They have a lot on their plate.
Best regards, Dan

JonClarke
2008-Dec-13, 10:20 PM
Hi, Well said.
Mind you,....I am just pointing out the difficulties ahead for such things in view of our economy. I often think that many have not quite percieved how deep our problems go . We will be talking bread and butter issues for quite a long time, and frankly, the "Luxury" of going to mars with boots on the ground will not figure prominently in those deliberations.
It won't be our call. It will be heard in congress. They have a lot on their plate.

Dan

The crisis is bad, but it won't last for more than a few years. Putting people on Mars is a long term goal, decades away. Why should a short term crisis rule out long term thinking about goals?

How cheap will a manned Mars mission have to be before you consider it affordable (I have asked this six or seven time now, please respond)

I would also like to see a justification of your 500 billion estimate. What is your reasoning on this, or is it just a conveniently unaffordably larger round number?

Lastly, the US is not the only entity with a manned space program.

Jon

danscope
2008-Dec-13, 10:46 PM
Hi Jon,
I applaude your faith in the economy. But you may have noticed the extravagant spending these last eight years . These chickens have come home to roost. And in fact, I should think that we will be lucky indeed to
get out of THESE woods in 15 years, God willing. And remember; we have shipped so many of the jobs and companies that would be instrumental in that
golden recovery....overseas, never to return. That is part of the problem.
And some of our congress is still not on board in rebuilding that economy.
This is why there may be a delay in the predicted blossoming of our financial problems. We are going to require more miracles than blunders for the next ten years before things will come to fruition.
Perhaps time will prove this opinion incorrect. I pray those miracles come
our way. Time ..... is the great healer. May we rise with a spirit equal to this task. If and when we can do that, maybe we can go to mars.
Best regards,
Dan

Van Rijn
2008-Dec-14, 01:14 AM
Heya,



However, it may be that such intelligence cannot be duplicated by electronics and programming. It may simply be the result of biological development. I am not insisting that this is the case but it may be.


You would need to show a physical argument that biological results can't be duplicated.



The evidence so far would tend to support it since we have had the best and brightest of biological intelligence trying to develop electronic intelligence without any success.
Dee

Actually, there's been a lot of success in AI. Keep in mind that it's only been worked on for a few decades, and the technology has advanced a great deal in just the last decade.

Let's be clear: I'm not advocating that we should wait for AIs to explore and develop the solar system. However, the development of AI should not be compared to time travel, FTL travel, or other things which (unlike AI) do appear to be physically impossible.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-14, 03:35 AM
Hi Jon,
I applaude your faith in the economy. But you may have noticed the extravagant spending these last eight years . These chickens have come home to roost. And in fact, I should think that we will be lucky indeed to
get out of THESE woods in 15 years, God willing. And remember; we have shipped so many of the jobs and companies that would be instrumental in that
golden recovery....overseas, never to return. That is part of the problem.
And some of our congress is still not on board in rebuilding that economy.
This is why there may be a delay in the predicted blossoming of our financial problems. We are going to require more miracles than blunders for the next ten years before things will come to fruition.
Perhaps time will prove this opinion incorrect. I pray those miracles come
our way. Time ..... is the great healer. May we rise with a spirit equal to this task. If and when we can do that, maybe we can go to mars.
Best regards,
Dan

Maybe you are right Dan. Even so, 15 years is not that long in the scheme of things. Mars will still be there in 15 years time.

Nor is the exploration of space does dependent on the US. If that country fails to continue exploring space (and I don't expect it to) it does not mean that others will also give up.

And you still have not answered my question (asked for the seven or eighth time), how much would you think is realistic to spend on a Mars mission.

Nor have you justified your 500 billion estimate.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-14, 03:51 AM
You would need to show a physical argument that biological results can't be duplicated.


[QUOTE]
Actually, there's been a lot of success in AI. Keep in mind that it's only been worked on for a few decades, and the technology has advanced a great deal in just the last decade.

Actually AI has been worked on for more than 50 years.

It is probably useful to differentiate between strong and weak AI. Strong AI, producing human level conciousness, agency, etc. has failed miserably, and proved unable to deliver anything except a flock of empty metaphors.

Weak AI, which focuses on improved agency of robotics and computers have provided us a range of useful techologies like search engines, terrain classifcations, and autonomous vehicles to cary out certain tasks. But none of these are AI in the classic sense and even using the term "AI" is misleading, along the lines pointed out in the Bill Clancey article. They are only tools with no independence and which need human supervision and interpretation


Let's be clear: I'm not advocating that we should wait for AIs to explore and develop the solar system. However, the development of AI should not be compared to time travel, FTL travel, or other things which (unlike AI) do appear to be physically impossible.

Perhaps not, I certainly would not rule it out. Nor can we rule out that it might be impossible either. Certainly true AI has proved a much harder problem than anyone in the 50's imagined. And anyone in the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. Extreme caution is therefore justified as to possible advances in robotics in the next 20-50 years.

Extrapolating those advances to what can be done with unmanned exploration is even more uncertain, given all the restrictions of life support, power, mass, and volume. After all, in the 80's people were confidently talking about unmanned Mars rovers being able to cover tens or hundreds of km per year. We now know that even 10 km a year is perhaps beyond what we can do in the next decade, despite the many orders of magnitude improvements in computer software and hardware in the past 20 years.

Jon

Ilya
2008-Dec-14, 05:09 PM
The links Jon Clarke provided are very good, and seem to support that position. Artificial intelligence is not only much more difficult than the theorists of the fifties and sixties supposed, but artificial intelligence turns out to be very useful for things that we never suspected.

Not that I disagree, but I am curious -- what are the things we never suspected AI "turned out to be very useful" for? Unless by "we" you mean 1940's and 50's SF writers who could not imagine anything between "dumb machine" and "fully sentient robot".

eburacum45
2008-Dec-14, 08:43 PM
I feel as if I am from that generation myself, so yes. Robots were expected to be nothing more than particularly obedient humanoid servants, and a little dumb and literal. Instead they are precise machinists, data miners, expert chess players, spacecraft navigators, and the masters of repetitive, single tasks. Humanoid robots are so far of no practical use.

I wouldn't be surprised if entirely new forms of smart, if not actually hyper-intelligent, beings are created and become much more useful than any bad imitation of a human. Within this century I think that beings which are passably competent will emerge, but they won't be like anything that biology has produced; they probably wont have self-awareness, unless a lot of breakthroughs are made. And they wont look anything like humans.

djustdee
2008-Dec-14, 09:43 PM
Heya,


You would need to show a physical argument that biological results can't be duplicated.

That is the reason I didn't state any definite limitations. Its simply a consideration that remains to be proven or disproven. We haven't progressed enough in cognitive science, AI or robotics to make a definitive claim. I seriously hope that its not a limitation but that remains to be seen.

Dee

clint
2008-Dec-14, 09:59 PM
To me this sounds a bit like a remake of the debate about organic chemistry two centuries ago:

According to one side of that debate, organic compounds were way too complex for artificial synthesis from inorganic matter.
The supporters of this theory believed that in addition there had to be a 'vital force' in order to create organic compounds.

Until Friedrich Wöhler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C3%B6hler_synthesis) proved them wrong...

JonClarke
2008-Dec-14, 10:19 PM
To me this sounds a bit like a remake of the debate about organic chemistry two centuries ago:

According to one side of that debate, organic compounds were way too complex for artificial synthesis from inorganic matter.
The supporters of this theory believed that in addition there had to be a 'vital force' in order to create organic compounds.

Until Friedrich Wöhler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C3%B6hler_synthesis) proved them wrong...

That is an interesting analogy. What ended that important and legitimate debate was a breakthough, the synthesis of urea.

The problem with breakthroughs is their unpredictability, we don't know when they are going to happen. The don't know when they will happen, this week, next year, next decade, next century. And we don't even know whether they are possible. The Philosopher's Stone is still elusive, after all, so is the aether. The failure to deliver on these two items brought wholes lines of research to an end.

The AI researchers of the 50's thought that AI was a simple problem, which could be fixed by simple progress. They thought natural conciousness was a simple problem. Not naay cognitive and neuro scientists think that anymore. AI may still be something that just requires progress, but more likely a breakthrough.

But even simple technological progress is hard to predict. We still don't have controlled fusion even though no breakthrough is required, only progress.

So we can't plan exploration programs based on breakthroughs that may or may not happen. So let's get on with the exploration of the solar system with the full range of methods we have to hand and that we can afford.

Jon

timb
2008-Dec-15, 12:12 AM
Why not you? Do you live on one of those few countries that does not have a space program?


Correct.



Why would a Mars mission cost a trillion dollars? What if it cost a lot less? Why don't you try answer the question I asked the anti-Mars mission people - how cheap does it have to be before you think it would be worthwhile?



A trillion dollars is my rough estimate of the cost of setting up a base on Mars, not of a one-shot mission. NASA apparently estimates the cost of a one off mission to Mars as $55B which seems unlikely given that Apollo cost about $140B in today's money. The shuttle which was supposed to be cheaper has cost about $170B or about $1.5B per launch. I'd certainly pay $200 to see a successful Mars mission.



Who said anything about the American tax payer? If the US decides to opt out of sending people to Mars that will be its collective choice. But nations, other entities, may well think differently.


It is the American tax payer who funds NASA. Other nations may think differently and if they do so then they will be coercing their tax payers into funding the mission. I doubt that anyone else will be in a rush to land humans on Mars, though I expect Russia or China could do it in a decade or two at a fraction the money NASA would spend.



How would sending people to Mars preclude any of these worthy objectives?

There's a problem with doing everything you fancy and that is the fact that resources are limited.

timb
2008-Dec-15, 12:29 AM
There is every chance that robotics, and AI technology, will continue to advance here on Earth whether we have a space program or not. If we abandon space now, in 200 years time (or less) a new space program will emerge, with competent AI spacecraft and no humans involved at all.

I think it is far better to have a program of exploration in the near future, using humans for the things they are good at and robots for the things they are good at, rather than waiting until the robots are good at the human things too. That will take a long time- it will take a long time for robot evolution to replicate the 500 million years of neurological evolution that has produced humanity. But once it does happpen, space could become the province of competent AI- and humans will not necessarily be needed on the voyage.

Establishing a human presence in space should be a goal of the space program- if not, it will happen without us, and we'll just be left behind.

Do you have any reason for these assertions or is it just what you want? Why does it matter if sending humans far off into space has to wait 200 years? When somebody with enough money wants it enough then it will be done. If you want public money spent on it then you need a good justification in terms of public benefit. I haven't seen the proponents make any effort to do that.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-15, 09:05 AM
Correct

In that case why complain if other countries think differently? Unless you thinki spending money on space exploration is imoral, why should you care where other people's tax dollars go?



A trillion dollars is my rough estimate of the cost of setting up a base on Mars, not of a one-shot mission.

You have moved the goal posts and erected a strawman. We are not discussing a permanant station on Mars we are discussing a first mission.



NASA apparently estimates the cost of a one off mission to Mars as $55B which seems unlikely given that Apollo cost about $140B in today's money.

We are much further along the road to Mars technologically than the US was in 1961. Why should a Mars mission not cost proportionally less?


The shuttle which was supposed to be cheaper has cost about $170B or about $1.5B per launch. I'd certainly pay $200 to see a successful Mars mission.

Did you mean $200 or $200B?


It is the American tax payer who funds NASA. Other nations may think differently and if they do so then they will be coercing their tax payers into funding the mission. I doubt that anyone else will be in a rush to land humans on Mars, though I expect Russia or China could do it in a decade or two at a fraction the money NASA would spend.

Why are you using a loaded term like "coercion"? Were is the coercion in European taxpayers funding the LHC? Or US taxpayers paying for Hubble? If a deomcratic country or group of countries decide to go to Mars it will be based broad political support, not coercion



There's a problem with doing everything you fancy and that is the fact that resources are limited.

Again, how would sending people to Mars assuming your stated cost of $200B (which would be spread over at least 10 years) prevent the worthy goals in your previous post (like fixing the grade school system, medical care, environmental problems, etc.) being achieved? Might not the technologies developed, the people trained, the infrastructure invested in actually help some of these issues as well?

Jon

timb
2008-Dec-15, 10:23 AM
In that case why complain if other countries think differently? Unless you thinki spending money on space exploration is imoral, why should you care where other people's tax dollars go?



You have moved the goal posts and erected a strawman. We are not discussing a permanant station on Mars we are discussing a first mission.


I'm sorry Jon but I'm not going to debate with you if you are going to be dishonest. This is what I originally said in this thread.


If Jon wanted to spend a trillion dollars of his own money setting up a base on Mars I don't see anyone trying to stop him.


That is what I said in my second post


A trillion dollars is my rough estimate of the cost of setting up a base on Mars


There were no goal posts moved between these two statements.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-15, 11:41 AM
[color=green]I'm sorry Jon but I'm not going to debate with you if you are going to be dishonest. This is what I originally said in this thread.

Excuse me. There is a tendency for people to use the word "base" and "mission" interchangably. Since the other posts have been about manned missions rather than bases, it seemed reasonable to assume you were doing the same, incorrectly as it turns out.

I may be wrong, but I was not being dishonest. Please retract the accusation.



There were no goal posts moved between these two statements.

With your clarification, I agree.

Now how about you answer my questions?

1) Why should setting up a base cost a trillion dollars? Especially when the station is estalished by the first mission anyway?y

2) Why would people need to be coerced into spending money to set up a station on Mars?

3) Why would sending people to Mars prevent worthy goals in your previous post (like fixing the grade school system, medical care, environmental problems, etc.) being achieved?

Jon

samkent
2008-Dec-15, 01:14 PM
Jon seems to forget how any government project works.

They estimate it will take X amount of money to do project Y.
As they get into the project the department budgets balloon to absorb all available funds. Then when the bells go off in upper management they ask for more money instead of scaling back the scope of the project. Ares/Orion is a current example. I suspect much of their woes could be solved by reducing the size/occupants of Orion.

Perhaps Jon could give a few examples of where NASA came in under budget?

eburacum45
2008-Dec-15, 02:51 PM
Why does it matter if sending humans far off into space has to wait 200 years? Because if we don't get in first, there is a good chance that no humans will ever go, for reasons described above.
When somebody with enough money wants it enough then it will be done. If you want public money spent on it then you need a good justification in terms of public benefit. I haven't seen the proponents make any effort to do that.The justification for exploiting the Solar System is a trillion-fold expansion of the economy. If we wait more than two hundred years that economy might happen anyway, but entirely under the control of, and for the benefit of, competent non-human AI entities. Probably we would benefit anyway, but while we still can we should make sure that humans are already involved in the exploitation of the Solar System.

It's a race against time, in some ways.

djellison
2008-Dec-15, 03:27 PM
Perhaps Jon could give a few examples of where NASA came in under budget?

Perhaps you could give a few examples of ANY NASA project under budget? Manned, Unmanned, Astronomy, Aeronautics....ANYTHING. That's not an argument for anything.

Perhaps you could give a few examples of ANY major governmental project that has come in under budget. Start with the Military - it's the most analogous engineering to what NASA is asked to do.

They calculate how much they think it will cost. If things go well - that's what it costs. If they don't - it costs more. That's how Congress asks it to be done. It's what Griffin explained in the MSL press conf, if you listen to it.

Bootprints in our Wheeltracks. That's what the PI of the most successful robotic explorers of Mars wants to see.

Look at the challenges facing humans in the next century. Energy, clean water, recycling, population control, and, ultimately, whatever your want to think, the world will be destroyed.

Apollo gave us such a huge spike in PHD's and Doctorates in physics, engineering, the disciplines that we need, desperately, to solve the problems of the 21st century.

We need a new Apollo. Ask universities, ask engineering, energy, technology firms - they can't find the new staff they need

And above all that - above the need to spur the industries that will solve the problems of the future : what if we all thought like samkent. What if none of us were a Ranulph Feinnes or Richard Noble or Ellen McArthur. We would, right now, still be sat around the camp fire of our cave, wondering what was in the next valley.

I want to see what's in the next valley...and the one after that. Robots can lead the way, but humans must follow.

NEOWatcher
2008-Dec-15, 03:37 PM
They calculate how much they think it will cost. If things go well - that's what it costs. If they don't - it costs more. That's how Congress asks it to be done. It's what Griffin explained in the MSL press conf, if you listen to it.
Not just government, but business as well. The difference is the expectation of "creep".
Congress is asking for the ideal costs, but is not concerned about risk analysis and resolution costs. Probably some combination of them being outside of their term of office or being able to spread, blur, or shift the blame, or not wanting to seem like they are proposing a risky idea.

In business, those risks are not in the budget, but out on the table in full view at approval time.

samkent
2008-Dec-15, 05:31 PM
We need a new Apollo. Ask universities, ask engineering, energy, technology firms - they can't find the new staff they need

And above all that - above the need to spur the industries that will solve the problems of the future :

What problems did Apollo solve?

JonClarke
2008-Dec-15, 09:22 PM
Jon seems to forget how any government project works.

They estimate it will take X amount of money to do project Y.
As they get into the project the department budgets balloon to absorb all available funds. Then when the bells go off in upper management they ask for more money instead of scaling back the scope of the project. Ares/Orion is a current example. I suspect much of their woes could be solved by reducing the size/occupants of Orion.

Perhaps Jon could give a few examples of where NASA came in under budget?

How about you answer my questions rather than completely dodgoing the issues?

Since you state you have no idea how much a Mars mission will cost, why are you so hostile? Ideology? Prejudice (post 95)?

Since you say it has to be done with private funds, do you also object to government funding of unmanned space exploration? Astronomy? Polar exploration? The ODP (post 95)?

If it were to be left to the private sector, how cheap would a crewed mission have to be to be competitive (post 95)?

What sort of return from human settlement would justify it in your eyes (post 95)?

As for the supposed problems with NASA bugets, what has this to do with whether or not we should send people? If we go to Mars it will be a 20-30 years down the track. Why would current financial issues still be an issue then? If the Chinese or Europeans decide to send people to Mars, how are NASA's current budgeting issues relevant? If private funds are used, how will NASA's problems be relevant? And what makes you think that privately funding projects will be any better than NASA at fiscal planning?

Jon

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-15, 09:33 PM
I've heard $500 Billion too, but I think that has been debunked on this board previously. Even if it costs a lot of money, where's that money going to go? Back into the economy. A few tons of material isn't going to reduce the real wealth of the nation. It's expendable. The costs are in labor, and that money gets recycled. Even if it's only a few NASA employees and they stick it in a bank, that bank can lend more money out if it holds more assets.

The problems besetting the world today are related to one or two key physical resources and human resource mismanagement.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-15, 09:37 PM
Do you have any reason for these assertions or is it just what you want? Why does it matter if sending humans far off into space has to wait 200 years?

Why do any science now? Why send a probe to Pluto now? Why drill the oceans? Why build a LPC? Why construct large telscopes? They will all be there in 200 years!

We do them now because we can and we want to see the results in our lifetime.


When somebody with enough money wants it enough then it will be done.

Since we have been sending people into space for the past 47 years clearly we have enough money.


If you want public money spent on it then you need a good justification in terms of public benefit. I haven't seen the proponents make any effort to do that.

The proponents have convinced those with the money for the past 47 years. The number of countries with astronaut programs is increasing - Russia, China, all the members of ESA, Japan, Brazil, China, India. Clearly they disagree with you.

Besides, you have moved off topic. We are not discussing human space flight in general, but exploration missions.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-15, 09:46 PM
I've heard $500 Billion too, but I think that has been debunked on this board previously. Even if it costs a lot of money, where's that money going to go? Back into the economy. A few tons of material isn't going to reduce the real wealth of the nation. It's expendable. The costs are in labor, and that money gets recycled. Even if it's only a few NASA employees and they stick it in a bank, that bank can lend more money out if it holds more assets.

It is depressing to still see the mentality that money spent on space is somehow lost, whyen in fact it is actually spent right here on earth, building infrastructure, technologies and human skills. Do people really think the money is bundled into a playload shroud and shot into deep space?


The problems besetting the world today are related to one or two key physical resources and human resource mismanagement.

Absolutely! And fuethermore they are temproary. This is the fourth economic crisis I have lived though. We will get over it, there will be others. It is important to looking at long term goals as well as dealing with the immediate problems.

Jon

timb
2008-Dec-15, 11:09 PM
Excuse me. There is a tendency for people to use the word "base" and "mission" interchangably. Since the other posts have been about manned missions rather than bases, it seemed reasonable to assume you were doing the same, incorrectly as it turns out.

I may be wrong, but I was not being dishonest. Please retract the accusation.


Certainly not. You accused me of dishonesty when you said I had moved the goal posts. It is you who should retract first.

timb
2008-Dec-15, 11:37 PM
Because if we don't get in first, there is a good chance that no humans will ever go, for reasons described above.


I didn't really understand the reasons. You're saying that if we don't do it now, machines will take over and they wont let us? In that case shouldn't you be more concerned about stopping machines from taking over than sending men to Mars?


The justification for exploiting the Solar System is a trillion-fold expansion of the economy.


I think you have to make out a case for that. I favor an alternative calculation where you take the future value of output without the Mars mission, you add up what you will spend on the Mars mission, and you subtract the second number from the first one. That's in the case of a NASA-controlled Apollo style mission to leave footprints and take back a bag of rocks, which is all we can realistically do now. Once technology has advanced a mission to Mars financed by subscriptions and pay-per-view might be commercially viable. Heck, if 5% of the world's population were willing to pay $200 to be among the privileged few who will see the First Human Steps on Mars, LIVE1 in the comfort of their own living rooms, then a private Mars mission might turn a profit in the next decade.



If we wait more than two hundred years that economy might happen anyway, but entirely under the control of, and for the benefit of, competent non-human AI entities. Probably we would benefit anyway, but while we still can we should make sure that humans are already involved in the exploitation of the Solar System.

It's a race against time, in some ways.

Strange race. Either we send a few guys into space, then the AIs take over and send us back to the garden or the gas chamber or whatever it is they're going to do, or we don't send a few guys to Mars, then the AIs take over and send us back to the garden or the gas chamber or whatever it is they're going to do. Makes it seem rather pointless.


1. Mars Media Inc. guarantees images and video will be released to the MarsNET subscription network at least 30 minutes before they are made available to news organizations. LIVE does not imply that the transmission of data from Mars to Earth will be instantaneous.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-16, 12:06 AM
Certainly not. You accused me of dishonesty when you said I had moved the goal posts. It is you who should retract first.

No, I accused you (erroneously) of poor argumentation. Poor argumentation does not mean dishonest. Since you explained what you meant I have retracted that claim. I never said you were dishonest, and never thought it.

Now how about you stop taking things personally and discuss the issues? You have yet to answer the following questions.

) Why should setting up a base cost a trillion dollars? Especially when the station is estalished by the first mission anyway?y

2) Why would people need to be coerced into spending money to set up a station on Mars?

3) Why would sending people to Mars prevent worthy goals (like fixing the grade school system, medical care, environmental problems, etc.) being achieved?

Jon

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-16, 06:09 AM
Jon, have you tried asking him in Yoda-speak? ;-)

JonClarke
2008-Dec-16, 08:17 AM
Jon, have you tried asking him in Yoda-speak? ;-)

As in...

Questions you will answer, young timb. To the point you shall stick. To the dark side personality discussion do lead. Avoid them you should.

Close enough?:)

Van Rijn
2008-Dec-16, 10:00 AM
Actually AI has been worked on for more than 50 years.


Yes, a few decades. Early work often dealt with low-hanging fruit (such as simple programs that could solve logic puzzles that humans find hard) which led to overconfidence on progress. I don't see this as a particularly long time especially given the rapidly changing technology and science.



It is probably useful to differentiate between strong and weak AI. Strong AI, producing human level conciousness, agency, etc. has failed miserably, and proved unable to deliver anything except a flock of empty metaphors.


I don't think there is quite this simple a differentiation in AI. Rather, I think labels like this are often used to discount what has been done, and what has been learned.



Weak AI, which focuses on improved agency of robotics and computers have provided us a range of useful techologies like search engines, terrain classifcations, and autonomous vehicles to cary out certain tasks. But none of these are AI in the classic sense and even using the term "AI" is misleading, along the lines pointed out in the Bill Clancey article. They are only tools with no independence and which need human supervision and interpretation


I don't think AI work can be so easily dismissed. Rather, I see these as successful targeted results that have had increasing scope over time. I see this as a process where many efforts, both "bottom up" and "top down," along with what we continue to learn about neurology, will continue to lead to more sophisticated AIs. And, I expect that the nature of these AIs will always be debated, no matter how sophisticated they become.

samkent
2008-Dec-16, 02:34 PM
Jon you keep thinking I have an issue with the private sector mounting such missions.
I DON’T
I do have an issue with public money being spent towards the manned Mars goal as well as manned lunar. If the private sector is footing the bill they can spend a trillion just to get to LEO for all I care.

The assumption that our federal budget situation is going to change for the better in the next 20-30 years is flat out wrong. The baby boomers have started to retire already. And within 20 years the US will have 1 in 4 on social security. Payroll taxes will have to go up just to cover these obligations. The money for frivolous manned missions just wont be there.

If we use the price that the Direct group claims 55 billion (way too low IMO) consider our options.

1 Manned Mars
12 New Air Craft Carriers
23 MSLs
45 MERs
407 F22 Raptors
4000 New High Schools (50/50 state/fed)

Where do you think the votes will go?

danscope
2008-Dec-16, 04:49 PM
Hi Samkent,
You see the problem clearly.
Could you tell me what the mers and msls are?
Thank you. Dan

samkent
2008-Dec-16, 05:33 PM
Spirit and Oppy are MERs.
MSL is the Mars Science Lab (also a rover) to be sent up 2 yrs from now.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-16, 09:28 PM
Jon you keep thinking I have an issue with the private sector mounting such missions.

I have no fundamental issue with the private sector mounting such missions.

You however appear to have issues with the government sector doing so. Why? Prejudice? Ideology? I asked you this before, still no answer.


I DON’TI do have an issue with public money being spent towards the manned Mars goal as well as manned lunar.

Why? I have asked this before, still no answer.

Do you object to public funding of ocean and polar exploration, astronomy? I have asked this beforeas well, Your refusal to asnwer looks life deliberate evasion.


If the private sector is footing the bill they can spend a trillion just to get to LEO for all I care.

Why would it cost a trillion?


The assumption that our federal budget situation is going to change for the better in the next 20-30 years is flat out wrong. The baby boomers have started to retire already. And within 20 years the US will have 1 in 4 on social security.

History would suggest that your gloomy assessment is not justified. If you are right, so what? The US is not the only country capable of putting people into space and developing the technology to go to Mars.


Payroll taxes will have to go up just to cover these obligations. The money for frivolous manned missions just wont be there.

Why frivolous?


If we use the price that the Direct group claims 55 billion (way too low IMO) consider our options.

Who are the "Direct Group"?



1 Manned Mars
12 New Air Craft Carriers

Why does the world, let alone the US, need 12 new aircraft carriers?



23 MSLs
45 MERs

The manned mission would discover hundreds of times what 23 MSLs or 45 MERs can discover, much better value for money.


407 F22 Raptors

Does the US need 407 more F-22s?



4000 New High Schools (50/50 state/fed)


Does the US need 4000 new high schools?


Where do you think the votes will go?

Defence and education get a much larger slice of the US budget than NASA. I don't expect this to change.

Once again, what do you think is affordable? Should any money be spent on space exploration at all? if yes, what how much?

Jon

timb
2008-Dec-16, 09:37 PM
Jon you keep thinking I have an issue with the private sector mounting such missions.
I DON’T
I do have an issue with public money being spent towards the manned Mars goal as well as manned lunar. If the private sector is footing the bill they can spend a trillion just to get to LEO for all I care.

The assumption that our federal budget situation is going to change for the better in the next 20-30 years is flat out wrong. The baby boomers have started to retire already. And within 20 years the US will have 1 in 4 on social security. Payroll taxes will have to go up just to cover these obligations. The money for frivolous manned missions just wont be there.

If we use the price that the Direct group claims 55 billion (way too low IMO) consider our options.

1 Manned Mars
12 New Air Craft Carriers
23 MSLs
45 MERs
407 F22 Raptors
4000 New High Schools (50/50 state/fed)

Where do you think the votes will go?

Apart from an unsupported (and fantastic) claim of economic benefit (~"the economy will grow a trillion-fold") most of the arguments for the mission have boiled down to entertainment value. If there's really a huge potential audience out there who want to see humans step and stumble on the Martian surface, why can't the private sector undertake it as a subscription-only televisual event? Imagine, if only 200,000,000 Marsies would pony up a $275 subscription each, then the mission could be funded. You could reduce the number of subs required by having much higher priced "gold" and "platinum" packages that would give the subscriber access to the astronauts' "diary room" confessions, the night-vision sleeping quarters cam (don't forget, all our astronauts are young, attractive, liberal... and bored!), a certified genuine gram of Mars dust on mission return, and premium subscribers could go into a draw to join the crew!

Now 200,000,000 might sound like a lot of subscribers, but it's only one person in 33 on the planet, or about one household in eight.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-16, 09:41 PM
Yes, a few decades. Early work often dealt with low-hanging fruit (such as simple programs that could solve logic puzzles that humans find hard) which led to overconfidence on progress. I don't see this as a particularly long time especially given the rapidly changing technology and science.

Agreed.


I don't think there is quite this simple a differentiation in AI. Rather, I think labels like this are often used to discount what has been done, and what has been learned.

Or perhaps they differentiate between different themes in a particular research approach.



I don't think AI work can be so easily dismissed. Rather, I see these as successful targeted results that have had increasing scope over time. I see this as a process where many efforts, both "bottom up" and "top down," along with what we continue to learn about neurology, will continue to lead to more sophisticated AIs. And, I expect that the nature of these AIs will always be debated, no matter how sophisticated they become.

There certainly have been useful results in automated classifications, searches, navigation, sensory feedback etc.

But the prospect of strong AI is as elusive as it ever was. It still is technology indistinguisable from magic. I would prefer not to base exploration of the solar system on technology that may not eventuate.

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-16, 09:44 PM
Hi Jon,
I applaude your faith in the economy. But you may have noticed the extravagant spending these last eight years . These chickens have come home to roost. And in fact, I should think that we will be lucky indeed to
get out of THESE woods in 15 years, God willing. And remember; we have shipped so many of the jobs and companies that would be instrumental in that
golden recovery....overseas, never to return. That is part of the problem.
And some of our congress is still not on board in rebuilding that economy.
This is why there may be a delay in the predicted blossoming of our financial problems. We are going to require more miracles than blunders for the next ten years before things will come to fruition.
Perhaps time will prove this opinion incorrect. I pray those miracles come
our way. Time ..... is the great healer. May we rise with a spirit equal to this task. If and when we can do that, maybe we can go to mars.
Best regards,
Dan

Dan

Do you think the US economy will be in a basket case in ten years time, twenty, thirty?

If so we are fortunate in that the exploration of Mars is not dependent on the US alone.

Jon

samkent
2008-Dec-17, 12:30 AM
If the private sector is footing the bill they can spend a trillion just to get to LEO for all I care.

Why would it cost a trillion?

I think you misread my statement.



If we use the price that the Direct group claims 55 billion (way too low IMO) consider our options.

Who are the "Direct Group"?

If you don't know about "Direct" then you are under informed on the Mars effort. Do a quick Wiki search and bring yourself up to speed.



The manned mission would discover hundreds of times what 23 MSLs or 45 MERs can discover, much better value for money.

I think a lighter survey of 45 different sites each covering 30 kilometers over a couple of years would give a far better understanding than 1 site covering 100 kilometers and a few weeks at higher detail.

danscope
2008-Dec-17, 04:40 AM
Dan

Do you think the US economy will be in a basket case in ten years time, twenty, thirty?

If so we are fortunate in that the exploration of Mars is not dependent on the US alone.

Jon

Hi Jon, I see it flattening out and staying at about 70% levels, and unfortunately hovering there for a long time. The problem is oil and the increasing lack there of....have you noticed. This is going to be a continuing problem.
Oh well....

Dan

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-17, 05:57 AM
Other technologies can take oils place, including in petrochemicals. For example, the green algae crude oil looked promising, and if it could be produced in enough quantities, we wouldn't have to change much of our infrastructure. Big companies with the capital to get these technologies going would be the ones who make the money, so sorry, it isn't going to be a hippie free energy future. But I don't see a permanent down turn even if we we run out of available oil, as long as the right technolgies get implemented.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-17, 06:50 AM
Apart from an unsupported (and fantastic) claim of economic benefit (~"the economy will grow a trillion-fold") most of the arguments for the mission have boiled down to entertainment value. If there's really a huge potential audience out there who want to see humans step and stumble on the Martian surface, why can't the private sector undertake it as a subscription-only televisual event? Imagine, if only 200,000,000 Marsies would pony up a $275 subscription each, then the mission could be funded. You could reduce the number of subs required by having much higher priced "gold" and "platinum" packages that would give the subscriber access to the astronauts' "diary room" confessions, the night-vision sleeping quarters cam (don't forget, all our astronauts are young, attractive, liberal... and bored!), a certified genuine gram of Mars dust on mission return, and premium subscribers could go into a draw to join the crew!

Now 200,000,000 might sound like a lot of subscribers, but it's only one person in 33 on the planet, or about one household in eight.

Not a bad plan, on it's own (except for its feasibility). However, there may be some domestic and international legal hurdles to doing it. You could also raise that amount of money by renting a cabin in the woods, but people would still have to drive there on a government paid and constructed road network. When you consider the energy stored in a few hundred tons of spaceship at interplanetary speed, governments start to get skittish about putting that kind of power into private hands.

djustdee
2008-Dec-17, 10:59 AM
Heya,


If you don't know about "Direct" then you are under informed on the Mars effort. Do a quick Wiki search and bring yourself up to speed.


I assume your talking about Mars Direct (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Direct) and not "The Direct Group." Its pretty much the brainchild of Robert Zubrin. Zubrin has achieved a great deal but I tend to filter his economic forcast. I find him monofocused on getting to Mars through the direct route and irrationally biased towards any other space exploration project or methodology. Despite this fact I would love to spend a mission at the Mars Desert Research Station but there are aspects of my life that would create stresses on the project that it doesn't need.

Dee

djustdee
2008-Dec-17, 11:08 AM
Heya,


Do you think the US economy will be in a basket case in ten years time, twenty, thirty?

If so we are fortunate in that the exploration of Mars is not dependent on the US alone.


I'm not sure about the state of the US economy. However, I am worried about the other stressors that are arising globally and their impact on scientific and technological progress. If climate change, water scarcity, population growth, food production and several other developing problems progress the way the projections are going I think that space exploration might suffer. A people that are worried about getting enough food and water aren't likely to be interested in space exploration. Its just something I keep in mind lately.

Dee

eburacum45
2008-Dec-17, 01:02 PM
I must admit to liking Timb's plan too; it would work fine, as long as people want to pay the subscriptions rather than wait for the boiled down version that will be shown on the public news services.

I should however back up my claim of a 'trillion-fold' increase in the economy due to the exploitation of the solar system as a whole; as detailed in an earlier post, the energy of the Sun represents a trillion times the energy currently produced by all the generation systems in our civilisation, and the material resources represent (at least) a trillion times the material resources available from the topmost crust of the Earth (exploitation of which is limited by the presence of a biosphere).

An extreme simplification perhaps, but I would be very interested to see reasons why this vast expansion of the economy could not occur.

samkent
2008-Dec-17, 01:20 PM
I’ve seen the shows talking about oil from algae and the way they are producing it. They are using clear cylinders about 1 foot in diameter 6-10 feet long. If we round things out to easy numbers, here’s what we get.

1 cylinder volume equals 1 barrel (42 gallons).
If you get 50% yield, that’s 2 cylinders per barrel of oil.
Current US oil consumption is over 20 million barrels per day.
That’s 40 million cylinders per day.
Placed side by side they would stretch over 7500 miles. That’s about two trips across the US.
If it takes 1 week to “ripen” one cylinder, you then need 14 trips.

I don’t think it’s going to replace oil from the ground.



An extreme simplification perhaps, but I would be very interested to see reasons why this vast expansion of the economy could not occur.

It’s simple, humans cannot absorb a trillion fold increase in anything.
Can we use a trillion fold increase in the corn crop?
Could you spend a trillion fold increase in your income?
If the oil reserves suddenly jumped a trillion fold, how much would it benefit society or you?
If three asteroids suddenly entered Earths orbit, one with gold bars, one with platinum bars and one with 10-carat diamonds would civilization benefit from it?

There is only so much of any one thing a human can use. Beyond that point the value drops.

timb
2008-Dec-17, 01:41 PM
I must admit to liking Timb's plan too; it would work fine, as long as people want to pay the subscriptions rather than wait for the boiled down version that will be shown on the public news services.


There was a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek in that proposal, but the basic idea of selling a product that people want to buy is basic to any private enterprise. It would be a big deal, but not an impossibly big one. I told Jon I'd be willing to spend $200 to see a Mars landing, and he asked me if I meant $200 Bn! I should be so lucky. But if enough people with disposable income are interested, and there is a credible promoter, then there is no reason why it couldn't be done. $275 isn't much: worldwide there must be hundreds of millions who spend more than that much on entertainment per year already (cinema, movie hire, cable subscriptions, internet). Of course some people would be willing and able to pay much more. There's already a market for NEO flights that cost around $10M I think.

I don't think it's going to happen soon. Maybe the next time the markets are blowing bubbles.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-17, 01:54 PM
Heya,



I'm not sure about the state of the US economy. However, I am worried about the other stressors that are arising globally and their impact on scientific and technological progress. If climate change, water scarcity, population growth, food production and several other developing problems progress the way the projections are going I think that space exploration might suffer. A people that are worried about getting enough food and water aren't likely to be interested in space exploration. Its just something I keep in mind lately.

Dee

Getting food and water will be hard to do in marginal areas of the world. It will also be hard to get food and water in space and on other planets. Recyling technologies used for space will probably find good use back on Earth.

To expound upon other issues...
One of the problems about Earth-first types who talk about the economy is that they may not realize the actual problems with the economy. One of the problems is energy scarcity, but there is lots of energy in space. Another problem is management, but psychologically, an international effort to reach out to space may help solve some of those problems by uniting governments and people to a more noble cause.

Another problem is the current recession and modern markets. Based on some other threads on this board, I'm starting to think that going into debt up to our eyeballs for space exploration may not necessarily be a bad thing. It's probably better than deflation. Moreover, Space is a place where we can dump our products and services. It's a place for expansion. People don't like to be lazy, they actually like to work. Part of the problem with modern employment is that we can often be over-productive. The glut of crap and make-work is merely a means to get money to more people while making them do something, anything to appear to deserve it.

This is partly due to the microchip revolution and robotics that displace workers and tends to require fewer humans to do any actual work (check out the last paragraph in the causes section of the wikipedia article on unemployment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unemployment#Causes)). Maybe that sounds selfish coming from a person in a first world country while people in third world countries starve, but it is this first world that drives the global economy that would expand into those markets given time and resources. Perhaps the disparity between what work needs to be done and how many people it takes to do it can be solved on earth through different labor rules, but even then, we may end up so efficient and productive that we need somewhere and something to work towards. That something could be space exploration and colonization.

The problem with robot exploration is that it relies on highly specialized fields and small rovers and expensive, handmade rockets. That's a recipe for expensive elitism. What we need is mass production of space systems that will employ middle and even low skilled workers in some fashion. We don't need a a couple PhDs lovingly putting foam onto a fuel tank. We need huge mandrels that spin the things under mechanized foam heads that use lots of steel and aluminum made in factories that hire people to work in them. We need to start using methane fuel and then design alge farms to make the stuff that employ lots of people. We need production lines with people welding standardized launch busses and stamping shrouds. Sure, automation of these processes itself reduces the number of people necessary to make the parts, but each machine will need to be tended by people, and those people will need to be managed and supported, and they will make money that will go into local banks and restaurants and dentists and doctors.

The more that people are busy, the more that they can exchange this thing called money to make other people busy. Far from being a black hole for otherwise useful work and resources, space exploration is a nexus for job and wealth creation. Consider how much money goes into pet products; around $40 Billion a year, IIRC. What happens with those toys? The cat or dog plays with them for a few days and then the toy (or what's left of it) gets left in the corner or tossed into the trash. What's the difference between sticking $40 Billion of pet toys into the trash or $40 billion of material into interplanetary orbit?

If we find something of use out there, then good. If we don't, then it's just as well. There does not need to be a quid pro quo for space exploration. I know people are trained to look for value, but value is not inherent in much of anything. Most of our economic output is worthless. Think of that pet toy again. It's probably made of plastic, injection molded in aluminum dies, made on a CNC machine, made by someone else, transported on a truck, powered by diesel, refined by someone and drilled and pumped by someone else. But in the end, all that effort and work went into the manufacture of ten minues of vicarious pleasure and an eternity of sitting in a junkpile. We could have done without it.

Have you done any of those jobs, made any of those things used in the manufacture of that pet toy? How worthless is your productivity? Think about that and then get back to me on why we can't be just as worthless in space.

samkent
2008-Dec-17, 04:16 PM
Consider how much money goes into pet products; around $40 Billion a year, IIRC. What happens with those toys? The cat or dog plays with them for a few days and then the toy (or what's left of it) gets left in the corner or tossed into the trash. What's the difference between sticking $40 Billion of pet toys into the trash or $40 billion of material into interplanetary orbit?


The difference is that it’s a choice for me to spend $4 on a Frisbee for my dog. I get direct immediate benefit from my $4. I’m happy and my dog is happy. If you take my $4 and launch it into orbit, do I get direct benefit? Plus I still have to come up with another $4 because my dog needs something to chew on.



I know people are trained to look for value, but value is not inherent in much of anything. Most of our economic output is worthless.

Not true! There is a non degreed person pulling those Fisbees out of the mold. He has a family and bills. If Frisbees were worthless they wouldn’t produce them.


There does not need to be a quid pro quo for space exploration.

Space exploration is no different than any other government expenditure. You have to balance the expected returns against the amount spent. If you think about it, $40 billion spent on dinner vouchers for all Americans would do more for the country than launching it into orbit.


The problem with robot exploration is that it relies on highly specialized fields and small rovers and expensive, handmade rockets. That's a recipe for expensive elitism. What we need is mass production of space systems that will employ middle and even low skilled workers in some fashion. We don't need a a couple PhDs lovingly putting foam onto a fuel tank.

Fifty years of space launches has shown us just the opposite of what you want. Even the Russians don’t mass produce their manned vehicles.

djellison
2008-Dec-17, 04:20 PM
II think a lighter survey of 45 different sites each covering 30 kilometers over a couple of years would give a far better understanding than 1 site covering 100 kilometers and a few weeks at higher detail.

MER can not cover 30km. It is designed for about 2% of that distance, and has been proven to cover about half that distance on easy terrain, and about a quarter of that distance in harsh terrain.

There are not 45 safe interesting sites for an MER like landing system to land

There are not the facilities to operate 45 MER's simultaneously.

A manned mission to mars would last many months, not a few weeks.

It would have the ability to cover something like a 400km radius area. 2,500km^2.

MER, covering 12km, seing 50 metres in either direction, can observe around 0.6km^2. 45 of them would cover 27km^2. Two orders of magnitude less.

Jon has asked you many direct questions which you've refused to reply to, many many times over. Why? When are you going to answer them.

samkent
2008-Dec-17, 05:38 PM
I did mix up my MSLs with my MERs on the distance issue. But you get my drift.
23 MSLs over a 2 year (or longer) mission can give us a more complete picture of the entire planet than 1 500 mile circle in a couple of months. Plus it would take a lot of effort to lose 23 different missions in a row.

I did answer Jons questions. He just didn't like the way I did it.
I don't think we should spend any public money on a manned mission to Mars or the Moon.

naelphin
2008-Dec-17, 09:04 PM
I like this guy's response to the question:

http://jwz.livejournal.com/415269.html?thread=5141285#t5141285

matthewota
2008-Dec-17, 09:45 PM
I hae taken the time to read MIT's white paper on the Future of Human Spaceflight. They argue that it will be difficult for NASA to convince the younger generation that is into virtual reality instead of reality. They will have to build a case for in situ exploration by people, instead of machines.

In my opinion, on a basic level, it is imperative that we learn how to propagate the human species off of the planet, to insure its survival in case the Earth gets whacked by a civilization ending asteroid. Too many policymakers are forgetting what happened to Jupiter in 1994.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-18, 05:16 AM
The difference is that it’s a choice for me to spend $4 on a Frisbee for my dog. I get direct immediate benefit from my $4. I’m happy and my dog is happy. If you take my $4 and launch it into orbit, do I get direct benefit? Plus I still have to come up with another $4 because my dog needs something to chew on.

Exactly! You get happy. How much is happy worth? How much happiness do you get from watching flags and footprints on Mars? How much happiness do you get from creating a real space infrastructure and economy? I'm glad you said happy, because so many people like to ignore happy as a motivation. Entertainment and happiness is probably going to be a prime mover for space exploration.

BTW, you can just buy another frisbee. by increasing demand for that item, the manufacturer will make more, probably by increasing rate which is probably is sub-optimal in order to maintain production time quotas (hours worked) per employee, the net result of which is an increase in efficiency.


Not true! There is a non degreed person pulling those Fisbees out of the mold. He has a family and bills. If Frisbees were worthless they wouldn’t produce them.

Exactly! That worker uses his production to make people like his family happy and passes along money to pay bills and thus continues the currency of economy. The Frisbee is merely a item that allows happiness and money to move. The frisby is a luxury; it isn't an essential item. Frisbees and similar luxuries are probably the first thing to go unsold and unused in a downturn in an economy since it's not directly convertible into shelter, food & water, or clothing.

As we can see, value is transitory for a large amount of modern economic productivity. the frisbee is worth whatever the market is willing to pay. However, when an economy is in a downturn, luxuries and frivolities become worthless. Those who argue economics against space exploration should realize that most of what we do is also of such ephemeral importance. If we are going to stimulate an economy by injecting funds to spur supply and
demand for non-essentials, then why should we limit our non-essentials to Earth?


Space exploration is no different than any other government expenditure. You have to balance the expected returns against the amount spent. If you think about it, $40 billion spent on dinner vouchers for all Americans would do more for the country than launching it into orbit.

Ah, but $40 billion in space infrastructure jobs would also go right back into the economy. What's the difference between a direct subsidy of the foodservice industry and a space infrastructure economy? A voucher isn't directly convertible for food but it's exchangable for food, but so is a paycheck.

But the balance isn't actual. Much, if not most, of what a government spends money on has no direct return. There are indirect returns, like highways that take people somewhere where they can spend money, but that can be harder to quantify monetarily. If you want to include happiness into that calculation, then that can argue for space exploration as easily as it can argue against it.


Fifty years of space launches has shown us just the opposite of what you want. Even the Russians don’t mass produce their manned vehicles.

This doesn't make sense. Spacecraft aren't mass produced because there is not currently a need for the number of products that would be produced in such a manner. If we look at other vehicles, like aircraft, ships, trains, automobiles, etc then we'll see the benefits of mass production. My whole argument is to increase the sheer number of vehicles and parts used for space exploration and turn it into a space infrastructure.

timb
2008-Dec-18, 05:48 AM
It's amazing the justifications people will come up with when they want something and can't pay for it.

JonClarke
2008-Dec-18, 07:54 AM
Hi Jon, I see it flattening out and staying at about 70% levels, and unfortunately hovering there for a long time. The problem is oil and the increasing lack there of....have you noticed. This is going to be a continuing problem.


Thanks Dan. For the record, 70% current GPD takes the US back to 1996, when the NASA was flying Shuttle Mir, independent shuttle missions, and gearing up for the ISS. It is also twice the 1969 GDP.

So I ask yet once more, under these circumstances, what could the US afford to spend per annum on a crewed Mars mission?

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-18, 08:07 AM
I think you misread my statement.

You used the word trillion. Please justify. Rrivate missions need to be accountable to their investors.


If you don't know about "Direct" then you are under informed on the Mars effort. Do a quick Wiki search and bring yourself up to speed.

You mean Mars Direct? or Mars Semi-Direct? Why did say so? There is no "Direct Group". And yes, I am up to speed on them, I have read pretty well all the papers and published reviews of them.


I think a lighter survey of 45 different sites each covering 30 kilometers over a couple of years would give a far better understanding than 1 site covering 100 kilometers and a few weeks at higher detail.

Of course we need both the low level and the high level coverage. the unamnned rovers provide the scouting that allows the best site to be slected for the manned mission.

A Mars Direct/Semi-Direct mission would cover at least a thousand km, probably more over a period of 500 days, not 100 km in a few weeks. It would carry tools and instruments well beyond the capability of MSL or MER. A MER is roughly equivalent to an EVA ream on foot, except 50 times slower. MSL is equivalent to a team with an unpressurised rover, except 500 times slower. Plus the crewed mission will be able to drill deeper, return samples, and investigation the habitability of Mars, which your unmanned mission cannot do.


Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-18, 08:12 AM
Heya,



I assume your talking about Mars Direct (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Direct) and not "The Direct Group." Its pretty much the brainchild of Robert Zubrin. Zubrin has achieved a great deal but I tend to filter his economic forcast. I find him monofocused on getting to Mars through the direct route and irrationally biased towards any other space exploration project or methodology. Despite this fact I would love to spend a mission at the Mars Desert Research Station but there are aspects of my life that would create stresses on the project that it doesn't need.


if you are ever able to go then it is a most valuable experience. I spend a month at MDRS in 2003, doing my own research, acting as guinea pig for others, and getting first hand experience I would never have got any other way.

Mars Direct is, of course, 17 years old, and the game as moved along considerably since then. One recent study that builds on the MD work but avoids its weaknesses is http://www.astronautix.com/craft/marsoz.htm

Jon

JonClarke
2008-Dec-18, 08:50 AM
I hae taken the time to read MIT's white paper on the Future of Human Spaceflight. They argue that it will be difficult for NASA to convince the younger generation that is into virtual reality instead of reality. They will have to build a case for in situ exploration by people, instead of machines.

I have not seen this. Do you have a link?

Thanks

Jon

djellison
2008-Dec-18, 10:07 AM
23 MSLs over a 2 year (or longer) mission...

We do not have the means to operate 23 MSL's.

There are currently 4 interesting landing sites for MSL considered safe.

23 MSL's covering 30km with a visbility width of say 50m is 34.5 square km of martian exploration

One manned base would be able to cover, as I said before, about two orders of magnitude more than that.

You have an objection to manned exploration of Mars. That's fine. Stop trying to pretend you can quantitatively justify it - because you can't.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-18, 12:58 PM
It's amazing the justifications people will come up with when they want something and can't pay for it.

It's amazing that people think money has an inherent value and represents a zero sum game.

matthewota
2008-Dec-19, 04:26 AM
I have not seen this. Do you have a link?

Thanks

Jon

Sorry I forgot it in the post.

http://web.mit.edu/mitsps/

JonClarke
2008-Dec-20, 07:09 AM
Sorry I forgot it in the post.

http://web.mit.edu/mitsps/

Thanks!

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-20, 07:41 AM
Does anyone happen to know what mission the photo from the cover page is from? Just curious.

01101001
2008-Dec-20, 08:44 AM
Does anyone happen to know what mission the photo from the cover page is from? Just curious.

This cover? MIT: The Future of Human Spaceflight (http://web.mit.edu/mitsps/)?


STS-123. Looks like Canadian Dextre robot.

Edit: I take it back. Looks more like this -- whatever it is, Candarm 1? Canadarm 2? -- from STS-114: Astronaut on a stick (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-114/lores/s114e6647.jpg)

Here: S114-E-6918 (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-114/html/s114e6918.html)


S114-E-6918 (3 August 2005) --- Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, anchored to a foot restraint on the extended International Space Station’s Canadarm2, participates in the mission’s third session of extravehicular activity (EVA). The blackness of space and Earth’s horizon form the backdrop for the image.

(via STS-114 images, photo index 64 (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-114/ndxpage64.html))

ravens_cry
2008-Dec-20, 09:09 AM
Thank you so very much. I wanted to know because the image of the sun in the visor is rather large, and I wanted a specific example to counteract the Apollo hoax people who claim the relatively large sun blob in Apollo photos means it is actually a spotlight. So thank you very much for taking the time to find it. I am most appreciative.