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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:18PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the one-small-orbit-for-man dept.

Buzz Aldrin has said that NASA should stop spending $3.5 billion per year on the International Space Station and relinquish low Earth orbit activities to private companies, such as SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Bigelow Aerospace, and Axiom Space. This would allow for the funding of "cyclers" to enable a base on the moon and eventually a permanent presence on Mars:

http://www.space.com/36787-buzz-aldrin-retire-international-space-station-for-mars.html

Establishing private outposts in LEO is just the first step in Aldrin's plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on "cyclers" — spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth. "The foundation of human transportation is the cycler," the 87-year-old former astronaut said. "Very rugged, so it'll last 30 years or so; no external moving parts."

Step two involves the international spaceflight community coming together to build cyclers that ply cislunar space, taking people on trips to the moon and back. Such spacecraft, and the activities they enable, would allow the construction of a crewed lunar base, where humanity could learn and test the techniques required for Mars colonization, such as how to manufacture propellant from local resources, Aldrin said. Then would come Earth-Mars cyclers, which Aldrin described as "an evolutionary development" of the prior cyclers.

[...] NASA officials have repeatedly said that the ISS is a key part of the agency's "Journey to Mars" vision, which aims to get astronauts to the vicinity of the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.

Is the ISS a key part of the "Journey to Mars" or a key roadblock?


Original Submission

Related Stories

"No Sufficient Business Case" for 2025 Privatization of the ISS 12 comments

Trump's plan to privatize the ISS by 2025 probably won't work, NASA's inspector general says

The Trump Administration's plan to hand the International Space Station off to the private sector by 2025 probably won't work, says a government auditor. It's unlikely that any commercial companies will be able to take on the enormous costs of operating the ISS within the next six years, the auditor said.

NASA's inspector general, Paul Martin, laid out his concerns over the space station's transition during a Senate space subcommittee hearing May 16th, helmed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). During his testimony, Martin said that there's just no "sufficient business case" for space companies to take on the ISS's yearly operations costs, which are expected to reach $1.2 billion in 2024. The industries that would need the ISS, such as space tourism or space research and development, haven't panned out yet, he noted. Plus, the private space industry hasn't been very enthusiastic about using the ISS either — for research or for profit. "Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the agency's current plans," Martin said at the hearing.

Also at Ars Technica.

Related: NASA Intends to Privatize International Space Station
Congress Ponders the Fate of the ISS after 2024
Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars
Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved?
Trump Administration Plans to End Support for the ISS by 2025


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


Original Submission

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:20PM (25 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:20PM (#508295)

    Fuck Space! Gimme Basic Income! Eat the Rich!

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by melikamp on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:48PM (21 children)

      by melikamp (1886) on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:48PM (#508316) Journal

      I wonder if ISS can simply be refactored and raised higher, or stuck in the Earth-Moon L1 point [wikipedia.org]. I believe we absolutely need to maintain both an open space habitat and an international collaboration, and ISS is a shining example of both. I would go as far as to say that our long-term survival as species depends almost entirely on our ability to colonize open space and mid-size asteroids, since that would make us essentially invincible to the last big scare: rogue object(s) crashing into planets and/or disturbing the celestial dynamics of our star system. It is not too hard to imagine a flock of asteroids visiting us for another episode of massive bombardment, and turning every rocky planet into a lava ocean. A wondering stellar-mass black hole could also sneak up on us rather effectively, I believe. But neither scenario is a total disaster as long as we have a sustainable civilization hanging around the asteroid belt, around Jupiter and its satellites, and so on. Over the period of millions of years, putting all our eggs into 2 or 3 baskets (Earth, Mars, Moon) is a losing strategy, and besides, in space we can create an absolutely amazing habitat designed from ground up for humans and humans alone, just think about that.

      I'd like to think that 1000 years from now these will be the ultimate luxury condos and lofts, thousands of km above the surface of the Earth :) Giant, sustainable halos with rotational gravity, possibly carved on the inside of ~ 10 km rocks; zero-g habitats with human subspecies adapted to space; nomadic space stations gliding along the interplanetary superhighway [wikipedia.org]... Not being able to see all of that is perhaps the only reason I sometimes think my lifespan is too short :)

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:55PM (5 children)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:55PM (#508319) Journal

        Is the ISS really useful? If we develop inflatable module technology some more, it might be possible to get an ISS-sized station in orbit for much cheaper than the ISS construction cost. Launch costs have also fallen.

        What is it that we are doing or could do with ISS that is so great? A dark matter detector? A gas station for reaching other destinations? A sustainable Moon or Mars base on the other hand could expand and feed itself using raw materials collected on site. If it is sustainable and does not require periodic resupply, it can be expanded to any desired size.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by melikamp on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:28PM (1 child)

          by melikamp (1886) on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:28PM (#508332) Journal
          I am all for Moon base, I think it would be waaaaay more useful and fun than a Mars base.
          • (Score: 2) by arslan on Thursday May 11 2017, @11:08PM

            by arslan (3462) on Thursday May 11 2017, @11:08PM (#508385)

            As long as we don't accidentally blow it up... otherwise the dolphins won't be too happy

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:31PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:31PM (#508368) Journal

          Is the ISS really useful? If we develop inflatable module technology some more, it might be possible to get an ISS-sized station in orbit for much cheaper than the ISS construction cost. Launch costs have also fallen.

          My view is that for what was spent on the ISS, we could have launched two or three ISS into space any point in the past few decades just by not using the Space Shuttle (and retiring the Shuttle back in 1990) and eliminating the international aspect of the ISS, but otherwise keeping its capabilities.

          Not using the Shuttle and instead discontinuing the Shuttle in 1990 would have resulted in a modest hit to the volume of individual station components, but an enormous reduction in launch costs. I estimate around 30 billion USD.

          One would see somewhat similar savings from cutting out the meandering path that the ISS took from beefy national prestige project to enormous international money sink which among other things required numerous redesigns of the station to incorporate projects from all the ISS partners. I think at least 20 billion USD.

          Then there would be some modest economies of scale from building multiple copies of the ISS structure resulting in the final estimates of 2-3 structures for 100 billion USD. That's not even discussing the enormous savings possible from taking NASA out of the loop or the significant improvement from putting SpaceX in the loop, particularly, its Falcon Heavy.

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Friday May 12 2017, @04:12AM (1 child)

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @04:12AM (#508463) Journal

          We've done all the science that we need to do at the ISS.

          It now serves as nothing more than a mountain survival hut.
          A great place to seek shelter if you happen to need it - if you can get there.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday May 12 2017, @12:28PM

            by kaszz (4211) on Friday May 12 2017, @12:28PM (#508579) Journal

            A underground facility on the Moon or Mars would be a shelter. The ISS would be roadkill if things get really bad.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:06PM (10 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:06PM (#508325)

        I think Aldrin is missing the point, politically. It's not that the Space Station is "sucking up all the resources," it's that nobody is excited to allocate resources to a Mars mission.

        WMD was enough to excite W to spend over $700B in Iraq, 1% of GDP for some years - if we could shake loose 0.1% of GDP for a Mars mission, 10 years wouldn't be too much of a stretch.

        --
        Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by tangomargarine on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:33PM (9 children)

          by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:33PM (#508334)

          His argument sounds like it's based on the shaky premise that cutting the ISS line on the budget would divert the money to Mars missions, yes.

          From that article about how long and over-budget the big lifter rocket thingamajig is, people don't seem overly motivated. I guess since we're not racing the Russians this time, it'll take twice as long? But if it's good, we should still be able to pick one of fast or cheap, right? Right??

          Would be nice to just cut military spending by like 5% and quadruple NASA's budget :P

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 5, Interesting) by tangomargarine on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:42PM

            by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:42PM (#508342)

            In FY 2015, Pentagon and related spending totaled $598 billion, about 54% of the fiscal year 2015 U.S. discretionary budget. For FY 2017, President Obama proposed the base budget of $523.9 billion, which includes an increase of $2.2 billion over the FY 2016 enacted budget of $521.7 billion. By 20 January 2017, when President Trump took office, annual military spending had reached its highest peak ever—$596 billion—representing three times the military spending of all other NATO countries combined.[1]

            FY2017 19,508 Nominal Dollars (Millions) % of Fed Budget 0.47%

            Seen in the year-by-year breakdown listed below, the total amounts (in nominal dollars) that NASA has been budgeted from 1958 to 2011 amounts to $526.178 billion—an average of $9.928 billion per year.

            So the amount of money spent on NASA for its entire existence since 1958 just barely edged past what we spent on the military in a single year under Obama. After 59 years. Marvelous.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA [wikipedia.org]

            --
            "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:46PM

            by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:46PM (#508347) Journal

            The NASA budget doubled would be about 1% of the federal budget. That's a good minimum. I have also said that it should be quadrupled at the expense of the military (which does some space stuff anyway like satellites and the X-37B), but the only one in the room who may have been in the position to cut defense spending and reallocate it to NASA chose to increase defense spending.

            The good news is that NASA bureaucrats have wisely chosen to incubate SpaceX and other private companies, allowing them to grow into launch competitors that will be able to undermine and destroy overpriced pork projects like the Space Launch System [wikipedia.org]. If expenses like the ISS and SLS are eliminated, NASA will be able to focus on building satellites to launch on the $90 million Falcon Heavy, the future SpaceX ITS launch vehicle [wikipedia.org], or smaller rockets [soylentnews.org].

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
          • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:46PM (5 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:46PM (#508376) Journal

            His argument sounds like it's based on the shaky premise that cutting the ISS line on the budget would divert the money to Mars missions, yes.

            The funding for NASA has, adjusted for inflation, had modest variation since around 1971. All these distributed pork projects (current examples, ISS maintenance, SLS, JWST) haven't improved the budget one bit. Nor is there an indication that Congress would have gutted NASA's budget without those projects, if instead NASA had exchanged these projects for considerably more activity in space.

            My view is that a lot of NASA's current troubles come from the decision makers in the 1970s gambling on a second version Saturn V, the Space Shuttle, instead of adjusting their ambitions to the lower budgets of the post-Saturn decades. This resulted in a culture with perverted interest in creating huge projects with remarkably little payback.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday May 12 2017, @02:24AM (4 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @02:24AM (#508434)

              NASA pork = jobs, so, no, pork doesn't get cut, it just ages on the budget.

              --
              Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @05:37AM (3 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @05:37AM (#508499) Journal
                I don't buy here that a NASA with balls could be forced to take on so much pork. Pork isn't irresistible. Instead, the bureaucracies, including NASA, are packed with people who don't care and don't have an interest in keeping out pork spending.
                • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday May 12 2017, @11:41AM (2 children)

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @11:41AM (#508564)

                  If pork is all that's on the table, that's what you eat.

                  The "core" NASA people, the ones who care about the mission, who know the rocket science, who make real things happen, also happen to be less politically inclined and less politically capable than your average agency. They've got some people who can "do politics," but they're not well integrated into the program.

                  So, you could say they don't care - I say that the people who care aren't good at making a difference.

                  --
                  Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @05:53PM (1 child)

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @05:53PM (#508755) Journal

                    If pork is all that's on the table, that's what you eat.

                    There have been way too many times when NASA has gone out of its way to enforce the status quo.

                    For example, SpaceX probably couldn't be founded much sooner than it was and still have a market to sell to. Before 1984, the Space Shuttle had a monopoly on all US-based launches. And in the late 1980s, a launch cartel had sprung up with a series of launch vehicles (the Pegasus rocket, Delta II, Atlas II, Titan III, and Space Shuttle, each with their own identifiable monopoly on a niche of launch market, segregated mostly by payload size and mass, but in the case of the Atlas II and Titan III, by non-military/military payload. NASA was the key element of control for this cartel because outside of US military and intelligence, they were the largest consumer of launch services in the world, and exclusively shopped US.

                    It was only when the US military deliberately created competition with the Evolutionary Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program in the late 1990s that the conditions for SpaceX came about. The company was founded a few years later in 2002.

                    Another example of this is what happened to E'Prime Aerospace in the mid 1990s. They were refurbishing MX missiles for use as launch vehicles. There were hundreds of these missiles being decommissioned. But the US signed a nuclear treaty which conveniently forbade use of these missiles for commercial payloads, destroying E'Prime's business model completely and this latest threat to the cartel system. Orbital Sciences, one of the cartel members, later picked up this business model, using these MX missiles for launching military payloads. Quite the peculiar oversight of this treaty, isn't it?

                    The "core" NASA people, the ones who care about the mission, who know the rocket science, who make real things happen, also happen to be less politically inclined and less politically capable than your average agency.

                    Good use of scare quotes. They aren't core, but rather a necessary evil. NASA does have to maintain appearances, so they do need someone who can actually do the jobs NASA is tasked with. No different than many marketing-oriented businesses.

                    So, you could say they don't care - I say that the people who care aren't good at making a difference.

                    My view is that people who care and are competent are kept out of NASA. It upsets the feeding trough to have these people present.

                    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday May 13 2017, @02:16AM

                      by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 13 2017, @02:16AM (#508956)

                      > It upsets the feeding trough to have these people present.

                      Oh so very true, and the people who are at the head of the bread line know how to keep it coming and work hard to do just that.

                      --
                      Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday May 12 2017, @02:22AM

            by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @02:22AM (#508432)

            Without the "Red Menace" looming, between fast and cheap, we get cheap. So cheap that fast has become multi-generational.

            --
            Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
      • (Score: 2) by art guerrilla on Friday May 12 2017, @12:30AM

        by art guerrilla (3082) on Friday May 12 2017, @12:30AM (#508414)

        been done already : ringworld and its variants...
        pretty sure it is easily doable with a million repraps...
        well, you start with one...

      • (Score: 1) by nitehawk214 on Friday May 12 2017, @04:06AM (2 children)

        by nitehawk214 (1304) on Friday May 12 2017, @04:06AM (#508461)

        I think you don't understand how unbelievably expensive it would be to boost ISS to that high of an orbit.

        Not only that, it would become prohibitively expensive to send manned and resupply missions to it.

        --
        "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
        • (Score: 2) by melikamp on Friday May 12 2017, @04:54PM

          by melikamp (1886) on Friday May 12 2017, @04:54PM (#508715) Journal
          I bet it's still orders of magnitude cheaper than a Mars base.
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by captain_nifty on Friday May 12 2017, @04:58PM

          by captain_nifty (4252) on Friday May 12 2017, @04:58PM (#508719)

          Not to mention everyone on board the ISS would die from radiation during the transit of the Van Allen belts, and anyone inhabiting it after would get a huge dose as above the Van Allen belts you are not protected by the Earth's magnetic field, the ISS would need shielding retrofitted for higher orbits.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @11:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @11:06PM (#508383)

      You'll get your basic income soon as you pick up the shovel and dig the martian red dirt!

    • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Friday May 12 2017, @03:26AM (1 child)

      by Hartree (195) on Friday May 12 2017, @03:26AM (#508450)

      "Gimme Basic Income! Eat the Rich!"

      Since you're posting anonymously, how are we going to know who to write the checks to, or where to mail the frozen 1 percenter flesh to?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 12 2017, @06:31AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 12 2017, @06:31AM (#508517)

        It's meant to be universal basic income, everyone gets it. If indexed it shouldn't just disappear as an inflationary effect. If we can't get past the zero-sum game mentality we don't deserve to leave the troposphere let alone colonize other planets.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by its_gonna_be_yuge! on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:26PM (24 children)

    by its_gonna_be_yuge! (6454) on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:26PM (#508299)

    Mars has been there for 4.503 billion years, and it can wait a few more until we get the infrastructure ready to do Mars properly.

    Just ditching someone in a tin can to bounce onto Mars and then maybe bounce back doesn't seem like a worthwhile project. Going there and thriving there as colonists is the end-goal - not just touching our feet in the sand.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Hairyfeet on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:58PM (23 children)

      by Hairyfeet (75) <bassbeast1968NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:58PM (#508322) Journal

      And I would argue a colony is useless until we have developed terraform technology because all you are doing is shipping a handful of people to live in a tin can, no different if that tin can is on Mars or the Moon or an asteroid, its still gonna be completely inhospitable to human life outside the can.

      If we are gonna be spending that kind of money? Spend it on a probe to Europa that is capable of penetrating the ice and seeing if there is life there. From everything we have seen to this point Europa is the best bet on finding life and the amount of information we would learn about how life begins and evolves, even if all we find down there is an alien version of a flatworm or even bacteria, would advance our knowledge of the origins of life so much it would be the biological equivalent of what inventing of the telescope did for astronomy.

      With limited resources we have to pick the projects that have the most potential for scientific ROI and I would argue finding out if there is life in our solar system is worth a hell of a lot more than sticking some humans in a tin can on Mars.

      --
      ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:08PM (9 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:08PM (#508326)

        Being in the tin can, on site, getting first hand data and more importantly immersion exposure to the challenges, should be enough value add to justify the tin can mission - just like the ISS.

        10,000 scientists poring over scant data returned from robotic probes aren't likely as effective as 1000 scientists supporting 10 more who are direct in the field.

        --
        Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
        • (Score: 1) by tftp on Friday May 12 2017, @12:24AM (8 children)

          by tftp (806) on Friday May 12 2017, @12:24AM (#508409) Homepage

          Being in the tin can, on site, getting first hand data and more importantly immersion exposure to the challenges, should be enough value add to justify the tin can mission

          One manned expedition will cost as much as 100 unmanned probes. Robots can be sent to different points of the planet and be set up for different research. I do not see /any/ value in sending humans and a small lab if those humans do not also have mobility on the planet. Imagine, we have them there. They walked out and dug up a pit in the sand. Let's assume the walls did not cave in. They found some rocks. That took two days. Now what? They spent one year going there, and there will be one year flying back. And twenty years off of their lifespan because of radiation - which we cannot mitigate. There will be deaths in that expedition - more than one, if the scientists are going to push the limits.

          IMO, at this point manned expeditions are too expensive, too dangerous, too long and too pointless. If you find an alien ship on the surface - sure, then at least there is a good purpose. But to fly there just to wade in the sand? What scientific results are worth such an expense?

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Friday May 12 2017, @02:02AM (5 children)

            by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday May 12 2017, @02:02AM (#508428) Journal

            And twenty years off of their lifespan because of radiation - which we cannot mitigate.

            You had a good comment until you threw this bullshit in there. The radiation risks of a trip to Mars are minimal. Astronauts will be exposed to more radiation than NASA recommendations would allow, but the limits are conservative. Weightlessness will do far more damage to the astronauts than radiation will, and that's a problem that could be fixed by rotating part of the spacecraft.

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday May 12 2017, @02:28AM

              by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @02:28AM (#508436)

              Radiation concerns are real, but trimming 20 years off lifespan is overblowing it.

              Occasionally one astronaut will get unlucky with the radiation effects and lose 20 years of life to it. Just like commuting to work on the freeway will occasionally do terrible things to lifespan, but not most of the time.

              --
              Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
            • (Score: 1) by tftp on Friday May 12 2017, @02:38AM (3 children)

              by tftp (806) on Friday May 12 2017, @02:38AM (#508439) Homepage

              Not everyone is so quick [space.com] to dismiss the danger of radiation:

              The Mars rover Curiosity has allowed us to finally calculate an average dose over the 180-day journey. It is approximately 300 mSv, the equivalent of 24 CAT scans. In just getting to Mars, an explorer would be exposed to more than 15 times an annual radiation limit for a worker in a nuclear power plant.

              We can debate whether the limits are conservative, but the absolute figure of 0.3 Sv (one way) is scary. The astronaut will collect about 1 Sv over the trip - and that is already radiation poisoning [xkcd.com], and there will be no treatment until return to Earth. Once on Mars, researchers cannot stay underground - they have to do research on the surface.

              Everything else, like gravity, can be dealt with. But there is no sufficiently powerful source of energy yet (like a small and clean thermonuclear reactor) to create, say, a magnetic deflector for the solar wind. Another good plan is to fly much faster. Both methods require technology that is not yet available. I believe people should focus on that - and on better robots.

              • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday May 12 2017, @04:37AM

                by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday May 12 2017, @04:37AM (#508470) Journal

                I am totally fine with postponing human missions to Mars until they take 30-60 days one-way instead of 180. It will be too bad if those propulsion technologies are not ready to use by the 2030s.

                --
                [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
              • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Friday May 12 2017, @04:54AM

                by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @04:54AM (#508479) Journal

                Not to mention that, once there, the astronauts might no longer remember how to get back. [go.com]

                --
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              • (Score: 2) by Alphatool on Friday May 12 2017, @12:51PM

                by Alphatool (1145) on Friday May 12 2017, @12:51PM (#508588)

                Radiation doses don't add up like that. To get radiation poisoning from 1 Sv all of the dose needs to be delivered over a short time span, think hours rather than days. If the dose is spread out to e.g. 10 mSv per day for 100 days there will be no immediate health effects. There would be an increase in the risk of cancer (maybe 5% per Sv more likely to die from cancer but it's complicated) but in the context of interplanetary space travel 2 mSv per day is nothing to worry about.

                There are some serious and genuine concerns about brain damage from really high energy cosmic radiation (see the reply by by maxwell demon), but that is a very different problem than anything from a conventional radiation dose.

          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday May 12 2017, @02:15AM

            by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @02:15AM (#508430)

            But one manned mission will get funded, 100 unmanned probes will not get funded in the same timeframe.

            Keep the political reality in focus - whether you like it or not, it exists and will not only influence but determine funding.

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          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @05:52AM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @05:52AM (#508505) Journal

            Imagine, we have them there. They walked out and dug up a pit in the sand. Let's assume the walls did not cave in. They found some rocks. That took two days. Now what?

            Right there, that's the equivalent of one or more robotic missions. The answer to "now what?" is that we keep having the humans do more such tasks. They can stay for years, not merely a couple of days.

            And twenty years off of their lifespan because of radiation - which we cannot mitigate.

            Except through simple engineering like radiation shielding. High energy cosmic rays, which are difficult, but not impossible to shield against, only make up part of the space radiation environment. So shielding will protect against much of what radiation is actually in space (even if we don't go all the way to shield against cosmic rays and the resulting particle sprays associated with cosmic rays), particularly from the Sun, which is the most dangerous source of radiation in space.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by takyon on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:34PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:34PM (#508337) Journal

        The tin can is useful if it is self-sustaining and can be expanded using resources that are on site. And Mars is better than say, Ceres or Pluto because it has higher gravity and more of an atmosphere (even if it is not hospitable at all).

        The Moon is a useful destination simply due to being so close to Earth, as well as the tidal locking which makes the far side of the Moon an ideal place to put ground telescopes.

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      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @05:33AM (4 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @05:33AM (#508498) Journal

        And I would argue a colony is useless until we have developed terraform technology because all you are doing is shipping a handful of people to live in a tin can, no different if that tin can is on Mars or the Moon or an asteroid, its still gonna be completely inhospitable to human life outside the can.

        Or Earth for that matter. There's plenty of places on Earth with these issues as well. We figure out reasons to go there anyway. Further, a lot of people already live in the "tin can" even when the outside is hospitable.

        If we are gonna be spending that kind of money? Spend it on a probe to Europa that is capable of penetrating the ice and seeing if there is life there. From everything we have seen to this point Europa is the best bet on finding life and the amount of information we would learn about how life begins and evolves, even if all we find down there is an alien version of a flatworm or even bacteria, would advance our knowledge of the origins of life so much it would be the biological equivalent of what inventing of the telescope did for astronomy.

        But that still wouldn't help us learn how to live anywhere off of Earth. Colonization will be bigger than discovering non-sentient life off of Earth.

        With limited resources we have to pick the projects that have the most potential for scientific ROI and I would argue finding out if there is life in our solar system is worth a hell of a lot more than sticking some humans in a tin can on Mars.

        Human missions fare well by scientific ROI. But even if we really think scientific ROI is valuable, rather than merely pay lip service to the idea, we still have the matter of time value - ROI isn't instantaneous, but happens over a span of time.

        For example, tftp claims that a human mission would cost as much as 100 robotic missions. Even if we made the unwarranted assumption that 100 robotic missions would generate a competitive amount of scientific ROI, we still have the problem that we're doing Martian missions at somewhere around the rate of 1 every couple of years. In other words, it takes two centuries to generate that level of scientific output via our current rate of robotic missions. So ROI over two centuries is going to have a hard time competing with ROI over a much shorter span of time.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday May 12 2017, @06:30AM (3 children)

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday May 12 2017, @06:30AM (#508516) Journal

          For example, tftp claims that a human mission would cost as much as 100 robotic missions. Even if we made the unwarranted assumption that 100 robotic missions would generate a competitive amount of scientific ROI, we still have the problem that we're doing Martian missions at somewhere around the rate of 1 every couple of years. In other words, it takes two centuries to generate that level of scientific output via our current rate of robotic missions. So ROI over two centuries is going to have a hard time competing with ROI over a much shorter span of time.

          Or you send those 100 robotic missions to different places. Send flyby or orbital missions to Pallas, Uranus, Neptune, Eris, Sedna, and Planet Nine if it is located. Send 5 robotic missions to Mars with more capable robots each time. Send drones to Titan since they can fly in the thick atmosphere, and small submarines to explore the hydrocarbon lakes. Send a drill and robotic submarine combo to enter the oceans on Europa and Enceladus. Send something capable of surviving in Venus's atmosphere. Launch five new successor space observatories to Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope, capable of directly imaging exoplanets to look for life (admittedly, these observatories could be as much as $5-10 billion a pop which adds up fast).

          Meanwhile, if the top Mars science goal is looking for life, Mars looks like a worse target than Europa or Enceladus. Not terrible, but not as good. Exoplanet atmosphere imaging may even find life first, albeit indirectly.

          We should go to Mars sometime. But we should do it after the costs decline (relative to using the stupidly expensive SLS, and propulsion methods that are not fast enough to get humans to Mars in 30 days). And we should aim to create self-sustaining habitats and industry on Mars, so that if humans do settle there, constant resupply is not needed. This could entail sending robots in advance. Robots capable of building a greenhouse and having fresh food grown before humans ever reach the planet. Maybe even robots capable of building the majority of components needed to make more robots.

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          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @02:48PM (2 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @02:48PM (#508632) Journal

            Or you send those 100 robotic missions to different places. Send flyby or orbital missions to Pallas, Uranus, Neptune, Eris, Sedna, and Planet Nine if it is located.

            So we would learn massively less about Mars. Those other places aren't Mars.

            Meanwhile, if the top Mars science goal is looking for life, Mars looks like a worse target than Europa or Enceladus. Not terrible, but not as good. Exoplanet atmosphere imaging may even find life first, albeit indirectly.

            "If". I believe the top Mars science goal is helping to figure out how to colonize Mars.

            We should go to Mars sometime. But we should do it after the costs decline (relative to using the stupidly expensive SLS, and propulsion methods that are not fast enough to get humans to Mars in 30 days).

            I'm not advocating going to Mars right this minute. But we need to keep in mind that we can already do things in space for far cheaper than NASA does them. One of those many ways is by not doing science at the hobby level. Seriously, how would NASA's current efforts differ from some incredibly rich dude with a 3 trillion USD revenue stream, doing a little space science so that he'd have something to brag about at parties?

            Similarly, we don't need SLS for anything. SpaceX already has Falcon Heavy which is more than adequate for any assembled Mars missions in Earth orbit. 180 days to Mars is more than adequate to get people to Mars. We don't need 30 day propulsion (particularly, if that gets entangled with Earth anti-nuke politics). And we don't need to stay on Mars for only 2 days as some other poster proposed.

            I believe a variety of very large projects, including early stage colonization of Mars, are doable in the near future, say by 2050. But I don't believe the parties with the resources currently required to carry that out have either the interest in doing such big, long term stuff or the competence to carry it off.

            A key observation here is simply that presently, space, particularly space science, is not important to us outside of some commercial activities in orbit. If it were, you would see more than a few government level projects. A key measure of what we find important, is what we're willing to spend our own money and personal time on, rather than somebody else's. It's easy to speak of using government money for whatever we feel like. For example, if finding extra-terrestrial life in the Solar System were important to us, then where are the private projects to do that?

            You would also see people use some basic economics to improve the ROI of such space activities (such as building more than one or two probes of a particular design in order to take advantage of economies of scale or heavily using existing launch vehicles with better cost per mass rather than rolling your own launch vehicle as with SLS).

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday May 12 2017, @04:52PM (1 child)

              by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday May 12 2017, @04:52PM (#508712) Journal

              "If". I believe the top Mars science goal is helping to figure out how to colonize Mars.

              Tell that to NASA.

              https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/science/goals/ [nasa.gov]

              Goal 1: Determine whether life ever arose on Mars

              https://mars.nasa.gov/programmissions/science/ [nasa.gov]

              To discover the possibilities for past or present life on Mars, NASA's Mars Exploration Program is currently following an exploration strategy known as "Seek Signs of Life." This science theme is built on the prior science theme of "Follow the Water," which guided missions such as 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Mars Phoenix Lander.

              Make no mistake, the top science goal for Mars is finding evidence of past or present microbial life, upgraded from the more conservative goal of finding water. Maybe you meant to say "should be" instead of "is".

              The colonization goal is not really related to past habitability unless you want to see terraforming, something that will be incredibly hard even on small scales.

              For example, if finding extra-terrestrial life in the Solar System were important to us, then where are the private projects to do that?

              I would drop "in the Solar System" and point to Yuri Milner's Breakthrough [wikipedia.org] initiatives. Planetary Resources [wikipedia.org] launched a kickstarter for a telescope that would look at exoplanets as a "stretch goal".

              Finding life inside the solar system (not on Earth, jokesters) is likely too hard expensive for private industry. Getting anything on Mars is a challenge and the rovers haven't found life. Getting a drill to pierce miles through the icy crust of Europa or Enceladus is going to cost billions, or maybe $10 billion, and even the lite mission that would just land on the surface and dig a little to find frozen microbes will be costly. Governments can step in and foot the bill. Ideally, the U.S., EU, China, Russia, Japan, and others could work together for certain big missions.

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              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @05:30PM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @05:30PM (#508745) Journal

                Tell that to NASA.

                So what? They aren't serious about space science. They just have more money to play with than me.

                Make no mistake, the top science goal for Mars is finding evidence of past or present microbial life, upgraded from the more conservative goal of finding water. Maybe you meant to say "should be" instead of "is".

                No, I used the right word here. After all, the whole point of space exploration is that someone, someday will need that information in more than a vague "any knowledge is good" way. For example, a key justification of the Apollo program was that people would live in space, particularly on the Moon. A big step in that process was showing that people can travel to the Moon.

                Finding life inside the solar system (not on Earth, jokesters) is likely too hard expensive for private industry.

                Sure, it is. What would be the point of trying when NASA can outspend you by a couple orders of magnitude.

                Getting a drill to pierce miles through the icy crust of Europa or Enceladus is going to cost billions, or maybe $10 billion

                Or maybe only a few tens of millions USD. Who knows when nobody, including NASA, is trying?

                Governments can step in and foot the bill.

                And in the process make the bill a few orders of magnitude larger, often without actually accomplishing anything.

                My bet is that when we actually start doing serious space exploration and development, initiated by private enterprise rather than some huge, uncritical check from Uncle Sam, we'll find that it's a lot cheaper than you portray above.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday May 12 2017, @12:33PM (6 children)

        by kaszz (4211) on Friday May 12 2017, @12:33PM (#508581) Journal

        There is technology to be mostly self sustaining on a Moon or Mars base or just free floating. Being on site as a human immersed in the environment without any time lag of minutes would enable research and ideas on a whole new level.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @04:38PM (5 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @04:38PM (#508701) Journal

          Being on site as a human immersed in the environment without any time lag of minutes would enable research and ideas on a whole new level.

          Or a time lag of decades! Keep in mind that the "labeled release" experiments of the Viking landers (which gave an ambiguous result) have never been replicated, even forty years later.

          • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday May 12 2017, @04:51PM (4 children)

            by kaszz (4211) on Friday May 12 2017, @04:51PM (#508710) Journal

            Can you expand on that?

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday May 12 2017, @04:54PM (3 children)

              by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday May 12 2017, @04:54PM (#508714) Journal

              Your bad habit of not Googling is showing:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_lander_biological_experiments#Controversy [wikipedia.org]

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              • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday May 12 2017, @05:15PM (2 children)

                by kaszz (4211) on Friday May 12 2017, @05:15PM (#508733) Journal

                So what kind of time lag do you refer to?
                That failed experiments of the past would cause a time lag seems not connected?

                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @06:08PM (1 child)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @06:08PM (#508769) Journal

                  That failed experiments of the past would cause a time lag seems not connected?

                  Failed? With a human presence and the necessary gear, the label release experiments (a series of batches of organic compounds which showed anomalous reactions) could have been rerun in days. Instead, we still don't know the causes or problems with this particular experiment because no one has tried it since. And it has been 41 years and counting since the experiment was run.

                  What is ignored here is the enormously poor quality of science and enormous lag that comes from using probes exclusively. Too often, researchers have had to guess at a phenomenon merely because they have no way to explore it further in any reasonable time frame. White lumps [nasa.gov] at the base of your lander's legs? Probably water ice, but who knows for sure? Nobody will be doing a near polar landing mission again for a few more decades (it's already been almost a decade since).

                  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday May 12 2017, @07:09PM

                    by kaszz (4211) on Friday May 12 2017, @07:09PM (#508798) Journal

                    You're right on. And it's time to go to Mars not because it's easy or cheap but because it can bring benefits we just won't realize without presence. The possible risk is contamination of Mars which could mess up testing results. And of course the really serious risk of any back contamination. Probably a low risk with high impact.

  • (Score: 2) by lx on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:34PM (5 children)

    by lx (1915) on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:34PM (#508304)

    At first I thought that he wanted to haul the ISS to an orbit around Mars.

    Which, on second thought would be the greatest thing ever.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:40PM (#508311)

      Sure thing, just bolt on an EmDrive and get your ISS to Mars.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:13PM (3 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:13PM (#508328)

      The ISS isn't sufficiently radiation hardened for human habitation in Mars orbit (nevermind the support logistics issues...)

      --
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      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bob_super on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:36PM (2 children)

        by bob_super (1357) on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:36PM (#508339)

        True. But if they built it sturdy enough to keep its panels aligned, filling it to the brim with supplies for orbital comms/resupply of Mars or Moon missions could be useful.
        Even a soft crash on the moon could help future moon missions (or become the first attractions park, if near an Apollo site).

        Arguably, filling it with propellant and just powering it up in any pretty much direction would be more useful than letting it crash back down. How much would it cost to delta-v most of it to L4/L5?

        It doesn't even have to be complete, if NASA decides some parts are too old or risky.
        I'm just annoyed at the idea of letting it just fall back down.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday May 12 2017, @02:19AM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @02:19AM (#508431)

          Usefulness vs cost, though?

          Personally, if we had the money for the deltaV, I think it would make a great tourist attraction in a stable Lagrange point - but that's a lot of deltaV and that money could put new hardware in orbit...

          --
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        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @04:47PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @04:47PM (#508708) Journal

          Even a soft crash on the moon could help future moon missions (or become the first attractions park, if near an Apollo site).

          You can't get a soft crash on the Moon because the ISS can't survival an acceleration strong enough to prevent it from hitting the Moon with a speed exceeding a high power rifle by about a factor of two (~2 km/s). Parking it in a high altitude Earth orbit is probably the best preservation that can be done under the circumstances.

          My take is that putting it in such an orbit would not be that expensive. Attach an electric propulsion system with a large tank and slowly boost the ISS to a much higher orbit outside of the Van Allen belts. A Falcon Heavy probably could put the necessary gear in orbit with one shot or current rockets with two or so launches.

  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:35PM (9 children)

    by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:35PM (#508306) Journal

    I tell you what the roadblock is: the defence budget, gobbled by the MilInds.

    It is not in the interest of the MilInd to have people on other planets; the colonists will need to get to a certain population density for them to become a new market; it will take some hundred years and the profit report is due quarterly.

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:39PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday May 11 2017, @08:39PM (#508310) Journal
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      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:02PM

        by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 11 2017, @09:02PM (#508324) Journal

        Licking rather. Let's hope it doesn't develop an addiction.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:05PM (6 children)

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:05PM (#508355) Homepage Journal

      What does "Millnd" mean and why?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:32PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:32PM (#508369)

        Millititty Indickrial complex.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Friday May 12 2017, @12:10AM (4 children)

        by c0lo (156) on Friday May 12 2017, @12:10AM (#508401) Journal

        Mil(itary)-Ind(dustrial) Complex, because Eisenhower [wikipedia.org]

        --
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        • (Score: 2) by looorg on Friday May 12 2017, @12:24AM (3 children)

          by looorg (578) on Friday May 12 2017, @12:24AM (#508408)

          Isn't it just usually MIC? Don't think I have ever seen the abbreviation MilInd used before.

          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday May 12 2017, @04:03AM (2 children)

            by c0lo (156) on Friday May 12 2017, @04:03AM (#508460) Journal

            I'm using MIC for microphone.
            Sorry about that, happens on other time zones, especially in other countries; next time I'll use the full name.

            OGHIHA (Oh, God! How I hate acronyms!)

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 12 2017, @02:46PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 12 2017, @02:46PM (#508630)

              AAAAIYEE!
              (try mouseover...)

              <abbr title="Acronyms Ain't Always Awful If You Explain 'Em">AAAAIYEE</abbr>

            • (Score: 1) by cmdrklarg on Friday May 12 2017, @04:22PM

              by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @04:22PM (#508685)

              OGHIHA (Oh, God! How I hate acronyms!)

              This message brought to you by the NMAAA (No More Acronyms Association of America)

              --
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by jmorris on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:05PM

    by jmorris (4844) on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:05PM (#508356)

    It is a lot of mass in a controlled orbit, ditching it is therefore stupid since for our lifetime at least, putting that much mass into orbit is going to be expensive. If NASA can't justify the upkeep somebody else probably will and should be given the opportunity. Having a base in low Earth orbit is useful for any project to put stuff farther out.

    If the argument is that it is getting expensive to maintain, that is actually an argument for keeping it. We have to learn how to maintain things in space because we can't simply replace stations and bases every decade or two so we should think of it as an opportunity to learn. That was one of the basic goals of the ISS, to learn how to live long term in space, learning how to maintain your home is part of that. Someday we will have hundred plus year old structures in space, so we need to learn how to do that.

  • (Score: 2) by zeigerpuppy on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:34PM

    by zeigerpuppy (1298) on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:34PM (#508371)

    Buzz was really ahead of his time on this one (and still is).
    But for Mars exploration, an asteroid in an Earth-Mars cycler orbit would be even better.
    Spin it up for artficial gravity, radiation shielding by bulk, then you can ferry goods and humans for a ride with minimal energy expendature.
    it would be tricky to shift an asteroid into the right orbit but the asteroid can be cannabalised for fuel over a few decades.

  • (Score: 2, Disagree) by snufu on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:53PM (1 child)

    by snufu (5855) on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:53PM (#508378)

    I try to think of analogies to describe the absurdity of the notion that we can somehow colonize space. The problem is that the only analogies that apply are astronomical.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday May 12 2017, @05:57AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 12 2017, @05:57AM (#508507) Journal
      Indeed. It's like trying to live out of your car. Completely unpossible.
  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:59PM

    by looorg (578) on Thursday May 11 2017, @10:59PM (#508381)

    I sometimes wonder if we just sold Mars to some corporations if we wouldn't be there a lot faster then whatever the current projection is. That said Mars has been there for a really long time, I'm sure it will still be there in a century or whatever it will take for us to get there -- get there in the sense that its a regular thing and not just us sending some one-way-mission and then never going there again for another 40 years or so like we did with the moon. We have not been there since 1972 if I'm not wrong (not counting secret military projects and/or meetings with the alien overlords if such things happen).

  • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Friday May 12 2017, @04:27PM (1 child)

    by meustrus (4961) on Friday May 12 2017, @04:27PM (#508693)

    The premise here seems to be that Mars is more valuable than the ISS, therefore we should use the ISS budget to fund Mars exploration instead. But that's not how NASA funding works. NASA gets earmarks for specific projects which can change due to political pressures. Nobody really has the authority to just push that money to another project, and even if they did it would still be subject to a completely different set of political pressures.

    Mars has been a priority before, but is not a priority now. That's why we can't fund an effective long-term mission to go there. The ISS, however, is a massive sunk cost, and building a new one would be orders of magnitude more expensive than maintaining the one we've already got. Therefore it doesn't need to be as "important" right now to get an ongoing maintenance budget.

    That's not to say there aren't parts of the ISS mission you can pull back on without jeopardizing that investment. Restocking missions are a prime example, which is why they were ceded entirely to Russia before SpaceX was ready to run them.

    Of course none of this line item analysis is a good idea. If you want Mars, the problem is to get Congress to prioritize Mars funding. Suggesting that we can get rid of ISS spending doesn't actually help solve that problem. Even worse, it runs the risk that Congress will think it can move ISS funding...to vaporware military projects or tax reform.

    --
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