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Rovers on Mars

 
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Oct, 2015 02:28 pm
@Setanta,
I just wish we could get some people up to Mars, without killing them or bankrupting ourselves trying. Robots are great for many things and I think that in the future they may even be superior gatherers of data, but for the moment, human beings are way way more efficient at explorations like this (once they are on the ground).
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Oct, 2015 02:37 pm
You'd have an even greater risk of contamination then. Maybe a solution would be to put a crewed vehicle in Martian orbit (polar orbit would be best) with some comm satellites in equatorial orbit, and use the crew to tele-operate rovers. An international effort might underwrite the costs. The one thing that i'd worry about is the cavalier attitude toward shielding for radiation which space agencies have shown in their public statements. One good solar flare and those boys would be toast.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Oct, 2015 06:17 am
@Setanta,
That's always been my concern...as I've understood the risk of manned Martian exploring. Then the subsequent inherent cost to shield them from radiation should NASA make an earnest attempt at engineering to do so, inflates the costs beyond the point that is credible or even justifiable.

Here's what they learned about the risk of radiation on Mars:
http://www.space.com/24731-mars-radiation-curiosity-rover.html
engineer
 
  3  
Reply Fri 2 Oct, 2015 07:04 am
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:

Quote:
The entire early space program--Mercury, Gemini and Apollo--which took us to the moon, cost less than the average cost of a year of war in Vietnam.

And we spend about a trillion a year on defense with one space shuttle launch costing $1.3 billion. But the trillion is a lot easier to get approved. And I dont see this changing anytime soon.

And that is the real point. I am all for a good, robust space program. I am in favor of government funding for basic science. I am also for taxes at the rate they were when President Clinton was in office so that we can actually do that stuff. My issue is that some people who are clamoring for a space program will turn around in the next sentence and say we need to cut taxes or increase military spending. IMO at the end of the day, the reason we are not going to Mars more often is our priorities are wrong and we're not willing to pay for it. If you are not trying to fix the root cause of the problem it's not worth all the shirt rending. We will do what we can with robots, satellites and telescopes.

And maybe go see The Martian this weekend. The book was excellent and the movie has gotten good reviews.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Fri 2 Oct, 2015 07:13 am
@Ragman,
Nice link, thanks. I've always thought that the radiation exposure on the trip over would be a critical design criterion.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Oct, 2015 08:26 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
You'd have an even greater risk of contamination then
That's a good point.

Unfortunately, if I play that out in my mind to its logical conclusion it tells me that humanity may never allow itself to set foot on another biologically active (or potentially viable) world for fear of contaminating it. And I don't like that conclusion.

I don't think we (humanity) should force ourselves to be just observers in our own Universe.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Oct, 2015 06:05 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
...I don't think we (humanity) should force ourselves to be just observers in our own Universe.

Amen. What annoys me is when the government allocates money for manned space travel with such timid time tables that numerous other congresses will have the option of de-funding it. We could go on forever putting a really slow project to land on Mars in the budget and then removing it a few years later.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2015 02:54 am
@Ragman,
I was appalled at the reports from a convention a few years ago about going to Mars, during which the radiation issue was dismissed, in many cases by people saying that ordinary "space ship" construction would be sufficient. I think everyone was so giddy at the idea of going to Mars that they just didn't want to hear any negative comments. A crew exposed to the effects of a large solar flare could be dead of radiation poisoning in anywhere from a few weeks to a few days, unless they had very serious shielding.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2015 02:57 am
@rosborne979,
I'm of two minds. One is that we really shouldn't interfere because we don't know where life may lead down the road; the other idea that strikes me is that some life may already be in a dead end, and not worthy of protection. This is an important consider with regard to Mars. Mars as we find it now is not likely to ever support large life forms of the kind that might achieve sentience. On that basis, i think attempting to "terraform" Mars would be justified.
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2015 05:49 am
@Setanta,
I think they had pretty good ideas about radiation hazards in space. I recall one of the Feynman lectures that was about this subject. He was of a mind that two things would act as very good radiation shields,

1.MASS A suitable mass of objects acting as a density shield in front of the ship (like a water jacket or large segments of area that are used as gardens or just plain layered segments of various materials.--This only works against charged particles, non charged particles like neutrons will just blow through these shields

2MAGNETICS generating a suitable magnetic field over a ship should be a POC for a civilization ready to take a step out in space at 0.25 (c) or faster.

One of the things that eve failed to address and comes up even before we are smart enough to address rad shields. IMPACT SHEILDS. I recall the Enterprise on "SN NEXT GEN>" had a "scoop" out in front of the ship to either impact or deflect space crap that could plow a hole into the ship.

When youre driving along at near the speed of light you gotta be very careful, your insurance could be cancelled.



0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2015 05:51 am
@Setanta,
I think that weve seeded the near earth environment with so much protist life that weve probably unknowingly kick started a whole new batch of ring evolution.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2015 08:06 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
I'm of two minds. One is that we really shouldn't interfere because we don't know where life may lead down the road; the other idea that strikes me is that some life may already be in a dead end, and not worthy of protection. This is an important consider with regard to Mars. Mars as we find it now is not likely to ever support large life forms of the kind that might achieve sentience. On that basis, i think attempting to "terraform" Mars would be justified.

I'm on the fence on this one as well. And I would add a couple more considerations to your list... The accidental infusion of earth microbes on Mars might be what the Martian microbes need to jumpstart their evolution. As we know from the history on Earth, every time there is a mass extinction it results in a mass evo-genesis (diversification of life resulting in large number of new organisms in a relatively short(er) time). Then there's also the possibility that an influx of earth microbes might do nothing. It's entirely possible that the native microbes (if they exist) are so much better adapted to their own environment that the earth microbes don't stand a chance. Sort of a "reverse war of the worlds" ending, where their microbes kill the invaders.

But the larger question in all this for me is, how humanity intends to interact with the Universe. Do we see ourselves as mere observers with the rest of the cosmos as a sterile test chamber for us to do science only by observation? Or do we allow ourselves to interact with the other planets and moons as an equal agent and player in their ongoing evolution.

In the short term we can make mistakes because we define for ourselves certain paths which we don't like and if we stumble down one then we've made a mistake. But in the long term (geological and evolutionary time), there are no mistakes because there is no particular goal we're trying to achieve, we're just part of the natural process no matter what we touch.

We are going to have to make this choice eventually. Europa, Enceladus, and even some of the gas giant planets are going to present us with environments which might already be populated with microbes or even larger organisms. We're going to have to decide if we're willing to allow ourselves to touch these worlds to explore them, or if we're going to relegate ourselves to the status of "pure observer".

I'm still in the fence, but I'm inclined to think that we should recognize our place in the natural world as just another organism (in the vastness of space that's all we really are) and explore these worlds bold and brash but with caution wherever we can apply it, and let the chips fall where they may.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2015 09:26 pm
@rosborne979,
I have no idea how any contamination could be avoided with our present knowledge. Weve steam cleaned and 'claved many satellites and Ill bet they still went into space loaded with yeasts and other microbes that were picked up just sitting there in the humid Florida climate waiting to blast off.

Its better, should we really want to develop a "prime directive", that we learn how to conduct sterilization of the crafts environmental surfaces by some energy intensive means , and this be done en route. Wed have detailed procedures (just like how we managed to develop good lab practices to limit lab innduced errors in medicine and science. Stuff like "all mission duds" will be kept in hermetic storage unused until they land, and at some point, close to the mission terminus, wed go through a sterilization protocol (obviously wed need to move the crew into an area that would be a "safe room" ). I think all that is a difficult thing to accomplish but it will be doable and not a mission killer.

Im more concerned about wailing into some piece of space debris and ending the mission in a catastrophic collision with a small rock. That requires a whole new batch of technology that we dont have yet.(Gene Rodenberry thought of it first)

First things first. Do we have the capability to develop the requisite power source in a thousand years or so?

I think a whole new arena of science will open up to us when we are able to better understand and exploit fusion reactions and magnetic flux of bodies like jupiter and our sun. (Followed by Alpha and Proxima).

Whatever we do for deep space travel, we will require ships of extreme masses and these would obviously be planetessimal versions of the ISS with resources borrowed from the asteroids, moons and planets. Maybe itll be 10000 years but, really, We s need to think more geologically, not in terms of next quarter or what can we accomplish in one generation even.
Small steps, with time and pressure , and maybe another earth based catastrophe like a few supervolcanoes or a Vredefort bolide
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2015 09:35 pm
Quirks and Quarks had some fun/interesting features on Mars this week.

Good podcasts.

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/this-week-how-to-make-the-martian-come-true-1.3250307

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/quirks-quarks-for-oct-3-2015-1.3254409/nasa-s-mission-to-mars-1.3254527

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/quirks-quarks-for-oct-3-2015-1.3254409/how-we-ll-live-on-mars-1.3254584

repeat of 2001 feature re Mars
http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/quirks-quarks-for-oct-3-2015-1.3254409/podcast-bonus-making-mars-green-1.3254614


and from Bob's blog

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/spelunkers-cliff-climbers-needed-for-mars-mission-bob-mcdonald-1.3252809
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2015 01:38 am
@rosborne979,
All good points--to which i would add that Titan is pregnant with many more possibilities than Mars.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2015 03:50 am
As this is the unofficial Mars thread at this site, i thought i'd post this here: How we'll live on Mars, from the CBC's Quirks and Quarks, their weekly science news program. I found it interesting. When you click on that link, look just under the illustration where you'll find a link to listen to the episode, which runs 16 and a half minutes.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2015 03:52 am
Damn . . . i just realized that The Girl beat me to it . . . well, my post looks nicer.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2015 12:34 pm
Curiosity is becoming the rock star of rovers!

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01426/mars_1426805a.jpg

Ancient rivers and lakes on Mars.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  0  
Reply Sat 10 Oct, 2015 03:28 am
Quote:
"If we decide it's safe to go up and touch one, basically the whole rover is full of equipment that is designed to figure out composition and mineralogy of materials on Mars," Ashwin Vasavada, who is the project scientist for Curiosity, told Business Insider. "We could do a nice job of understanding the chemistry of what's going on."

There are still many questions about these RSLs that need answers, such as where this water is coming from. Is it groundwater or melting frost? Curiosity could help answer some of these questions, but there is a big problem.

As Vasavada says, NASA must first decide if it's safe for the rover to approach these features for scientific analyses. However, it's not the rover's safety NASA is worried about — it's the planet Mars. And right now NASA's planetary protection officer, Cassie Conley, is trying to figure out if Mars and its flowing water is safe from contamination.

Conley's role as NASA's planetary protection officer is to safeguard Mars — and any other alien surface NASA chooses to visit — from contamination by Earth-based microorganisms. There is so much life on Earth that it is impossible to sterilize any lander completely, and it's Conley's job to figure out just how much contamination is acceptable.
The problem is that Curiosity has been on the Martian surface for over 3 years, so no one knows if the small amount of bacteria that contaminated it on launch day are still alive. And because no one knows, that means Vasavada and the rest of the rover team can't go near these RSLs for risk of contaminating future searches for the potential for life— at least until the problem is solved.

And it's going to be a difficult one to tackle because NASA can't simply swab Curiosity's instruments because, well, it's on Mars, and unfortunately no swab stick is that long. So, scientists will have to take the same types and amounts of bacteria that were on Curiosity when it launched and expose them to conditions akin to what's on Mars.

"Curiosity has been on Mars now for more than 3 years and a lot of the rover has been exposed to ultraviolet light and the dryness of Mars," Vasavada told Business Insider. "It would be a pretty challenging study to work through how Curiosity may have been cleaned just by being in the harsh environment of Mars.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/discovery-liquid-water-mars-could-202305901.html

This is satire, right?
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Oct, 2015 03:30 am
@hawkeye10,
What part of it don't you understand?
0 Replies
 
 

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