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posted by takyon on Sunday October 01 2017, @02:45AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the funding-needed dept.

This week at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia, SpaceX CEO and Lead Designer Elon Musk will provide an update to his 2016 presentation regarding the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars.

Making Life Multiplanetary


Original Submission

Related Stories

Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX 43 comments

Who will make it to Mars first?

It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.

On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We're going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we're going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely.

#SLS2020

Also, the next SpaceX flight is an ISS resupply mission and is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (December 12, 2017) at 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST) from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The plan is for the booster to return to landing at Landing Zone-1, also at Cape Canaveral.

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans
SpaceX Putting Red Dragon on the Back Burner
SpaceX: Making Human Life Multiplanetary

Related: VP of Engineering at United Launch Alliance Resigns over Comments About the Space Launch Industry
ULA Exec: SpaceX could be Grounded for 9-12 Months
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
SpaceX Unlocks "Steamroller" Achievement as Company Eyes 19 Launches in 2017
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News


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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Sunday October 01 2017, @03:18AM (17 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday October 01 2017, @03:18AM (#575459)

    I understand the importance of establishing a human presence - so we can "do our things" but, when I read the article title I was thinking more along the lines of making Life interplanetary - like: microbes, plants, animals, and everything that it's going to take to make a sustainable ecosystem.

    If I ever go to Mars, I sure as hell don't want to eat one kind of potato the whole time, and besides, the Irish have already demonstrated why that approach is a really bad idea.

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    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday October 01 2017, @04:06AM (3 children)

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01 2017, @04:06AM (#575468) Journal

      You probably don't want to lay there in a shallow Frozen grave forever with no eco system to recycle your body either. People will have no choice but to become cannibals on Mars.

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      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @04:20AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @04:20AM (#575473)

        When I'm dead, I'm not going to be too concerned with how comfortable my grave is or what might happen to my body. I'll be too preoccupied with being dead to care.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @01:52PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @01:52PM (#575551)

        Come on people. Come on!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @04:10AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @04:10AM (#575471)

      Yeah, the headline is dumb. A lot of people think life is already multi-planetary, if you consider all the planets around all the stars in all the galaxies.

    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Monday October 02 2017, @01:30AM (4 children)

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Monday October 02 2017, @01:30AM (#575735) Journal

      I understand the importance of establishing a human presence - so we can "do our things" but, when I read the article title I was thinking more along the lines of making Life interplanetary - like: microbes, plants, animals, and everything that it's going to take to make a sustainable ecosystem.

      That puts me in mind of a central debate in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the Reds vs. the Greens. The Reds wanted to approach Mars as a pristine environment without polluting it with anything alien. The Greens wanted to terraform it for human habitation. When I read it it didn't seem like a relevant consideration because it was sci-fi and unreachably remote. Now it seems like something we should start talking about.

      Do we want to first investigate Mars thoroughly and see if there is any indigenous life under the surface, or should we start terraforming it immediately by seeding it with extremophiles?

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      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday October 02 2017, @05:04AM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday October 02 2017, @05:04AM (#575766) Journal

        If there is any existing life to contaminate on Mars, it is probably locked up in a subsurface ocean, not the topsoil where we have been dumping rovers and may try to grow some potatoes in 2040.

        Just like with Enceladus, Europa, Ceres, and other places, we need to drill baby drill if we want a good chance of finding life.

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        • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Monday October 02 2017, @10:36AM

          by Phoenix666 (552) on Monday October 02 2017, @10:36AM (#575841) Journal

          "we need to drill baby drill if we want a good chance of finding life."

          That's what she said.

          --
          Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @05:24AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @05:24AM (#575775)

        I think the main reason we're treating Martian life, or the potential thereof, so specially is because it'd like our first baby. By the time we find it, and then more, and more, and more - we're just annoyed at how long it's taking to get this one out of the house and onto college. I do not think the sanctity of bacterial life, which may or may not exist, supercedes the value of human expansion. And certainly nobody would disagree with that once we do discover more and more of it. So why not cut to the chase? I'm also phenomenally curious to see if we can prove exogenesis, which would open up an enormous slew of fascinating questions if proven. But at the moment, I think the value of making life multiplanetary should take priority.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday October 02 2017, @02:46PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday October 02 2017, @02:46PM (#575910)

        I think by the time we are actually colonizing (growing crops on) Mars, we are going to be too concerned about our own problems on Earth to care about any indigenous savages that might need to be relocated to make room for our settlements.

        At least that's how it has always gone in the past.

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        Україна не входить до складу Росії.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @05:18AM (5 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @05:18AM (#575774)

      I'm not sure why you think there would be no variety. That may or may not be the initial case but it would rapidly change. And in any case by the time it's possible for more 'regular' individuals to buy their way there, there'd certainly be a great variety. As an example, even BudWeiser is currently pursuing [space.com] efforts to be the first beer on Mars. That guarantees more will follow it as Martians become starved for a drinkable beer.

      Another issue here is that the ships themselves will also provide resources. The average American eats about a ton of food per year. So the average human probably eats about half a ton per year. Now factor in the issue that Mars has 1/3rd Earth's gravity and so there will be vastly less energy consumption, meaning you need consume even less. So let's be modest and put it at 1/3rd a ton. The BFR can pack 150 tons of cargo and they plan to launch 4 rockets to Mars on the first mission. 1 manned, and presumably 3 with supplies. Even if just one of the rockets is filled with food that's potentially 450 man years of food. Assuming an initial landing crew of 10 that'd be space for 45 years of food per person. They'll have plenty of time to setup a sustaining and diverse array of foodstuffs while you're stuffing yourself with nonpersishable/MREs.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday October 02 2017, @07:51AM (3 children)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday October 02 2017, @07:51AM (#575802) Journal

        Now factor in the issue that Mars has 1/3rd Earth's gravity and so there will be vastly less energy consumption, meaning you need consume even less.

        Whooaaa there! So in microgravity, astronauts would eat even less food, right? No! [nasa.gov] (oooo [quora.com])

        They need to work out vigorously to counteract the health effects of microgravity. So they end up requiring more food than Earthlings.

        Here's one estimate [mit.edu] of the daily calorie requirement on Mars: 3040.

        People burn calories even when doing nothing (aka laying on the bed with the normal force counteracting gravity) - you can burn through 1,500 calories during a 24 hour nap. They will need to exercise while on Mars to prevent negative health effects. The lessened gravity does not mean significantly lessened energy consumption, and definitely not 37.6% as much (752 calories instead of 2,000). Although if I go by your modest 0.5 to 0.33 ton thing, I guess you are proposing about 75% of Earth calories consumption. I think 125-150% is more likely, especially if it is a Mars mission and not Mars bedrest.

        Assuming an initial landing crew of 10 that'd be space for 45 years of food per person.

        How Will We Eat On Mars? [archive.fo]

        For the initial trip to Mars, the food will almost all be pre-positioned, so that it's waiting for them when they arrive. If you consider it's a 6-month trip to Mars, that food is going to be 5 to 7 years old when they get there.

        The challenge is having enough variety of foods that will last for that length of time, and will be high enough quality that the astronauts won't quit eating. There is a very real phenomenon called menu fatigue, where if people don't have enough variety or they get really bored with the food system, then they tend to eat enough to survive and not enough to thrive. We want the crew to be at top performance.

        The other challenge that we have is that the nutritional content of this food will decay over time. Even though our food packages are considered sterile, there are chemical reactions that take pace. The color is going to change, the texture is going to change, and the nutrition degrades over time. We need to know, after 5 to 7 years, how much nutrition is it really going to have left in it, and will there be certain nutrients that will be too scarce?

        [...] The military has some of the same concerns that we do--they'd love to make food that lasts a really long time for the troops, so we've actually partnered with them on some research that's being done. They're looking into two emerging technologies: high pressure processing and microwave sterilization2. The advantages to these two technologies is that theoretically they don't do as much heat damage to the food that you're processing. If you're applying less heat or for a shorter period of time, you degrade fewer nutrients. And if you're starting at a higher level of nutrients, you can end with a higher level.

        Now we can ignore menu fatigue (drink Tang or die, asstronauts!) and play around with the numbers a bit, but it seems clear that not all of the food sent will be as usable or nutritious after 20+ years. Sending 45 years worth would just be a waste of mass. It could be better to use some of the available mass to send robots to build a working greenhouse, as big as possible, to produce fresh food before astronauts ever set foot on the colony.

        If your colony can't get a single measly resupply from Earth within 45 years, given that under current plans [recode.net] the cost of getting mass to Mars is expected to fall over that time period due to heavy reusability and economy of scale, then Earth is probably dead and you'll have really wanted to build that greenhouse and become self-sufficient ASAP.

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @09:41AM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @09:41AM (#575829)

          Lots of great information and sources. Thanks! A couple of things immediately stood out to me. In the first PDF from NASA, they state astronauts use an average of 3,500 calories a day. Then the response on quora (an apparent employee of NASA) suddenly changes that to 2600 (+/- 600) calories. That is quite perplexing. He also states that their "appetites" do decrease after a couple of months with no elaboration. Is that appetite or caloric intake? To what degree? Is the change is linear, a plateau, or what. Such a tease. The paper that 3040 calorie MIT article is based upon is here. [sciencedirect.com] The source for their estimation lays out a day as:

            - 8 hours sleep

            - 2 hours intensive exercise

            - 8 hours nonstop outside work on EVA days

            - All remaining time (6-14 hours) is spent on nonstop inside work that uses an unstated aggregate caloric consumption rate over the tasks such as "performing science experiments, preparing meals, or harvesting and replanting crops."

          In other words you engage in physical work or exercise during every single waking hour. I certainly agree with you that it won't be a "Mars bedrest", but I also think it's possible to have figures pointing somewhat unrealistically in the other direction.

          ---

          In any case, I'd completely agree with you that having 45 years of food would be quite pointless. That was the implicit point. The BFR's storage capacity to Mars is unprecedented and so even just taking everything you could ever possibly want to consume before you're able to setup self sufficient local food resources is completely trivial. So it's not like you have enough to last you through the first harvest or two and after that it's your choice of grilled potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, or potato soup.

          I found a source citing the exact mass of food for astronauts on the ISS. This [space.com] sources cites 3,630 kg as being the mass of food to support a crew of three for 6 months. That's 3630 * 2 / 3 = 2.42 metric tons per astronaut per year. That would be 6.6 kilograms of food per astronaut per day. No idea where they're getting those numbers from, but I'm going to have to suggest there is an error or misrepresentation in the data they're sourcing.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday October 02 2017, @10:08AM (1 child)

            by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday October 02 2017, @10:08AM (#575833) Journal

            My only thought is that they counted a shipment of water in there. 1 L = 1 kg. 2-3 liters per day consumption seems to be typical. So now you are down to 3.6 kg of food per day.

            This page [nasa.gov] says:

            When astronauts travel into space, NASA scientists determine how much food will be needed for each mission. For example, an astronaut on the ISS uses about 1.83 pounds (0.83 kilograms) of food per meal each day. About 0.27 pounds (0.12 kilograms) of this weight is packaging material. Longer-duration missions will require much more food.

            2.5 kg from 3 meals per astronaut. Bump water consumption to 4 L per day and everything is accounted for!

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            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @10:42AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @10:42AM (#575844)

              Yeah that could be the difference, but it would be be rather misleading. Water is heavily recycled precisely for that reason. Even urine is reprocessed into drinking water!

      • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Monday October 02 2017, @09:39AM

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Monday October 02 2017, @09:39AM (#575828) Journal

        And that 150 tons of food would eventually become 150 tons of sewage & C02, which could theoreticlaly be converted into 150 tons of plant food, which can become 150 tons of crops. It could be worth a hell of a lot more than 45 man-years of food.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @10:15AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @10:15AM (#575517)

    Instead of making more holywood moon landings and now Mars landings, try penetrating the Van Allen radiation belts. If you try going through them, they will fry you quickly. Only the fried body will leave the Earth.

    I believe these space thingies are only a distraction from the real harm we are being caused by the parasitic self-proclaimed leadership. Same for electric cars and everything. Does anyone really believe the parasitic class would have allowed development of any technology that makes us more free? Does anyone think a rich guy would be allowed to invent things, unless he is working for the government?

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by HiThere on Sunday October 01 2017, @06:19PM (7 children)

    by HiThere (866) on Sunday October 01 2017, @06:19PM (#575633) Journal

    The problems with any space habitat are:
    1) a closed ecosystem
    2) radiation hardening
    Everything else has answers that are known, though they may need engineering development.
    As for 1), it's really impossible, as even the Earth doesn't have a closed ecosystem, so you need to include predictable inflows of resources sufficient to balance predictable outflows. And use pessimistic predictions with lots of internal storage.
    As for 2), the only answers known are lots of shielding with mass.

    So for planetary habitats, this means essentially sub-surface dwelling. And it means severe limits on the amount of atmospheric leaks allowed. Etc. And it's going to be different for every site. So these two problems don't have global solutions. The tertiary problem, energy to drive the system, is really a subset of the first problem. Solar power works in many sites, but you need lots of storage. Nuclear is dubious, because you'd need enough power plants so that when one failed you could start up another before the storage ran out. Over a decade this is probably not a problem, but over multiple decades it gets dubious....until your habitat is quite large. But nuclear works in the dark and far from the sun, so if you're sited near Jupiter or further out your choice is pretty much forced. On Mars there are lots of dust storms, so solar may have problems, but perhaps there's a chemical power supplement, or perhaps you need to have a nuclear "hefty trickle charge" for your "batteries".

    IOW, space civilizations are going to be highly limited unless they run nuclear power plants, but each habitat will need multiple plants that normally run far below top performance, so that when one goes down the others can pick up the load.

    I still think that planets are the wrong direction, and that the right direction is space habitats, but a lot of the same problems will need to be solved in either case...and perhaps there's reason for both.

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    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @07:39PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01 2017, @07:39PM (#575658)

      I am a NEET on UBI and I already live in a closed ecosystem.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Monday October 02 2017, @12:50AM (2 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday October 02 2017, @12:50AM (#575722)

      Or... terraform. Earth is a closed ecosystem for all intents and purposes: input: solar radiation. output: infra-red re-radiation back to space. Anything else is trivial.

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      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Monday October 02 2017, @04:38PM (1 child)

        by HiThere (866) on Monday October 02 2017, @04:38PM (#575959) Journal

        Sorry. With current technology the only planet we could reasonably try to terraform is Earth. And that's dangerous...not that we aren't doing the equivalent without thinking about it.

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        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday October 02 2017, @05:41PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday October 02 2017, @05:41PM (#576014)

          Sorry. With current economic focus the only planet we could reasonably try to terraform is Earth, and we're doing a poor job of that within current economic priorities.

          FTFY

          We have the technology, we have the resources, what we lack is the consensus.

          --
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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @09:43AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02 2017, @09:43AM (#575830)

      Everything else has answers that are known, though they may need engineering development.

      Where are the citations to scientific research saying that Mars gravity is enough?

      If it turns out it's not enough, it's a lot easier to do artificial gravity in space habitats than planetary ones. Spinning people around on the Mars surface is probably going to make many people ill...

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday October 02 2017, @10:16AM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday October 02 2017, @10:16AM (#575836) Journal

        If you want the Mars gravity research, you have to send people or at least mammals to Mars.

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      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Monday October 02 2017, @04:41PM

        by HiThere (866) on Monday October 02 2017, @04:41PM (#575961) Journal

        Unless you deny Einstein, gravity and acceleration are equivalent. So if Mars gravity is a problem (dubious) you could build a big wheel with tilted flooring. Which makes it an engineering problem. But I really doubt that gravity is a problem on Mars, and I'm dubious about how much of a problem it is on the moon.

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