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The Dusty Concern for the Mission to Mars

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the doing-a-martian-line dept.

Space 174

eldavojohn writes "Astronauts sent to the red planet may find much of their job involving the task of dusting off their equipment and suits. The president says we're going there but the dusty planet has some obstacles and uncertainties for engineers because we don't have a sample of Martian dust. Is it toxic? Will it conduct electricity and short circuits? Will astronauts suffer from the triboelectric effect? How large is the average grain? Will humans be allergic to it? Will sinuses jeopardize a mission? Will a dust storm stop a take off and return flight? So many uncertainties from something as simple as dust but one thing is clear — we need samples!"

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Dear Senate Judiciary Committe: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831023)

18 U.S.C. Sec. 1505 : ... Whoever corruptly ... influences, obstructs, or impedes ... the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress ... [s]hall be fined under this title, [or] imprisoned not more than 5 years ... or both.

18 U.S.C. Sec. 1515(b): As used in section 1505, the term "corruptly" means acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including ... withholding, [or] concealing ... information.

Bush Wants Surge to Mars! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831057)

Globaltics [globaltics.net]

We'll never know. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831053)

We'll never know. Let's throw up our hands in awe at the ineffable planet Mars.

Re:We'll never know. (1)

GizmoToy (450886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831171)

Yeah, I don't get it either. Yes, having a sample is important. Draw up and execute a mission that retrieves a sample prior to sending a group of astronauts up to something we don't know enough about.

Re:We'll never know. (4, Informative)

cupofjoe (727361) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831417)

Technically, the Mars Sample Return http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/technology/samplereturn/i ndex.html [nasa.gov] is a precursor mission (i.e., before manned landings) that's been "on the books", so to speak, for a while. It's a developmental mission model, having been bounced back-and-forth between front and back burners for a while, now, but the technology is all there. It's very expensive, as you can imagine, so that's part of the reason why it's not "ready" yet. Other reasons have to do with local infrastructure - we'd like to have a handle on good surface communications on Mars - and the fact that the science community can't really decide on a reasonable surface target. That's being helped by MER, and will really get a
good kick in the pants by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which will be launching in 2009.

Of course, the public have very varied opinions about this...for example,when you Google "Mars Sample Return" you still get http://www.icamsr.org/ [icamsr.org] as your first hit. Sheesh.

Uphill battle, maybe.

--joe.

Re:We'll never know. (2, Informative)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833093)

From the parents link:NASA is seeking public opinion on ways to detect possible biohazards from Mars samples returned to the Earth.

Wouldn't any biohazard, bacteria or virius, culture fairly easily in a petri dish? If it could survive and breed in us, it could survive and breed in a lab. It's not like we don't already have experience with weaponized viriuses, what's another few grams of potential mass extinction added to the collection?

And for every who thinks we stopped biological weapons research in 1972, look at this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,821306 ,00.html [guardian.co.uk]

Re:We'll never know. (1)

sleigher (961421) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832171)

Please correct me if I am wrong.... Don't we have working rovers on Mars, so we have a general idea if the dust is gonna hurt electronics.....right?

Re:We'll never know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19832783)

That was my initial reaction too, but the electronics in the rovers are probably insulated from the outside atmosphere.

New movie title (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831075)

"Earth Needs Dust!" as opposed to "Mars Needs Women!"

On another note, don't any of the rovers there have the ability to measure this kind of thing? That would sort of make sense.

Re:New movie title (4, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831339)

Nope...the Mars Exploration Rovers' microscopic imagers can't resolve finely enough to measure grain size or geometry, and they have no way of measuring electrical properties. The Mars Surface Laboratory, to launch in 2009, will have slightly better resolution, but still not grain sized. In fact, I think in order to get a good idea what they finest grains look like, nothing short of an electron microscope will do. The rovers focus on geology and chemical composition, but not as much on things like dust geometry and electrical properties.

Regardless of whether or not its feasible to equip a lander to determine these properties itself, NASA and other groups would really like to get their hands directly on some Martian surface material, so a robotic sample return mission will very likely happen in the next 10-20 years regardless of whether plans move forward for manned exploration.

Re:New movie title (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832687)

I'll tell you what.
Make a manned mission (a reasonable one, say a couple years for flight to and fro, and a year on the planet) and I'll go find out if it's toxic, has electrical properties, etc.
It's a gamble I would take in exchange for the experience.
-nB

Sample Return Mission (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833013)

According to Robert Zubrin's proposal for Mars exploration, which NASA's seems loosely based on, a Mars Sample Return Mission would be an important precursor to the manned mission. The reason for that would be not so much to make the geologists dance for joy, as to demonstrate the "in situ propellant production" (ISPP) technology that will generate most of the return fuel's mass from the Martian atmosphere, greatly increasing the mission's efficiency. And, of course, to demonstrate getting a spaceship back from Mars. If the dust is a concern, that's another good reason to do that mission. Bring the stuff back so we can look at it!

Re:New movie title (1)

IgLou (732042) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832049)

I was thinking the same thing! So I tagged the story earthneedsdust.

Thinking about your comment on the rovers, will this mean folks will say "They can put a man on the moon but they can't get dust of Mars!"

The real question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831091)

What humans there can accomplish what robots can't. Garry Kasparov opinion doesn't count.

Re:The real question is (5, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831253)

> What humans there can accomplish what robots can't.

"Dig a 1-foot deep hole in 30 seconds, as opposed to 30 years."
"Walk further than 100m per day"
"Walk into the bowl of a crater, poke around for interesting rocks, and carry the interesting rocks out."
"Immediately discern between 'interesting' and 'uninteresting' rocks without having to wait 24 hours to ask for new instructions."

No disrespect intended to our robot overlords; they've done wonderful work over the past few decades, but sometimes the right tool for a job is pickaxe powered by 200 pounds of meat.

Re:The real question is (1)

ehiris (214677) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831393)

One thing that is worth mentioning is that it takes half an hour for the light to travel from Mars which means the robot operators have to wait a long time to make any intelligent feedback-based move.

Imagine turning your head right and not seeing what's there for at least half an hour.

Re:The real question is (1)

NewsWatcher (450241) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832115)

"it takes half an hour for the light to travel from Mars "


I don't think this is right. When Mars was in opposition to earth, it was just three light minutes away. I think now it is about 10 or 11 light minutes distant.

Re:The real question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19832459)

Earth is 8 light minutes to the sun, mars is 14. If they were almost directly opposite each other in orbit, that'd be 22 light minutes, close enough to a half hour I guess.

No Humans needed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831457)

It's far cheaper and safer to just build new robots and send them. We send some probes and learn stuff. Then, based on what we learned from those probes, we send new probes with new instrumentation. Then, based on the new things we've learned, we send a couple robots to scoot around and learn some more stuff. And now, based on what we've learned from all those probes and robots, we design some new robots and send them off to learn even more stuff. All the while technology increases, thus improving our probes and robots even more. There's really no reason whatsoever to send humans to Mars until we're ready to plop down a permanent colony. To do so any sooner would be a tremendous waste of resources and money, not to mention a reckless endangerment of human life.

Re:No Humans needed (1)

snarfbot (1036906) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831769)

what would be cheaper, designing and launching 10 probes, or just saving cash and designing and launching a single manned mission?

obviously they would need enough fuel to return home also, and thats that much less payload they can bring. and all the life support equipment, food, and some sort of recreational area. it would have to be pretty large.

it would likely have to be built in orbit, and each launch of the shuttle costs almost twice as much as the entire phoenix mission, so it is prohibitively expensive.

reading this though FMA:

"Like Polar Lander and Climate Orbiter, Phoenix is a relatively low-cost mission. Rather than building "faster, better, cheaper" spacecraft, as had been NASA's aim in the 1990s, Phoenix achieves its savings by narrowly focusing its science agenda to determine one goal: if Mars had organic compounds - the ingredients for life."

isnt most of the cost the fuel, the actual craft it gets there in and materials. would it cost significantly more to tack a few other sensors on?

Umm, launching probes? (1)

wasted (94866) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833687)

what would be cheaper, designing and launching 10 probes, or just saving cash and designing and launching a single manned mission?
For cost efficiency, one could launch all ten surface probes and one mother-probe on one or two launches. The mother probe stays in orbit while the surface probes collect soil from their assigned areas. After collecting samples, the surface probes launch back into orbit, transfer the soil samples to the mother ship, and then enter a decaying orbit. Mothership brings ten (or likely less) soil samples back. I'm not a rocket scientist or spacecraft engineer, but I think that particular scenario would be cheaper than sending even one human.

On the other hand, I believe we do need to get humans to Mars as a step toward further space exploration, so that human would get sent, anyway, and thus no real cost saving exist (outside of safety issues) by sending probes. The astronaut(s) would probably feel a lot better if he/she knew what the soil was like, first, though.

Re:No Humans needed (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832143)

There's really no reason whatsoever to send humans to Mars until we're ready to plop down a permanent colony.

Except to gain experience making piloted landings on Mars, to gain experience sending crews through the radioactivity-laden wastelands of interstellar space, to gain experience walking on Mars, to gain experience sustaining human life on Mars, to gain experience working with the Martian environment...there's a lot of complex shit involved with putting human beings on Mars, and you don't want to be doing it all the first time when you land the first colony ship. Sending a permanent colony without any experience sending human life to Mars is an incredibly reckless endangerment of human life. There are risks involved with sending people to Mars, such that the first humans to die in space will undoubtedly die, either en route to, on, or on the way back from Mars. The purpose of sending manned missions prior to permanent settlement is so that those risks can be better known and mitigated, providing greater safety to the eventual colonists. Better to risk it on a volunteer group of four than on a colony ship of 12-50 (or more).

Re:The real question is (1)

Kaki Nix Sain (124686) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831589)

So send better robots, and put some humans into Mars orbit to control them. Still no direct need to put people on the ground.

Re:The real question is (2, Insightful)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831907)

and put some humans into Mars orbit

And, ummm, this would be a lot simpler and cheaper than having the humans continue the remaining 0.001 percent of the way?

rj

Re:The real question is (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831955)

"this would be a lot simpler and cheaper than having the humans continue the remaining 0.001 percent of the way?"

Nah - just send 'em one-way... heaps cheaper!

Re:The real question is (1)

njchick (611256) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833003)

Absolutely. In terms of delta-v, it's much much more than 0.001 percent of the way. Not to mention the requirement to launch a man-rated rocket from a planet with no ground support staff and several light-minutes away from Earth.

Re:The real question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831993)

Sigh...

Walk further than 100m per day
The current rovers can travel 100m in 30 minutes.
An autonomous robot would also not be limited by interplanetary transmission delay.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_(vehicle) [wikipedia.org]

Dig a 1-foot deep hole in 30 seconds, as opposed to 30 years.
Obviously nothing more powerful than the current rovers can ever be designed and sent to Mars. Mechanical engineering peaked in the 1990's and has seen a steady decline. //sarcasm

Meanwhile robots can operate on the surface for years. The projected manned surface duration is 11 days.

Immediately discern between 'interesting' and 'uninteresting' rocks without having to wait 24 hours to ask for new instructions.
No sensors can be developed that are more sensitive than the human eye. Time to replace Hubble with an old man in a rocking chair. //sarcasm

Walk into the bowl of a crater, poke around for interesting rocks, and carry the interesting rocks out
Without wasting thousands of kg to carry food, water, oxygen, beds, toilets, CO2 scrubbers, comfortable room temperature and flesh bags, an unmanned flight could return with an additional 1,000kg+ of Martian samples.

Re:The real question is (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832187)

Meanwhile robots can operate on the surface for years. The projected manned surface duration is 11 days.

That's pretty much bullshit then. The Mars Direct plan calls for a 1 year manned surface mission, waiting for the Earth and Mars to move into prime position until they return. Although maybe an initial manned mission would last for 11 days, that would be, at best, practice for the real manned missions.

200 pounds of meat (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832703)

sometimes the right tool for a job is pickaxe powered by 200 pounds of meat.


Yes, on Earth. On Mars, 200 pounds of meat need 20000 pounds of support equipment. Humans breathe air, eat food, take dumps of shit. Robots recharge their batteries from sunlight, and that's it.


What we really need for exploring Mars is better artificial intelligence. Instead of sending 200 tons of support equipment, why not send a 20 ton computer able to, as you say, "Immediately discern between 'interesting' and 'uninteresting' rocks without having to wait 24 hours to ask for new instructions."?

Re:200 pounds of meat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19833587)

> What we really need for exploring Mars is better artificial intelligence. Instead of sending 200 tons of support equipment, why not send a 20 ton computer able to, as you say, "Immediately discern between 'interesting' and 'uninteresting' rocks without having to wait 24 hours to ask for new instructions."?

The human's 200 pounds of meat is mainly a life support system for the 3 pounds of jello. The fact that the human's arm can wield the pickaxe is just a happy accident. But even 20,000 tonnes of computers can't replace 20,000 pounds of life support equipment for a 200-pound meatwad and the 3-pound CPU it carries. (It'd be one hell of an interesting earth-based grid computing project, wouldn't it?) I'm all for AI research, but why wait? Why not go with what's definitely the best CPU in the solar system, and what's almost certainly the best CPU within 100 (or even 1000) light-years of here?

Of course, if you can ship 20,000 pounds of cargo to Mars (or 20,000 tonnes), you're still better off making 100 (or 100,000) copies of the early-90s Sojourner rover and carpet-bombing the place with probes.

Re:The real question is (1)

benevixit (754447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833065)

"Walk into the bowl of a crater, poke around for interesting rocks, and carry the interesting rocks out."
"Immediately discern between 'interesting' and 'uninteresting' rocks without having to wait 24 hours to ask for new instructions."

There's been a lot of work on this in the past few years, and researchers have made some significant progress. The upgraded Mars Rovers can already understand enough about their environment to recognize interesting atmospheric phenomena and collect extra data [bbc.co.uk] . Tests have demonstrated the ability to identify rocks, approach them, and deploy sensors [nasa.gov] . And automatic geology analysis (e.g. 'finding the interesting rock') isn't too far off either [davidraythompson.com] . In any case, I wouldn't bet against improved AI for mission planning on decade scales.

Re:The real question is (1)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833347)

This comparison is unfair because sending a human there is many orders of magnitude more expesive than sending a robot. So the question is rather, would we learn more from a hundred different robotic missions or one manned one? I think scientifically it is quite clear that sending humans to space gives you less bang for the buck than sedning robots. Arguably sending people can be justified on other grounds though.

Re:The real question is (1)

jimbug (1119529) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831281)

Play golf.

Live there. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831859)

In addition, it will allow the survival of our species. Quick point on this, is where are the dinosaurs? Personally, I would like to think that my descendants will not end up being oil for a new species.

With that said, the questions that I see here remind of what I heard as a child. ppl, including scientists, were worried that the lunar lander would sink into 10 foot of dust. They thought that they would come back with new monsters. All in all, before the first HUMAN trip to mars occurs, we will send a mission there. In fact, I am guessing that the armadillo or one of the other new space craft will go there and send back a number of samples. These issues that are being explored, are just that; being explored. The idea that we can only send robots there has to rate as one of the worst ideas that there are. The reason why we send robots now, is because sending humans is still too expensive. But the costs are coming down. Our infrastructure is being built. We will be on mars in my lifetime, barring a nuclear war or a massive disease. In fact, the more that I think about it, those may spur us to get there.

Re:The real question is (1)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832341)

I don't know about you, but I'd like to join the 36 million mile high club! Let's see a Hookerbot beat that!

Obvious solution (0, Troll)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831151)

We just had the Surgeon General's story - so the obvious solution: just ban people from talking about the dust.

Why?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831157)

Why do we need samples? We didn't need Moon dust samples to land there the first time round?

Re:Why?? (4, Informative)

slew (2918) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831819)

Apparently, there were many, many unanticipated problems with lunar "dust".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6460089. stm [bbc.co.uk]
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap980327.html [nasa.gov]
http://dailybeacon.utk.edu/showarticle.php?article id=51367 [utk.edu]

As expected, enginerds never seem to want to underestimate a problem especially when they've heard of a similar problem before...

Re:Why?? (1)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832303)

"Didn't have" is certainly not the same thing as "Didn't need"

Go To Mars With The Army You Have (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831159)

Astronauts sent to the red planet may find much of their job involving the task of dusting off their equipment and suits. The president says we're going there

It is common wisdom that the AK-47 performs better than the M-16 in dusty and sandy conditions [youtube.com] .

Not as big a problem as Luna... (5, Informative)

cupofjoe (727361) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831163)

Actually, there's some body of work that describes a larger problem for Lunar explorers, although the Martian problem isn't anything to sneeze at, either. Pun intended.

As TFA points out, the lack of weathering processes on Luna leaves the dust/regolith mainly as sharp-edged grains, which actually gives them incredible abrasive power. This poses an enormous problem for mechanical assemblies that have any wear surfaces. The Apollo astronauts, IIRC, went through a couple pairs of suit gloves each simply from the wear of the dust on their metallic glove locking rings.

Martian dust might have a similar range of effects, but I hadn't heard of the "toxic dust" issue, yet; that's the interesting bit. Silicosis of the lungs and related disorders, yes; toxicity, no. Yikes.

Toxic dust makes me think of the blended iPhone. "Don't breathe this." Sorry, that's another article...

-joe.

Re:Not as big a problem as Luna... (2)

WhatHappenedToTanith (1126905) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831381)

The real question which everyone is missing is what does it smell like? Everyone knows moondust smells of Gunpowder [nasa.gov] so does martian dust smell of some other medieval technology (perhaps mead?)

Re:Not as big a problem as Luna... (1)

HTTP Error 403 403.9 (628865) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833539)

The real question which everyone is missing is what does it smell like? Everyone knows moondust smells of Gunpowder [nasa.gov] so does martian dust smell of some other medieval technology (perhaps mead?)
I am guessing Mars smells like Slim Whitman.

Re:Not as big a problem as Luna... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831401)

However, if they were able to go to the moon in 1969 and deal with the dust there, where AFAIK they didn't have a sample of lunar dust either, then I think that in 2007 we should have no problem dealing with Martian dust. I find it kind of amazing that we went to the moon so long ago, and yet we are still having people say that the next time we will go to the moon will be 2020 [wikipedia.org] , when the first time we went to the moon was 8 years after the first person landed on the moon.

Warning: Time Loop Detected!!! (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831463)

when the first time we went to the moon was 8 years after the first person landed on the moon.

I suspect you mean 8 years after the first person journeyed into space.

Re:Warning: Time Loop Detected!!! (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832731)

>> when the first time we went to the moon was 8 years after the first person landed on the moon.

> I suspect you mean 8 years after the first person journeyed into space.

By "we" he meant the US. It's a well known fact in UFO-spotting circles that alien abductees had been taken to the moon, other planets and even other solar systems well before 1969.

For more details on this and other suppressed facts contact your nearest UFO expert; just look under "insane asylum" in the phone book.

Re:Not as big a problem as Luna... (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832915)

However, if they were able to go to the moon in 1969 and deal with the dust there, where AFAIK they didn't have a sample of lunar dust either, then I think that in 2007 we should have no problem dealing with Martian dust.
I wouldn't be so sure.

Remember that our first dealing with lunar dust was July 20th, 1969, where astronauts spent a whopping 2 and a half hours outside and something like 22 hours total on the lunar surface. So, to use a fun example, if Martian dust is as abrasive as lunar dust and it's blowing around, this might just have an affect on astronaut spacesuits and such. Considering the expense of going to Mars, yes, I do expect the first mission to spend more than 2 hours outside and 22 hours on the surface. Which means we should check out as many potential issues as possible that would affect their ability to stay there.

I'd rather not spend all that money on a mission and discover that Martian dust storms have screwed up the airlock and they can't go outside anymore after 3 weeks.

Not that I think it's likely, but it's worth checking out.

Just Fine (1)

GroundBounce (20126) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831175)

The surface of Mars looks just fine in every movie I've seen, so it shouldn't be a big problem. Obviously these engineers haven't been paying attention.

I saw this on Star Trek (-1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831211)

Trouble with Tribos

Oh for crissakes! (1, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831237)

Just put together another pair of Mars Rovers and update them to answer those questions and to survive better than the ones down there now. The two rovers on Mars now have been ridiculously successful and have outlived their expected lives tremendously. So not only should we send improved rovers, we should send tools, equipment and supplies there too. Perhaps some rovers capable of assembling structures to house the eventual human guests. I think there's little doubt we can do it. So why aren't we? (yeah I know, money... the question is rhetorical... I wish I could join NASA...)

Re:Oh for crissakes! (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831411)

The two rovers on Mars now have been ridiculously successful and have outlived their expected lives tremendously.
They were expected to fail within months because of dust.
They didn't, but apparently that's not enough for people to see that dust isn't that big of a deal. Meh.

Re:Oh for crissakes! (1)

Karthikkito (970850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833677)

Well, they were supposed to fail because of dust...covering the solar panels. However, the Martian winds keep the solar panels relatively clear, so...

Re:Oh for crissakes! (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831903)

Just put together another pair of Mars Rovers and update them to answer those questions and to survive better than the ones down there now.

Ah, if it were only that easy.
 
The problem is, answering those questions means a fairly heavy (as such things go) automated laboratory in place of the fairly light (as such things go) robotic arm and sensors... Which means the existing airbag design (which has already been stretched beyond it's limits) will have to stretched yet further - or replaced entirely. Such an update will require much more power than the arm - but the existing rover chassis can't support more solar cells. Back to the drawing board to supersize the chassis, _and_ increase the size of the airbags.... (Even more than in the last round where they were upsized for the additional weight...)
 
 

I think there's little doubt we can do it. So why aren't we?

One could say that amount of doubt if directly proportional to the amount of knowledge of the problem domain.

Re:Oh for crissakes! (2, Insightful)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832255)

And then suffer a historically 50/50 chance of losing it somewhere between launch and landing. Everyone seems to forget that Mars is a space probe graveyard.

Another as of yet unanswered question (5, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831243)

Another as of yet unanswered question about Martian rock:

Will it blend?

(Sorry, but I just discovered the videos today, so my view of the universe if somewhat blendocentric)

(queue organ music...) (0)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831331)

Is it toxic? Will it conduct electricity and short circuits? Will astronauts suffer from the triboelectric effect? How large is the average grain? Will humans be allergic to it? Will sinuses jeopardize a mission? Will a dust storm stop a take off and return flight?

[announcer] Tune in next week to find out!

[queue]TAMPAX commercial.

And cut!

Just a sec' here... (2, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831337)

While we don't have any vials handy full of Martian dust, can't at least some of this be within the parameters of Spirit and Opportunity? They have the cameras, (IIRC) rudimentary chemical analysis equipment, and likely enough instrumentation to get us at least some of the data we need as per size, quantity... the rest can be extrapolated fairly easily, save for the biological potentials (at least in that the question "are there germs in there?" probably won't be answered immediately...)

IIRC, the Mars rovers were originally (at least in concept, before budgetary reality set in) designed to drag back a sample or two. Why not build a mission that, you know, does what the original plans intended them to do in that regard? If nothing else, get up something with better instrumentation; Viking 1 and 2 were supposed to have the tools to answer nearly all of the questions, though they had been found to be flawed in many respects and hampered by things which today's tech has a better chance of overcoming.

Dunno... just sounds too easy to dismiss in light of all the ungodly extrapolation that we are capable of from mere astronomy, let alone what we can bring to bear with instruments on the ground there right now.

/P

Re:Just a sec' here... (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831639)

Why not build a mission that, you know, does what the original plans intended them to do in that regard?
Money. such a mission is more expensive and complex thus failure would not only be more likely but also more costly. The original sample return mission got canned after the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander failures. There is a new sample return mission planned but it likely won't launch before the late 2010s. Also the Russians are planning a mission to get soil from Phobos.

dead skin (3, Funny)

dwater (72834) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831351)

I thought it was well known that the majority of dust was made up from dead skin....

Hate to be a killjoy, but... (4, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831387)

Can we stop pretending we're going to send astronauts to Mars? There's is no way we're going to spend the enormous amount of money required to do it, and we don't even know if the astronauts can survive the radiation exposure on the trip.

Besides the fact that it won't be done by any government in the next 30 years, it *shouldn't* be done. I've harped on this before, but it's still true: we could send 1,000 probes similar to the Mars Lander for the price it takes to do a P.R. stunt like sending humans to Mars. Yeah, it's romantic, but if the goal is science, then it's a total waste.

I like space. I'm a supporter of space. But I think humans should go on the back burner until space exploration is much, much, much more of a mature technology. We don't even have casual trips to orbit, much less the moon, much less significant space stations, and much, much less Mars.

Let's be rational about space exploration and let an army of robots do the work, instead of a few fragile, expensive humans.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

Zeebs (577100) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831567)

Whats the point of learning anything about it if you don't intend to go there. If we're so afraid to risk a few of our best that are fully aware of the risk involved why are we bothering with sending any probes at all. The money in that case could be better utilized with a primary focus on bettering human life on earth. Why bother with a big rock that will always be very far away from us at all.

Also before anyone starts with the arguement about the tertiary earthside benefits of developing and sending the probes and rovers consider the potential benefits derived from learning to live in self contained spaces for long periods of time for humanity on earth.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831711)

I believe the grandparent's point was not that we should never go to Mars but rather that we should focus on what the next sensible step to get there is. I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject but I don't think it is unreasonable to ask if our first human mission would be far more effective and successful if we send a number of robotic missions first.

I know its romantic to talk about human missions to Mars but maybe we should ask "what is the best way to explore Mars" rather than "how fast can we put some footprints over there"? For example; maybe a Moon base isn't actually a good "stepping stone" to get there.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831759)

Whats the point of learning anything about it if you don't intend to go there.

It's called "science." Just because we don't intend to go to other galaxies doesn't mean we don't study them. Anyway, we might go to Mars someday, but at this point in our technological development, it's a complete waste of time. There's nothing we can get from astronauts that we can't get from a whole slew of probes.

...consider the potential benefits derived from learning to live in self contained spaces for long periods of time for humanity on earth.

This has always been a silly argument. We already have tons of data, spread over centuries about this. Sailing ships and (more recently) submarines. Heck, look at prisons if you want more data.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832905)

If we aren't going to go, why study it? Why even think about it at all? Since science doesn't matter any more, why don't we just throw rocks at each other?

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

flydude18 (839328) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831709)

We'll never get there if we keep putting it off until "technology is better than it is now." Trips to orbit, the moon, and space stations will never be casual if we don't push the technology that exists now.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831753)

Yeah, it's romantic, but if the goal is science, then it's a total waste.

The goal isn't science. The goal is to set the stage for eventual interplanetary colonization.

Science is great, but not everything having to do with space is science (slashdot's classification of everything space-related under "Science" to the contrary).

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19831817)

Here, here!

On top of which, you have "scientists" going around on the lecture circuit talking about terraforming Mars and giving it an atmosphere. Deliberately ignoring the FACT that Mars can never sustain an atmosphere because it doesn't have an Earth-like magnetosphere to prevent solar winds from ripping any atmosphere off into space.

Personally, I don't think humans should be spending money flying off into space until they first learn how to solve more important problems here on Earth. Such as putting an end to wars, greed, poverty, better education and health care for everyone, etc.

This pie-in-the-sky mentality of Captain Kirk wannabes makes me want to puke!

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

sleigher (961421) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832383)

Are we in such a rush to attempt to terraform another planet because we are too busy to recognize that we are destroying the one we're on with our policies? I agree that before we ever try to go to mars there really shouldn't be genocide in Darfur, or people begging me for food/money in American cities.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832513)

Deliberately ignoring the FACT that Mars can never sustain an atmosphere because it doesn't have an Earth-like magnetosphere to prevent solar winds from ripping any atmosphere off into space.

Um, Mars has an atmosphere. That's how they get dust storms and clouds and the like.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832981)

As I understand it, Mars has an atmosphere but it is slowly being ripped away by solar winds. It may be gone in another, oh, 50,000 years or so.

Of course, it's sort of a silly argument. If we have the capability of giving Mars an atmosphere, we probably have the ability to replace chunks torn off by solar winds.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

onion_joe (625886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831965)

Chicken.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831973)

I've harped on this before, but it's still true: we could send 1,000 probes similar to the Mars Lander for the price it takes to do a P.R. stunt like sending humans to Mars.

That's kinda like substituting 1000 Ford Escorts for a Caterpillar D11. You'll have a lot more metal laying about - but you won't get as much done.
 
 

I like space. I'm a supporter of space. But I think humans should go on the back burner until space exploration is much, much, much more of a mature technology.

That's a self defeating argument - as the technology won't mature unless you send people in the first place.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832085)

That's kinda like substituting 1000 Ford Escorts for a Caterpillar D11. You'll have a lot more metal laying about - but you won't get as much done.

Give me a 1,000 Ford Escorts with a scoop bolted on the front, and you can have your Caterpillar D11. Sure, the Escort may not be as powerful or as efficient, but I suspect 1,000 of them pushing dirt around would give me a big advantage.

You know, thinking about it, this is almost the John Henry [wikipedia.org] legend all over again. We have to send a human because a machine "can't" replace them.

That's a self defeating argument - as the technology won't mature unless you send people in the first place.

Space technology is improving all the time. But it foolish to shoot for Mars when we can't even put humans in orbit economically. Why don't at least solve that problem first? And maybe see about creating a few space hotels, to figure out in-space construction? All of these technologies are stepping stones to Mars missions.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

AdmiralLawman (1073516) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833515)

We are trying to do that right now. Give us 5 years or so and that space hotel of yours should be in orbit. As well as more economical space access and the like.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (3, Insightful)

Anti_Climax (447121) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832035)

If we actually buckled down and started the project, we could do it for about 3Bn a year for about a decade, using current tech. As far away as mars is, it's actually much easier to have a sustainable hands off mission when that little bit of atmosphere is present, as compared to the moon or ISS. While we could have 200 of the "Better, faster, cheaper" probes sent to mars for the same amount, having 4 or 5 people there that can actually cover more than 100 meters of ground in a day or seek out interesting geological features without waiting for someone else to suggest it, can translate into a lot more useful science being done. Beyond that, if the Mars Direct [wikipedia.org] approach is used, we won't have to stop working if there's a dust storm blocking 99% of the sunlight.

You do make good points, but there are some things that are cheaper and easier to do using fragile expensive humans.

Re:Hate to be a killjoy, but... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832043)

Keep harping, because human will go to Mars, and the Human race will be better for it.

We like to make goals, and be triumphant. When you look at human nature,Mars is the next logical choice to send people.

Yes, robots will play a role. In preparation, aid, and to continue to do things after we leave. We will go, just so we can push out are chests, point to a bright point in the sky and say "We conquered the obstacles to get there, sent people and got them home."

That is why we dominate, and that is why man is superior to all other animals.
We could get there in less then 20 years if the program was backed. The spin off technolgies would more then pay for this project.

No Buck Rogers -- No Bucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19833465)

The way NASA sells the scientific unmanned missions is by saying that we need to study Mars in preparation for a manned journey. This is the main reason why we have been sending so many landers and orbiters to Mars lately, as opposed to Venus, Mercury, Jovian system, etc.

Cut out the human mission, and you won't get 1,000 probes. You'll get maybe half a dozen before Congress decides that we've learned all that's really worth knowing.

Martian dust is just.... (3, Funny)

rimcrazy (146022) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831451)

A liberal guise to stop the Republican agenda. Just like those nasty Surgeon Generals and all of their "Real Science"

Sex, anyone? (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831539)

I wonder when the issue of sex in space will be taken seriously, and studies undertaken in that area. American may like to avoid the subject, but to most Europeans both Western and Eastern, its a well known reality. If we're going to take long missions to places like Mars, sex better be understood to be something that's going to happen. And I'm not talking about solitary masturbation...

Re:Sex, anyone? (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831713)

Please, after 6+ months without sex, you can be damned sure that the male astronauts will find a way. Hell, I can think of 6 right now, ... 7 ... 8 ... Ok, back on track: ( ... 9 ... ) There is always the possibility of (... 10 ...)

Screw this, I'm of to draw diagrams for the rest of the evening. Maybe I'll make a nice presentation, and if my gf is up for it: beta testing.

Btw. does anyone know any swimming pools where we could get some privacy, some Barry White playing on underwater speakers, and some scuba gear?

Re:Sex, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19832207)

and some scuba gear?

Crotch-less scuba gear? From Victoria's Secret?

Re:Sex, anyone? (2, Insightful)

Creedo (548980) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832375)

Crotchless? A tank with a regulator, a backpack and some straps. If you can't work around that, you have bigger problems....

Obligatory (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831565)

"Hey, it's that 'the barbecue's over' sound again!"

What makes the dust rise? (4, Interesting)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831667)

NASA would be wise to also carefully contemplate what is inducing the dust to rise to form dust storms in the first place. They already have access to THEMIS images from the Mars Odyssey Mission that suggest that there is filamentation of Martian dust storms at both the leading and trailing edges. For a sample image (there are others too), go to:

http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20060512a [asu.edu]

Furthermore, we also know that Martian dust devils can contain lightning bolts at their cores:

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2005/14jul_dust devils.htm [nasa.gov]

In addition to that, we also know that firsthand accounts from people who have seen the inside of a tornado and lived to tell about it indicate that tornadoes here on Earth tend to shimmer like a fluorescent light from the inside. This is typically obstructed from the outside by dust. There's a brief mention here. I'm sure there are other sources for this information:

http://library.thinkquest.org/C003603/english/torn adoes/insidetheeye.shtml [thinkquest.org]

This could indicate that tornadoes and Martian dust devils are actually both electrical plasmas, and that the electrical activity is inducing the vortex -- not the other way around.

It is possible that vortexes are the natural result of the right-hand rule within electrodynamics. Peter Thomson's Charge Sheath Vortex site is an excellent tutorial on how this may be so:

http://www.peter-thomson.co.uk/tornado/fusion/Char ge_sheath_vortex_basics_for_tornado.html [peter-thomson.co.uk]

He demonstrates his point at the end by creating a miniature vortex using electricity in a petri dish.

My point here is that NASA should seriously consider that the Martian dust is molecularly bipolar and is responding to solar and other electrical plasmas that are affecting the Martian planet. The evidence from both Mars and Earth suggests that it is a possibility.

We already know for a fact that upper atmosphere lightning exists. The weather scientists told us that this was not possible, and they were proven to be wrong. It's now easy to find pictures of upper-atmosphere sprites on the web. Try these:

http://usjma.jp/~sprite/sprite2005.11pic.html [usjma.jp]

http://www.usjma.jp/~kaminari/Sprite%202006/S%2020 06%20%203/sprite2006.3.13.html [usjma.jp]

http://www.usjma.jp/~kaminari/Gallery/Gallery%20SP RITE/galleryhome.html [usjma.jp]

http://www.usjma.jp/~kaminari/Gallery/Gallery%20SP RITE/Carrot/gscar01.html [usjma.jp]

So, why isn't it possible that they could also be wrong about current theories about tornadoes? And why in the world are those dust storms filamentary? When we see enigmatic features on Mars, we should create future missions to follow that data. As of recently, NASA has been exclusively following their script instead of the anomalies. We need to be doing both.

What is the real problem?! (1)

Seismologist (617169) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831763)

People, please review the pertinent [wikipedia.org] Mission [wikipedia.org] to Mars [wikipedia.org] video manual for all of the Martian conditions that can be expected. This work has already been done. Oh, and watch out for the nematodes [wikipedia.org] .

Why do we want to send Humans? (2, Interesting)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831839)

Certainly we should build space crafts that leave open the option for possible human "passengers", but, in my opinion, our focus should be on building capable and independent robots to do our dirty work for us. The current "boots on the ground" at Mars are great examples. In fact, we are in desperate need right now of moving to true computer intelligence instead of our current programmable logic.

A level of a 4 year old would actually be sufficient for most applications. Not only is this type of technology useful on world exploration, but it would revolutionize our world. One small example is that burglarly and building fires would become a thing of the past if we had a truely intelligent computer systems monitoring and managing buildings.

That's a great idea (4, Funny)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832929)

That's a wonderful idea. Someone should just go tell the computer scientists and engineers to get their thumbs out of their asses and invent us some artificial intelligence, since obviously all they do now is sit around playing D & D and doing bong hits.

The sheer vision - it borders on godlike.

Re:That's a great idea (0, Troll)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833169)

No, thats just you buddy with the thumb up your ass playing D&D while doing bong hits... :-)

Need dust samples. (2, Funny)

Pinkfud (781828) | more than 7 years ago | (#19831933)

Oh, all right. I'll go up there and get some damned samples. I had other things to do, but since this seems to be such a big deal to you....

Re:Need dust samples. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832159)

While your out, could you pick me up a slurpie?

I have their answers and a solution. (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832181)

Yes, yes, yes,yes,yes, and yes.
Everything you fear is true, plan for it.

solution, give the astronauts a pair of leaf blowers to blow each other off before heading back in the habitat, that would reduce dust ingress into the habitat significantly, make all suits banished to the entry room, force a shower in recycled water before entering station.

They got any hard problems? because industrial complexes have dealt with these problems already for decades.

Re:I have their answers and a solution. (2, Interesting)

wildsurf (535389) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833017)

Better solution: Build the habitat 10 meters undergound, pressurized to 1 atmosphere, with a long U-shaped tunnel filled with water, connecting the floor of the habitat to the planet's surface! (Think of the moon pool in The Abyss.) The astronauts can then SWIM back and forth between the surface and the habitat, eliminating the need for a complicated airlock, and ameliorating the dust concerns; it's much easier to get dust off in water than in air. (You'd obviously need to cover and insulate the surface exit when not in use, to prevent the water from freezing/sublimating, but that should be trivial.)

Re:I have their answers and a solution. (1)

wildsurf (535389) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833039)

Slight correction: due to the lower Martian gravity, the habitat would have to be about 30 meters underground to equalize one atmosphere of pressure. (Or one could use lower total pressure with a higher relative percentage of oxygen.)

Re:I have their answers and a solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19833145)

solution, give the astronauts a pair of leaf blowers
The only problem with that is you need a few AU of extension cord.

Dust is the least of the problems (4, Insightful)

kahei (466208) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832251)


There are several much more significant challenges than dust:

* The lack of any kind of spaceship capable of making the return trip
* The lack of any kind of system for keeping the crew alive in space for that long
* The lack of any serious programme to develop the above
* The lack of the money such a programme would require
* The lack of the political will to address any of the points above
* The lack of public interest in any of the points above *this* point

Overall, I think it's probably not a good idea to burn Earth yet.

Lung related concerns (2, Funny)

BigBadBus (653823) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832563)

Won't there be similar lung related illness like asbestosis on Earth caused by all that dust?

the big question (1, Interesting)

Simon Garlick (104721) | more than 7 years ago | (#19832615)

Will it blend?

Actually, given that everything blended comes out as toxic dust... what happens if you put toxic dust INTO the blender?

radiation (1)

potatoeater (999315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833535)

I thought (correct me if I'm wrong) that the greatest issue was actually getting the astronauts to mars alive and without cancer. Currently there is no shielding technology that is light enough or even proven. I believe the current best radiation shielding available comes from lead.

Jesus Christ, Just Go There (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 7 years ago | (#19833563)

Mars is a 4 billion year old desert, and they are worried that it might be dusty.
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