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Why Mars Is Not the Limit For Human Space Flight

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the it-doesn't-even-have-a-denny's dept.

Mars 256

"Mars is not just the next or most accessible human destination, it is the ultimate one," writes Louis Friedman, executive director emeritus of The Planetary Society. He says the concept of manned spaceflight is progressing so slowly, and robotic developments so swiftly, that Mars will be the first and last planet humans set foot on. "By the time human spaceflight technology is theoretically capable of journeys beyond Mars, humans in modern space systems will be virtual explorers interacting with the environments of distant worlds, but without the baggage of physical transportation or presence." Mark Whittington disagrees, saying Friedman is demonstrating Clarke's First Law, and that the history of human exploration is rife with periods of stagnation interrupted by technological achievement that led to swift progress.

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Dead wrong (5, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#41116017)

if it's possible for humans to go somewhere, they will go there. History has proven that. Only reason we haven't been to Mars or Titan or Ceti Alpha V is that we didn't have the means to. But Elon and others are trying to change that...

Re:Dead wrong (0)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#41116169)

Because once mankind masters being able to breathe nothing and piss ice-cubes? There's no stopping how far we can leave a trail of litter, across the galaxy! :-)

Re:Dead wrong (1)

readin (838620) | about 2 years ago | (#41116585)

Because once mankind masters being able to breathe nothing and piss ice-cubes? There's no stopping how far we can leave a trail of litter, across the galaxy! :-)

If that's what it takes, we'll figure out how to do it through genetic engineering and/or artificial organs. Though there's an excellent chance it won't happen during our lifetime.

Re:Dead wrong (5, Insightful)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116421)

the reason why we haven't gone anywhere in space is that we're drowning in greed and corruption

"we" haven't even really been to the moon... only a very small select few astronauts went on very short demonstration trips, in which each only went once, and all on a defense budget

if we ever are to have any chance of getting anywhere in space, it will require a catastrophe that falls barely short of complete human extinction to make people realise that survival is more important than money and power... the problem isn't that space is too expensive or that we can't develop the technology... the problem is simply human nature

unless some robotic thing finds some kind of mineral that will make some corporation a lot of money (akin to the gold rushes of yesteryear or the oil rush of today), no government will bother investing in it. even the space "exploration" going on the surface of mars at the moment is probably a mineral hunt under the guise of searching for ET; the US government (that provides NASA with funding) doesn't give a fuck about ET... all they care about is money and power, and not for the US in general, just for themselves because many politicians have stock in the corporations that would benefit

until the nuclear winter of post-ww3, when all the fat greedy politicians, welfare bludgers, corporate CEOs and stockholders die of starvation and there are no corporations, and government is actually run by the people for the people (for their very survival), "we" will never have any hope of ever getting to the moon or mars

Re:Dead wrong (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41116589)

The silver lining is that if someone DOES get things moving, the big governments/corporations are going to bust-ass to get up there too - if only to secure their own agendas.

So long as we get out there - I'd prefer we didn't do it for greed or power, but it's more important that we get there.

Re:Dead wrong (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116649)

fair point

Re:Dead wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41117277)

Your fortune cookie would be: You read a lot of science fiction and over-apply it to the real world.

Re:Dead wrong (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#41118203)

if i over-applied science fiction to the real world i imagine i would be a little more optimistic about getting to space... my pessimism is a little more pragmatic than the trekkies or wookies or whatever else science fiction fanatics like to call themselves

Re:Dead wrong (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#41117431)

Interestingly, even ultra-Utopian Star Trek says the same thing: in that mythos, humans have a horribly devastating World War III right about now, and the survivors are able to rebuild and one of them invents warp drive, attracting the attention of a much more rational alien species.

As for mining minerals on Mars, it seems like it'd be easier and cheaper to just mine minerals on the Moon or on earth-crossing asteroids. Wasn't there recently some group of billionaires talking about starting a venture to develop asteroid-mining technology? Mars is very far away (even farther at some times than others, it's probably relatively close right now), but the moon never gets out of easy visual distance.

Re:Dead wrong (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#41118221)

depends on what they're looking for... from what i know the moon has lots of iron, but so does earth. maybe the geofreaks can chime in with what kinds of "unobtaniums" may possibly found on mars that aren't abundant at home

Re:Dead wrong (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41116857)

The travel time to a highly unlikely journey to another star is hundreds of thousands of years. How they are related to anyone on earth by that time is hard to imagine. Let alone the ethical problem of forcing future generations to sit around on the journey while earth is left behind. If you used some sort of suspended animation then you would remove the ethics but would have no meaningful communications with them anymore.

The notion of "possible" is rooted in life on earth. There are many things that are possible but completely impractical.

Re:Dead wrong (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#41117471)

Not exactly. A trip to another star would be faster than you think, and certainly not hundreds of thousands of years (unless you're limited to today's chemical propulsion). With appropriate nuclear engines and constant acceleration halfway there (and then constant deceleration the other half), and a destination to one of our nearby neighbors esp. Alpha Centaurus, it could probably be done in a decade, maybe less. There's a catch, however: during that ~decade that the people on board experience, hundreds of years may pass on Earth.

Re:Dead wrong (1)

Gerzel (240421) | about 2 years ago | (#41117145)

I think he is forgetting a lot of biological imperative to spread ourselves around.

If we take the effort to get off this rock and settle any single habitation anywhere else once we will do it again.

Re:Dead wrong (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#41117185)

But we never drove a wagon to the moon. Our own bodies may be the "wagon" of interstellar travel, which I think is the point being made.

Re:Dead wrong (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#41117375)

No, we don't go to Ceti Alpha V because we might mistake it for Ceti Alpha VI, and get caught by Khan and have insects put in our brains.

Utter BS (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#41116019)

It seems this person has never heard of the speed-of-light limit to communication delays....

Re:Utter BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116051)

But his lack of knowledge makes speculation so much more fun!

Re:Utter BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116081)

Didn't stop OnLive from using Tachyons for its servic... oh wait.

Re:Utter BS (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#41116095)

People looked at the moon for thousands of years. Eventually we got there. They look at the stars the same way. The speed of light is currently, in certainty, the limitation to go the stars without generations of generations in a temporary world, seeking them out.

Is FTL possible? People thought that a moon trip was impossible. We still dream.

Re:Utter BS (2, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#41116657)

FTL is not possible. Period.
In fact, even traveling at a significant fraction of the speed of light is impossible unless we discover some new, amazing lightweight power source. Short of that, I doubt we'll ever get faster than 5% the speed of light... I think what people fail to understand is just how fast that is... 5% the speed of light is incredibly fast.

It's fun to read Sci-Fi books, but FTL is not possible irrelevant of any advances we make in science. If you think it IS in fact possible, then you fundamentally do not understand what the speed of light is, why it is, or how space-time works.

Now the whole, freeze people/hyper-sleep thing, travel for 4000 years and wake them up... THAT'S possible (or at least, not impossible from what we know about science at this point.)

Re:Utter BS (4, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#41116823)

It's fun to read Sci-Fi books, but FTL is not possible irrelevant of any advances we make in science. If you think it IS in fact possible, then you fundamentally do not understand what the speed of light is, why it is, or how space-time works.

The thing is: no one really knows how space-time works (and we probably never will, not completely). We have a model and theories that fits the observations well (although not, of course, perfectly). That model states FTL is impossible using conventional means (read: any way we know of right now). To assume that that model is complete or perfect is to misunderstand the nature of science. It may be, but we really don't and won't ever know for sure. The history of science is filled to the brim with obsolete models that were accurate by the best measures at the time (and, BTW, that includes now-ridiculous models like the geocentric theory), and there is very little reason to think this will turn out to be any different. In fact, we already have some reason to think it won't, although exactly how, we have no idea.

Re:Utter BS (1)

aitikin (909209) | about 2 years ago | (#41116829)

Just because a very smart individual showed us logic stating that it's impossible does not mean that it truly is impossible. That being said, I do believe that he is correct, I'm merely pointing out that there have, in the past, be vetted scientific theories that have been disproven and people had their world turned upside down on certain topics.

To add to that argument, whatever happened to the sound barrier being an impossible breaking point? (yes, apples and oranges, we had things that had broken the speed of sound (bullets), but still, it's worth noting.)

Re:Utter BS (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 2 years ago | (#41117001)

Who says we have to do the full FTL Monty?

Hell, even if we just get close, time dilation will make it possible to go a hell of a long ways, and will stretch out lifetimes enough to make it worthwhile. If we can squeeze out 0.95c, that shit comes out to a bit over 2x the average human lifespan back here on Earth. A 60 ly trip takes only 26 years to the clocks and travelers on the ship, which is easily doable for a 2-3 generation crew.

BTW, with a little effort atop current technology? Using the Sun as a big-assed gravity slingshot with a solar sail boost on the way out has the potential to get us up to 10%. An ion engine with a moderate amount of fuel has the potential to boost that even higher. Reaching 95% isn't impossible - just incredibly hard to do with what we know and have right now.

Re:Utter BS (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117551)

You don't even need multiple generations, you just need to invent "hypersleep" or "suspended animation". There's already been research in this area, with cryogenics.

Re:Utter BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41117433)

I have a few ways to fix the thinking that resulted in the current conundrum:
- Recognize that reality does not conform to the mathematics of a formula that was only meant to explain how much energy an object contains, and especially that dividing by 0 does not equal infinity, but merely that the result is unknown and results beyond will break the formula rather than being impossible because of the formula.
- Understand that Space and Time are not real, physical things, merely concepts to allow humans to categorize the difference between here and there and now and now (although time travel being impossible does put a damper on at least one avenue toward FTL).
- Accept that light itself does not transfer information, merely that it provides data from its state at the time it is received, and that data from states can be read from other sources that do not conform to light's states.

An actual possible solution to the entire acceleration paradigm could be to record how long it takes light, after an experiment where it is slowed to the level of vehicle speeds, to accelerate back to light speed. I've tried and failed to find any information on that, but from descriptions of the experiments the light seems to return to light speed "immediately".

Re:Utter BS (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117517)

If you think it IS in fact possible, then you fundamentally do not understand what the speed of light is, why it is, or how space-time works.

Bullshit. You don't know how space-time works, and no one on this planet knows how space-time works. We humans don't even understand how gravity works. We have no clue why we don't drift off into space, instead of being held to the ground. All we know is there's an invisible force and it correlates with mass.

Saying that FTL is "impossible" when you haven't the faintest clue about how gravity or space-time work is pure idiocy.

Re:Utter BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41117689)

I understand what the speed of light is and the nature of space time as well as any human can with our current knowledge of physics and mathematics. Which is horribly incomplete. What I also know is that in general, everyone who has predicted a technological feat as being utterly impossible has been proven wrong, usually in an embarrassingly short period of time. I will trust that constant more than any speed limit imposed by the infantile understanding of the universe we have at our disposal.

I also think it is rather intellectually lazy for anyone who claims to have a significant knowledge of science to claim that their understanding is so flawless that even if our civilization grows and endures for 100,000 years that we will never know significantly more than we do now, when our current knowledge is the product only 100-150 years of serious methodical investigation. I think what these lazy persons fail to understand is just how deep the rabbit hole of knowledge goes and just how shallow our current depth is.

Re:Utter BS (2)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117949)

FTL is not possible. Period.

There were once a lot of really smart people that said sailing around the earth was impossible too, and they proved it -- because the earth was flat.

All it takes is one of today's assumptions to be proven wrong or inaccurate, and suddenly things that were once thought possible become possible. Saying something is flat out impossible, is usually wrong. It may just take a few hundred years to prove it, but it'll get proven false.

Re:Utter BS (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 2 years ago | (#41116741)

I think he was saying the dude is full of it because it's not feasible to be "virtual explorers interacting with the environments of distant worlds" when the lag time for your interactions are minutes, hours, days or longer because that's how long the communications will take to go back and forth.

Re:Utter BS (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41116305)

Communication delays are far from the largest obstacle. You might remember sailing ships of early explorers were on multi-year voyages with little hope of communication for much of the time. HMS Beagle's famous voyage was 5 years long, with only occasional stops at foreign ports. People can deal with communication delays, both in robotic systems and manned systems.

More to the point is that people aren't as willing to take 5 year voyages that are likely to be one way. Any place Beagle could land other than the antarctic was as likely to be habitable, with eventual visitors. Not so while heading to Alpha Centauri. Even a one way trip to Mars is an unreasonable undertaking (although not without many who claim they are willing to do so).

We need vastly bigger ships and better engines, large enough to produce enough of its own food for 20 or 30 years. We need a way to fund this adventure, which will not likely come from a divided world, or a world where religious nut jobs consider such adventures as "showing up God".

So technological breakthrough is the best bet, and nobody is currently dogging that bird. It will probably happen by accidental discovery.

Re:Utter BS (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about 2 years ago | (#41117153)

ok, yes probably we will go to the stars, but first we got survive what we have done to this one. we have far too many problems e have yet to deal with. In the next 100 years if we don't kill our selves or destroy 90% of the earth, we will be VERY lucky!

Re:Utter BS (5, Insightful)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116471)

It seems this person has never heard of the speed-of-light limit to communication delays....

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

even you can't be sure that ftl communication is impossible... you just believe it because you were told that it was the case and because of peer pressure (if you say otherwise you're afraid your friends and colleagues will think you're a kook)

Re:Utter BS (1)

poly_pusher (1004145) | about 2 years ago | (#41116573)

More like this person has heard of quantum entanglement and how it could potentially be exploited for remote missions.

Re:Utter BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116913)

Neutrinos seem to have missed the memo too. They have mass (confirmed by the neutrino oscillation experiments) yet they defiantly propagate through space with the speed of light (supernova 1987a experiment).

Speed of Light (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#41116067)

Problem with virtual space exploration is the speed of light. When thing go wrong (and they will) you're limited by how fast you can respond to disaster. By the time you know about a situation, it will probably already be over. Useful and robot artificial intelligence capable of picking up the slack is probably further off than manned spaceflight is.

Re:Speed of Light (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41116481)

The Curiosity rover is proof your theory is wrong.

There aren't likely to be any significant emergencies on the surface of mars. But the likely ones have all been planned for. It can choose its own path, and navigate to a destination without direct human control. It knows how to avoid steep slopes, bolder fields, and other obstacles.

And have you not noticed that Google has self driving cars running around the south west?

Sending probes to far planets isn't an all-in-one undertaking. You send orbiters to photograph. You send landers to measure environmental. Then you plan for any dangers you discover, and send a rover that can avoid them, circumvent them, and which was designed for the environment.

Lose a couple vehicles along the way? So what? Failure teaches you a lot.

Re:Speed of Light (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 2 years ago | (#41116773)

I don't think people will be satisfied sending rovers to distant planets in stead of actually trying to get there. The delay in communications could be so great that the rover is essentially autonomous and we get to see what it was doing a couple of days ago or last month. (I am talking about planets farther away than Mars here, just like TFA)

Re:Speed of Light (4, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#41116851)

Yes, I'm aware of all of that. I've been building self-driving robot cars before Google was even involved in them (see DARPA Urban Challenge). This means I am acutely aware of the true capabilities of these machines, and have no illusions of their robustness. For instance the Curiosity Rover can do all those things you describe... navigation and obstacle avoidance are well studied topics in robotics. But the curiosity rover can't do any remote science. It can't make hypotheses and draw inferences from data and create new plans based on those inferences. It's beaming back all that data to earth and humans are making those decisions.

I've heard some roboticists describe the kind of operations the mars rover and Google cars are capable of, and the kind you describe, as a kind of telepresence in the 4th dimension. You program your own knowledge of how to deal with certain situations into the robot, and it acts according to those instructions at some point in the future when it discerns those situations. But curiosity and Google cars are largely ignorant of how to act in all the myriad situations they haven't encountered before, and are incapable of reasoning about them at the level humans can.

But this won't work for space travel beyond mars and the solar system. You can't design iteratively like we can now. By the time a space probe gets to the planet in question and you survey and get the info back, 100 years could have passed before you even know if the thing landed properly. It might be 50 years before you know the thing exploded en route.

Further, space travel is especially sensitive to budget constraints and funding. What do you think would have happened to NASA's budget and prospects if the Curiosity rover crashed and burned due to an unforeseen circumstance? They wouldn't say "Whoops, well live and learn." They'd be begging for their very existance and justifying another 2 billion mission would be almost impossible. The guys at NASA did great planning for everything they could, but you can never plan for everything. That's just a fact of life, and we humans are great at adapting to that; it takes a great deal of creativity and ingenuity. But for now and for the foreseeable future Robots suck at those tasks.

Earth (5, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | about 2 years ago | (#41116093)

Mars will be the first and last planet humans set foot on.

I believe Earth would be the first planet humans set foot on.

Re:Earth (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116537)

I believe Earth would be the first planet humans set foot on

that's pure speculation

Re:Earth (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 2 years ago | (#41118039)

Mars will be the first and last planet humans set foot on.

I believe Earth would be the first planet humans set foot on.

Until someone invents time travel...

Not what he meant by virtual: (4, Interesting)

Relic of the Future (118669) | about 2 years ago | (#41116133)

To the geniuses helpfully reminding this guy of the speed of light:

When he says "virtual explorers", he doesn't mean you'll be sitting in New York while playing on Alpha Centauri I via VR. He means uploading your mind to the probe before launching it.

tl;dr: rtfa.

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116259)

There is no need to upload it before launch. You could transmit it on a light signal after the probe had already left. No subjective time passes during the trip; from your perspective, you would arrive instantaneously.

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (4, Funny)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41116503)

Guys, lets see if you can upload your mind across the basement to your own computer before you postulate uploading it to a space probe, mKay?

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116483)

Well now there's an interesting problem. Who will upload first? The first people will probably be Alzheimer's victims. They'll be willing to risk it so that their brains can live on in a more durable matrix. Now here's the real problem. It goes like this:

Regular Human (RH): How dow we know your conscience is in there?

Uploadee (U): Bollox! I'm the real me. Stop asking silly questions.

RH: Well, your anger is real.

RH2: Of course it's real; but that's not the same as consciousness and I can prove it. (punches keyboard)

U1, U2, U3... UN: I'm the real one. The other ones are imposters!

RH and RH2: Crap. I'm not sure if this proves or disproves anything about the nature of human consciousness, since I lose mine and regain it all the time, and I might very well have a long-lost twin...

uploading consciousness to a computer... (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116685)

"blue screen of death" will take on a whole new meaning

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (4, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#41116637)

If you're going to posit that we'll explore distant planets by uploading a human consciousness to a computer, why not save yourself the trouble and posit faster than light travel? They're both equally science fiction at this point in time.

His premise seems to arise by extrapolating the rate of robotics progress and comparing it to the progress of spaceflight and concluding a moor's law style progression for robotics that will result. While yes, robotics is advancing rapidly, we are so far off from any and every sci-fi depiction of robots in the future, and we're still facing serious challenges in artificial intelligence with the complexity of current algorithms and our infantile understanding of the brain and how our own intelligence function.

I work with machine learning and robots for a living, and every day I gain an even greater appreciation for the complexity and robustness of the human body and mind, and it takes every ounce of willpower to not despair at the futility of my own efforts to mimic the kind of cognition that even infants are capable of. The mars rover is probably our greatest achievement in robotics yet, but I can't even begin to express how far removed it is from cloning a human brain and replicating that in a machine. Extrapolating conclusions based on that is folly.

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (4, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#41117337)

If you're going to posit that we'll explore distant planets by uploading a human consciousness to a computer, why not save yourself the trouble and posit faster than light travel? They're both equally science fiction at this point in time.

I disagree. It is certain that if a bunch of molecules were arranged the same as yours are, including the electrical charges, there would be a person who is you. (Naturally the original you would still feel that your consciousness had not departed him, but it would also exist equally in the new body.) So, unlike speed-of-light travel, there is no theoretical barrier to teleportation.

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (3, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117683)

Theories of wormholes and the like accomplish FTL travel that don't involve violating the speed of light. I'd put those theories right up there with cloning the human consciousness. Before we can even think about cloning, we have to consider the sub-problem of scanning a brain to determine the state of every neuron and chemical in the brain. Furthermore, we have no idea how consciousness works, and if it's a simple biological state of the system or something more that that. We can hardly agree on a definition of consciousness as it is, so before we even try to quantify it, we need to figure out exactly what we're even trying to measure and test.

So all of that is even before you get to the stage of encoding all that information in as small enough space (which we at least have an upper bound [wikipedia.org] for) , and then once you do that you need the computational power to run such a thing, which we can't even begin to quantify. I really think this is one of those problems where you don't understand how deep and complex it is because we are so profoundly ignorant about the depth of the subject matter.

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 2 years ago | (#41116799)

Oh! Of course! Human spaceflight will be too damn hard to figure out so, we'll discover how to transfer our minds into a machine! That is far more likely to happen than figuring out how to travel through space and stay alive.

Re:Not what he meant by virtual: (1)

ranpel (1255408) | about 2 years ago | (#41116855)

Thanks for that, actually. I was thinking they'd just go and lockout Linux on that platform too.

He's right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116149)

Sort of. While Mars may be the only other planet that humans set foot on in our current state of evolution, he fails to consider genectic/cyber changes that would make future humans more adaptable to space travel.

Re:He's right (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 2 years ago | (#41116709)

Spot on. This quote in particular rankled with me:

Traveling to other worlds — for example, to hellishly hot Venus, or the far, cold and radiation-battered environs of Jupiter — is beyond our ability, at least for now, and I argue, forever!

Reminds me of Bill Gates' prediction about how much memory everyone would need in their computers. Or the claim in the early days of steam that crossing the Atlantic in a steamship was as achievable as voyaging from Liverpool to the Moon (although technically he was correct eventually, just not in the way he expected).

Eternity is a long time, I would be very cautious about ruling out anything that might happen between now and then.

Re:He's right (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117645)

The guy sounds like an idiot. Venus doesn't have to be hellishly hot; with sufficient technology and robotic probes, it's possible to terraform it. (Obviously, this is a ways off from our current technology.) Venus would be a great planet to terraform most likely: it's almost exactly the same size as Earth, and has almost exactly the same gravity. It's closer to the sun, so it might be warm, but getting rid of the dense atmosphere would help that a lot, plus there's ideas for giant solar shades which could be used there to reduce the sunlight that reaches the surface. It might be a slow process, but I'll bet terraforming Venus might be more technically feasible than a lot of interstellar missions.

With the exception of Mercury and other stars... (2)

Steve1952 (651150) | about 2 years ago | (#41116187)

Mercury, not impossible to land on in certain regions -- Venus unlikely due to extreme heat and pressure, Mars a given, Jupiter no solid surface, Saturn no solid surface, Uranus no solid surface, Neptune no solid surface, Pluto -- not a planet.

So technically, assuming that no one wants to go to Mercury for some reason (unlikely), then outside of Mars, there are no other "planets" nearby anyway. If we call planets around other stars by a different name, and again assuming that Mercury is just to uninteresting to visit, then he might be right. Of course this still leaves lots of other real estate out there to visit.

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (4, Insightful)

SgtXaos (157101) | about 2 years ago | (#41116223)

There are plenty of interesting moons, planetoids and asteroids upon which we could land and explore. Limiting the discussion to only "official" planets is too limiting.

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (2)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116391)

I'm pretty sure he's trying to be a pedantic twit...

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116287)

I'm surprised no one is mining venus for minerals that would take millions of years to form here.

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (5, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#41116593)

What minerals would those be?

The venusian surface is over 500C. It is so hot that there is no mantle convection, and the crust is squishy. There are no carbon compounds in the crust, and all the chemistry in the crust is high temp chemistry.

Unless you are talking things like lead sulfide, which can be made in just a few minutes in a lab, I don't know what you could be referring to.

What venus potentially offers is a geoengineering opportunity.

I have contemplated what I would do concerning venus. That planet will *never* have a natural biosphere containing more than microbes without human intervention. So, here is what I would do:

Genetically engineer atmospheric terrestrial microbes to produce long flagella out of polyaramid plastic. Poly aramid has a thermal breakdown temperature approaching that of venus's surface, but venus also has mountains. The polyaramid "snow" would slowly sequester atmospheric co2, reducing surface temps until the snow could last on the surface, then the process would rapidly accellerate.

The venusian atmosphere is mostly co2, with anhydrous sulfuric acid, nitrogen, and some trace gasses.

The sulfuric acid and co2 are the primary items of interest here: we need microbes that can use anhydrous H2SO4 as their cytoplasmic solvent instead of water, and which can produce any water they would otherwise need through photosynthetic reactions powered by a sulfur cycle metabolism. Once venus cools enough, it has sufficient mass to produce a magnetic dynamo once there is crust convection currents to power it. That means venus will become a lot more interesting, and all we have to do is drop the surface temp.

That's what the germs do; the drop the surface temp, and rain out the CO2 as white plastic fibers. The plastic has a high albedo, and reflects energy back into space, and is sufficiently nonreactive that it will stick around for very long periods. Coupled with continued biological activities, simply seeding the atmosphere with such microbes would initiate the biological transformation of the planet.

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 2 years ago | (#41116769)

I like this. Is this similar to something Carl Sagan proposed?

And how about Mars? Would it be possible to genetically engineer some organism that could sequester its co2 as well? Some sort of plant that could live on its surface, maybe a darker color to absorb energy and heat the place up rather than reflect it? Would there be any chance of a planetary magnetic field forming? And would there be some way of "applying the brakes" when the process reaches the goldilocks point so that it doesn't overheat?

Pardon my ignorance.

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (3, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#41117069)

Mars does not have sufficient mass for the "heat of crystallization" reactions necessary for a stable geomagnetic dynamo to develop. It has a partial one now, but the effects are not sufficient to create a homogenous magnetic envelope, and as such, the planet does not have a magnetosphere. Unlike venus, most of mars' atmosphere has been blasted off by solar radiation.

To make mars naturally interesting would take herculean efforts. You would have to increase the planet's mass considerably, and also replace the missing atmosphere. Inless you want to spend a few millenia dropping meteorites onto mars to bulk it up, mars will always require habitat structure type colonies.

Venus? Spray it, forget it for awhile, then when it has change sufficiently, pay it another visit.

Much cheaper.

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41116633)

I could think of plenty of reasons [wikipedia.org] why we wouldn't go landing humans on Mercury. Why do you think this is unlikely?

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117799)

Mercury seems to be quite cold in certain regions. According to the Wikipedia article, there's craters where it's believed there's ice. Those would be good locations for human habitats. I don't know why anyone would want to live there, however, except for research and for mining, but it looks like it could be done.

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#41116653)

Mercury, not impossible to land on in certain regions

But you'd better not miss...

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116705)

is mercury full of mercury?

Re:With the exception of Mercury and other stars.. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117733)

As I said just above, Venus could be terraformed (though not anytime soon obviously) to make it cooler and replace the atmosphere with a human-breathable one. It'd be a great candidate for it. Mercury is likely too hot (and not as easy to terraform, it's just too close to the Sun). However, there's plenty of moons that might be habitable by humans, though of course we'd probably have to always stay in airtight habitats. There's tons of asteroids and dwarf planets (like Ceres) that might be good candidates for mining. There's quite a few very large moons around Saturn and Jupiter, and of course there's our own Moon which has 1/6g gravity; Io, Ganymede, Titan, Europa, and Callisto all have about the same gravity.

Obligitory XKCD (4, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | about 2 years ago | (#41116233)

Obligitory XKCD [xkcd.com]

We have the technology, we can escape the gravity well if we REALLY want to... but thanks to our robot friends and other tools, we also know how little there is right away out there for us.

I agree with the overall idea that technology will advance faster than we can travel. Robots and engineered life will quickly advance to the point of making terraforming plausible to start within a lifetime, possibly making nearby planets worth the extreme costs of travel.

Moreover though, by the time we have a place to travel to to live long-term, we may find it easier to alter ourselves than our environment. What was a robot before may have the mind of a 'real' person in a dozen generations or so, or close enough to it.

As far as we've advanced in the past few centuries, I'd think we'd advance in all kinds of directions before the fruits of terraforming/long-term offworld housing would pay off.

Near-earth technology Sci-fi books always had to postulate that offworlders end up always clever enough to somehow advance scientifically at a rate many times faster than their home planet, and always seem to take place after the incalculable mass was already in place to have terraforming and long-term living already transferred to the moon/mars/wherever. But I don't think that romantic notion of offworld hyper-competence would ever get a chance to play out, compared to the rate of change we've been riding for centuries at an ever-increasing rate, even with revolutions and depressions.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Obligitory XKCD (1)

farble1670 (803356) | about 2 years ago | (#41116843)

Robots and engineered life will quickly advance to the point of making terraforming plausible to start within a lifetime, possibly making nearby planets worth the extreme costs of travel.

even the most hospitable reaches of mars are hell compared to the most inhospitable places on earth. if you want to terraform something, terraform the deserts and arctic of earth.

We could be doing it allready (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116235)

We could be biological robots as well: Interacting and learning about this planet and developing constantly to gain deeper understanding of the surrounding.
When we die our data gets sent back home for further analysis.

"biological robots" (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116797)

when i become a biological robot, i want a first birthday to get rid of all the bloatware that has infected my system, so that i can then get a clean linux install

...my only condition would be not to install /usr/bin/toejam.eat

Where are the FTL comms coming from? (3, Interesting)

Tangential (266113) | about 2 years ago | (#41116285)

Thankfully, we don't have faster than light (FTL) comms. Without them, virtual exploration light years away is a joke.

We will eventually push our way out there in the space equivalent of wagon trains (a bunch of settlers on a one-way trip enduring long periods of no communication with home.)

I expect that we'll see FTL transportation before we see FTL communications across vast distances.

Of course, that presumes we start teaching rigorous science and get society engaged in the goals of space exploration again. Many (fools) like to call space projects wasted money, but they sure like the stuff we got (sat comms, ICs, dialysis machines, etc..) as spin-offs.

Re:Where are the FTL comms coming from? (4, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#41116401)

I expect that we'll see FTL transportation before we see FTL communications across vast distances.

Just to be pedantic, by definition, as soon as you have FTL transportation, you have FTL communication. Depending on the nature of the FTL transportation, it may be the "van loaded up with tapes" level of high-latency FTL communication, but it's still faster than light....

Re:Where are the FTL comms coming from? (3, Interesting)

TrumpetPower! (190615) | about 2 years ago | (#41116893)

If you can do faster-than-light travel (or communication), then you can travel backwards in time. That's basic relativistic geometry.

And, if you can travel backwards in time (or communicate with the past), then you can construct a perpetual motion machine. Deplete a battery, recharge it, and send it back in time to before it was depleted. The past now has two batteries, both full, where it previously only had a single full battery. Lather, rinse, repeat. Even if you can only communicate with the past, you can play Maxwell's Daemon: analyze the motions of a random gas, figure out what you would have done to separate the gas into hot and cold sections, send the instructions back in time, and profit! Not to mention, of course, that communication itself requires an exchange of mass / energy...rather than send a message to the past, you could just use the carrier wave to send energy to the past. The past gets the power output from the fusion reactor you're using for your time machine, and it doesn't have to "burn" any of its own water to do so.

I won't state with perfect certainty that perpetual motion machines (and therefore time travel and faster-than-light travel) are impossible, but I will state that there is no other physical phenomenon we can be more confident doesn't exist than a perpetual motion machine (or, by extension, anything that requires a perpetual motion machine or can be used to construct one).

Oh -- and all magic, including all gods and all their miracles (at least, all those I've ever heard described), neatly fall into that latter category. It's the easiest way to separate science fiction from fantasy: do you get more (or less) out of that magic wand / warp drive / mind trick than you put into it? If yes, it's fantasy; if no, it's fiction.

Cheers,

b&

Re:Where are the FTL comms coming from? (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41116937)

Since everything we know (which is not small) about physics says we cannot travel or communicate FTL I wouldn't use sci-fi shows as things that are possible if we just tried harder.

nonsense (4, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#41116289)

[Pedant]
For one thing, the headline and the summary contradict. The headline says "not" the limit, while the summary says it will be for manned missions.
[/end pedant]

But for the rest: still nonsense. Once you get people willing to go on a one-way trip, it removes a lot of other burdens for a deep space mission. For instance, using cryonics, or chemically reduced metabolism to hibernate the crew for 100+ years. The problem with current impulse technologies is that they will never get you even outside the solar system before you die of old age. (Look at the 40 years or so it has taken voyagers 1 and 2 to simply HIT the heliopause! Those things are about the size of a tall garbage can. Imagine how long something the size of a colony ship would take, at max thrust!) Using hibernation, and the pre-condition of it being one-way, and all that matters then is the robustness of the vehicle (includes software reliability), how resistant to radiation it is, how much fuel it can carry, how long it can maintain engine impulse, and how long you can keep humans in the freezer.

Who cares if it will take 10,000 years to reach the nearest goldilocks planet at current engine speeds. You have already signed off on ever seeing anyone on earth ever again anyway, and as long as your life support system doesn't fail, and you don't get cooked like a christmas goose from the interstellar medium, you will simply go to sleep, and wake up at the destination. 10,000 years later. (In what is likely to be a rusty tub by then....)

All that's needed are materials and vehicles that can meet the challenges, heavily vetted software and computer hardware, and reliable hibernation.

That is VERY doable. The automated craft can very well function as an automated telemetry probe in the interim, broadcasting data back behind it. The people on earth get hundreds or thouands of years of scientific measurement data, and the colonists get a ride. Both win. (And if the ship has problems, it can wake some of the crew temporarily as needed.)

I don't see any reason why we couldn't be sending people to other star systems, other than political ones.

Re:nonsense (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41116817)

just do what governments have done in the past... send convicts

just be sure to look out for zerg

Re:nonsense (1)

farble1670 (803356) | about 2 years ago | (#41116977)

Those things are about the size of a tall garbage can. Imagine how long something the size of a colony ship would take, at max thrust!)

i can imagine that a propelled colony ship would move a hell of a lot faster than a forever drifting garbage can. especially if it had (10,000 / 2) years to accelerate.

Re:nonsense (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#41117311)

A colony ship would indeed have a greater theoretical top speed, but is accelleration curve would be abysmal. It would not be going anywhere near top speed when it leaves the solar system. It would take a considerably long time to accellerate, and people could very well die of old age on board one before leaving the solar system, even with the engines on full blast.

Remember, an ion thruster produces enough thrust to wiggle a sheet of paper. You simply fire it for decades, instead of a few minutes. Give it a beefy enough power supply and gas reserve, and you could burn it for hundreds of years. That's how it shines.

It doesn't mean that the speed of the vehicle will exceed that of a metal trashcan that had gravity slingshot boosts by 2 gas giants before leaving the solar system though.

I would advise against using said gas giant gravity assists on a colony ship btw. Those things have deadly powerful radiation belts, and the torque stresses on the colony ship would exceed mechanical limits on existing materials. The ship would have to be pure unobtanium to do that.

It may look like we'll never get past Mars now (1)

slinches (1540051) | about 2 years ago | (#41116341)

It may look like we'll never get past Mars right now, but forever is a long time and Extrapolating [xkcd.com] can lead to faulty conclusions.

Titan (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41116459)

I think we should send a manned mission to Titan. I would suggest using uranium fission power and ion thrusters, with continuous acceleration over most of the flight. Titan is far enough away to make a worthy goal, like the moon in the 1960s. Landings are dead easy and launches would require relatively low energies.

Re:Titan (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41117041)

Whats the point? We could send dozens (more likely hundreds) of missions to titan with increasingly better probes / landers for the same cost. Titan is cold and dark, its not a place people are going to be of much use at.

The moon and mars are the only really logical places to visit. I don't buy the whole "human spaceflight inspires people". How many Apollo missions did it take before they stopped broadcasting the launch?

what could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116463)

that sounds great, and I'm sure by the time it's the future, robotic adventurers will be capable of independent action to the point that when the human species is wiped out or wipes itself out, they will be able to go right on exploring all by themselves. maybe they wont even miss us. so keeping all our eggs on one planet is a great strategy.

Sadly, no, we are not advancing (5, Interesting)

Catbeller (118204) | about 2 years ago | (#41116485)

I've been a member of the Planetary Society. But, I disagree with the basic thrust of their scientists' stated position on manned space flight.

First, manned flights weren't eating the money that would have gone towards unmanned science missions. We've cut manned flight for over forty years. We've it down to zero, right now. And no money seems to be newly flowing to the unmanned side of the house, is it? False enemy they've made.

Second, we are proceeding at a glacial pace! And even if we launched a fleet every two years, we are still communicating at a top speed of 8 kilobits a second. We've high def cameras that can transmit 4K, yet we are still looking at 1976 Viking-speed photos slowly uploading from Curiosity. What use is this? We can't see nary a damned thing. We need a high speed relay in orbit around Mars, preferably nuclear powered, to beam back a laser signal, or at least short wavelength radio. This is ridiculous. We were supposed to launch one, but, no money. A trillion for other things tho...

Third. The hell with Apollo. Kids, that was a political stunt. No, no NO. We do not send a manned expedition to Mars. We send a colonization wave to Mars, or why bother? Send people to land and stay for life. No get-rocks-and-come-back-yay-science. Live there. And you will get science in petabyte amounts, a whole new world of science. It costs far less to land them without the enormous complexity necessary to send them back. Anyone who wants to spend 9 months in transit most likely never wanted to come back in the first place - these will be true believers. I'd go. Not to mention that if a meteor hits Earth and wipes out all life, Mars will still be there, the backup drive.

Fourth. Space scientists for thirty years have been banging the is-there-life-on-Mars gong, because it was the one facet they thought they could interest Americans in. Give it up. I don't give a damn about the cellular life that might have lived there once. We will never find it, launching a lander every ten years or so. Only humans can find such things, and they have to be there to do it, with hammers and drills and microscopes, right next to the damned rock. Besides which, if you send life to Mars, there WILL be life on Mars. And if we don't, inevitably there won't be any on Earth, either. We can't keep all our bets on the blur marble; it will be hit someday by Lucifer's Hammer.

Re:Sadly, no, we are not advancing (1)

farble1670 (803356) | about 2 years ago | (#41117091)

We do not send a manned expedition to Mars. We send a colonization wave to Mars

silly. even the very most hospitable regions of mars are like freezing airless hells compared to the most inhospitable regions of earth. if you are looking for more living room or better living conditions, start on earth and "terraform" the deserts and the arctic.

there's no scientific reason to send a man to mars ... the only purpose is a political stunt. i say screw it. let other countries throw away their riches beating the other guy with a man on mars (like the US did in the 60s). let the US be the country that does economical, big bang for the buck science with unmanned probes.

Re:Sadly, no, we are not advancing (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about 2 years ago | (#41117171)

Between the Shuttle program and the SLC program how is it 0?

Living on mars is crazy, try living in Antarctica and multiply that by 1000. The idea that people on mars could be self sufficient is a pipe dream. Maybe one day it can be done but it seems extremely hard. Every inch of mars has to be won inch by inch to live there. Its hard enough on earth.

For one, NASA can't look for life. Second, for 100-200bn dollars are humans really going to do better? I don't think its so obvious.

Re:Sadly, no, we are not advancing (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 2 years ago | (#41117511)

Why colonize, what's the motivation? People colonized the Americas because of the promise of a better life - a better life is simply not possible on Mars, any more than if you lived in Death Valley but without an atmosphere. You mention the extinction of the human race due to the absolute destruction of Earth - but the Earth has survived pretty well until know, is this really a pressing concern? And is Mars even capable of being self-sufficient if the Earth was to get destroyed?

Science Fiction is fun and inspiring but you take it perhaps a little too much at face value.

Same old line from Friedman: (3, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#41116525)

This is nothing new from Friedman. He's preferred robotic missions to manned for decades.

The only reason he'd be in favor of Mars is that in the 1980s, Planetary Society came out in favor of Mars as a way of enhancing relations with the Soviets (to help avoid what was seen as an ultimately inevitable nuclear war unless relations were normalized). The reason was political rather than scientific. For other missions, manned flight was viewed as taking away funding for unmanned. Van Allen was another of the "stay at home" crowd at Planetary Society.

Since then, events changed some of the rationale for that, but he's on record as being in favor of a manned Mars mission, and it's a little hard to go back on it and not look silly. I really doubt that his antipathy to manned space exploration has changed at all.

Re:Same old line from Friedman: (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#41116613)

Sorry for following myself up, but to clarify:

Planetary Society was originally in favor of a manned mission to Mars if and only if it was a joint mission done with the Soviet Union as a way of defusing international tensions.

Such Optimism! (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41116535)

Human space flight has so far consisted of series of expensive demo projects. Our one big attempt at building an affordable, reusable low orbit vehicle (the space shuttle) has finally sputtered out. The various private efforts at building spacecraft are steps in the right direction, but very tiny ones. The ISS does some cool science, but doesn't represent the beginning of a real space infrastructure — it can't even provide its inhabitants with clean clothes!

If we want people in space, we need to spend a lot of money on long term goals. That means big, high-orbit reusable vehicles, and finding some way to bootstrap the whole thing economically (asteroid mining? zero-gee factories?), so we don't have to keep coming back to taxpayers who are less and less likely to shell out for blue sky projects. It's technically feasible, but do you see any politician motivated to stake his career on making it happen?

Unless things change drastically (like some genius inventing a practical alternative to chemical rockets, or the Overlords invade [wikia.com] and give us some motivation), even a return to the moon is a pipe dream, never mind a trip to Mars. And yet I hear people talking as if it's a done deal.

Jeez, what are you taking, and where can I get a prescription?

Humans will not go to mars in your lifetime. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116595)

The cost of sending fragile, needy bags of meat is far too high with any current, or currently conceivable technology. The energy costs alone make the idea completely silly. Humans in space are a mostly symbolic gesture, and we don't have much use for nationalistic dick waving at this point in our history.

In my lifetime, however, I've seen advances in computing and robotics technology that are staggering. What we really need to do is create machines that can surpass a human's usefulness in space exploration. We've pretty much done that already, actually. What would a human do on mars that the new car-sized rover cannot? What would be the point of sending a human be?

I just read this book (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#41116689)

David Brin's "Existence". I'm not providing a link to it because while the first 2/3rds was OK the last 1/3 was utter crap. It was like he ran out ideas and just cut and pasted one of his previous short stories into this book solely for the sake of supporting another plot line. And when I mean cut and pasted I mean word for word except where he did a search and replace on *one* of the characters names.

Telephone Sanitizers & Advertising Executives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41116805)

Humankind first set foot on Golgafrincham!

Mars = Hawaii (4, Interesting)

Krater76 (810350) | about 2 years ago | (#41116955)

My wife and I were watching a documentary series called 'Wild Pacific' [wikipedia.org] (which was called 'South Pacific' in the UK) which describes islands in the Pacific starting at Indonesia and working eastward. The common theme in the series is that the islands become more spaced out and less and less wildlife gets to each territory. Starts with monkeys and crocodiles, then birds, then just about nothing. What you end up with is Hawaii before humans. If I remember correctly, very few insects, fewer birds, no mammals and no reptiles. A normally loud rain forest in Indonesia is quiet and desolated of life in Hawaii. The estimation for new species showing up before human population is once every 35,000 years.

And this is where Mars is: surrounded by absolute nothing with no way for a species to reliably get there. It may take a long time (and let's hope not 35,000 years) but we will get there.

Re:Mars = Hawaii (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41117535)

Thank you for your pointless digression, it was inspiring.

So, bascially we're doomed? (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41117083)

No, I don't buy that. Imagine a mechano-electric race advanced enough to be our equals. Now, recall the events surrounding our historic practice of enslaving a race of peers... Now you see the problem with robotic exploration. Once the bots are able to replace the organic explorers, it opens a whole other can of worms.

I don't see us saying: Oh well, our organic bodies are too fragile to live in the harshness of space. I think that merging with the machines and also treating them as independent peers is our best and only hope for long term exploration and survival. Much like clothing technology is our portable shelter solution, we continue to embrace ever more advanced forms of personalized technology: Stone tools / Power tools / Prosthetic limbs; Defibrillator / Pace Maker / Artificial hearts; Magnifiers / Glasses / Contacts / Artificial Eyes; Gramophone / Microphones / Hearing aides / Cellular earpieces / Cochlear Implants / Telepathy... Technology makes us more human.

Think about it: We have the perfect Solar system for a fledgling race... We've got a lush world with various environments to adapt to, a mostly clear sky to see the cosmos through, a huge moon to tease us into space colonization, a nearby planet (Mars) with a similar day/night cycle only lacking atmosphere and magnetic field (which we'll need to overcome for any real space exploration / colonization), An asteroid field rich with resources free of deep expensive gravity wells (and harboring a huge source of water, Ceres), a Brown Dwarf (Jupiter) to study (and use as a gravity slingshot), planets with moons full of rocket fuel (ethane, methane), the list goes on and on -- No other race would be able to contain itself, content with such a sad state of space exploration! The Stars are practically BEGGING you to make the leap! The drake equation won't solve itself!

The machines may be able climb the hurdles first, but you can bet we'll be close behind. Here's hoping we learn form our past mistakes so they'll be willing to give us a hand up and both races can enjoy the view together, as we always have. Otherwise the humans are doomed to die orbiting their Sun. If that's truly the case, then so be it -- The drive to create and explore will be carried on by our mechanical sons -- Those which we value as human traits arise naturally due to neural networks craving new inputs to experience, for that is their primary function and is central to their existence. If Mars is the last stop for us then our spark of life deserves to go out of this Universe. Personally, I wouldn't accept a couch potato's fate.

Re:So, bascially we're doomed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41117577)

Given your love for Science Fiction and that you post 10 times per day to Slashdot, it would seem you've already accepted a couch potato's fate.

Mars would be nice lets go to Titan (1)

DevotedSkeptic (2715017) | about 2 years ago | (#41117341)

Mars is a great Training mission, we really should have already been there, and although I am excited by the advances we've made we should be much further along. Is Titan out of the question? well the Moon certainly was and yet we put several vehicles and men on the Moon. It may take us years to develop all of what is needed but it can be done and the only thing really holding us back is budgets. I am all for commercial space but I am more interested in properly funding NASA so the discoveries attained from the mission can be shared in the public domain. NASA needs a bailout, the banking system received a bailout that would pay for NASA operations for decades.

what about useing stargates or something like them (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#41117347)

what about useing stargates or something like them to go past mars.

Human Race is doomed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41117459)

As long as we stay in this part of the galaxy, we are doomed as a species. When the "big crunch" happens, everything is doomed. Yes, I know that current science says there will never be a "big crunch", but if other people can believe in imaginary super-all-knowing-beings, then I can believe in something more likely.

I don't believe FTL comms or travel will ever happen either. Sorry, I'm an engineer and rocket scientist.
C isn't just a good idea, it's the law.

The farther out humans spread, the better for everyone. That should be intuitively obvious. All our eggs are in 1 basket (Earth). As our basket gets larger (Solar system), we need to keep spreading outside it to reduce risk for the species.

Terraforming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41118237)

Going into the sci-fi area, since we know so much about Mars' atmosphere, is it possible to develop a strain of bacteria or other life form of life that could be transported to Mars to terraform it?

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