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NASA's 'Inspirational' Mars Flyby

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the trip-that-almost-was dept.

NASA 108

astroengine writes "The idea of slingshotting a manned spacecraft around Mars isn't a new one. In the 1960's, NASA carried out a feasibility study into an 800-day flyby mission to the Red Planet. And it would have been awesome. AT&T/Bellcomm mathematician A. A. VanderVeen was working for NASA in 1967 and came up with 5 possible launch opportunities between 1978 and 1986 — two windows in 1979 and 1983 provided the shortest transit time between the planets. But launch mass and fuel requirements were a constant issue. So VanderVeen turned to physics to find an elegant, and scientifically exciting, solution: add a Venus flyby to the Mars trip. Mars, Earth, and Venus align with the sun five times every 32 years, but Venus and Mars alignments happen more frequently making double (Earth-Venus-Mars-Earth) or even triple (Earth-Venus-Mars-Venus-Earth) flybys a viable mission. Unfortunately, the flyby never happened."

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First post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073827)

Firsties. they could have then proved men really are from mars and women really are from venus

Re:First post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073865)

you just had to go there didn't you?

Re:First post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074047)

I thought there was a filter preventing the words 'First Post' in a subject. He seems to have a workaround. To quote TFS, that's awesome. I FEEL LIKE YELLING!

800 days without any possibly of escape (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074115)

All talks of "manned flight to Mars" centered around getting living human beings into a little confined spaced for hundreds of days

Even if every single thing works out - no one die on route, no accident, no nothing - it would still be an extremely cramped up place for human beings, and the psychological trauma of cooped up inside a holding cell for hundreds of days isn't something easy to deal with

But what if something goes wrong ?

What if one of the occupants die in route ?

What then ?

Is there any "escape plan" built in ?

How to deal with the rotting corpse ?

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (4, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074159)

Is there any "escape plan" built in ?

The Venus flyby plan allowed an abort in the first few days to return to Earth, but after that you were on your own. I presume the Mars flyby would be similar.

If you look back in history, few real voyages of exploration had an 'escape plan'. If you're not willing to lose a few crews, you shouldn't be sending them out there.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074685)

If you look back in history, few real voyages of exploration had an 'escape plan'. If you're not willing to lose a few crews, you shouldn't be sending them out there.

Bingo. The entirety of human evolution, biologically and technologically, has been driven by trying something and not dying from it. As a result, we've made tremendous progress both is achieving stated goals and in escaping from failure. Everyone trying something new should expect that death is always a possibility, despite the remarkable efforts to reduce its chance.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (1)

ediron2 (246908) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075429)

Space exploration is to sea exploration like ... well, like hard vacuum is to getting stranded on a beach:

There's (forgive the pun) astronomically less chance of surviving a fuckup in space.

Going on fifteen years of wishing computer geeks would learn that ROCKET SCIENCE HAS THE 'ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE' REPUTATION FOR A REASON.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (2)

rjch (544288) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076103)

Space exploration is to sea exploration like ... well, like hard vacuum is to getting stranded on a beach:

There's (forgive the pun) astronomically less chance of surviving a fuckup in space.

Not a fair comparison. What you should have said is along the lines of Space exploration is to sea exploration like a hard vacuum is to many hundreds or thousands of PSI of water pressure crushing you. Either way, you're stuffed if something serious goes wrong.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43077041)

So .... crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the late 1400s was a smal feat, given the technology available at the time.

What about trying to cross what is now the continental United States for the first time in the early 1800s?

What about going for a solo flight across the Atlantic?

What about reaching the magnetic north pole? or the south pole?

FFS, even going to the Moon in the late 1960s was a huge challenge (not just technological). It did cost some lives, remember the Apollo I (sorry, AS-204).

Sure, with the possible exception of the Lewis&Clark expedition, none of these took anywhere near 800 days to accomplish, but they required no less mental and psychological preparation or endurance.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43077135)

Also worth bearing in mind: While the great unexplored destinations of the age of sail were far more forgiving than our neighbour planets, the technology and the level of human organisation was not.

- The people back then built amazing ships, but their construction methods were based on rule of thumb craftsmanship rather than highly-specced precision engineering.
- Ditto for materials. They had no ISO reassurance that a given beam of wood would stand up to the forces and stresses of a storm.
- Their crews weren't all well-motivated, highly-trained, hand-picked experts, but consisted largely of whatever uneducated drunks and kids they could trick on board.
- They had no idea of what was at the other end of their journey except a big "Here be Dragones" on a map. They usually didn't even know how long their journey would be.
- They had, at best, primitive understanding of nutrition, medicine, psychology and all the other associated sciences necessary to keep a crew functioning at peak performance on a long mission. 4 months into a sea voyage you could expect much of the crew to be dead, diseased, injured, malnourished, disgruntled and/or half-crazy to boot.
- They had no contact with home, no mission control, no robotic probes ahead of them or telescopes behind them sending them vital information.

Sure, we all know heroic stories of the explorers who went out and discovered something big and came back to tell about it, but how many unsung crews and ships were lost because they ran out of food in a windless sea, or had their ship destroyed in a storm, or maybe the ship just sank because of a flaw in the hull's materials or because some crew member didn't do their job properly?

Basically, they were winging it: Flinging themselves into the complete unknown with little more than a hope and a prayer. Modern space programs, on the other hand, can be meticulously planned and modelled and trained for to the last detail. Sure, unexpected things will happen, (probably a lot less than you might think) but we can plan for those as well.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (1)

deadweight (681827) | about a year and a half ago | (#43079471)

Add two things: They had a chance of being amazingly rich beyond a lottery-winner's dreams. Not much of one, but a chance. Also sailors were pretty much disposable back then.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year and a half ago | (#43077609)

...And that's why we haven't done much of it yet.

From a human perspective, it's just as terrifying. Fear of sea monsters, pirates, doldrums, and gods' anger contributed to early sailors' supposedly-known risks, yet they still went exploring. Eventually we learned that there are no sea monsters or vengeful gods, but that doesn't diminish the courage of those who faced the risk willingly. Likewise, we know that hard vacuum will kill us, but there are still those brave enough to face such a danger willingly for the sake of exploration.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074307)

Burial in space.
Same as you do at sea.

It would have been an incredibly uncomfortable journey in 70s or 80's with the equipment on hand at that time.
They were thinking of using Apollo hardware. That didn't necessarily have to be mean JUST the capsule, because Skylab was a concurrent project, and it too was built out of the Apollo project in its early eays. Skylab was launched 14 May 1973, and it could have served as living space for a longer Mars mission.

But even Apollo plus Skylab would have been tight quarters for 800 days. Skylab was actually only occupied for 171 days and 13 hours during the three manned Skylab missions. I seriously doubt anyone could have remained sane, or that it could have carried enough food for a mission that long.
Rotting corpses would be the least of the problems.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (1)

mpthompson (457482) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076467)

A Mars ship with the capacity of Skylab for a 3 or 4 person crew would seem the ideal way to travel compared anything else that has been proposed. The Saturn 3rd stage provided a volume of a small townhome with large area the crew could even 'run' in. Probably the closest thing that could be managed today would be a few Bigelow modules to provide a bit of elbow room to a crew.

Food storage is indeed a problem. 800 days is just beyond the outer limits of what can be done with current freeze-dry technology -- at least according to a Nova Science Now program that was on a few years ago. Seems that growing food would be the best solution to supplement a pretty bland diet and provide recreation activity for the crew, but that in itself involves a lot of untried technology that could be problematic on a multiyear long space trip.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43077053)

It's a weight issue rather than a food issue; canning would work fine.

Escape from Orbit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074331)

Why not just take some volunteer who's on death row or something? Make an agreement that if he makes it back successfully, then he gets to go free.

Oh yeah, and he has to rescue the president from crazed hostile maniacs.

Re:Escape from Orbit (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074747)

Why not just choose a crew from the long list of regular volunteers you will have applying for every flight? Including, I suspect, every single currently trained astronaut and astronaut candidate in the world. And a hell of a lot of former ones. I don't know why this "Send criminals" meme keeps being passed around.

[They can still rescue the President if you want.]

Re:Escape from Orbit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074867)

Why not just send a robot... oh, never mind.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074769)

Don't be such a giant pussy. Explorers die. Heroes die. It's how shit gets done.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43075839)

Just not by you and me

Send one guy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43075927)

A hermit with a gaming habit.

Tada.

Seriously, this is the pencil solution of the damn problem. My joke aside, we literally have people for whom this would not be a real concern.

We're just scared of them. Which is stupid.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076127)

and the psychological trauma of cooped up inside a holding cell for hundreds of days isn't something easy to deal with

So we send Bradley Manning. Dude's already proven his mettle there.

Re:800 days without any possibly of escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43076267)

I'd bet there are enough volunteers that are willing to risk it

They're all single-launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073845)

All the plans I've seen so far involve single launches, which dramatically decreases the things a manned vehicle can accomplish on a mission outside Earth's orbit. They have the ISS right there, why not launch three or four modules, strap them together next to the ISS, and then go for Mars with quite a bit more breathing room?

Re:They're all single-launch (2)

almitydave (2452422) | about a year and a half ago | (#43073901)

Short answer: the ISS weighs 495 tons. That's a LOT of mass, and would take a lot of fuel, which itself would take even MORE fuel to get into orbit. A better compromise would probably be something like a small capsule with a habitat module, sort of like the Spacelab [wikipedia.org] module for the shuttle.

Furthermore, the mission profile for a single launch to orbit ejection is much simpler than multiple launches, docking, building a spacecraft in orbit, and then orbit ejection.

Re:They're all single-launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074087)

Not to mention that the ISS's orbit is not along the elliptical, so there's a plane change in addition to speeding it up by about 50%

Re:They're all single-launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074103)

I didn't mean to suggest that we throw the ISS at Mars, I meant that they should be considering using it as a staging point for any interplanetary missions.

Re:They're all single-launch (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074875)

What's the advantage to using the ISS as a staging point, as opposed to assembling the vehicle in its own orbital slot? Are you envisioning the ISS acting as on orbit housing for a team of assembly mechanics?

Re:They're all single-launch (2)

deadweight (681827) | about a year and a half ago | (#43079511)

Or just get it over with already and route the flight through Atlanta.

Re:They're all single-launch (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074135)

The moon could be used to change the plane of the resulting solar orbit though.

Re:They're all single-launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073907)

Why they don't do it: Because no lobbyists are pushing for it and there isn't a corporate sponsor for it. Once you get lobbyists and money involved, well, the sky is the limit.

Re:They're all single-launch (1)

multi io (640409) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074709)

All the plans I've seen so far involve single launches, which dramatically decreases the things a manned vehicle can accomplish on a mission outside Earth's orbit. They have the ISS right there, why not launch three or four modules, strap them together next to the ISS, and then go for Mars with quite a bit more breathing room?

If you have "three or four" modules instead of one, you're also gonna need three or four times the amount of fuel and rocket thrusters, which weighs much more than the modules themselves. In additional to strapping the modules together, you'll also need to strap those thrusters and their fuel tanks together and make them work in a coordinated fashion as one large rocket drive. That's never been done before.

800 day mission (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43073909)

They didn't even have video games to amuse themselves with back in those days.

Are we there yet?

Re:800 day mission (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074021)

Are we there yet?

So help me, I will turn this spaceship around!

Baxter proposed this (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074035)

In his novel, Voyage [wikipedia.org] .

Basically, back in '69, NASA decided on Mars instead of the Shuttle, and everything was sacrificed on the altar of Mars. The NERVA had a horrendous in-flight failure, so they had to go back to chemical, and they chose the Earth-Venus-Mars-Earth trajectory.

I'm guessing he read the old documents on this.

Why? (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074083)

What's the point of a manned ballistic fly-by? All the humans can do is operate some instruments for the brief period they're slingshotting around the planet.

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074145)

What's the point of a manned ballistic fly-by?

Mmmm .. how about to test out technology that hasn't been tried before? That and the fact that landing and boosting off Mars would probably add an order of magnitude of complexity to the project.

As an aside, I was watching a doco on the moon landings recently and they mentioned that the lunar lander on the Apollo 10 mission (which was a full dress rehearsal for Apollo 11 and came with 8 nm of the lunar surface) was not fueled 100% so that Stafford and Cernan wouldn't be tempted to upstage Armstrong by landing on the moon ahead of him.

Re:Why? (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074177)

Mmmm .. how about to test out technology that hasn't been tried before?

Again, there's no real point when you can test it in high orbit instead and be able to return to Earth in a couple of days. You can't test a new engine there easily, but if you're testing a new engine you'd be sending it on an unmanned mission anyway in case it failed.

Re:Why? (2)

erpbridge (64037) | about a year and a half ago | (#43078665)

The same could be said of doing the test of tech remotely from the safety of the surface of the Earth, and being able to return to your own home in a couple of hours.

For that matter, why did we send people to the moon... or up on the Apollo/Gemini/shuttle or Salyut... and why do we keep sending people to the ISS if they're just going to return later?

And had there been the capability of unmanned probes in the 15th and 16th centuries, the same could have been said of sending an unmanned probe across the ocean rather than humans traveling for months across a hostile environment that could not support all the basic living needs of humans, necessitating them to bring their own supplies (of desalinated water and food in the event that captured food was not enough.) Once you got a distance out from European port, quick fail back to port was a tough call.

Actually, same can also be said of climbing Everest or K2.

Why bother traveling there if its tough to failback easily within a couple days, and you're just going to come back? Just send a robot, and use the money on stuff back at home, right?

Sometimes, you need to go out there, push the boundaries, take some risks... even if those risks might mean possible death to the explorers, like in the 15th and 16th centuries, they knew that and still went. Because after one person goes forward, takes the risk, whether they succeed or fail, others will follow and push the envelope further. And as they do, they will improve on what was wrong, and expand on what was right.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43076649)

(which was a full dress rehearsal for Apollo 11 and came with 8 nm of the lunar surface)

Isn't 8 nanometers basically touching the moon?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43077147)

it was actually 8 NM ...or 8 nmi... as in Nautical Miles. So no, not anywhere near basically touching the moon. But, yeah, I had my doubts about the "nm" units, but it's easily fogiven.

Re:Why? (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076719)

Mmmm .. how about to test out technology that hasn't been tried before?

That has got to be close the most stupid reason ever.

How about we just build a big vacuume chamber, but the craft in that. Bath the whole thing in radiation for the 800 days. Throw away the key so that everyone dies if anything fails. We are testing the technology right? And it would be cheaper.

A manned fly buy of mars is only slightly more stupid that landing someone on mars. Its cost way more than remote sensor platforms with far more fall out when/if it fails for ZERO gain. Replacing all that life support equipment will always produce a better scientific return.

The worse thing that ever happend for space exploration was the cold war that gave us apollo.

Re:Why? (1)

orient (535927) | about a year and a half ago | (#43079915)

and came with 8 nm of the lunar surface)

For most of the world that means 8 nanometers. I had to search Wikipedia to figure it out: "The lowest measured point in the trajectory was 47,400 feet (14.4 km) above the lunar surface at 21:29:43 UTC." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_10 [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Why? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074215)

I imagine it'd be like an Apollo 10 mission, a kind of dress rehersal for a future landing.

Re:Why? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074263)

Yeah but Apollo 10 tested the lander, including the failure mode where they abort a landing and return the ascent stage to orbit. They also tested the lunar surface EVA while in lunar orbut. A flyby won't do any of that.

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

erice (13380) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074301)

I imagine it'd be like an Apollo 10 mission, a kind of dress rehersal for a future landing.

I think you mean Apollo 8 [wikipedia.org]

The key difference though is that Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 were testing the equipment that would land Apollo 11 on the moon. The Mars flyby seems to have been conceived as a one-off.

Re:Why? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075079)

You're right, that's a much better example.

I have to imagine there'd be some valuable information to be had in such an attempt though. You've got to get people to mars and back, after all.

Re:Why? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074407)

What's the point of a manned ballistic fly-by? All the humans can do is operate some instruments for the brief period they're slingshotting around the planet.

Which of course is largely what was done on Apollo 8. The did a few orbits (10) of the moon, but it was basically a hardware proving mission.
You have to start somewhere.

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074409)

What's the point of a manned ballistic fly-by? All the humans can do is operate some instruments for the brief period they're slingshotting around the planet.

Why climb a mountain? What is the point? All you do once you get to the top is look around, and climb back down again.

Nobody should ever do something so utterly pointless as climb a mountain.

amiright?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074449)

There's pointless yet doable, and there's completely and utterly pointless. Of course I don't expect the average autistic Space Nutter to grasp that.

Autistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074847)

Monomaniacal fixation on a single topic, lack of basic social skills, inability to recognise others' points of view, apparent inability to see how others perceive him (ie, lack of theory of mind).

You seem to be hitting quite a few of the criteria there yourself, Princess.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074803)

Why climb a mountain?

This isn't, "Why climb a mountain?". This is more like... "Why visit the staging area just below the summit and sit there admiring the view until you have just enough oxygen to get back down?"

Re:Why? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076395)

I climb many mountains - for the view. That's the reason I want to be there. I'm not going to climb when there is no view to be had.

Same for going to Mars. You go there to visit Mars - not to have a close-up look, but to really get personal with the planet. If it is just a fly-by, it's like climbing that mountain on a cloudy day: sure you can do it, and if the only point is "because you can do it" then it's fine. But the clouds take away the best part of the climb: the view from up there. Just like a fly-by over a landing would take away the best part of a flight to Mars: actually setting foot on that planet.

Re:Why? (2)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076731)

Thats a lot of money for a tourist trip. How about we let the "mountain climber" pay for his/own gear and trip?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074561)

To be able to say that Man has reached another planet - man has never been close to any planet except for their home.

Re:Why? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074861)

To show that our ambition still exceeds our capability, that our "reach exceeds our grasp".

Re:Why? (1)

multi io (640409) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074771)

What's the point of a manned ballistic fly-by?

Two things:

  • for the first time since 1972, we would again send humans so far out that they can see the whole earth as a sphere
  • for the first time ever, we would send humans into interplanetary space, so far away that all celestial bodies except the Sun (but including Earth) would appear as star-like points in the sky.

Re:Why? (1)

Mabhatter (126906) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075241)

There is a shop to pick up t-shirts!
"I went to Mars and all I got..."

They can post on Twitter!

Re:Why? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075903)

Well, passing by Mars is a point unto itself. You don't need another one.

Re:Why? (1)

Makawity (684480) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076869)

What's the point of a manned ballistic fly-by?

To make Mars flight controllers spill their coffee, of course.

Re:Why? (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | about a year and a half ago | (#43077739)

Q: What was the point of circumnavigating the globe?

A: Because we can.

Flybys (4, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074097)

The problem with flybys is that they have most of the complexity of a real Mars mission but don't actually achieve much of anything. You have to survive in deep space for a year or more, but all you see of Mars is a fleeting glimpse over the course of a few hours as you zoom past. Venus is even worse, because there's really nothing to see other than clouds.

They made a very limited amount of sense when unmanned spacecraft were really dumb, but they make just about no sense today. At best you'd be testing deep space tech for human spaceflight, but you can test it about as well and much more safely in high Earth orbit.

Re:Flybys (5, Interesting)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074441)

They made a very limited amount of sense when unmanned spacecraft were really dumb, but they make just about no sense today. At best you'd be testing deep space tech for human spaceflight, but you can test it about as well and much more safely in high Earth orbit.

You are totally correct. How utterly pointless a flyby is.

Im sure doing something for the fact that nobody in human history has ever done it before, being in the history books, the prestige and kudos that comes with it, im sure none of those things have ever had anything to do with human exploration. Im also sure the engineering and science advances that come out of a flyby like this also has nothing to do with it. Nor would be the information gathered from doing 90% of a Mars landing be of any use too.

amiright?

Re:Flybys (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075073)

amiright?

Nope. Sure, there may be engineering and science advantages to doing a flyby, but it would be relatively pointless. Nobody trains, raises the funds, coordinates the logistics, travels to Everest, and risks their lives for the sake of climbing 90% of the way to the top. Why? Because they can go all the way. Same thing with Mars. We have experience sending probes there. We have experience entering orbit, landing largish payloads softly on the surface. Soon we'll do a sample return mission. When we finally decide to send people to Mars, we will already know how to do everything we need to know to actually land there. We will know everything we need to know to go all the way. So really, there is no advantage to doing a mere flyby.

Besides, trying to explain it to the public, would be like trying to explain cleaning up all the garbage, bagging it, and then leaving it at the front door instead of taking it to the end of the driveway. It may make perfect sense that you will do it later, but your wife isn't going to be the least bit impressed.

Flybys may not be pointless, but... (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075231)

They made a very limited amount of sense when unmanned spacecraft were really dumb, but they make just about no sense today. At best you'd be testing deep space tech for human spaceflight, but you can test it about as well and much more safely in high Earth orbit.

You are totally correct. How utterly pointless a flyby is.

Im sure doing something for the fact that nobody in human history has ever done it before, being in the history books, the prestige and kudos that comes with it, im sure none of those things have ever had anything to do with human exploration. Im also sure the engineering and science advances that come out of a flyby like this also has nothing to do with it. Nor would be the information gathered from doing 90% of a Mars landing be of any use too.

amiright?

...I'd be willing to bet that most of humanity don't know who Stafford and Cernan are (if you had to look them up to figure out why I mentioned them, I win). The names of Armstrong and Aldrin will be remembered by the average man on the street as long as our species survives.

Re:Flybys may not be pointless, but... (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076755)

The names of Armstrong and Aldrin will be remembered by the average man on the street as long as our species survives.

A lot of the current generation don't know who they are. And really why should they? What did they do really? They where part of a billion dollar cold war pissing contest. I blame the apollo program for the current obsession with pointless space tourism for a few "elite" astronauts.

Re:Flybys may not be pointless, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43076905)

A lot of the current generation don't know who they are. And really why should they? What did they do really?

Why leave my basement? I have everything I need, and Mom brings me food!

Re:Flybys (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076695)

Im also sure the engineering and science advances that come out of a flyby like this also has nothing to do with it. Nor would be the information gathered from doing 90% of a Mars landing be of any use too.

What exactly would you be testing? The manned mission would be using the same rockets we're using on robotic missions- that doesn't need testing. Deep space navigation? Again, robotic missions. Long term life support in space? ISS has been doing that, and if you wanted to work on that as an area of technology then Earth orbit would be a good place to start.

The tricky bits of a proper manned mission are- the landing (a heavy payload that must touch down gently and not pull too many Gs- that's hard), life support equipment that can operate in the Martian atmosphere (i.e., dust storms and so forth), the ability to touchdown and return (either having a craft with enough fuel to land, lift off and set off Earthward, or having a mothership which can enter a stable orbit while a lander touches down and returns to rendezvous). None of which would be tested by a fly-by.

If you really wanted to test out a manned mission to Mars, I'd say the bare minimum would involve entering a stable orbit before returning. A fly-by is, in a sense, "too easy" to be of use- unpleasant and dangerous for all involved, without actually trying anything new.

Re:Flybys (1)

Solandri (704621) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076893)

Im sure doing something for the fact that nobody in human history has ever done it before, being in the history books, the prestige and kudos that comes with it, im sure none of those things have ever had anything to do with human exploration.

Quick, name the crew members of Apollo 8 - the first manned spacecraft not just to fly by the moon, but to leave Earth orbit and the safety of the Van Allen belt.

Drawing a blank? That's ok, you've got two more chances. Name the crew of Apollo 9. Still nothing? How about Apollo 10.

Still too hard? How about something easier? Name the crew member from Apollo 11 who stayed aboard the command module in lunar orbit while the other two went down to the surface.

Ok, now name the two crew members of Apollo 11 who landed on the moon.

The presitge, kudos, and the mention in the history books come with the first landing, not the first flyby.

Im also sure the engineering and science advances that come out of a flyby like this also has nothing to do with it. Nor would be the information gathered from doing 90% of a Mars landing be of any use too

There's certainly engineering knowledge to be gained, but nearly all of it can be done with unmanned spacecraft and extended stays in the ISS. Unlike the Apollo missions, we now know the dangers and problems associated with travel into deep space -- Apollo taught us. So there's little need to send people on a Mars flyby mission just to collect biometric data. Heck, if you really wanted to run that experiment under "authentic" conditions, you'd be better off putting a crew in orbit around the moon for 5 years. At least that way if something went catastrophically wrong or some unforeseen long-term effects began showing up, they'd be just a few days from the safety of Earth instead of years.

And in the Apollo missions, about 90% of the time was spent in transit, 10% on the surface. The relatively small transit time is what made the dry runs of Apollo 8-10 a smart choice. A Mars flyby of this type would probably replicate 99.5% of a Mars landing mission (figure 800 days each way, a week on the surface). If you're going to go 99.5% of the way, might as well go the extra 0.5% and land on Mars.

Re:Flybys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43080041)

Name the first human to walk on the American continent.

Re:Flybys (1)

neonKow (1239288) | about a year and a half ago | (#43080197)

No. You are not right. Stop being stupid. He didn't say that there was no benefit to a fly-by. He said there would be no benefit to a fly-by OVER testing in space or actually landing on Mars. And a fly-by of Mars is many many times harder than a fly-by of the moon.

Similarly, there would be no point in my trying to commute to work in a city on a horse. Sure, people in history have done great things using horses, and for a long time horses made sense, but today, with the option of driving a car, taking the bus, or riding a bike on well-paved roads that are decidedly horse-unfriendly. So yes, even though riding a horse to work is better than walking, it is pointless for me to go buy a horse.

Re:Flybys (1)

multi io (640409) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074823)

but all you see of Mars is a fleeting glimpse over the course of a few hours as you zoom past.

Probably not, since you're passing over the night side. All you'd see of Mars at closest approach would be a huge, pitch black disk that covers almost half the sky.

Re:Flybys (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year and a half ago | (#43076399)

A fly-by of Venus may be not so pointless, as it may very well decrease overall travel time due to the slingshot effect.

Cassini and Galileo flew by Venus (1)

erice (13380) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074133)

About launch mass (5, Interesting)

Edis Krad (1003934) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074311)

I never completely understood the need of launching massive ships from Earth whenever we want to leave it. Whenever we wanted to travel the seas, we did not build a massive caravel inland then painstakingly dragged it all the way to the coast. We reasoned it made more sense to build it in a dry dock, that way it only requires a tiny push to get it into the ocean.

Wouldn't anyone at NASA think that making a "Space Dock" made sense?. Make a bunch of tiny trips to lower earth orbit and build the ship there, so you can make a larger ships to travel further. Mass would not be such a big issue (granted, fuel would be), but at least the escape velocity problem would be non-existent.

Re:About launch mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074427)

At the scale of space travel, what makes you think that building the ship on Earth and rocketing it into space isn't the equivalent of a dry dock?

The better analogy would be building a sea faring ship from the water. I don't know how often this was done historically. But in any event, what's been done historically wrt sea travel doesn't necessarily have any bearing on how space travel should proceed.

Re:About launch mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074651)

Because then you don't have to design the craft to be able to take off from earth, carry its own fuel to reach earth orbit, as well as all the complexities of a ship that can go to Mars. If you were going to design a ship that could go to Mars it would be much easier to assemble it in space by shuttling pieces up, or at least shuttling additional fuel up to the craft once it gets up there.

Re:About launch mass (5, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074923)

I never completely understood the need of launching massive ships from Earth whenever we want to leave it. Whenever we wanted to travel the seas, we did not build a massive caravel inland then painstakingly dragged it all the way to the coast. We reasoned it made more sense to build it in a dry dock, that way it only requires a tiny push to get it into the ocean.

I can't tell if you're actually that stupid or if you're pretending to be stupid to make a point. I mean seriously, you can't grasp the difference between a shipyard (dry dock) that you workers can walk to and needs no especial support - and LEO where everything comes with a launch price cost tagged onto it?
 

Wouldn't anyone at NASA think that making a "Space Dock" made sense?. Make a bunch of tiny trips to lower earth orbit and build the ship there, so you can make a larger ships to travel further. Mass would not be such a big issue (granted, fuel would be), but at least the escape velocity problem would be non-existent.

No, space docks don't make any sense - they don't save you any money, in fact they cost you *more* because of the need to support your assembly on orbit. Mass is still a big issue because you have to pay to boost it. Escape velocity is still a problem, because you still need to boost the fuel to LEO and the mass of your spacecraft beyond LEO.
 
Yes, eventually we're going to have to face the on-orbit assembly issue, but we're a long way from that. We're still in the 'canoe' phase - which you *can* build inland and carry to the water.

Re:About launch mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43077433)

a moonbase makes more sense, if the moon were metal rich. or putting an asteroid in orbit that is metal rich (risky and impossible with current technology, risky because it could alter the moon-earth orbit in ways we do not anticipate. The moon keeps the earth from destroying all life on the surface by keeping it stable. Otherwise we'd be having ice ages more frequently, and no tides meaning a bunch of species would die off. a space dock would only be feasible if we could source the materials from space itself.

Re:About launch mass (3, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43077643)

I know this is the internets and being a dick is sort of 'operators license' but that was a rather harsh reply to a question that isn't a bad one.

It's reasonable to ask why we're working on interplanetary manned flights, when one might suggest that it's a better investment of effort (and we gain valuable knowledge about long-term zero-g effects, space construction, and a host of lessons useful to long-duration space trips) to build spacedocks, ie spacecraft construction facilities near Earth.
Now, no, LEO is not a solution, but L5 would be.

The first voyage to the new world wasn't in a canoe (well, not on purpose anyway). We made that trip in large, long range vessels, compared to what we were used to sailing at the time.

We're PAST the canoe stage where you could push off from shore but needed to go right back. We've even sailed to and walked around on Iceland, to carry the analogy to its limits. But we won't usefully go further until we're building vessels that aren't an exercise in stuffing 3 dudes into a phone booth (ie Apollo) for days.

And (his fundamental point) is that it's STUPID to loft vessels of that size/scope/capability (or significant pieces thereof) out of our gravity well.

Personally, I see a natural intersection of emerging technologies in autonomous robotics, 3d printing, and (not quite there) mass-drivers pumping raw material from the Lunar surface to an assembly point at L5. Not sure why nobody seems to be talking about it.

Re:About launch mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43078313)

The first voyage to the new world wasn't in a canoe (well, not on purpose anyway). We made that trip in large, long range vessels, compared to what we were used to sailing at the time.

And the 'new world' was already populated by indigenous people who got there how? Hovercraft?

Re:About launch mass (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43078567)

Obvious pedantry is obvious.

To suggest that you don't know what I meant by "first voyage to the new world" means you're either completely stupid or grossly disingenuous.

I'll credit you a brain, and the basic knowledge of current theories that Western Hemisphere indigenes crossed over by Alaskan landbridge.

Re:About launch mass (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43078403)

I know this is the internets and being a dick is sort of 'operators license' but that was a rather harsh reply to a question that isn't a bad one.

And you're about to get an even harsher one - because you've managed the difficult task of not only being more ignorant on the topic than the OP, but lacking in sufficient reading comprehension, mathematical ability, and simple reasoning ability. You just re-iterate his mistakes (and then add a few of your own), without showing any sign of even trying to comprehend my reply to him.
 

It's reasonable to ask why we're working on interplanetary manned flights, when one might suggest that it's a better investment of effort (and we gain valuable knowledge about long-term zero-g effects, space construction, and a host of lessons useful to long-duration space trips) to build spacedocks, ie spacecraft construction facilities near Earth.

It's only reasonable to ask if you also believe it's reasonable to ask why it's not legal to own unicorns or why cars have wheels and not Flintsone style rollers... I.E. it's only reasonable if you're completely and utterly clueless.
 

Now, no, LEO is not a solution, but L5 would be.

Yes - one difficult and expensive place isn't a solution... but an even *more* difficult and expensive place is.
 

The first voyage to the new world wasn't in a canoe (well, not on purpose anyway). We made that trip in large, long range vessels, compared to what we were used to sailing at the time.

Um, no. The first voyages to the new world (both by the Vikings and by Columbus) were made by vessels that were more or less generally like those in use for shorter voyages, Columbus' in particular were on the small side (much larger vessels existed) - and all were second or third hand (I.E. used) rather than purpose built.
 

And (his fundamental point) is that it's STUPID to loft vessels of that size/scope/capability (or significant pieces thereof) out of our gravity well.

Hello, McFly! Even if you boost it in pieces, it still needs to be boosted into orbit and then onwards to Mars. It doesn't matter if it's broken down into pieces - the mass remains the same. Breaking down into pieces *increases* complexity (and hence cost).

Re:About launch mass (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43078693)

You're not clever, you're just a dick. Might want to take a dose of Ritalin before you read this reply.

That is, a dick so busy trying to pretend he knows what he's talking about, and so intent on being as offensive as possible (why such gratuitous assholery? Need to prove to mom that despite your basement apartment you are "independent"?) that he can't be bothered to read & comprehend before replying.

1) you're asserting that flying to MARS is easier than developing some sort of space manufacturing - or an actual long-term base - at L5? I think you pretty seriously underestimate the engineering issues regarding a flight to Mars.

2) you might want to read my comment again, Mr Reading Is Fundamental; I said "...The first voyage to the new world wasn't in a canoe (well, not on purpose anyway). We made that trip in large, long range vessels, compared to what we were used to sailing at the time..."
a) the first purposeful trips to the new world were NOT in canoes.
b) the first voyages to the new world (I know you're talking about the Columbus voyages, but you're wrong because you're an idiot) were probably Vikings, who used the massive, huge knorrs (50+ feet in length, capable of carrying 20+ tons of cargo) which were much deeper of draft than the shallow-draft vessels used along the European coast. Some of the heavier vessels were used in the crossing to Scotland, etc but clearly, even the vikings understood that they needed more substantial, bad-weather craft to cross the open ocean.

3) and finally, the point isn't to boost it "in pieces" from earth. That would be stupid. The point is to have raw materials brought to the manufacturing point from the nearer and MUCH shallower LUNAR gravity well, and to have the ship manufactured in situ; the only pieces that might have to be brought up from earth would be (probably) electronics or other fragile/specialty equipment (like the crew) that you couldn't make with the facilities at L5.

Seriously, if you perhaps weren't quite so quick to be an insulting ass, you might read things through a couple of times to make sure you "got it" first.

Re:About launch mass (1)

N1AK (864906) | about a year and a half ago | (#43078739)

And you're about to get an even harsher one

Your need to point out how you were about to be an even larger dick before starting told me everything I needed to know to judge the worth of your opinion and skip it.

Re:About launch mass (4, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075019)

The problem is that working in space is hideously expensive. So that the cost of engineering out as much mass as possible to allow you to do everything in a single launch is, bizarrely, cheaper than launching a bunch of heavier-but-simpler-&-cheaper parts to assemble in orbit. For example, right now we can't even launch ship and fuel on separate rockets, which seems a pretty basic skill for a space-faring civilisation.

As we do more in orbit, particularly as private companies actually start operating human-space-flight (even if it's just to provide in-orbit services for NASA/DOD/ESA/JAXA/CSA/etc), we should see techniques developed to make operations in space cheaper. At some point we'll reach the cross over where assembly is always cheaper than single-launch. After that, someone will inevitably start building a "space-dock".

It's like reusable launchers. Logically, using a launch vehicle 100 times should be cheaper than using it once and throwing it away; look at aircraft, who would build a single-use plane? But so far we haven't been able to figure out how to make refurbishable craft cheaper than disposable ones.

Re:About launch mass (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43077305)

So that the cost of engineering out as much mass as possible to allow you to do everything in a single launch is, bizarrely, cheaper than launching a bunch of heavier-but-simpler-&-cheaper parts to assemble in orbit.

Generally cost scales only weakly with mass, but scales very strongly with complexity. The real cost of objects on orbit isn't the heavy parts - it's all the lightweight parts (all the parts that actually do the work) and all the interconnections between them. The thing is, those lightweight parts don't really get any cheaper with weight limits removed, nor does the costs of integration... Performance costs money.
 
Another issue is that spacecraft must be extraordinarily reliable, and reliability always adds to your costs. Nor does cheap launch take away the need for reliability - downtime for a GEO comsat costs the same regardless of launch costs. (And even if you have a cheap comsat on a cheap launcher ready for immediate launch - it takes days-to-weeks to get one on station and checked out...) Mars probes only have a launch opportunity once every eighteen months. LEO stations still mustn't endanger or kill their crews...
 
Everyone wants more mass because it does make design easier, but it's not at all clear how much more mass significantly drops the cost on orbit. What really drops costs is assembly line construction and commodity quantity/quality construction...

Re:About launch mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43075209)

Assembling a space ship is hard as balls, on earth. We are still quite a ways from being capable of putting one together in orbit.

Re:About launch mass (2)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075331)

While I agree, I'd argue that the International Space Station is much like a space ship and was assembled in orbit. That said, it was designed and built on earth.

Re:About launch mass (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | about a year and a half ago | (#43075363)

I never completely understood the need of launching massive ships from Earth whenever we want to leave it. Whenever we wanted to travel the seas, we did not build a massive caravel inland then painstakingly dragged it all the way to the coast. We reasoned it made more sense to build it in a dry dock, that way it only requires a tiny push to get it into the ocean.

Wouldn't anyone at NASA think that making a "Space Dock" made sense?. Make a bunch of tiny trips to lower earth orbit and build the ship there, so you can make a larger ships to travel further. Mass would not be such a big issue (granted, fuel would be), but at least the escape velocity problem would be non-existent.

Well, national space programs are not about exploring new frontiers. Military superiority and a corporate welfare program for defense contractors are about the only reasons that nation-states even pretend to have a "space program." NB: I'm not disagreeing with you -- if the US wanted a space program for exploration, that's what they should be doing, and as a tax-payer, I would be bitching loudly if they weren't. But exploration is not what the space program is for, so I don't bitch about it very much at all. With that said, if commercial exploitation of space-based resources ever becomes feasible, I would expect that nation-states will become interested in extending their ability to use force to protect claims on space-based resources. Should that happen, deep range manned missions might become a priority. Frankly, I'm hoping that Deep Space Industries succeeds in locating, mining, and returning valuable resources from space, and that some other commercial venture or nation-state sees their success and claim jumps them -- it's the only way I see to kick national space programs into gear.

Asteroid Mining. (1)

kieran (20691) | about a year and a half ago | (#43077079)

This only begins to make sense when you don't have to lift all the raw materials out of the gravity well anyway.

Think asteroid mining. Then think refining, manufacturing, assembly, QA, and everything else that needs to be done before the parts for your spaceship can turn up at the dry dock.

Re:Asteroid Mining. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43077325)

This only begins to make sense when you don't have to lift all the raw materials out of the gravity well anyway.

Think asteroid mining. Then think refining, manufacturing, assembly, QA, and everything else that needs to be done before the parts for your spaceship can turn up at the dry dock.

If we could do those things, sending a manned ship around Mars would be trivial.

Re:About launch mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43078959)

We never send "massive" ships up off the earth. When you look at that giant Saturn V or Falcon 9 rocket, only 10% of that is the orbiting/landing/experimenting vehicle. The other 90% is what's required to escape the power of Earth's gravity, and is discarded once they're up there.

Radiation! (1)

CHIT2ME (2667601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43074335)

Now, as then, if NASA doesn't solve the problem of shielding the astronauts from solar radiation and cosmic rays you might just as well call it; The Mars Fryby!!!

Do a parallel landing/relaunch on Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43074343)

At the same time they're doing the flyby's, they should launch a mission from Earth, land it in Antarctica, and then re-launch from there. If NASA can do a Mars flyby and a return mission from Earth to Earth, the rest is cake.

Done Long Ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43076047)

Fritz Lang's film 'Metroplis' pre-dates 'NASA-esq' thinking by decades.

Pity that NASA is brain dead and on cardiovascular life support today.

Better to let the monster die in peace.

"Monster, Monster you did say !"

Release the Kraken !

XD

Fortunately, the flyby never happened. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43076953)

This is soooo stupid. Mars can wait. Send all the robots you want but people need to concentrate on developing cities in space - L5 colonies with material from captured asteroids or the Moon. We need other biospheres and learn how to live permanently in space before doing a Big Thang and then have to go to waste for years and years....like Project Apollo.

so (1)

ronys (166557) | about a year and a half ago | (#43077337)

Venus and Mars are alright tonight?

Space elevator (1)

zaax (637433) | about a year and a half ago | (#43077591)

With new materials coming on-line it can not be far-a-way from the time we can build a space elevator

what is the point? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#43079085)

If they're not going to actually land, what exactly is the point of manning it? To reduce the couple minute delay on controls by having a human on location? Well, a robot can stay there for years so time isn't a real big thing unless everyone's just that impatient.
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