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#1 2003-12-20 15:31:00

Mad Grad Student
Member
From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
Website

Re: Another Reason to Send People - They $ave Big Cash

One of the biggest arguments against sending people to Mars is that it's way to expensive. However, one time I decided to stop and think about which would actually have better exploration efficency and therefore be a better buy. The result? You can actually save a lot of money by sending people to Mars than just sending a robot and crossing your fingers that it doesn't end up lke the two thirds that just crashed or failed.

Okay, so, let's compare a mission like Mars Direct to the MER missions. The MERs will cover about 100 square meters a day for 90 day, IF all goes as planned. So for $200 million you get measurments and an analysis of rocks covering a total area of 9,000 square meters. If you sent a human mission with 6 astronauts, two of them could be working at all times on a three-shift basis. I estimate that two astronauts could cover 100 meters in about one hour or so, so in less than four days you accomplish the equivalent work of an entire rover mission. Additionally, the team will stay for more than a year, so you get a hundred times more work done just studying rocks.

But that's not all! A human mission could could also carry a vehicle such as a truck-style rover or even a helicopter to scan an much wider area in much less time. They could also carry more heavy equipment and study everything more thuroughly, along with the ability to carry samples home. Overally, I think ti's fair to say that a Mars Direct mission could get 1-2,000 times more work done than an unmanned rover, along with being more reliable. Once you factor in a price tag of $20 billion (Fair price?) the total comes to equal -to- twice the efficency of a MER.

And that doesn't even factor into account other things like money returned to the economy through more jobs and spinoffs or a hightened intrest in science leading to more people going into those fields. Of course, there's also the bonus  that we (The US) get to be the first to go. If we want the most cost-effective mission, I think it'd be a good bet to try to go manned. What do you think?


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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#2 2003-12-21 02:16:04

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,667

Re: Another Reason to Send People - They $ave Big Cash

plus the fact that a human geologist/scientist works *much* faster than a robot: looking around, intuitively knowing where to go, what to pick up... Robots have to be commanded, and with the time-lag even simple things like going from A to B becomes hopelesly complicated, so i think humans are even more efficient...

Hmmm... NASA should do a 'contes' on earth, they have an engineering model of the rovers if i am not mistaken... Just let i do a mission in some desert, then a scientist in a suit, and compare what they accomplish in a given time...


One more thing: HELICOPTERS? you thin that'd be possible in such a low pressure?

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#3 2003-12-21 06:00:11

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

Re: Another Reason to Send People - They $ave Big Cash

I know we've discussed airplanes on Mars but I couldn't remember whether or not we've discussed helicopters.
    As it happens, other people have certainly been discussing non-fixed-wing aircraft for use on Mars!

    Apparently the thin air and lower gravity make insect-like wing-flapping craft very appropriate. The way an insect moves its wings creates vortices at the wing edges which greatly enhance lift and horizontal manoeuvring.
    But it seems the good ol' helicopter can be made to fly on Mars also, albeit in a somewhat modified form and on a small scale.

    For an interesting overview of work on these two aspects of potential martian aircraft, check out This Site.
                                                smile


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 2003-12-21 11:36:34

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,667

Re: Another Reason to Send People - They $ave Big Cash

Shaun, that's a great little page! Didn't think for a sec it would be possible...

I'd say forget the plane, go for the heli, waaay cooler thing to develop !

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#5 2003-12-21 18:47:21

Mad Grad Student
Member
From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
Website

Re: Another Reason to Send People - They $ave Big Cash

plus the fact that a human geologist/scientist works *much* faster than a robot: looking around, intuitively knowing where to go, what to pick up.

Yeah, that's kinda what my point was. If you look at the comparisons, it's almost sad how little work was done in missions like the Vikings and Pathfinder. Essentially, the Vikings landed, scanned some soil and sat for six years saying that there's no life on Mars before finally kicking off. Compare that to how you'd do it on Earth. One geologist would charter a small plane to head out to the Atacama desert, take some soil samples, read the results and head back home. Elapsed time is around an hour, and the cost is aobut $2,000 for equipment (Realistic?) plus $250 for the plane and $3 for lunch. Not bad compared to Viking's inconclusive results for an astronomically high price.

Pathfinder did so little that even NASA says it's biggest accomplishment is getting to the surface intact. I suppose that it really wasn't designed to return much scientific gain, but still, besides the airbags and Sojourner, all Pathfinder proved was that JPL employees could give rocks wacky names like Scooby Doo, Yogi, and Couch. If you could make a robot that could do the amount of work in its lifetime that geologist on Earth can do in a day it would be an astounding accomplishment. Nothing will come close to it within the next fifty years (Robot tech just isn't THAT good) and I'm not that patient!  :angry:

As for helicopters, yes that would certantly be possible! All you need as an increadibly lightweight frame made out of something like mylar and kevlar and some gigantic rotors. The bonus of having thin air is that you can spin the rotors faster without exceeding the sound (And efficency drop) barrier. This means that electric motors can spin at their ideal speed without need for energy-zapping gear systems. Another bonus is that even though the copter's airframe would only seem to be moving at 20 mph (What's called indicated air speed) it's ground speed would be 200 mph. That allows you to cover lots of ground very quickly, and since it's a helicopter you can stop wherever you like. smile


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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