President Barack Obama yesterday insisted that US astronauts will reach Mars by the mid-2030s, during a speech in which he stressed "nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight, to human exploration of space than I am". Speaking to a "polite" crowd of around 200 staff and guests at the Kennedy Space Center, Obama dismissed …
We've done well with robot explorers, and I believe that is always the best "first encounter" with new environments. However, a human on mars could do more than a robot (at least the ones currently designed) could. For one, get unstuck. Perhaps clean/empty a testing container (soil sampler currently has only 6(?) testing chambers).
Of course, while we're still squabbling over who has to foot the bill for exploration and scientific progress, progress will be slow indeed. Just think of the progress that would be made if we knew, 100%, that a rock would smash Earth in 30 years. I guarantee one of two things would happen: 1) We invent/build some tech that will blow up/push the rock, regardless of global cost (yes, a global effort. funny huh?) or 2) the very wealthy would pool their money to life-boat themselves off until it is safe. (yes, I know, it sounds awefully 2012ish, but which is most probable?)
I for one vote for the original plan. Heavy lifters to get the crap up in the debris field known as LEO, construct the ship there, then ferry our happy, curious selves to wherever our propulsion can get us. Perhaps we'll have something akin to warp drives by the time those in charge finally figure it out. (I'll let you figure out which is more likely to happen first)
Human vs. robot
"We've done well with robot explorers, and I believe that is always the best "first encounter" with new environments. However, a human on mars could do more than a robot (at least the ones currently designed) could. For one, get unstuck..."
...and, for another, no matter how excellent the quality of images and data returned, the MER rovers can't pause from their work, take a look at the scenery around them and sigh, "Magnificent desolation".
Robots can do a lot, but they can't have experiences. That's a part of manned space exploration that's a lot more valuable than a lot of people think.
I wonder if it might be possible to snag asteroids going by for resources, rather than having to lift them from Earth. Don't know how the maths stacks up though.
As to eggs in one basket that's exactly the point, we don't just need to have people up there we need to establish infrastructure. That can't happen until we have explored and developed the technology of spaceflight, so the sooner they stop sodding around in LEO the better for humanity as a whole. It'll take a long time and there will always be something "more urgent" down here so stop putting it off.
"I wonder if it might be possible to snag asteroids going by for resources, rather than having to lift them from Earth. Don't know how the maths stacks up though."
You need to look at "Near Earth Objects," or "Rosetta" mission, IE asteroids whose orbit periodically come somewhere close to Earth.
What you would get depends on the makeup of the object. that could range from minerals in extractable quantities to hydrocarbons and other organic material which might be able to top up a life support system.
To be of any use you have to dock you vehicle with the object then either process it or get it into an orbit with Earth. Ideas include solar sails, ion drives or a mass driver using some of its mass to make the orbit change. JPL know a lot about orbital mechanics and orbit change maneuvers using gravity and aerobraking.
Possible in theory. Interesting mission to try. Commercially viable?
I take it there was no point in Columbus making his voyage then, as it was well known that all he was going to do was fall off the edge of the world and there was nothing out there for him to find but sea monsters. I mean who would want to go exploring on the off chance that you might find something you don't expect?
I feel sorry for the people so bereft of imagination and curiosity who feel that way. Apparently someone forgot to inform me when our understanding of the universe became so complete that there was nothing useful left to learn.
Re : Sorry
It wasn't KNOWN he would fall off the edge it was just a conjecture by mainly uneducated people . They had no way of looking beyond the horizon - ~4 miles at sea-level. In any case since classical times there was good evidence the world was spherical. (Aristotle 330 BC). Columbus was aiming to sail round the world to the east. I'm sure he was expecting problems but falling off the edge wasn't one of them.
In any case most seamen would know that a ship, mountain, tower appeared to drop below the horizon within a short distance but could reappear again.
On the other hand large amounts of money and effort have been spent mapping the universe so we have a good idea of what's out there. I'm sure there are many things waiting to be discovered. Doesn't mean we will ever have the means to try.
Columbus's voyage was quite the opposite
The voyage that "discovered" America (first European public disclosure anyway; probably the Norse & Basque knew of it) was a commercially backed venture to find a quicker/cheaper route to the trading riches of the "Indies". Everyone knew perfectly well that the world was round by then, but Columbus thought it was rather smaller than it is and hence going the opposite way would be a splendid shortcut. Happily enough for him he bumped into something just as valuable when only 1/3 of the way...
So note the dissimilarity: Columbus was trying to find a cheaper way to provide control and exploitation of something well known to have huge immediate value, with Queen Isabella backing him for solid economic reasons and imagination & curiosity hardly in sight. Manned exploration of space? Nobody has any idea how to make a return on that - orbital space tourism merely weakens a catastrophic loss to an appalling one (when considering the total space investment: as with Concorde if you eliminate all preceding costs then it almost makes sense)
Which I think is a real shame - I'd *love* to go into space. But robot probes make sense until something transformative (eg limitless energy supply and/or warp drive) arrives - just look at what Spirit & Cassini have achieved...
>>I take it there was no point in Columbus making his voyage then
Well, it wan't too good for the Native Americans, the Vikings were been there before (a colony in what became canada).
>>as it was well known that all he was going to do was fall off the edge of the world and there was nothing out there for him to find but sea monsters
Most educated european people believed the earth was round the the 15th century.
>>I feel sorry for the people so bereft of imagination and curiosity who feel that way.
Unmanned space exploration: good, manned space exploration: bad, lets go further with more things for less money.
>>Apparently someone forgot to inform me when our understanding of the universe became so complete that there was nothing useful left to learn
You are being sucked up with the propaganda, that's all, if you wanted to learn guitar and had a choice between a £3000 1975 Gibson sunburst or a £100 Squire strat and professional guitar lessons for three years, your heart would shout Gibson! but your head would say Squire, you end up either playing like a pro or "all the gear and no idea", which is the better idea? think about it, that's all I ask (that said, I've had my Squire for three years and I'm still crap on it).
"orbital space tourism merely weakens a catastrophic loss to an appalling one "
The market for which NASA denied even the existence of for several decades.
I imagine it's possible to prove that when the *total* cost of *any* major development is factored in no *one* has *ever* made a profit on the deal.
Warren Buffet once said of airline stocks that given how much they have lost investors over the years for what they cost if he had a time machine he would have shot down the Wright Flyer on takeoff.
So what. That's why *serious* investors perform due diligence. That did not stop VC's loosing c$950m on Kistler ( Handy hint. If you want to deliver a viable launch vehicle on time and budget *don't* hire ex-NASA managers with *no* practical experience)
Please note that *most* of SpaceX's development work has been on Elon Musk's dime and the Virgin Galactic operation is not looking at *any* US or other government funding. Yes I am aware VG is sub-orbital, but it seems to making substantial progress.
"Which I think is a real shame - I'd *love* to go into space. "
Get $200k together and book a ticket. Or do you mean into *orbit* which will be more expensive.
Everyone here is so negative about something actually exciting i'm going anon. This is great i 100% support it. Space travel is something that ignites passion in people like you wouldn't believe. It is the focus of human achievement I honestly think it will motivate a generation, again. What have young people got to look forward to without this program? Slowly improving electronic tech.. great..... Green energy...?
Re : Anonymous coward →
It might seem negative but reality can be like that. You might like to step out of the window and float but I'm not being negative when I say that (unaided) it's not ever going to happen.
There are plenty of immense challenges for people to get engaged with and focus effort on - space exploration is just a side-show.
RE: Anonymous Coward
"What have young people got to look forward to without this program? Slowly improving electronic tech.. great..... Green energy...?"
Well, if the less lunatic of the current predictions for when oil runs out are true then there might not be enough to get us to Mars in 2035 unless we have some other kind of fuel source... green energy, maybe. How to power a rocket with a battery might be a tricky problem to solve though!
Can we send Barack Hussein Obama and his band of Alinskyites on a one-way rocket trip to Mars? Please? Please?
Is there a valid reason for your silly comment or are you just rattling off something based on sound bites and Google headlines?
How is this comment even possible? The Reg has a pretty good track record of refusing comments that get too far from the point. What's up with this one?
..allegedly has water on it.
And various minerals.
Enough, presumably, to mock up some kind of power generation. Solar maybe.
Water plus electricity = hydrogen and oxygen. If you're looking for an incredibly potent rocket fuel, you couldn't ask for much better.
This is why hitting the Moon first (preferably not too hard) is a damned good idea. Automated fuel production facility? No environment to ruin while making said fuel? Yes please.
Same As usual then
Its just more of the usual political rubbish. Cancel Ares with a claim of "we need new technology" and then hand 6 Billion in pork over to an aerospace industry that never seems to have to actually produce something that works- Actually 6 billion would just about keep the ISS up until 2025 and pay for crewing so maybe not that much pork, just enough to look like the whole program isn't collapsing.
Make broad statements about targets with no roadmaps and no conceivable way of doing it (At least his predecessor had at least some sort of idea about what he wanted)
Everyone wants a space program, no-one wants to pay for it, which is the kind of thinking that turned NASA into the third world bus company it is today. Want to feel good about your country claiming Mars...take Chinese citizenship now
"Obama: We're off to Mars"
From what I'm seeing every day, about 50 percent of US voters would consider that a good start. (Out of the Solar System altogether would suit them even better).
I've been to the circus...
...and I know a trick when I see one.
This sonofabitch wants to privatize NASA, plain and simple. No goddamn' wonder Elon Musk's nipples are exploding with delight.
Just you wait; in terms of spacefaring nations, the USA is going to wind up being the Portugal of the 21st Century, and more's the pity.
@chemist, not, I will not fix your computer et al
I was just responding to the the AC@14:29 comment about it taking just over 4 years. It was just a little though experiment. Essentially however long it really took you it would not be just over 4 years to get there. Any vessel ( or ideally multiple vessels) would be truly *alone*.
Energy requirements were not part of the problem. On the subject you might like to check how much the Sun puts out in Watts. I'd guess a light collecting shell could generate enough power to accelerate a substantial vehicle to a large fraction of c. Not perfect (plenty of gaps) reasonable efficiency (15% overall?). Nothing fantastic. Just modern known energineering on a very large scale.
My closing question "The question is if you did would *anyone* you left behind still be there when you came back" is because the odds on bet would be that the round trip at a more *realistic* speed would be close to the length of a human lifetime. There would be *no* one to come home to.
FWIW my gut feeling says we are a *long* way from having the lowest cost chemical launcher to reach orbit, a *long* way from the fastest inter planetary space vehicle and a *long* way from what we could achieve in interstellar flight (I was most impressed seeing a modern heart/lung bypass with the patient drained of blood and *zero* brain activity warming up then "waking up" afterward)
We are nowhere *near* the top of any of those curves.
Historical note. During the founding of NASA a book was in circulation within the agency which discussed the historical idea of a frontier and societies need for such a place (IIRC it was with particular reference to the Wilson and Clarke explorations of the continental US). NASA histories allude to it and indicate that there was something of a sense of "Manifest destiny" about America's sending people into space to extend and ultimately colonise.
This may sound very politically suspect, but it has been mentioned in various NASA histories of the early space programmes. Finding some of the motivations distasteful does not change them from having those views. Ignoring them and their context is revisionism of the worst sort.
Re : @chemist, not, I will not fix your computer et al
"Energy requirements were not part of the problem"
Can't let that go - you can't claim time dilation at 99% c without considering the energy!
The sun is not relevant - the energy at earth orbit is ~1400 W/m^2 so the collector would be enormous. To accelerate to 10% light at 1G would take ~1 year by which time the sun would be a dot. and you'd still have 40 years to go. + deceleration.
Please accept my apologies for not expressing myself more clearly. I meant a Dyson sphere, with the shell *around* the Sun. My copy of the AIP Handbook lists the light output of the Sun as 4x10^26 W. let me emphasis the "on a *very* large scale" bit again.
To get a feel for the power involved I assume a Solar thermal systems (no band gap absorption issues) can easily manage 20% conversion (reasonable for systems already built in Spain and the US) and microwave conversion at of 85% efficiency from solar power satellite studies gives a 17% overall efficiency. But for real BOTE security lets assume we can get at *most* 1/1000 of that. giving 6.8x 10^22 W. Microwave to electrical conversion on board looses us another 15% so we're left with 5.78x10^22 W (unless you fancy a microwave driven solar sail). Assuming c=2.9979250 x10^8 ms^-1 and g (Little g, Earth surface gravity at the equator) of 9.78ms^-1 it would take 355days to get to light speed (*presuming* you have enough energy to continue accelerating as your mass increased and I have not factored in the reduction in acceleration rate due to mass increase). What do you expect the mass growth to be?
How *big* an object you could accelerate would depend on mass growth as the objects accelerated. I ran this calculation to see how much power a serious civilization could muster even if the you did *not* have fusion. Personally I still like the Bussard ram jet.
One interesting side effect of this acceleration (or is it?) if *observable* mass of the object increases at what point (if any) *could* you expect to detect gravity waves?
I've often wondered why G wave detectors have not been set up in different alignments with a large storage ring. I get that G waves are *very* low energy but these devices seem so sensitive (and source so close) that it's hard to believe they would not detect *some* kind of *cyclic* variation as the particles in the ring sped up and slowed down. AFAIK minute effects which have been made cyclic are ideal candidates for lock-in detection.
Disclaimer. I'm not a rocket scientist, or indeed any kind of scientist. I have a background knowledge of physics and some other subjects and a lifetime's noseyness.
We are all fed up of eating cheese but mars - now you are talking. I'll take choc over cheese any day.
Typical Obama Lies
Announce big plans while simultaneously sabotaging the means to carry out those plans. When will people learn that every time Obama opens his mouth, a toxic, foul-smelling gas comes out?
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