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Could Curiosity Rover Moonlight As Part of a Sample Return Mission?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the be-grateful-for-infinite-resources dept.

Mars 65

pigrabbitbear writes "After recent budget cuts to NASA's Mars program, the agency's dream of a sample return mission within the next decade is dead in the water. But the $2.5 billion rover Curiosity is on its way to the red planet right now, and speculation is popping up online that it could fairly easily be retrofitted with the hardware needed to collect and store samples. Theoretically NASA would just need one more mission to collect and return those samples, turning Curiosity into the first phase of the sample return dream."

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Cost (3, Informative)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229463)

Most of the cost of a sample return mission is the launcher to get the rocks back into space. Compared to that a basic rover is cheap.

Re:Cost (0, Troll)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229509)

There is, of course, much legitimate debate about just how much of the money going to NASA is well spent, and whether that money should be spent right here on earth instead of up in the heavens looking at rocks. I certainly do not plan to weigh in on that debate here.

However, I must say that I have been very enamored with the rover missions from the start, and my children and I followed them fairly closely during their first year on Mars. We built toy models of the rovers and viewed many an animation and photograph on the Internet. I remember reading that one of the rovers (I don't recall which one) had traveled some particular distance (I don't recall how far) and taking a stroll outside our house that was roughly the same distance, just to get a feel for it. The idea of walking along such a truly distant shore was simply fascinating to me.

Profitable or wasteful, harmful or beneficial, search for truth or wild goose chase, I believe that missions such as that of these Mars rovers are products, at least in part, of the truth expressed by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:11 when he says, "[God] has put eternity in their hearts..."

Additionally, and you may disagree with this, is that I got laid just an hour ago. Split the wood like an oversized and improperly placed lagging screw. O' Lord, shall my nuts lie content tonight.

Re:Cost (1, Troll)

Claymsmith (1405371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229563)

The availability of my mod points is inversely related to the average stupidity of the days posts.

Re:Cost (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229735)

The availability of your mod points is directly proportional to how much of a faggot you are.

--Alcohol-Powered

Re:Cost (2)

spokenoise (2140056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229669)

Send politicians. Sure there is a cost but the benefit of them being on Mars and u being here would be worth it. Cheaper than another war too!

Re:Cost (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229811)

Not really. Most of the cost will be development costs which traditionally can be just as expensive as the actual construction of the vehicle. My view is that reducing the complexity of the mission so that it just lands a vehicle (perhaps one which we already use on Earth), waits for and accepts an existing payload, and then returns it, is far less complex than the original sample return mission. That will result in substantially lower development costs which will be a significant savings of the overall cost of the mission. The missions would also have mass savings of various sorts from not having to bring along sample collection tools which allows for more performance margin in the return vehicle and various ways to cut costs without harming mission performance.

Actually no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39230121)

That will be cheap. You need a VTVL rocket that can land on mars and then take off. Well, we are busy at work on multiple systems for that. Armadillo, Masten, etc. are busy working on cheap systems for that. A modified version of one these will be able to be sent to Mars via an FH, pick up the sample, and then return. Simple as that. We are probably looking at .5-.75B for the whole mission if MSL is able to collect samples and is still alive. If we have to run over to a dead msl and collect it, then costs just doubled.

The hard part for this is getting Congress (the house specifically) to fund private space. Right now, they would rather throw 3-4B A YEAR for 7 more years for one massively expensive system( SLS; which will then cost 1-2 B to launch only 70 tonnes ) than 3-4B TOTAL at private space to gain multiple human rated launchers by 2014, private space stations starting in 2015 all of which would give us, before 2020, a CHEAP base on the moon and multiple mars missions such as this. This is the same group that gutted NASA back in early 2001, and then again in 1999.
We need to stop these politicians from continued destruction of NASA and America. Anybody backing the SLS and fighting against private space is the enemy of America and NASA. Anybody backing SLS and backing private space is just plain wasteful.

Re:Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39234121)

How did this get modded informative?

I'm an aerospace engineering student and I'll have to say that it's not true. Most of the cost is research, development and payroll hours, an Atlas 541 launch like that used in MSL is on the order of 150 million. Compare that to a mission cost in the 3-4 billion dollar range.

Re:Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240669)

You guys are missing the point. This is another step toward getting feet in the Martian dirt. We've demonstrated the technology for the first half of the event: We can land lots of gear on Mars. The other half is more challenging (returning stuff on Mars to Earth), so bringing some rocks back is a good thing to shoot for.

Pathetic (3, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229485)

I know a mission to bring back samples from Mars would be a true engineering challenge, and I know sending people on Mars and back would be fantastically expensive for almost no appreciable scientific return, and I know the cold war is over. Yet...

"The agency's dream of a sample return mission within the next decade". Sheesh. That's what NASA dreams of doing within a friggin' decade now? No wonder nobody in the US is excited by space exploration anymore.

Re:Pathetic (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229517)

I think the US' lack of excitement by space exploration *is* the reason it will take them a decade.

Re:Pathetic (3, Interesting)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39231497)

Its a circular problem because the "US lack of excitement" for space exploration is because NASA seldom does anything particularly exciting. The Shuttle and ISS were/are an exercise in tedious boredom, very expensive exercises too.

Some of JPL's missions and some of the great observatory's are modestly interesting, almost exciting even, but they aren't going to capitivate the public.

This submission seems a lot like the Saturn oxygen submission yesterday. I'm starting to think /. is the new forum for JPL/ESA/university teams to lobby for funding for their pet projects.

A sample return mission would be an interesting technical achievement, but I seriously can't see the payoff being worth the expense. Curiosity is going to be able to examine samples in fairly considerable depth and probably in greater volume than a sample return mission. We also think we already have 99 samples from Mars from metereoites [wikipedia.org] that were ejected from Mars and have landed on Earth.

Re:Pathetic (1)

Autonomous Crowhard (205058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39244289)

I second the "lack of excitement" comment. Think about it, the main proposals for the past few years have to send another rover or orbitter to Mars. Until there's a goal beyond more of the same, the money will continue to dry up.

Re:Pathetic (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229559)

Are you fucking KIDDING me? How could a manned mission NOT have MASSIVE appreciable scientific return? Transporting humans to the surface of another planet with a long voyage, keeping them fed, radiation free, healthy and happy. Actually performing more science in a few days than the rovers have in their entire history. The list goes on and on. Just the engineering of the space craft and habitat would have IMMENSE value to mankind. Let alone the vast amounts of technology that come collaterally from such endeavors.

Its not wonder we don't do these things, because dipshits like you are making decisions out of stupidity and total blind ignorance.

Lets just instead give trillions of dollars to billionaire gamblers (err, bankers). That does a lot for the world.

Re:Pathetic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229643)

Oh wow! *SCIENCE* Get over yourself. You don't even know what science means. You're talking about engineering, and not even very interesting engineering.

There's a lot of drama and emotion in your post, but not. a. single. fact.

Re:Pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39250961)

No one is KIDDING you. As any real SCIENTIST and they'll tell you manned missions provide less science per dollar than unmanned ones. The main people pushing for manned missions are ASTRONAUTS, like the one in CONGRESS.

Re:Pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255161)

unmaned missions provide more science jobs and grants. But is science a quantifiable entity like in the phrase more science? You may deride it as engineering, but maybe manned mission provide the development of things that are actually more useful for the society.
And who can call those guys that come in series from PhD nowadays real scientists? are we seeing any Oppenheimer, Fermi or Bohr around?

Re:Pathetic (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229567)

yep

when we were in a race aginst the commies at the dawn it was exciting
when we were making reusable shuttlecraft utilizing cutting edge technology it was exciting
after 2 decades of essentially nothing hearing "but just one more mission and we can add shit to something that's almost already there" is not only not-exciting, but growing to be similar to avoiding someone who says that just some pocket change will drive his 14 year old V8 truck 2 towns over ... we both know better buddy

Re:Pathetic (1)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229711)

The shuttle program was impressive... but exciting? I'm not so sure about that.

Re:Pathetic (3, Insightful)

scottrocket (1065416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229921)

The shuttle program was impressive... but exciting? I'm not so sure about that.

For those of us old enough to remember being glued to CNN all night long, being disappointed when the mission was scrubbed-and then doing it all over again the next night, listening to John Holliman interview astronauts et al.about the future of manned space flight, watching the shuttle when it finally rose on flaming pillars-yeah, it was exciting. Absolutely. It almost didn't matter if it was the most practical vehicle or not, it was inspirational and of course, just cool.

Re:Pathetic (1)

pacinpm (631330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230031)

I come from former communist state, we had one cosmonaut in space getting a hitchhike along the Russians. I knew that whatever I would do I have no chance to go to space. Watching shuttle flying was like watching scifi movie. In comparison to russian rockets it looked incredibly cool and modern, almost futuristic.

You Americans have no idea how lucky you are with working space program.

Re:Pathetic (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39230155)

Actually, many Americans DO realize it. I believe that most Americans KNOW that the problem is not engineering or mechanical. It is having cheap economical transport that blocks us from space. That really means that the REAL problem is that some of Congress does not care. We have members there that would throw 3-4 B a year at a wasteful launch system, rather than obtaining multiple cheap launch systems, a lunar base, and having multiple mars mission all before 2020 for less cost than the SLS. Why? Because they want NASA to be a JOBS center rather than a Space program. These politicians need to go.

Re:Pathetic (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229971)

One of the challenges with space exploration beyond the Moon is that everything moves relative to the Sun. This means that you have to plan the timing of missions according to launch windows that come every few years. Contrast that to expeditions to remote parts of the Earth, where opportunities come at least once a year and usually last for several months.

Another challenge is transporting the resources. There is no meaningful comparison a "base camp" while sending a mission to Mars. There is also no such thing as acquiring necessary resources along the way. This makes planning much more intensive.

In order to sustain space exploration, society needs to cultivate a long-term imagination where collecting rocks in one decade is regarded as a huge leap to the more ambitious goals.

Re:Pathetic (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39232149)

"There is no meaningful comparison a "base camp""

Actually there IS a comparison to a "base camp". You need to land a two or three small, self contained nuclear reactors on Mars near an abundant source of ice. Then you need to land a couple self contained robot labs next to them to start making Hydrogen, Oxygen and liquid water out of ice. At that point you have in abundance the two most essential supplies you need for a manned base without having to ship them from Earth. Once you land some habitats and cargo ships with food, essential supplies and maybe green houses you could eventually build a base camp so when you land people you have a reasonable probablity of supporting them indefinitely. You also probably need some construction equipment either electric or Hydrogen power to move dirt to shielding the habitats.

If you have an economical launcher like Falcon Heavy so you can launch a bunch of significant payloads every time there is a launch window, coupled with an economical heavy lander you can set up a reliable logistics operation to support a permenent manned presence on Mars, which will hopefully, with time, become increasingly self sustaining and self supporting for everything except things which require a large manufacturing base, like electronics and reactors.

The essential things is getting power and heat there in abundance, which is why you need redundant, highly reliable, modular reactors. Once you have those everything else gets easier.

I'm a big fan of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy [wikipedia.org] if you can't tell. Its more visionary than anything out of NASA since Apollo.

No money (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230279)

We don't have money to do exciting stuff anymore.

When Kennedy said let's land a man on the moon in this decade, we had lots of money. The economy was booming (helped along in part by Kennedy's sound economic policy), government was running a surplus, and LBJ hadn't started his Great Society spending spree yet.

People remember Kennedy as a Democrat and a progressive, but when it came to fiscal policy he was a pragmatist. He knew that you have to have a strong economy before you can do anything else -- send men into space or help the poor and whatnot -- and to do that, he cut taxes.

"This administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes... Next year's tax bill should reduce personal as well as corporate income taxes, for those in the lower brackets, who are certain to spend their additional take-home pay, and for those in the middle and upper brackets, who can thereby be encouraged to undertake additional efforts and enabled to invest more capital... I am confident that the enactment of the right bill next year will in due course increase our gross national product by several times the amount of taxes actually cut." -JFK, 1962

(more JFK tax quotes) [wnd.com]

Re:No money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39231965)

Kennedy cut them when Eisenhower had them at 95% on the wealthy. It made sense to cut them down to 66%.
And WRT to a sound economy, the same is true of clinton and Poppa Bush. Both raised taxes.

Today's problems are not caused by too much taxes, but inequality of taxes combined with too low. W/neo-cons actually gave incentives to offshore to their buddies. Likewise, W told ICE to stop going after illegals. All of this has contributed to our downfall. We need to change all of that.

One solution is to do scaled tariffs. Per WTO, we are allowed that. The reason is that we are running massive deficits with China, and Germany. It makes sense to at least raise tariffs against China to 40% (considering that Germany is bailing out EU, not sure that we want to put a large tariff on their stuff). In addition, we need to rewrite our taxes. Obama has the right idea WRT business taxes. Lose the breaks and subsidies. If we do subsidies, they should be for national- security and limited time only. NAT GAS is a good example of a good subsidy. Our wind/solar subsidy is an example of a disaster. Unlimited time and allowed to goods from China to be subsidized and then dumped here. That is the wrong way to build an industry here.

Re:No money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39250523)

> LBJ hadn't started his Great Society spending spree yet.

Most of the great society was never fundded because the Viet Nam War took all the money, even though it was funded "off the books".

Go read a book.

Re:Pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39230959)

NASA's budget, 1966: 4.4% of the total Federal Budget
NASA's budget, 2012: 0.5% of the total Federal Budget

If you wonder why NASA's not inspiring, you need look no further.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA

Accuracy and mass... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229527)

Several considerations come to mind:

1. A "retrofit package" would have huge ratio of ancillary equipment to payload, which is highly inefficient in terms of spending the agency's small and shrinking budget.
2. The most interesting part of Mars is (possibly wet or icy) underground, beyond the range of ultraviolet radiation, GCR and solar wind. Since Curiosity ain't fitted with a drill, this is again inefficient.
3. There are no guarantees that the "retrofit package" lands accurately within reach of the MSL.

Re:Accuracy and mass... (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229625)

Actually, it does have a drill [wikipedia.org] , but probably not what you're thinking about.

Re:Accuracy and mass... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229681)

If your rover identifies a target for sample return it could be used to simply mark the spot. The radio transciever could be used as a transponder to guide the lander. If the rover can grab the target then it could load the sample return capsule.

Re:Accuracy and mass... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39232769)

1. A "retrofit package" would have huge ratio of ancillary equipment to payload, which is highly inefficient in terms of spending the agency's small and shrinking budget.

Sample return is far more efficient than any current use of NASA funds on Mars.

2. The most interesting part of Mars is (possibly wet or icy) underground, beyond the range of ultraviolet radiation, GCR and solar wind. Since Curiosity ain't fitted with a drill, this is again inefficient.

We shouldn't do interesting and valuable science on Mars because it's not the most interesting and valuable science we could do? How about you look at point 1). We either do what we can or we don't, due to budgetary constraints.

3. There are no guarantees that the "retrofit package" lands accurately within reach of the MSL.

The MSL itself tests the landing technology and its accuracy. If we can land the MSL accurately, then that's a good indication that we'll be able to land the sample return accurately as well. These problems are so hard that even a single success usually indicates that the task is being done mostly right. That's indeed no "guarantee", but it helps a lot.

The Hack From Space (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229591)

âoebut do you know how to check and is there any point checking when we already know NSA/KGB, etc etc have the globe encircled with satellites?â

try lining your windows with tinfoil and check it after a few months. Youâ(TM)ll discover straight LINES and DOTS (tiny peep holes). This is with the tinfoil on the inside of the windowsâ(TM) surface, in-house/apartment. What causes this?

I believe most, if not all consumer computers and devices are, if not monitored, swept and mirrored by big bro using satellite technology.

One anonymous poster to pastebin, claiming to be representitive of Mossad, fired a shot across the bow of Anonymous and other hackers by saying, paraphrased, âoeAll of your hard drives are mirrored in (locations A,B,C as I forget which countries were mentioned) certain places on Earth anyway.

I find this to be true, Iâ(TM)ve used Microsoftâ(TM)s SysInternals programs to monitor processes and discovered my drives being swept, a chat program running I never installed and could find no trace of, files where they had the most interest were mp3 and graphics files, but they scraped the whole drive, and an iso creator/mirroring utility was running.

You only make it easier for them if you willingly install video streaming programs (VLC) with command line counterparts, music programs with command line counterparts, Office programs, which I noticed PDF files were being made in the background, and all of this activity was happening when I was monitoring a computer isolated from any wired/wireless/LAN network(s).

Google: Subversion Hack archive for a glimpse into this mysterious activity

Itâ(TM)s all about the waves.

Why? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229595)

Why would you want to carry out a sample return mission? There's not a single analysis you could want to do on a sample which couldn't be more cheaply done by sending the lab to mars. That's why we're sending one there.

I suppose it might be a good precursor to an eventual human return mission.

Re:Why? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229673)

There's not a single analysis you could want to do on a sample which couldn't be more cheaply done by sending the lab to mars.

"Sending the lab to Mars" is an impossible proposition at this point. Sure, there are all kinds of very impressive analytical instruments we can miniaturize and pack into a probe, but it just doesn't compare to a full-size lab where scientists can examine the samples in person.

Re:Why? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229745)

Have you seen the list of instruments on MSL [wikipedia.org] ? It is pretty comprehensive. It even does isotopic analysis. Can you be more specific about what you can't do with an instrument sent to mars that you could do with a sample returned from there?

Re:Why? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229765)

Have you seen the list of instruments on MSL [wikipedia.org] ? It is pretty comprehensive. It even does isotopic analysis. Can you be more specific about what you can't do with an instrument sent to mars that you could do with a sample returned from there?

Analyze a sample under a high powered electron microscope.

Re:Why? (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229799)

You could put an electron microscope in a space probe. They're not that big. The trickey part would be sample preparation. But it certainly is doable.

Re:Why? (1)

BrentH (1154987) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230179)

We have one here the size of a wallet. Sure, it's the price of a big car, but that's nothing NASA will flinch at.

Re:Why? (1)

mcswell (1102107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39231775)

Picture or link? Why is it so expensive?

Re:Why? (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230267)

Why does Nasa need to retrieve samples? We already have tools on Mars that can analyze samples (I'm sure there are some limitations). Aside from the glory of returning rocks from Mars(over rated imho) what scientific purpose does the preposed mission fulfill? How much do they expect it would cost? Lets face it we all are underwriting the cost of what Nasa does so it better be worth it. I'm a skeptic so unless you come at me with some hard facts chances are that Mars can keep it's rocks for now.

Re:Why? (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230507)

I can see the point of a sample return- you can do far better tests in Earth's numerous fantastic laboratories than you can on Mars with equipment nailed to a rover, and it'd be even less feasible moving the equipment for a full laboratory to Mars than it would be on just sending some gravel home.

What I don't understand is why there's any advantage in using Curiosity for the job. The big cost of a sample return mission is the propulsion equipment required to get to Mars, land safely, lift off, get to Earth, and land safely again. I can't see the cost of a drill which can be left in transit anyway being the limiting factor in terms of cost or difficulty. But then, I'm no expert- maybe I'm underestimating the challenges involved in that seemingly simple element (or underestimating the versatility of Curiosity).

Re:Why? (1)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230847)

Why would you want to carry out a sample return mission? There's not a single analysis you could want to do on a sample which couldn't be more cheaply done by sending the lab to mars. That's why we're sending one there.

No, we're sending a rover there because we can't afford a sample return mission. Also a rover can study weather and other transient phenomena. A rover and a returned sample aren't nearly as similar as you're making them sound.

When you say "not a single analysis" etc this implies you know all analyses that could be done and all instruments that can be fitted onto a rover, and the relative performance of all of these. Do you?

Finally, we can still study our lunar samples fourty years after they were brought back. Even if we had the capability to send a world-class lab to Mars today, we cannot send a lab from decades into the future.

Re:Why? (2)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39231483)

Finally, we can still study our lunar samples fourty years after they were brought back. Even if we had the capability to send a world-class lab to Mars today, we cannot send a lab from decades into the future.

In 40 years, we will certainly have technology that will allow for much better analysis. If we bring back samples, we will be able to analyze them with whatever new tools and sensors are invented decades after the mission. It's definitely much easier than continuously sending out probes with better hardware.

Re:Why? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#39233107)

No you are wrong.
First of all do you know for sure every test that you might want to do?
No you don't because results from one test may lead to another. Not only that results from one test could lead to inventing a new test.
I am all for robotic missions as better bang for the buck but the truth is that no robotic mission will be as good as sending scientists with a full lab to mars but that costs a whole lot of money so it is cheaper to return samples from Mars to Earth. If you can not afford that then rovers with a lab will get you more bang for the buck than returning a sample. If you can not afford that then a lander is the best option, If you can not afford that then an orbital probe is the best.
I left out a bunch of manned options short of landing a full lab aka a mars base/colony but you get the point. It all comes down to best return on investment. I frankly do not see a sample return being that much more expensive than an advanced lab on an advanced rover.

Seems simple enough to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229615)

Just ask Elon Musk to mail some back when he retires on Mars. Or have we already forgotten the grand delusions of this bag of hot air?

Re:Seems simple enough to me (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229659)

grand delusions of this bag of hot air?

He gets stuff done. When did you start an electric car company and a launch vehicle company?

Re:Seems simple enough to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229701)

So he can't be delusional because he used his basically lottery money to make things ... that already existed before? That's your basis for ruling on his sanity? He's going to"retire on Mars", that's sane? Unless he meant "retire on" as in fleece as many idiotic geeks as possible with Mars crap?

Re:Seems simple enough to me (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229947)

Electric cars like Tesla cars and launch vehicles like SpaceX launch vehicles definitely did not exist before Elon Musk. I don't see why he should not retire on Mars.

Getting a bit ahead of ourselves? (2)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229929)

I'd wait till Curiosity lands without smashing itself into smithereens. That would be a great and somewhat unexpected success.

http://youtu.be/xqqBy7C8gyU [youtu.be]

Re:Getting a bit ahead of ourselves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39230047)

It's only marginally more complicated than EDL on the previous two rovers, which were only marginally more complicated than the previous rover's EDL.

Re:Getting a bit ahead of ourselves? (2, Informative)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230119)

Do you know that the MERs lowered the landing platform on a cable, followed by rocket engine ignition and a brief hover period ? Do you know that, for some reason, it worked, twice, with no broken or tangled cable ?

See it here [youtube.com] (3:03 - 3:33).

MSL uses the exact same technique, only it is simpler since after the cables are cut the rover is already on the ground. So the second part with the platform egress is not required. The only new elements are the detection of the touchdown and the fly away. The first has been extensively studied after the failure of Mars Polar Lander and the second is trivial. So no surprise there.

In summary, the MSL EDL sequence is simpler than that of the MERs and almost entirely flight proven.

Yet for some reason I see a number of jackasses like yourself who see the video and claim that it is too complicated. Maybe you could document yourself or (shockingly) admit that the JPL is not staffed by idiots.

Re:Getting a bit ahead of ourselves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39231601)

There's a world of difference between decelerating a suspended beach ball and releasing it when the velocity approaches 0 and maintaining a stationary hover for 30 seconds while a substantial rover is lowered to the surface.

Where do I begin.... (1)

maxwells_deamon (221474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229943)

This plan likely requires two additional launches.

They must be targeted to land in places where the rover can get to them as they will not be mobile.

If any one the the three messes up or lands somewhere we can't get to it we must build another lauch vehicle and wait for it to get to the surface of Mars

Retrofiting the existing rover with a collection cup and then removing it and capturing the samples is probably far harder than just going to a place and snatching a sample from where you land. Remember, you don't control the slope of the land it will land on and if you add an arm to the second and third landers, why not let them collect samples.

Sample selection would need to be within the area the rover will be able to drive to. they would need to land somewhere flat and boreing. this limits where we can choose from. Why not go somewhere we have not been

Yes, if one of the rovers finds something that could be life, or something else of extreme importance, or perhaps something we can't figure out, I could see trying to do this even with Opertunity

Re:Where do I begin.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229981)

NASA should focus on projects like the James Webb telescope which actually teach us something except congress earmarks these stupid fucking planetary exploration PR stunts instead. Manned space should be dead until our payload fractions go up. In the mean time, the can focus on laser sintering additive manufacturing so they can send a cnc rover making machine up and have robonaut assembe the glass solid works assemblies we FTP up to be fused together from Martian sand. The material properties aren't great, but given a choice between abandoning our robots to dwell on their abandonment issues or mass produce fragile disposible robots which save the tax payers billions of dollars on additional launches, I prefer the remote hands choice.

Oh, NASA would just lose all the samples, again... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39229989)

. . . like what happened with all those Moon rocks that they "can't find": http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16909592 [bbc.co.uk] .

Towards the end of the Apollo 17 mission on 13 December 1972, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt - the last men to have set foot on the Moon - picked up a rock. President Richard Nixon ordered that the brick-sized rock be broken up into fragments and sent to 135 foreign heads of state and the 50 US states. Each "goodwill Moon rock" was encased in a lucite ball and mounted on a wooden plaque with the recipient nations' flag attached. There were 370 pieces gathered for this purpose from the two missions. Two hundred and seventy were given to nations of the world and 100 to the 50 US states. But 184 of these are lost, stolen or unaccounted for - 160 around the world and 24 in the US.

Pretty damn expensive novelty gifts. Couldn't we have given them "Pet Rocks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_rock [wikipedia.org] instead?

Oh, and maybe there is some kind of life in that Mars soil, that we don't understand. So bringing it back, and spreading it around the world would be an absolutely grand idea.

Re:Oh, NASA would just lose all the samples, again (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230041)

Oh, and maybe there is some kind of life in that Mars soil, that we don't understand. So bringing it back, and spreading it around the world would be an absolutely grand idea.

Ok, if you say so. I was thinking that maybe that wouldn't be a good idea. But you clearly have thought this out. I guess that's because you already know that Earth has been showered with meteorites from Mars for billions of years.

A few practical problems (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39230515)

1) Curiosity (MSL) doesn't carry an appropriate sampling drill to get the samples. You want to collect at least 3 samples from each location, and they'd like them to be about 1 cm in diameter and 6-7 cm long. Multiple samples because you need to be able to test the first one, and if you find something, be able to test independent samples. And the samples need to be big enough to be be broken up for multiple labs to test. How many locations? maybe 10-15?

2) Current technology does not allow "pinpoint" landings so your return vehicle can only be targeted to land within about 10km of whereever the sample caching rover is. So either the return vehicle needs to be able to drive to the first one, or vice versa. Driving 10km on Mars is non-trivial, especially doing it fast enough.

3) The timing of landing on Mars and then launching to take the samples home is remarkably short. There's two big factors involved: Weather (winter and Dust storm season); and when the launch period to get back to earth occurs. Remember, you've got to leave Mars about 4-5 months before Earth/Mars closest approach. And you arrive on mars about 4-5 months after closest approach. And you want to do it in Martian summer. Practically speaking, this means you've got to get everything done in about 6 months on the surface.

4) you really don't want the whole earth return vehicle to be landed on Mars, because then you have to lift it out of Mars gravity. You want a third spacecraft to pick up the samples that have been put into orbit. That spacecraft catches the samples, and has the big (heavy) engine to get back to Earth.

this is all laid out in a whole raft of papers over the past 20 years. Richard Mattingly has a nice paper:
http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/37530/1/05-0327..pdf
googling him turns up a lot of useful stuff..

There's also this: http://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/reports/index.html which has all the Mars Exploration sample return stuff. Including reports on why a cache was added and then removed from MSL.

Re:A few practical problems (1)

mcswell (1102107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39231795)

"Current technology does not allow 'pinpoint' landings": Is this because it's difficult to find where you want to go as you're coming down, or because there's no way to maneuver during descent to land at a given target? If the former, could the radio signals from Curiosity serve as a target beacon?

"The Red Planet Rule" (1)

reybo (2540564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230547)

The writer followed orders ... but who gave them? When writing about Mars, it is to be called "Mars" on first reference, and "the red planet" on second reference. That's an order no writer in my 6 decades of reading has ever broken. But who made the rule?

Save money (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230983)

Round trip spaceflight is so much more complicated, big, and expensive than one way. To save money, just ask the Martians to send us some samples.

Andromeda Strain (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39233229)

It may be too risky to bring samples directly back to Earth. There may be some microbes that Earth life has not had a chance to grow immunities too. Sure, the risk is quite small, but not zero. We don't know enough yet.

We do have meteors from Mars, but they were baked in space radiation for a while before they landed.

Re:Andromeda Strain (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256543)

It may be too risky to bring samples directly back to Earth. There may be some microbes that Earth life has not had a chance to grow immunities too. Sure, the risk is quite small, but not zero. We don't know enough yet.

.....

Hey, there's a non-zero chance that a toilet will fall out of the sky tomorrow and kill you. I suggest staying inside the house.

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