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The Challenges of Building a Mars Base

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the needs-a-jacuzzi dept.

NASA 228

ambermichelle writes with an excerpt from an article in Txchnologist: "Going to Mars? Expect to stay a while. Because of the relative motions of Earth and Mars, the pioneering astronauts who touch down on the Martian surface will have to remain there for a year and a half. For this reason, NASA has already started experimenting with a habitat fit for the long-term exploration of Mars. Last year, students at the University of Wisconsin won the XHab competition to design and build an inflatable loft addition to a habitat shell that NASA had already constructed. The final structure now serves as a working model that is being tested in the Arizona desert. Like any home, it's a sacred bulwark against the elements; but not just the cold, heat, and pests of Arizona. A Mars habitat will have to protect astronauts from cosmic rays, solar flares, and unknown soil compositions all while keeping inhabitants happy and comfortable."

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228 comments

Find a big cave (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38639906)

and build it in there.

Re:Find a big cave (4, Funny)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38639954)

Just make sure its actually a cave

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Exogorth [wikia.com]

Re:Find a big cave (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640366)

NASA doing something interesting that pushes the technical envelope? Hah! I mean, while we're at it, let's also talk about:

Microsoft open-sourcing Windows and Office under a GPL or BSD license.
The US Government publically admitting it just hates freedom and loves excuses like terrorism.
The media admitting it hates conservatives.
Stupid repetitive memes getting modded down on Slashdot.
Black people realizing slavery was a long time ago, that everybody (all races) is descended from somebody who was once a slave, and just letting it go.
The US Military no longer being the world's cops.
Huge corporations that never lie and never put profits ahead of human dignity.
The US Government realizing it is too large and repealing 3/4 of all federal laws.
Environmentalists acknowledging their movement was started by Communists and continues to attract them.
The Church of Scientology disbanding.
Politically correct inoffensive types universally recognized as the weak ass-kissers they are.

I mean, if we're going to talk about shit that never actually happens we may as well do it right!

Re:Find a big cave (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640304)

That shouldn't be hard. There's evidence of lots of them. Caves are good -- radiation shielding, sand-storm shielding, and (most important of all) that's where the water is. Further, whilst it's easy to build rovers to explore the surface, it'll take humans to explore subterranean depths -- we can't build robots to handle unknown terrain, there's no sunlight for solar panels, and the lack of isotope production on Earth means building a high-power nuclear battery is not currently viable.

Re:Find a big cave (4, Informative)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640510)

Um, the Mars Science Labratory is going over there with a RTG as the primary power source. The reason the rovers don't explore underground isn't the terrain handling (they already do their own navigation) or the lack of sun, it's the fact that you can't transmit data back out of the cave.

It would be possible for the MSL to explore a cave a little bit, but I'm sure that would cause a lot of nail biting over at NASA.

Re:Find a big cave (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640674)

" it's the fact that you can't transmit data back out of the cave. "

Bet you $1000 I can. It's actually east to do.

It's not possible to communicate to a satellite in the sky with microwave signals from a cave that has no direct line of sight. but it is indeed very possible to transmit data out of a cave and back in. It is done all the time. See how they map the aquifer caves in florida. guys can walk around above ground to follow and talk to the divers underground in the cave and under water.

Re:Find a big cave (3, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641154)

You can have relay stations. That's not a problem. Yes, the rovers can do their own navigation, but caves aren't the same thing as strolling along the surface. Spelunking requires skills that even the most advanced robots to date have enormous difficulty with -- unpredictable traction, corners that require flexibility, debris around which there is no good path, the fact that the original pothole will more likely be a vertical drop than a nice, easy drive-in, etc. (Chances are that most of the entrances will be ancient sinkholes - there may have been a shallow sea on Mars but with no significant moon there would be no tides and therefore no caves formed from the lateral pounding of water.)

The flexibility plays into everything else. There are "snake" robots that can handle the kind of terrain we're talking about. They're designed to and do a wonderful job of it. Those snake robots are not, however, equipt to lug around nuclear batteries. Their ability to climb up vertical walls is astonishing but relies heavily on being able to cling to that wall. Adding a few kilos of battery would not only shift the centre of gravity in the wrong direction, it would vastly exceed the gripping ability of the robots.

Re:Find a big cave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640622)

and the lack of isotope production on Earth means building a high-power nuclear battery is not currently viable.

Lack of isotope production? You see, there's these thingamabobs called nuclear reactors and I've heard tell they're very good at producing isotopes.

Biggest problem is not your imaginary lack of production. Biggest problem is things like plutonium are massive and dense and it is already extremely difficult and expensive to build rockets that can make it to Mars.

Find precious metals on Mars (4, Funny)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38639950)

The base will build itself with corporate sponsorship. Problem solved.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (5, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38639976)

Or oil, never mind that it would waste an incredible amount of energy shipping it back here, the point isn't the energy benefits, the point is showing those dirty hippies who's the boss.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640058)

oil requires trees ... as we haven't even found bacteria on mars, the probability of finding oil is .... low.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640588)

No, oil requires that there were trees, a long time ago.

If we nuked ourselves to shit or an asteroid hit us out and wiped out all higher lifeforms the oil underground would still be there.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640136)

Hmm? Shipping it back would involve exiting the atmosphere (a lot less fuel since Mars has a lot less) and a trajectory calculation w respect to gravitational pull, letting momentum do the rest, unless of course I'm missing something. My point is for us to build a base on Mars practically, something tangible needs to exist there, that way it's an over fattened production budget for building the base, as opposed to a usually meager science budget.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (4, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640266)

My point is for us to build a base on Mars practically

You could have stopped there. It is not an economically feasible operation on any scale larger than "send a couple geeks there to do some science". It may be scientifically interesting, and we may have a lot of NASA geeks get hot and bothered over the prospect of months cooped up in a small cargo container surrounded by inhospitable environment, but there is nothing you can find on Mars (or anywhere else) that would be economically practical to extract and ship back to Earth.

Look at the size and tonnage of the ISS and other space vehicles & modules, then look at their living capacity. You will not have large scale colonization and exploration of space - for economic or survival purposes - without overcoming significant swaths of our current understanding of simple physics.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640464)

The usually-quoted metric is a pound of gold per pound of material into orbit. That's just orbit, not getting the stuff to Mars, or then getting the stuff from Mars back to Earth. To deorbit in Earth's atmosphere, you would need expensive heat shielding (or you'll just get a really nice burn) and the more you plan on bringing back, the more heat shielding you need. If we find an asteroid of pure platinum, it might be commercially viable to mine, but we'll need much better launch facilities before space industry in raw material terms is viable.

Now, that's not to say space is useless commercially. Quasi-crystals are found in space and occur there naturally and frequently, you need a lab to make them on Earth. It may well be, therefore, that the value of -finished- products from space would exceed the launch costs in a few cases, even if raw materials are currently off the table. It's simply a better environment for certain things. "May well be" is not the same, however, as "certainly is". If space production of such-and-such was obviously economic, it would be done. It isn't done, so we can assume that there's no obvious case. Doesn't mean there isn't a case, just means it's not obvious.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641352)

Except for aliens what could they possibly have that would be cost effective for us to mine from Mars and then ship back millions of miles through space to Earth? Seriously, it would have to be something pretty phenomenal to make the cost worthwhile.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640278)

..... You do know where oil comes from, don't you?

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640692)

Hey I gota get more gas for my Hummer H2... I dont want to have to resort to actually putting it in drive. I prefer driving in 1st gear everywhere.... 2.5MPG YEE HA!

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640166)

Oh boy! The Invisible Hand of the Market!

I love how we get to stop thinking whenever we introduce Privatize, Proprietary, Corporate, etc etc etc...

It's the Economist's equivalent of Creationism. So mysterious, because "no one really knows" how or why humans decide to work together. Best not think about it too deeply.

Sure let's just black box everything into a walled garden and ignore the hows and whys. Nevermind that Mars is unexplored natural territory, and opening it to human exploitation by corporate interests will bring binding exclusive agreements, possibly warranting international military treaties.

But at least here on earth we'll get a pleasant story on the nightly news to win our hearts and minds. Yes? Yes?

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640498)

The problem with the Invisible Hand moving the markets is that the markets are an Invisible Dog that bites the Invisible Hand. Sadly, the Invisible Man, owner of the Invisible Hand, has a terrible short-term memory and is therefore never once bitten, twice shy.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640302)

This is actually the core of the problem. We don't have a base on the Moon (for instance) not because we couldn't, but because there is simply no compelling reason to do so. Technical issues of course prevent us from doing it just because we can. There isn't even a scientific reason to justify the cost at this point. Although it would have to be a pretty valuable resource to justify a Mars base when you figure in return costs (and the difficulty of creating rocket fuel on Mars itself.)

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640546)

There isn't even a scientific reason to justify the cost at this point.

In the long run, having our eggs in more than one basket would be nice. At the moment, humans are stored RAID 0 here on Earth.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (5, Interesting)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640734)

Why would it be nice?

Given our current understanding of physics and biology, you would be spending far longer than presently-recorded history traveling in an interstellar "generational" ship to reach the closest stars; there is no guarantee that ANY of them will have earth-like conditions that would be suitable for human life.

We are not going to construct colonies - either floating, or planet-bound, that are of sufficient scale & size to provide any hedge against extinction. The materials, the cost, the risk, and the energy requirements are simply too high.

If you're talking a legitimate hedge against extinction, then you need to:
1) Find another planet that is close enough to earth conditions that it would be suitable for human life.
2) Build a space ship capable of surviving the time required to travel there;
3) Provision a space ship capable of surviving and supporting human life for thousands of years;
4) Build a large enough ship & colonization group that you wouldn't end up with hundreds of generations of inbreeding and genetic defects at the end of the trip;
5) Find a bunch of people who don't mind dooming hundreds of generations of their descendants to life in a tin can hurtling through space, and that they will never, ever see or hear from Earth in any practical manner again;
6) Ensure that no critical part, anywhere, at any point on the trip, goes bad;
7) Figure out a way to land the ship on the far end with all that cargo;
8) Realize that a small gene pool, after thousands of years of travel and introduction to a completely new habitat, may very well diverge from "human" evolution in significant ways such that calling the people landing on the far side of that trip may not be particularly "human" in any appreciable sense anyway.

9) As an alternative to all that, develop faster than light travel or some sort of fool-proof suspended animation, as well as a computer system capable of self-healing and adaption on an unprecedented level, and find a way to power it for thousands of years without error or failure.

In light of all of those limitations, I'd suggest that in the long run, learning to behave like civilized fucking human beings and get along with one another without shitting all over the blankets might just be the easier and more practical way to survive as a species.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641224)

You do realise that there are some planets in our own solar system, right? The summary mentions them.. Colonies around other stars can wait for a long time, since we only need those to protect against really really huge disasters like supernovae or the sun going out. Those aren't going to happen for a VERY long time, so we can ignore other stars for now. What we need is self sustaining colonies off Earth, but near enough to be able to interact with Earth, hear Earth's messages, learn Earth's lessons. The threat we're guarding against is that of having a vast number of people stuck in a single biosphere, all complex unpredictable people, occasionally inventing new and dangerous things. A few decades ago, nuclear war seemed like the manifestation of that. We got past that hurdle with civilisation intact. How many more inventions like that will there be? How many times can we pass the test?

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38641110)

We don't have a base on the moon because military dominance is more cheaply available from orbit and from sea-based nuclear platforms.

A moon is like a big ol' firebase hanging over an entire planet. Which is why I always take over the moons as soon as I invade any inhabited system.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (2)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640822)

You DO understand, of course, that is pretty much how the New World was found and developed, right?

Certainly, they were governments backing many (but not all of) these explorers, but by and large their motives were entirely commercial.

Now, governments pretty much just impede whatever progress they can when they're not too preoccupied providing bread and circuses for the ignorant masses.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

Flipstylee (1932884) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641014)

The base will build itself with corporate sponsorship. Problem solved.

And from what i hear, once we get down to that Goldium, they'll send us some credits
so we can purchase that beefy drill-head from the shop.

Re:Find precious metals on Mars (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641280)

If Mars were made of solid gold it would still be too expensive for any private venture to go there.

not soil (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38639956)

Its not soil, it is regolith.

Re:not soil (4, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640360)

Its not soil, it is regolith.

We're not entirely sure about that yet. The difference between soil and regolith is that soil has active bacteria and organic material suspended among the ground up rock particles. We've taken a few samples that show no organic material, but the methodology behind the testing and the results is in dispute.

Bear in mind, though, that except in geology papers, regolith and soil are synonyms.

Re:not soil (2)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640786)

Bear in mind, though, that except in geology papers, regolith and soil are synonyms.

You mean: aside from places where the term regolith appears, regolith and soil are synonyms. That means the same as what you said, but is less misleading. :)

Mars.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38639960)

It's a cool thought, but we haven't even built a base on the Moon yet, or sent people to Mars. (although I guess you could send modules, and robots to Mars first to get things put together before they send people).

I rememeber in Middle School (Jr High) I had a science teacher that made an assignment where we would all have to design a "feasable" base design for mars. Obviously at that young age we didn't go through the mass complexities that really exists, but he did expect us to do a fair amount of research on Mars, and what plan what kinds of things would be necessary for survival, how you could make the base as self sustainable as possable, where on the planet would be best (and why we thought so) etc.

I've never forgotten that lesson, it was actually one where a teacher expected growth of thinking skills, not just a rehashing of materials from a text book...

Re:Mars.. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640018)

The point is that in order to go we'd have to either have someplace for the astronauts to stay before their return visit or we'd have to make it a suicide mission. There isn't really much middle ground to be had, if there aren't plans for a return it's unlikely that there will be a return.

Re:Mars.. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640624)

The moon would be much harder than Mars. No significant water, the dust is microscopic and razor sharp, there's no cave networks for shielding, etc. All the arguments Carl Sagan mentions in his novel "Contact" that favoured Mars over the moon for construction work also apply.

One thing about complexities is that you can always stepwise-refine a design that you already have, but you can't ever improve on a design you never had.

I taught for a year a range of subjects using a similar method to the one your teacher used. It's impressive how much more you can convey when the kids discover the whys of things. For starters, there's much less talk of "what good is this?" when examining something real from the past or something that could be real in the future. Since the things you see are going to be the things you consider useful, you've answered your own question without the bother of asking it.

I hope they learned something from Apollo 18 (4, Funny)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640002)

That those fucking rocks are really spiders!!

Cryosleep (1, Interesting)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640048)

The obvious and simple solution is cryo-sleep. Just ship some capsules along with a rudimentary habitat, and be prepared to sleep most of the time away. The Mars explorers can't realistically bring 18 months' worth of food and oxygen and medical supplies and whatever else--tampons, contact lenses, etc. So just send a month's supply of food, and they can sleep for 17 months until the return vessel arrives.

Cooling the human body to a near-death state has been demonstrated--actually, it has happened many times when people fall into icy water and are revived many minutes later (google extreme hypothermia).

Another concept might be to simply upload the astronaut's neural net into a very high capacity computer. Once this task is accomplished, the computer can continue to operate a space vessel and otherwise completely imitate a human being's decisionmaking and responses. One possible catch is that the computer, unlike an organic brain, lacks any stimulus from hormonal secretions, adrenaline, etc. This kind of stimulus would have to be simulated. The astronauts themselves would remain on Earth, monitoring the flight. Any mistakes or accidents would be blamed on the individual whose brain had been uploaded, obviously.

Lastly is the idea of telecommuting (similar to the second idea expounded above). A completely automated vessel with remote controls would allow a team of astronauts to "work from home". Unlike an actual trip into space, this virtual exploration would be much safer. In fact, the astronauts' main concern would be cutting themselves while slicing a bagel in the kitchen--the number one injury in the home. Nasa would probably want to ban bagels during this time, or maybe send them pre-sliced versions.

In summary, there are quite a few workarounds for this problem and I look forward to a lively discussion!

Re:Cryosleep (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640342)

The obvious and simple solution is cryo-sleep. Just ship some capsules along with a rudimentary habitat, and be prepared to sleep most of the time away. The Mars explorers can't realistically bring 18 months' worth of food and oxygen and medical supplies and whatever else--tampons, contact lenses, etc. So just send a month's supply of food, and they can sleep for 17 months until the return vessel arrives.

I think that compared to the amount of fuel and supplies they're going to have to carry to travel to mars, build a habitat and survive for months (years?) on Mars' surface, supplying them with food on the trip there is not going to be a big deal. The ISS goes through around 3 tons of food per person per year.

Cooling the human body to a near-death state has been demonstrated--actually, it has happened many times when people fall into icy water and are revived many minutes later (google extreme hypothermia).

But waking them up again without a team of doctors to assist is rare.

Another concept might be to simply upload the astronaut's neural net into a very high capacity computer. Once this task is accomplished, the computer can continue to operate a space vessel and otherwise completely imitate a human being's decisionmaking and responses. One possible catch is that the computer, unlike an organic brain, lacks any stimulus from hormonal secretions, adrenaline, etc. This kind of stimulus would have to be simulated. The astronauts themselves would remain on Earth, monitoring the flight. Any mistakes or accidents would be blamed on the individual whose brain had been uploaded, obviously.

How would you do this? Dissect a live astronaut's brain cell by cell to determine each neural connection?

Lastly is the idea of telecommuting (similar to the second idea expounded above). A completely automated vessel with remote controls would allow a team of astronauts to "work from home". Unlike an actual trip into space, this virtual exploration would be much safer.

The 6 minute to 45 minute round trip communications lag makes this difficult (but not impossible as demonstrated by the mars rovers).

I think a hybrid of your last two approaches is better than sending men right now - send smart robots to build a base, they can be largely autonomous, and when they need help, they await communications from earth.

Or, maybe instead of sending a large team of men to live on the surface and build a habitat, send a large team of drone robots controlled from orbit by a small team of humans.

Re:Cryosleep (2)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640806)

Cryosleep might be needed if we're ever to engage in interstellar travel in the future, but the problem with a Mars mission is not that the astronauts are going to age into old farts before they get there: it's surviving once they DO get there.

FAT ASTRONAUTS!!! (2)

spineboy (22918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641174)

Human body fat is the most efficient way for a human to store energy. Give them enough (recycled) water, some vitamins and protein and they will shed weight all the way to Mars, and back maybe too.

Cryo sleep will not work, because joints will become fibrosed, muscles will atrophy, etc.

So to figure out how FAT our ASTRONAUTS will be - we'll need to look at some numbers.
A pound of fat can expend about 3500 KCAL of energy.
An average male basal metabolic rate is around 2000 KCAL/day.

Now using conventional fuel - the trip takes 214 days, using a constant propulsion nuclear motor might shorten it to 120 days

Soooo - ballpark FAT ESTIMATES are for conventional fuel 214 x 2000 = 428,000 KCALs
428,000 KCAL /3500KCal/fat = 122 pounds (or about 56 Kilos extra)

    Nuke fuel require them to only gain about 70 pounds extra.

Now this is a one way trip - so lets double the weight to provide for our FAT ASTRONAUTS to get back home safely

So now we are looking at 244 pounds EXTRA - or a 444 pound (200 KILO) Buzz Aldrin... for conventional fuel
and for constant acceleration nuke powered craft - a 340 pound Buzz Aldrin

This will make the newer movie version of the RIGHT STUFF a bit different to watch. All those neck beards out there - yep - you're training for a MARS mission....

Air drop that puppy (2)

jzarling (600712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640068)

The NASA video shows them bringing whole hab in on 3 semi-trailers -
Why not airdrop the major components in, and see if putting the thing up while encumbered with a suit is feasible.

Re:Air drop that puppy (2)

mvar (1386987) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640094)

and do this in Antarctica where the weather conditions will be much more harsh than in the desert

Re:Air drop that puppy (1)

nwf (25607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640146)

and do this in Antarctica where the weather conditions will be much more harsh than in the desert

Or in Antarctica in suits pressurized to 1.5 to 2 atmospheres like the dwelling should be. That's an even better test.

Re:Air drop that puppy (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641230)

Exactly. A real condition would be Antarctica, though even year around artic region is doable, initially. But before sending a crew to mars or moon, we really should test at the south pole.

Testing is done in stages. (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640274)

The NASA video shows them bringing whole hab in on 3 semi-trailers - Why not airdrop the major components in, and see if putting the thing up while encumbered with a suit is feasible.

Testing is done in stages. First see if we have the concepts and solution correct with basic equipment. Then figure out how to ruggedize the equipment. If the concept was flawed or the basic equipment lacking then ruggedizing would be a waste of time and money.

Re:Air drop that puppy (3, Informative)

White Yeti (927387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640396)

The HDU work to-date has focused on developing processes, procedures, and some technologies you'd need to live away from Earth. The first assumption is, "We have a habitat." They're still figuring out where to put lights and bunks before building expensive hardware for tests in near-Earth space. With current Administration/NASA plans, the next step is a Lagrange point and/or asteroid. Mars (and those siting and assembly issues) will have to wait...

Re:Air drop that puppy (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640598)

I don't think this is an oversight on NASA's part.

I mean, would you want to take on the expense of air dropping if you don't even know if the thing is livable? First test out the practicality of the unit in an assembled state, and then figure out how to air drop it and how it can be assembled in a suit.

Challenge 1: Landing (5, Interesting)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640118)

We can't fucking land more than about tonne on that planet. [universetoday.com] . Forget the time and the <50% success rate of achieving orbit and landing a probe. We could land on either Phobos or Deimos no problem. Mars has just enough atmosphere to really screw things up.

To even consider going to Mars we first need to send at least 5 rockets full of supplies and land them literally next to each other. We also need to park another 2 or 3 in orbit to hold fuel for Mars Orbit Docking in order to dock and go home within a reasonable time frame. Aldrin's free transfer trajectory is great but unsuitable for human passage.

Get the supplies and contingency machines in place, then think about it. But first figure out how to drop 5 tonnes safely to a very particular spot on the surface. Now do it repeatedly. Because that's what landing on Mars requires.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640168)

I'm sorry, this space is for space nuttery, not your sober assessment of feasibility and practical limitations.

Sober Assessment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640448)

The GP was giving a sober assessment. The folks who think we can do it with Apollo-equivalent effort are the type of completely bizarre nutters who think Ron Paul makes sense.

Re:Sober Assessment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640552)

Yes, I realize he was giving a sober assessment. That's why I pointed out that the reply section on this post is reserved for space nuttery, not his brand of sober assessment.

This type of article is where people magically assume that we're going to transcend biology and the simple physics involved in space travel to somehow magically create a colony on another planet that will somehow magically become economically viable, rather than "a place where a few bright people might be able to do some interesting science at egregiously large taxpayer expense, but that's about it."

Re:Sober Assessment (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641126)

Perhaps the entire chain of "sober assessors" should take up drinking since this is some pretty flaky reasoning going on.

Re:Sober Assessment (3, Insightful)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641132)

Heh. me giving a sober assessment.

It's not about the will to do it (although that does play a role). The minute the copycyt Chinese land on the Moon the US -- possibly together with Russia &/or the EU -- will put an Apollo-type effort into getting to Mars. Hell, Just read Mary Roach's Packing for Mars (ISBN 978-1-85168-780-0) and see what nearly insurmountable problems there were in getting to the Moon, and she really only deals with life sciences, not physics.

The problem is that we can't realistically get a payload of sufficient size there. The technological hurdles are easy; the problems are physics and biology. We can build a dozen rockets, take advantage of orbital mechanics for unmanned segments, launch 'em off three full-size gantries together so that one launch window serves three machines.

But before we even think about getting the people there we still have to figure out how to arrive, orbit, and then land precisely -- repeatedly -- unmanned, all while dealing with the 8-minute radio delay in the best of circumstances.

The problem of human physiology is even worse than the physics problem. We can come up with odd trajectories and multiple burns and en-route dockings to provide additional fuel to carry such things out. Have you ever seen the astronauts coming back from 3-6 months on the ISS? It takes a huge fucking crew [youtube.com] to get them out of the return vehicle and into recovery. It takes three strong men just to pull those poor bastards off the couch and out of the capsule. And that's from LEO. There ain't no recovery crews waiting on Mars.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (0, Flamebait)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641016)

Sorry you are, eh? How valorous of you, anonymous coward.

Which space? This thread, that part of humanity's mind-space which deals in such things, or somewhere in between?

Where, for you, is the line 'tween nuttery and not-nuttery? Geo-stationary? Or have you decided, in your ineffable wisdom, simply that whatever now is, is OK, and that we must all lock ourselves into the stultified arena of 'this far, and no further'? Shall we leave the future to the same mentalities of those who proclaimed that Man would never fly, that transmitting pictures through the air was the fevered product of an opium dream?

Perhaps unbeknownst to you, there are many well-qualified people working on this and related matters, things - feasible and practical - and endeavours which may clash with your mindset. Plenty of information is readily available to anyone with a jot of curiousity, to anyone, that is, but a dolt, or a knee-jerk negativist.

Or perhaps you have your own enlightened viewpoint for matters off-planet, the right way, the one true way, which you don't care to share, but rather content yourself with dropping a turd in the punchbowl?

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (5, Insightful)

realisticradical (969181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640378)

So it sounds like there are multiple extremely difficult problems to work through. Isn't that kind of the point of this sort of thing?

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640676)

Please, not that again. We haven't landed more than 1 ton at a time yet but we could do it within a few years if we wanted too. There are no fundamental limitations. See for example the hypercone [wikipedia.org] concept.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640808)

It seems a waste to drop 5 tonnes if we don't know if it's going to be feasible to send people there to use it. Checking out how people react to this sort of isolation and limited environment is the logical first step.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641190)

It seems a waste to drop 5 tonnes if we don't know if it's going to be feasible to send people there to use it. Checking out how people react to this sort of isolation and limited environment is the logical first step.

We already know. This would not be the first time people have been in extreme isolation and a limited environment. Now there might be a variety of relevant issues, such as vetting psychological screening procedures or adjusting crew environment for a better psychological outcome, that need to be evaluated, but this isn't a show stopper for a Mars mission.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640888)

You don't think that perhaps the 'land 5 rocketloads of bulk supplies' mightn't provide a wonderful testbed for this?

Granted, this IS rocket science, and it's really really hard. But considering the failure-tolerance for the habitation part, compared to the failure tolerances for the bulk-shipping piece, I'm unsurprised that they start with the hardest part.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640910)

I'd actually recommend more than 5. So long as the containers are crush-resistant, the failures of deorbiting aren't catastrophic. Doesn't matter if the supply rockets crash beyond the point where a radio transmitter would function or a rover could survive, they just have to be intact enough that whatever they're shipping (panels and poles for a geodesic dome, for example) retain structural integrity. That makes life a lot easier.

I wouldn't bother putting fuel in orbit - leakage would be a problem. Much better would be to have an orbiting module capable of housing the astronauts for a day or so plus with enough fuel to dock with a rocket that wasn't planning on stopping. (Not quite free-return, but has much of the simplicity of it. And simple is always better for this sort of thing.)

Getting the supplies to a specific point shouldn't be a huge issue -- interplanetary rockets were built to show off intercontinental ballistic missile guidance systems and Russia's guidance systems are said to be able to place rockets within a few feet of an intended target. If this is correct, then that problem is solved. So long as political barriers are not just torn down but smashed, pulverized and recycled as pot-hole filler. THAT is, I suspect, a much bigger problem. The US and Russia will never agree to trade what they regard as prized military secrets in favour of doing something useful. Especially in the current toxic climate.

The problem with highly crushable rockets is that they can hold less. Hence the need for more rockets, if we go with that approach. The advantage is that all they need to is land, they don't need to land gently and they don't need more than a minimal braking system. (The rocket contents surviving is pointless if the rocket craters, since digging the damn thing out will take too much time.)

The use of underground caves reduces radiation, which means that you can lob rockets at relatively nearby entrances to such systems. It would be safe enough to cross between them, which - on the surface - would be madness at best. That improves things somewhat.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (1)

jzarling (600712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640960)

exactly -
And even if they do land these parts within say 50 feet of each other how are they going to move it all to put it together. Rather than that cute explorer vehicle - it will need a crane of some kind or the whole thing will need to be inflatable, and then have a catalyst that makes the walls solid.

Re:Challenge 1: Landing (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641198)

Dropping 5 tonnes is not going to happen. It will have to be landed using a VTVL craft. Think Blue Origin. Think Armadillo. Think even SpaceX's grasshopper. Once they have these taking 5 tonnes to 60 miles and down, all under power, and can do it 10x or more without a re-build, then it should be capable of doing the same on mars without issues. And that will happen within 10 years here. Change the engines to methane, the design to a truck that can take a load up or down and automatically off-load it, then we have it done.

However, I agree with you about the rest. And what you missed is that it would be more than 2 or 3 in orbit. Have to include, water, supplies, etc. Instead, it is actually better to send a crew on a one-way mission, allow them to build a base over 10 years, as well as control robotic exploration on the surface. Once we have ascertained that Mars does not harbor life that can harm earth, and we have enough of a base, we can focus on a transport vehicle using NERVA. Then if the crew wants to come back, they can.

Why have a base above ground? (2)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640120)

If NASA was smart, they would send robots to build a tunnel in a mountain, or underground. This would protect astronauts from all the elemnts including cosmic rays.

Re:Why have a base above ground? (3, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640324)

Maybe NASA is so smart that they've ruled that out already as impractical?

If Sarah Palin can come up with "Drill Baby, Drill," I'm pretty sure the brainiacs at NASA with all their learnin' have at least considered the notion.

Re:Why have a base above ground? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640496)

    Primary habitation below ground seem prudent, but a surface structure is almost certainly necessary, as well. Making both capable of shielding occupants from various radiation & weather phenomenon seems like the wiser approach. The underground facility could experience geological failure (quake due to nearby impact, underground fracture) making a surface-based facility necessary to escape to.
    I think, like a below-surface lunar base, an underground Mars habitat would have to be fully enclosed and capable of accommodating for minor changes in the surrounding geology; a balloon structure surrounded by several metres of foam, or something.Suspended from the surface, maybe additionally supported at the base with hydraulic struts.
    So which of the two structures is easier to build first?
    It would seem that the more efficient solution would be to send robots ahead to dig the hole, but building the two structures is a labour & time consuming project, and the efficiency only stays relevant if everything goes according to plan. Run into a big enough snag, and you'll need a person there any way.
    But why would we even drop down into a gravity well again? If we are stuck in a contained environment, and there is no hope (based on our current & anticipated knowledge) of ever terraforming Mars, we are better off putting our effort into persisting in space. Go to Mars to live? Sure, but lets reshape Phobos & Deimos into habitable environs and use Mars as a gravity anchor, first. Lots of material to work with, and it's already in orbit...
    It makes no sense to me to expend all this effort to get off of our planet, only to drop right back down into another gravity trap, if habitation is our goal. But then, this theme always comes up, every time the notion "colonize Mar!" comes up.

Re:Why have a base above ground? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38641072)

Making a prefabricated structure fit inside an irregular cave using only the tools you can fit inside a spaceship is more than rocket science.

Research on low (not just zero) gee needed (2)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640230)

I hate to bring up something that can only bring up more cost and delay to the exploration and colonization of Mars (and other worlds) but we REALLY need to figure out human biological response to differing gravity levels. Extended stays in zero (micro-gravity) environments have shown that a vigorous regimen of physical activity is necessary to keep astronauts healthy. Will the same be true on the Moon (1/6 earth gravity)? On Mars (1/3 earth gravity)? Will they need to do the same strenuous (and tedious) daily exercises for the same length of time?

Eventually, of course, it'll be "vital" to know if women can conceive, gestate, bear and raise infants in these varying gee environments (at least until they're old enough to exercise by themselves). But that can wait.

This seems to be perhaps the ONE thing that the ISS could do that cannot be possibly done on earth. Perform long term studies of humans in environments where the gravity is 0ISS1. Of course that would involve a big (very expensive) centrifuge or at very least a smaller one capable of using small animals. I understand that there was a (small) one planned but it was cut. Considering the long term importance of this, I would say that they should spend the big bucks and put in a big one (large enough so that coriolus effects wouldn't be noticeable) and study it thoroughly. Since this (human biology) is truly an international issue (rather than one nation planting a flag), I would hope it would get international support. Pinwheels in the sky a la 2001 here we come!

Of course if the results are bad (humans, especially reproducing females, are found to be exquisitely tuned to one gee) we may need to wait until genetic engineering can adapt us to our environment rather than the other way around. In that case I've got a whole host of other "improvements" I'd like to see (radiation tolerance, hibernation capability, vacuum safe bodies...)

Re:Research on low (not just zero) gee needed (1)

WillHirsch (2511496) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640570)

This might be a priority for colonization but not necessarily for exploration. People have remained in zero-g for more than a year, so we may not be all that far off knowing enough about the effects of an 18-month mission to Mars, lack of massive centrifuge notwithstanding.

Re:Research on low (not just zero) gee needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640906)

Forget the "gravity studies", we already wasted enough time on the shuttle and ISS. Send people there. If you tell them the worst that could happen you'd still get hundreds of top shelf scientists to volunteer. the "Right Stuff" days are over; it's Science Time now, soldier.

Re:Research on low (not just zero) gee needed (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640990)

Low g will almost certainly cause muscle loss, calcium loss and space sickness, though not to the same degree as zero gravity. The question is what the function is. It's doubtful it's a linear relationship between gravity and consequence, nothing in nature is that simple.

A really sick, sick mind might mention that there's been repeated talk of launching a space brothel along the lines of the Russian space hotel. With suitable danger money bonuses, the rest of your questions would be answered 9 or so months after opening.

just dont come back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640260)

simple solution: if i got a terminal illness id seriously consider volunteering for a one way mission there. First person to die on another planet... sounds cool to me.

Re:just dont come back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38641078)

Great. Now all you need to do is find an illness that will kill you, but will take at least three or four years to do so and in the meantime will have absolutely no symptoms that would in any way impede your ability to operate a spacecraft and help set up a base on a world that's inhospitable to life. Oh, and it also has to be incommunicable.

I would say one big challenge is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640328)

that people simply don't live long enough to care about such long term goals. But life extension is bad, I get it.

That design has flaws... (1)

SebaSOFT (859957) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640352)

like the airlock opening inwards and the waste in weight and energy that is having an elevator in the middle of the dome, some stair would do just fine!

Re:That design has flaws... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640788)

The airlock opens inward because the inside pressure would help to keep the door closed. I thought the same way about the stair though, until I thought about trying to bring equipment into or out of the loft. Actually, I don't really see the point of the loft. I think they'd be better off with an inflatable room off to the side.

Re:That design has flaws... (1)

SebaSOFT (859957) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641188)

Intresting about the pressure, but still the airlock looks like a pretty small chamber for the door and astronaut. Still lots of stuff could be better, including not having external access at all (underground stuff) and only have sunlight to enter to the sungarden.

Re:That design has flaws... (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640842)

Yes, it's much better to just have a failed door lock between you and explosive decompression, that's a much better design for living someplace with virtually no atmosphere. Why have your habitat's internal air pressure contribute to (and reinforce) the seal on the door by making it open inward?

Why isn't it underground? (5, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640376)

I'm always confused by base designs for other worlds that are invariably above ground. Why waste the protective features of just burying things?

I suppose it's difficult to dig a base into the earth but because there's very little atmosphere to speak of you have no real protection against radiation. And then there are questions of insulation. Put twenty feet of dirt between your habitat and the surface and all sorts of problems go away.

No problem with micro meteorites since they'd have to penetrate 20 feet of dirt to even touch your habitat.

No problem with radiation unless it can go through 20 feet of dirt. I know really hard radiation can... but that has to take most of the edge off it. And if needed you can always go deeper.

No problem with dust storms because it's all raging above you. I suppose a dune could position itself on top of your access shaft but there are some fairly cheap ways to make that manageable.

So on and so forth.

this goes double for the moon. For the love of god there's not even a weak atmosphere on the moon. No protection. Put the facility down twenty feet though and you can inflate your little habitat to your heart's content knowing that the whole place isn't going to get stabbed by a thousand micro meteorites or flash burned by a solar flare.

The only thing that really needs to be on the surface is an access shaft complete with airlocks. A communications array so you can broadcast to orbital relays or directly to earth. And some solar cells. Bury everything else.

If we build underground we might not even need those somewhat elaborate bubble walls they're talking about inflating. We might just be able to get by with something to harden the earth up and then maybe a spray on polymer to make sure the walls are airtight.

If people want to see the surface they can use one of the video feeds or climb up the ladder/take the elevator to the surface.

Re:Why isn't it underground? (2)

Dragon_Eater (829389) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640550)

I second this with as much gusto as I can!!!!

Underground is a HUGE idea that is already used for data centers on our little rock.

Re:Why isn't it underground? (1)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640690)

If people want to see the surface they can use one of the video feeds or climb up the ladder/take the elevator to the surface.

If this is enough why don't just send a probe with a video camera and view the feed from your comfortable home down here on Earth? Much cheaper, too.

As others already said: There's just no fscking reason to go there. The only reason is "we want to" and nobody likes to say this, so everybody makes up scientific reasons and others that never hold up to any kind of analysis.

Yeah, I think we should go to Mars (and elsewhere, like the Jupiter moons) just because we can and want. It's hard and it's expensive and dangerous and possible, so let's do it. Let's do all the science we can on the way, but don't think even for a moment that this is the actual reason.

Re:Why isn't it underground? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640724)

Very well said. Even if we did not want to bury the thing, we could simply create a tunnel into the side of a mountain (artificial cave) or find ourselves a cave and seal it ourselves.

What you say makes sense, and it protects people from most of what could harm humans on the planet and to top everything else, makes most of the problems on the surface go away. Like you said, trips to the surface to explore would be easy with air-locks and access shafts and communication equipment and/or solar cells could be serviced fairly easilly with machinery we had already built there. I am not so sure myself why this fascination with a "dome" is with scientists nowadays anyway. A dome has so many issues that it seems just a giant waste of money when the most practical solution is staring us right in the face.

Bury the base underground, use a nuclear reactor to power it, and use lights to grow your plants, etc and whatever else you need. Use technology and whatever else you need to live.

Like this article shows us, the astronauts would need to live there for a year and a half, so if you give them the tools to dig and to expand their home in the underground chambers, they could probably create quite a base in that time frame that by the time it was time to return to Earth would be quite something for the next crew to come and take their turn. Just give the astronauts the equipment necessary and let them work. Time to work and plenty of it with little communication and a time lag of an hour between Mars and Earth would give them plenty of time to work on keeping busy as what else are they going to do in the meantime?

Just a thought anyway. A pre-built dome would be quite boring as it would be the same thing day in and day out until catastrophe struck and everyone just dies. Or best case scenario they are just bored out of their minds for a year and a half. Not sure what moron thought a giant dome on the surface was a grand idea, but I thought after all the failures with the biosphere in the past and how boring that was for all involved that this idea would have died like the dodo a long time ago.

Re:Why isn't it underground? (5, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640832)

Because it's VERY expensive to ship earth-moving construction equipment (sorry, MARS-moving equipment) through space, and it'd take far too long to dig a habitat with a shovel.

Re:Why isn't it underground? (1)

vic.tz (1000138) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641272)

For an underground base on both the moon and Mars, you would just need to bring a healthy supply of wood. I imagine in both places, there should be plenty of stone to harvest, so you'd be able to craft a pickaxe (and other tools) fairly quickly. I'd bring a copy of the crafting wiki just to be sure. Assuming a 3 man crew and a well planned design, a modest underground bunker should be possible within a few hours, depending on whether you run into bedrock or whatnot.

For a trip to Mars, you'd want to bring a good amount of coal to make use of the iron that's available, too. I would think the biggest risk factor would be creeper defenses, but that can be designed into the bunker.

Re:Why isn't it underground? (2)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641136)

As logical as mining is, there are essentially two ways to do it.

1) dig.
Digging is problematic because digging requires extraordinarily tough and durable tools. Usually this means unbelievably heavy. In a lower-gravity environment, they might even have to be heavier (I am not a planetary scientist, I don't know if Mars' gravity being only 38% earth's would mean it's proportionally easier to dig into). Weight is the primary barrier to anything going into space, at least until we have orbital factories fed asteroids for raw materials. Look at all the designs for spacecraft and structures - their characteristic is that they're intrinsically fragile, mainly because they are so lightweight.
(And FWIW, mining without machinery - in case anyone even considered that - is laughably, crazy-hard work. Like, back-breaking hard.)

2) boom
The other way to dig is to drop something from really high and/or let it explode. You end up with a nice crater (hole) and a lot of nicely loosened soil, so building a habitation semi-below-ground is easier, and then roofing it over with the debris is easier too. Yet I don't believe we're desperate enough yet to start bombing Mars (although I'd certainly consider it a reasonable alternative for the Moon, particularly with the damn spider rocks).

3) the unknown
The problem with digging in, for both #1 and #2 above, is that we know almost NOTHING about the geology beneath say, the top couple of inches of a teensy bit of Martian terrain. Take a random square kilometer of land area on Earth....what are the odds that you could a) successfully dig more than 3m vertically AND 2) end up with a supportable space underground that wouldn't collapse? I'd guess it's something below 1/10. And this is for ground that we know several orders of magnitude better than the Martian soil. It's too much of a crapshoot, because if you drop a 'Mars base builder kit' and your ground sucks, well, you're done, you lose. (Certainly it would be a much higher proportion of terrain you COULD dig into and with the right structuring you could create a habitation even under loose sand - but now you run into the weight question again, because now your base parts aren't just strong enough to support themselves and repel hazards, they also have to carry several TONS of dirt all the time.)

Which reminds me (2)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640394)

A new Total Recall movie is in the works. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1386703/ [imdb.com]

Re:Which reminds me (1)

RockClimbingFool (692426) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640952)

This is the first time that I have heard about the remake. I clicked on the link thinking, "This is awesome!!!"

Then I read this...

Colin Farrel as Doug Quaid

Dammit!!!!

Re:Which reminds me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38641104)

But then if you read further, you see:

Jessica Biel
Kate Beckinsale

And at that point, you can probably put up with Colin Farrel.

Not Cool Anymore (2)

guttentag (313541) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640402)

Going to Mars was cool last century. This century our priorities have shifted and we can't put humans in orbit of this planet without making them honorary cosmonauts.

If you want to get people interested in going to Mars, you need to start by erasing the memory of the film "Mission To Mars" from the public consciousness. The very thought of going to Mars now triggers a knee-jerk reaction of: "Wait... didn't Quinn Mallory, Ken Mattingly and Merlin already do this? And it sucked?" It might be easier to simply rename Mars and make it sound like we're going somewhere new and exciting, like Pandora. Then we can start thinking about this again.

Screw Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640648)

Literally. Have the butt-end of the lander be a giant screw, that drills directly into the crust, followed by an at-least-equal-length tube of approximately the same diameter. Then fill the tube with like-diameter sphere-in-sphere modules that stabilize and interconnect afterwards. The extra space around the spheres could be flooded with some kind of expandable foam insulate, or cheese, or whatever.

The module is missing..... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640728)

An inflatable Greenhouse.

Honestly, why not ship up seeds and have them grow some easy food crops? Plus the greenhouse will deliver free heat, something that is needed for a habitat even in the tropics of mars.

Cheaper alternatives (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38640760)

Don't go at all, just insert memories on interested people of a gorgeous trip to mars, solving a conspiracy, meeting mutants, and activating an alien device that terraforms the planet. Another option is be unplugged from Matrix: Y2K, and get plugged into Matrix: Mars Colonization. Or something more spacey, build a team of robots capable of building a mars colony by themselves (even finding the resources for doing so) and don't launch them, as will be more valuable to use them right here by the time they are finished.

Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640946)

Hi gang,

There ain't sh%t going on on Mars yall.... just hollyweird cgi... don't let them fool you!!!!

stop the fanboy fantasizing...

Thanx!

They look so sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38640970)

Sitting in a barrel on a lifeless desert planet... At least they could have some fun with each other.

Bigelow or IDC Dover (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641068)

I think that If BA or IDC were smart, they would put one of their units at a south pole base and and see how they do. It would be useful to see them hit -100F/-70C or below. That would enable it show how they will do at Mars and parts of the moon. And as far as dropping on the mars or lunar surface, that makes little sense. There are plenty of caverns at both places. Put it down one and drop soil/regolith on top for insulation. At the very least offer up some sort of seal at the opening with a walk-way down to the habitat. That would limit the exchange of heat to make it easier to keep an iso temp.

Re:Bigelow or IDC Dover (2)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641236)

A near vacuum is actually a pretty good insulation. Regolith would help against radiation, though. Ice would be even better, there are quite a few places on Mars with thick ice deposits. You also get water there (no, really?)...

Still, all of this is pointless. There's just nothing that robotic probes wouldn't do much cheaper, especially since they don't need to breath, eat, drink, wash and be returned.

Moon base should be first (1)

raydias (898043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38641304)

yes it would be cool to be on Mars but with the risks and costs the moon base should be the first step. Prove the technology closer to home, isn't that why we built the Space Station (other than job security for defense contractors across the globe). The moon has resources we can use to launch a mission to Mars. With the lower gravity than Mars the Moon base can give humanity a better look at how long term exposure to low gravity will affect us while still being close to home. An international moon research facility would provide a much better return on investment and prepare for a longer journey. Get a Moon base up and running can be done with robotics, testing climate controls, hydroponics, water reclamation/recycling etc as well as rocket designs, radiation shielding ... We could even send the Current Space station as an orbital go between for the Moon instead of crash the station into the ocean at end of life. put a few rockets and slowly take it into Moon orbit. once we have a base built on the moon that has been tested via robotics and remote science equipment an expedition can go to the station in orbit around the moon (where supplies could be waiting) then take a trip down the the lunar surface. Add a space elevator between the moon and orbiting space station so you don't need to use fuel. Robotic cargo ships can ferry supplies and refuse between earth and the space station. It just seems to me we just started crawling in space with the Space station and now we want to run like Forest Gump by sending a manned mission to Mars at a far higher price than going back to the Moon
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