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Vega115
2004-Feb-21, 10:02 PM
ok, im doing an article for my school newspaper about Bush's "send men to Mars" initiative, and i need a few questions answered. Now, i plan on focusing more on the Mars part, since weve already been to the moon, so we know that it IS possible. But Mars, thats another story. So here are some of my questions...

1)How much will it cost?
2)How long will the mission be? (i know it will be at least 16ish months - 8 there and 8 back)
3) What are some dangers of cooping up 7 ppl (or however big the crew is) in a ship thats prolly not going to be that big for 8 months, and sending them to a foreign planet for who knows how long?
4) Say there are shades on the windows, and someone opens one, and there is the sun, what would happen if they looked directly at it? Would they be blinded since there is no air to deflect the rays?
5) Can the USA afford to do the entire project alone? I mean, wouldnt it be better for it to be an international effort?

And also, if anyone could provide any interesting information that would be..well..interesting, please provide. And remember...its for a high school newspaper, i dont want to go into quantem physics.

Thanks!

Andromeda321
2004-Feb-22, 03:04 AM
Yay for science-oriented school paper articles! Used to have fun writing those...
Here's a general fill-in for the stuff I know I can answer. First off, a mission to Mars would probably be a three year commitment for the round trip: two years travel and one year on Mars. This is due to the orbital alignments of the two planets.
Having seven people together for that amount of time will not be easy. People have tried out a few scenarios to see how people would cope on a simulated mission to Mars. There have been some rough moments and I know a good fraction of the groups haven't been able to complete the task.
My interesting note of the day: one of the noteworthy points when it comes to a mission to Mars is the fuel for the return trip. You're going to need a good amount to come back from Mars but launching it from Earth will take a lot of fuel as well. So getting that stuff out there will either be pretty expensive in its own right or you could, perhaps, make the fuel on Mars somehow during your yearlong wait.

Vega115
2004-Feb-22, 08:28 PM
i figured i might as well post the article, for you guys to read, and also, to correct me in anything i got wrong (science wise)! so here it is:

From ‘Code: Red’ to ‘Code: Red Planet’

On January 15th, 2004, President George Bush announced a brand new space initiative for NASA. That mission? Send humans back to the moon by 2020, and then to Mars by 2030 at the earliest. While this plan is extremely ambitious, it also will be astronomically expensive.
Right now, there is no “set” price tag for the project, but one can only guess how much it will cost to send people back to the moon. Bush is calling for about six billion dollars of NASA’s current budget of 15.5 billion dollars to be relocated to this new project once the ISS (International Space Station) is completed in 2010, and the space shuttle is retired. Meanwhile, Bush has asked for an additional $1 billion spread over the next five years. That works out to about 200 million dollars a year; to give you an idea of how much that is, the two Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which are on Mars now, cost about 800 million dollars. So in perspective, if two rovers that are the size of golf carts cost 800 million, one billion dollars might be just a bit too little.
The President also made it clear that this endeavor is not a repeat of the Apollo mission. The Apollo missions were a race against the Soviets, but Bush has said that this program will be a “journey in the spirit of cooperation and human exploration.” Of course, many would say that by making this project of sending humans to Mars and the Moon an international effort, it would ease the costs of the project tremendously. One of the cheapest estimates for a Mars mission is approximately 30 billon dollars; compared to Bush Sr.’s plan for a Mars mission that would cost about 600 Billion Dollars. That’s a pretty penny if there ever was one.
A mission to the Moon would be difficult no doubt, but it would be relatively easy compared to a mission to Mars. Why? We’ve already been there. So, really, the only hard part would be building the new “Crew Exploration Vehicle” that Bush called for, and launching it on a rocket big enough to get us to the Moon. Then comes the hard part of the Moon part of the project: establishing a permanent presence on the moon. In fact, many think that the permanent presence on the Moon is going to be used to launch a space ship to Mars. But why launch from the moon? It has an escape velocity of 1.5 miles per second, compared to Earth’s 7.0 miles per second, and a smaller escape velocity means less fuel used, thus saving money, and that makes people in the Washington DC happy. But launching a ship to Mars wont be that easy.
There are many reasons why just getting to Mars is hard, and one is that Earth and Mars are about 48.6 million miles apart. And because planets orbit the Sun in elipses, we here on Earth have to wait untill Earth and Mars are at perihelion, and then launch from there. Once launched, the crew, of say, seven people, will face a nice long, eight month journey through the vacuum of space, crammed into a ship that will be a decent amount smaller thant the ships you see in the movies. That’s where the human aspect comes in. Of course, in all logic, it seems easy enough, send people to Mars, they explore, and come home. But, it’s a lot more than that; Mars exploration scenarios have been conducted where seven to nine people were put in a ‘habitat’ for eight months, representing a space ship. In almost every experiment, there have been at least one case where tension built up to such a level that it seemed like the crew was going to kill each other. So, take a moment, look around and pick out seven to nine people around you and try to imagine if you can stand being in the same enviroment with them and only them for eight months – it’s a somewhat frightening thought.
Keeping the crew safe from themselves is the least of the problems that would plague a crew. One problem is what type of engine to use! To get to Mars using a conventional heavy-lift engine (a Saturn V) would take up so much fuel that huge amounts of weight would add far too much weight to the ship. Of course, a ship could employ Ion drive engines or nuclear-thermal propulsion to cut down time and weight. And then the ship itself would have to be built with huge amounts of shielding to protect the crew from the huge amounts of radiation that the ship itself would be exposed to. But spending eight months in weightlessness would reek havoc on the human body, as weightlessnes deteriates the muscles and bones in the body. So what fixes this for a eight month journey? Exactly what the movies do: build the ship with two giant spinning wheels spinning in the opposite direction. This would create artificial gravity, because if there were one wheel, what would happen is the ship would try to spin itself in the opposite direction in what is known as conservation of angular momentum. A second wheel would counteract that, and also, it would make the ship easier to steer. Then, if all goes according to plan, after eight months of traveling through blackness, the ship will reach Mars.
Again, living on Mars, a big problem. It is impossible to pack enough food, water, and supplies for a three year mission, because the crew would most likely stay on Mars for twelve or more months and then the sixteen month journey there and back, all equals about three years. Also, the radiation on the surface of Mars would cause as big a headache as on the ship! But, like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps, and if that ice can be melted into water, then the crew has something to drink, and also, something to water food in the possible on-site greenhouse. Once their time on Mars is spent, the crew must face a final, and definatly, the biggest dillema: getting home.
Unlike the Apollo missions, where they simply flipped a switch, and the top module of the Lunar Lander launched off into space and re-attached to the orbital module, the crew on Mars won’t have that luxury. For one, it would be almost entirely impossible and against all common sense to bring along enough fuel to get home, because it will slow down the ship’s transit there, and cause more fuel to be needed to get there! So, a fix to this is to simply melt ice on Mars to form water, and then separate the hydrogen and oxygen to form rocket fuel for the return trip. Then, with Mars and Earth making a perihelion (their closet point to each other) every two years, a return flight can return home, and a flight can liftoff from the future “moonbase” to provide another crew on Mars.
So, with Bush’s space initiative, there are problems, but they can be fixed. We can get the technology to go to Mars, even though it might take us until past 2030 to finally get it. Then, the only big problem is one: what to launch it on? A Soyuz? An Ariane 5? Or a much much bigger Saturn V? And two: where to launch it from? The moon? Cape Canviral? Or construct it in space and launch it from there? Other than that, it is possible for humans to go to Mars, and most likely probable if Bush’s plane goes through. But we shouldn’t think that Marvin the Martian will be happy to see us there.


And thats it!

DreadCthulhu
2004-Feb-23, 09:51 AM
3) What are some dangers of cooping up 7 ppl (or however big the crew is) in a ship thats prolly not going to be that big for 8 months, and sending them to a foreign planet for who knows how long?
5) Can the USA afford to do the entire project alone? I mean, wouldnt it be better for it to be an international effort.


3) My suggestion would be to send submariners up on the mission. They can already handle cramped living conditions, and are used to handling highly technical equipment like nuclear reactors. The fact that I am planning on serving on subs when I get done with ROTC has absolutely knowthing to do with this statement. :wink:

5) The USA can easily afford this type of project. Cost estimates range from $30-600 billion, depending on the type of project, of course these cost be would spread over many years. The US total GDP is currently about 10.5 Trillion dollars, so a midrange project at ~$100 billion would be less than 1% of a single years GDP. In comparision, the current military budget is about $350 billion, Social Security is close to half a trillion, and had a total budget of about $2 Trillion. An international effort isn't really needed; and besides, the US would probably end up footing the bill, like we have with the ISS, even with we did have help from other nations.

JohnOwens
2004-Feb-23, 11:26 AM
There are many reasons why just getting to Mars is hard, and one is that Earth and Mars are about 48.6 million miles apart. And because planets orbit the Sun in elipses, we here on Earth have to wait untill Earth and Mars are at perihelion, and then launch from there. Once launched, the crew, of say, seven people, will face a nice long, eight month journey through the vacuum of space, crammed into a ship that will be a decent amount smaller thant the ships you see in the movies.

I hope it's not too late for corrections before it's published! Perihelion has very little to do with when you'd want to launch. Ideally, you'd launch when Earth was at aphelion, furthest from the Sun, and about eight months before Mars was at perihelion, so it would be there when you arrive. But what's much more important is doing it near an opposition, so that Mars is anywhere near the right place eight months later, rather than on the other side of the Sun.

Also, would a general proofreading be appreciated? Or is it too late for that?

ToSeek
2004-Feb-23, 03:38 PM
There are many reasons why just getting to Mars is hard, and one is that Earth and Mars are about 48.6 million miles apart. And because planets orbit the Sun in elipses, we here on Earth have to wait untill Earth and Mars are at perihelion, and then launch from there. Once launched, the crew, of say, seven people, will face a nice long, eight month journey through the vacuum of space, crammed into a ship that will be a decent amount smaller thant the ships you see in the movies.

I hope it's not too late for corrections before it's published! Perihelion has very little to do with when you'd want to launch. Ideally, you'd launch when Earth was at aphelion, furthest from the Sun, and about eight months before Mars was at perihelion, so it would be there when you arrive. But what's much more important is doing it near an opposition, so that Mars is anywhere near the right place eight months later, rather than on the other side of the Sun.


Actually, what you need, regardless of perihelion and aphelion, is for Earth and Mars to be in position for a minimum-energy Hohmann transfer orbit, which only happens for about four weeks every 26 months. That being said, 2003 was a particularly good year for sending probes to Mars because Mars was comparatively close to Earth - which helps explain why so many probes were sent this time around. We'll not have another opportunity as good until 2020.