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    • CommentAuthorbarryhall
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009 edited
     (6711.1)
    Article I found at work tonight, thought people might be interested.

    <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/opinion/01krauss.html">
  1.  (6711.2)
    Because the reason we have astronauts is so the congresscritters who vote for NASA can lionize the astronauts, and themselves, for funding the astronauts. The space program is still very much hung up on the old cold war notion of “no Buck Rogers, no bucks”. I doubt that will change until most of the old cold warriors have died or retired and Congress is lead by people whose childhood memories of the space program are of robots on Mars.
    • CommentAuthorPhranky
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009 edited
     (6711.3)
    Perhaps they should rig up cameras inside the ship and record their antics on the way there so when they arrive the public back home gets to vote on which individual should return - big brother style.
  2.  (6711.4)
    It's an interesting argument.
  3.  (6711.5)
    Here’s a great story idea: EDITED BY WARREN - READ THE RULES - WE DON'T DO STORY IDEAS HERE
    • CommentAuthorPhranky
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009
     (6711.6)
    That's sort of been done before with Frederick Pohl's book 'Man Plus' which featured a programme that utilised biological engineering to turn a man into a monster perfectly adapted to survive on Mars.
  4.  (6711.7)
    If it sounds unrealistic to suggest that astronauts would be willing to leave home never to return alive, then consider the results of several informal surveys I and several colleagues have conducted recently. One of my peers in Arizona recently accompanied a group of scientists and engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a geological field trip. During the day, he asked how many would be willing to go on a one-way mission into space. Every member of the group raised his hand. The lure of space travel remains intoxicating for a generation brought up on “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.”

    We might want to restrict the voyage to older astronauts, whose longevity is limited in any case. Here again, I have found a significant fraction of scientists older than 65 who would be willing to live out their remaining years on the red planet or elsewhere. With older scientists, there would be additional health complications, to be sure, but the necessary medical personnel and equipment would still probably be cheaper than designing a return mission.

    Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes I would, too.
    • CommentAuthorbarryhall
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009
     (6711.8)
    Funnily enough Phranky, that was the first thing I thought of too.
  5.  (6711.9)
    I think the knee-jerk reaction of a lot of people would be to want to go. Even after some serious thought I'd probably consider it. The problem is, once you get there, what happens when people start getting homesick or suddenly change their minds?
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      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009
     (6711.10)
    Thousands took their chance in the New World. Life was hard. But. Few complained. (Those that went willingly, anyway.)

    Never underestimate the Human Spirit.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009
     (6711.11)
    Pioneers and migrants and refugees on Earth who settled new lands could live off the land, requiring a minimum of tools.

    Mars settlers would need to bring almost everything. Yeah, you could extract oxygen and distill water and so on, but you'd have to bring the tools to do that.

    What I'm getting at is that the romantic analogies to the past don't hold up. Mars lacks the "ecosystem services" that makes survival on Earth relatively easy.

    Living on Mars will mean spending the rest of your life in a series of trailer homes, where you'd die if you don't take care your gear.
    • CommentAuthorpi8you
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2009
     (6711.12)
    You know what? Fuck anything else involved in the equation, shipping off to live your remaining days on Stellar Object X means that you are no longer stuck dealing with the bulk of humanity. Sign me the fuck up.
  6.  (6711.13)
    Excellent link, Barry.

    I'll run my mouth a bit on this one, do tell me if I get something wrong or am misinformed.

    I think the knee-jerk reaction of a lot of people would be to want to go. Even after some serious thought I'd probably consider it. The problem is, once you get there, what happens when people start getting homesick or suddenly change their minds?


    Which creates serious problems for any operation set on Mars. The novelty of going to another planet will easily overshadow the other side of the question, which is coming back. Once there, these people we'll be relying on for research could lose it. But will there be people who would want to go and once there, stay? No doubt. All of the people who sign up? Difficult.

    While the idea of sending astronauts aloft never to return is jarring upon first hearing, the rationale for one-way trips into space has both historical and practical roots. Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip, usually because the places they were leaving were pretty intolerable anyway.


    True, but they COULD return if they had to. It was POSSIBLE, and this counts for a lot. It was a sea of distance, not millions of miles. You might be on a new world, but in the same planet.

    Plus, as StefanJ said, we're not talking about somewhere else on Earth, we're talking about somewhere else on the Solar System, one-third of Earth's mass and cold as hell. Not a "New World". It's a fucking harsh one.

    Sending supplies via unmanned missions is equally risky -- something goes wrong, everyone on Mars dies by the time another mission is set up, considering getting to the planet takes months with current technology as far as I know. Add that to Mars' distance, constantly altered by its orbital trajectory, and it would require tight scheduling and backup plans. That is, unless the Mars settlers can create themselves an ecosystem, and this would require more research before the idea is put into practice. Steady supply lines from Earth to Mars do seem very expensive on the long-term, anyway.

    Nevertheless, human space travel is so expensive and so dangerous that we are going to need novel, even extreme solutions if we really want to expand the range of human civilization beyond our own planet. To boldly go where no one has gone before does not require coming home again.


    But it requires patience and proper planning. Extreme solutions are for emergencies, and I don't think we're on one. And I am skeptical of Project Constellation getting us to Mars, although, considering so much of it is based on Apollo, it can get us back to the Moon.

    This seems to come from a human wish of seeing humans on Mars in our lifetimes. And while I want that as well, I am not willing to go for extreme solutions without necessity.

    However, that article is excellent food for thought.
  7.  (6711.14)
    Some excellent thoughts thus far, here's my broad, sweeping, mostly morning-without-coffee brain interjections:

    Initially, I had all the knee-jerk 'get me up there' reactions as most do, and will, but I immediately recognised the danger in said reactions. Then reading that a good proportion of scientists over 65 would be willing to go and stay gone got me thinking about the nature of the terms 'constellation' and 'colony'.

    If NASA was ever in a position to sway international law for a serious future of human space-flight endeavours, all they'd need to do would be to get each astronaut/scientist/explorer to sign a waiver while working the international courts around to changing the basic rules for said explorers. This would be the beginnings of a colony - a group of like minded people who are willing to risk their lives in order to be some of the first in human history to do something most can only dream of. Those old New World colonists weren't just going for what they hoped to be a better life, no sir, there were madmen, preachers, botanists, sailors, craftsmen, seed merchants and just merchants all looking for something to do.

    I've put seed merchants in bold there because Western Europeans - in a relatively small way - terraformed the New World. John Barleycorn went with them. So too did Johnny Appleseed. We've figured out how to grow plants on the moon. Surely we can do it for Mars. A colony is not just the people that risk their lives but how they risk them. I'm unsure everyone will agree with me but I would argue that it isn't just scientists who should go: any true tradesman who wishes to and can be given the proper training and educational materials - imagine what a glass blower could create with martian sand and a colder atmosphere. Engine makers utilising what we consider disadvantages to their advantage.

    Which brings me quickly to the term 'constellation': without many, there is no constellation. Sure people will die. LOTS of people will die. But if each and every one undertook their mission with the possibility in mind, great things could be built off the back of their cold dead shoulders. Einstein and giants. The articles points about sending multiple ships seems to me to make the most sense. I doubt all the ships that went to the New World were used again - I know full well that Welsh colonists who made it to Patagonia and tilled the land for 10 years before anything grew, couldn't come back.

    So, if international courts could allow, put aside our self-preservation instincts and laws in order that we might be a great constellation of colonists.

    [I'd like to add that any points I've made are all up for debate and are never set in stone...unless they're the Georgia Guidestones which I recently discovered and now really want to see.]
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2009 edited
     (6711.15)
    Multiple ships and and oribital infrastructure has to be the way to do it.

    The problem is similar to the way to get a Vulcan bomber to the Falkland islands from Britain. That took 16 tanker aircraft, with tankers refuelling tankers.

    Sending everything up in one shot seems pointless. Send the fuel and supplies seperately, so that you can resupply a heavily rad-shielded man ship as it goes. Have an orbiting station with a reusable, refuellable lander waiting.

    Don't just send a mission. Build a route.

    And if you're going to send people, don't put them in an open ship they can move around in. Stick them in capsules with micro-shock muscle stimulants to keep their bodies from atrophying and to simulate movement, spending their time in immersive VR, possibly with robot avatars on the ship that they (or ground crew) can control from within this, if any maintenance to the ship is needed. Shielding three small body-sized capsules, and no supplies or fuel or command centres or three dimensional space life support with a gaseous environment, is possibly do-able. Humans are payload, not pilots.
  8.  (6711.16)
    It creates an interesting dilemma for astronauts with families, no?
    I mean, yeah — every time an Apollo rocket or a space shuttle went up everyone knew that their is always a chance that something could go wrong (and we all know it did sadly), but its always a given that the astronaut will return. But how do you tell your wife and kids on your 60th birthday that you're going to Mars and won't come back?
  9.  (6711.17)
    But how do you tell your wife and kids on your 60th birthday that you're going to Mars and won't come back?

    With delighted laughter, and a car running.
  10.  (6711.18)
    "Multiple ships and and oribital infrastructure has to be the way to do it.

    The problem is similar to the way to get a Vulcan bomber to the Falkland islands from Britain. That took 16 tanker aircraft, with tankers refuelling tankers.

    Sending everything up in one shot seems pointless. Send the fuel and supplies seperately, so that you can resupply a heavily rad-shielded man ship as it goes. Have an orbiting station with a reusable, refuellable lander waiting."

    Exactly. Plus have a base on Deimos or Phobos as a fallback position if the lander stage malfunctions.

    Put humans on Deimos, put robots on the Martian surface to build a base and extract rocket fuel and water.

    Conduct several surface to orbit missions with an unmanned orbiter.

    Then send the Mars landing party.

    I don't think there's any need to say they can never return to Earth but I do think they could achieve a lot more if they spent 2-4 years on Mars . Back in the 18th and 19th centuries plenty of explorers spent that long or longer away from home.
    •  
      CommentAuthorV
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2009
     (6711.19)
    I could see a family understanding that the dedicated scientist at retirement age wants to go on a final important journey. Not all families, but I could imagine some.

    Also, helloMuller, if we ignore your concern about children then keep in mind that it isn't so uncommon for scientists to partner with other scientists.
    The astronaut might be bringing her partner with her if he's a scientist too and they've decided to do this thing together.
  11.  (6711.20)
    I'm beginning to imagine the conversation before take off:

    "You all set, Ranger?"
    "You know it, Spaceman."
    "Hah, we'll see Spacewife. We'll see. You got everything?"
    "Think so. Clothes, chem lab, gm seeds and emergency oxygen. You?"
    "Shit. I can't find my passport."
    *LOLZ all round the sci-fi nuclear family*