Astroboffins have found that the gravity well of Mars churns the surface of passing asteroids, causing them to lose their natural, blushing space tan. Artist's image of asteroids and Mars Scientists have put much effort into figuring out why asteroids appear redder than meteorites - the bits of the space rocks that crash into …
Failure of astronomical proportions!
"Mars is quite close to the asteroid belt".
Sure, it's only farther from Ceres than Earth is from the Sun! The inner edge of the asteroid belt is about 45 million miles from Mars, about half the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
The boffins are clearly talking about "Mars crossing" asteroids, those that have strayed out of the main belt and come within, say, a few hundred thousand miles, just as there are "Earth crossing" asteroids that we hear so much about (Near Miss at 2 million miles!!).
Well, if our current crop of so-called "scientists" could get their collective finger out and do some proper science instead of lounging around eating crisps and thinking up new names for things their granddads discovered we might actually be able to tootle over there and have a look.
And by "tootle" I mean get there and back in a time frame that doesn't make the question moot 'cos no one cares anymore, in a spacecraft that not only looks like a proper space ship with fins and paint and stuff (none of the space-invader cardboard & tinfoil nonsense of Apollo if you please*) but also shrugs off solar flares and has a proper sick bay so the whole mission isn't crimped by toothache or appendicitis.
* Unless it all comes together to evoke a Chris Foss Flying Junkheap, in which case you get a let on coolness grounds. But it still has to have solar flare proofing and a proper sickbay.
There have been plenty of schemes for getting out there, most of them cheap (by cheap we mean costing less than the total annual beer consumption in the US). The NERVA nuclear powered rocket could have made it: the preliminary work was done and it only needed the will to continue, which Congress did not have. So don't blame the scientists and the engineers, blame the pols.
I blame the scientists and still do because your confounded NERVA is unworkable outside of a daydream today and it does nothing to address all my other points. If the idea were screamingly good private industry would be falling over themselves to use it. In space no one can hear you breaking the noxious emission laws.
Much easier to argue about Pluto not being a planet instead of figuring out a way to get there and have a look.
As for "scientists": 8op 8ob 8op (Thrrp).
"Well, if our current crop of so-called "scientists" could get their collective finger out and do some proper science..."
So, astronomers and astrogeologists need to design rockets now?
That nonsense is as bad as a new discovery about insects being griped about because the entomologist didn't research the cure for cancer.
"Much easier to argue about Pluto not being a planet instead of figuring out a way to get there and have a look."
Because astronomers and astrogeologists design rockets when they're not working on astronomy or astrogeology, right?
I bet in your world, network engineers design nuclear reactors too.
If you want "ships that get out there and back in reasonable time" you need to move to a different universe. Preferably the one inhabited by James T. Kirk.
Using the standard "throw stuff out the back to move forward" kind of space travel you can't even get good results from super-duper-unobtainium-fueled megarockets if you fire the rocket continuously. Example: your rocket exhaust travels so fast that its equivalent temperature is millions of degrees (modern rockets are a few thousand degrees). You try the old "accelerate at 1 gravity for some time, flip over and decelerate at 1 gravity", using up say 90% of your starting mass. That gets you about as far as the moon, maybe. It's the physics, folks.
And yet, a real scientist who did proper science and discovered useful things thought differently as far back as 1983. You can check it out in "Mirror Matter", cited in a recent Analog article as a prime resource for any new SF author wanting to write about "throw stuff out the back to move forward" rockets and do so convincingly to a knowledgeable hard SF audience. Robert Forward wrote that one. He has a PhD in real science and although he also likes to rename things we already have perfectly good names for, he once made the stuff he was renaming as part of his living and learned quite a bit that might surprise you. He also writes about very complicated stuff in a very accessible way, rather like Einstein did.
Physics includes a bunch of stuff you are taking for granted but ain't necessarily so - if we do the science to make it happen.
"Because astronomers and astrogeologists design rockets when they're not working on astronomy or astrogeology, right?
I bet in your world, network engineers design nuclear reactors too."
Because we need scientists who could put geologists next to what these astral voyeurs can only guess at (and argue about renaming) we should be putting money into research to make that happen instead of another bunch of telescope-toting guesstimaters.
I do not acknowledge that people who wire computers together are "engineers", so I'm going with "no" to your assertion. I reserve the title "engineer" for the people who design the stuff the network not-engineers plug wires into and the people who design the things that happen inside the wires (and, by a curious coincidence, people who design nuclear reactors).
Yeah yeah yeah. I've heard about Forward and his anti-matter rocket. Guess what? It's no different in the end from NERVA, except that you heat the hydrogen by annihilating anti-hydrogen instead of running it through a nuclear reactor. You still wind up with a rocket that throws hot hydrogen out the back. You can get a lot out of a hot-hydrogen rocket. You can start in Earth orbit with 75% hydrogen fuel, 25% payload, visit Mars and an asteroid or two and come home. But you won't be doing it in hours or even days. You still have to use slow orbits not much different from the ones that the Mars probes use today.
Robert L. Forward was a highly respected engineer and writer. He could do the math and the physics. But he couldn't rewrite the laws thereof.
NERVA is so yesterday - more modern propulsion designs promise an even greater specific impulse than old fashioned nuclear. The main problem is also launch weight, when anything nuclear is God awful! Not because so much of the fuel requirements, but because of the cooling. There is a reason Nixon dropped it - despite people's opinion of him.
Specific impulse related to over all weight of the design is important as to whether it will reach Mars. In manned missions - forget nuclear power as the shielding requirements are astronomical (literally); bad enough that they get so much radiation from space and the Martian surface, let alone the fuel reaction source!!
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