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#1 2002-10-25 06:40:53

Mark S
Member
Registered: 2002-04-11
Posts: 343

Re: Mars 2001 Lander - The one that never launched

I was surprised to learn that the Mars 2001 Lander, cancelled by NASA after Mars Polar Lander crashed, is almost complete and sitting in storage.  There was nothing wrong with the lander; NASA was simply too afraid of failure to launch it.

The 2001 lander was supposed to test the Sabatier reactor, a key component of Mars Direct.  Since then, NASA scrubbed all plans of doing so.  It seems like such a waste that the lander will not fly (unless it is selected as a 2007 scout mission, a real possibility.)


"I'm not much of a 'hands-on' evil scientist."--Dr. Evil, "Goldmember"

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#2 2002-10-25 10:39:20

TJohn
Member
Registered: 2002-08-06
Posts: 149

Re: Mars 2001 Lander - The one that never launched

It's funny how when it comes to anything that could possibly help the Human exploration of Mars, it is delayed or cost too much.  If I remember correctly, the Sabatier reactor will make the fuel for use on Mars?  (Forgive me if I'm wrong!) tongue   I do agree that once again NASA is afraid of being a failure in the public's eye.


One day...we will get to Mars and the rest of the galaxy!!  Hopefully it will be by Nuclear power!!!

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#3 2002-10-25 22:17:57

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Mars 2001 Lander - The one that never launched

Mark S writes:-

I was surprised to learn that the Mars 2001 Lander, cancelled by NASA after Mars Polar Lander crashed, is almost complete and sitting in storage. There was nothing wrong with the lander; NASA was simply too afraid of failure to launch it.[/quote:post_uid4]
    Amazing!!
    Such an indictment of the politico/economic climate in the biggest space agency on Earth, when fear is the driving force instead of the wonder of discovery!

    I sense the frustration in TJohn's remarks, too:-

It's funny how when it comes to anything that could possibly help the Human exploration of Mars, it is delayed or cost too much.[/quote:post_uid4]
    As you may know, TJohn, there is a conspiracy theory about just this kind of thing. There are those who surmise that JPL is the organisation with the most to lose from a redirecting of finance out of robotic probes and into human missions.
    I've never analysed this notion to see whether it is a cogent argument or not, but there have been many attempts by various parties to present evidence to this end.
    Actually I'd be interested to hear from people with views one way or the other. I hasten to add that, though I love a good conspiracy theory, I don't necessarily buy into this one by any means.
    I know the mainstream explanation for all of this is just that NASA has had a bad run of luck and was more inclined to sit and do nothing rather than risk further embarrassment. But is there more to it? Is there a cloak-and-dagger act going on behind the scenes at JPL?
                                        :0


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#4 2002-10-25 23:12:11

Mark S
Member
Registered: 2002-04-11
Posts: 343

Re: Mars 2001 Lander - The one that never launched

If we shifted from robotic exploration of Mars to human exploration of Mars, the entire industry would benefit, including JPL.  I don't think that conspiracy theory has any legs (yet...)

I think that NASA administrators are controlled by the same hopes and fears we are.  They know that a colossal failure would harm the program (in much the same way as the loss of MCO and polar lander,) and careers would be broken.  Because the 2001 lander was similar to the polar lander, it was seen as too high-risk for a 2001 launch.  Now that NASA's succeeded marvelously w/ Mars Odyssey, the lander deserves a chance.

Apparently In-situ propellant production has fallen out of favor w/ NASA, at least for initial missions to Mars. Otherwise the 2001 lander would have been penciled in for a new flight date by now.  As Dr. Benton Clark indicated, ISPP is too high-risk for an initial mission.  The only way of changing this is to test it on robotic missions.  Make methane on the 2007 "scout" lander, and use methane to get the 2011 Sample Return back to earth!


"I'm not much of a 'hands-on' evil scientist."--Dr. Evil, "Goldmember"

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#5 2002-10-27 00:38:54

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Mars 2001 Lander - The one that never launched

Amazing!!
   Such an indictment of the politico/economic climate in the biggest space agency on Earth, when fear is the driving force instead of the wonder of discovery!
[/quote:post_uid0]

Even though I don't usually find myself trying to defend NASA, I think NASA is a victim of politicians and a public that has a low tolerance of failure and has proved itself willing to axe the budget in moments of disaster.  People need to realize that when your pushing the technological envelope and doing things that haven't been done before or aren't routine there's going to be a greater chance for failure regardless of all the steps you take to insure success.  I think NASA would be a lot more willing to get risky if they didn't risk a hostile public and Congress pointing fingers of death in their direction after every mishap.  Of course I'm not defending NASA get sloppy either.  So if the public and their representatives wouldn't breathe down NASA's throat over every little mishap maybe NASA would be more willing to try riskier ventures.  Well that's my two cents at least.  I'm sure someone will blow my viewpoints to pieces. smile


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#6 2002-11-28 12:05:22

dicktice
Member
From: Nova Scotia, Canada
Registered: 2002-11-01
Posts: 1,764

Re: Mars 2001 Lander - The one that never launched

Not at all, Phobos.
   The Soviets profited by being able to do their thing in secret. I applauded NASA's openness during the Moon-race. But now, we depend upon the substantially same Soyuz modular space hardware they developed to keep the ISS regularly supplied with not only consumables and rubbish removal, but crew rotations also. So your sense of something amiss rings a bell.... But that was then, this is now, and the price of warfare hardware and the attention of the government is being diverted, as during the Vietnam obsession. Much, much more individual pressure is needed, at the same time as the anti-terrorist effort runs its course.
   Just to interject a political observation, I can't help being amazed at the coming together of the former East-bloc nations under NATO, with Russia and China waiting in the wings! It must have something to do with the "outside threat" scifi scenario where the world comes together when faced by aliens from space. In this case, it's not aliens, but someone of Earth reminiscent of the James Bond movie-villian, Dr. No. As much as I hate to give credit for any such "coming together" to you-know-who, it's hard to dispute.
   Could it be that the unforseen result of the governments coming together to fight this non-fictional outside threat continue cooperating--in space, on Mars and the Moon? And might not (chaos theory-wise) this and like organizations by pressing intangibly ahead during the present struggle, influence the direction of this cooperation? I rest my case, and relinquish my soapbox to you.

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