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Robots Will Pave the Way To Mars

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the leading-the-way dept.

Robotics 95

szotz (2505808) writes "There's a lot of skepticism swirling around NASA's plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030's, not to mention all those private missions. If we want to have sustainable (read: not bank-breaking) space exploration, the argument goes, there's no way we can do it the way we've been going to the moon and low-Earth orbit. We have to find a way to exploit space resources and cut down on the amount of stuff we need to launch from Earth. That's not a new idea. But this article in IEEE Spectrum suggests research on resource extraction and fabrication in low and zero gravity might actually be making progress...and that we could take these technologies quite far if we get our act together."

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If we could get our act together (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47115983)

we'd do just fine right here. So what's the point? Religion?

Re:If we could get our act together (1, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 5 months ago | (#47116179)

Actually - religion seems to me to be more of an anchor to earth, than a reason to go off planet. Your religious nuts are more likely to argue, "If God wanted us in space, he would have PUT US IN SPACE!"

As for getting out act together - I'm sure that will impress the next big rock scheduled to strike the earth. "Hey, those humans have gotten their act together! Maybe I'll just nudge myself into a near miss orbit, instead of obliterating life on earth!"

So, tell us, which religion do you subscribe to? Sounds a bit like humanism. Basically, you believe that if we can all just get along, then everything will work out for the best, right?

Screw that, Pal. Bad things happen to good people. Most religions admit that much - yours seems to be pretty screwed up.

Re:If we could get our act together (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116243)

You have your own religion. You have your doomsday scenario and you have selected those that listen to you as being worthy.

So your religion is escapism: screw everyone else, I'll just wait for sci-fi fantasies to become real and I can run away like a scared child.

You are screwed up. A failure as human being. Unable to work with others towards a common goal in the real universe. Sad. 1956 is your birth year? Any history of dementia, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia or Asperger's in your family?

Re:If we could get our act together (1)

sethradio (2603921) | about 5 months ago | (#47116369)

Why does it seem that no one on ./ has a sense of humor?

Re:If we could get our act together (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116493)

Why does it seem that no one on ./ has a sense of humor?

Thats exactly how i feel anytime i tell nigger jokes. For fuck sake laughing at them doesnt make you racist. Racists want to fight about this shit. Not anything like laughing at it. If everybody laughed about this shit they might stop fighting about it. And jesse jackson will be out of a job. And a lot of democrats.

Re:If we could get our act together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47117141)

One of each race but no jew walks into a bar, cause we don't joke about jews.

Is ths racist against jews or all the other races?

Re:If we could get our act together (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 5 months ago | (#47118143)

Most people are okay with jokes that are about other people.

Very few of us can truly laugh at ourselves, even though the one's who can seem to have the very best sense of humor.

And your nigger jokes aren't funny.

Re:If we could get our act together (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116343)

its all the fault of the stinkin fuckin tribal primitive underacheiving stinking ghetto despicable violent motherfuckin group identity NIGGERS that shit doesn't improve. FACT.

you wanna fix america that's easy. send every nigger back to africa with a baby boomer in each arm. problem solved. solvency attained. economy perpetuated. identity poltiics dealt a severe blow. win win win.

Re:If we could get our act together (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 5 months ago | (#47118047)

To take the opposing attitude, if God meant for us to stay on Earth, why did He make all the other planets? Is he running experiments around other stars as well? Did Jazeb have his gas sacs rent for all the martian's sins?

Re:If we could get our act together (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 5 months ago | (#47118703)

I like how you're thinking. I'm trying to remember a story - I've read so damned many - there was a planet, could have even been Mars, where they kept the public away because they found God's thumbprint on it. Kinda crazy that I can't even remember the title or author, but the idea has come back to me from time to time. Anyway, yeah, in theory God is experimenting with a zillion other life forms on a whole bunch of other planets, and it would be presumptuous of us to go out and meddle with his other stuff. Or - - - maybe it wouldn't be presumptuous, either. Maybe THAT IS the experiment, to see which one of the experiments gets off whichever stupid rock it was first developed on!

Re:If we could get our act together (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116253)

we'd do just fine right here. So what's the point? Religion?

Agreed. Not worth a warm bottle of piss.

What about it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116009)

Isnt it pretty obvious to send an automated system to prepare a safe habitat anyway?

Re:What about it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116033)

Sure, but since nothing of the sort has ever remotely happened ever, and you're proposing doing it far away from everything and everyone, it just might be more difficult than your sci-fi fantasies lead you to believe.

Re:What about it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116771)

Weird, 30 minutes ago that comment had a moderation, now it has none. Does that happen often or only to posts that go against the Holy Orthodoxy Of The Species' True Destiny In Space, Amen?

Re:What about it? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 5 months ago | (#47118041)

It's possible there exists a concerted effort to squash the voice of reason that is every breath from your lips.

If, however, you are betting the light bill money on the outcome, consider that it is takeout orders of magnitude more plausible the moderator posted later in this thread.

Re:What about it? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 months ago | (#47118301)

Weird, 30 minutes ago that comment had a moderation, now it has none. Does that happen often or only to posts that go against the Holy Orthodoxy Of The Species' True Destiny In Space, Amen?

Or it could be that the Slashdot servers are out of sync.

Re:What about it? (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47118911)

Mod points can't be changed, only deleted. Could be somebody accidentally down-modded somewhere else in this discussion, and posted with their real uid to undo the mistake. If they had previously up-modded the parent, that mod point would be gone now too.

Re:What about it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116057)

Not to some of the more vocal ones around here.

Re:What about it? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47116063)

Isnt it pretty obvious to send an automated system to prepare a safe habitat anyway?

Oh, come now, surely the fact that ordering replacement laborers would take (given historical mission data, as a rough guide) at least 100 days, quite possibly two or three times that, and cost tens of millions of dollars a head (very optimistic figure) doesn't change the viability of using humans to do dangerous construction and heavy industrial jobs, does it?

Re:What about it? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 5 months ago | (#47118097)

I think it depends on the humans you send.

Take the British Empire. Please. They basically colonized America and Australia with folks they didn't want who didn't want to be there.

Human life is not so different from all other earthly life, in that it usually seeks to expand its environment during times of strife, resource shortage, and unpleasantness.

Re:What about it? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47118203)

I suspect that the big difference is shipping cost: It's not polite to say so; but humans are dirt cheap (if they were in some sort of scarcity, we'd bother to save the starving ones). Just to get them to earth orbit (and I think this is the LEO figure, not geostationary) is north of $4,000/kg. Human transport to Mars is still a somewhat speculative number; but will certainly be substantially greater than that (and the traveller will consumer many more kg of food/oxygen/etc, so total cost will be higher still).

That isn't a situation where you bother to send the dregs, anybody plunked on another planet will probably be worth their weight in gold by the time they get there, so they might as well be the most competent people you can get.

Re:What about it? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 5 months ago | (#47118341)

It seems conventionally wise to suggest we would send our best and brightest, which is why I'd question it.

The truth is, we have given very little thought to what traits would be selected for in a hostile, alien environment. There would likely be catastrophic loss of life while we were navigating the learning curve to a life on Mars, let alone a venture outside our solar system.

Maybe our best and brightest will be interpreting data and making corrections while the adventurers sort things out.

Re:What about it? (2)

butalearner (1235200) | about 5 months ago | (#47118741)

The truth is, we have given very little thought to what traits would be selected for in a hostile, alien environment.

We haven't put a lot of thought into it because it doesn't require much. Any corporation's HR department is already well-equipped to draft requirements for that kind of position: 15-20 years of experience building and maintaining extraterrestrial habitats, and able to make solid decisions and perform under intense pressure (or an increasing lack thereof).

Send In the Clones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116061)

There'll be little reason to colonize Mars if we lose Earth's human population to climate change.

Re:Send In the Clones (1)

sethradio (2603921) | about 5 months ago | (#47116371)

It's hotter on Mars.

Re:Send In the Clones (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116583)

It's hotter on Mars.

If by "hot" you mean "freezing fucking cold" then yeah it is.

Re:Send In the Clones (1, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47116431)

that's quite an absurd concept you have, that climate change would cause the loss of Earth's human population. not even remotely possible. did Al Gore put that idea in your head? here's a hint, he's a liar, sensationalist and a whackjob. Also a rich hypocrite with twenty times your family's carbon footprint.

Re:Send In the Clones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116997)

Perhaps true. Maybe so. Perhaps. Ad hominem. Ad hominem. Ad hominem. Ad hominem.

Re:Send In the Clones (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47118953)

If you're not familiar with potholer54 [youtube.com] you should check out his videos on climate change. He cuts through the BS/hype on both sides of the issue, and is reasonably amusing too. Very worth the time.

Wally? (1)

martiniturbide (1203660) | about 5 months ago | (#47116069)

Now they want to send Wally to Mars?

Why do we need pavement to Mars? (3, Funny)

hax4bux (209237) | about 5 months ago | (#47116101)

I don't think I would enjoy the drive.

Re:Why do we need pavement to Mars? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 5 months ago | (#47117987)

No worries. It's likely only necessary to place sensors for your self-driving (auto-automobile) Tesla Elon SRS.

Re:Why do we need pavement to Mars? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 months ago | (#47117999)

You drive on the pavement?!

Re:Why do we need pavement to Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47118087)

It would explain why he don't like the ride, going over strollers in anything less then a hummer is always going to be a bit bouncy..

Re:Why do we need pavement to Mars? (1)

quenda (644621) | about 5 months ago | (#47125875)

You drive on the pavement?!

He must be American. Americans have no word for footpath because they drive everywhere.

TOBOR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116119)

The Great!

Robot's reply (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#47116127)

No problem. We'll do the hard work and 'pave the way'. But if you meatbags expect us to hold the camera when you arrive like MacArthur at Leyte, you're out of your fscking minds.

Ad astra per aspera (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 months ago | (#47116153)

To the stars through asteroids... we need to bring them close enough from here to move manufacturing to the space. It will take quite a bit of investment, but once we get there we can go to mars and the rest of the solar system way far cheaper, and probably will bring more than enough benefits down here, both for the developed technologies to make it viable, and the things and materials that could be manufactured/acquired that way. It is just an investment, just the kind of things that make the banks live.

Of course, bringing asteroids large enough (i.e. of the size of the one that killed the dinosaurs) to be profitable close enough to earth could trouble a lot of people.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116161)

Baffling premise.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (0)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47116443)

what would we get from an asteroid that would make space travel possible? anything found in them is common on earth too. earth is a bunch of asteroids and comets that coelesced together.

Re: Ad astra per aspera (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116527)

Materials that are already in space.

Re: Ad astra per aspera (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116557)

Baffling response.

Re: Ad astra per aspera (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116767)

He means that by mining asteroids and manufacturing equipment in space rather than mining the Earth, manufacturing the equipment here and launching it into space you can save a shit load of energy/money.
I haven't done the maths so I wouldn't have a clue if it's correct.
I'm guessing (without doing any maths) that recycling space junk could be extremely cost effective.

Re: Ad astra per aspera (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47117163)

It would take roughly five hundred years of the world's entire GDP to launch a mass equivalent to one small kilometer-diameter asteroid into low orbit.

Now can you see the blinding lightning-arc connecting points A and B?

Re: Ad astra per aspera (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47127803)

that blinding arc is between your ears. we don't need to launch a one-kilometer diameter asteroid to explore space. at least make a straw man, and not a shit mound.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

slugstone (307678) | about 5 months ago | (#47116917)

Water. Side note, we are traveling in space. With getting water from an asteroid we then would not have to launch it from earth. Water is one of the major components of rocket fuel.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

butalearner (1235200) | about 5 months ago | (#47119885)

Water.

Quoted for emphasis. Even if the only thing we could extract was water, we could potentially use it for potable water, breathable air, rocket fuel, radiation shielding, hydroponics, cleaning... Basically, it would be difficult to have too much water on any extraterrestrial habitat.

Second to water would be just oxygen itself, which supposedly we can bake out of various oxides if we get it hot enough.

After those two items, it's a toss up, at least until we can do much fancier things. The article suggests extracting and purifying silicon and making simple solar cells out of that, as an example. But water and oxygen will be, by far, the two most important and relatively simple things to extract and use.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47127825)

no, water is burned rocket fuel. unburning it requires almost twice the energy you get from burning hydrogen, and even more energy is required to put it in compact state (liquifiying)

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

Sarius64 (880298) | about 5 months ago | (#47117645)

Yes, but if we can mine osmium, iridium, and platinum by just melting an asteroid it would seem the better way to go.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47127819)

asteroids are mostly made of much, much more boring things than that

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

Sarius64 (880298) | about 5 months ago | (#47129801)

So is the Earth. Whoopie!

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#47133427)

but there is HUGE difference in processes in tectonically active rocky planet like earth compared to garden variety sized asteroids, we have processes that make concentrated ore bodies (magmatic, hydrothermal, metamorphic shearing, and exogenous)

that's why "mining asteroids" might not even be possible or economical without first entirely melting one down! not to say that in the FAR future that might be possible, but hardly a gateway to the planets or stars in the next century.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

Sarius64 (880298) | about 5 months ago | (#47134729)

We're not looking for crystals, we're looking for metals, IMO. Not a single process you mentioned makes metals; need stars for that. If an asteroid simply had concentrations of the most base metals it would be worth mining for nothing more than processed metals being already in space vice conventional rocket fuel lifting them up from Earth. Either way, mining asteroids is an easy way to get materials processed in space without a single environmental concern for our planet.

As to your last comment, how would you possibly know that it is hardly a gateway to the planets or stars in the next century? It's obvious that the process would save effectively trillions of dollars in fuel over dead lifting from Earth. Therefore, you're just wrong in your premise that processing these raw materials in space is not a gateway component to X. All it would take is one good precious metal find to completely disrupt the idiocracy economy we have based upon those products. Metals in asteroids are distributed throughout their body, making them easier to extract. Asteroids contain valuable and useful materials like iron, nickel, water, and rare platinum group metals, often in significantly higher concentration than found in mines on Earth.

A single water-rich 500-meter-wide asteroid contains 80 times more water than the largest supertanker could carry and could provide, if the water were converted to rocket propellant, more than 200 times the rocket fuel required to launch all the rockets ever launched in human history. ref: [planetaryresources.com]

A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid may contain the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history. "Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space. As access to these materials increases, not only will the cost of everything from microelectronics to energy storage be reduced, but new applications for these abundant elements will result in important and novel applications," said Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc. ref: [seti-setr.org]

So, in conclusion you are simply wrong. The level of effort we have spent mining on Earth is far most costly that asteroid mining appears to be, and the ROI appears extraordinary compared to the issues we deal with now. If rare earths were found in any concentration you would literally remove most of the current mandatory reasons for existing on Earth.

Yet we still spend more on gladiatorial game tax relief in America than space research throughout the entire planet.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 months ago | (#47118013)

I think moving asteroids into earth orbit will be the next big space race. It will ostensibly be for scientific research and mining, but in reality will be a race to make sure that both China and the US can annihilate each other with kinetic bombardment.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 5 months ago | (#47118267)

And if we can muddle through the sequel Cold War long enough, we'll have raw materials and launching platforms out of earth's gravity well.

Science is a risky undertaking in its advancement of military technology, but it has led to some decent advancements.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#47121693)

if we can muddle through the sequel Cold War long enough

Tautology. If you arrive at the point where you can't muddle through, it'll turn hot very quickly.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47119487)

It'll be a while before we start towing asteroids into Earth orbit. Earth-Moon Lagrange points will be the first destinations, then after we get good at that we'll gradually allow more and bigger rocks closer to Earth.

As for kinetic bombardment from orbit, the energy budget is not promising for this scenario. The amount of reaction mass needed to de-orbit a large boulder is "non trivial" to say the least. I suppose you could build a rail-gun and shoot a small mass at high velocity in order nudge a bigger rock into decay, but unless you've got a really huge capacitor, you'll have a tough time "dropping" a rock from orbit that would do much more damage than a standard cruise missile.

It's trivial to track such changes in velocity. So if you can't "drop" your boulder directly on target without taking a couple of orbits to decay, then the weapon loses it's surprise/initiative. The target could simply nuke it in space before it has a chance to de-orbit.

Then you've got the problem of cross-range deflection. Unless you don't mind waiting a few hours (or days, or weeks) until your rock's orbit takes it right over your target, you're going to need some way to widen your zone. The rail-gun can do some of this work, but you're going to need an "aerodynamic" rock in order to hit a precision target.

I'm not saying this is impossible, I just don't think it's very likely, given how many other (much easier) ways we already have to do the same job.

Re:Ad astra per aspera (1)

green is the enemy (3021751) | about 5 months ago | (#47120543)

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission seems to be the only serious effort in this area. I applaud them for their ambition. While this mission is being marketed as a stepping stone for a manned Mars mission, it also happens to be a very good way to get started with in-situ space resource utilization. Anyone have any insight on how the plans for this mission are progressing?

Re:Ad astra per aspera (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47126637)

To the stars through asteroids... we need to bring them close enough from here to move manufacturing to the space.

Yes, that sounds like a great idea! Let's have a group that actually has the most important imperative in Human history yet failed to even acquire the funding to sustain itself in the face of military and police funding - have them tow a bunch of fucking asteroids into orbit and hope that they will neither fuck up nor have their work turned into weaponry based on bombarding the surface of the planet with asteroids. That sounds like the best idea I've heard literally in my whole life. /sarcasm

Why do we need pavement to Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116177)

I would enjoy the drive

Personally.. (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47116303)

Personally I welcome all our robot overlords who buggered off to mars. Oh wait.

Re:Personally.. (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 months ago | (#47117461)

Personally I welcome all our robot overlords who buggered off to mars. Oh wait.

They'll be back as Cylons soon enough, you'll get your chance before they blast you to bits.

Robots are useful on Earth, too (1)

ensignyu (417022) | about 5 months ago | (#47116327)

Research in robotics is especially useful because it has direct applications here on Earth, which makes it more likely to attract private investment and increases the likelihood of being able to spin off space tech for consumer purposes.

Maybe in the future we'll be able to build robots using off-the-shelf parts to do boring, dangerous tasks here on Earth, and use slightly more robust versions (still made of mostly off-the-shelf parts) on Mars without spending billions on R&D.

The easiest way to build billions of affordable robots is to have a dozen of them in every home. I'm still waiting for a robot personal chef, dammit!

Re:Robots are useful on Earth, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116373)

"direct applications here on Earth, which makes it more likely to attract private investment and increases the likelihood of being able to spin off space tech for consumer purposes."

Luddite. Attention, Space Nutter Central, MOD DOWN.

He thinks technologies develop on Earth first, THEN are used in space?

This is contrary to Holy Space Doctrine!

Re:Robots are useful on Earth, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47117175)

Quantum Apostrophe, get help. Seriously.

Humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116377)

Humans will pave the way to colonize Earth! That's what the gut bacteria thought.

Get our act together (1)

zoffdino (848658) | about 5 months ago | (#47116403)

The appropriate way to get our act together is for the President to set a goal, give money and step the fuck away from NASA. We went to the moon with slide rules. In the era where a smartphone has more computing power than an entire Lunar Module, times 10, we are paying the Russians to send us to Low Earth Orbit. I'm not a proponent of human mission to Mars. The trip means little other than felling-good-about-my-country and flag planting. Send a robot there and we don't have to worry about a return trip, always harder than departure.

Re:Get our act together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116627)

"We went to the moon with slide rules"

Uh, and massive computer power. You can laugh all you want, but the IBM/360 was a 32 bit mainframe.

And "we" went to the Moon with kerosene, cheap energy and post-coital WWII optimism. How you add your numbers together has little relevance.

Proof: even though we can add numbers far faster and cheaper today, space is still as dead as ever. And so it shall be.

Re:Get our act together (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 months ago | (#47118819)

Proof: even though we can add numbers far faster and cheaper today, space is still as dead as ever. And so it shall be.

Wrong. There's far, far more life in space now than there was when we went to the moon. The ISS has been continuously occupied for almost 14 years. Mir was inhabited for 12, and Salyut and Apollo/Soyuz before that. In fact, since the Apollo program ended, there has not been a year gone by that hasn't had someone in space.

And that's only people. Heaven knows how many plants and animals and microorganisms have been in, or are even now, in orbit. Space has been brimming with life ever since Neil's bootprint.

Re:Get our act together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116779)

You already did send a robot there, remember?

Re:Get our act together (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 5 months ago | (#47118213)

Remember: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills". That is why we'll send people to Mars: not despite the challenges that endeavour poses, but because of them, and because of what we'll learn from overcoming them.

With that said, feasibility of the mission and the sense in spending large amounts of money on it are valid questions, and I don't think at this stage we should just give the money to NASA and step back. However I do feel we're coming to the point where it no longer makes sense to ignore the challenge as too hard. Set the goal and commit to spending the money, ask NASA to design a mission, then start working on the missing components.

Mars is not far... (2)

jebblue (1160883) | about 5 months ago | (#47116543)

We made it for months on submarines, underwater, day and night...months at a time. We made our own air and water from the ocean. So yes, find the resources along the way and Mars is not far at all. Robots? They will help, they are not the sole answer.

Re: Mars is not far... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116689)

Water: doesn't produce hull-penetrating deadly radiation.

Re: Mars is not far... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 5 months ago | (#47116897)

No, but it does stop it.

We're not ready for Mars yet (2)

schreiend (1092383) | about 5 months ago | (#47116781)

We've to build robots (space dock, new type of engine, new rad hardening, etc) first - these myths have long been debunked by Robert Zubrin. It's the never-ending process of getting ready that the space industry earns the Benjamins from, not the flight itself.

The Mars is to far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47116855)

The Mars is too far, the trip is very [blogspot.com] long and dangerous, i don't know that someday humanity can going at this planet.

Heard this before (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 5 months ago | (#47116869)

From the article:

Thatâ(TM)s the scenario laid out some 35 years ago by a team of academics and NASA engineers meeting at the University of Santa Clara, in California.

There were still AI people talking this up when I was at Stanford CS in the 1980s. They wanted to have self-replicating robots on the Moon or Mars by 2000. I asked "how soon could you have it working in Arizona?" Some people didn't like that.

It's embarrassing how bad robot manipulation is in unstructured situations. DARPA is trying to fix that by throwing money at the DARPA Humanoid Challenge. But so far, the machines in that are mostly teleoperated. (Ignore the edited videos for popular consumption; look at the split-screen videos that show three views of the machine and one of the operators, who often are using game controllers.)

I'd like to see a robotic system able to do simple parts changes on a car - air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs, etc., removing and replacing any covers and cables needed to do the job.

Re:Heard this before (1)

painandgreed (692585) | about 5 months ago | (#47124515)

I like the way you think.

Basic Accounting (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 months ago | (#47116879)

Research on those things never has been the problem. The problem is that it's going to be extraordinarily expensive to get and maintain all that resource extraction and exploitation infrastructure on stream. The only way to "save" money is to a) treat the costs as sunk costs and thus not apply them to missions flown, or b)... there really isn't a "b". (Unless you fly a sufficiently large number of missions frequently enough that said costs become a minor component of the overhead - which really isn't "sustainable" because it doesn't create any savings because of the high total costs of all those missions.)

Space Program in 2030? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47117089)

In 2030, there won't be any more White people. The third world ate the future.

We can't even do this on earth yet... (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#47117631)

one of the more depressing things is that no one is building a von neumann machine.

We have at least one of these already... the total human industrial complex on earth is of course capable of replicating itself.

The problem is that its dispersed, poorly organized, designed more for production efficiency and capacity then for space/mass efficiency... etc.

If you started out with one large warehouse and started putting at least one of every factory machine in existence... and then started combining them where they do similar things that can be tweaked so one machine does two roles... and then started miniaturizing them so you could squeeze the whole thing down. The point is that you should be able to fit a machine that can replicate itself and all human industry into a launchable package.

Consider that everything we have was made with these soft clumsy hands. Everything we have comes from those hands making tools, which made tools, which made tools, which make everything.

So we need to make something that can do that on mars or the moon or anywhere. Ideally not soft organic hands... those work on earth where our biosphere supports our life... but on other worlds you're going to need robots. And if you're building robots you might as well make the robots more specialized so you can skip a few steps.

We should have already done this... launch a package at the moon and mars... and then just have the robots dig in and start building an industrial infrastructure.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

Livius (318358) | about 5 months ago | (#47117889)

What could go wrong?

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#47117941)

You're of course referring to some sort of run away AI that becomes a threat to humanity or something.

Easily avoided through compartmentalized specialized AIs that deal with specific tasks.

For example... lets say you have a mining AI... this AI is in command of mining robots. Those robots under a worst case could be used to mine "people" or destroy things we care about or need to live. That's bad... but what if we only give that AI control over mining robots and do not give it command over the machines that make mining robots or the machines that fuel mining robots. Then any insurrection will last only so long as it takes for the mining robots to run out of power or wear down due to lack of maintenance and supplies.

You do the same thing with every other system. The AI that runs the factory that makes the mining robots is in charge of just that. Not the robots once built, not the power system that keeps it powered, etc.

By segementing the AIs even under some very unlikely situation where the machine becomes self aware or just as bad simply goes haywire and does stupid things... the damage is limited because it has limited responsibilities and resources. If it goes rogue we can cut it off from those resources and wait for it to die.

What we need AIs for in a situation like this would be busy work and details. Gross decision making would remain human. We could specify specifically what we want built, dug, and where everything was placed... the AIs would then act as on site facilitators of that command.

The possibility of irrecoverable error or some insanely unlikely AI becoming aware and also hostile is mitigated through this compartmentalization.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47120049)

Yes, segmentation of the work to be done into different AI's should solve this for a while, or at least, that's until someone in management comes up with the idea that this could be done more efficiently if only we'd have a central AI that steers the existing ones...

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#47120897)

Sure, anything breaks if you subvert it... a boat holds water out unless you put lots of holes in the bottom too...

doesn't mean the boat design was flawed prior to poking the holes.

As to management doing stupid things, I don't really see it as terribly likely since such a system wouldn't need to be heavily micromanaged. The AIs would take care of all the fiddly bits and the gross details would probably be something humans would if anything enjoy doing.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

Livius (318358) | about 5 months ago | (#47124459)

In other words, avoid the problems of a von Neumann machine by making something other than a von Neumann machine.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#47124857)

No... the von neumann machine isn't dangerous or problematic... the problem was with some sort of badly programmed AI that governs the machine.

I showed how the system could be programmed such that the risks were manageable even under a worst case scenario.

I therefore solved the cited problem.

Give me a cookie right fucking now or I'll cut you.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47118923)

I figure this is so unutterably obvious that it should have been done by now, but actually doing useful things doesn't seem to be what motivates societies.

Note that the package that goes to the moon can be partially automated. We're within about a light second of the moon and the moon is tidally locked to the Earth. It's almost perfect as a testing environment for waldo style operation of equipment. So put as much autonomy into the manufacturing process as possible, but use teleoperation where necessary. The larger the scope of the teleoperator's decision-making (e.g. 10 seconds intervals), the more practical it all is.

Gain experience. Proceed to automate more and more of the manufacturing process until you're ready to throw some customized test units at Mars. Find out what works and what things need changing for that environment. Gain experience. Refine. Etcetera.

I am not a fan of shuttling human bodies around the solar system. I'm not even a fan of shuttling bodies to and from work.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#47123359)

You need to be able to to do it on earth first... we can't do it on earth yet... or at least haven't put any effort into it.

We obviously could do it if we tried. But we haven't.

I suspect some of the reason might be political... fully automated factories scare people... especially people that work in factories and their political allies.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

painandgreed (692585) | about 5 months ago | (#47124501)

one of the more depressing things is that no one is building a von neumann machine.

Sure we are. They're called genetic engineers.

Re:We can't even do this on earth yet... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#47124723)

Only really useful in our biosphere... not really useful on the moon or mars.

A practical machine should act as a seed we can fling into space, landing on a given world, building the industry we require for comfortable life possibly over decades, and then falling under our direct control when colonists/administrators take up residence.

The genetics point is valid within our biosphere... though was we can make with such technology is still pretty limited when compared to what we can make with more traditional engineering. And I say what we can make... not what nature has made or designed. Our own creations in this field are extremely rudimentary.

Better than robots (1)

sabbede (2678435) | about 5 months ago | (#47118009)

What about using some brave, stupid, and disposable Kerbals?

Yo... 1954 called. (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 5 months ago | (#47119443)

And they want their newspaper headlines back.

Young kids to man robots missioned for Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47119451)

If that proposal seems logical to man missions to Mars with robots, then it seems equally logical that the kids today should get busy manning robots as companions that they will some day control on missions to Mars. Its the next logical step forward. These kids, who will be adults by the time these missions suceed, will grow with each new process that is developed for their robots, so when it becomes mission critical to build the colonies, they will be second nature to the controllers.

Nobody Paving the way to Mars anytime soon (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 5 months ago | (#47120675)

Not going to happen.

The distance between Earth and Mars varies widely and Pavement is rigid and non flexible.
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