DailyDirt: How Will Anyone Get To Mars?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Traveling to mars is going to be a really, really long term project. We had some fun on the moon and drove around up there in a nifty moon buggy, but we didn’t have a commitment to stay there for very long — or even plans to keep going there once we knew it could be done. Getting astronauts to mars requires a completely different level of planning than going to the moon. Current technology won’t get us there (well, at least not alive and healthy), but maybe we’re still making some progress with a few untested propulsion systems.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: How Will Anyone Get To Mars?”

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13 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Ball Bearing propulsion

I read years ago about the possibility of using ball bearings to move kinetic energy around in satellites to adjust orbits and prevent orbital decay. If we add in the ability to zap them with lasers to increase their speed, this should allow us to launch craft out of the solar system without killing any crew on board.

Bergman (profile) says:

Do a little research

> but no one has really continued to work on various kinds of
> nuclear-powered propulsion for manned spacecraft (hmm,
> wonder why..?)

Because it’s prohibited by a treaty that Russia is not signatory to (but the Soviet Union was). The technology is not only safer in every way than liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen rockets, it emits less radiation than the background radiation count on a sunny day.

Do a little research before posting. Please.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Do a little research

The ban doesn’t apply to nuclear thermal rockets or nuclear electric rockets. The ban would apply to nuclear pulse rockets, that is, powered by explosions, but that’s not what the Russians are talking about.

Russia is considered the successor to the Soviet Union, and inherited its treaties. (The Soviet Union after all was simply the name of the Russian Empire.) Russia still has the power to veto amendments to the treaty.

Good advice, though.

Jim says:

Re: Re:

There is no critical importance. There is no research necessary. I heard that all science is settled. All the research done. So why aren’t we there?
A machine controlled by afew, isn’t science. It cannot answer a question that has not been programed into it. It cannot adjust to a condition outside its ability. There is one thing that we know of that has that ability. Why not use it. Learn now, or forever be stuck in the dogma of man is a useless addition to animals.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Quite a lot, actually. Robots are good for taking photographs and measurements of the nearest surface and perhaps the couple inches underneath. But once you start wanting to do things like drilling for core samples or digging a few trenches – and taking a close look at what’s inside – humans start to win out. (Yes, current and planned robots can drill core samples and dig trenches, but they’re limited to a depth of a few inches.)

Even Mars Exploration Rover Principal Investigator Steve Squyres says this. He talks about the subject here (PDF). Ending with “But I love those machines. I miss them. I do. But they will never, ever have the capabilities that humans will have and I sure hope you send people soon.”

And frankly, science isn’t the only reason to have humans on Mars. As just one example there’s also insurance: A self-sustaining colony on another planet is a dirt-cheap investment for the security of the human race.

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