DailyDirt: It's Not So Simple To Get To Mars…

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

The shortest distance between the Earth and Mars varies depending on where the two planets are in their respective orbits. In July 2018, Mars will be a little under 36 million miles away (pretty close to the closest possible distance of 33.9 million miles). However, it’s not quite as simple as shooting a big rocket aimed in the right direction. If astronauts are going to survive the trip (and the return?), no one has the technology to do that yet. Manned space exploration sounds like a noble venture, but funding it seems to be a big problem.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: It's Not So Simple To Get To Mars…”

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Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: So the US was able to safely land people on the moon and return them decades ago...

Yup. Each moon mission cost about a billion 1970s dollars. And your Congress, fearlessly standing up for taxpayer value, sees that kind of thing as an outrageously exorbitant expense these days, so NASA can fuck off, so there.

Sad, isn’t it?

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re: Each shuttle mission cost between half and one billion dollars...

Yeah, something like that, in 2000s dollars though. And the Shuttle could carry much heavier payloads than the Saturn V. So you see, there are some benefits from reusability.

But that is still a huge jump from a projection of 30-something million per launch that I can remember from the early days of Shuttle development…

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

What About The Alien Technology In Area 51?

What about those who believe the US Government has access to an alien spacecraft that crashed in Roswell a bit over half a century ago? Surely any technology capable of crossing light-years of space would make it a doddle to hop over to a little neighbourhood rock like the Moon or Mars?

Nothing like rubbing multiple conspiracies together to watch the sparks fly…

Paraquat (profile) says:

nuclear power

It’s cold on Mars, so heat is required to keep people alive. Not to mention necessary to melt ice for water, and process the air to make it breathable.

Any attempt to send humans to Mars will mean we’d better get serious about 4th generation nuclear power. There is simply no other way to keep humans alive on Mars. The current 3rd generation nuclear power plants are not up to the task, since they are water cooled, and Mars is not exactly overflowing with water. Plus generation 4 has the added advantage of consuming its own nuclear waste.

Other alternatives for energy on Mars? Almost nothing. Fossil fuels – even if they existed on Mars – would be useless given the lack of oxygen with which to burn them. Wind power…yes, Mars is windy, but with an atmosphere less than 1% of the density on Earth, a 100 mph wind on Mars is less powerful than a one mph wind on Earth.

There is solar. But given the super cold nights, it’s unlikely that enough heat energy could be collected and stored during the daytime to survive the night. Storage of solar energy on Earth is barely doable (pumped storage is most feasible), but would be far more challenging on Mars where water cannot be stored on the surface in liquid form.

So we’ll have to get over our anti-nuclear allergy, or else forget about sending humans to Mars.

Vel the Enigmatic says:

Re: nuclear power

How long does a Martian Day last? That’s a big factor in how much solar energy can be collected and stored.

-and it seems to me you don’t care about safety.

That’s the biggest reason most people don’t want to use nuclear in space. Cause if something goes wrong, people will die if it isn’t adequately dealt with as swiftly as possible, and depending on the total number of crew, having even one person die could be devastating to the mission, considering most would be specialists in particular fields.

Mars may not be habitable normally but what good does it do us if we end up irradiating parts of it? It just mean less places that would be safe for building colonies.

Stephen says:

Re: Re: nuclear power

How long does a Martian Day last?

About the same as an Earth day: roughly 24 hours.

…what good does it do us if we end up irradiating parts of it?”

Mars’s surface is ALREADY being irradiated–by solar storm particles and cosmic rays–due to its thin atmosphere and lack of a global magnetic field.

Stephen says:

A Quibble or Two...

Over 70 countries have some kind of space program now..

An impressive statistic–until you examine it more closely. How many of those 70 have actually launched anything into orbit (or elsewhere) from their own soil–and how many rely on other nations to do the launching for them?

…to claim mining rights in deep space…

It is far from clear whether ANYbody can claim mining rights in space. Under article 2 of the Outer Space Treaty 1967: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

That provision carries the implication that outer space and all its contents (apart from Earth) have the same status as a certain part of the Earth’s surface where claims of sovereignty are traditionally not recognised: the Earth’s high seas. To provide for mining claims to be made there was one of the subjects of the Law of the Sea Convention. Out of that convention came the International Seabed Authority, which “was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.” (Source: Wikipedia article on the ISA.)

Given the Outer Space Treaty, presumably it would need either some similar international body to regular mining leases in outer space or another treaty amending the terms of the Outer Space Treaty. Such a treaty does exist for the Moon, the so-called Moon Treaty. However, most countries have never ratified it.

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