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The Future Of Manned Space Flight


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#1    Saru

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 04:03 PM

With all the problems associated with sending people to Mars, and with the moon landings now well behind us, what is the likely future of manned space flight going to be ?

At present the International Space Station is the only human outpost beyond our own planet. Rather than stretching our technological capabilities to the absolute limits in an attempt to get to Mars, wouldn't it be a better idea to concentrate on the moon instead ?

A space station around the moon would allow astronauts to shuttle back and forth between the earth and the moon, providing the oppertunity to build a moon base as well. It would allow astronauts to become a lot more used to living and working in space, as well as provide the technicians with the experience and technological know-how with which a mission to Mars could actually become a reality.

Having lost several unmanned Mars probes to a variety of mistakes and technical errors - I doubt the wisdom of sending a group of astronauts off to Mars when the technology required to allow them a safe and speedy trip there and back isn't yet available.

:sk


#2    Bizarro

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 05:29 PM

why choose Mars over the moon?  its really quite simple.  why did people move to the new world from europe?  they wanted to get away from the society's they felt imprisoned them.  was it risk free?  not likely.  many died trying to get here, and many more when they arrived.  

a day is coming very soon for us on Earth.  a day when the mistakes of the present will make the choices of the future clear.  i foresee that day creeping closer, when some group will attempt to flee the Earth for Mars.  it won't be easy, but it will definitely be for ideological reasons.  people just don't leave a planet for money's sake.  the technology exists now.  all that is missing is the impetus.  the moon is too close to the Earth for people wanting to set up a new society.  they would still be involved with the Earth's problems and subject to attack.  on Mars, the distance would be a great ally.  it would be very hard to rule from Earth and independence would be a guarantee.  

Mars is the next frontier.  that's why we will go there and that's why people will risk their lives to go first.  its that important.  

if there was a meteor,
adrift amongst space,
set about on a collision course
not with Earth, but my face...
i wonder if id even know,
at what time i might,
be passed off like an old style
and by the meteor be smite?

- me, 1997

#3    Saru

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 06:29 PM

The Colonization of Mars is indeed something that will be of tremendous importance in the future, but in the here and now, trying to get there is a huge technological problem.

Establishing a base on the moon is something that would provide us with the experience and the means with which to undertake a manned mission to Mars. We simply don't yet have the experience or the realistic means with which to send humans to Mars and get them home again alive.

( This of course is assuming that there aren't fancy new technologies being developed via Black Projects and the like that we don't know about at the moment.  ;D )


#4    Bizarro

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 08:03 PM

we do have the technology- we just dont have any governments willing to pay the bill.  they know that to put a base on the moon or on mars would not be something that returns money.  we could build a ship that could make the voyage to Mars and return humans today if it was a necessity, but its not.  we could build a colonizing ship, full of all types of items needed to start an industrial colony that could use martian materials to propagate the colony- today.  the cost is the only thing preventing it from happening.  

i agree that building a moon base could help bring about a Mars base, but really they are two totally different animals.  Mars has an atmosphere, albeit a thin one, and has a totally different mineral structure.  these differences actually make Mars a more favorable place to colonize than the moon.  

about the technical errors that we have had in sending craft to Mars:  putting a human on those ships would have prevented those errors from occurring.  we need humans on those ships studying Mars for precisely the reasons that our probes are failing- to handle the things you cannot program a computer to handle.  the distance between Mars and Earth is so great that to control one of those rovers on the martian surface entails accounting for a radio delay of hours.  its just not practical to try to study Mars from Earth, we need people willing to study it firsthand.  

i believe the first real colonization of Mars or the moon wont begin until government is taken out of space programs.  government has a way of screwing the prices of things that benefits itself.  when space is opened to competition from private companies and individuals, we will see much more progress.  

if there was a meteor,
adrift amongst space,
set about on a collision course
not with Earth, but my face...
i wonder if id even know,
at what time i might,
be passed off like an old style
and by the meteor be smite?

- me, 1997

#5    SpaceyKC

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 08:37 PM

      great thoughts Saruman!
        There's an interesting article at SPACENSTUFF about a guy who's started a foundation for the possiblity of civilians getting to be pioneers in space.
Hope I get the link right!
 http://www.spacenstuff.com/exploringstuff/news.php?id=71
   (sorry if I've posted this before - shameless plugs for good friend's - and member of this forum's - website!!)

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         found no remedy for the worst of them all --- the apathy of human beings."
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#6    Kira

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 08:46 PM

Interesting website KC thanx for that.

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#7    Saru

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 09:20 PM

Thanks for the link KC.  :)

DSchwartz,

I agree with most of what you've said, except for the idea that we would be able to send people to Mars right now, if we had the money.

We do not have the technology to send anyone to Mars, never mind an entire colony.

The main reasons for this include :

- Mars is much further away from the earth than the moon. Chemical fuel propulsion is not feasable for such a large distance, due to the mass of fuel that would need to be taken on the trip, not just to get there, but to get back again afterwards. You would need 300 times the mass of the spacecraft in fuel alone just to get there.

- Fission powered Ion Drive propulsion is feasable, and in testing, but a working spacecraft powered by it is still a considerable way off.

- A journey to Mars would take over a year there and back. Oxygen, food and water for such a long trip would probably require a contained greenhouse on the craft, something which has never been achieved successfully in space before.

- If a team did reach Mars, they would need a very large rocket to even get off the planet - unlike the moon the gravity of Mars is only slightly less than that of the earth. Trying to launch a large rocket from another planet is completely out of the question.

- Manufacturing fuel with robots cannot be achieved on the earth - never mind on Mars.

- If the astronauts wanted to stay for any length of time on Mars, they would need to build a makeshift base in which to live and work for many months on the surface. This has never even been attempted on the moon - never mind on Mars. Ideas of sending robots ahead of them to set up a base are inplausable - even if robots did become capable of performing such a task on their own in the near future, such a system would require years of testing on the moon before it could be applied to Mars.

- The astronauts on the way to Mars would be subjected to huge doses of solar radiation - being no longer in the protective magnetic field of the earth. Protective shielding thin and light enough to be plausable on such a ship is not yet available.

NASA's rough estimates give a possible chance of a mission being attempted in 2015 at the very earliest, and that would rely on one hell of a lot of technological advancement in those 15 years. A more practical estimate may be 2020 or later.


#8    Bizarro

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 09:51 PM

considering this topic, i should tell you that i have knowledge of what it takes to get to Mars from a very reliable source.  Mars is possible today.  one of my professors that i studied under in college works on the Athena project- it is one of those martian rovers that will land sometime in 2003.  its purpose is to look for water so that we can send astronauts there to look for evidence of life.  he designed a spectrometer that will try and detect water/life on Mars and will be the one who pilots the rover- this guy knows what he is talking about.  

you brought up valid points but they all have counterpoints:

1.  we wont need some fancy propulsion system or great amounts of fuel to reach Mars, we can use the Earth and moon to try a 'trajectory' shot at Mars using much less fuel and present technology.  

2.  we can carry the oxygen necessary, or devise a technique to recirculate it using present technology.  we can also recycle a great deal of the 'wastes' to conserve water.  a greenhouse is not totally unproven and could be tested on the space station first.

3.  there are experiments with balloons and planes for Mars- their purpose is to test ways to leave the surface.  also, there are experiments to test the feasibility of extracting hydrogen from the martian atmosphere at ground level, which could 'fuel' a rocket to leave Mars.  why is launching a rocket on another planet out of the question?  

4.  what about manufacturing fuel with men on Mars?

5.  why couldnt men set up a makeshift base on Mars?  if they had all this time to stay on Mars anyways :)

6.  there are experiments ongoing to test the effect of exercise on the effects of weightlessness for long periods of time.  also, you could create a ship that spins and produces some sort of gravity to counteract this problem.  

7.  i guess you haven't heard of the 'protected room' theory?  where a room is built out of protective materials and the astronauts hunker down in it until the radiation threat passes...  i agree that this is dangerous, but dont you think someone would be willing to take the chance of dying sooner to be the one to walk on Mars first?  we could build the whole ship out of lead, it would just take longer :)

8.  that is actually a projection of when they feel they can get funding for it.  

if there was a meteor,
adrift amongst space,
set about on a collision course
not with Earth, but my face...
i wonder if id even know,
at what time i might,
be passed off like an old style
and by the meteor be smite?

- me, 1997

#9    Saru

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 10:25 PM

DScwartz,

These are indeed valid solutions to the points I brought up, but they do not support the idea that it is possible to get to Mars today - and certainly not with a large ship full of colonising equipment.

These are all solutions that may be applied when a Mars mission is attempted in a couple of decades.

1. This would require extensive testing. Furthermore it doesn't solve the problem of getting back again - or how you will slow down once you actually reach Mars. You would still need to carry the huge mass of fuel on the return voyage - and so Chemical Fuel Propulsion wouldn't be feasable. A slingshot effect wouldn't be of any use getting back to the earth. The moons of Mars are far too small.

2. These ideas are very feasable, but they aren't fully available at the moment. They require lots of testing and lots of time.

3. Again, balloons etc. on Mars - a very interesting idea. A balloon has never been used on Mars however - even though it probably will work in the near future.

The idea of launching a rocket on Mars is technologically plausable, but out of the question in the present day - we have never even tried launching an unmanned rocket off Mars. A considerable number of test launches would need to be carried out over the course of several years before a manned launch could be attempted.

The planned sample return mission by NASA to bring a sample of martian soil back to the earth will be the first time anything has ever been launched off Mars.

4. Astronauts could probably operate machinary for doing it, but since no systems of this sort have ever been built for working on Mars, this isn't something that's available at present.

5. Men could put together a base, but it would take quite a while, and they would have only the landing craft they came in to live and sleep in.

6. I removed my point about the weightlessness before you posted - I agree that this could be solved in the present day, through excercie routines and other similar physical activities on the craft.

7. A protected room is in theory a good idea, but a radiation threat could last for weeks. I'm not sure what the effects would be if they came out of it every now and again to eat and drink etc.

We will be able to undertake a manned mission to Mars, and men will step foot on the red planet for the first time, almost certainly within the next 20-30 years, if not before then. What is needed is time - things need to be tested and technologies have to be developed. It might just be possible to get someone to Mars in the present, but they would never get back again alive.


#10    Bizarro

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 11:53 PM

good points, i agree with them.  

i do think that you tend to underestimate the human equation in all of them.  send a few scientists to Mars and tell them they can't get home... i think you may be surprised.

if there was a meteor,
adrift amongst space,
set about on a collision course
not with Earth, but my face...
i wonder if id even know,
at what time i might,
be passed off like an old style
and by the meteor be smite?

- me, 1997

#11    Homer

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Posted 04 October 2002 - 05:05 AM

That's an interesting idea SaRuMaN.

I think we all understand the technology isn't ready yet for Mars, and the moon, in my opinion, would be a great place to start. You can't build a city if you don't even know if you could build a fort.

A base on the moon would be a great place to experiment new materials to build new structures. Of course Mars is most likely to have a few more resources, but the resources are useless without a means to harness them. A base on the moon would also make us more experienced in terms of logistics, which is the biggest problem along with fuel.

Would tax payers finance a base on the moon that was home to about 25-50 people? I imagine an entire warehouse could be built on the moon to store large amounts of material. Then we could build facilities that recycle. There is water on the moon, so perhaps they can build a means to use the moons water source. Launch space based nuclear missiles

It's an expensive undertaking, but I think it would be wise to experiment colonization on the moon first. By that I don't mean to actually colonize the moon, but just like the examples given, to use the moon as a complete testing ground.

Just my opinion.

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#12    PurpleStuart

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Posted 04 October 2002 - 09:43 AM

Though  i think it seems a logical stepping stone to go to the moon first, i believe it'll be mars that will have the first perminant colony (as opposed to a 'station') tho i think this will quite a way off.
I think that the ideologists that Dschwartz mentioned will be there, but they'll find corporations and governments vying for resources too.  

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#13    Bizarro

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Posted 04 October 2002 - 09:01 PM

there is really no purpose for a moon base, when you consider what it might accomplish.  the moon is a brutal place to stay- with extreme temperatures that make settlement difficult.  its much more difficult to settle a place where the surface temperature changes from intensely cold to intensely hot in just a few moments time.  that would ruin most equipment quickly- the settlement would have to be underground and that would be very tough to construct.  

i do think we will see a settlement on the dark side of the moon though.  there are less extremes there to worry about.  it would also be a perfect spot to observe the universe without the Earth's light reflection- what a miserable place to live for any period of time though.

the key to settlements in space will be a hospitable atmosphere and lack of seismic activity/asteroid threat.  i can see us settling on a moon of Jupiter or Saturn someday.  anywhere with a little stability and personality.  

if there was a meteor,
adrift amongst space,
set about on a collision course
not with Earth, but my face...
i wonder if id even know,
at what time i might,
be passed off like an old style
and by the meteor be smite?

- me, 1997

#14    Homer

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Posted 05 October 2002 - 05:34 AM

I agree with you PS. Although I think that building a moon base would be the best thing to do, I think that a Mars colony might be first. And really, if that gets accomplished, a moon base would be meaningless. I also agree with you that it will be quite a way off. In my opinion, it will be at least several decades before the first permanent deployment.

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#15    Dr.Brain

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Posted 15 October 2002 - 08:58 AM

First of all theres money problem cause a Govt. wont spend 5 million $ for a space project because it can spend that money for its stock market , launching new computer goods , for development of a particular area and other things.

So what we need is:

We need a World Outer-Space Govt. that will be stationed in Asia (Japan) because almost all headquarters are mainly in the west ...there's a need to globalise the east and Japan is the best option

We need a World Outer-Space Govt. that will be in reality stationed on earth but virtually will be Govt. of activities outside moon . This Government should be a friendly Govt. with no political differences.It should be such that any country (from Egypt to U.S.A and from India to Japan..)can contribute financially .The Govt should consist of NASA engineers and World-Class scientists from all over the world. If applicable there can be a seperate small country named : WOSG . This Govt. should be responsible for defence against the attack from outer space because everyone knows that UFO's exist .

WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER BY REALIZING THAT WE ARE EARTH CITIZENS not american or indians....

:)





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