"Astronauts will fly for the first time on EM-2
EM-2 - Elon Musk 2, by SpaceX.
Help us, Elon Musk- you're our only hope... - NASA Astronauts
51 years! Fingers out, NASA!!
NASA's plan to carry out manned space missions beyond Earth's low orbit has stalled to 2023. The American astro-boffins were aiming to deploy the Orion manned capsule in 2021, but the program has stumbled. A prototype Orion capsule has already made a brief unmanned test flight atop a Delta IV Heavy launch stack, in December …
"Funny, how long did it take them to go from 0 to Moon back in the good old days?"
About half a million years if you're just talking about Homo sapiens. It really depends on when you set your 0.
If the human race absolutely had to get someone to the moon, we could probably do it in about a year, as long as they weren't too fussed by the odds of survival.
Since then, NASA has laid out new plans to ignore the Moon, build the SLS, and gradually develop it from its initial relatively feeble configuration (able to lift 70 tonnes to orbit) into a real heavy-lifter more powerful than the 118-tonner Saturn Vs of yesteryear. Such an SLS Block 2 would perhaps be able to lift an Orion plus the necessary lander and habitat for a manned Mars flight.
Surely no-one really thinks that a direct Planet-surface to Mars mission is a sensible idea? Why would you burden the Mars-bound spacecraft with the necessity to climb out of Earth's gravity well?
Earth orbit is the only sensible starting point for a Mars mission, whether you build the craft there, or lift the completed thing up from the planet before fuelling and provisioning.
... right up until the time you, um, don't do it.
In fifty years we haven't, to my mind, made even one small step towards building and orbiting the type of infrastructure needed for such an exercise. Yes, we've (for some arbitrary value of 'we') put up a small room where people can take pictures, play the guitar (no insult intended to any specific photographers or musicians), and carry out small lab experiments. And we've done it while budgets are cut, funding withdrawn, and the chances of building an orbital construction center, or even an orbital parking lot, seem to disappear into the distance (if they were ever more than a mirage).
The politicians don't care. The public don't care. And even if engineers care, most of them not called Elon are broke and not listened to.
Or at least that's my view. Of course, I'm an Idiot...
The trouble is that no-one has ever assembled a multi-stage spacecraft in orbit. This is not likely to be easy. Provisioning, yep, that could be OK, but fuelling? Trying to transfer fuel at cryonic temperatures in orbit woudl be a seriously non-trivial task. maybe lofting a full tank which is tehnbolted into place? Grand idea, hope those seals are OK. Of coruse, you could do QA checks, but if anything fails them, what are you going to do, de-orbit them and loft the whole thing again? Better to send more or less everything ready-built and quality-checked on Earth up in one direct throw, no?
Whilst I'm generally supportive of Zubrin's postion on how best to get to Mars (see 'The Case for Mars'), and so far as I can see his assesment of the mass required may be OK, one thing I am a tad dubious about is the amount of living space the astronauts would have. That said, perhaps something as simple as docking with a Bigelow Aerospace BEAM unit to add living space might be all that's required, if the journey is to be done in freefall. It'd certainly be safer in a BEAM than in a traditional 'tin-can' vessel, although of course a 'tin-can' type is what's needed for passing through atmospheres. Better yet would be if the actual Mars ship can be tethered to the spent previous stage and teh whole assemblage spun slowly to give at least minimal g for teh astronauts to live in. Which is also a concept that hasn;t yet been tested.
It was the concept of having to construct a large spaceship in orbit that sunk the notion of going to Mars directly after Apollo, along with some fairly silly notions about the types of trajectories and length of stay on Mars (basically, least total mission time was aimed for, which resulted in least time on Mars, maximum time in freefall and maximum radiation dose partly due to a Venus 'fry-by' on the way home).
But anyway, it boils down to that if we want to get to Mars soon, then we need to avoid the mission relying on stuff that we haven;t done in orbit before. Which, so far as I can see, means docking one, maybe two things to another thing is ok, resupply is OK, but refuelling is a no-no. Otherwise it could be decades more before we send anyone to Mars, what with testing how to construct ships/refule ships in orbit multiple times first, not to mention testing tethering systems for 'artificail gravity'. I would be utterly delighted to be shown to be wrong.
The trouble is that no-one has ever assembled a multi-stage spacecraft in orbit. This is not likely to be easy
These are BR-Hard (base reality hard) problems which need some solving. mitigating or avoiding. Welcome to the Hardness of the Real!
Otherwise it could be decades more before we send anyone to Mars, what with testing how to construct ships/refule ships in orbit multiple times first
On the other hand, there is no particular hurry. Maybe doing a moon-shot ultra-high-political-risk one-shot followed by a century-long-hiatus is not the best example to follow.
Exactly....We should also get the moon involved. Set up a base on the moon that we always restock. Use the moons lower gravity to explore the rest of solar system. Restocking mars from earth will be very expensive. However a base on the moon can be used as a base to ping other planets.
Finally the whole approach to space is slightly flawed - if there was an emergency evacuation after generations have lived there then the whole earth would have to get involved in that process. Knowing these facts why are we still setting up a future of fragmented space exploration yet we are fully aware of possibilities like aliens, entire missions disappearing....etc ... its time to merge these space agencies ASP.
Earth orbit is the only sensible starting point for a Mars mission
Moon is actually much much better: you have proper gravity, but still no atmosphere. You can start building the mega-spaceship and spend 10 years doing it, interrupting when funds are low, without having to worry what will happen to it in the mean time.
The Moon, definitively.
I remember, as a seven year-old Brit, watching the moon landings on a huge (to me) school TV and thinking Mars couldn't be many years away. How wrong I was.
From my perspective it appears that NASA has continually been hobbled by the lack of a consistent vision within government and the necessity to farm out its various works 'fairly' across the states/corporations.
I can't decide whether my best hopes for Mars now reside with the Chinese (or India racing up the inside?) or with Elon Musk who certainly seems to have a driving vision and the money to back it up. I don't have any real faith in the 'reality show colonization' of Mars but I would like to see !someone! on Mars before I die. (Sure won't see it afterwards).
I don't have any real faith in the 'reality show colonization' of Mars but I would like to see !someone! on Mars before I die
Build cheap but untested technologies, and man them with criminals.
Letting convicts have Australia (rather than transporting the law abiding there) now looks to have been a mistake from the point of view of the resident Brits, but in this case I don't think Mars is looking the sort of place you could see as a great destination.
In fact, once the rockets have stopped going "bang" or whizzing off course spreading crim DNA across the galaxy we could make Mars a penal colony, and send everybody sentenced to more than six months.
"Since then, NASA has laid out new plans to ignore the Moon, build the SLS, and gradually develop it from its initial relatively feeble configuration (able to lift 70 tonnes to orbit) into a real heavy-lifter more powerful than the 118-tonner Saturn Vs of yesteryear."
Ah, so this is what it looks like when you decide to refactor hardware...
"It's no secret that SpaceX has designs on the drawing board for new engines and rockets that could make an SLS Block 2 look puny, "
First off, nothing in that linked article suggests a departure from standard binary fuel/oxidizer engine technology, just bolting more of them together if I read the article right.
"[and] which would probably cost an awful lot less to boot."
Nothing in the article shows this to be a given either. In fact, PREDICTION: No it won't, not without creative accounting after the fact.
Every administration retasks NASA to build their own enduring science legacy in a fifteen year plan, cancelling the grand plans of their predecessors to move their achievements out of the potential shadow of the former administration. And then Congress prevents it. And then four or eight years later the weak compromise is cancelled by a new administration to put their stamp on a new enduring science legacy...
By the time NASA gets men to Mars, on arrival they will be having an espresso at the Starbucks on the patio at Musk Interplanetary Spaceport #4.
ee lad. No Opus Caementicium on t'Moon! Ow ya expect t'av Moon Base on Moon without Opus Caementicium? Before you can do anything lad y'need Opus Caementicium. Before Mission Control were built they ad to use Opus Caementicium...even Launch Pad were built on Opus Caementicium!
In my not so humble opinion it doesn't make sense to send humans further than into earth orbit for, say, the next 100 years. Why send anyone to Mars? Apart from the very real possibility of death in action, what can a human do that machines cannot do (and very much better). For the life supporting system for _one_human you can send an amazeball fuckload (that's a technical term) of machines.
I had this discussion with a relative and almost got slapped in the face (but, frankly, no better argument than "but it's cool!"), hence icon for what will happen to this post.
Better arguments? I've got them.
>what can a human do that machines cannot do (and very much better).
1. Control the machines. It takes several minutes (10 - 30) to send a signal there from Earth, which is too late for most sorts of even minor emergency, and our robots are only good at
turtle slug speeds of 1 meter per hour and with all 6 wheels firmly on the ground. Which brings us to...
2. Scale the terrain. There's probably no other mechanism on Earth, hand-made or biological, that can climb from hundreds of meters below water to the summit of Everest, with very little equipment. Machines won't be there for decades.
3. Improvise. When tackling the Unknown, a machine can be designed for many contingencies, but a small stone lodged here, or a wire torn there, or a drop of oil clogging that - and it's disabled. A human on site can fix in minutes or hours, what ground crew at NASA will take 5 years (and a new mission) to handle.
In short, with currently available technology, a permanent base on Mars can perhaps be developed, if humans are on site, but probably not otherwise. Sure, we can land some ready-made habitats there, but nothing more permanent or safe. It would be tin cans all over again.
P.S. perhaps with an advent of 3d-printing, a proper concrete base could be created on Mars by machines... but it's still more fiction than science at this point.
One of the best arguments I've heard for space exploration, or at least a self sustaining lunar colony, is to provide a "life boat" for Humanity.
About 60-80 thousand years ago there was a volcanic event (link at bottom) that according to many reduced Humanity to a total population of less than 10,000 individuals on the entire planet. Think about that for a moment.
10,000, including children, on the ENTIRE PLANET.
That is less than number of people who worked in ONE of the NY World Trade center towers.
It was only by luck that the Human species survived, many other creatures, including some other Hominids did not.
When, and it is a "when", not an "if", there is another such event we may not be as lucky. As a species we are less equipped to survive now than we were back then. Having a self sustaining large gene pool away from Earth, be it of the moon, Mars or habitats at the Lagrange points, would at least ensure that our species and technologies survived.
That is why we need to explore space. Learning about other planets and gaining a better understanding of our own is just a bonus.
Unless you have a full industrial base, with plenty of exploitable resources (not available on Moon) and energy (available on Moon but a function of the extent of the full industrial base), it is not a life boat, just a one-way trip to nowhere.
Having a self sustaining large gene pool away from Earth, be it of the moon, Mars or habitats at the Lagrange points, would at least ensure that our species and technologies survived.
Yes, but we are not there any time soon.
Laundry list: Nanoassemblers and portable fusion power and full skills in genetic design and human-level AI and lifetimes of several hundred years. Get cracking.
While nice for large-scale conquest of the universe, they're an overkill for solar system base, or even first bases elsewhere. A more conventional replicator will do: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clanking_replicator
Totally unnecessary on the moon (where solar power is highly available). Could help on Europa and other water/light element worlds, but much less on Mars, which doesn't have too much water. On the pretty dry Moon those are almost useless (though I realize the colonists will have hydrogen as a by-product of oxygen generation, at least before they establish a closed carbon cycle).
Useful for terraforming, but i predict it'll take some time till humans readily undergo genetic manipulation themselves. Theoretically, one can design a space-capable body, complete with solar cells, closed oxygen/carbon/nitrogen cycles, vents to absorb interstellar gases and even jet engines or solar sails... In a few million years that's what we can become, if that's the path we choose.
at this point, why colonize? Just send pieces of "computronium" anywhere, they don't care where they land, the AIs there (and uploaded humans) will exist in simulated realities having no dependence on actual physical surroundings. That's the alternate path, but it too is way in the future.
No, I believe we could create a self-sustainable base using modern-day technology alone. Some of the necessary machinery already exists, some will need to be developed, but those are engineering, not technology problems. And cost, yes, the cost.
No, I believe we could create a self-sustainable base using modern-day technology alone
Sorry to come across as snarky but these are the dreams of youth, mid-twen-cen SciFi and the city office dweller.
Once you think about how long the production chain and how large the capital infrastructure must be to produce something as simple as an electric motor from raw materials in a friendly environment and a kinda-optimizing kinda-working economy and how rapidly disrepair accumulates even in organizations where funding can be forcefully secured from the populace, you will realize that "self-sustainable base using modern-day technology alone" will be like the Nostromo for a couple of weeks. Then the oxygen recycler dies.
"Once you think about how long the production chain and how large the capital infrastructure must be to produce something as simple as an electric motor from raw materials in a friendly environment and a kinda-optimizing kinda-working economy and how rapidly disrepair accumulates even in organizations where funding can be forcefully secured from the populace..." -Destroy All Monsters
The thing is for space exploration, you do not need all that capital infrastructure. The reason that infrastructure is there to make the electric motor is that you are making them by the boatload; hopefully cheaper than your competitor's factory. On Mars, you only have to make it cheaper and faster than you can get it from Earth. So some kind of very inefficient, but very flexible fabricator is needed to produce the parts you need. This starts the process of building your own capital infrastructure on Mars, a little bit at a time.
On Mars, you only have to make it cheaper and faster than you can get it from Earth.
No, because you are not in competition with goods from Earth for some local customers: There are no local customers, there will only be a command economy (which is to say, no economy at all). The problem is just making it at all as needed by the colonists. We are talking "self-sufficient with today's tech". The "very flexible fabricator" (can it produce a CPU? How about a hammer or a toothbrush?) does not exist today. Plus it needs to be fed with the necessary raw materials, which may be hard to come by on Mars or Moon.
>can it produce a CPU?
You'll probably need a mini-fab for chippery, a couple of 3d-printers and programmable routers for parts, a chem lab to produce the raw materials, and a few
assembly robots humans to put those parts together. The equipment in question should be ready-made on earth from parts only made by the first generation of this machinery, to avoid a sad case of "wait, we didn't plan on being able to make that gear wheel!".
Of the above, the only problematic part is the mini-fab, with high-purity compounds it requires, therefore chips, as an exception, and being small, can be shipped from earth as a supply. They're also quite cheap.
The problem with getting humans off earth is keeping in contact. The vast cost to get a minimally viable colony somewhere means that the colony will be culturally and genetically isolated. Not a problem if humanity on earth is obliterated, but if humanity on earth is not obliterated, well they'll be reduced to sending the equivalent of postcards or more likely, no communication at all. And that makes me think of the back-story of Warhammer 40000, with the Emperor's crusade to unite the fractured remnants of humanity scattered across the galaxy (and exterminate the colonies that resist or that are too genetically deviant from Terran stock).
On the other hand, bring back Outcasts! It had its problems, but I really miss it.
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