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The Space Station As a Simulated Mars Mission?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the get-your-iss-to-mars dept.

Mars 48

astroengine writes "NASA is looking at using the International Space Station as a testbed for a human mission to Mars, beginning with a planned week-long simulation to be staged next summer. Preliminary tests would involve working on systems that give astronauts more autonomy, perhaps culminating in a full mission analog, sealing a crew inside a separate module of the station with minimal interaction with the rest of the station and mission control. 'We want to use the space station as a way to get smarter about what a mission to Mars or a mission to an asteroid might look like,' space station flight controller Pete Hasbrook told Discovery News."

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first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35908750)

first post?

Hasn't this been done already (1)

AnonymmousCoward (2026904) | more than 3 years ago | (#35908752)

I think this simulation is a bit more realistic (apart from the gravity aspect): http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41192648/ns/technology_and_science-space/ [msn.com]

Re:Hasn't this been done already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35908918)

I think the Mir experience will be a better teacher. Remember, it'll take a year or more in space for the trip.

The Mir Crew Safety Record: Implications for Space Colonization
http://www.astrosociology.com/Library/PDF/MIR%20Safety%20Record.pdf

Apart from that Ms. Lincoln... how was the show? (2)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35908948)

"apart from the gravity aspect"

That's not a quickly overlooked triffle. Low gravity causes loss of bone and muscle density and allows organs to shift about in ways that could make it extremely difficult to do the work an mars explorer would be required to accomplish in the first few weeks. Think about it, not only do they have to survive land-fall (sudden jarring impact after months losing bone and muscle mass -- remember, there's no water or runways on Mars to take the edge off that landing) but they then need to be able to get up and do whatever equipment setup NASA dosen't leave to robots (more below).

Then, they either need to bring enough equipment with them to establish a long duration stay on Mars or jump back out before their bodies have had time to rebuild. That's a pretty scary scenerio.

Which brings me to the part that always bugs me -- why land at all? It's a huge waste of resources. If they got close enough to direct robotic explorers with real-time control, that would be a major advancement. And, if we build it right, they could leave some of their equipment in orbit -- contributing to a space station on the Mars side. This eliminates some problems (fear of gravity wrecking astronauts) and introduces others (at least twleve months in low gravity is not terribly safe).

What I'm curious about, and maybe someone can explain this -- why don't they just design the entire craft to tumble -- the whole centrifugal gravity concept that's been with us since serious futurists first looked at the problem of low gravity and said "hey, wait, here's a replacement." I'm betting the answer is something borring like "dosen't work" or "tears the craft apart" . . . yes/no?

-GiH

Re:Apart from that Ms. Lincoln... how was the show (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909376)

Because people like to see people go and achieve things..

The trip to mars will have robots. Lots of them probably, but also people.

People can do things robots can't.

The issues you describe are engineering issues, and not insurmountable to solve, just costly.

While we work on that, we should be sending more robots, and once we have a mission at the point where we are building a ship, we should seen tons of supplies to mars.

Re:Apart from that Ms. Lincoln... how was the show (2)

AnonymmousCoward (2026904) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909940)

"apart from the gravity aspect"

That's not a quickly overlooked triffle.

I would agree, however, the point of the experiment in the aforementioned article was to see if humans could feasibly be confined for a duration of a trip to Mars. The reason gravity is not an issue here is that we already have data from past experience in this domain. Take for example Expedition 14 to the ISS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expedition_14 [wikipedia.org] ). This expedition lasted for 215 days, in which two crew members were weightless that entire time. In comparison, this article is talking about spending a week (or few months) in space. This is pale in comparison to anything we have already done, and frankly I don't see the point of it at all. I don't doubt that the space station could be vital in testing planned missions to Mars, but I don't see anything useful coming from this simulation.

Re:Apart from that Ms. Lincoln... how was the show (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910760)

We already have people having lived close together in very cramped conditions for long periods of time, like say submarines.

We already have plenty people that have been on very isolated research outputs with little to no chance of evacuation.

We already have people having stayed in space as long or longer than the proposed Mars trips.

I think the human aspect is highly exaggerated and a smokescreen for what we don't have. Launch, transfer and landing vehicle, mars habitat and likewise for the return trip. I think we have a pretty good idea what man can survive, what we don't have is the means of doing a Mars mission within those parameters. Like something that won't leave them a smear on the surface as landing like the mars rovers would, because we do have a pretty good idea what humans definitively won't survive.....

Re:Hasn't this been done already (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909390)

Gravity is a huge thing.

Although, a better idea would be to build a station for the task. One that you could apply rockets to, for propulsion to Mars.

That way, it's not just a feasibility thing, but a dry run as well - and you could use it for the mission to Mars.

Re:Hasn't this been done already (1)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910288)

Also, ISS is substantially inside Earth's magnetosphere so enjoys significant radiation/solar wind protection. Mars mission won't. But no simulations are perfect. Key is whether sufficiently useful given cost.

Re:Hasn't this been done already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35911112)

The magnetosphere doesn't block cosmic rays. Astronauts on the ISS get half of the dosage in interplanetary space.

The new 2009 Mars rover in HD 720p (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35908764)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyM1bgKWzng

Shorter ISS mission then earth simulation (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35908798)

Adjust the ISS stay so that the astronauts bodies weakened condition (from lack of gravity) vs earth's gravity matches what they would be like on Mars. Since Mar's gravity is less than Earth's a shorter stay in orbit would be required, perhaps 2-3 months instead of 6.

Re:Shorter ISS mission then earth simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35908932)

I was under the impression that the reason for a space-based Mars mission profile test would be to examine the little-understood effects of deep space exposure from cosmic rays and solar radiation during the transit stage. Both of these factors can't be done in the Earth's magnetosphere where the ISS orbits.

NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35908806)

This is a HUGE Waste of my planet's resources.

Re:NASA (1)

dleemaas (2035220) | more than 3 years ago | (#35908942)

Why, what planet do you think we should be trying to travel to? (Hint: "none" is not an answer)

Re:NASA (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909110)

I don't agree with AC's comment about waste, but I would think Venus would be a better planet to visit, there is more similarity with Earth, while still needing many things solved before being possible. A settlement up in the clouds is doable and would be near the same temperature/pressure range we are used to, it is just a matter of doing it.

Re:NASA (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910124)

except humans can't land on venus and survive.

the atmospheic pressure is too great and the temperature is hot enough to soften steel, and melt anything not metal.

Re:NASA (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35928782)

A settlement up in the clouds is doable and would be near the same temperature/pressure range we are used to, it is just a matter of doing it.

Did you read my post, or just reply out of hand?

Re:NASA (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35929282)

And how do you enter the atmosphere and stop half way down?

build a glider that can lift you back up to the altitudes needed?

deploy a parachute and a ballon?

not being making fun of you but answer the real questions first. while in concept it might work, the fact is it is a whole lot harder to deal with the thicker atmosphere of venus, where heating will be higher on orbital entry, then try to stop in the middle of the air.

Re:NASA (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35911874)

Phobos or deimos. Gravity is low enough to land and come back and we are more likely to put a base there.

Antarctica (1)

rarel (697734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35908840)

I would think Antarctica is a better choice for this kind of experiments. Apart from the gravity difference, it's as hostile an environment as you can get on our own planet, plus it's way easier to get there if there's a problem.

Re:Antarctica (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909396)

well, one of the things they need to test, is how something functions on the trip to mars, which means near weightlessness.

You can't test a floating robot at the antarctic. .. well maybe the antigravityartic

and depending on the time of the year, the ISS can be easier to et to the the Antarctic.

Artificial Gravity (1)

supertrinko (1396985) | more than 3 years ago | (#35908934)

They need to set up a torus for artificial gravity, allowing them to perform experiments on all kinds of gravity levels.

Where did this idiot learn English? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35908952)

"as a way to get smarter about"

Huh?

AS A WAY TO GET SMARTER ABOUT?

Does he mean "to learn more about"? Or is that too 'normal speak' for him, so he thought he'd make up some 'management speak'. (You know, idiocies like "speak TO the paper". You can't speak TO a paper, you can only speak ABOUT it. Or like "in order to LEVERAGE so and so". Leverage is a NOUN, not a verb.)

Re:Where did this idiot learn English? (1)

headwes (728006) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909342)

Re:Where did this idiot learn English? (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910842)

I wonder when that particular usage made it into the dictionary. I recall it coming about during the dotcom era of the late 90s by marketing people instead of the word "use".

prepare for no resupply vessels or disqualify sim (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35908976)

To really simulate a Mars mission, have this module run full duration without any resupply or deliveries of failed equipment i.e. Elektron oxygen generator. Ugh, if module has life threatening failures of equipment then either let them figure it out or die, or provide backup equipment and then disqualify the simulated mission. However, we have seen what is needed for a long duration mission. I never could understand how they regard the Orion as being a Mars vehicle when it has no room for exercise equipment. ISS crews workout a lot and equipment is much more than a bungee cord that was used on Gemini.

Re:prepare for no resupply vessels or disqualify s (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909428)

Yeah..no. It's to test specific things, not a complete Mars test. and no you don't let them die.

What are you, an animal?

Re:prepare for no resupply vessels or disqualify s (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35921722)

>What are you, an animal?

No but as soon as you have to replace key equipment to prevent death, then the Mars simulation is disqualified. Specific test that needs to be done is a full duration test (i.e. testing an emergency 24-hr generator has to be tested 24 hours, not 10 minutes).

Re:prepare for no resupply vessels or disqualify s (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909596)

I never could understand how they regard the Orion as being a Mars vehicle when it has no room for exercise equipment.

When they were talking about using the Orion as a Mars vehicle, they meant that it was the part that the crew rode up to the Mars transit vehicle, and then rode back down to Earth when they came home.

Re:prepare for no resupply vessels or disqualify s (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35921736)

>part that the crew rode up to the Mars transit vehicle

I wonder how serious they were on this vehicle, that "Apollo on steriods" never impressed me that much except it would be the last manned (HSF) spacecraft this country would produce. oh wait, Elon may come up with something...

Err... (3, Insightful)

transami (202700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909032)

I don't know. Maybe the MOON would make a good testbed!

Doesn't it seem like all we do anymore is prognosticate about what we are going to do, but when the time actually comes to get going we just pull the funding?

Re:Err... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910332)

That depends if you are talking about now, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago, or even freaking 50 years ago...

Open source (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909150)

Maybe someone should write a package about life in a mars colony. They could allow you a first person pount of view, with some limited interaction with the enviornment. We could call it something like "Doing Our Own Mission". Maybe just abbreviate it for simplicity.

The Daily Chimpout (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35909162)

Today, featuring Black American Women Halloween Brawl @ Denny's [youtube.com]

Funny they don't mention Mars 500 (1)

fritsd (924429) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909832)

I'm a bit disappointed that the article doesn't mention the cosmonauts that are already on their simulated way back from their simulated 520-day Mars mission:
Mars 500 timeline [esa.int]
Only half a year more and then they'll be let out of their Moscow container!

Bummer (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910250)

So, I guess this means they've given up on a using a rotating space ship for the trip to Mars? That's disappointing, it would make growing food easier and keep the people healthier.

Landing people on Mars as a first priority seems silly. We should build a rotating Mars space station here in an appropriate orbit, have Space X push it to Mars, then, once we have a space station in orbit of Mars, start attempting landings. Maybe the first crews never go down to the planet, they just do science from LMO. Then, send landers/ascenders to Mars as needed to keep the traffic going up and down. Preferably mostly down, so they can build a rocket facility on Mars before the end of the century.

And, before we send one of those rotating space stations to Mars, we should have one here, for practice. Maybe with real commercial lift about to become a reality it'll turn out that Branson gets one built before NASA.

Crawl, walk, run, in that order. I'm not all that eager to send a bunch of sickened guys in a tin can so they can plant a flag on Mars.

Re:Bummer (1)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910374)

So, I guess this means they've given up on a using a rotating space ship for the trip to Mars?

Or they need the data from this mission to show that they absolutely need a rotating vehicle for a Mars trip. There is so much research and study that needs to happen before any time of Mars mission that it's really too early to tell how they're going to do it.

Re:Bummer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35914350)

a rotating craft would be huge, and would place humans in (one assumes) the habitation modules swinging at the end of a 50 metre box girder. Horrendous safety issues, Coriolis Affect issues... this is so far beyond what we've achieved it's breathtaking.

Mind you of course so was Apollo in 1963..

Well, they need to do SOMETHING with the ISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910486)

It would be nice to see that they can do something with the ISS. Science certainly hasn't been one of them after all these years.

Re:Well, they need to do SOMETHING with the ISS (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910618)

I'm pretty sure they have reams of proof that your statement is false, and you have none that it's true.

Re:Well, they need to do SOMETHING with the ISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35911780)

The problem is that there just isn't enough capacity to do 'ad hoc' research so as a result, the type of work that is being done on the space station is experiments where we already know the results. Is that the stations fault, no, that is a result of not enough ability to bring payload to and from the space station. With the shuttle retirement, there will no longer be any capability to bring anything back either (and yes, I know it hasn't been used in that capacity, but it should have been. It is the prime advantage to the shuttle in the first place).

Re:Well, they need to do SOMETHING with the ISS (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935116)

Huh. Someone alert the ISS crews that it's now a one-way trip.

How About Someplace Closer? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#35911034)

Lets say, oh, I don't know, like maybe the Moon?

Travellers to Mars are dead-meat (1)

halo_2_rocks (805685) | more than 3 years ago | (#35911200)

You need to leave the Earth's magnetic field for a valid test. Right now, we just don't have the technology to safely get a human-being to Mars and back. They'll just be killed from exposure to radiation, micro-metorites, lack of gravity and so on. There are technologies to prevent this - we'll need about 6 feet of lead shielding between the capsule and exposure to the sun's radation and using a rotational section to create gravity for the long journey. Still iffy though since we don't have any known shielding against micro-meteorites. If they hit a storm of those, everyone will be dead. Also, the ship would just have to be huge that we send and I don't think anyone would fund such an operation especially since we don't have an answer about how to keep the crew alive in certain situations. I'm sure we could chance it, but why invest that much if there is a probability everyone would be killed?

Mars sucks there I said it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35912916)

It has a shitty atmosphere and no magnetosphere. The only thing Mars would be good for it to drop a ton of robots on to mine a bunch of resources so we can build a real space ship to take us somewhere worthwhile.

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