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#1 2013-06-22 10:43:21

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22974301


Good old Buzz


On 21 July 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the surface of the Moon, it appeared as though mankind was on the verge of a new age of space exploration. After all, if the moon could be conquered, what could prevent us travelling to other planets, even to other solar systems?


Nearly half a century later, the dreams that once seemed so tangible now look more remote than ever. The last man to walk on the Moon was Eugene Cernan, who made the long trip home in December 1972. Since then, humans have been content to orbit the earth, in the realms occupied by satellites and the International Space Station. But we have never again broken free.

Now, one of the original lunar pioneers believes the time has come to make another great leap for mankind. Buzz Aldrin thinks that manned missions to Mars should take place sooner rather than later - within the next quarter of a century. And we shouldn't stop there. He thinks we should begin planning a permanent colony on the Red Planet.

I caught up with him on a visit to the Paris Air Show, where he has been publicising his new book, "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration". A relatively sprightly 83-year-old, he has a reputation for tetchiness - and he certainly dealt rather brusquely with onlookers' requests for autographs. But when I asked him about Mars, he became engaging and animated, showing a boyish enthusiasm for the subject.

So why does he think we should be sending astronauts to the red planet?

"Why did the the pilgrims on the Mayflower set out to open up the New World?" he asks.


Colleagues at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Lab celebrate the Mars Curiosity Rover's successful landing in 2012 "Because it's in human nature to explore, to find a location to begin a settlement. And it is in reach."

The simple answer then, appears to be "because it's there". But there is also a more pragmatic reason. He believes that efforts to explore the surface of Mars to date have taken far too long, because the current generation of Mars rovers have to be controlled remotely from Earth - and it takes about 20 minutes for radio signals to be passed each way.

"One programme manager, who was in charge of doing that with two robots for five years has said we could have accomplished just as much in a single week, if we had had human intelligence controlling them from nearby - from an orbit around Mars itself", he says.

But a mission to Mars would have to overcome huge technological challenges, and would certainly be phenomenally expensive. So who would pay for it all?

"The nation that decides that it is worth doing," he says, "and I believe that is the United States. The United States will commit to doing that."

Yet, at the moment governments around the world are attempting to cut back their spending, and Washington is no exception. In the current climate, it seems almost inconceivable that a government could commit untold billions to fund interplanetary exploration.


The Mars Curiosity Rover has been taking images of the planet since August 2012
On the other hand, private firms are showing an interest - companies such as Mars One, a not-for-profit Dutch foundation, which says it plans to establish a colony on Mars by 2023. It wants to use technology developed by the American firm Space X, a business fronted by the maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Mr Aldrin points to these firms as evidence that there is enthusiasm for exploring Mars - yet he still believes that governments will have to lead the way.

"Private enterprise usually enters into activities seeking a return on investment," he says.

"That's why we didn't go to the moon in the '60s and '70s just relying on private investment. It was a national investment is science, in development and to assist in the commercialisation of space."

In other words, the commercial benefits may be there - but the rewards are too uncertain to attract enough private backing.
Buzz Aldrin believes we should colonise Mars over the next 25 years Mr Aldrin's vision involves astronauts being trained on the Moon for a life on Mars, and ultimately for new colonists to be brought to the new settlement on a routine basis. He thinks this could be done using "interplanetary cyclers", spacecraft that are permanently moving between Mars and Earth.

But such a plan needs willing volunteers, who must be prepared to travel across space with little prospect of ever returning home. A return journey may in fact become physically impossible after much time spent in the weaker gravity of Mars.

Yet he thinks there will be no shortage of volunteers, and the response to the Mars One initiative suggests he is right. Since announcing its plans in April, it has received tens of thousands of applications from would-be Martian explorers.

"I think that the people who go there will be remembered in history as pioneers," he says, "and the world leader who makes a commitment to establishing a permanent presence on another planet will also be remembered in history as a pioneer."

In fact, as befits one of the very few men ever to have set foot on another world, "pioneer" seems to be Buzz Aldrin's favourite word. It's a term that has rather fallen out of fashion on our well-mapped planet.

But he believes the time has come time to broaden our horizons - and rediscover once again the spirit of exploration.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#2 2013-07-03 09:42:45

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 5,620
Website

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

Hi Louis:

This one has been awfully quiet.  But,  I agree with you and Buzz. 

Someone needs to go,  and find out what it is really like.  Then we are armed with the knowledge required to found a viable colony.  Can't really do that on the first trip.

First trip colonies have a bad track record:  Roanoke,  then almost-Jamestown.  Must explore properly,  then colonize. 

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#3 2013-07-03 18:45:05

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

I am less pessimistic than you GW. I think we will get it right pretty much first time. The early American colonists were completely ignorant of climate and soil when they went tried to establish their colonies and went ill-prepared. 

With Mars we go with a huge amount of information. 

Of course there is a big unknown in terms of how well we can function in one third gravity but I am an optimist on that as well - I think with mass assistance (e.g. the equivalent of diver's belts) our bodies will have much the same experience as on Earth.  There are of course issues relating to the immune system and so on (although my guess is they relate more to not being exposed to pathogens on Earth - we might do well to experiment with exposing people to pathogens in a limited way).


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#4 2013-07-03 21:49:32

Mark Friedenbach
Member
From: Mountain View, CA
Registered: 2003-01-31
Posts: 325

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

Certainly we have more and better maps than explorers of previous generations. But that's a far, far knowing enough to guarantee everything to go right the first time. In fact there is a lot that we don't know, and much of that is not reflected in the data. You can go read in a textbook the composition of Mars. Almost all of that is extrapolated from limited evidence, and competing theories are not shown. In fact there is a lot that we could be wrong about.

Even if we've guessed the mineral ratios correctly, that doesn't mean that we have a firm grasp on the actual structure of Martian rocks. We can simulate (and that's where your textbook answers come from), but that's just compounding the guesswork assumptions that go into the simulation. Trace elements or impurities can significant effects on the mechanical properties of minerals. Maybe on the first mission we'll confirm that there is indeed water just a few meters down, but all of our drill bits break when we try to extract it due to the unexpected hardness (pesky perchlorates).

You will need return mass for any economic justification of a martian colony, so IMHO it makes sense to develop that technology now and do a couple of short (conjunction class) small-crew missions to provide ground truth, validate engineering models, and develop procedures. You could do a one-way Mars One type of mission from the get-go, but you better be only depending on Martian air and regolith dust for ISRU.

Last edited by Mark Friedenbach (2013-07-03 21:50:19)

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#5 2013-07-04 13:58:32

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

Mark Friedenbach wrote:

Certainly we have more and better maps than explorers of previous generations. But that's a far, far knowing enough to guarantee everything to go right the first time. In fact there is a lot that we don't know, and much of that is not reflected in the data. You can go read in a textbook the composition of Mars. Almost all of that is extrapolated from limited evidence, and competing theories are not shown. In fact there is a lot that we could be wrong about.

Even if we've guessed the mineral ratios correctly, that doesn't mean that we have a firm grasp on the actual structure of Martian rocks. We can simulate (and that's where your textbook answers come from), but that's just compounding the guesswork assumptions that go into the simulation. Trace elements or impurities can significant effects on the mechanical properties of minerals. Maybe on the first mission we'll confirm that there is indeed water just a few meters down, but all of our drill bits break when we try to extract it due to the unexpected hardness (pesky perchlorates).

You will need return mass for any economic justification of a martian colony, so IMHO it makes sense to develop that technology now and do a couple of short (conjunction class) small-crew missions to provide ground truth, validate engineering models, and develop procedures. You could do a one-way Mars One type of mission from the get-go, but you better be only depending on Martian air and regolith dust for ISRU.

A Mission One doesn't have to be self-sufficient, apart from in terms of energy. We have already successfully landed rovers that have operated for several years in a harsh environment without direct human intervention. With humans there it becomes much easier to repair things. In terms of rock composition, no Mission would go ahead without the equivalent of a Curiosity style survey of the landing and habitat area. No humans would be despatched to the surface unless sufficient supplies and an automated habitat had already been landed.

That said, that would be the failsafe part of the mission. I would hope there would be a lot of proving of ISRU including hydroponic agriculture, water mining, basalt forming and steel making. I think feet and flags missions are old fashioned and inappropriate for Mars.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#6 2013-07-06 08:18:49

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 5,620
Website

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

Why not do it this way?  (Which was the gist of my paper at the 2011 Mars Society convention in Dallas.)

Do a first-trip voyage and make landings at many sites in the one trip.  Drill deep (a km?) to sample subsurface like we do here at each landing site.  Leave behind some gear and a transponder at each site.  Each site's ground truth will differ from remote sensing (they always do),  and each site will differ considerably from "average Mars" (that's true here,  too).  You try out multiple ISRU devices at each site,  but you don't bet your lives on it. 

Second trip a few years later focuses on the best one or two sites to plant a permanent base of some kind.  You already know exactly what's there and have been able to plan exactly how to use it.  The transponder lets you do a precision landing at that site.  You get to use or recycle whatever gear was left there by the first expedition (and you know exactly what it was,  which really helps).  Betting lives on ISRU is a safe bet this trip,  because you did it before,  and you already know what works and what doesn't at this site. 

The base then experiments with setting up real infrastructure for self support.  Heavy construction will be involved,  which tells you what kind of expedition this is,  and what kind of landers you have to have.  Eventually,  that base or bases will become a colony.  (By about the third trip.) 

This kind of mission planning is completely independent of the mission architecture or equipment you actually use to make the trips and the landings.  It's very important to think this through long-term,  because it is so difficult to send men to Mars without killing them. 

You have to deal with two different radiation killers (GCR and X-class solar flares),  microgravity disease (plan on doing artificial gravity in transit),  having enough space to stay sane (2 weeks in a capsule is the demonstrated max in such quarters,  per Gemini 7,  and confirmed in the Apollo moon flights),  having food that stays edible for a 2.5-year trip (we're gonna need frozen food,  despite the weight and volume,  because "astronaut food" lasts 12-to-18-months max),  a supple space suit (what's the point of going if you cannot actually do anything outside?),  and you have to do all this packed-supplies (because we still cannot do a closed recycling ecology). 

That last point (packed supplies vs closed ecology) is fundamentally why you cannot set up a viable colony on the first trip,  unless you supply its every need from Earth at enormous and unsustainable cost!  A self-supporting base or colony will necessarily have a closed ecology.  We can't even do that here.  Plus,  it'll be different there,  and by far.  That's something the first base must experiment with.  It may take decades to get it right,  and the "time constant" for detecting success-vs-failure is measured in years. 

I'd assess it this way:  we have the technologies (maybe not all the hardware -- supple suit !!!!) in-hand to visit (and we have had them since about the 1990's),  but we do not have those technologies required to stay long-term.  Not yet.  Few folks seem to be effectively working on them. 

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#7 2013-07-07 05:02:00

Russel
Banned
Registered: 2012-03-30
Posts: 139

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

I'd be a lot happier if a manned landing on Mars were preceded with a lot of prior study of potential sites, which probably means landing a lot of robots. Hard part I guess is deep(ish) drills.

Two things I'd look for are a) ice and b) some special local landscape feature that makes it easier to build a base... like a small canyon, or a cave, or suitable rock into which to build one.

Barring really good knowledge about local resources, I can't see an initial landing being anything other than highly mobile.

Just my stray thoughts for the moment.

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#8 2013-07-07 05:06:25

Russel
Banned
Registered: 2012-03-30
Posts: 139

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

And I wouldn't be too fussed about a supple suit. I mean yes it would be nice. But given an agile teleoperated robot I'd rather sit in a shirt sleeve environment. That would cover a surprising number of tasks that don't simply require something to be pushed, shoved or kicked.

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#9 2013-07-07 15:35:16

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

Russel wrote:

I'd be a lot happier if a manned landing on Mars were preceded with a lot of prior study of potential sites, which probably means landing a lot of robots. Hard part I guess is deep(ish) drills.

Two things I'd look for are a) ice and b) some special local landscape feature that makes it easier to build a base... like a small canyon, or a cave, or suitable rock into which to build one.

Barring really good knowledge about local resources, I can't see an initial landing being anything other than highly mobile.

Just my stray thoughts for the moment.

The requirements for a Mission One Landing site are not necessarily that complex: a flat area in the equatorial/sub equatorial zone with some loose regolith and (ideally) a water source (e.g. glacier).  Yes, no Mission One would get the final go ahead without a robot survey but I think we can be fairly sure about where is a good place to land.  The robot landings to date should we have a good idea of the sort of zone we are landing in.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#10 2024-03-27 18:13:37

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 29,314

Re: Buzz calls for Mars Colony...

How long will it take for humans to colonize another planet?

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to have a city of a million people on Mars by 2050. That may sound astronomically ambitious considering humans have never set foot on the Martian surface. But is it feasible?

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