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Thread: Mars in a decade?...

  1. #1
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    Mars in a decade?...

    No this post is not based on a recent article or topic. It is more there seems to be so many different ideas about the subject that the conversation always seems to be interesting.

    With the massive changes taking place within the space program future plans are being rocked to their core. I do not intend that phrasing to have positive or negative connotations. With all the different suggestions for what should happen, some of which i find frustrating, do you think that one of a plan to send humans to mars within a decade would be a possibility.

    Perhaps a decade is slightly optimistic but you know what i mean. Plans such as Mars Direct, Mars Semi-Direct (the Design Refernce mission), Mars for less etc. have been put forward in the past and have seemed to have little stints among the headlines of science magazines and upon the Desks of NASA officials. I believe that if you gave the engineers at NASA and those within the private sector a chance to shine, they could put forward a plan to land man on the surface of mars before the Obama asteroid machine gets anywhere near its destination.

    I also believe that the approach that would achieve this would be a direct one. No testing on the moon, no waiting 50,000 years to decide ona launch vehicle. We set the goal, we make the plan, build the hardware and fly the mission. We then learn what we can from the experience and take in what benefits there are.

    I think also that we know ALOT about the health affects of microgravity, we've been studying it since Skylab. If you do not agree with this i would be interested of your opinion, do you atleast think we know enough for such a misison?

    Some argue, and will always continue to argue that there are too many unknows, such as radiation etc. However i think the unknowns add to the challenge. We will never be able to make it 100% safe, however there will always be people willing to make the attempt.

    It will not be fancy and the conditions would be very tight but we have the technology, we have the people but do we have the will?

    What do the people of this forum think? Feel free to state your opinion even if it is that you would rather go to the moon. Also what type of benefits or perhaps for some of you, lack of benefits do you think there would be for a Mars Mission? Benefits may be scientific or even something more if you are able to put it into words. I'm sure i'm forgetting lots of stuff, so let's start the discussion.

    Mars, in a decade?..
    Last edited by Apollo17; 2010-Sep-17 at 01:25 PM.

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    In principle Mars in decade is doable, it's basically a question of how much money you are willing to throw at the problem. Mars Direct was supposed to cost $55B over 10 years, my guess would be something like $500B, i.e. $50B per year. Given that US has a military budget of nearly $700B per year, there certainly is enough money on the planet to underwrite this mission.

    I personally have a problem with the concept of the Mars mission, though. You spend $500B to send 5 or so people for two year trip. They plant some flags and bring back some rocks. That's all fine. But the question is: what next? Do we send another 5 people for the Mars trip for another $100B per person? To bring more rocks? Or, do we start a colonization program, spend trillions for big ship, habitats, greenhouses and stuff, and send 100 or 1000 people with one way tickets? Or, do we just realize that it's basically the peak of our achievement, because we will never reach Jupiter and beyond with the rockets that we have, scrap the launchpads and focus entirely on fighting with each other over dwindling natural resources?

    I'm all for spending $500B for a space program, but the proposal for Mars mission basically ensures that this money will generate no long term practical benefits. $500B could finance a lot of orbital infrastructure, or a Moon colonization program, or attempts at asteroid mining. The economic payoff for such ventures is tenuous, but it at least exists, and they have potential for decreasing spaceflight costs in the future. At present a Mars mission will be nothing more than a one time, obscenely expensive, stunt.

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    Interesting thoughts.

    I think you're right that Mars Direct would probably run over budget. As different problems arrive and are subsequently solved, however i feel that 10 times over is probably a little bit over the top. If done right i think it could stick within a hgihly feasible budget that is not much ore than NASA's current budget.

    As far as economic and technological benefits they would come with time. I'm sure as it would go along newer solutions to different problems presented would become apparent, many incorporating new forms of technology or atleats re-invent already established things. It's hard to predict exactly what it could revolutionize, of course it could do nothing aswell, there is that possibility.

    As far as the flag and footprints thing. That was not the intention of Mars Direct, and i doubt it would be that of any other mission making use of the particular orbital positions at launch times. A year and a half stay was scheduled on the surface. For this much more than a flag could be planted. Not only could rocks be picked up, they could be analysed on Mars in makeshift setups. I know it is repeated time ad time again but what spirit and oppurtunity have done in their extended amount of time on mars could be accomplised by some live astronauts in a few days. Perhaps we could even return positive evidence for current or past life. I think that that in itself would be worth the $500 billion price tag that you have placed on it.

    I would also predict that after each mission as we gain more experience the overall cost of subsequent follow up missions would come down.

    The other really fascinating aspect to do with Mars in my opnion is the live off the land approach. Sure we could colonize the moon, or build another 'white elephant' space station however i feel colonizing Mars would be a much more noble task. Mars basically has everything we need to sustain life, to the point where after only a few missions, perhaps as little as two you could have a basic self-sustaining colony. It as a source that w ecan use to get oxygen, it has water, and it also has a day that runs a clock very close to that of the 24 hour one. This is essential for growing plants. Long term i think it would be possible and very feasivble to terra-form Mars to a state that could be similar to Earth, it would of course begin by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to trap extra sunlight and build up pressure. Once that was achieved you could discard pressure suits and could also grow plants outside of protective shelters. Hopefully water frozen in the martian soil would begin to melt as the temperature rose, eventually causing rivers and perhaps oceans to oen day flow across the surface of the once red planet. Then plant life could be brought from Earth and begin the task of populating the planet and cleansing the Atmosphere. That's a long term benefit in my opinion. It is also practical, even if it may take a VERY long time.

    That aside, when the Apollo program successfully put men on the moon, it gave a huge intellectual boost. Graduates almost doubled from high school to university aswell as many already in different fields got a 'second wind' if you will, a new found inspiration that they could achieve so much more than ever expected. While i still think a return to the moon would serve as some inspiration, in ym opinion i do not think it would get anywhere close to aving the same impact as planting humans on another planet. That would truly be our first big leap into living on other worlds. Being a space travelling species.

    As Dr Robert Zubrin once said, Spaceships are designed to travel across space and go to new worlds, nto hang around in micro-gravity and observe the health affects from doing so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    i feel that 10 times over is probably a little bit over the top.
    Exact numbers are not really relevant to my argument.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    As far as economic and technological benefits they would come with time
    Such as?

    Sure, there were a lot of technological offshots associated with the early space program, because the moon mission required development of a completely new technology. The Mars mission would be done with simple incremental upgrades of present day technology. The Martian ship would be basically an ISS hab module with some big engines. There's nothing revolutionary in this really -- which is exactly why Zubrin thinks that Mars Direct would fly for $50B only!

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    As far as the flag and footprints thing. That was not the intention of Mars Direct, and i doubt it would be that of any other mission making use of the particular orbital positions at launch times. A year and a half stay was scheduled on the surface.
    That was figurative. My point is that the crew goes to Mars, does some research, collects samples, goes back. A Direct-style mission is not designed as a beginning of Mars colonization. It is not even designed to have a followup.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    Perhaps we could even return positive evidence for current or past life.
    Sure, it would be a great discovery, but except for a few guys getting Ph.Ds the practical impact of this would be...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    I would also predict that after each mission as we gain more experience the overall cost of subsequent follow up missions would come down.
    If they were allowed to happen. Witness what happened with Apollo: it was originally planned to have more missions and a followup program with lunar bases etc. -- yet all of that was canceled in 1968, even before the first mission has actually landed on the moon. Because there was no political interest in continuing it. Although the costs would be naturally going down with time, it was cut before it could be even fully planned. Now: why do you think Mars would turn out differently?

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    The other really fascinating aspect to do with Mars in my opnion is the live off the land approach. Sure we could colonize the moon, or build another 'white elephant' space station however i feel colonizing Mars would be a much more noble task.
    Sure it is. But keep in mind that you are now advocating a Mars colonization program, not a Mars mission. So we must remember that the pricetag would not be $50B or $500B, but rather $5T, and it would not run for 10 years, but 30-50 years at minimum (the first mission would still fly after 10 years). There's nothing wrong in advocating a Mars colonization program, but if you advocate a Mars colonization program as a Mars mission with a possible followup, even if you get your mission, that followup WILL be cut as non-essential.

    ...And that is basically the worst thing which can happen. You have spent a lot of money, achieved practically nothing long term, so the public will get bored, and you will not get any future mission, to anywhere. Which is why I think that going directly to Mars is a bad idea, and we should rather focus on developing near-Earth resources, so the economical benefits of spaceflight can be finally demonstrated. Once that happens, it would be more possible to obtain funding for the expensive Mars mission (colonization).

    Also, if your goal is colonization, then it significantly impacts mission design. In the most extreme case, the flight is one way. In a more toned down version, the first mission flies without return hardware, and uses the return hardware brought by the next mission, who then stays on the surface until a third one arrives and so on. (That is actually pretty nice, because it would be psychologically very difficult to cancel the program). Also, it changes payload selection. In the colonization scenario, the first missions should take mainly base building / ISRU payloads and very little scientific hardware. That would come in later, after the permanent self-sustaining presence has been established.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    As Dr Robert Zubrin once said, Spaceships are designed to travel across space and go to new worlds, nto hang around in micro-gravity and observe the health affects from doing so.
    And that's mainly because the planning is exactly backwards. A logical approach would be to set the maximum allowable transit time (say 6 months) and then try to develop the technologies which make such mission possible (nuclear rockets!). That way, you can get to any place in Solar System in 6 months -- you develop new faster rockets as they are needed. But, when the development of nuclear rockets was cut in 1970s, the mission planners started working on assumption that they will never get them and focused on dealing with physiological impacts of long transit times. It wasn't until last year that someone has finally reminded himself of the NERVA engines from 1970s and thought about using them for a Mars mission.

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    I agree, Mars as a goal is not enough. We need space exploitation as a goal with Mars merely one of the destinations along that route. I actually think that terraforming Mars should be the main goal because it is long term and once we're in for a penny, we're in for a pound.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Mars in a decade could be done if it were done full-bore, with no thought to advanced testing or concerns about risk, with unlimited cash, and a public and aerospace industry that would shrug off any hypothetical costly failure and try, try again. Needless to say, those are...stretches. Though this is strictly my op, I think even the most stripped-down Mars mission would be the result of a good 15 years of planning and testing, minimum, which I think goes equally for private and government ventures.

    Re Kamaz:
    I personally have a problem with the concept of the Mars mission, though. You spend $500B to send 5 or so people for two year trip. They plant some flags and bring back some rocks. That's all fine. But the question is: what next? Do we send another 5 people for the Mars trip for another $100B per person? To bring more rocks? Or, do we start a colonization program, spend trillions for big ship, habitats, greenhouses and stuff, and send 100 or 1000 people with one way tickets? Or, do we just realize that it's basically the peak of our achievement, because we will never reach Jupiter and beyond with the rockets that we have, scrap the launchpads and focus entirely on fighting with each other over dwindling natural resources?
    This has always bugged me, as well. Whether we're looking at a "cheap" Mars Direct or a "good and proper" government mission, following up on a manned Mars mission will be extremely difficult, especially with current launch costs and no solid plans for advanced--but near-term!--propulsion boosters on the table.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    As far as the flag and footprints thing. That was not the intention of Mars Direct, and i doubt it would be that of any other mission making use of the particular orbital positions at launch times. A year and a half stay was scheduled on the surface. For this much more than a flag could be planted. Not only could rocks be picked up, they could be analysed on Mars in makeshift setups. I know it is repeated time ad time again but what spirit and oppurtunity have done in their extended amount of time on mars could be accomplised by some live astronauts in a few days. Perhaps we could even return positive evidence for current or past life. I think that that in itself would be worth the $500 billion price tag that you have placed on it.
    Finding (or not finding) martian bacteria isn't worth $500 billion .

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    Mars basically has everything we need to sustain life, to the point where after only a few missions, perhaps as little as two you could have a basic self-sustaining colony.
    More likely, a Mars base will remain heavily reliant on earth after 500 missions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    Long term i think it would be possible and very feasivble to terra-form Mars to a state that could be similar to Earth,
    Possible yes. Just as building generation star ships for trips to Alpha Centauri is possible.

    Very feasible? No. Not even remotely feasible.

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    Ok i understand your rebuttle, but i do not agree with it

    Oh and anyone else, keep the responses coming, it's interesting to see the different opinions there are on the subject.

    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    Exact numbers are not really relevant to my argument.
    Ok, i just more wanted to state that there's a very good chance it would not run over budget. And also while i use Mars Direct for alot fo examples as that one was well publicized my post in its entirety is not solely about that plan, although i can see how it would be taken that way.



    Such as?
    I have no idea, i'm not going to lie. However they did not know everything that Apollo was going to breathe new life into when it was first proposed. Sure Mars Direct and other near-term mission plans are about using establised technology but there will be unforseen problems that require a solution. How you solve them could vary and could in the process change something unexpected. You have to remember that aside from propulsion there's all the other sections from life support to controls and whatever else.

    Perhaps the first active use of the tethered gravity simulant would also come about.

    Sure, there were a lot of technological offshots associated with the early space program, because the moon mission required development of a completely new technology. The Mars mission would be done with simple incremental upgrades of present day technology. The Martian ship would be basically an ISS hab module with some big engines. There's nothing revolutionary in this really -- which is exactly why Zubrin thinks that Mars Direct would fly for $50B only!
    Yees of course. However as said before you never know what will be needed to solve unforseen problems. Besides manned spaceflight isn't solely about the technological benefit.



    That was figurative. My point is that the crew goes to Mars, does some research, collects samples, goes back. A Direct-style mission is not designed as a beginning of Mars colonization. It is not even designed to have a followup.
    There are many. many talented scientists and engineers, be they at NASA or elsewhere, if there were the parameters that staed it had to be economical, direct and allow for possible unassisted existence i think tey could develop a plan. It wouldn't necessarily be simple and it would not be 100% reliable, but then manned spaceflight never is.



    Sure, it would be a great discovery, but except for a few guys getting Ph.Ds the practical impact of this would be...?
    I think it has nothing to do with the practical impact, it is more to do with the implications. It would answer a question we have posed for an incredible amoutn of time, whether you appreciate an answer to that question i don't know, and i can understand if you don't but there are many who do. It would eb an incredible find.


    If they were allowed to happen. Witness what happened with Apollo: it was originally planned to have more missions and a followup program with lunar bases etc. -- yet all of that was canceled in 1968, even before the first mission has actually landed on the moon. Because there was no political interest in continuing it. Although the costs would be naturally going down with time, it was cut before it could be even fully planned. Now: why do you think Mars would turn out differently?
    Mars is different. However from a political perspective maybe it's not, i don't know. However why make plans without hope. The planners for Apollo could have said, "Sure funding is going to go to other things as soon as or even before this is accomplished, so let's just give up now'. However they did not, they kept going and accomplished something that is considered as one of the greatest achievements of mankind. Why make plans without hope?

    Sure it is. But keep in mind that you are now advocating a Mars colonization program, not a Mars mission. So we must remember that the pricetag would not be $50B or $500B, but rather $5T, and it would not run for 10 years, but 30-50 years at minimum (the first mission would still fly after 10 years). There's nothing wrong in advocating a Mars colonization program, but if you advocate a Mars colonization program as a Mars mission with a possible followup, even if you get your mission, that followup WILL be cut as non-essential.
    Yes there's a good chance it will be cut, but it may not. If the space program does not develop or plan on something that could be cut then NOTHING will ever get done.

    ...And that is basically the worst thing which can happen. You have spent a lot of money, achieved practically nothing long term, so the public will get bored, and you will not get any future mission, to anywhere. Which is why I think that going directly to Mars is a bad idea, and we should rather focus on developing near-Earth resources, so the economical benefits of spaceflight can be finally demonstrated. Once that happens, it would be more possible to obtain funding for the expensive Mars mission (colonization).
    I have a problem with this approach. While i agree that there are many economic benefits to be ad from space, i do not believe that it is NASA's sole purpose to exploiut tese. Nasa was set up to explore and push the boundaries, If there is profit to be ad i'm sure within a few decades commercial companies will be suiting up to take advantage of the oppurtunity.

    Also, looking at things only from the economical benefits is very short sighted. It's great economically to cut down the rainforest, it's great economically to pollute freely as much as you like but ten you do bad stuff to te planet. Alot of the benefits of teh Apollo program cannot be viewed economically. It must be viewed as a lfame to light the human spirit, to re-kindle the sense of adventure similar to that which was felt in the days when many of the worlds places were unkown and unexplored. We would go to mars because it's in our instinct to do so, because there is a natural human thought that says, i've never been there so lets go. Wy else to people travel half way around the world for holidays or even into space as is now going to begin occuring. Because they have not done it, for the experience, this is partly wqhy we as a species venture into the unknown. For it would not be 4 men going to mars, the rest of the world would ride on their shoulders.

    Also, if your goal is colonization, then it significantly impacts mission design. In the most extreme case, the flight is one way. In a more toned down version, the first mission flies without return hardware, and uses the return hardware brought by the next mission, who then stays on the surface until a third one arrives and so on. (That is actually pretty nice, because it would be psychologically very difficult to cancel the program). Also, it changes payload selection. In the colonization scenario, the first missions should take mainly base building / ISRU payloads and very little scientific hardware. That would come in later, after the permanent self-sustaining presence has been established.
    Your idea of making it so a follow up mission is esential to completing the first is intriguing, however i feel that there is a good chance the first mission would never launch because of it. It's almost like the proposal to land a man on the moon and retrieve him when we eventually worked out how t get him backed. Yes in this scenario we know how, but until te how gets put into practice he is stuck there.

    As far as colonization, i mentioned that as a possibility because your first response seemed to mention it alot, and i thought this was one of the things important to you. Besides i believe that two habitation modules supporting a constant self sufficient crew of 6 or so would be the essence of colonization. Maybe not on an incredible scale, but they would be a 'colony'.



    And that's mainly because the planning is exactly backwards. A logical approach would be to set the maximum allowable transit time (say 6 months) and then try to develop the technologies which make such mission possible (nuclear rockets!). That way, you can get to any place in Solar System in 6 months -- you develop new faster rockets as they are needed. But, when the development of nuclear rockets was cut in 1970s, the mission planners started working on assumption that they will never get them and focused on dealing with physiological impacts of long transit times. It wasn't until last year that someone has finally reminded himself of the NERVA engines from 1970s and thought about using them for a Mars mission.
    I don't see why if space was important enough, a new propulsion revolution could take place wile a mission on earlier technology was in progress. Unfortunately the current budget ain't enough for both so i tink we shoudl explore, and tis commercial industry that is being hailed as the future can bring that forward. There is no reason why NASA could not work with a commercial company on the development of a mission, sharing technologies.

    I really would like to stress that alot of why we should go to Mars cannot be expressed in dollars and cents.
    Last edited by Apollo17; 2010-Sep-18 at 03:01 PM.

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    In response to Hop_David, i didn't wnat this thread to turn into people shooting down oters ideas because they do not fit your model. Please elaborate on your response because at the moment it just sounds arrogant.

    I have no problem with criticism of my thoughts and/or ideas, however i felt that your response was poorly thought out. I would be very interested to hear your arguments with a bit of an explanation though or reasoning, doesn't have to be really scientific or anything just perhaps even a personal opinion and why you tink that. I'm not saying mine are right and yours are wrong, especially as my knowledge of orbital mechanics and alot of physics is somewhat limited at the moment, however your post just came across as a 'you're wrong and i'm right because i said so' sort of thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hop_David View Post
    Finding (or not finding) martian bacteria isn't worth $500 billion .

    Very true , and don't forget it can be dangerous and even deadly dangerous ! Bacteria from the very tough environment of planet Mars could be very tough too !



    More likely, a Mars base will remain heavily reliant on earth after 500 missions.
    Again very true ! The colonists will be depending on Earth for thousand of things which are the product of this planet industrial complex. See for something as ordinary as a pair of socks , what are going to do when yours are so tired , you cannot mend the holes anymore ? How to get a new pair ? Here on Earth ,it is very simple , I go to the super market but on Mars ? Everything get old and break down eventually and if you are on Mars and want to live in autarcy you better think of everything and have a B plan for every case.At best if you low down your expectation to the minimum and accept a very monastic and way of life ,may be ,you can survive without relying too much on Earth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hop_David View Post
    Finding (or not finding) martian bacteria isn't worth $500 billion .
    What makes you think a Mars mission will cost 500 billion?

    What is finding (or not finding) martian bacteria worth?

    More likely, a Mars base will remain heavily reliant on earth after 500 missions.
    Define "heavily reliant".

    You are aware that with a launch window every 26 months 500 missions equates to more than a millenia of Mars surface operations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Romanus View Post
    Whether we're looking at a "cheap" Mars Direct or a "good and proper" government mission....
    A MD style mission would almolst certainly be a "good and proper" government mission.

    BTW MD is almost 20 years old. We have much better ideas now.


    following up on a manned Mars mission will be extremely difficult, especially with current launch costs...
    How so? One mission every 26 months will allow almost continous human presence on Mars and launch rates of heavy rockets no greater than occurred during the shuttle era.

    ]and no solid plans for advanced--but near-term!--propulsion boosters on the table.
    Define "advanced propulsion boosters." Why do we need them?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    In principle Mars in decade is doable, it's basically a question of how much money you are willing to throw at the problem. Mars Direct was supposed to cost $55B over 10 years, my guess would be something like $500B, i.e. $50B per year. Given that US has a military budget of nearly $700B per year, there certainly is enough money on the planet to underwrite this mission.
    Robert Zubrin put forward the Mars Direct plan. His estimated costs was about $50 billion. This is less than the total cost of the NASA Apollo missions in current dollars. When the first president Bush proposed a mission to Mars, NASA estimated a cost of $500 billion for their architecture. This huge cost caused Congress to cancel the mission.
    The huge drop in costs possible under the Zubrin plan caused NASA to incorporate aspects of his plan into their later proposals. The Zubrin plan would only require a heavy lift launcher, which both the Obama administration and Congress want. It's only a matter of Congress wanting to start on a HLV next year and Obama wanting to start on one 5 years from now.


    Bob Clark
    Last edited by RGClark; 2010-Sep-18 at 11:44 AM. Reason: typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    Ok i understand your rebuttle, but i do not agree with it
    You're welcome I'll cut most of what you said though, and focus on main points only.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    Mars is different [from the Moon]
    How? Okay, it has atmosphere, 24-hour day, milder temperatures, a lot of water etc., but the habitats still need to be pressurized, there is no bacteria or worms in the soil, so growing plants will be difficult, etc. And, these advantages are largely offset by the transit time. I mean, with the Moon base, the flight time is tree days, so you could send supplies on a regular basis (e.g. with reusable Moon-LEO shuttles). With Mars, it's months, so you have to take tons of canned food or tens of tons of hydroponic greenhouses (or both). I claim that by that virtue alone, a sensible Moon program would be an order of magnitude less expensive then your Mars program. Which brings me to my point: if we still cannot get a sensible lunar program, what makes you think that an even larger Mars colonization program would pass?

    The main argument for Mars seems to be "we haven't been there", but that's WEAK. It's also automatically self-defeating after the first mission. And we don't want more one-off Apollos, we want permanent human presence in space.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    While i agree that there are many economic benefits to be ad from space, i do not believe that it is NASA's sole purpose to exploiut tese. Nasa was set up to explore and push the boundaries, If there is profit to be ad i'm sure within a few decades commercial companies will be suiting up to take advantage of the oppurtunity.
    The purpose of all government-funded research is to pave the way for private companies, which would never afford that research themselves as too risky. The government research into comsats has created a multi-billion industry, and that's fine. We are now seeing first private companies providing LEO access (a bit too late, but it's nice we have them finally). You want to pave them the way to Mars, that's fine, but: what will be all these excellent business opportunities on Mars? I'd rather pave them the way to the Moon, or to the asteroids, so they could finally start mining these for resources.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    Unfortunately the current budget ain't enough for both so i tink we shoudl explore
    The budget ain't big enough indeed, and it ain't gettin' bigger in the future as well. Which basically means that it should be spent on initiatives that can bootstrap self-financing ventures. And Mars ain't one.

    Take the Fraunhofer research institutes in Germany. About half of their budget comes from selling technology to private companies. The companies put this technology into products and sell that for a profit. They pay the royalties to Fraunhofer. Fraunhofer spends that money to do more research. Why can't space exploration work the same way?

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    I really would like to stress that alot of why we should go to Mars cannot be expressed in dollars and cents.
    Actually, I fully agree with you here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RGClark View Post
    Robert Zubrin put forward the Mars Direct plan. His estimated costs was about $50 billion. [...] The Zubrin plan would only require a heavy lift launcher
    That's all fine. Actually, I don't really care if the mission costs $500B, $50B, or $5B. My problem is: we spend a lot of money to do send one mission to Mars... and then what?

    Apollo was at least intended to have a follow-up which would largely use stuff which was already built and paid for, but that follow-up still got canned. As a result, we're not much better off colonization-wise today then we would be if the moon missions didn't happen.

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    How? Okay, it has atmosphere, 24-hour day, milder temperatures, a lot of water etc., but the habitats still need to be pressurized, there is no bacteria or worms in the soil, so growing plants will be difficult, etc. And, these advantages are largely offset by the transit time. I mean, with the Moon base, the flight time is tree days, so you could send supplies on a regular basis (e.g. with reusable Moon-LEO shuttles). With Mars, it's months, so you have to take tons of canned food or tens of tons of hydroponic greenhouses (or both). I claim that by that virtue alone, a sensible Moon program would be an order of magnitude less expensive then your Mars program. Which brings me to my point: if we still cannot get a sensible lunar program, what makes you think that an even larger Mars colonization program would pass?
    When i said Mars was different i was not just referring to its physical traits, i tink Mars means something quite different to the human species than the moon. I don't know the best way to describe it, but i think a 'planet' seems to be allocated different status than our moon in many respects.

    I do not believe that a basic self-sufficient mars colony would be more expensive than the lunar colony. Exploiting the lunar environment will take much more infrastructure than exploiting the Martian environment, tis was also a part of mars direct. Basic chemical engineering could be used with reasonably simple and small amounts of machinery to get the basics such as oxygen. Depending on where the mission was landed would affect the ease of getting water. As far as growing food, this could be accomplished with inflatable structures such as that bigealow aerospace placed in orbit. It could be deflated on transit and inflated upon arrival. This would cover the basic needs. I'm sure a good toolbox and some spare parts could cover the rest.

    The main argument for Mars seems to be "we haven't been there", but that's WEAK. It's also automatically self-defeating after the first mission. And we don't want more one-off Apollos, we want permanent human presence in space.
    I agree the whole we haven't been there before is partly weak. However venturing to new places is good for the human soul i believe, even if we cannot all make the voyage physically. Sure we haven't but i haven't really talked about that very much. Sure getting there is going to be a chllenge and surviving there will be aswell, but it won't stop there. I think incredible science will take place there aswell. Not to mention a boost to the human spirit which may cause us to accomplish unimaginable feets that in 50 years time we will have grown to accept as common fact, much like a man was on the moon.



    The purpose of all government-funded research is to pave the way for private companies, which would never afford that research themselves as too risky. The government research into comsats has created a multi-billion industry, and that's fine. We are now seeing first private companies providing LEO access (a bit too late, but it's nice we have them finally). You want to pave them the way to Mars, that's fine, but: what will be all these excellent business opportunities on Mars? I'd rather pave them the way to the Moon, or to the asteroids, so they could finally start mining these for resources.
    Sorry, my bad. What i meant was that while NASA should focus on exploration. The commercial sector could take advantage of the profitable oppurtunities closer to home. They're almost in orbit, if there's a good profit to be had and benefits to be established then i am sure they will be able to achieve this. It will be risky business but it will be amazing. It would open up an incredible amount of jobs, both NASA exploring and the commercial sector 'prospecting' if you will, our nearest neighbour and perhaps even just Earth orbit ina number of ways. NASA can explore while the private sector takes charge of the home field.

    The budget ain't big enough indeed, and it ain't gettin' bigger in the future as well. Which basically means that it should be spent on initiatives that can bootstrap self-financing ventures. And Mars ain't one.
    I don't agree with this, i think it is shortsighted to say that mars is not worth the NASA budget because it will not return in cash. I believe it will return so many other benefits you won't believe it, however i ave no way of proving this. It will also once again give us a sense of a pioneering spirit, that we are once again moving forward rather than being trapped in a lull.

    Take the Fraunhofer research institutes in Germany. About half of their budget comes from selling technology to private companies. The companies put this technology into products and sell that for a profit. They pay the royalties to Fraunhofer. Fraunhofer spends that money to do more research. Why can't space exploration work the same way?
    Key term there is exploration. Exploration doesn't always return profitable results. It returns alot of things, just not generally money. I don't see an easy way for NASA to create a whole range of technologies or 'products' if you will, out of exploring. I don't think true space exploration will ever return a huge amount of money. Unless NASA goes into industrial space real estate, which i think would screw up the whole space treaty and peace thing. Space exploration will return much, but not dollars and cents.


    Actually, I fully agree with you here.
    Haha, that's really interesting that you agree there. Thankyou for your comments, they were a good read.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    That's all fine. Actually, I don't really care if the mission costs $500B, $50B, or $5B. My problem is: we spend a lot of money to do send one mission to Mars... and then what?

    Apollo was at least intended to have a follow-up which would largely use stuff which was already built and paid for, but that follow-up still got canned. As a result, we're not much better off colonization-wise today then we would be if the moon missions didn't happen.
    There's no reason why it could not have follow up missions, and with a reasonable price. Alot of bad political decisiosn were made during Apollo, and there is no guarantee that they would not happen again, but you have to hope that they would not. Aside from that i do not believe the overall cost to be too bad if things were to get rolling. I'm sure there are many reasons for a follow up mission, i'm sure if reasoning for a second mission was required before the first, alot of people from many different fields, from many different places all over the world could give them reason. I think we will also understand the reason for a follow up once the first has landed. There is a chance it could propose more questions than it answers.

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    <<How so? One mission every 26 months will allow almost continous human presence on Mars and launch rates of heavy rockets no greater than occurred during the shuttle era.>>

    At much greater cost, and under ideal circumstances, IMO.

    <<Define "advanced propulsion boosters." Why do we need them?>>

    I'm thinking of VASIMR and NTR in particular. We don't need them, but I think halving the transit time to Mars (or doubling the amount of payload for a given launch and transit time) would be very useful, to say the least.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    That's all fine. Actually, I don't really care if the mission costs $500B, $50B, or $5B. My problem is: we spend a lot of money to do send one mission to Mars... and then what?
    Who says it would only be one mission?

    Apollo was at least intended to have a follow-up which would largely use stuff which was already built and paid for, but that follow-up still got canned. As a result, we're not much better off colonization-wise today then we would be if the moon missions didn't happen.
    The goal of Apollo was one landing. We got six. Some people in NASA and industry pushed for more, but this was never the official goal.

    It what sense are we not better much better off?
    Last edited by JonClarke; 2010-Sep-18 at 07:59 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Romanus View Post
    At much greater cost, and under ideal circumstances, IMO.
    Why would a sequence of Mars missions be more much costly that the shuttle program on an annual basis?

    I'm thinking of VASIMR and NTR in particular. We don't need them, but I think halving the transit time to Mars (or doubling the amount of payload for a given launch and transit time) would be very useful, to say the least.
    NTR does not offer a meaningful reduction in travel time, but does increase in payload of between 50%. But since chemical proplusion is adequate, why both for first missions? It just increases the cost. No NTR has ever been flight ready and would require substantial development to be so.

    VASIMR could reduce flight times substantially but requires so much development to do so, why bother? Nobody has carried out a proper study for a Mars mission using VASIMR. With good reason, it adds so much to the mission cost it is not practical.

  21. #21
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    Why would a sequence of Mars missions be more much costly that the shuttle program on an annual basis?
    If the combination of luck and fiscal legerdemain it takes to get unmanned probes to launch every 26 months is any indication, it would probably be far more difficult to do the same for multi-ton payloads, whether cargo or manned.

    You mention the unnecessary cost of developing advanced propulsion, which is the crux of the problem the technology has faced for 20 years: nobody wants to invest in developing or refining it because it's expensive, and it's expensive because no one has bothered to further test and refine it.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    What makes you think a Mars mission will cost 500 billion?
    I have not ventured an opinion on how much it would cost.

    I was responding to this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo17 View Post
    ...Perhaps we could even return positive evidence for current or past life. I think that that in itself would be worth the $500 billion price tag that you have placed on it.
    So when Apollo17 says finding life is worth $500 billion, I disagreed.

    I suggest you reread the thread for comprehension.



    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    What is finding (or not finding) martian bacteria worth?
    Given an approximately 19 billion dollar NASA annual budget, I'd put the ceiling on Mars exploration at $1 billion per launch window.

    I certainly don't think it's worth a manned mission, much less several manned missions.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Romanus View Post
    If the combination of luck and fiscal legerdemain it takes to get unmanned probes to launch every 26 months is any indication, it would probably be far more difficult to do the same for multi-ton payloads, whether cargo or manned.
    And yet we haved managed to send payloads to Mars 11 out of the last 12 windows. And these were all new start missions, not series of incrementally improved designs as would be the case with crewed missions.

    You mention the unnecessary cost of developing advanced propulsion, which is the crux of the problem the technology has faced for 20 years: nobody wants to invest in developing or refining it because it's expensive, and it's expensive because no one has bothered to further test and refine it.
    It's not really a problem, but a reality. You build the minimum neccessary to achieve your goal, not something excessively complex and expensive. Columbus did not need steamships and Alcock and Brown a jumbo jet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hop_David View Post
    I have not ventured an opinion on how much it would cost.

    I was responding to this:

    ...Perhaps we could even return positive evidence for current or past life. I think that that in itself would be worth the $500 billion price tag that you have placed on it.

    So when Apollo17 says finding life is worth $500 billion, I disagreed.
    Nowhere do you indicate you disagree with this cost estimate.

    I suggest you reread the thread for comprehension.
    I comprehend the thread well enough.

    Given an approximately 19 billion dollar NASA annual budget, I'd put the ceiling on Mars exploration at $1 billion per launch window.
    We seem to be spending roughly that already.

    I certainly don't think it's worth a manned mission, much less several manned missions.
    What isn't worth it? Bacteria alone? or all the rest that Mars promises? And why not?

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    It's not really a problem, but a reality. You build the minimum neccessary to achieve your goal, not something excessively complex and expensive. Columbus did not need steamships and Alcock and Brown a jumbo jet.

    To do it first, it isn't necessary. To do it well, though...

    For ships, it was costly to go from coal to oil, and even more from oil to nuclear, but I think few would say that it wasn't worth every penny. What we won't have to consider for the first manned missions to Mars we will, IMO, have to for a sustained human presence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    What isn't worth it? Bacteria alone? or all the rest that Mars promises? And why not?
    Whats the rest? Dreams of terraforming aside, what does Mars offer?

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    One of the many points that seems to be missed is... the gain for humanity. Yes there are issues.

    Everything we imagine can be made to happen. Its just a will and cost issue.

    Show the political will and the cost will be found.

    The lack of funding is crippling and only by finding the want to do this, can we make it happen.

    I have seen lists of advancements that can directly or indirectly be attributed to the space race..

    Going to Mars and back would bring advancements we have not yet imagined...

    Just as building a Outpost on the moon would.

    I would open the cheque book tomorrow if I thought a politician could be brought on board...

    Make it vote friendly and we are there. We have much work to do... Its a great leap forward.

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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    Going to Mars and back would bring advancements we have not yet imagined...
    If it's technological advancements we're looking for, wouldn't it be better to undertake something that will actually force us to develop new technology? A Mars mission today would basically be a scaled up moon mission. We already know how to send a small crew to another body using chemical rockets. Colonization would bring many advancements, but it's just to expensive. Sure we could decide to go there using some exotic propulsion technology... but with a limited budget, would we?

    Sending a probe to another solar system. Building solar arrays in space or robotic asteroid mining. A self sustaining space station. I'm not advocating any of those examples in particular, but they would all force us to develop new technology instead of refining what we already have. There are so many goals we could set that doesn't involve landing people on other planets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikon View Post
    If it's technological advancements we're looking for, wouldn't it be better to undertake something that will actually force us to develop new technology? A Mars mission today would basically be a scaled up moon mission. We already know how to send a small crew to another body using chemical rockets. Colonization would bring many advancements, but it's just to expensive. Sure we could decide to go there using some exotic propulsion technology... but with a limited budget, would we?

    Sending a probe to another solar system. Building solar arrays in space or robotic asteroid mining. A self sustaining space station. I'm not advocating any of those examples in particular, but they would all force us to develop new technology instead of refining what we already have. There are so many goals we could set that doesn't involve landing people on other planets.
    And that's exactly why those goals won't get funded. Sending people is one of the few ways i believe that you will get expensive programs funded. Sure they dramatically increase the cost, but there is something grand about sending man out into the solar system. I think many are tired of robots doing all the work and long for the day when a human will venture out into the solar system. We have to take some steps. This whole lets wait until we have awesome technology argument really annoys me, YOU DON'T WAIT 20 YEARS TO BUY A COMPUTER BECAUSE IT WILL BE BETTER. YOU DON'T WAIUT WHAT BY THEN WILL BE A CENTURY OR MORE TO SEND A MANNED MISSION TO MARS.

    The NASA mission statement, or atleast it was:

    NASA Mission Statement

    To improve life here,
    To extend life to there,
    To find life beyond.


    NASA Vision


    To understand and protect our home planet, To explore the Universe and search for life, and To inspire the next generation of explorers... as only NASA can.


    I don't see be the sole developer of new propulsion or life support echnologies written there. I think that launching a crewed mars mission, (gotta get out the habit of saying manned all the time, apparently it's not 'politically correct') will give unimaginable benefits liek someone else here stated. The reason why i cant tell you what they are is because they are unimaginable. You have no idea what a mars misison could inspire or produce, you don't. Sure it might not use ground breaking technology (although that doesn't necessarily mean shuttle derived either) btu it wouyld demonstrate our ability to get stuff done. It would demonstrate our ability to seize the day, tot ake advantage of what we can. This is what seems hard to communicate to the politicians, they just have to sign the bill and allow maybe a little extra to the budget and something amazing can happen. ONE THIRD of the worlds population gathered to watch the moon landing. When the crew of Apollo 11 returned, people internationally were not saying "You Americans did it" they were saying "WE did it" because it was a common dream shared amongst people around the world. On any given night they could look and stare at the moon and ponder its mysteries. America happened to be in the oppurtune place to achieve the goal, but mankind as a collective had felt as if they accomplished something.

    I think we need another event like this, exactly what a Mars misison could inspire. Something to show that we are still moving forward, that despite our many faults we continue to strive to achieve somethign positive. There are not many unknown frontiers left on Earth, and throughout history it has been common amongst man to explore the unknown. We must once again venture into the new unknown, for all mankind. We will go to Mars in Peace, for all mankind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikon View Post
    Sending a probe to another solar system. Building solar arrays in space or robotic asteroid mining. A self sustaining space station. I'm not advocating any of those examples in particular, but they would all force us to develop new technology instead of refining what we already have. There are so many goals we could set that doesn't involve landing people on other planets.
    I know you don't necessarily advocate these examples as better plans, and i think that's good because they are not the greatest examples in my opinion.
    I agree that a probe designed to be sent to another solar system is a good idea, and we should do it relatively neaqr term even though everything will be 175,000 years older or more when it gets anywhere near reaching its target. There's a good chance we'll have better technology to get it there within the next century but if we don't, or if something happens to our species, atleast we will have sent something on its way specifically at a distant target.

    I believe your other examples could potentially cost more than a mars program, and if you haven't noticed we already have an incredibly expensive space station that does not serve much of a purpose at the moment. Depending on your definition of mining and what plans you have for that mining could either make or break robotic mining. However i'm sure many will disagree. It is my opinion that if there is so much profit to be had mining the moon then the private sector will no doubt begin to take advantage within as little as 2 decades which i'm sure is more efficient than NASA would be able to with all the politics involved and aside from that NASA should explore. Quench our thirst for knowledge and keep on pushing the boundaries such as it used to before alot of people (many politicians included) forgot why manned spaceflight was so beneficial.

    I also don't understand where peoples incredibly expensive colonization costs come from. If you were to have a self sustatining crew of 6 or so, that could be a colony. That would not cost outrageous amounts to set up on the Red Planet. In time you could land more habitation modules in a particular area when a good one were o be found. Landing more modules there would probably increase the cost a little, but i would expect that we would know by then whether we wanted to colonize mars or continue pushing out into our friendly neighbourhood of plantes. In my opinion the ultimate goal for the coming century should be titan. However before we get anywhere close we are going to need a kick-start to our Space exploring spirit. I believe a near-term Mars Mission offers this, and will, as said a million times over bring benefits that we cannot predict, aswell as those that we can.

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