DailyDirt: Making A Trip To Mars

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

It’s been decades since a human being has traveled beyond low earth orbit. Last year, NASA tested its human-rated Space Launch System to an altitude of 3,600 miles, but getting people to a “human accessible surface” that isn’t part of the earth is going to take some time. China could have a taikonaut on the moon before 2030. NASA can say it’s “been there, done that” — but when will it be able to top a manned lunar landing?

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Making A Trip To Mars”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'll take my astronaut medium rare

Even with a very strong magnetic field, some particles / radiation still makes it through during nominal solar activity – so if there were a huge CME pointed directly at the spaceship they still have a big problem. They could have a shielded room to hide in but weight restrictions would limit its size and they would not be getting the exercise necessary to prevent bone and muscle loss. They would be screwed. Artificial gravity is a potential solution but are we capable of making such a vehicle?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I'll take my astronaut medium rare

> They could have a shielded room to hide in but weight restrictions would limit its size and they would not be getting the exercise necessary to prevent bone and muscle loss.

The usual design is for a “storm shelter” in the center of the spacecraft. Essentially the food closet. Turns out the moisture in the food means that it makes for good shielding, and they’ll be launching a whole lot of it anyway. The spacecraft’s water supply would also line the shelter. Beyond that would be the closet walls, the outer spacecraft wall, and all the equipment in between.

The “storm shelter” would only be needed for a few hours at a time, so astronauts could still get exercise in the rest of the spacecraft.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'll take my astronaut medium rare

Interesting solution, using food, water as shielding. Not sure that is enough when it is a direct hit. Also, the effects can last for many hours.

“Within one hour of the impact, a cold, dense plasma sheet had formed out of the filament material and high density material continued to move through the magnetosphere for the entire six hours of the filament’s passage.”

http://sci.esa.int/cluster/54573-a-mixed-up-magnetic-storm/

Paraquat (profile) says:

Cape Canaveral on the moon

This idea of building a Cape Canaveral on the moon to help us to get to Mars more cheaply is moronic. Anytime you add complexity, you add cost, and often reduce the possibility of completing the original goal of the project.

The Space Shuttle was a perfect example. It was touted as a way to save money on space flight because the craft were “reusable.” But instead it proved to be expensive and unreliable, and far less capable of leaving low-earth orbit than the very successful Saturn rockets that took us to the moon. Ironically, US astronauts are now dependent on the Russians for rides to the ISS, even though the Russian-built rockets are only slightly improved versions of 1960s technology.

I can think of no better way to sabotage Mars exploration than to divert resources to building a moon colony for mining and manufacturing fuel and parts for the Mars journey.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Cape Canaveral on the moon

The Space Shuttle was a perfect example. It was touted as a way to save money on space flight because the craft were “reusable.” But instead it proved to be expensive and unreliable,

The Shuttle was built at least one X-vehicle too early. Instead it WAS an X-vehicle. As an experimental vehicle it was highly successful, testing many new technologies. The tiled heat shield, staged combustion engines and much more. Even after it was operational they went through multiple generations each of main engines, solid rocket boosters, external tanks (developing friction-stir welding along the way), avionics and more – improving designs along the way.

But an X-vehicle doesn’t make for a good, cheap, reliable operational vehicle. It should have been replaced with a new design based on the lessons learned.

and far less capable of leaving low-earth orbit than the very successful Saturn rockets

It wasn’t capable of leaving low-earth orbit at all, nor was it ever intended to.

The idea was to build the Space Shuttle, use that to build a space station, and then use both to assemble missions going beyond LEO.

Ironically, US astronauts are now dependent on the Russians for rides to the ISS

“Now?” The US has been dependent on Soyuz since the first crew arrived in November 2000 – and that was the plan years before that.

NASA requires astronauts to have a ride home at all times in case of an emergency. The Shuttle – which got its power from hydrogen fuel cells – could only stay in orbit for a couple weeks. Soyuz – with its solar panels and batteries – can stay in orbit for six months.

If it makes you feel better, the Russians are just as dependent on the US to get to ISS. Paid Soyuz flights for Americans and other ISS partners are likely the only thing keeping the Russian manned space program running.

Stephen says:

Re: Cape Canaveral on the moon

The Space Shuttle…to save money on space flight because the craft were “reusable.” But instead it proved to be expensive and unreliable

The Shuttle was NOT unreliable. It flew more successful missions over a longer period of time than Apollo did and suffered the same number of failures as Apollo did (Apollos 1 & 13). Yet I don’t hear you calling Apollo a failure. If Apollo was a success and reliable despite Apollos 1 & 13, then so was the Shuttle.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cape Canaveral on the moon

Eh I’d say it was about expectations. The Shuttle was supposed to be cheap and reusable. The Apollo craft were never intended as such.

So when the Shuttle, instead of turn around times of weeks, became months and years at significant repeated expense, it doesn’t meet the goals it was supposed to fulfill.

It did amazing things but it was supposed to do that AND be cheap and reusable.

Stephen says:

America and Mars

NASA and America will not be going to Mars any time soon. NASA has not established a program for carrying out a manned Mars missions and the president and Congress have not given it a budget for doing so.

Certainly the current president shows no interest. If anything he keeps wanting to cut NASA’s missions and budget. He abolished Constellation, and would have abolished the SLS and Orion as well if Congress hadn’t stepped in and overruled him. He did promise a mission to an asteroid, along with a vague promise about using it as a stepping stone for getting to Mars, but that has now morphed into a mission to lunar orbit to examine an asteroid brought there by an unmanned craft, a mission which won’t fly until the 2020s, Congress does not seem to favour it, and the next president may well send it to the same graveyard of defunct space programs Constellation wound up in.

To be fair, nor do I see much interest in the current crop of presidential candidates. Trump was specifically asked about Mars exploration at one speech in New Hampshire back in 2015 and gave a response which implied disinterest.

I haven’t seen much from any candidate since, suggesting that, like Obama, missions to Mars won’t be a priority during their 4 or 8 years in office. If so, that could bring us to 2024 without any plan for manned Mars missions, which is leaving things rather late for NASA to land anybody there by or during the 2030s.

At this stage I would suggest that China or India are more likely to get to Mars first before the US does; and since the US does not really like being second that may mean there will NEVER be any NASA Mars missions.

There is also this: even if NASA does do manned missions to Mars, just how many such missions will there be? Will there be a whole flock of them or just one or maybe two, after which Congress will start balking at the cost and Americans in general start yawning and making complaints about missing their re-runs of the Kardashians?

Stephen says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why send a human to Mars? What can be accomplished that a robot cannot do?

It is more efficient to send a robot.

Wrong! It would be more EFFICIENT to send to send a human. Humans can far more in a given span of time than the current crop of space robots.

The only real reason robots are being sent to Mars is the cost. It is far cheaper to send a robot (and an expendable robot at that, who does not have to be brought back to Earth once the mission is over) than an unexpendable human.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: America and Mars

At this stage I would suggest that China or India are more likely to get to Mars first before the US does;

That’s not at all likely.

India isn’t funding its space program at anywhere near the level needed for a manned program, let alone for a manned lunar program.

China does have a manned program. They’ve been repeating the America’s Gemini mission milestones over the last 15 years. And at a slower pace – instead of Gemini’s flights every few weeks, they’re flying once every few years.

Their next big project is their space station, a smaller version of Mir. Assembly will take several years starting around 2020. And then after that, they’ll have to launch crews and cargo at a much higher rate than they launch now. No, there won’t be any money for a manned lunar program at the same time. But unmanned lunar probes – including sample return – will continue.

China suffers from the same problem as Russia, and the US in the 1970s: Lot of plans announced, plans that get repeated in the press. But plans aren’t the same as funded plans.

Stephen says:

Re: Re: America and Mars

“China suffers from the same problem as Russia, and the US in the 1970s: Lot of plans announced….

What “plans announced”? I have heard various rumours and assorted speculations about the Chinese manned space program, but no ANNOUNCEMENTS per se. (If you know of any, please give a URL or two.)

One line of speculation suggested a Chinese manned Mars mission sometime in the 2040-60 period. Whether that actually happens is something we can have a debate about, but let’s not confuse rumours and speculations with ACTUAL plans.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: America and Mars

It’s more than rumours and speculations. It’s Chinese space program officials themselves telling reporters “This is what we plan to do.” It then gets published by reporters as…

China to send man to moon by 2025
or
Russia and China Aim for the Moon and a Joint Lunar Base

Those were found just in the first quick Google search. There have been many such stories over the years.

It’s officials announcing “this is what we plan to”, instead of “this is what we WILL do” or “this is what we’re funded to do.” But it’s still Chinese officials announcing plans, regardless of whether bad reporting turns it into “this is what China IS doing.”

And it’s been very common over the decades.

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