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posted by martyb on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the build-a-space-elevator-on-the-moon dept.

NASA seems hell bent to go to Mars, but can't afford to on its own.
Its international partners have no stomach for that — they would would rather return to our moon and build a base there for further exploration.

Doesn't going back to the moon make more sense? Build a base on the moon, and use its low gravity and possible water at the poles as propellant for further space exploration?

Why not the moon first?

http://www.theverge.com/2016/6/7/11868840/moon-return-journey-to-mars-nasa-congress-space-policy

Links:
From NASA itself, in 2008: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/series/moon/why_go_back.html
The all-knowing, ever-trustworthy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonization_of_the_Moon


Original Submission

Related Stories

Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base 28 comments

Let's just throw this old thing at the Moon and call it a day:

A cargo container that was built to fly on NASA's space shuttles is being repurposed as a prototype for a deep space habitat.

Lockheed Martin announced it will refurbish the Donatello multi-purpose logistics module (MLPM), transforming from it from its original, unrealized role as a supply conveyor for the International Space Station to a test and training model of a living area for astronauts working beyond Earth orbit. The work is being done under a public-private partnership between the aerospace corporation and NASA.

"We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware," said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin's program manager for the deep space habitat contract, in a statement.

Donatello was one of three MPLMs that was designed to fly in the space shuttle payload bay to transfer cargo to the station. Built by the Italian Space Agency under a contract with NASA, two modules, Leonardo and Raffaello, flew on 12 shuttle missions between 2001 and 2011.

Also at Popular Mechanics.

Previously: NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
Cislunar 1000 Vision - Commercializing Space
Forget Mars, Colonize Titan
Japan Planning to Put a Man on the Moon Around 2030


Original Submission

Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022 16 comments

In a move intended to align with the National Space Council's call for NASA to return to the Moon, the United Launch Alliance intends to launch a Bigelow Aerospace B330 inflatable module into low Earth orbit, and later boost it into lunar orbit using a rocket which can have propellant transferred to it from another rocket:

Bigelow Aerospace, a company devoted to manufacturing inflatable space habitats, says it's planning to put one of its modules into orbit around the Moon within the next five years. The module going to lunar space will be the B330, Bigelow's design concept for a standalone habitat that can function autonomously as a commercial space station. The plan is for the B330 to serve as something of a lunar depot, where private companies can test out new technologies, or where astronauts can stay to undergo training for deep space missions.

"Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars," Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, said in a statement. "It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term."

To put the habitat in lunar orbit, Bigelow is looking to get a boost from the United Launch Alliance. The B330 is slated to launch on top of ULA's future rocket, the Vulcan, which is supposed to begin missions no earlier than 2019. The plan is for the Vulcan to loft the B330 into lower Earth orbit, where it will stay for one year to demonstrate that it works properly in space. During that time, Bigelow hopes to send supplies to the station and rotate crew members in and out every few months.

After that, it'll be time to send the module to the Moon. ULA will launch two more Vulcan rockets, leaving both of the vehicles' upper stages in orbit. Called ACES, for Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, these stages can remain in space, propelling other spacecraft to farther out destinations. ULA plans to transfer all of the propellant from one ACES to the other, using the fully fueled stage to propel the B330 the rest of the way to lunar orbit.

The B330 is the giant version of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.

Previously: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars
China to Send Potato Farming Test Probe to the Moon
Stephen Hawking Urges Nations to Pursue Lunar Base and Mars Landing
Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base (could they be joined together?)
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:20AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:20AM (#356766)

    SpaceX will go wherever it wants, for fun and profit.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:28AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:28AM (#356768)

      SpaceX, the Uber of Space.

    • (Score: 2) by driverless on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:37PM

      by driverless (4770) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:37PM (#356958)

      Nahh, let's start even smaller, maybe a family vacation to Disneyland, or a rented Winnebago to Utah. Then we can aim for more ambitious stuff, maybe a weekend trip to Canadia, or over the wall to Mexico. Then bigger steps, watch the kangaroos in Austria or sit on a beach in Zntlszrkstan. After that, we can think about going to the moon again, after we commission a study to investigate planning a report to start a study on how to go about it.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:17PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:17PM (#356980)

        > family vacation to Disneyland

        cheaper to build a moonbase...

      • (Score: 2) by arslan on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:43PM

        by arslan (3462) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:43PM (#357049)

        Kangaroos in Austria? Do they look different than the ones here in Australia? Do they... yodel?

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:25AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:25AM (#356767)

    Ain't no "came in peace" plaque on the moon with Dick Nixon's name on it. The moon landing was all just a scam to bankrupt the ruskies. Ifn you want to make a first landing on the moon, best to wait till we solv this terrist problem we gots on earth first tho. Nuke the sandniggas!

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @01:55PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @01:55PM (#356859)

      EF, is that you? I'm just not sure . . .

      Fek the sand niggers. I want to send some of them to the moon, to become moon niggers. I don't even care what color they might be - Asian yellow/olive, American red, African black, or Euro white - and anything in between.

      Think about it. We set up a colony. Some of the most intelligent, best educated people in the world are going to go. There won't be any idiots, no grammar school dropouts. The people going to the moon will be a mixed bag of the cream of society, and the creme de la creme. Physically and mentally fit - maybe even spiritually fit. Give it a hundred years, and the Moonies will be bitching and bellyaching about how they've been exploited, and how they should be "entitled".

      Let's get the next big race war going - Mudders against the Moonies.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bart9h on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:38PM

        by bart9h (767) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:38PM (#356870)

        It happened in Asimov's "The Gods Themselves".

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:28AM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:28AM (#356769) Journal

    SpaceX could drive launch costs to low earth orbit below $1000 per pound this year and down to $10 per pound by 2025 [nextbigfuture.com]

    SpaceX to send 3 unmanned missions to Mars that would lead to a manned Mars mission in 2024 [nextbigfuture.com]

    SpaceX Falcon 9 Payloads Set to Increase Up to 73%; SpaceX Will Deliver to Mars [soylentnews.org]

    SpaceX claims that they can get payloads to Mars for under $100 million. They have begun to achieve routine landings of rocket stages on a drone barge, and are near the next step of actually reusing some rockets for what I assume would be non-critical payloads. Now they are planning multiple missions to Mars and a manned mission [wikipedia.org]. Oddly enough we had no article on this SpaceX 2024 MANNED MISSION but it looks like the real announcement with more details will be made in 3 months. NASA's plans for a manned Mars mission were for around 2035. Either mission could see the round trip time cut to less than half using new propulsion designs, and radiation risks for even the longer duration mission aren't really that bad.

    To answer the question, it seems a Mars mission will be more affordable than previously thought, and that launch costs in general are about to fall so much that we could see robots and bases on the Moon before long, and concurrent with any Mars efforts. China and Russia seem to be taking more interest in the Moon.

    I don't think NASA is unneeded, after all, SpaceX's (Elon Musk's) Mars ambitions are part vanity and part government-funded rather than commercial-oriented. NASA should focus on launching more next generation space observatories, landers on icy moons, and robotic solar system exploration. The James Webb Space Telescope and another observatory such as ATLAST [stsci.edu] are likely to be NASA's primary projects before a 2030s Mars mission.

    The best moon mission I can think of would involve building a massive telescope on the far side of the moon. But we may be about to undergo a revolution in optics that could make all of our telescopes much bigger: Flat lens promises possible revolution in optics [bbc.com] (Soylent thread [soylentnews.org]). If we can start making scopes with capabilities matching the $8 billion JWST for under say, $500 million, it's time to start launching a new one every year.

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    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:37AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:37AM (#356775)

      Elon will take you there! Climb on His back and let His holy flatulence propel you! TO the MOON and BEYOND.

      • (Score: 1, Flamebait) by takyon on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:45AM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:45AM (#356778) Journal

        What are you, some kind of hipster troll? Musk is too popular for you to resist trolling but is delivering on his promises.

        inb4 fellatio response. Your playbook is stale and semen-crusted.

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:52AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:52AM (#356781)

          hipster troll

          I hate popular things! Hate, hate, hate! Suck my pointy hair! Drool in it! Make me need a shower!

    • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:14AM

      by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:14AM (#356791) Journal

      I would be quite happy to poke fun of you for your breathless enthusiasm at so much vaporware, but the thing is Mr Musk really does have a tendency to turn his dreams and promises into real projects and products. If he delivers only a quarter of what he proposes (which I think is well within the realms of possibility) then it will be a very impressive result and a big push forwards for our species.

      What I really came here to ask is your (ie, the SN community) opinion on the following: In eighty years, two hundred years and a thousand years, how will history remember Elon Musk, if at all? How much of his ambition do you think he will he realise? If he achieves great things, will somebody else sweep in after him and steal all the eternal glory and credit? Will he be forgotten or will there be a giant statue of him for centuries to come on the main concourse of Mars Spaceport? Will he laughed at as a loser who blew his fortune on a stupid dream or praised as the patron saint of space travellers? Will Elon Musk be a mere footnote to someone else's achievements, or a name that echoes down the ages like Alexander the Great?

      Discuss.

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:06AM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:06AM (#356806) Journal

        I think his legacy will eclipse Steve Jobs. The projects he's involved in (electric cars, battery manufacturing and sales, solar manufacturing and leasing, Hyperloop, spaceflight) have the potential to be more transformative. Just increasing the energy density of batteries has a huge impact on many technologies, including those silly watches Steve Jobs didn't get a chance to flog, and is complementary to solar and electric vehicle pursuits.

        I think the years in which SpaceX could simply fail are past. It is an established player in the spaceflight industry, catering to both governments and companies. Any edge that ULA might have had will be gone if SpaceX can successfully carry astronauts to the ISS without killing them. Elon Musk's Tesla is where I see a business that could fail spectacularly, and where hype has to translate into ever-increasing direct sales to consumers rather than satellite launches and trips to the ISS.

        SpaceX's true test will be their quest to lower the cost/kg of payload launches. Getting it to $100/kg or less would be revolutionary and will allow subsequent pioneers to actually commercialize spaceflight beyond government-funded activity and tourism. This is where Musk could lose a little luster, since ULA, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, etc. will be trying to copy the reusable rocket success and may make it work better than Musk can. Also, alternative approaches such as the Skylon spaceplane may be able to lower $/kg while looking a lot more how we envision the future of space travel (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. is all about single-stage-to-orbit).

        Musk is more than a footnote in the history of space travel, but perhaps hasn't reached the chapter level yet. That will require the success of reusable rockets. Some subsequent pioneers will be more important than Musk on a large timescale, such as those involved in asteroid mining. Those will be the people engaging in activity that increases the scale of human civilization. Although Musk has big plans for Mars, I don't see him as the founder or leader of a sustainable colony, since further decades of technological advancement will be needed to more easily adapt to what is hardly an environment suitable for humans (Antarctica at its coldest is playtime compared to Mars). The people involved in such efforts will go down in history, since for the first time in years, new nations will be formed on "fresh" land, with relative independence from Earth political influence and network latency that will hinder the exchange of dank memes with Earth.

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      • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Wednesday June 08 2016, @04:41PM

        by JNCF (4317) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @04:41PM (#356913) Journal

        In eighty years, two hundred years and a thousand years, how will history remember Elon Musk, if at all?

        The man who claimed the right of Prima Nocta over Mars. If we get life extension soon enough his reign might last as long as the Babylonian god-kings of old!

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:28PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:28PM (#356825)

      about the flat lens thing: big telescopes are not just about reducing aberrations, they are also about gathering more light. I guess that if you can focus the light you do receive much better, than you won't need as much of it, but I think "big" telescopes will still be needed if we want to see faint things in general.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:24PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:24PM (#356954) Journal

      SpaceX could drive launch costs to low earth orbit below $1000 per pound this year and down to $10 per pound by 2025

      No. $10 per pound is completely ignorant of the cost of rocket fuel. SpaceX has already reduced the cost of the launch (at $1000 per pound) where the cost of the propellant becomes a significant fraction. It takes something like 25-50 pounds of propellant to put something in orbit with a Falcon 9. Most of that propellant mass will be diesel fuel (which I believe is well over a dollar a pound for high quality jet fuel plus some contribution from the considerably cheaper liquid oxygen (LOX)) and hence you're looking at something like $25-50 of fuel cost per pound of payload.

      Even airlines, which have a reusability that Falcon 9 will never be able to achieve, have fuel costs which are a third of total marginal cost of a flight roughly. So a similar cost multiplier yields cost per pound around $75-150 per pound as the absolute floor for the cost of any chemical powered rocket based on the particularly cheap choice of diesel fuel and LOX.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:41PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:41PM (#357021) Journal

        Not that I am not skeptical of the $10 number, but it looks like they are trying to cheapen it with a new methane mix. From the link:

        Raptor is the first member of a family of cryogenic methane-fueled rocket engines under development by SpaceX. It is specifically intended to power high-performance lower and upper stages for SpaceX super-heavy launch vehicles. The engine will be powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen (LOX), rather than the RP-1 kerosene and LOX used in all previous Falcon 9 rockets, which use Merlin 1C and 1D engines. Earlier concepts for Raptor would have used liquid hydrogen (LH2) fuel rather than methane.

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        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:52AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:52AM (#357146) Journal
          Sure, SpaceX will find all sorts of ways to make orbital launch cheaper. I still think $100 per pound (in current dollars) will be really tough to break without either a vastly cheaper source of energy or a new paradigm in launch infrastructure (like a space tether or magnetic rail launch).
    • (Score: 2) by Hairyfeet on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:06AM

      by Hairyfeet (75) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:06AM (#357124) Journal

      I have to wonder if Russia and China want to mine the moon for He3 [wikipedia.org] as its more plentiful there (the only place its more plentiful is the gas giants) and it looks like it will be required for fusion reactors to become a reality.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by TheLink on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:02AM

    by TheLink (332) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:02AM (#356784) Journal
    Before all that NASA should
    0) Find or develop better radiation shielding.
    1) do artificial gravity tests on radiation shielded mice - 0.16G (Moon G), 0.38G (Mars G,), 0.5G, 0.75G, 1.0G in space, 1.0G in space with high shielding, 1.0G on ground (control - same stuff but Earth radiation levels).
    Then see what happens to them after year or so.

    Then based on the results do more experiments on mice, fish, or chickens (many humans eat chickens or fish). Or if there's enough info, proceed to similar experiments on humans: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrifuge_Accommodations_Module

    It's stupid and unscientific to even think about putting humans long term on the Moon or Mars when we don't even have any data points on the long term effects of Moon or Mars gravity on humans or other animals. We just have data points for microgravity and Earth g.

    It's like throwing resources into a tech tree when we haven't even developed or built the prerequisites.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:29AM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:29AM (#356796) Journal

      NASA's numbers predict negligible risk of cancer as a result of Mars mission. I think it was about 3%, and I can dig up the source if you want me to. It was more of a risk than they find acceptable, but nothing much.

      By the time we get near a 2035 mission, we will probably have figured out how to get to Mars in close to a month rather than 3-6 months, such as by using a fusion rocket. Cutting the duration of the mission cuts the radiation risks and the weightlessness risks. Maybe the shielding will be better during that timeframe as well.

      MarsOne has shown that a large number of people are willing to at least entertain the possibility of one-way space martyrdom. Being able to travel to Mars and return to Earth alive is a luxury that seems to be the plan for the even the first missions to Mars. The actual professional astronauts know that they could die at any time during the mission, especially during the minutes spent escaping Earth's atmosphere.

      The astronauts come home and are monitored closely for health issues, probably catching any potential cancer very early on. They will benefit from the better treatments of the 2020s-2040s. In 2016 there is renewed hope of a universal cancer treatment (the one that used a virus).

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      • (Score: 2) by TheLink on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:44AM

        by TheLink (332) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:44AM (#356815) Journal
        Those are expensive ego trips not good bang for the buck for making useful progress. NASA has done the ego-trip to the moon already, it's time to grow up and do actual useful space programs while we still can. Rather than waste time and resources* to go "Look Ma I can stand for a few seconds here", "Everyone look! Major Tom can stand for a few seconds over there too! Oops Major Tom fell down and died. But we're so great since he managed to stand there for a while!" and not actually learn to actually stand properly for long periods, much less walk.

        In contrast what I propose is actual science. It would be filling in important blanks in our knowledge. That data would be useful for knowing what might happen to humans if we stayed on the Moon or Mars for long term vs 1G in a space station. If NASA isn't interested in such stuff then it should stop wasting money on manned missions and stick to sending bots.

        With our current tech we won't be able to change the gravity/long-term acceleration on Mars that easily but we can adjust it in a suitably designed/equipped space station. So if it turns out that humans can't stay long term on Mars due to insufficient gravity, then it would be better to focus our time and resources on building better space-stations with artificial gravity, instead of wasting any time and resources on building bases on Mars. We can reconsider Mars once we've developed the tech to deal with the gravity problem there.

        If NASA's real mission is still about ego-trips and entertaining the masses perhaps they should do a reality TV show called "Vote Them Off The Planet".

        * Our finite planet has vast resources but they are not infinite. We are hitting Earth Overshoot Day earlier and earlier each year. Perhaps we still have enough time and resources to waste on such stuff. Whatever it is I doubt I'd live long enough for it to be a big problem for me. To me it's like pointing out an error in someone else's homework.
        • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:08PM

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:08PM (#356864) Journal

          It really doesn't matter a whole lot what the science says will happen to people in space. We're going to go anyway. Look at the earth - men in coal mines, men in copper mines, people in diamond mines, people below the surface of the ocean, more people in Antarctica. People go where they can make a buck, and damn the consequences. If Elon Musk (or anyone else) can provide the transportation, there will be people standing in line to get in on the action. Soon thereafter, corporations will be standing in line to send people to perform whatever tasks seem appropriate.

          I'm still waiting for Mary Kay to "discover" that moon dust makes all of their cosmetics more effective. You'll see thousands of rocket drivers making the run to the moon to bring back a load of dust. Rocket driver will become just another profession, like truck driver.

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          • (Score: 1, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @04:48PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @04:48PM (#356919)

            Rocket driver will become just another profession for AIs, like truck driver.

            FTFY

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday June 08 2016, @05:42PM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @05:42PM (#356931) Journal

          Pretty much agree with this, other than the dismissive treatment of a return to the moon.

          The moon is a perfect test-bed for growing things, and low gravity survival, artificial gravity testing, etc, etc, etc.
          In addition it is close enough to serve as an industrial base, from which launching stuff is way cheaper.

          We could build structures above and below the surface by sintering local materials.

          The single biggest issue will be landing a power plant (or two) large enough to provide for heat, power, water extraction, sintering, smelting, welding and 3D printing.
          With spare parts only a month away (maybe mere minutes away with 3D printing) the moon is doable, unlike mars where the first minor breakage probably means a mad scramble that can't succeed for three to six months in the best possible scenario.

          Best of all, it will teach us how to get along without an atmosphere, because dreams of building an atmosphere on mars just aren't going to come true.

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          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:37PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:37PM (#357046)

            This is so comically optimistic. We are going to be on Earth forever until it melts or ices over. There is no possible scenario where humans will live anywhere else even in our solar system. Space is utterly inhospitable and we are absolutely suited to this niche. We might send robots or lichen or bacteria but we are HOME.

            A power plant on the moon? How about putting a power plant at the bottom of the Mariana Trench? That would be easier, and just as useful. I.e. absolutely useless.

            • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:28AM

              by jmorris (4844) Subscriber Badge <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:28AM (#357130)

              Not really. The Moon is a perfect staging base to launch out into the rest of the Solar System. Every resource we are going to run out of here is out there, except dead dino. We are going to go get that abundance eventually. The first people will be strictly out there for the money, intending to get rich and then come home, like a lot of people do today working in nasty places. Eventually though there will be enough people out there that a few places will become hospitable enough that people will decide to call it home. And it is actually easier to deal with the cold empty nothing of space than the bottom of the ocean.

            • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @03:31AM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @03:31AM (#357156) Journal

              There is no possible scenario where humans will live anywhere else even in our solar system.

              Science fiction throws those out all the time. Your scenario of the impossibility of permanent human habitation of space is just as much a fiction. Given that humanity has a habit of doing impossible things (which turn out to not actually be impossible), I really don't see the point of your argument.

              Space is utterly inhospitable and we are absolutely suited to this niche.

              We already live in space. The engineering problem here is not to figure out how to survive in space, but figure out how to build enough of the environment of Earth to turn the "utterly inhospitable" into hospitable.

              A power plant on the moon? How about putting a power plant at the bottom of the Mariana Trench? That would be easier, and just as useful. I.e. absolutely useless.

              Unless, of course, you need it to power something on the Moon or at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, then it becomes useful. It's worth noting that we've already powered things on the Moon and at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. They were useful when we did that too.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:02AM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:02AM (#357163) Journal

              How about putting a power plant at the bottom of the Mariana Trench? That would be easier, and just as useful. I.e. absolutely useless.

              As an aside, the area of the Mariana Trench is about 15 square kilometers. It's a small nook on Earth. The Moon has an area of almost 15 million square km. I find it interesting how the people talking about the impossibility of space colonization pick the most provincial examples on Earth.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:33AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:33AM (#356797)

      Well, we've had people staying in a microgravity environment for more than 1 year (Mir), and unless there's any indication (i.e. credible hypotheses) towards the opposite there's no reason to believe (and therefore a waste of precious resources to test) that more gravity than experienced by those cosmonauts but less than what we have on earth would have any greater adverse effect on the people traveling to and temporarily living on the moon/mars. Radiation is of course another matter, but it's a problem with a hardware solution that can be developed and tested on earth without any live test subjects. In any case, probably no one is proposing to keep anyone up there for several years, at this point, except maybe ... mmh chickens, .... sorry you were saying?

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:01PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:01PM (#356969)

      0) Particle radiation comes in two flavors: charged (can be deflected by magnetic fields, so the ISS is mostly safe within the Earth's magnetosphere) and uncharged (blocked by direct nucleus impacts, shielding scales roughly linearly with the amount of mass, with only a slight variations due to density). Charged could hypothetically be reduced with magnetic shielding, uncharged probably not. Meaning you need ~14lb/in^2 of shielding to approach the shielding levels at the Earth's surface. That's going to be ridiculously expensive in space for the foreseeable future so, if you want shielding, you need to go to another moon/planet/asteroid. At which point you have plenty of radiation shielding available and don't really need magnetic shielding anymore.

      Basically, the only place we're likely to see improvement in shielding is for traveling between large masses, and we can already do that with cancer risks lower than associated with many occupations and environments on Earth.

      1) You do understand that all such "artificial gravity" experiments can only be done in space, right? And would consume a sizable percentage of the current research infrastructure. Unless someone quietly developed gravity shields, we can only really fake *increases* in gravity (typically using centripetal force, which also introduces additional variables in the form of torques and tidal effects). Also, like any medical research, such experiments would only be directly relevant to the species studied. If you want to know how low gravity will effect humans, you have to send humans. And fortunately there doesn't appear to be any shortage of volunteers, so the only genuine problem is how to manage the PR for the inevitable unpleasantness that will afflict the first wave. And you'd have to do that regardless, because there's inevitably going to be things you didn't think to test, and accidents will happen as well.

      Meanwhile, the problems known to exist with microgravity do not seem to be, in and of themselves, fatal, and can mostly be mitigated with an appropriate exercise regime. Low gravity would presumably further mitigate the problems. So unless you can suggest a reason why low gravity might be worse than none, the presumption is that humans should be able to survive a prolonged period in low-gravity situations. Their life expectancy may be lower, their eyesight may degrade faster, and they might not be able to survive returning to Earth, but so long as the volunteers are willing to accept that price, it's largely a non-issue. Plenty of people work jobs right here on Earth with far greater risks.

      The most problematic issue will likely be reproduction - but we've managed to breed many plants along with frogs, salamanders, and fish in microgravity, sea urchins apparently didn't do so well. Mammalian reproduction looks somewhat more problematic, with mouse embryonic cell division occurring much more slowly, on average, in simulated microgravity, but that might also be due to the deeply unnatural motion associated with the simulation, we'll have to test that in space to know more. Of those embryos eventually implanted in females, they developed to healthy births though at lower numbers than in normal litters.

      So yeah, definitely still more research to be done on that front. Presuming humans behave similarly we might only have to deal with effectively reduced fertility due to higher early-term spontaneous abortion (already possibly as high as 25-75%, though I can't find any solid numbers), or problems could continue after implantation in sustained micro-g leading to high rates of birth defects without aggressive preventative measures. And whether such problems will also manifest in low-G environments, and to what extent, remains to be seen. However, gamete health seems unaffected by microgravity, so even in the absolute worst case, space habitats would simply require simulated gravity "maternity wards" if they wanted natural population growth. The more pressing question would be how much damage the simulated gravity would do to mothers acclimated to low-G.

      Basically, to do the experiments you want to do, that haven't already been done, in a radiation-shielded environment, we need to have laboratories on the Moon or Mars. Or an asteroid, but that adds a bunch of additional challenges. So then the question becomes, what are the relative costs and benefits of manning those labs with people rather than remotely operated semi-autonomous robots. Robots would undoubtedly be cheaper per 'bot in terms of dollars and lives, but probably far more expensive in terms of the timescale at which research is accomplished. As the sentiment is sometimes expressed, almost everything Opportunity accomplished in it's decade-plus on Mars, could have been accomplished in a few days by a grad-student with a similar lab.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @03:00AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @03:00AM (#357154) Journal

        1) You do understand that all such "artificial gravity" experiments can only be done in space, right? And would consume a sizable percentage of the current research infrastructure. Unless someone quietly developed gravity shields, we can only really fake *increases* in gravity (typically using centripetal force, which also introduces additional variables in the form of torques and tidal effects). Also, like any medical research, such experiments would only be directly relevant to the species studied. If you want to know how low gravity will effect humans, you have to send humans. And fortunately there doesn't appear to be any shortage of volunteers, so the only genuine problem is how to manage the PR for the inevitable unpleasantness that will afflict the first wave. And you'd have to do that regardless, because there's inevitably going to be things you didn't think to test, and accidents will happen as well.

        Artificial gravity is not that hard to test. You could do that with a few hundred million dollars in satellite. And medical testing has shown that testing other species like mice are relevant to humans.

        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday June 09 2016, @03:09PM

          by Immerman (3985) on Thursday June 09 2016, @03:09PM (#357347)

          Actually something like 90% of medical discoveries in mice don't end up translating to humans. We don;'t use them because they're accurate, but because they're cheap, live fast, (so that many long-term effects manifest quickly) and research strains are inbred to the point that they're only a stones-through from all being clones, drastically reducing genetic variables when testing. They give us rough guidance into further research, not much more than that.

          For your satellite, fair point. I could see a little automated mouse cage with cameras, etc. coming in at that price range, and then gently de-orbit for dissection after a couple years. Couldn't be very big though, after all you need a lot of shielding if you want atmosphere-grade radiation shielding - covering a 1-foot diameter sphere with 14lb/in^2 of shielding comes to 6300lb, (assuming zero-thickness shielding. Geometric realities will push that number considerably higher, though high-density shielding will push it down again, might roughly cancel out). A pair of those, tethered together, and you could spin them up to whatever "gravity" you wanted. You might want to ask a biologist how much human intervention is required to keep caged mice healthy though - full automation for a multi-year experiment could prove challenging. It'd be a real shame if they got stressed and ate each other before you could dissect them.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:03PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:03PM (#357377) Journal

            Actually something like 90% of medical discoveries in mice don't end up translating to humans.

            I imagine a fair number of those discoveries are due to spurious p-testing and don't end up translating to mice either. And 10% is a pretty good rate.

            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday June 09 2016, @05:37PM

              by Immerman (3985) on Thursday June 09 2016, @05:37PM (#357422)

              Heh, don't get me started.

              Still, if the results were due to spurious p-testing then I'd expect to see similar spurious positives in human trials by the same statistically incompetent researchers.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @10:31PM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @10:31PM (#357539) Journal

                Still, if the results were due to spurious p-testing then I'd expect to see similar spurious positives in human trials by the same statistically incompetent researchers.

                And your point is? The end result is still that the mouse model has relevance to the human model which really is all anyone is saying here. That is still a lot better than the low gravity research to date.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11 2016, @09:04AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11 2016, @09:04AM (#358253)

                Still, if the results were due to spurious p-testing then I'd expect to see similar spurious positives in human trials by the same statistically incompetent researchers.

                I thought that was what we had.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @08:34AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @08:34AM (#357226)

      Before before that, NASA should do some sort of generic cost-benefit-risk assessment and decide, based on the results, where to invest research $$. If it turns out that there are cheap to attack, high risk items, then probably attacking these first would be sensible...

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by esperto123 on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:24AM

    by esperto123 (4303) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:24AM (#356811)

    I like the bold statements from Elon Musk and all, and he and his company are doing some great things to advance space exploration, but this stance to colonize mars is, IHMO, a very stupid thing.

    The trip to mars is long, and in a environment where no humans have being for so long (we are protected from radiation by earth magnetosphere), and to top it off you will be pretty much at least a year away from any supply run if something bad happens.

    It is definitely more logical to test the technology first on the moon, where you can get to, or came back, in less than a week if something happens, the communication links would be much faster, and you could iterate your technology at a higher pace and lower cost. And if you take in consideration that the mars atmosphere is so thin and temperature so low that you couldn't be outside without full gear, it would be no different than the moon...

    But i guess they probably took that in consideration and weighted against the marketing value of saying that they will step on another planet, where no human has ever gone, instead of going to where people have stepped a dozen times 50 years ago.

    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:02PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:02PM (#356820) Journal

      If SpaceX is sending unmanned (is there a better substitute for this word?) missions to Mars first, perhaps they are considering building the base on Mars with robots first and then sending humans when they know the base is viable. It's what I'd do.

      There are people who are working on ways to build concrete using Martian regolith. Combine that with 3D printing and you could form habs and pressurize them. Or you could excavate and make subterranean (subMartian?) dwellings. It would be extremely technically challenging, but it's possible with the tech we have now.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Wednesday June 08 2016, @03:29PM

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @03:29PM (#356884) Journal

        > unmanned (is there a better substitute for this word?)

        Robotic?
        Automated?
        Meat-free?
        Unpersonned?
        Castrated?

        • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:24PM

          by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:24PM (#356983) Journal

          I sense a SNL Delta Delta Delta skit coming on.

          --
          Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @03:40PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @03:40PM (#356888)

        unmanned (is there a better substitute for this word?)

        Apparently not, since unpersonned microaggresses against daughters just as much as unmanned microaggresses against women.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:03PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:03PM (#357001)

        Or skip the 3D printing entirely as too much gratuitous complexity. Inflate habitat-sized balloon. Slather with concrete. Install airlock. Habitat created by a bunch of people with a high-gradient air pump and some shovels in a couple of days. We do it on Earth all the time. For added durability integrate some sort of high-strength "net" into the early layers of concrete to help balance the pressurization of the interior.

        The balloon could even be reusable - once the structure is in place you only need to coat the interior with some sort of gas-impermeable layer. Nanocellulose maybe? The airlocks are really the only particularly sophisticated technology required.

      • (Score: 2) by CirclesInSand on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:34PM

        by CirclesInSand (2899) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:34PM (#357019)

        unmanned (is there a better substitute for this word?)

        No. We all know what unmanned means.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11 2016, @09:09AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11 2016, @09:09AM (#358255)

        Underground is the best option. Then the layers of rock over the living environment will provide a shield for the radiation.

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:29AM

    by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:29AM (#356813) Journal

    Betteridge says... YES!

    Let's do a little pro & con sheet, shall we?

    Luna Pros:
    - We know we can get there and land there.
    - We know where to find water & oxygen.
    - Easier to map / explore landing sites by robot prior to manned mission.
    - Lava tubes!
    - We can get there relatively cheaply (compared to Mars)
    - We can travel there in days / weeks rather than months / years.
    - Plentiful solar energy.
    - Close enough to Earth that emergency assistance / evacuation is within the realms of possibility.
    - Smallish gravity well is easy to climb in / out of.
    - Lessons learned here can be applied to Mars later.

    Luna cons:
    - Long day/ night cycle.
    - Extremes of heat and cold outside.
    - There's no kind of atmosphere.
    - Low gravity compared to Earth may have adverse effects on humans, long term.
    - It's not Mars.
    - Abrasive regolith.

    Mars Pros:
    - More stable environment thanks to thin atmosphere.
    - Carbon & oxygen readily available in atmosphere.
    - More interesting science to do there. Fossils to look for.
    - Probably a better range of local resources / elements to play with.
    - It's Mars, baby!
    - Lava tubes!
    - Nice sunsets.
    - Potential sponsorship from chocolate bar company
    - Mars gravity probably better for humans than moon gravity.

    Mars cons:
    - Combination of high gravity and thin atmosphere makes soft landing... tricky.
    - it's a long way away.
    - No, seriously, a really long way.
    - Not as well mapped or explored as the Moon. Not entirely sure where to find water.
    - Deep gravity well makes leaving difficult.
    - Pesky dust storms.
    - Did I mention that it's a really long way away?
    - This guy [dailymotion.com]

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:51AM

      by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:51AM (#356817) Homepage

      My basic opinion on the matter: I don't care *that* much where we go, so long as sometime in my lifetime they make it past LEO. Seriously, guys, you went further in the 1960's, and while I appreciate that you're trying to figure out how to get to LEO cheaply and are able to do a great deal in the ISS, we should be thinking about how to get off this rock more permanently, before we might actually need to.

      --
      If you act on pie in the sky, you're likely to get pie in the face.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:57PM (#356841)

        One reason they might be dragging their heels on getting us off this rock is because the rich and powerful already have a way to get off this rock. No rush to get the plebs off it, too.
        I think it says something about how the world works when we have 7 BILLION people and have to choose ONE destination.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:33PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:33PM (#357017)

        Well, it probably will never matter to most of the population on Earth regardless, except in a "Yay, humanity may survive this apocalypse after all" kind of way.

        Consider, the current mortality rate on Earth is roughly 8 people per thousand per year - that translates to about 162,000 per day. The birth rate is even higher. Any sort of mass-exodus from Earth would have to be substantially faster than that just to gain ground against new births. That's a lot of rocket fuel.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:13PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:13PM (#356865) Journal

      You forgot one. Mars has the better night life. Think about it - the God of War. He knows how to party! Luna? Phhhhhht - drudgery and boredom is all I see.

      --
      This broadcast is intended for mature audiences.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:09PM (#357005)

      Thanks, your post brightened my day :)

      Pffft, THAT guy

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:22PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @09:22PM (#357008)

      Good list, except for the shipping costs. For everything other than transporting people (where radiation exposure time is more critical) distances in space are more meaningfully measured by delta-V than distance. And in terms of delta-V, getting from Earth to orbit is about half the cost of getting anywhere in the solar system, from there Mars isn't necessarily *that* much more expensive than the Moon. Shipping colonists to Mars would be more expensive, but they'll likely be only a small fraction of the total payload.

      As for soft landings on Mars - we're getting rapidly better. Proper sci-fi landable rockets appear to be just about worked out, and Martian weather is so radically much weaker than Earth's that, visibility aside, landing in the middle of a howling dust storm should be easier than landing on Earth in a light breeze. And really it's only that last little bit that has proved any sort of difficulty, considering that all the Mars probes already had to shed 99.9...% of their interplanetary velocity before impact to avoid vaporization. Plus, SpaceX has been successfully testing hypersonic retro-propulsion in Mars-comparable atmospheres with every landing attempt, which should simplify things considerably. The big question at this point would seem to be whether hypersonic parachutes can be made light and reliable enough to be more attractive for slowing from orbital speeds than hauling enough fuel to do the job.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:59AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @11:59AM (#356819)

    With the current plan is to dump in the ocean. Why bit send it to Mars instead. It can be thought as warehouse for food and supplies. It has solar panels for power (may need more)

    So why not?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:31PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @12:31PM (#356828)

      it needs a whole bunch of momentum to get out of Earth's orbit.

      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday June 08 2016, @04:58PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @04:58PM (#356921)

        Houston, we have a winner!

        The ISS is dramatically low in LEO... because that's where we can easily make the many many round-trips required to sustain life beyond our marble.

        Sure, the ISS could have been set up 2 or 5 times higher, and the Shuttles tweaked to get there. But the moment you're talking about the Moon, and especially Mars, those dozens of construction flights, AND those 4 tons of supplies that we need to send up every three months to keep half a dozen people alive, become a lot more troublesome.

        Given Mars's orbit, you'd need to keep supplies en route at all times, and hope that the 3-D printers can solve every problem encountered when the trip is at its longest.
        The Moon is more realistic, but the ISS is a good demonstration that there are still too many zeroes on those checks, and those belong here on earth to build more devices providing uncontrolled rapid oxidation.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:10AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:10AM (#357167) Journal
          Or you can use local materials. We don't supply everything on Earth from a single center. Similarly, there's no reason to expect that everything would have to come from Earth. Even basic electronics can be manufactured locally on Mars. If you're sending 4 tons of supplies every three months just to keep a handful of people alive, then you're doing it wrong.
          • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:19PM

            by bob_super (1357) on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:19PM (#357387)

            > Even basic electronics can be manufactured locally on Mars.

            I'm pretty sure the multi-billion dollar ore extraction / purification / processing / fab / packaging electronics industry may disagree with that statement.
            Until we find a way to generate millions of kilograms of almost-free O2 and unlimited energy, any manufacturing on another planet is going to be limited ...

            > If you're sending 4 tons of supplies every three months just to keep a handful of people alive, then you're doing it wrong.

            Tell that to the idiots at Nasa. :)

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:26PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @04:26PM (#357391) Journal

              I'm pretty sure the multi-billion dollar ore extraction / purification / processing / fab / packaging electronics industry may disagree with that statement.

              You're not speaking of basic electronics at that point.

              Until we find a way to generate millions of kilograms of almost-free O2 and unlimited energy, any manufacturing on another planet is going to be limited ...

              It doesn't need to be anything else. We just need to make what the colony needs plus some extra capacity.

              • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday June 09 2016, @05:04PM

                by bob_super (1357) on Thursday June 09 2016, @05:04PM (#357414)

                Please define "basic electronics" then.
                Because even the simplest diode requires pretty pure materials, and a tightly controlled doping process, to get a somewhat reliable and efficient component.

                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 09 2016, @10:34PM

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 09 2016, @10:34PM (#357541) Journal

                  Because even the simplest diode requires pretty pure materials, and a tightly controlled doping process, to get a somewhat reliable and efficient component.

                  You don't need the full multi-billion dollar infrastructure for that. We already have hobbyists who can make rudimentary components. And it's worth noting here that the initial research into the first ICs used a lot less money than would be available to any serious colonization effort.

      • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:14PM

        by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:14PM (#356976)

        Ion engines. The ISS has solar panels to power them and the fuel is cheap.

        instead of dropping the thing in the ocean in pieces it could be filled with durable supplies, food/ water, spare parts and anything else that doesn't need to be shielded or refrigerated and some instruments (high res telescope cameras and mapping radars) to help pick an eventual landing site. We could send the exrta stuff up with every supply launch and start storing it on the ISS in that new inflated habitat module that isn't going to get used by the crew anyway.

        Then send the ISS on a low energy transfer orbit to Mars, it would take a few years sure but it would be on station and ready for the later manned mission that could take a faster transfer orbit for the same fuel since it doesn't have to carry as many consumables.

        Not going to happen of course but fun to talk about.

        --
        "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by theluggage on Wednesday June 08 2016, @01:00PM

    by theluggage (1797) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @01:00PM (#356842)

    Why not the moon first?

    I think the common-sense thing to do would be, yes, return to the moon, look for water, investigate asteroid mining, investigate space-based power generation, build up the infrastructure for manned space exploration first (while continuing the amazing work being done by robotic exploration) - rather than repeating the mistake of Apollo and going straight for an unsustainable, unrepeatable "hail Mary" Mars shot. For one thing, I'm not sure its worth humans going to Mars unless they're ready to establish a semi-permanent habitat there, with people staying for years. (Oh, and for pity's sake make sure that their return vehicle isn't prone to blowing over in dust storms - and remember to pack potatoes!)

    Then there's the question of whether a space- or moon-based colony using solar power and asteroid-based resources would be more or less practical than trying to build one in a marginally less hostile environment inconveniently situated at the bottom of a gravity well. One of the challenges for Mars is going to be how you get back to orbit, whereas you can escape the moon by lighting a fart.

    On the other hand, maybe sending an ugly bag of mostly water to Mars would be a major morale boost to Humanity who's value would outweigh any flimsy economic argument?

    One things for sure though: Dear NASA: the next time you do something so insanely cool as lowering a Mars lander from a hovering rocket platform: send a bloody camera drone! Pictures (accompanied by the music from Thunderbirds of course), or it didn't happen!

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:55PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:55PM (#356966)

      I'm not sure its worth humans going to Mars unless they're ready to establish a semi-permanent habitat there, with people staying for years. (Oh, and for pity's sake make sure that their return vehicle isn't prone to blowing over in dust storms - and remember to pack potatoes!)

      "The Martian" was a really well-done movie, but it really didn't make that much sense when you investigate it closer: if we've built this gigantic ship capable of comfortably transporting people to Mars, and we can set up habitats, why would we run away and come home early because of a little storm? Why would we not have a much more permanent presence there, with rotating crews? The plot was very contrived.

      I think the common-sense thing to do would be, yes, return to the moon, look for water, investigate asteroid mining, investigate space-based power generation, build up the infrastructure for manned space exploration first (while continuing the amazing work being done by robotic exploration)

      I've been saying exactly this for several years, ever since all the "we need to go straight to Mars!!!" hoopla came about, and people called me an idiot, that the Moon is a waste of time, etc. Not just random low-information trolls, but smart-sounding people with very elaborate reasoning as to why we should just start sending colonists directly to Mars ASAP. But yes, as an engineer I agree fully; we haven't developed these capabilities very well yet and we need to do that before sending humans on a year-long journey to an inhospitable planet. We can practice building habitats on the Moon which is only 3 days away, and we can also work on asteroid mining which has real commercial potential. Moon's gravity is lower too, so any launching we might have to do from there (like if we build industrial facilities there, perhaps for asteroid refining) would require much less fuel, and the time needed to return raw materials from the Moon to Earth for commercial use is about the same time the USPS takes to deliver a package, and quite a bit faster than the time needed to ship goods from China. All the "straight-to-Mars" arguments seem to completely ignore commercialization and engineering considerations.

      • (Score: 2) by theluggage on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:13PM

        by theluggage (1797) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @10:13PM (#357036)

        "The Martian" was a really well-done movie, but it really didn't make that much sense when you investigate it closer: if we've built this gigantic ship capable of comfortably transporting people to Mars, and we can set up habitats, why would we run away and come home early because of a little storm? Why would we not have a much more permanent presence there, with rotating crews? The plot was very contrived.

        In the Afterword of the book, the author himself admits that the idea of a freak storm threatening to blow over the lander didn't add up, but was needed as a plot device to strand Our Hero. As for why they went home - they'd used up both their one-shot lander and one-shot ascent vehicle and it does make sort-of sense that the landing and ascent would be the big constraints on such a mission. Since they thought Watney was dead & they'd effectively left a big chunk of their food supplies on Mars there was no reason to hang around in orbit (plus, again, it made the plot more dramatic). Of course, at the end of the film, it is clear that a long stay on Mars with the correct supplies and equipment would be a doddle. Pity we don't actually inhabit that universe - plus, Fictional Mars filmed by Ridley Scott looks less of a dump than that gravel pit our probes have shown :-)

  • (Score: 1) by OrugTor on Wednesday June 08 2016, @01:12PM

    by OrugTor (5147) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @01:12PM (#356844)

    We can debate moon and Mars until the cows come home but what difference in the end? I take a long term view. We are going to the stars. There will be many mis-steps along the way - the Mars failure of 2033, the Europa catastrophe, the Belt mining disaster, the Alpha Centauri lost expedition. No matter, we will keep trying. We may withdraw for a few decades or even centuries but the only thing that can stop us is extinction.
    So my vote goes for Europa.
    And we need more Musks.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @09:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @09:15AM (#357233)

      per aspera ad astra.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:57PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08 2016, @02:57PM (#356874)

    We did Mars back in the 1970s.

    We then waited an appropriate amount of time for technology to advance (cameras, storage, radio links) and we did it again, with that little Sorjourner thing.

    So far, so good. Then, without waiting: We attempted to land at the Martian pole, but that failed. (we never tried again) We sent 2 identical rovers and a bigger rover. Woah there! What about getting that polar lander to work? What about the rest of the Solar System?

    Venus was last done by the USSR, mostly analog and very crappy by modern standards. Venus has mountains with very different radar reflectivity, possibly due to metallic rain. We've never been there. Mercury has never been done. Even at Mars, we've ignored 2 interesting moons. Jupiter has lots of moons. Saturn has lots of moons.

    What the Hell are we puttering around on Mars for??? Been there, done that, time to move on!

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:46PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 08 2016, @07:46PM (#356962)

      We attempted to land at the Martian pole, but that failed. (we never tried again) ... What about getting that polar lander to work?

      We didn't go back because it didn't really fail; it was destroyed by a giant mechatronic alien.

    • (Score: 2) by butthurt on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:48PM

      by butthurt (6141) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @08:48PM (#356992) Journal

      Mercury has never been done.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariner_10 [wikipedia.org]
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MESSENGER [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @05:39AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @05:39AM (#357201)

        Russia is thinking about maybe launching the Mercury-P mission in 2031. That's 15 years to a "maybe", plus flight time.

        • (Score: 2) by butthurt on Thursday June 09 2016, @06:01AM

          by butthurt (6141) on Thursday June 09 2016, @06:01AM (#357206) Journal

          Right, neither landed. Pioneer Venus landed after Venera 9 landed but was before Venera 15, which didn't land but did the radar studies alluded to by the OP. Hence I assumed that orbiting or flying by a planet would qualify as "doing" it.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DannyB on Wednesday June 08 2016, @03:24PM

    by DannyB (5839) on Wednesday June 08 2016, @03:24PM (#356883)

    NASA: here's a project.

    Design and build a constellation of Mars satellites that provide a communication and navigation network. Navigation like GPS on earth.

    One thing that will be needed is the ability to precisely locate previously landed equipment, and land more equipment at the same site.

    Once there are multiple sites, it will be useful to be able to precisely navigate between them.

    As other features of Mars are mapped, they can be precisely mapped and uploaded to Google.

    Get SpaceX to launch this network after you design it.

    • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:53AM

      by jmorris (4844) Subscriber Badge <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Thursday June 09 2016, @02:53AM (#357148)

      You would need the fairly complex ground station to make a Mars GPS constellation work. One thing the first semi-permanent Mars base will need to have is Network Access Point #1 in a rack. If we send modern people there they will expect the Internet to work so a subset of it will have to be there, Including Google in general, at least enough for Android devices to function, GMail, Maps with a Mars dataset, Wikipedia, etc. And probably a cell tower capable of operating entirely standalone, something no existing one can do outside of, perhaps, some test gear.

      Now imagine the problem of base #2. It probably won't be line of sight to #1 and good luck stringing fiber to it. Sat links are too slow and lagged so maintaining a coherent Internet will get interesting. A lot of assumptions we take for granted here dirtside will need reinventing.

      With the horrible ping time to the Moon something similar probably needs planning for there as well.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 09 2016, @12:57PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Thursday June 09 2016, @12:57PM (#357280)

        Good luck with internet connectivity.

        With enough engineering, they might be able to get decent bandwidth.

        But latency is going to be horrible. Ping times will be horrible.

        Quick googling tells me the one-way time for a radio signal is between 4 and 24 minutes. Double that for a round trip ping.

        Using highly interactive low latency apps will be out of the question. For example: Telnet, VNC.

        You would want to use really old school internet apps. Usenet (NNTP). Email (SMTP).

        Sliding window protocols with really large windows.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @06:34AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09 2016, @06:34AM (#357214)

    Their goals get changed with each new administration and then add in budget micromanaging by congress. They need to be insulated from politics and given a stable meddle-free budget before they can accomplish anything great. http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/former-nasa-chief-on-us-space-policy-no-vision-no-plan-no-budget/ [arstechnica.com]