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Christmas On Mars

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the i'm-dreaming-of-a-red-christmas dept.

Mars 41

At John Scalzi's blog, astronomer and science fiction author Diane Turnshek writes about spending the holidays at the Mars Desert Research Station, a place in Utah where The Mars Society is running test missions to figure out proper procedures for living in a habitat on Mars. She says, "In sim, we eat rehydrated/dehydrated food, have a 20-minute lag time for communication, spend time in airlocks before going out on the surface and conserve water (Navy showers every three days). A row of parked ATVs out in front awaits us for our more distant EVAs. We have to be careful–the nearest hospital is forty miles away on back roads and there’s no cell service here on Mars. Reports are sent via email to Mission Support every evening in which we have to clearly explain any technical or medical problems and they respond in kind. I’ve been working in the Musk Observatory, taking CCD photometry of eclipsing binary stars." You can also read the mission's daily crew reports and browse through their photostream.

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41 comments

Navy showers every *3* days? (4, Funny)

Provocateur (133110) | about a year ago | (#42389455)

Sign me up!

Re:Navy showers every *3* days? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42391393)

The problem being is that the bioregenerative water system *Dies* at such low flow levels.

Re:Navy showers every *3* days? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42396711)

What a joke. The US can't even get a man into orbit and yet they 'play play' they are on Mars. Children do this.

While you're there, (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42389511)

Be sure to wish each other Einy Klaveeny Klibidv'vak.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZmK5Qd071U

Simulate the Internet (1)

ayjay29 (144994) | about a year ago | (#42389531)

If they really want to simulate life on Mars they should set up an internet connection with realistic latency built in. I think after a few days of waiting 60 minutes for Twitter and Facebook refreshes they will be tearing the walls down to get back to civilization...

Re:Simulate the Internet (3, Informative)

p0p0 (1841106) | about a year ago | (#42389553)

I think that would fall under "communications" if you re-read the summary.

Re:Simulate the Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42389697)

Yeah, can you just imagine that latency...

He: I put on my wizard robe and hat...
20 minutes passes
She: Your wand is bent...

gotta love those delays...

Re:Simulate the Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42392709)

Just get Comcast. No need to "imagine" it.

Re:Simulate the Internet (3)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#42389655)

I used to play a turn-based gamed called VGA Planets. It was play-by-email. Usually a turn would be played once per day. We'd complete our moves, generate a play file, UUencode it, and copy/paste into email body and send it. The host would process everybody's moves and email back the results for the next days' turn.

With 60 minute lag internet, play-by-email could make a comeback...

Re:Simulate the Internet (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#42391049)

There are literally THOUSANDS of games out there that do this with even greater lag than that. They are usually focused around people that only have time to make a few moves per day. So you get a certain number of moves that you can make at any time during the day until you run out of movement points. You regenerate so many points per day. As a result you usually log in once a day or less to make your moves, and then wait for everyone else. Any of these would work just fine from anywhere inside the solar system and hour or more delays.
http://www.travian.com/ [travian.com]
http://www.urbandead.com/ [urbandead.com]
http://quiz.ravenblack.net/blood.pl [ravenblack.net]

etc... etc...

Re:Simulate the Internet (1)

yahwotqa (817672) | about a year ago | (#42393365)

I'm only familiar with Urban Dead from your list, but it wouldn't work if you were on Mars. Yes, you get 1 move per 30 minutes to spend whenever you see fit, but it's (at least) one HTTP request to server per move, so you would barely be able to spend the moves faster than they regenerate.

Re:Simulate the Internet (1)

jonadab (583620) | about a year ago | (#42393863)

Actually, I think the two most important things to simulate would be the extremely low atmospheric pressure outside your complex (the atmosphere on Mars is closer to vacuum than a standard physics-classroom vacuum pump can produce in a jar; simulating this outside the complex on Earth would mean putting your exterior environment under a big dome with HUGE vacuum pumps) and year-and-a-half travel time to and from Earth (which can be simulated easily: any new supplies you import must go into a waiting bin for a year and a half after you order them before they can actually be delivered to the complex). Also, they should keep track to the last ounce of every single thing they deliver to the complex, so they can realistically calculate the cost of all that interplanetary shipping.

dummies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42389661)

first thing anyone does is lay down and bury enough fibre optics to communicate in near real time
and then the call of duty game is on....put up some microwave towers and make it so no matter where you are at on sufrace you get coverage...
boy are you guys not thinking.

Can it be fixed? (1)

mwfischer (1919758) | about a year ago | (#42389673)

I'm curious.

How difficult would it be to drop a NASA LTE tower on Mars and a GPS sat?

Say what you want but about the idea... but GPS / LTE is fairly useful on earth. Interplanetary text messaging fees, knowing Verizon, would be about $140,000 each.

Re:Can it be fixed? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42389743)

You'd need something like a dozen GPS sats in the first place. Then, you'd need a control center on Mars to keep their time bases synchronized.

water (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about a year ago | (#42389677)

There's no reason to think water would be that limited on Mars. How hard can it be to melt some rock into the form of a holding tank, set up solar panels, and melt ice?

Re:water (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#42390173)

There's no reason to think water would be that limited on Mars.

No reason to think water would be all that limited on a ship/submarine floating in the stuff. Nonetheless, there's a reason they call it a "Navy shower" (FYI: you run the water long enough to get wet, turn the water off, soap&shampoo as needed, then turn water back on long enough to rinse off).

In case it's not obvious, the real limiter isn't the amount of water nearby, it's the ability to purify the water that provides the limitation - water purifiers/distillers tend to be large and moderately power-intensive.

How hard can it be to melt some rock into the form of a holding tank, set up solar panels, and melt ice?

Not hard at all. Of course, you have to carry the rock-melter to Mars, plus power source for same. Plus solar panels (which will give you less than half the output you'd get here on Earth). Plus the fuel to move all that to Mars - adds a lot to the difficulty of the initial mission.

For a permanent station, expect that you'd do it this way, expanding capability as resupply missions brought you more equipment. But it's pretty likely that if you were serious, you'd be expanding the personnel at least as fast as you'd be adding new equipment, and there'd always be people (to include many/most of the scientists actually on Mars) who'd prefer the lift be used to send more science equipment rather than infrastructure....

Re:water (1)

osiaq (2495684) | about a year ago | (#42390289)

is there a possibility to send some nuclear generator, like submarine one or this famous russian lighthouse? Or maybe 5 of them, it might solve some problems

Re:water (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#42390687)

is there a possibility to send some nuclear generator, like submarine one or this famous russian lighthouse? Or maybe 5 of them, it might solve some problems

It's gotten a lot [phys.org] of thought [technologyreview.com] . I regard it as pretty likely.

But, you are still likely to be power limited.

Re:water (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#42392393)

is there a possibility to send some nuclear generator, like submarine one or this famous russian lighthouse? Or maybe 5 of them, it might solve some problems

Note that a submarine nuke plant is quite heavy - a moderately large number of hundreds of tons (and it was that light because it could use the whole ocean as cooling fluid for the secondary loop). And still we had "navy showers".

Yes, it would solve a lot of problems, but getting it there isn't going to happen soon (with "soon" defined VERY loosely).

It would probably be quicker and easier to build a Solar Power Satellite in Mars orbit to beam power down to the base....

Re:water (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | about a year ago | (#42397383)

Moving things to Mars is always going to be incredibly expensive, and if there are people willing to take the trip knowing that they'll have to work with severe power and resource restrictions, then those things are luxuries and the money can be spent on sending more useful and mission-critical things to Mars instead.

The next major milestone on Mars will be self-sufficiency. Once you can live off the land and energy production becomes cheap, you can start producing more luxury items and make fewer sacrifices, but it will be quite a while before it becomes cost-effective to build up enough infrastructure for effectively limitless fresh water, heat, power, etc.

Re:water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42391473)

You miss the point. The Fearless leader has proclaimed *The Plan*.
It makes no sense from an engineering standpoint. The Plan was
documented in *the book* before the water was really discovered.
The book is only updated on the glorious progress of the leader

Mars Society == mars fanboys (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42389731)

If you read up on the Mars Society, you'll find they have nothing to do with an actual science org. These guys sound like the BioSphere project, but cheaper.

Re:Mars Society == mars fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42391459)

A Space Nutter church, basically.

My irony meter is pegged. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42395879)

Yes, they are a bunch of Mars fanboys. But Science is not about belonging. It's not a church. If they are using the scientific method and publishing their results, then they are scientists. Susan Fitzer (and friends) just published a paper:

"Visualisation of the Copepod Female Reproductive System using Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy and Two-Photon Microscopy"

If you don't already subscribe to the Journal of Crustacean Biology, you might have missed it. And that might have occurred because what she's doing doesn't seem interesting or productive to you, but those criteria are irrelevant. She is a real scientist.

Whether you live or die on the Martian surface depends on bringing everything you need with you from earth.. If 5 years of playing space-sim out in the desert causes the actual Mars explorers to bring along one more critical piece of equipment that saves their lives due the Mar's Societies studies, it will have been money and time well spent.

Hospital 40 miles ... (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#42389763)

on back roads?

Many people here on earth would wish they were that lucky.

Re:Hospital 40 miles ... (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about a year ago | (#42390635)

on back roads?

Many people here on earth would wish they were that lucky.

I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains.

But a thousand k's to hospital really IS a major pain.

Wrong objectives (4, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | about a year ago | (#42389979)

Crappy communications.
Poor transportation.
Shortage of water.
And this dude is doing astronomy. WTF?

Dig some tunnels. Set up some infrastructure. Distil some water. Check on the microbes being bred for terraforming. Do something to improve life on mars. We have well equipped astronomers and space telescopes here at home.

Re:Wrong objectives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42390639)

The summary said that she's doing photometry of eclipsing binary stars: looking at the decrease in the light from the binary system when one star moves in front of the other. If you record exactly *when* this happens, at two different observatories, the light-speed delay between them tells you *where* the binary system is. The farther apart the two observatories, the more precisely you can locate the binary. If one of those observatories is halfway to Mars, you can locate it very precisely indeed. And then you can start doing more funky stuff: measuring its proper motion across the sky, which lets you trace back its orbit to find where in the Milky Way it formed, and that sort of thing.

So, this sort of astronomy is actually something that it's really useful to do on a trip to Mars, since you have a nice telescope anyway (for surveying the planet) and a few months of free time.

Disclaimer: I'm a radio astronomer, not an optical astronomer. I don't know exactly what sort of binary systems the astronomer in the article is looking at, or whether it's definitely possible to do what I described above: it's just the first possibility that came to my mind.

Re:Wrong objectives (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#42390705)

Yes, and the same could be said for asteroid observations. Not only are there a lot of asteroids that come closer to Mars than to the Earth, but the difference in phase angle would make simultaneous observations especially valuable.

My guess is here, however, is that this is something that they could give them to do that is both close to what you might do on Mars, and independently checkable.

Useful, But Not Optimal - (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42391489)

Why not situate near the poles of Mars, where there is abundant water ice beneath the frozen carbon dioxide, which is itself highly useful?

Why rely on solar power, which is only marginal on mars, when you can also use said resources as reactor coolant?

Planting a wannabe civilization smack in the middle of the least habitable regions of Mars, which are poorest in resources crucial for survival, does not strike me as wise. Nor does relying on an at best marginal power source, which will not produce the levels of energy needed to quickly establish industry on Mars. A successful colony on Mars will only be possible with large quantities of energy and large volumes of water - hypothetical missions should focus on landing or assembling a SMR near the ice caps and setting up shop there while scouting for indigenous mineral resources, not struggling to survive in the desert. Launch capability also relies on securing fuel - a large reservoir of water is helpful here.

no mobile phone service? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42391507)

I'm just curious if the scientists can dial the local emergency number via a landlane. I wonder if there is an on-site medical clinic. I can dial 112 from my mobile phone even when I am 40 kilometres from a hospital.

"Conquest of Space" (2)

dpbsmith (263124) | about a year ago | (#42391799)

Christmas on Mars forms the climax of the 1955 George Pal movie, "Conquest of Space." The crew of the first ship to Mars has been debating whether God gave Mars to humankind to exploit, or just Earth. They all agree that according to the Bible God gave "the four corners of the Earth" to humankind. The question is whether God's domain extends to Mars.

If God exists on Mars, then Mars belongs to humankind as well.

Due to plot complications, the ship is forced to remain on Mars for a year, and their water supply isn't going to last that long. On Christmas Day, they are glumly playing carols on the harmonica while contemplating the prospect of their demise, when it begins to snow, providing the water they need and proving that God exists on Mars. Ergo Mars belongs to humankind, it's OK to conquer space, and the music is allowed to build to a crescendo behind the words "THE END."

The special effects aren't too good, either.

Like the original Christmas in the desert (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#42394439)

Christmas On Mars

Ooh! Let's decorate.

A little green here, some silver and gold there. Ahhhh. We've got the red covered, don't worry about it.

Wayne Coyne as Santa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42394609)

And the soundtrack is cool too.

Re:Wayne Coyne as Santa -YEAH! (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about a year ago | (#42398045)

great homemade art film! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363240/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
eerie music too
Christmas on Mars

I can't believe there aren't more Fearless Freaks in the slashdot crowd -maybe they're still in a Christmas food coma!

-I'm just sayin'

Read "Red Mars" (2)

Rastl (955935) | about a year ago | (#42396449)

Enjoyable reading if you want to get some idea of what it might take to colonize Mars. All the problems listed are addressed there along with a bunch of others.

A Mars colony will be a Biodome project. They need to be as self-sufficient as possible since there's no alternative waiting outside the door.

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