Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Mars One Contracts Paragon To Investigate Life Support Systems

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the don't-forget-your-parka dept.

Mars 118

thAMESresearcher writes with news about the progress of Mars One. From the article: "Mars One has taken a bold step toward their goal of establishing a human settlement on Mars in 2023 by contracting with its first aerospace supplier, Paragon Space Development Corporation. ... The contract will enable the initial conceptual design of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) and Mars Surface Exploration Spacesuit System. During this study, Paragon will identify major suppliers, concepts, and technologies that exist today and can be used as the baseline architecture for further development. The ECLSS will provide and maintain a safe, reliable environment for the inhabitants, providing them with clean air and water. The Mars suits will enable the settlers to work outside of the habitat and explore the surface of Mars."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

It's been 60 years (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146517)

That was back when we reached the moon. Does anyone really believe that technology is only catching up to travelling to Mars now? Seriously, who could be that gullible.

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146565)

Whoever puts money in this apparently...

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146673)

That was back when we reached the moon. Does anyone really believe that technology is only catching up to travelling to Mars now? Seriously, who could be that gullible.

And you think the world has been quietly researching life support systems for space travel for the last 60 years in the hope a market will open up before their patents expire?

Re:It's been 60 years (4, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146707)

Sure, getting there doesn't have to require anything fancy. Surviving the trip will be considerably more difficult. Actually establishing a Mars base - nothing quite so audacious has been attempted in all of Human history.

Mars offers some serious hurdles compared to the moon.
- It's further away with a considerably greater orbital specific energy, so considerably larger rockets are necessary especially since:
- There's going to be a much longer trip outside the Earth's protective magnetosphere, so much heavier shielding and/or much greater speed will be necessary, and we don't really have much experience with actually providing such
- Longer trip times (most plans I've seen call for at least 1-6 months, one-way) means we need much better life support systems. A lot of that has been developed for the ISS, but operating without hope of resupply makes things dicier.
- Extended stay on Mars: this is a serious endeavor. Maybe we can just drop an ISS-equivalent system and have it function well enough for a while, but more likely we'll need a more self-sufficient ecosystem, and there's still very limited research as to how to actually pull that one off.
- Return trip: Not only is Mars much further away than the moon, it has a far more substantial gravity well: so we'll need a bunch more fuel, almost as much as for the trip out. The obvious solutions are to either make it there (a potentially major undertaking on a hostile planet), or send it ahead, probably via the interplanetary transport network (in which case we need to worry about what years of radiation exposure is doing to it) Also:
- Takeoff could be a problem. While SpaceX and others are working on it no-one has (so far as I know) ever successfully built and tested a reusable launch vehicle, which means we need to design something new that can land and take off again, even if only under 1/3 G.

None of those are inconsiderable problems, and we don't have a Cold War dick-waving competition going on to anymore to goose things along. Part of me wishes the war could have lasted another decade or so to actually get us established in space - then again considering how close we came to WW3 on multiple occasions it's probably just as well it ended when it did.

Re:It's been 60 years (3, Interesting)

MrMickS (568778) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146829)

- Return trip: Not only is Mars much further away than the moon, it has a far more substantial gravity well: so we'll need a bunch more fuel, almost as much as for the trip out. The obvious solutions are to either make it there (a potentially major undertaking on a hostile planet), or send it ahead, probably via the interplanetary transport network (in which case we need to worry about what years of radiation exposure is doing to it) Also:
- Takeoff could be a problem. While SpaceX and others are working on it no-one has (so far as I know) ever successfully built and tested a reusable launch vehicle, which means we need to design something new that can land and take off again, even if only under 1/3 G.

Visit the Mars One [mars-one.com] website, there is no return trip planned. They go to great length to explain the reasons for this, most of which make some sort of sense. The main reasons are the fact that there is no available technology to do it, so that would delay the mission and increase the cost, and the weight considerations of sending a vehicle capable of making the return trip with all of the necessary fuel etc.

A further consideration, and not an insignificant one, is the impact on the bodies of the crew/colonists of an extended time away from Earth's gravity well. In order for the base to be established and real work to be done the time on Mars would have to be more than a few weeks.

This is quite a brave adventure and an attempt at colonisation rather than a flag planting exercise.

Re:It's been 60 years (0)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146891)

Still seems stupid to me. Why would having a colony in Mars actually be better than having a colony in space instead? http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3537441&cid=43146845 [slashdot.org]
What's so great about Mars for colonies? It's not like you can have plants and livestock on Martian soil without in effect building a "spaceship" over them to protect them from Mars's hostile environment.

What they should do is investigate how to build space stations with artificial gravity and radiation shielding. Then you can have your 1G or even a range of Gs depending on which part of the space station you're in.

Once you have that tech you can also take your time when going to Mars - you won't rot away so fast.

Re:It's been 60 years (3, Informative)

BradleyUffner (103496) | about a year and a half ago | (#43147001)

Why would having a colony in Mars actually be better than having a colony in space instead?

A colony on Mars would have access to planetary resources, such as ice, to provide water, oxygen, and hydrogen. The settlement could also theoretically be excavated below the surface and covered with "soil" to provide better radiation shielding. The presence of an atmosphere, even if it's a lot less than Earth's, gives at least a little bit of safety and time to respond to life support emergencies than a space station would. It would act as the first stage for longer term, higher population, colonization than could be supported on a space station.

Re:It's been 60 years (3, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43147123)

Don't forget CO2 in those planetary resources - Mars has roughly the same partial pressure of CO2 as Earth, it's just that that's all there is (also conveniently some trace nitrogen) Just pump it into your greenhouses and the plants will do the rest.

Also sand - add a binding agent and you've got "concrete", if you can find resources to make the binding agent locally so much the better, but even without that all you need to build a basic habitat is an airlock, a big inflatable dome (doesn't even have to be that durable), and enough binding agent to coat it inside and out with a nice thick layer of "concrete".

Re:It's been 60 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147645)

Not green house gasses. Pump in O2. You forgot all the bad gasses are there already for us.

Re:It's been 60 years (1, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148533)

A colony near/attached to a suitable asteroid would have access to plenty of water and other raw materials. With the benefit of not being stuck in a gravity well. And in the main stations you could have the benefit of a proven 1G environment for actual living (rather than mere survival). You won't get that 1G on Mars as easily and cheaply as you can in space.

How much extra safety and time do you think Mars atmosphere will give you to respond to an emergency? Mars' atmospheric pressure is typically less than 1/100th the pressure of the Earth's atmosphere. How's that going to help much?

And unless you have reasonable evidence that people can live well in 0.3G, I don't see how it would be better for long term high population colonization:
1) The G is wrong.
2) The atmosphere is wrong - so you'd still need "space station" like infrastructure for every part that humans have to live in. Thus you need about the same amount of raw materials to provide the same amount of liveable space, if not more.

If you can manage with low g, you could stick your settlement in an asteroid for radiation shielding.

Travel amongst suitable asteroids might not be as expensive as travel amongst suitable mining spots on Mars. There are no roads, you have to contend with terrain. The very thin atmosphere prevents easy flying (thin air + same inertia = hard to turn), the presence of 0.3 gravity does not help much

The first step though would be to build a space station with 1G and radiation shielding. The first test station doesn't necessary have to be near an asteroid. It does not have to be a ring or tube style space station - it could be just a "bucket" (living area) + tethers+docking hub+ tethers+counterweight.

The first real step for a colony outside earth is not Mars. Settling on Mars is like trying to jump before being able to crawl. Settling on the Moon would make more sense than Mars (due to proximity to Earth). But settling in space near decent asteroids would make even more sense.

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43152583)

Why would having a colony in Mars actually be better than having a colony in space instead?

A colony on Mars would have access to planetary resources, such as ice, to provide water, oxygen, and hydrogen. The settlement could also theoretically be excavated below the surface and covered with "soil" to provide better radiation shielding. The presence of an atmosphere, even if it's a lot less than Earth's, gives at least a little bit of safety and time to respond to life support emergencies than a space station would. It would act as the first stage for longer term, higher population, colonization than could be supported on a space station.

Watch the video, it shows a settlement on the surface. I agree though building underground may provide adequate protection against radiation. At least for shorter stays, however those going are planned to live there permanently.

Having space stations, in orbit and on the moon, can give people a chance to see if they can handle a trip to Mars. Where they will spend the rest of their life. The trip to Mars is supposed to take 7 months, so if the people going can live in a space station for 7 months they can have a better idea of whether they can live well on the trip to Mars.

Falcon

Re:It's been 60 years (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43147187)

They both have their advantages. A space station can never hope to be self-sufficient though, well not without mining asteroids. In fact an asteroid base dug into a large asteroid make even more sense - lots of raw materials, and all that relatively useless rock still makes great radiation and meteorite shielding. Otherwise you need to make it yourself, and we're talking something like a yard or two of lead (or equivalent mass of other stuff - on Earth we've got ~60 miles of air) to shield against cosmic rays. It doesn't take nearly that much to stop the rays themselves, but the resultant cascade of high-energy ionized particles is even more dangerous, which is why they don't even attempt to shield against them on the ISS - better to be occasionally struck by a cosmic ray than continuously bathed in ionizing radiation.

As for artificial "gravity" - that means spinning, which causes a lot of headaches both literal and figurative. Not least of which is you probably can't spin an asteroid nearly fast enough without ripping it apart, at least not without adding extensive, expensive, and time consuming reinforcements, which means either abandon the asteroid and it's shielding properties, or hollow it out and mount your "spinning wheel" station inside it.

The advantage of Mars is that it has real gravity and lots and lots of convenient raw materials: sand ("concrete" with a binding agent), water, and carbon dioxide being the big ones that spring to mind. It also has the potential to grow into a true colony, even nation(s) on down the line whereas a space station is unlikely to ever grow past city size. Not immediately important perhaps, but a valuable consideration for the long-term survival of our species. I think part of the idea is to try to get a handle on the whole offworld colony thing in the most hospitable location we can find - we can then take what we learn and apply it to colonizing significantly more hostile locations like asteroids or the moon (lots of great potential for a moon colony, *after* we have a vibrant space program).

Re:It's been 60 years (0)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148865)

The mining module stuck to the asteroid does not have to spin. The space station 1g part does not have to be a wheel shape nor does it have to be attached to the asteroid. It can be a "bucket" + tethers + docking hub + counter weights (supplies etc).

Why would Mars have greater potential to grow into a true (and thriving) colony or nation, than a collection of space stations? On Mars the atmosphere will remain 1/100th that of Earth, the "gravity" will remain 38% that of Earth. That isn't going to change for a long time. So all your living areas are still going to be like space stations. So where's that greater potential going to come from?

Then there's transportation. Are your mines and living areas all going to conveniently be in the same spot? If they aren't how are you going to transport stuff/people from one place to another? Flying is difficult in 1/100th air. Building roads in Mars isn't going to be that cheap. Shoot stuff from a gun?

Doubt the transport costs are going to be much cheaper than sending stuff from one asteroid colony to another. Probably even more expensive.

Re:It's been 60 years (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150161)

Not just attached to, the space station has to be *inside* the asteroid if you want to use its mass for radiation and meteorite shielding, otherwise you'll need several meters of manufactured shielding. And if you're in an asteroid field then everything from pebbles to mountains are bouncing off each other around you, even if infrequently. A little extra shielding is a Good Thing. More is Even Better.

It's true that a wheel shape isn't necessary, but it's a convenient shape to maximize the "ground" area at a given "gravity" and with a given amount of material, which I'm assuming is probably a consideration for a city-sized station. A "spinning bucket" is perhaps convenient for a long-haul spaceship, but not really ideal for a city, especially when you consider that you're almost certainly going to want convenient high-volume access to the "axle" for docking, or more likely some sort of personnel transfer mechanism to get to the non-rotating part of the station that's actually carved directly into the asteroid. Trying to get on and off a spinning bucket would be a nightmare...

As for why Mars has more growth potential - size and resources. The combined mass of the entire asteroid belt is estimated at only about 4% the mass of the moon, just the very surface of Mars offers more than that, and on Mars unlike anywhere else in the solar system except Earth you get free air delivered directly to you wherever you are, even if you do have to feed it to some plants first. And you're right that it would basically be space-stations on land, but with the important distinction that you could still go outside for a walk with a breather, and you can set up new cities/outposts in a much more organic fashion, just put up a new marscrete dome and call it good, unlike the necessity for a spinning habitat.

That's not to say that city-stations couldn't band together to form large loose-knit associations, but the thing about asteroids is they're a bit chaotic - no two follow quite the the same orbit, so unless you line everything up like a string of pearls in the exact same orbit you're going to have to be continuously fine-tuning their orbit to maintain any sort of alignment. Not a fixed alignment is necessary, I just suspect it'll be very difficult for anything like a cohesive "nation" to form when cities that are neighbors today may be millions of miles apart in a few years.

Re:It's been 60 years (2)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43153065)

The mining module stuck to the asteroid does not have to spin. The space station 1g part does not have to be a wheel shape nor does it have to be attached to the asteroid. It can be a "bucket" + tethers + docking hub + counter weights (supplies etc).

Without spin I don't know how there will be weightiness and it's been shown that weightlessness [wikipedia.org] has ill health effects.

Why would Mars have greater potential to grow into a true (and thriving) colony or nation, than a collection of space stations? On Mars the atmosphere will remain 1/100th that of Earth, the "gravity" will remain 38% that of Earth. That isn't going to change for a long time. So all your living areas are still going to be like space stations. So where's that greater potential going to come from?

Living chambers can be dug into the ground, the deeper it's dug the more radiation shielding there is. The video linked to shows shelter being setup on the surface, with a roving robot assembling it with delivered supplies, before the first humans arrive. Those first humans can then tunnel and mine into Mars to get the raw materials to build underground shelter. which they would be carving out of Mars.

Then there's transportation. Are your mines and living areas all going to conveniently be in the same spot? If they aren't how are you going to transport stuff/people from one place to another? Flying is difficult in 1/100th air. Building roads in Mars isn't going to be that cheap. Shoot stuff from a gun?

Mine first then convert empty chambers into living quarters. For transport, use the same sort of, if not the same, rovers to explore Mars before the first humans arrive. Of course the first settlers won't be getting very far very fast but as the settlements expand they can be tied together via railroad trains, on or under the ground. It can't be much more difficult to build tracks on Mars as it's been on earth. We might even be able to use robot rovers for that. If they can build shelter I'd think they can build railroad tracks too.

Falcon

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148161)

"Still seems stupid to me. Why would having a colony in Mars actually be better than having a colony in space instead? "

Gravity - some studies indicate that long term in zero-g (microgravity) causes health problems

And stuff like water, and minerals that you can mine and use - it takes a lot of effort to get stuff up into orbit, or to a Lagrange point.

Re:It's been 60 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43152689)

What they should do is investigate how to build space stations with artificial gravity and radiation shielding. Then you can have your 1G or even a range of Gs depending on which part of the space station you're in.

You mean all we have to do is invent a brand new branch of science to produce gravity? Well that sounds much easier

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43156069)

You mean all we have to do is invent a brand new branch of science to produce gravity? Well that sounds much easier

You seem to be way behind the times. Have you even heard of Newtonian physics yet?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_gravity#Methods_for_generating_artificial_gravity [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43152451)

- Longer trip times (most plans I've seen call for at least 1-6 months, one-way) means we need much better life support systems. A lot of that has been developed for the ISS,

The video says the trip will take 7 months.

- Extended stay on Mars: this is a serious endeavor. Maybe we can just drop an ISS-equivalent system and have it function well enough for a while, but more likely we'll need a more self-sufficient ecosystem, and there's still very limited research as to how to actually pull that one off.

It also says the first people going will be living there the rest of their lives.

- Return trip

See above.

- Takeoff could be a problem.

Same there.

I'd like to see studies compare going straight to Mars versus establishing a Moon base first and using that as the departure point for Mars. Of course we could also study whether using a Lagrange point between the earth and moon may be more practical. A factory there could build a rocket with a life support system for the trip to Mars, with building supplies sent to the factory.

Falcon

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43153025)

-
-
-
-
That all depends on the plan, I believe there's currently 3-4 different groups planning independent missions.

Why build at the lagrange point rather than LEO? Even if you plan to launch from there for some reason it takes the same amount of energy to move the ship in pieces as it does whole, and a LEO is a lot more convenient to get to. The Moon is even worse since you're dropping Earth-originating stuff into a new gravity well (which takes fuel since you can't aerobrake) and then lifting it back out again when you're done. Unless we're using local materials of course, but that would likely require an extremely mature Moonbase to be possible.

The only suggestion I've heard for a useful moon base in the short term is as a fuel refinery for interplanetary missions since Moon-sourced fuel would potentially be far cheaper since you don't have to lift it from nearly as deep a gravity well. I think some fellow is actually aiming to build one by 2030.

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43153607)

Why build at the lagrange point rather than LEO? Even if you plan to launch from there for some reason it takes the same amount of energy to move the ship in pieces as it does whole, and a LEO is a lot more convenient to get to. The Moon is even worse since you're dropping Earth-originating stuff into a new gravity well (which takes fuel since you can't aerobrake) and then lifting it back out again when you're done. Unless we're using local materials of course, but that would likely require an extremely mature Moonbase to be possible.

Lagrange because they're "between earth and moon" and if the raw materials are mined from the moon it would be easier because there's less gravity to overcome. Yes that would require a moon station but building and operating it would allow training on how to do it on Mars. It would be practical experience. Build a station on the moon as an exercise in training which can then be directly transferred to Mars. Having people live on the Moon would also be training for how to live on Mars once the 7 month journey is compleated. Of course that may take longer to get to Mars.

Falcon

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43154425)

I think you're being overly optimistic - you want to get a moon colony with a mining operation, a refinery, and a factory all established in order to save a few bucks on a Mars mission? And you want to do it as a training exercise?!? I fully agree that if we *had* such a base it would make a Mars mission much easier, but establishing it in the first place would be a challenge even larger than establishing a Mars colony, which after all is not aiming to do mining or factory work in the short term. The Moon is closer, which allows more flexible supply shipments, but it's also considerably more hostile - no air (you can't breathe Martian air but you can compress it and pump it through a greenhouse to fix that problem.) Water will need to be mined from the bottom of a few deep craters., and unlike Mars dust that's been worn smooth by millenia of dust storms, moon dust is razor sharp and ionized so its highly abrasive and clings to everything - a nightmare for airtight seals of all kinds. And the day/night temperature swings are far more dramatic, causing thermal stress to everything outdoors.

Now if we had one of those asteroid digestors/metal 3D printers that Chinese(?) group was talking about a couple weeks back it might be different (or not, Moon ore will likely need far more like Earth ore than the concentrated deposits of asteroid ore that likely won't need refining.), but that's a *third* major project.

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43154873)

I think you're being overly optimistic - you want to get a moon colony with a mining operation, a refinery, and a factory all established in order to save a few bucks on a Mars mission?

In my post you replied to where did I say anything about saving money? In any post where did I say anything about saving money by establishing a lunar operation or colony to save money to go to Mars? Nowhere, that's where. Where I did say something about saving money was where it came to heavy lift rockets. I specifically stated SpaceX and Falcon9 proved commercial operations could lower the costs of launch over what NASA paid.

Since you don't understand that, or are intentionally misstating I did say I see no reason to answer the rest of your post.

Falcon

Re:It's been 60 years (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43155087)

Whoa, bad day? ...easier because there is less gravity to overcome...
That is a concept directly tied to cost and not much else, so I assumed that was your motivating consideration.

Re:It's been 60 years (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147447)

1953? Your math is off. But then I don't expect much in the dark arts of reality in a Space Nutter thread.

Re:It's been 60 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43148101)

But that "-1" button, you've mastered that when you read something you don't like, eh you delusional fruitcakes?

Re:It's been 60 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43151927)

Trip to the moon - 2 weeks.
Trip to Mars - 2 years.

I think it requires a more robust system to support life for that length of time.
How many Apollo capsules were reused?

It's a design study (3, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146527)

This most likely won't result in much more than spending a bunch of money on a design study. Just look at how many times NASA went through billions in studies to come up with zilch eventually. The main difference here, being the private sector, is that sane investors will pull the plug before it reaches mere millions, not billions.

Wake me up when they start building something. Until then, it's PR.

Re:It's a design study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147503)

They estimate the cost of the mission to be 6 billion USD, according to the FAQ page on their website.

Their donations page says they have so far recieved 60000 USD in merchandise profit and donations.

Only five orders of magnitude to go!

Re:It's a design study (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148075)

Wake me up when they start building something. Until then, it's PR.

Or at least when they start talking about something other than the ECLSS and trajectory design. There's a whole host of issues that weren't covered in Tito's paper...

That being said, Paragon's name was already linked with Mars One's when the project was first announced a couple of weeks back, so this is either actually just PR or bad reporting on SpaceRef's part.

Re:It's a design study (1)

butalearner (1235200) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149911)

Spending money to get more eyes on the design is not necessarily a bad thing. Okay, it's probably not worth wasting money to start training astronauts (which Mars One is supposedly going to do this year) since we already know how to do that. But design studies tend to build on themselves. For anybody keeping score:

Mars Direct [wikipedia.org] : the original mission to Mars plan by Robert Zubrin, which included a return flight, first developed in 1990 and expanded upon in his book The Case for Mars. Elements of this plan, which Zubrin proposed to replace the full-up, half-trillion dollar, new-development-for-everything Mars mission developed back in 1989, have been incorporated in pretty much every design since then, including Mars One and NASA's Design Reference Mission.

Mars for Less [wikipedia.org] : a modification of Mars Direct that used currently available launchers -- not relying on a Saturn V-class rocket like the original Mars Direct or Falcon Heavy like the others (including a modified Mars Direct). One criticism that came out of this that also applies to Mars Direct is that the estimation of aerobraking was too optimistic.

Mars to Stay [wikipedia.org] : a more generalized policy that says any mission to Mars should plan for permanent settlement, with only an emergency return system. Supposedly there are more concrete designs out there, but they don't seem to be readily available. They seem to advocate going more through the official channels, with the hope that the US Government will pick up the tab. I believe /. had a few discussions about this when Buzz Aldrin spoke in favor of one-way missions. A lot of the latest designs, including Mars One, have picked up and ran with this idea.

Mars One [wikipedia.org] : the project by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp. This year they're supposedly going to select 24 astronauts and begin training, and they claim that they'll have 20 of them on Mars by 2033. Note that Zubrin has looked at this, and he is quite doubtful at their ability to raise the necessary funding (which relies heavily on merchandise, advertising, reality TV, etc.).

Those are just the proposals that are getting lots of press, or have impressive people backing them. There are tons of others that are just as far along (only paper designs), e.g. by MarsDrive, DevelopSpace, etc. And of course you also have Inspiration Mars [wikipedia.org] , which is Dennis Tito's plan to send two astronauts on a flyby mission in 2018. Maybe it's hype, but Mars One does feel like it's a bit further along since they aren't waiting on government funding to move ahead with some aspects of their plan. Although, Zubrin's own Mars Society has bitten off small chunks of necessary development, such as the Mars Analogue Research Stations [1] [wikipedia.org] and [2] [wikipedia.org] .

2023 seems a bit unrealistic (1)

Freaky Spook (811861) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146533)

2023 seems a bit soon for a human settlement. When are they planning on beginning missions dropping habitats, vehicles and other infrastructure on mars to prepare for human arrival? Those missions would take a bit of time.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146559)

How about terraforming the place? It'd take between 2 and 5 centuries, and by then we'd have much better space vehicles to get there, and no need for spacesuits and airtight houses once there.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43152375)

How about terraforming the place? It'd take between 2 and 5 centuries, and by then we'd have much better space vehicles to get there, and no need for spacesuits and airtight houses once there.

Terraforming Mars is out of the question. It's gravity is too low to keep the necessary heavy gases for humans from blowing away to the cosmic winds. It's much easier to pump oxygen into living quarters infinitely than it would be to pump an entire planet's atmosphere with it.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43146569)

They can launch in parallel, There is no reason the humans cant travel at the same time as the habitats. Heck you can even launch the habitats after the humans, have the humans examine the surface a bit and find appropriate landing locations. Then have everything come together.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (3, Interesting)

toygeek (473120) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146623)

Its pretty well established that you don't need people in the mix to explore Mars. Certainly not to choose a good landing spot for habitats. And if I'm going to risk life and limb to step foot on Mars (or to get into LEO for that matter) there had better be a place to sleep, a place to poo, and plenty of food to eat when I get there. Right now we know enough about Mars to pick a good landing spot. We've done it several times for rovers etc. To get humans on there is not only a fantastic challenge, but at this point its not necessary. It will always be cheaper to build a civilization of robots to inhabit- at least they can be solar or nuclear powered. Humans are incredibly difficult to keep alive.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150195)

Its pretty well established that you don't need people in the mix to explore Mars. Certainly not to choose a good landing spot for habitats. And if I'm going to risk life and limb to step foot on Mars (or to get into LEO for that matter) there had better be a place to sleep, a place to poo, and plenty of food to eat when I get there. Right now we know enough about Mars to pick a good landing spot. We've done it several times for rovers etc. To get humans on there is not only a fantastic challenge, but at this point its not necessary. It will always be cheaper to build a civilization of robots to inhabit- at least they can be solar or nuclear powered. Humans are incredibly difficult to keep alive.

LEO == Low Earth Orbit
this is supposed to go to mars.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year and a half ago | (#43152511)

And if I'm going to risk life and limb to step foot on Mars (or to get into LEO for that matter) there had better be a place to sleep, a place to poo, and plenty of food to eat when I get there.

Clearly, you're more of a tourist than adventurer. Wouldn't want you to have to sacrifice anything on your space holiday... Perhaps you're better suited to weekend camping in your (literal) back yard.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146737)

Actually, you'd probably want to send most stuff by Interplanetary Transport Network ahead of time, or at least via a more efficient (and slower) orbital transfer. The humans with their need to eat, breathe, and avoid prolonged high-intensity radiation exposure could then make the trip much more quickly and have their supplies waiting for them. (possibly leaving years apart, but arriving at the same time) Or assuming a site was selected ahead of time everything could be dropped from orbit to the desired site before anyone leaves Earth, just in case there are any major landing disasters involving critical equipment.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43146811)

They don't have any intention of bringing people back, at least not for the foreseeable future. A one way trip is vastly easier.

If they somehow managed to collect all the funding they need, I don't see any other major problems with their plans.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151247)

Habitats, vehicles and other infrastructure are not what's been holding us back. We've had technology to make these for decades. If we had to, we could come up with adequate ones from scratch inside of a year.

The problem has always been our rockets. The most powerful rocket ever built was the Saturn V. It costs $ billions per single launch and that's still not enough to lift a Mars capsule with all the fuel and supplies necessary for a manned landing. So we need multiple Saturn V launches and assemble the spacecraft in orbit, and that just increases the cost and complexity to insane levels. I don't remember the exact number, but in the 90's President H. Bush was toying with the idea of a manned Mars mission and asked NASA if it can be done, and the reply he got was "Yes we can do it, for 200 billion", after which Bush quietly dropped the idea.

Re:2023 seems a bit unrealistic (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year and a half ago | (#43152547)

Habitats, vehicles and other infrastructure are not what's been holding us back. We've had technology to make these for decades. If we had to, we could come up with adequate ones from scratch inside of a year.

The problem has always been our rockets. The most powerful rocket ever built was the Saturn V. It costs $ billions per single launch and that's still not enough to lift a Mars capsule with all the fuel and supplies necessary for a manned landing. So we need multiple Saturn V launches and assemble the spacecraft in orbit, and that just increases the cost and complexity to insane levels. I don't remember the exact number, but in the 90's President H. Bush was toying with the idea of a manned Mars mission and asked NASA if it can be done, and the reply he got was "Yes we can do it, for 200 billion", after which Bush quietly dropped the idea.

By your own description of the problem, the problem is *not* our rockets, but our checkbook and our willingness to use it.

because of cost 2023 seems a bit unrealistic (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43153751)

SpaceX and Falcon9 has proven it does not have to cost nearly as much. Privately and commercially financed projects typically cost much less than government projects. NASA and the rest of the International Space Station partners are using Falcon9 rockets to supply the ISS because it is cheaper. However even if a lot of the cost can't be shaved off I have no problem with with projects like this trying. As long as taxpayer money is not spent let them go for it.

Falcon

Venus is half the distance versus Mars (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43146543)

Floating cities (standard Earth atmosphere is buoyant in CO2) on Venus are a better idea ; there is a zone/atmospheric layer where the N/O2 inside the inflatable city would make it perpetually buoyant, and the temperature and pressure are just like earth normal. One could probably survive exposed with just regular earth scuba gear. Thick CO2 atmosphere protects from radiation, and the CO2 can easily be converted to oxygen and water from the abundant H2S04. Power would come from solar or throwing wires down to collect electricity from the thermal differential of the surface and the cloud layer. even the sulfuric acid 'rain' would be very useful....one probably have to rely on fungus and bacteria for food though, cultured in giant floating industrial complexes. mars has too thin an atmosphere, too cold, too little water, too much radiation. Robots that can hack 480 C temp. would mine the surface for minerals and attach nitrogen balloons to float up ore. I estimate that 20 trillion humans could live comfortably in the atmosphere of Venus.

The extreme lower and higher pressure atmospheric zones of Venus aren't practical, but could be exploited with much effort and technical concern, so I left them out. Possibly, automated industrial centers could occupy those layers. The "Goldilocks" layer has Earth standard atmospheric pressure so damage to the floating dome would not be immediately catastrophic.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43146709)

And what, prithee, do you intend to do about the wind?

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (4, Funny)

MrMickS (568778) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146837)

And what, prithee, do you intend to do about the wind?

Don't pack beans as part of the supplies.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43157671)

there is almost no wind at the equatorial zone, also floating things like ya know MOVE with the wind....

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146845)

That's the thing I don't understand. What's the point of colonies on Mars and Venus when you can't actually use all that land surface without building structures that practically cover the entire land surface in use (to keep people, livestock, plants etc alive)? It's not like surrounding a large area with fencing/walls and letting the cows/crops just grow. You have to cover all those areas or your crops/livestock will die. And the soil might not even be that productive.

For that same cost you might as well have colonies in space, and mine asteroids. Then you don't have the inconvenience and expense of being stuck in an inhospitable gravity well.

I suspect very bad weather damaging your buildings in Mars/Venus is more likely than your space colony being damaged by very bad solar weather or asteroid strikes.

So why would having a colony in Venus or Mars actually be better than a colony in space?

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147177)

Uh, one is slightly less insane and unrealistic than the other?

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147459)

Cause in space you need to bring everything, while on Mars you got a planet full or resources.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147785)

Uh, you still need to bring everything to Mars, it's not like there's a Home Depot or a Wal Mart waiting for you. There's not even an atmosphere or a magnetosphere waiting for you. Face it, this space stuff is just idle daydreaming and childish escapism. It ain't ever gonna happen, might as well plan the food for the Big Crunch. Same degree of possibility.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148547)

Who needs Home Depot when you've got a 3D printer? All the chemical resources are there to make a variety of materials, including plastic, cement, glass, various metals, fuel, etc..

Who needs a magnetosphere when you've got tons of regolith laying around to use as radiation shielding? As for the atmosphere, there is one on Mars, it's just not very thick. Nonetheless, it contains all the elements you need to manufacture earth-normal air for your habitat.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150653)

Please tell me you are joking.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148821)

you can't actually use all that land surface without building structures that practically cover the entire land surface

That's true for Venus, but not for Mars. The long-term goal is terraforming, which will take a few centuries to complete, but at least for Mars there are several plausible ways to do it. (For Venus, not so much.)

As for "very bad weather" damaging the buildings... we've had multiple rovers on Mars for several years, and so far the weather has not done much damage to any of them. Aside from the occasional dust storm coating their solar panels, they have mostly out-performed their design expectations by a long way.

Space colonies are a good idea too, and no doubt that route will also be taken by whoever wants to pursue it. But there are certain advantages to a planet. For example, you don't have to go out and lasso another asteroid every time you need more resources. Just dig the hole a little deeper or wider... there's a whole planet beneath your feet. Also, you don't have to worry about centrifugal/artificial gravity, that just comes free with the territory. As for being "stuck" in a gravity well... um... you do realize that we're all stuck in a gravity well right now..? Eeek!

The goal of Mars One is to colonize the planet, so they really don't care about the gravity well thing.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148997)

We are stuck in a somewhat hospitable gravity well. I don't consider being stuck in an inhospitable gravity well an advantage. So what is the advantage of colonizing Mars over space colonies amongst the asteroids?

Is there evidence that 38% gravity is enough for humans to do fine in? If it isn't well you're stuck with it. Whereas on a space station you can set it to a wide range including 38% (and thus do better "long term living on Mars" experiments). You could even have different areas with different "g". Then you can strap on wings and fly ;).

you don't have to go out and lasso another asteroid every time you need more resources. Just dig the hole a little deeper or wider...

On Earth mines do run out useful raw material. I doubt it will be any different on Mars.

You don't need to lasso the asteroid if you just move to the new one (once you've confirmed it's suitable with probes). All depends on which costs more - moving the asteroid, starting a new mining outpost or moving the whole colony.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149697)

Your points are all valid, I just don't think any of them are show-stoppers for Mars colonization. The only question mark, as you rightly point out, is whether or not .38g is enough for humans to be healthy over the long term. We don't have any solid data on that. But this will likely change in the next few years as research is done with mice and later humans in centrifugal apparatus. My gut feeling is that we'll be able to adapt, though over time the Martian population will diverge genetically from Terrans.

As for Martian mines running dry, well, I guess they'll just continue prospecting, as we do here on Earth. But at least in the early days of colonization, most of what we'll need will be within easy reach. Easier than asteroid mining? Neither one of us really knows the answer to that question. But in general we collectively know a lot more about planet mining than asteroid mining.

Gotta run, sorry... a customer just walked into the shop...

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43155879)

They may not be showstoppers, but my question was why would a colony on Mars be better than a colony in space (near suitable asteroid(s)). So far I have seen no good reasons given.

But this will likely change in the next few years as research is done with mice and later humans in centrifugal apparatus.

Are there even any such projects being done right now? The only one I see didn't even get started: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Gravity_Biosatellite [wikipedia.org]
And it wasn't even initiated or supported by NASA. Which just reinforces my low opinion of NASA - they've declined a lot since the 1970s.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149953)

That's the thing I don't understand. What's the point of colonies on Mars and Venus when you can't actually use all that land surface without building structures that practically cover the entire land surface in use (to keep people, livestock, plants etc alive)? It's not like surrounding a large area with fencing/walls and letting the cows/crops just grow. You have to cover all those areas or your crops/livestock will die. And the soil might not even be that productive.

What's the point when we do it now with buildings in cities? It's to make the land in question more useful to us.

As to the soil itself, it's has advantages and drawbacks. Apparently, it is to a large part, volcanic soil, which tends to be very fertile once it is weathered by terrestrial processes. That is, of course, countered by the fact that it hasn't been exposed to terrestrial processes. So there will some period of time when soil in the astrogeology sense gets turned into soil in the agricultural sense.

There also appears to be some level of toxic chemicals in the soil, such as chromium and perchlorates. Those would have to be removed in order for the soil to grow food plants.

space and asteroids instead of Mars and Venus? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43154127)

What's the point of colonies on Mars and Venus when you can't actually use all that land surface without building structures that practically cover the entire land surface in use (to keep people, livestock, plants etc alive)?

A lot of land is not needed to grow food. The majority of the land used in agriculture now is used to grow food for animals such as cows. Reduce, not eliminate just reduce, the amount of meat people eat and a lot less land would have to be used for food.

It's not like surrounding a large area with fencing/walls and letting the cows/crops just grow. You have to cover all those areas or your crops/livestock will die.

I don't know, and I doubt anyone else does either, how much crops can be grown on the surface of Mars. However say 10 people make the trip, they can bring enough food with them for 13 months. With the trip lasting 7 months, if a resupply ship with 6 months of supplies were sent 3 months after they left they would have 4 months supply still left when the resupply arrived. After they did arrive they could plant different crops to see how they grew. Keeping a margin of 4 months of supplies, colonizers should get an idea if they can grow enough food of their own after a year. During that tyme though they can also be mining for more raw building materials. Underground caverns left from mining can be converted to more gardening along with living space. These can be ready made for newly arriving colonizers who arrive with every resupply ship in not every other one.

For that same cost you might as well have colonies in space, and mine asteroids. Then you don't have the inconvenience and expense of being stuck in an inhospitable gravity well.

No, then you have the ill effects of weightlessness [wikipedia.org] and radiation. It's not nearly as much as earth's but Mars does have some gravity. And those caverns left from mining provide shelter from radiation.

I suspect very bad weather damaging your buildings in Mars/Venus is more likely than your space colony being damaged by very bad solar weather or asteroid strikes.

There's little to no weather underground. Bad solar weather is actually going to be worse in space and on asteroids than on Mars. I'm not sure but I heard and believe asteroid collisions are actually worse on asteroids than they are on Mars too.

Falcon

Re:space and asteroids instead of Mars and Venus? (0)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#43156015)

My point was unlike on Earth whether on mars or in space you still need to build structures to enclose your farm. You can't get away with a cheap fence. You may even need to process the Martian soil first before you can use it. Whereas in space you just do hydroponics/aeroponics or whatever and it works (NASA's plans for Mars involve aeroponics anyway - so they're not even going to use the martian soil for growing food).

There's no proof that 0.38g is good enough for humans long term. Nobody has done any experiments on that. Best way to do test is to put a centrifuge in space. But if you can put a centrifuge in space or spin the space station (or swing it with tethers and counterweights), then you no longer have that weightlessness problem.

As for the radiation problem you need to solve that before sending people to Mars anyway. Otherwise they'd just get fried on the trip there.

Therefore as I've said in other posts - it makes more sense to build that 1g radiation shielded space station _first_ then you can test out a lot of things (develop space colony tech or even growing stuff in mars-like soil and 0.38g). Not do stupid crazy Mars projects where there are so many things you don't know will work yet but have to get solved or it becomes a very expensive very short nasty one way trip to Mars.

Re:space and asteroids instead of Mars and Venus? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43167559)

My point was unlike on Earth whether on mars or in space you still need to build structures to enclose your farm. You can't get away with a cheap fence. You may even need to process the Martian soil first before you can use it. Whereas in space you just do hydroponics/aeroponics or whatever and it works (NASA's plans for Mars involve aeroponics anyway - so they're not even going to use the martian soil for growing food).

Why can't techniques be used on Mars that can be used on asteroids? Actually though I didn't say it I thinking of using hydroponics though aeroponics should be feasible. Also what I was thinking was that samples of living soil [the-living-soil.com] , which would include ants and worms along with micro-organisms would be taken too. This initial soil can be mixed with Martian "dirt" to increase growing media.

There's no proof that 0.38g is good enough for humans long term. Nobody has done any experiments on that. Best way to do test is to put a centrifuge in space. But if you can put a centrifuge in space or spin the space station (or swing it with tethers and counterweights), then you no longer have that weightlessness problem.

And a centrifuge can't be built on Mars? We can build one on Earth but not Mars?

As for the radiation problem you need to solve that before sending people to Mars anyway. Otherwise they'd just get fried on the trip there.

Do you have scientific evidence humans can not survive the trip to Mars? Or is this just a guess? Valeri Polyakov [wikipedia.org] lived on the International Space Station more than 430 days, a total of 437 days from lift-off to landing back on Earth. That's more than twice as long as the trip to Mars. The ISS may get a little protection from radiation but I doubt it's that much. Sergei Avdeyev [wikipedia.org] also spent more than a year in space. The ISS itself has been occupied for more than 12 years solid.

All your objection I see to a Mars colony also applies to colonies in space and on asteroids.

Therefore as I've said in other posts - it makes more sense to build that 1g radiation shielded space station _first_ then you can test out a lot of things (develop space colony tech or even growing stuff in mars-like soil and 0.38g). Not do stupid crazy Mars projects where there are so many things you don't know will work yet but have to get solved or it becomes a very expensive very short nasty one way trip to Mars.

To you maybe, but to those more qualified you're wrong. And by "more qualified" I mean having the scientific expertise and or the money to fund such a project. Personally as long as government does not pay for it I don't care, I actually support all those who want to use corporate, NGO, and or private money to fund any such project. I say let the best ideas win, with competition encouraging improvements.

Falcon

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (4, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146975)

Yeah, I think the technology for that's a bit off yet, we haven't even managed to even keep a probe alive on Venus for more than a couple hours despite 50 years of trying - not even the atmospheric ones. Between the high temperatures, the corrosive gasses, the high winds, and violent lightning storms it's not a friendly place. Definitely not someplace you'd want to experience with only Scuba gear. Not to mention those surface-mining robots will have to survive not only the lead-melting surface temperatures and corrosive weather, but also the 92-atmosphere air pressure - equivalent to being about 1km underwater on Earth.

There's also a major problem with buoyancy - unless your city skin is rigid then any downdraft will cause the pressure to rapidly increase, and the volume to decrease, reducing buoyancy and speeding the descent. Similarly an updraft will cause pressure to drop rapidly and risk bursting the city skin. Airships have to deal with these problems on Earth, but with a much more gentle pressure gradient and non-corrosive environment.

Solar energy probably wouldn't be viable since above the CO2 clouds lie another layer clouds consisting of sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid which reflect ~90% of incoming sunlight back into space. As for 1 trillion people living in these cities, what would be the point? Far easier and safer to create vast underground arcologies on Earth.

Mars by comparison is actually quite pleasant. A bit cold, but heat is easy to generate and the atmosphere is near vacuum which makes it an excellent insulator, so you only lose significant heat to the ground. Water is plentiful at the poles and possibly elsewhere underground, and unlimited near-pure CO2 is delivered fresh to your doorstep year round at roughly Earth-normal partial pressure, you just have to compress it and feed it into your greenhouses, no toxic gasses to be removed first. Admittedly going for an unprotected walk outdoors could be painful, but a glorified wetsuit could apply sufficient skin pressure to prevent injury, and a breathing mask would protect your face. Most people on Earth can fairly easily adapt to high altitude air pressures around 1/2 ATM - operate the base on a pure oxygen atmosphere at the same partial pressure and you're only dealing with 1/10 ATM, or about 1.5psi, easy to contain, or add nitrogen to reach a more pleasant pressure - the martian atmosphere is about 2% N2 so it will be easy to replenish. Living quarters can be radiation shielded by the simple expedient of burying them in a few meters of sand - another plentiful and versatile Martian resource. Bring along some sort of binding agent for it and you wouldn't even need much in the way of habitat - just encase some some big inflatable domes in "concrete" and install airlocks.

All in all Mars could readily be colonized using a mostly low-tech approach, ideal for establishing a colony that could rapidly become mostly self-sufficient. If the Soviets had ever made it there their rough-and-ready space program would have been right at home establishing a colony. Venus on the other hand - lets terraform that sucker, it's the only way it'll be anything but a hellhole to us. First we need to unleash some sort of atmospheric organism that will bind all that excess carbon into a stable form... Then we can examine step two in a century or two after the planet has cooled off a little.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147845)

Saying that nobody has kept a probe alive in Venus for more than a few hours is unfair. None of them have tried to float in the relatively safe upper atmosphere. The early probes failed spectacularly of course, but they were all heading for the surface.

The temperatures in the upper atmosphere of Venus are a very great deal colder than the surface. There is a region where both temperature and pressure are fairly close to Earth-like.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148629)

Actually I overlooked some Russian balloon-suspended aerobots in '85 that remained up near the 54km "sweet spot". I'll admit they did last a lot longer, a good 46 hours. Still not impressive, though admittedly it sounds like the batteries faded out rather than anyhting caytstrophic. Then again the batteries were supposed to last 60 hours, so who knows.

I still see several problems:
- Sulfuriic acid is strong, nasty stuff, and the atmosphere is rich in it, especially the upper cloud layers. Also hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids.
- violent, hurricane speed winds - maybe not such a big problem in and of themselves, just hope you don't bump into another city... And take hot soup off the menu.
- Large, powerfull convection cells - just the thing to suck your city down to hell.
- the "sweet spot" is also the most active layer of the atmosphere. Not helpful.

I also don't see the motivation. Sure it makes a wonderfully dramatic SF setting, but why would anyone in their right mind want to actually live there in reality? Suspended in a fragile bubble tossed about on a violent ocean of acidic clouds, hoping nothing corrodes, ruptures, or gets sucked too far down by a downdraft, and wishing the floor would stand still long enough for you to be sick in peace. I could see a gas refinery serving the inner system (air? fuel? organics?), assuming there was anything else going on there. *Maybe* a research outpost, though it seems to me a low-orbit space station would be far cheaper, safer and more pleasant, and your research would all have to be done by drone anyway. But a *colony*?

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43166023)

large structures do not induce sea sickness they don't move like that....really you really haven't investigated what you opine on.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168045)

Sorry troll, I'm just about out of kibble, better savor this last morsel.

Big structures subjected to big forces move *exactly* like small structures subjected to small forces, minus some details of fluid dynamics, it all comes down to f=ma. Considering a nice mild day in the Venusian atmosphere involves hurricane-speed winds and violent vertical mixing I'd put good money that an actual storm could toss even a floating city around quite violently.

Oh, and If you're not the AC heckler that's been repeatedly failing to make an even half-way decent attack on me all day then I apologize for calling you out. But if you *are*, well then you should be ashamed of yourself. You're a troll for Loki's sake. Scourge of the internet. Take some pride in your work - construct some decent straw men, spew some creative vitriol. Something. Repeatedly shouting "NUH-UH" doesn't even qualify you for the welter-weight class.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149101)

I agree with your point, but I still don't think we'll ever "colonize" Venus, at least not with floating cities. The only scenario for Venus that makes sense to me is more along the lines of the arctic regions of Earth. I could see, for example, a floating science research facility, analogous to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Perhaps there could also be some resource-mining facilities, analogous to the drilling rigs in the North Sea, extracting raw materials for rocket fuel, etc., and "pipelining" them to market with a space tether [wikipedia.org] or something similar.

And, over the long term, there might be a couple of floating hotels or resorts on Venus, for those space tourists who can afford the trip and want to see the Venusian sunrise. But the long-term prospects for terraforming Venus are vanishingly remote. Unless we could somehow transport half of its atmosphere to Mars, thus killing two birds with one stone, there isn't much hope for "living" on Venus.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150709)

I think you may be overly pessimistic with your dismissal of terraforming Venus. It's true that it has a massive atmosphere, but there's no reason that what is air today has to still be air tomorrow. Considering that its atmosphere is almost entirely CO2 if we came up with some organism (found or designed) that could survive there and fix the carbon into something stable then you would immediately reduce the mass of atmosphere by almost 1/3 and virtually eliminate the greenhouse effect causing the planet to rapidly cool (on a geologic timescale, might still take centuries or millenia). The remaining atmosphere would be almost pure oxygen, which would be highly reactive, and most oxides are actually solids, so the question would be whether there is enough unoxidized metals, etc. available on the surface to bind with the oxygen. It's possible we'd need some separate soil microbe to facilitate the oxygen-binding process, or perhaps we could come up with a better atmospheric microbe to convert the CO2 directly into some stable solid... I'll admit my organic chemistry is pretty weak so I don't know what that might be. Some sort of super-sturdy amino acid maybe? Or a carbonaceous analogue to a diatom shell? Most might break down again quickly in the surface heat, but as long as the microbes worked faster than the chemical decay you'd be pulling ahead, and eventually the planet would cool enough to allow most of the carbon and oxygen to be stably bound on the surface, at which point you could start the real work. Sounds outlandish perhaps, but it might be that all it takes is a bunch of biotech grad students independently releasing their designer microbes until one of them works. Life is after all a long and varied example of the awesome results of exhaustive trial and error.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150883)

I agree that "fixing" or "precipitating" the atmosphere is the most promising avenue, but from what I've read, nobody has yet come up with a plausible scheme to make this happen. Doesn't mean it's impossible of course, but at the moment it makes Mars look much more promising.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43153547)

Certainly. Mars is practically homey already. (Possibly) blue skies, vast sandy beaches, days almost the same length as our own, what's not to love? Without a magnetosphere it'll probably never again have a stable dense atmosphere, but we might even be able to fudge that as long as we don't mind having to do regular maintenance. Venus on the other hand has is a major fixer-upper. Even if we precipitate the atmosphere we'll still have those 6,000(?) hour days to deal with.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43157701)

Venus is tidally locked, so if you eliminate the greenhouse effect within days you would freeze out the entire atmosphere.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43161685)

Not true - It's only *almost* tidally locked. Important distinction. Even if you somehow froze out the entire atmosphere within a single hour, 112.35 days later the midnight point is now at high noon, and the gasses have all boiled off again. It would be a violent cycle, but that much at least is normal for Venus. Not to mention the surface temperature currently melts lead, and you're not going to cool that off in a hurry - even if the upper atmosphere froze out it would evaporate again long before reaching the surface. Moreover as the planet cools the sulfuric acid clouds in the upper atmosphere would probably freeze out long before the other gasses, which would result in a 10-fold increase in solar heating. Venus will never be cold. It'll probably also never have mild weather.

At some point we might want to get some greenhouse gasses back in the air, but frankly our synthetic biology research is just barely reaching the point where we *might* soon be able to start the precipitation phase, and it'll probably be centuries after that before the planet cools enough to start establishing a stable ecology. Future plans are best left to future people who know what tech they have available. Of course it'd probably be courteous to wait until we know if there's already life there before we start overhauling the ecosystem, and at present we've got what, a cumulative dozen or so hours of data from the surface?

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43148799)

Venus is 200 degrees worse than an oven on self-clean.

Mars you don't even need a pressure suit -- just an air bottle and a good winter coat.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149149)

You still need a pressure suit. It's only 1/100 to 1/10th our pressure.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

jcadam (964044) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149615)

Perhaps you're thinking of Titan. Another good possibility for colonization. Actually probably in the top 3 (along with the moon and mars). Though, you'd need a really good winter coat. Really good.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150859)

Mars you don't even need a pressure suit -- just an air bottle and a good winter coat.

Are you sure about that? I've been trying to find a credible source for info on the minimum safe pressure for skin exposure, it seems like 0.006Atm might be just a *teensy* bit below the safety margin, though if I remember correctly water will still be liquid at body temperature at that pressure. Barely. Which could be a good sign.

And point in fact even the winter coat might be unnecessary - you'd essentially be walking around in a giant vacuum thermos, temperature doesn't have a whole lot of practical meaning at those pressures. Some nice thick-soled boots to insulate you from the cold, cold ground and you could walk around bare-arsed if your blood vessels don't rupture or something. You'd still be radiating heat, but in the absence of conduction I think your body can produce heat faster than it radiates away.

Not Even Corrosive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43157821)

The atmosphere of Venus is mostly carbon dioxide, 96.5% by volume. Most of the remaining 3.5% is nitrogen. Early evidence pointed to the sulfuric acid content in the atmosphere, but we now know that that is a rather minor constituent of the atmosphere.

Re:Not Even Corrosive (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43161723)

Possibly, except in the upper atmosphere where it's a major component in the clouds reflecting 90% of incoming sunlight. The clouds that are immediately above the narrow layer of possibly habitable upper atmosphere, on a planet whose atmosphere is now know to experience violent vertical mixing.

Re:Not Even Corrosive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43166041)

it only takes a TINY amount of H2S04 to reduce visibility as we see on Venus.

refutation of points ignorant Venusian atmosphere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43157873)

Venus is tidally locked, if you cool the atmosphere and remove the green house effect then within a week the entire atmosphere will freeze out!

downdrafts? THRUST ENGINES! and _of course_ a floating city has rigid structure!

The atmosphere of Venus is mostly carbon dioxide, 96.5% by volume. Most of the remaining 3.5% is nitrogen. Early evidence pointed to the sulfuric acid content in the atmosphere, but we now know that that is a rather minor constituent of the atmosphere.

also, claiming that the same terrestrial atomspheric effects on airships apply in the vastly thicker Venusian atmosphere is fairly spurious.

also thermoelectic energy is the way to go on Venus, and it is in effect solar.

"The weather on Venus is extreme. The entire atmosphere of the planet circulates around quickly, with winds blowing as fast as 360 kilometers/hour. Cloud systems can travel around the planet completely in about 4 days. Spacecraft equipped with ultraviolet imaging instruments are able to observe the cloud motion around Venus, and see how it moves at different layers of the atmosphere. The winds blow in a retrograde direction, and are the fastest near the poles. As you approach the equator, the wind speeds die down to almost nothing."

downdrafts? miminal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43157931)

In December 1984, during the apparition of Halley's Comet, the Soviet Union launched the two Vega probes to Venus. Vega 1 and Vega 2 encountered Venus in June 1985, each deploying a lander and an instrumented helium balloon. The balloon-borne aerostat probes floated at about 53 km altitude for 46 and 60 hours respectively, traveling about 1/3 of the way around the planet and allowing scientists to study the dynamics of the most active part of Venus's atmosphere. These measured wind speed, temperature, pressure and cloud density. More turbulence and convection activity than expected was discovered, including occasional plunges of 1 to 3 km in downdrafts.

1 to 3 kilometers, gentle tossing, nothing at all....

Re:refutation of points ignorant Venusian atmosphe (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43162053)

Only *mostly* tidally locked, a drastic difference. The local day is 224.7 Earth-days long, nothing could possibly *stay* frozen out. And the atmosphere will have a hard time freezing out in the first place so long as the surface temperature will melt lead. Moreover the high-altitude sulfuric acid clouds would probably be one of the first parts to freeze out, which would increase solar influx tenfold.

Rigid structure for the city, sure. Rigid structure for the massive balloon holding you up, without increasing the mass beyond the point that you are no longer lighter than air? Now that's a challenge. The atmospheric gradient at 54km is roughly 0.36bar/km. Assuming you have some sort of insanely powerful thrusters so that violent downdrafts can only plunge you a km or two down into the atmosphere that means every square yard of your balloon has to withstand almost 7000 pounds of crushing force.

You're right - the thicker Venusian atmosphere would change the buoyancy considerations somewhat. It means that the pressure gradient is MUCH LARGER than on Earth, so the danger of runaway buoyancy effects on a lighter-than-air structure would be far MORE pronounced than for terrestrial airships.

Thermo-electric = solar? Only insofar as solar is one possible source of heat. Most planets also experience considerable heating from pressure and local nuclear activity. Moreover it requires a large thermal gradient to generate power, which you won't find in a strongly mixing atmosphere. And for a given thermal gradient it's one of the LEAST efficient ways to generate power - it only gets used in situations where the thermal power is free and considerably larger than the electric demand, so that the convenience and reliability of not having moving parts outweighs the inefficiency.

Perhaps you should do your homework before calling others ignorant.

Re:refutation of points ignorant Venusian atmosphe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43163517)

900 degrees produces one HELL of a thermal gradient, you dunce. You are quite wrong in most of your assertions. you keep writing "lighter than air" it isn't AIR we are even dealing with here! hydrogen over carbon dioxide is HUGELY buoyant, dumbass! and no oxygen outside for it to Hindenberg with.

7,000 pounds of force is peanuts to resist, also. carbon fiber handle that like nothing.

Re:refutation of points ignorant Venusian atmosphe (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43164721)

Air = ambient environmental gasses. It's one of those terms with no firm meaning. It usually used to mean nitrogen + a bit of oxygen simply because that's usually the environment being discussed. We still call the gas mixture in a spaceship or deep-sea submarine air, despite the fact that it's often a wildly different mix of gasses than what we normally breathe. If you think I'm wrong try attacking the points I made rather than getting pedantic about words with vaguely defined meaning. I'll happily argue with you if you actually have something to say, otherwise piss off.

No, 900F is a middling-adequate heat *source* (but doesn't really compare to the inside of a car engine). A thermal *gradient* also requires a cold reservoir to transfer the heat into, preferably extremely close by since thermocouples tend to lose efficiency very rapidly with length. Now sure, you could dangle a 50km thermocouple beneath your city and rig massive heat sinks on each end to try to transfer enough heat to make a useful amount of power, but frankly the reactor from a nuclear submarine would produce a HELL of a lot more power a lot more easily, and with a lot less mass than trying to use one of our least-efficient power-generating technologies in an extremely sub-optimal situation. It's only even really viable in places like Iceland because you've got massive geothermal heat sources right next to massive supplies of ice-cold water, with power demands low enough that the convenience of solid-state generation outweighs the terrible efficiency.

Sure, lots of materials can withstand the forces in tension, but that's largely irrelevant here where you're trying to withstand a lateral crumpling. Submerge a balloon in water and it will shrink, it doesn't matter how strong the material it's made of is. To make it keep the same volume you need something like an internal latticework of beams that can withstand phenomenal compressive forces without crumpling (that 7000b is after all for only one square yard, and there are a LOT of square yards on a city-supporting balloon), or make the skin itself rigid and thick enough to avoid crumpling. Either way is easy enough to do, until you try to also make it lighter than air.

And while you're right that CO2 is more buoyant than our own nitrogen atmosphere, it's not actually a huge difference: CO2 molecular weight is 44, versus 28 for N2, so it's about 57% denser at a given pressure (slightly less once you factor in the O2 in Earth's air). That's certainly helpful, but not a major game-changer. It just means that to support a given weight your balloon needs 36% less volume than if it were on Earth, which translates to a 14% smaller diameter.

Re:refutation of points ignorant Venusian atmosphe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43166079)

you don't have enough math to make any of this work, you are just pulling it out of your ass.

carbon nanotubes can more than handle the compression stress, and NO BIG deal if you add some hydrogen for buoyancy underneath the balloon!

hydrogen is phenomenally lighter than a CO2 atmosphere!

Re:refutation of points ignorant Venusian atmosphe (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168253)

Nope, nanotubes are flexible - ever tried pushing something with a string? Hint, it doesn't work very well. Sure, you won't hurt the string, but you also won't accomplish anything. To prevent something from collapsing under a net external pressure you need a rigid structure.

I'm assuming the balloon is filled with hydrogen, in fact technically my math is assuming it's actually filled with some magical gas since I didn't factor in the reduction of buoyancy due to the mass of the hydrogen. But it's not the balloon that does the lifting, it's the medium it's suspended in. Double the density of the medium, you double the maximum potential lifting force. Adding hydrogen *under* the balloon will actually be counter productive - without a separating membrane the hydrogen will simply mix with the ambient air and provide no lift. Even worse it will lower the local air density and with it the buoyant force.

And since you missed it 'll go ahead and point out the actual easy solution - overpressure. The balloon will only collapse if the pressure inside is less than that outside, so pressurize the balloon so that that never happens, or at least not until you're too deep in the atmosphere to care anymore - matching the 90bar surface pressure would make the hydrogen considerably denser than CO2 at one bar. H2 molecular mass of 2 * 90 = 180, or over 4 times denser than the ambient CO2. That's actually what they did with the Russian aerobots. You do lose a little lift, but as you point out CO2 provides more lift to begin with and hydrogen is pretty low density - you could increase the hydrogen pressure nine-fold and and still get the same lift as your balloon would provide in a nitrogen atmosphere. Of course it's hard to contain hydrogen against a significant pressure gradient for any length of time, but perhaps they could refine replacement hydrogen from the atmospheric acids.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147043)

The sulphuric acid rain might be potentially useful for energy collection, but I imagine it would be hell on whatever you choose to build your bubble out of. Do we have any materials that could survive in that environment for extended periods without constant repair/ replacement?

Also, long before you hit a population of 20 trillion (completely ignoring how we're going to move 20 trillion people to Venus inthe first place) you would reach a point where so much of the Venusian sky is occupied by floating cities that you start to significantly affect the amount of sunlight reaching the Venusian surface, thus slowing and stopping the greenhouse effect that keeps the atmosphere so hot and dense, which is turn is what keeps your cities afloat. I suppose long term this might be a good thing - a kind of terraforming - but it might be a good idea to put landing gear on your floating cities, just in case.

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43157731)

duh, the people would be BORN THERE! also dumbass the H2S04 on venus is anhydrous! w.o water, there is no acid corrosive effect!

downdrafts? THRUST ENGINES, d'oh!

Re:Venus is half the distance versus Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43157753)

how do you think H2S04 stays in glass bottles? Elven Magic?

Year of the goat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43146631)

Great stuff! Now all they need are some black helicopters.

Biosphere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43146773)

Does anybody who's optimistic about this remember Biosphere 1 and 2? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2)
Hell, we can't even keep Biosphere 0 healthy...

Re:Biosphere? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147101)

Does anybody who's optimistic about this remember Biosphere 1 and 2? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2) Hell, we can't even keep Biosphere 0 healthy...

Biosphere 1 is Earth. Biosphere 2 was a pretty cool concept and a neat experiment.

Re:Biosphere? (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43152403)

They made more than one of those? The first one was so awful. I wanted to gouge my eyes out while I was watching it....Oh wait, you're not talking about the movie with Pauly Shore. Continue on then.

Check their creds... (1)

tgv (254536) | about a year and a half ago | (#43146827)

Of course it's PR. If you check the experience of the team, you'll see that they are mostly trained in PR, not in making rockets. There is one person in the team who knows a bit about space vehicles. The rest is design and social media. They're going to tweet their way to Mars.

Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43146835)

Mars One has taken a bold step toward their goal of establishing a human settlement on Mars in 2023 by contracting with its first aerospace supplier

A bold step would be to outsource to a North Korean farmer, contracting a supplier speciallised in aerospace is just a sensible thing to do.

what we need is a good old cold war to generate... (1)

acidfast7 (551610) | about a year and a half ago | (#43147091)

public interest in colonizing Mars to "prove" that "our system/beliefs" are better. is there any way that we can make this a Christians vs. Muslims thing?

Re:what we need is a good old cold war to generate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147219)

The Muslims already have a meteorite, they have no need for any more.

Go to the library (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147247)

And find all those spacy books from the 1960s and 1970s, it's all in there. They shouldn't forget to pack a 3D printer too, you never know when a Yoda coffee cup will come in handy.

Free Mars! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43147807)

Free Mars!
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?