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Building an IT Infrastructure Around Mars

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the set-the-timeouts-really-long dept.

Mars 121

bfwebster writes "Space.com has an article talking about the efforts to observe the arrival of the Phoenix lander on Mars this coming May using current Mars orbiters. This community will likely be intrigued to see the ways in which NASA is using existing landers and orbiters to prepare for, and then monitor, that landing. This includes using the landers Spirit and Opportunity to simulate transmissions from Phoenix as a testing procedure in advance of the actual landing; using the Odyssey orbiter as a high-speed data transmission link from Phoenix to Earth during the landing; and using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Express orbiter as backup data stores for Phoenix data transmissions during the descent. How long until we get a terabyte solid-state dataserver (running IPv6, natch) in orbit around Mars?"

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121 comments

That's not what Mars needs (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630464)

Mars needs women!

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630466)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
it's monday and that means goatse [goatse.ch]

Hmm (4, Funny)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630478)

I would guess the line leasing fee's to be out of this world. *cough*

Re:HmmYes indeed. Indeed. Yes... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630726)

First of all, I abstract you into perfect spherical frictionless cow of uniform density. Now then: Into the meat grinder with you!

Re:HmmYes indeed. Indeed. Yes... (1)

pintpusher (854001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631054)

Don't forget the butter.... [slashdot.org] mmm... butter....

Re:Hmm (2, Funny)

visionlink (715186) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630880)

never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon loaded with tapes hurtling thru space.

Re:Hmm (1)

WeblionX (675030) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632690)

"Sir, we're picking up an outline of a station wagon."
"Don't bother firing, we're looking for a Winnebago."

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630908)

I remember NASA considering placing a small constellation of comms satellites around MARS as a way to avoid completely reimplementing comms for every mission.
I also remember that NASA wanted a 'common' comms system for future missions but that IP was not considered viable - the delay for ACK packets was simply too much after you left the Earth system.

Re:Hmm (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632068)

Not only that, the ping times will be a tad longer than normal. I know I wouldn't want to be up there playing WoW, that's for sure!

Re:Hmm (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633402)

The lag would be terrible!
Imagine trying to do chat.

Pish. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630506)

This story is neither about game systems, P2P, or the **AA Media Overlords. Why am I interested?

Re:Pish. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630576)

If you understood regular expressions you would know that * doesn't stand for a single character. Go back to college and try passing your automata class again, weakling.

Re:Pish. (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630714)

Right, its stands for ZERO or more. In other words, his **AA is not incorrect, but you are incorrect for attempting to correct him. Also, *******AA is equally correct.

Re:Pish. (1, Offtopic)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630810)

It doesn't stand for zero. It stands for the epsilon string, or "more". It's called the Kleene closure.

Re:Pish. (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631884)

Technically he should've prefixed with * with a character range or sub-regex to operate on - what he had was at best a glob. As for the correctness of "**IA", it depends on whether one is trying to match "RIAA" or "MPAA", or match those strings exclusively.

Re:Pish. (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633416)

According to Kurt Vonnegut Jnr, it stands for arsehole - *

Re:Pish. (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631036)

Actually, no, unless he means to include AAA, for example. He only means RIAA and MPAA, so one proper expression (there are different conventions) would be {RI, MP}AA.

Given that, I want to use this opportunity to implore all slashdotters to use {uni,linu}x, instead of *nix. This is a serious problem!

Re:Pish. (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630766)

Which is why you can ***add as ********************* many ************as you want.

Don't forget Australia (2, Interesting)

infernalman7 (1144421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630514)

This is too much! Someone should do something with Australia's data allowance per month first. 2GB a month for $29 is just ridiculous.

Re:Don't forget Australia (3, Funny)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630592)

Run a wire from Mars, might be cheaper.

Re:Don't forget Australia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22631176)

Packets would be upside down, 'tho. It would only work for the Northern Hemisphere.

Re:Don't forget Australia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22632262)

Put some restaurants also and Internet cafe's...java man [kanati.com.ph]

Re:Don't forget Australia (1)

Evil_Ether (1200695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632362)

Screw you lot what about NZ? we have even worse levels of service at an even higher prices. 1GB/month for $40 [nzconnection.net]

Re:Don't forget Australia (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633460)

Surely with all those sheep and possums and ex-cricketers, you should be able to think up something!
Or, you could move to Australia and pay $90 for unlimited ISDN @ 128kb/s.
Face it. NZ and it's subsidiary island of Australia doesn't rate in the big world of internets.

Re:Don't forget Australia (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633434)

Try Whirlpool http://bc.whirlpool.net.au/ [whirlpool.net.au]
Lots of better plans there.

O_o (1)

Aegis Runestone (1248876) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630546)

Talk about long distance. Maybe they should go wireless. Anyway, this idea is plain cool to me; an astronomy-lover fanatic. I have NO idea what they would do with it, but it'd still be cool to have an IT server around our planet just around the block in the Sol System neighborhood (wow, that sounds cheesy. Oh well, I always say 'Corn and Cheese makes the world go 'round').

TTL (1)

DigitalisAkujin (846133) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630568)

Does TCP/IP even support a 30 minute latency?

Re:TTL (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630642)

Yes. [wikipedia.org]

Re:TTL (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630698)

Of course it does. Time To Live is a count of hops not time.

Re:TTL (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631948)

That's what I thought too, but from RFC 791, http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc791.html [faqs.org]

> The time is measured in
> units of seconds (i.e. the value 1 means one second). Thus, the
> maximum time to live is 255 seconds or 4.25 minutes. Since every
> module that processes a datagram must decrease the TTL by at least
> one even if it process the datagram in less than a second, the TTL
> must be thought of only as an upper bound on the time a datagram may
> exist.

Re:TTL (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631982)

What is hard to understand here? There are no routers between Mars and Earth.. therefore the number of "modules" that process a datagram on the way from Mars to Earth is zero.

Re:TTL (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632498)

I thought the text spoke for itself: according to that document, the TTL is not the number of hops, but rather the number of seconds a packet has before it expires, minus 1 for every router it goes through. So in practice it appears as the number of hops so long as the trip time is less than one second. I don't know how that would extend to interplanetary transmission (or which side would be responsible for timing the link delay and decrementing the field), I just wanted to debunk the TTL = hops argument.

Re:TTL (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632574)

No, the text you quoted is saying that *effectively* the TTL is a number of seconds argument, as there is no way for a router to indicate that it took less than a second to do a transfer.. so if your packet goes through 255 routers in under a second for each, it will die just as it will if it goes through 255 routers in over a second for each.

Re:TTL (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632870)

> "No, the text you quoted is saying that *effectively* the TTL is a number of seconds argument"

I think you meant to say "number of hops", in which case we're not in disagreement about that so long as you use the qualifier "effectively". If you did mean "number of seconds" then I don't understand your point, as you seem to be contradicting your original statement. Mine was that the TTL cannot be regarded in a general technical sense as a "count of hops not time", but is rather a mixture of both.

The question this raises, and the reason it would be relevant for interplanetary communication, is if the TTL is supposed to be decremented by the travel time of a hop, what happens when the travel time exceeds 255 seconds? Perhaps I misread the RFC, because it does seem like a problem, and yet the IP over avion carrier ping still succeeded.

Re:TTL (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633002)

When you decide how much the TTL value should be decremented by for a particular link you are not, in any way, restricted. You can decrement it by just one (this is what most routers do) or you can decrement it by 20.. what you can't do is decrement it by less than one. So if you setup your network to decrement by one for every second that a packet spends traveling over a link, as the RFC recommends, then you will have a problem for links under 299,792 km long and over 76,446,960 km long as you can't decrement the TTL less than one second or more than 255 seconds. But typically, a network will be configured to only decrement the TTL by more than one for a given link if there is another link that is faster. So if you have a 100 mega-bit link and a 10 mega-bit link between two buildings you'll most likely make the routers decrement 10 from the TTL for a packet traveling over the 10 mega-bit link and only one from the TTL for a packet traveling over the 100 mega-bit link. This will cause the routing algorithms to prefer the 100 mega-bit link. But it is completely up to you.

On the other hand, I think TCP has some actual time-based limitations:

To avoid confusion we must prevent segments from one incarnation of a
    connection from being used while the same sequence numbers may still
    be present in the network from an earlier incarnation. We want to
    assure this, even if a TCP crashes and loses all knowledge of the
    sequence numbers it has been using. When new connections are created,
    an initial sequence number (ISN) generator is employed which selects a
    new 32 bit ISN. The generator is bound to a (possibly fictitious) 32
    bit clock whose low order bit is incremented roughly every 4
    microseconds. Thus, the ISN cycles approximately every 4.55 hours.
    Since we assume that segments will stay in the network no more than
    the Maximum Segment Lifetime (MSL) and that the MSL is less than 4.55
    hours we can reasonably assume that ISN's will be unique.
So TCP connections to Pluto might be a problem.. Saturn will be fine, it's only 1.224 light-hours away.

Re:TTL (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631184)

That depends on how your routing protocols are configured.

Re:TTL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22632408)

Oh, any AT&T subscriber knows the answer to this.

I thought they just used... (3, Funny)

monopole (44023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630616)

...Martian Packets [wikipedia.org]

Before we do this, we'd better check... (1)

rah1420 (234198) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630628)

... to see if any computers that aren't on the net are thinking that we should do this. :)

It sure sounds like the plot to Man Plus [wikipedia.org] might be coming true, excuse the bat wings.

Art imitates life once again.

Re:Before we do this, we'd better check... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633318)

Art imitates life once again.
Since the book already exists, shouldn't that be "Life imitates art once again"?

A terabyte, for the whole planet? (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630632)

That's it? One measly terabyte? For the whole planet?

Obligatory (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631208)

Who on Mars will ever need more than one terabyte?

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22631718)

HiRISE [arizona.edu]

Re:Obligatory (1)

topologicalanomaly47 (1226068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633666)

from famous last words: "640k should be enough for everybody"

Tera-byte? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632018)

Tera-byte? This is Mars, not Earth. It should be Areo-byte, shouldn't it?

Obligatory (1)

Amiralul (1164423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632446)

1 terabyte should be enough for everyone.

How Long? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630662)

How long until we get a terabyte solid-state dataserver (running IPv6, natch) in orbit around Mars?
I don't know, but it'll be a bitch to drive there for each reboot.

Only If You Run Windows (1)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630914)

Run Linux or BSD on the thing, and it will not require a reboot.

Re:Only If You Run Windows (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631044)

30 minutes to ping. Hack that!

Re:Only If You Run Windows (1)

darkpixel2k (623900) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631488)

30 minutes to ping.

That sounds like the title of a bad straight to DVD movie.

#iRc.trolltalk.com (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630664)

another special the p[roject to

IPV6 (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630676)

How long until we get a terabyte solid-state dataserver (running IPv6, natch) in orbit around Mars?

by suggesting IPv6 you've guaranteed it will never be implmented...

Re:IPV6 (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631678)

Now would also be a good time to get the RFCs in motion for establishing a TLD for Mars. The registration of helium.gov.mars is long overdue.

And while we're at it, let's start referring to it as the System Wide Web, so we don't sound so old-fashioned and provincial.

Re:IPV6 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22633254)

Dibs on "isfrom.mars".

Re:IPV6 (1)

Firefalcon (7323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633860)

Then can I host a server under your domain called "this"? :-p

this.isfrom.mars

Crossover point (4, Insightful)

bradbury (33372) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630704)

A better point for the exploration of the solar system is *when* can we set up a complete solar system that involves an information discovery and transmission system system which exceeds that which humans can carry out!

The recent proposal to send humans to Mars is idiotic. I.e. we send take months and god knows how many $$ to send a few humans to Mars and then bring them back. What kind of an idiotic idea is that? One should be engaged (and I hope the folks at NASA are reading this) in a serious discussion of what is the information retrieval rate of a space probe (robotic explorer, etc.) vs.a human being?

And so the discussion should be when the light speed transmission of information across the solar system will exceed the mass transport of humans across the solar system?

Re:Crossover point (3, Insightful)

MSZ (26307) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630870)

One feature that humans have and (current) robots don't is the ability to understand situation (beyond simple rule-following) and have own decision. That is quite a good reason to send people on these missions.

On the other hand, just sending a team there and getting them back after a week of exploration IS a waste of resources. It's just a kind of "my peni^Wrocket is bigger than yours"... It will end the same way as the Apollo missions to the Moon: we'll collect some data, plant a flag or two and then just sit and reminisce what a great achievement this was.

The moonbase plan, that will probably be dropped as the Mars mission will go overbudget (as usual) is much more useful. A lot of learning opportunities, not to mention a great place to set up big guns and kindly ask for more funding ;-).

There's no point in going to Mars unless we go there to set up forward base for colonization.

Re:Crossover point (2, Interesting)

pintpusher (854001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631156)

I'd like to see us send a significant number of cargo laden missions first. Sure stick a couple rovers on them to get some science done, but make the mission to get a critical mass of supplies up there first. Send a whole mess of them a month or two apart with the people in the last few. That gives you many launches to fix any problems that arise. You can make a reasonable effort to land them all within a certain radius. If you lose a couple on the way, it's okay because they're just supplies. YOu can always supplement with another cargo load.

I know if *I* was sitting there on the long ride to mars, I'd be a lot happier knowing there was a good stash of stuff to live with waiting for me. I'd even be willing to sign on for the one way trip provided there were adequate supplies a head of me (especially tools and DUCT TAPE!!).

Re:Crossover point (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631438)

This is a good point, but I think any serious plan will have considerable preplaced supplies already on Mars. For example, the Mars Direct plans have a working nuclear reactor and the fuel (extracted from the Mars atmosphere and possibly on board liquid hydrogen) to return to Earth in position before humans show up (and the manned capsule would have it's own resources in case).

Re:Crossover point (1)

Plugh (27537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631944)

I'm all for a lunar base and for a manned Mars expedition. I just don't want government to attempt to manage either one -- it'll be insanely overbudget and everyone will have to pay for it in taxes. Far better to let those of us who WANT to contribute to such efforts, make such contribution as we see fit, and with the organization we feel is most likely to do the job properly. Government just sucks. At everything.

Re:Crossover point (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633334)

Far better to let those of us who WANT to contribute to such efforts, make such contribution as we see fit, and with the organization we feel is most likely to do the job properly.

Reality check: most people wouldn't care, and you wouldn't ever get enough funds together. Fund Mission to Mars or see Britney's snatch on TV? You do know what most people will choose, don't you?

Re:Crossover point (4, Interesting)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631060)

One should be engaged (and I hope the folks at NASA are reading this) in a serious discussion of what is the information retrieval rate of a space probe (robotic explorer, etc.) vs.a human being?
http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/news/expandnews.cfm?id=849 [nasa.gov]

According to Kathy Clark, chief scientist for NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS), while the Sojourner Mars rover was a tremendous achievement, "Sojourner spent two weeks analyzing half a dozen Mars rocks. A human geologist could have done that same work in 30 minutes--then turned the rocks over to see what was hiding underneath."
A biased source, but it's probably true - a human could travel the four miles Spirit has travelled in several years in about an hour. A little slower considering the sampling they'd be doing, but not by that much - you can pick it up and look at it on the way home (or when you get back to Earth). They could kick a deeper hole with their shoe in seconds than the rover can dig, ever.

Consider the cost (1)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631308)

That's a bit like saying I should buy a castle rather than live in my apartment, since it's a much nicer place to live. While true, that completely ignores price.

Similarly, a human can do much more than Spirit, but you can probably send 10000 rovers like that for the same amount it costs to send one human.

Re:Consider the cost (2, Interesting)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632160)

"Similarly, a human can do much more than Spirit, but you can probably send 10000 rovers like that for the same amount it costs to send one human."
That's a good point--the question is, will you have fewer limitations?

Human beings are pretty good tool users. So you send a geologist with lots of geology tools. He can wander across the plains of Mars looking for interesting rocks. Those rocks he finds that are interesting, he can bring back with him to the base where he has more tools. He can chip off a bit of rock with a hammer and look at it under a microscope.

In short, figure out how to keep said geologist alive and productive on Mars and you've come a long way in getting some really interesting science done.

To me, the investment made in figuring out how to keep someone alive and productive on Mars seems like it could mean that we could send people there and figure stuff out much quicker than just throwing the same money at more robots which will all have the limitations that the parent described. Of course, it will take considerably longer to figure out how to keep someone alive on Mars than it would to just send a bunch of probes. Still, once you solve that problem...

To draw an analogy, should we not bother creating a heavy-lift rocket and, instead, launch a bunch of light-lift rockets and assemble things in orbit? Would that be better?

Re:Consider the cost (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633224)

While there's economies of scale, you are just throwing out fantasy numbers. Keep in mind that if you can permanently settle a few hundred people on Mars, then they can grow to fill the planet. And there's only so much 10,000 rovers can do when they are controlled from Earth.

Re:Consider the cost (1)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 6 years ago | (#22634298)

Yeah, 10,000 is a number out of thin air. Let's see... The internet says that the twin rovers cost $880M. I didn't quickly find a quote for a Mars expedition, and it would just be a wild guess now anyway, but the International Space Station is supposedly $130B. If going to Mars is an order of magnitude more, that's a factor of 3000.

I wouldn't send 10,000 identical rovers to Mars. But you could do thousands of similarly complex robotic missions for the price of one human. Yes, humans are better in many ways. But not that much better.

And you know what would have been under the rocks? (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632512)

More rocks.

Unlike Discworld, on Mars, its rocks, all the way down. The ones studied by Soujourner are among the most expensive rocks in history. The ones studied in that 30 minutes would BE the most expensive rocks in history. But they'd still be rocks!

Re:Crossover point (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22634122)

The era of human based space exploration has been and gone. Like all technology of a bygone era, it's remembered by many with fondness and sentimentality. Like all outdated technology, it has proponents who point to one thing or another that it does well, and then claim that modern technology is a step backwards. And now we have the car analogy. When cars first emerged, there were many who claimed that horse drawn transport was superior. They highlighted the advantages of horse drawn transport over cars. For example, a horse can graze beside the road. A car cannot. A horse goes slower - less dangerous for pedestrians. Yet cars won over horse drawn transport - because the comparative advantages of cars were so great, the advantages of horse drawn transport looked insignificant. The same applies for robots (new) versus human (old) with regard to space exploration.
  1. Humans move faster than [previously deployed robotic explorers]. If speed was important, we can deploy robots that go faster than humans can. But speed is not important, so we won't
  2. Human beings can make decisions, robots can't. Again - the point of exploration is to gather data. There is no need for snap decisions, because there is no hurry. If there were a hurry, we would send a probe with more instruments which gathers data quicker.

So I understand that you are sentimental. I get sentimental about old stuff too - I love old warplanes. But space exploration isn't a town parade or air show.

Re:Crossover point (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631180)

We've got the probe thing down just fine, we've sent them as far as they can go interplanetary and interstellar is a completely different ballgame. I'd say the ability to shuttle people around the solar system (well, there's honestly not that many candidates but Mars) seems like a logical next step. There's a *lot* of long term settlement issues that have to be worked out for a Mars trip, that we'll never get started on unless we go. Waste of time and money? Well, not much more so than other basic research. With all due respect to the sciences, it's not like robot probes have much of an ROI either. To me, knowing that we're able to send people to other planets is much bigger than being able to send any lump of metal anywhere. YMMV.

Re:Crossover point (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631410)

A better point for the exploration of the solar system is *when* can we set up a complete solar system that involves an information discovery and transmission system system which exceeds that which humans can carry out!

Right now the humans are the decision makers and that is unlikely to change intentionally. Any setup that leaves humans on Earth and tries to do anything realtime is fundamentally flawed (once you get past a few light seconds and the orbit of the Moon) no matter how much AI you put in.

Second, an unmanned only approach creates a high threshhold to doing anything in space. That is, you need to have considerable infrastructure and software in place to support a remote operated probe. Supporting a much larger effort with thousands or millions of probes, all ultimately centrally managed from Earth, is a logistics nightmare. At some point, it will be cheaper to send people and their bulky clumsy infrastructure to create self-sustaining colonies rather than run things from Earth. We also need to consider that AI developments in the future will probably become pretty heavily regulated. That adds another burden to small operators trying to compete.

Third, a key problem is people trying to figure out things. A lot of understanding can be gained from being there, rather than working through a remote interface. You simply cannot understand things as well remotely.

Re:Crossover point (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631822)

months and god knows how many $$ to send a few humans to Mars and then bring them back.
I think I see an easy way to save half the time, and probably more than half the money.

Re:Crossover point (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632046)

what is the information retrieval rate of a space probe (robotic explorer, etc.) vs.a human being?

Currently, the *information* retrieval rate, potentially distinct from the *data* retrieval rate, is much, much higher for a person. The reason is that our ability to learn on Mars is limited by our tools, and robotic tools are far less capable than human-operated ones. This becomes especially true when you account for the fact that you can give a person instructions like "gather data on x, y, z, and anything else 'interesting'."

For example, the MER robots accomplish in a day what a trained geologist could accomplish in a few minutes. They simply don't have the capabilities. Some of that is because they were a small mission, but long before you scaled them up to compete with a human it would be cheaper to just send the person.

Furthermore, a lot of the work a person would do would be gathering data that would be sent back -- probably some of it immediately, and a lot stored on physical media in the spacecraft, with the option for the people back on Earth to ask for more data to be sent. Remember that sending data from Mars to here is a lot slower, thanks to lower signal power, than sending data on Earth.

The question of whether to send people should be based not on how much information they could get, but what the quality of that information is. People are, at least for the easily forseeable future, far more capable than robotic explorers.

Re:Crossover point (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633182)

The recent proposal to send humans to Mars is idiotic. I.e. we send take months and god knows how many $$ to send a few humans to Mars and then bring them back. What kind of an idiotic idea is that? One should be engaged (and I hope the folks at NASA are reading this) in a serious discussion of what is the information retrieval rate of a space probe (robotic explorer, etc.) vs.a human being?

The discussion has long been engaged and has been over for almost as long - human explorers outperform robotic ones by a very wide margin. What either of the current rovers have accomplished in their three years on the surface could have been accomplished by a human geologists in three weeks or less.

All your bases are belong to us! (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630706)

I never get tired of that.

I suppose the biggest question is, how long until CCP gets an EVE server up there?

An offworld dataserver... (5, Funny)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630712)

PirateBay looks on with keen interest...
 

Re:An offworld dataserver... (2, Interesting)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630944)

That actually raises a few questions of a legal, political, physical and commercial nature. Ergo;

1. Who does the scientific data belong to? OK, most likely the hardware will be Chinese or American (built in Taiwan tho), and after some amount of political wrangling some of the Apollo/Ranger data was shared with other superpowers eventually. Who owns the raw data being stored or relayed by said hardware?

2. As to commercial storage. What would the legal position be if some entity like TPB had a hosting platform up there for tracking data? How secure is secure? Underground? Orbital? And what happens if an orbital platform is found to be hosting "illegal" material? I'd hate to see the bill if the **AA gets a warrant and orders a shutdown of a rack hosted on the ISS. Or the technical ramifications, for that matter.

3. The United States Government were mighty white to share the technology embedded in their GPS system for commercial use, albeit in a limited nature. How willing would they be to share storage in this obviously very secure situation on the same terms, on the assumption that they not only fronted up the technological knowhow but also the financial backing whether Government or privately?

4. How would such a system cope with radiation, solar storms, etc? For example, in Lunar orbit there are two main types of radiation: proton events, and cosmic background radiation. Both are deadly to electronics, CBR is the more worrying for human habitation outside the Van Allen radiation belt and the Earth's magnetic field (the two factors which prevent harmful radiation hitting the Terran surface and microwaving us all). There is no appreciable magnetic field or radiation belt around Mars, hence any electronic system would be extremely vulnerable to particle discharge (the probes that have so far landed on Mars have been solid state and very well shielded; such shielding places prohibitive limits on actual payloads to the point where I don't think an extraterrestrial hosting platform would be practical nor economically viable).

5. Is this, all told, a viable scientific, commercial or politically-driven project? Or, like the Gemini/Apollo program, is it just there for bragging rights? Let me put it another way. In 36 years, has there been even a hint of progress toward putting a permanent human presence on the moon? Here's your answer: to date, 12 men have walked Luna, the last in 1972. That's a generation and a half ago. The last probe to land on the Moon before the recent flurry of orbital probes was in 1976.

Footnote: some commercial ventures are offering limp cargo shots at Luna for one thousand US per gram. Others are offering Lunar vacations (I think trips of a week or so, just to fly round) at a hundred million a seat. Such ventures I think are the most likely method of getting a permanent presence on our nearest neighbour. No government in today's world of paranoia, the war on "terror", tinfoil hats, global recession, overtaxation, poor economic management, poor environmental management, starving African children, exploding Afghan wedding parties, or the rush for ever dwindling hydrocarbon reserves, could afford the billion Dollars a shot to send large enough vehicles at Luna which we'll need rather than the poxy little 3-man capsules we sent in the 1960's.

The same could be said for pretty much any other kind of permanent presence, manned or unmanned. We're feeling the pinch now with the ISS. Not even the mighty USA could afford to go solo on that hunk of junk. OK, it looks a little thrown together, it is, but the spacefaring countries of the world are learning to work together to exploit space. We need to get even closer to feel the benefit of it /down here on Earth/.

Re:An offworld dataserver... (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631210)

1. Scientific data belongs to the US taxpayer. Well, if NASA is doing the research, it does. There are times when the data won't be released. If the data is classified, for instance. In fact, NASA's budget is constantly replenished by the DoD. DoD pays NASA to send payloads and perform maintenance. For the most part, the data will be publicly available.

2. If I buy a server in space, it will have to down-link somewhere. The **AA can just get a court order on the down-link provider. As for NASA/Government; the DoD already have provisions in-place to deal with copyright in a slightly different way than the general public. For instance, ships at sea can legally acquire and play MPAA movies with little regards to the wishes of the MPAA. DoD clubs, bars, and restaurants routinely play RIAA music with little regards to paying royalties that civilian clubs must pay. Furthermore, it is quite common to see movie and music library servers established on most DoD installations. While not entirely legal, the **AA tolerates it.

3. US Citizens *ARE* the Government. If we want data released, it generally gets released. There are times when it is in the best interest of the Public to keep the info private. For instance, say an asteroid was 18 months away from Earth. Nothing could stop it. End of life, period. Would it be in the Public's best interest to know this? What if we discover some gluon-based super-weapon? Would you want another nuclear djinn out of the bottle?

4. Electronics vulnerable to radiation? Didn't we solve that years ago? Voyager and Pioneer seem to be doing okay so far.

5. No one has pure intentions. A good politician can make people *want* to do something for their own reasons. If you could make GWB *want* to go to Mars, would it matter why he's doing it? Just the fact that he wants to go is good enough for me.

5b. Going to the Moon to establish a base seems like a good idea to you and me. However, NASA has decided that they don't want that. I have heard that doing a Moon colony and doing a Mars colony will cost about the same. But there are some milestones that must be reached first.

5b1. We need a cheap orbiter. Space elevator seems promising.
5b2. We need a reliable habitat. Years ago, we tried sealing people in a dome in the desert. They almost died. And that was on Earth. We need a dome that can protect people and can be built quickly.
5b3. We need a way to make fuel, air, water, and food at the destination. You can't take it with you.
5b4. We need a construction platform in space. Better to build interplanetary ships in orbit vice launching them from the earth.

FOOTNOTE

The problem with money is that too few control it. We allow generations to accumulate wealth until we have 1% of the people with 99% of the money.

Also, can we honestly justify spending billions on NASA (or the DoD) when we have poverty in the US?

4.294 million (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630722)

"4.294 billion ip's ought to be enough for any planet"

An important question that needs to be answered is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630758)

Have you read your SICP today?

Wasn't this pretty much (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630760)

the plot of Doom 3?

hell yes! (2, Funny)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630884)

I told my parents, when I move out I'm only going to live in a place that's got broadband. So I'm not moving to Mars until they got broadband! And none of that 8 minute ping time stuff. I can't play Starcraft like that. Run the backbone through a wormhole!

Re:hell yes! (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631084)

Let's send a small herd of Slashdotters and South Korean gamers to live on Mars for the StarCraft finals. And let them stay. I'll be happy as long as I can get my /. and ISOs.

Re:hell yes! (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631866)

Let's send a small herd of Slashdotters and South Korean gamers to live on Mars for the StarCraft finals. And let them stay. I'll be happy as long as I can get my /. and ISOs.

I don't think they'd notice the scenery change.
"One town's very like another when your heads down over your pieces, brother."

Re:hell yes! (1)

demallien2 (991621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633714)

Yeah, but it's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity, to be looking at a board, not looking at the city... or marscape as the case may be.

Re:hell yes! (1)

s74ng3r (963541) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631442)

OTOH, they're actually thinking of bringing Protoss technology to Mars -- some pylons to power those datacenters and some zealots and photon cannons to guard against zergling-rush attacks against your precious servers. Creates a whole new meaning to real-time strategy, so I guess you won't miss Starcraft that much.

Australian game players rejoice!! (1)

ihaveamo (989662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630930)

..somewhere with a worse ping time than us! (As long as the mars rovers play UT / WOW, I will actually be able to 0WN!!)

Bandwidth/Latency (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630950)

high-speed data transmission link from Phoenix to Earth during the landing
Why do dump trucks and tubes come to mind?

Ask Slashdot (1)

Sean0michael (923458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631014)

Building an IT Infrastructure Around Mars sounds like an excellent new topic for "Ask Slashdot". There are enough experts here in the most random scientific arenas to discuss something hypothetically very cool.

COmm and GPS for mars (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631096)

It was in the works for a comm/gps system for Mars. Once W. invaded Iraq, he cut all budgets. This sat system went out the door. Now, we are looking at using the nano sats for doing something similar around the moon. It is possible that the same system will be replicated at mars. In particular, a number of techs were and are being developed to make this work. We now have a cheap, small, low energy nuclear clock. In addition, we are seeing efficiency increases in solar cells as well as energy storage systems. All of these will contribute to allow us to send a small cheap system to Mars.

RFC (1)

Libor Vanek (248963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631320)

There is already RFC supporting transmitting data over large-delay lines (e.g. from Mars). See RFC 1149.

Nice Fit (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22631380)

This seems to fit in nicely with the MarsDirect idea, which revolves around having a lot of the infrastructure for a manned mission already in place before the astronauts leave Earth. I'd flat-out love to see us take the first real step off the planet before I croak.

We'll have to do it sooner or later, anyway. Why not now?

Re:Nice Fit (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#22632616)

I'd flat-out love to see us take the first real step off the planet before I croak...Why not now?
Why? Did they find oil in Mars?
Either that, or they should find a couple of terrorists in Mars for the Marines to invade.

Get on the horn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22631480)

Does AT&T run circuits out there?

If it costs $60k for a complete install and takes 3 months to schedule, someone should call now.

Interesting... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633152)

We're sending up all those probes to build a network and prepare for the first manned exploration and (eventually) colonization.

Has anyone realized that if Mars were inhabited, this would essentially be War of the Worlds in reverse?

Little green people, prepare to be invaded!

All as planned. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633200)

The article could leave one with the impression that this is an 11th hour ad hoc improvisation, when nothing could be further from the truth. Using existing [Martian] satellites as relay stations for other satellites and landers has been part of the plans for at least a decade.

Spirit/Opportunity != landers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22633362)

Summary is partly wrong.
Spirit and Oppy are Rovers not landers. Landers are fixed position and do not move.
Hence the acronym MER, Mars Exploration Rover.

IETF draft on Interplanetary Internet (1)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 6 years ago | (#22633422)

Take a look at http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-irtf-ipnrg-arch-01 [ietf.org] and check out cool ASCII-art figures about example topology. [ietf.org] (Basically, they are thinking about adding a "bundle layer" between IP and TCP to make TCP work without timeouts becoming issue..)

Re: "How Long Until?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22633524)

When you can pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Time to update those routers (1)

dpiven (518007) | more than 6 years ago | (#22634252)

Guess we'll have to accept martian packets [wikipedia.org] now.
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