DailyDirt: Who Wants To Be An Astronaut?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Not too long ago, becoming an astronaut was an amazing achievement that only a very few, rigorously selected and intensely trained pilots could ever hope to attain. But nowadays, while it’s not exactly commonplace to be a space traveler, if you have enough disposable income, you could pay the Russian Space Agency for a ride or line up to buy a ticket on a commercial flight (to the “edge” of space). Over 500 people have been in space (from 36 different countries), and plenty more people will follow them. Here are just a few things you might want to know about space travel before you plan your next trip.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Who Wants To Be An Astronaut?”

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Paraquat (profile) says:

Trip to Mars

A manned trip to Mars would take months…

It would take months with the conventional chemical rockets we use now. It could be reduced to weeks with a nuclear rocket.

NASA actually built such a rocket, with manned space flight in mind. It was called NERVA. It worked well in ground tests, but it was never put into space. The project was axed due to budget cuts…


I know that a lot of environmentalists get upset every time the word “nuclear” is mentioned, but fact is you’d pretty much need some sort of nuclear reactor to keep humans alive in space, or on the Martian surface. It’s one thing to power a small robot (which can endure temperature extremes, and doesn’t need air, food or water). It’s quite another to operate a life support system.

If humans made it to the surface of Mars and want to set up a colony, they would need fuel to stay alive for any length of time. Drilling for fossil fuels is not likely to be successful, but if indeed there is oil and natural gas on Mars, it wouldn’t be very useful since the atmosphere lacks oxygen to burn it. Wind power on Mars…unfortunately, the thin atmosphere means that a 100 mph wind packs less energy than a one mph wind on Earth. Solar is the only option besides nuclear, but keeping humans alive during the extreme cold Martian night (Antarctic-like temperatures, or worse) will require an awful lot of energy storage. If we can’t get that to work in Antarctica, I don’t see how we would on Mars.

Radiation occasionally bathes the surface of Mars, but it comes from solar storms at unpredictable times. Not really a source of energy, and in fact a hazard. Colonists will have to look for uranium or thorium if the colony is to survive long-term independent from supplies from Earth.

If a crew makes it to Mars, they might survive the cold and radiation, but they might not survive the Greenpeace protesters.

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