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NASA seeks public input for future Mars exploration missions

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April 15, 2012

NASA's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) is seeking public submissions to help shape futu...

NASA's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) is seeking public submissions to help shape future Mars exploration missions (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In an effort to find cheaper alternatives for the exploration of Mars following recent budget cuts, earlier this year NASA established the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG). To seek out the best and brightest ideas for a reformulated Mars exploration program, the group is calling on the public to submit ideas and concepts that will help inform new strategies for exploration of the Red Planet.

The call for innovative ideas and concepts is aimed at members of the scientific and technical communities who can submit abstracts online. These will be whittled down to a number of select concepts that will be presented during a workshop hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston in June.

NASA says the workshop will provide an open forum for the presentation, discussion and consideration of concepts, options, capabilities and innovations to advance Mars exploration. These ideas will inform a strategy for exploration within available resources, beginning as early as 2018 and stretching into the next decade and beyond.

"Receiving input from our community is vital to energize the planning process," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. "We'll integrate inputs to ensure the next steps for the Mars Exploration Program will support science, as well as longer-term human exploration and technology goals."

"We're moving quickly to develop options for future Mars exploration missions and pathways," adds John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist, five-time space shuttle astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "As part of this process, community involvement, including international, is essential for charting the new agency-wide strategy for our future Mars exploration efforts."

Those wishing to make submissions have been asked to focus on three key challenge areas; Instrumentation and Investigation Approaches, Safe and Accurate Landing Capabilities; Mars Ascent, and Innovative Exploration Approaches; and Mars Surface System Capabilities.

Full details and submission instructions can be found on the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s website.

Source: NASA

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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36 Comments

Go one way. A "permanent" science station on Mars would do a world of good. Having people go there and come all the way back is ridiculous. Sure, they will never see a blue sky ever again, they can get used to pink. We can prefab inflatable buildings of very large size in which colonists could live.

People can be moved to the moon as well, to live out their lives in the service of science.

Facebook User
15th April, 2012 @ 11:38 pm PDT

It's good to see a forum on this subject. Goodness knows it's all but been shut down by the government.

On a side note, it would be very interesting to see what the air density and composition is at the lowest point on mars.

Pat Burneson
15th April, 2012 @ 11:54 pm PDT

@Pat:

Not much higher than at most other points on Mars.

@ Ross C.

I wouldn't do one way. It would be depressing seeing people landing on T.V. that will probably never return. I also don't like holding people hostage (even if the people are willing) to keep them alive on the surface. It could be disastrous for public support for further manned space exploration, as if we're going to stop at Mars.

Alex Lekander
16th April, 2012 @ 05:54 am PDT

Not sure anyone would be keen on a 'one-way' ticket !

However, one option would be a one-way ride on the outgoing craft, but ship a refuel and any other return journey necessities on another unmanned flight. In fact, several unmanned flights could go in advance to take supplies to enable a small base on Mars where astronauts could stay whilst preparing things for their return journey.

On a similar thought - would living in a pre-dug 'hole' be easier than taking up a building, as then you'd only need an airtight lining and a roof. Ship up some automated hole digging device than could prepare am accommodation 'hole' prior to the sapcemen landing and kitting out the accommodation within the hole.

And living below ground level will help balance the dramatic temperature variations on Mars - 110 degrees C variation in a single day. Also protects from dust devils and dust storms.

JPAR
16th April, 2012 @ 06:01 am PDT

People who don't want to colonize Mars will never understand those that do. It should not be one way only but most the people who go won't want to come back.

Slowburn
16th April, 2012 @ 08:59 am PDT

I should have mentioned that I have a great-grandmother that to her dieing day refused to forgive he son in law for taking her daughter to the "Howling wilderness" of south-eastern Colorado. I am reliably told that the happy couple took a Model T Ford for the first trip and visited every few years. The old bat refused to come to Colorado by car, train, or jet airplane.

Slowburn
16th April, 2012 @ 09:33 am PDT

One way is the only way to go. But why drop again in a gravety well, why not stay "above"and go a little bit further to the astroids and start exploring en exploiting them. Find ice, make water and oxygen, find methane and make propellant, find rare earth metals and make a profit.

Rob Bronckers
16th April, 2012 @ 09:45 am PDT

Power and lighting isn't an issue at all, nor is heating or cooling. A simple new design nuclear power plant would handle so many issues there. (unending power, a way to heat and cool, etc) I would also suggest in general updated gear...NASA and the shuttle program using tech that was build when I was a child should not be the norm. computers should be high end, light weight, and replaceable.I like the idea of the inflatable structure, more so because even if damaged, it is flexible and wont shatter if impacted which makes a larger problem. So many ideas....so little time.

yinfu99
16th April, 2012 @ 10:38 am PDT

i like the comment about using asteroids. however Mars has moons that could be used. the gravity well is smaller and could be used for refuel storage and potentially a fuel source if chemicals are found. it also has the potential for use as a base for solar system exploration. i do notlike the thought of a one way trip to mars when the fuel problem is solvable.

charley
16th April, 2012 @ 10:44 am PDT

Where is the money? Maybe NASA can hire people to stand on every street corner with a sign which reads: Can you spare a dine for NASA?

donwine
16th April, 2012 @ 10:48 am PDT

Some years ago Robert Zubrin wrote a book that I believe was called "A Case for Mars"? Sorry about my poor memory but what I do remember about it was its practical plan for taking people to Mars. It didn't require any great leaps in technology and used known resources on Mars to sustain the year-long visit. JPAR, it was similar to what you proposed in many details.

Regarding "one-way" Mars colonization, I don't believe that it should be tried on the first visit but set up so part of the crew could remain after enough infrastructure was completed in subsequent visits. They wouldn't have to be "permanent" but more like long-term versions of ISS crews. Some would choose to stay though and should have that option. Human Beings have "gone away and never come back" throughout the history of our time on Earth. With modern communications it would be entirely different with regular electronic 'visits' possible. It would still be a lot better than early explorers/colonists on Earth as they had no communication with home most of the time. I quite disagree with the use of the term: "hostage" as it would in no way apply to volunteers to colonize. As far as how many would consider it, I read about a study a few years ago that surprised NASA as hundreds of thousands replied to the questionare that they would be willing to go even knowing they wouldn't come back. Sorry, I don't remember the name of the study. Remember it isn't a "suicide mission" but a permanent change of address. I would volunteer but am too old to be considered. They wouldn't get much use out of me for all the expense of transport and support.

History Nut
16th April, 2012 @ 10:53 am PDT

Perhaps the logical approach to the entire space program is to develop and debug an advanced sub-surface, self-contained infrastructure and transportation system as suggested by the Aqua=Terra T.W.I.N.S. (Trans-Web Infrastructure Network System) projects for our planet. These T.W.I.N.S. projects, land (Terra) and sea (Aqua), would serve as the testing ground to develop and implement appropriate self-contained shelters and transport systems when we desire to inhabit other planets that will likely not have the precise atmosphere as on Earth and as required for Human survival.

The solution is a sub-surface advanced system. In that regard, consider the Aqua=Terra T.W.I.N.S. projects that would serve as a InfrTrans test site here on Earth first and in anticipation of future planetary exploration and shelter needs. This Aqua=Terra system will establish a network of self-contained Bypass Stations as suggested and designed by Aqua=Terra Planetary Holdings, LLC (www.aquaterraplanetaryholdingsllc.com). Revenues will be generate from development of the Aqua and Terra Stations real estate and in addition to revenues generated from the hyper-speed (350-4,000+ mph) transportation services.

Thus and as a business, Aqua=Terra Planetary Holdings, LLC will, under contract, be able to share and disburse revenues to NASA to expand the space program without further need of government's limited funding.

NASA's partnering with Aqua=Terra Planetary Holdings, LLC is a solution to advancing and freeing the space program to develop itself without further financial limitations.

Aqua=Terra Planetary Holdings, LLC
16th April, 2012 @ 11:06 am PDT

The only realistic way to make this work is to find much, much less expensive ways to get people to and from the planet surface and orbit. It's more true for Earth, but still also true for Mars.

Dave Andrews
16th April, 2012 @ 11:32 am PDT

I think US government should invite private industry and informed individuals to create an exploratory group to discuss the Mars agenda and create a list of areas where private business could directly interface with mission plans in such a way as to create advantages for both. Business would literally open up a new frontier of potential opportunities for itself not to mention the great press, nationalism, and chance to be on the cutting edge of the tech world. Government would have all the advantages of lower costs, top shelf scientists, and new generation of thinkers. The more government utilizes the private sector to provide solutions for it, the more supportive the private sector will be for the government. I think this last point is at least as important as the mission to Mars. Americans need to feel good about government again. Programs like the one I am suggesting are a step in the right direction.

Hopeful Hooves
16th April, 2012 @ 12:03 pm PDT

Devise a way to shield a colony from harmful radiation and then we'll talk.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
16th April, 2012 @ 12:42 pm PDT

Build station underground in the planet, with measured exposure of green life to utilise the CO2. Use sun for electricity. The only problem is water. There may be some CO2 and water crystals. But some deeper recycling process would be required.

Dawar Saify
16th April, 2012 @ 02:21 pm PDT

Shipping containers. Bit of silicone and some gaffer tape. She'll be right.

Ahura
16th April, 2012 @ 04:32 pm PDT

re; Fretting Freddy

A few feet of dirt.

Slowburn
16th April, 2012 @ 04:53 pm PDT

@ History Nut

The book you are referring to is titled: “A Case for Mars, The Plan To Settle The Red Planet And Why We Must”. Published by “TouchStone – A Simon and Schuster” book in 1996. There are two ISBN numbers listed for it. The first number is: ISBN-13: 978-0-684-83550-1. The second number is: ISBN-10: 0-684-83550-9.

Inside it details the way, using existing technology, to not only get people to Mars and a way to get them back to Earth. It goes into detail on how to make fuel on planet, and also some of the things needed to do to colonize Mars.

Makes for great reading. And yes, If I was offered a chance to go to Mars and live I’d be at the launch site so fast I’d leave a vacuum behind me.

BTW – NASA was consulted by the author. Some of the higher-ups at that time were really enthusiastic about it. Then it went into a planning committee. From there it went down the tubes. NASA, it seems, doesn’t like outside competition.

JMOdom
16th April, 2012 @ 05:55 pm PDT

Kamikaze Exploration.

christopher
16th April, 2012 @ 07:09 pm PDT

There are so many problems, Mars is too cold, too far from the sun, the air is too thin and there is too little oxygen to breath and there is no water and the gravity is too weak. To solve all of these problems would help a great deal and there is one way to do it, but it is big.

/ If we send out some nuclear thrusters to some large water ice asteroid and veer it off course so that it collides into mars' dark side, the push would nudge Mars a little closer to us. The Water ice would melt and provide water and a source of oxygen for the atmosphere and help thicken the atmosphere and help retain heat from the sun.

. The larger tha asteroid the better. Ceres would be ideal, but it is prohibitively large. Perhaps we could select smaller ones and work our way up to Vesta or Pallas after we have a proof of concept working. It would wipe out the dinasours if there were any, but after the dust settles it might be possible to terraform Mars. But not before, we don't have the resources or money to try any other means of terraforming mars. Wade.

Ronald Wade Cooper
16th April, 2012 @ 07:17 pm PDT

The way to go to Mars is to build a space elevator first:

http://lifeboat.com/blog/2010/08/more-on-a-space-elevator-in-7

http://www.gizmag.com/obayashi-space-elevator/21587/

Keith Curtis
16th April, 2012 @ 07:47 pm PDT

The only real shot at massively opening the Space Frontier with current proven technology has the StarTrain. http://www.gizmag.com/startram-maglev-to-leo/21700/

The technology is here, available off the shelf: maglevs and the urgent power grid aplication of superconductors. If, with much hope, global vacuum tube high speed transportation is one day build it will not take a genius (or a politician) to make one "terminal station" out there in the orbit.

nehopsa
16th April, 2012 @ 11:00 pm PDT

I once ran across a very interesting quote. I can’t remember the exact wording, so I’ll paraphrase it.

“Pioneering is finding new and more interesting ways to die.”

If we still all had the attitudes of some of the people shown above, we would still be living in caves and scavenging food from the top of the line predators (which wouldn’t be us).

Yes there would be, and will be, problems in getting to Mars and living there. I recommend that some of the nay-sayers try to find and read the book “A Case for Mars” by Robert Zubrin. That will settle some questions on how we could get to, and colonize, Mars.

JMOdom
16th April, 2012 @ 11:24 pm PDT

The ideas for exploration agreed on shall be approved by a world council. #1 nobody owns it or its minerals. #2 = no man made boundaries or separations of any kind will be allowed. #3 Everyone (worldwide) shares equally according to their needs with any profits from minerals or gasses. #4 The World Council shall rule on what language is spoken on Mars and everyone shall be required to learn that language. #5 Children born on the planet will become everyones responsibility upon birth. #6 No religion shall be imposed on any person in any form. Any religion that is found to cause any harmful differences in any two persons shall be barred from the planet. #7 There shall be no cost for health care for any person establishing residence on Mars. #8 There shall be no law made that entitles any person from profiting from their ideas (or patents). It is understood that everyone contributed to your intelligence and everyone shall share as their needs call for, in a fair manner. #9 Persons breaking these and other similar rules will be sent back to Earth as punishment. Sentencing will be according to seriousness of crime up to, but not limited to life. #10 Persons found to be lacking in a suitable sense of humor will be also be sent back to earth. #11 Fees for loaning money or supplies shall never constitute more than 10%. Every new year shall mark the end of every financial debt for each and every person. #12 Citizens will bear no weapons. Persons violating this rule will be subject to item #9.

electric38
17th April, 2012 @ 12:30 am PDT

Stop looking for life on Mars, send life to Mars.

We have all the supply of creatures right here on earth.

We have proving grounds to find the most resilient of these creatures right here on earth.

Gather the toughest of them, put them in a "Noah's ark" of sort, but tiny - say, the size of a football, together with enough to survive on for 100 years. Remember, were talking about the kind of species that can survive on next to nothing for decades at a time.

Select a location on Mars we believe would be best suited to the nurture these specific creatures and begin a "nano colony". This would be much cheaper to make a reality than having humans doing the initial occupying.

Kevin Cloete
17th April, 2012 @ 04:06 am PDT

re; nehopsa

Even assuming that you could get the StarTrain to work it cost way too much up front, and you would have to evacuate a Continent to keep from killing people with the magnetic fields used to support the rails.

What is needed is a blinded wing spaceplane about the size of an A380 with a nuclear rocket that uses distilled water as reaction mass and jet engines that lift it to in excess of 50,000feet (15240m) these jet engines can be hydrocarbon fueled but I would prefer to divert steam from the rocket's reactor to spin the ducted fans and heat the airflow with heat exchangers before pumping the water back into the reactor. This would allow an average of 2 shuttle sized payloads to orbit a day.

Slowburn
17th April, 2012 @ 02:28 pm PDT

I would volunteer for a one way trip to mars, or if possible even farther. I love space, and I know doing this is the first step to furthering mankind in space to other stars or more.

Joseph Duckworth III
17th April, 2012 @ 02:33 pm PDT

@ electric38

The whole thing sounds to me like a real Socialist program. Anyone that thinks up an idea should be able to profit from it.

#4 The World Council – Your got to be kidding. In going to Mars we are trying to get away from government interference.

#8 There shall be no law made that entitles any person from profiting from their ideas (or patents) - Anyone that thinks up an idea should be able to profit from it.

#10 Persons found to be lacking in a suitable sense of humor will be also be sent back to earth. – Oh boy are you a real kill joy.

Those items mentioned are just the ones that hit me off hand.

Robert Zubrin wrote a second book titled: “How to live on Mars”. (ISBN 978-0-307-40718-4). A supposed look at how to love on Mars about 100 years into the future. Starting on page 189 he lists a 27 item set of things like would be in our “Bill of Rights”. You might try reading pages 189 throuogh192. It is interesting.

We don’t need to repeat the mistakes made here on Earth by the interference of the governments.

JMOdom
17th April, 2012 @ 06:45 pm PDT

re; electric38

That is the kind of government I am trying to escape.

Slowburn
17th April, 2012 @ 08:35 pm PDT

The problem here is you only have less than a handful of agencies doing this. The real solution to fully exploring mars is by making it attractive to capitalism. They way you do that is you assist asteroid mining to come into being and the way you do that is you assist the current space tourism industry but it is not an either or situation. You can assist the current space tourism industry and also encourage asteroid mining by sending sample return missions to asteroids at the same time.

Asteroid mining can kill 3 birds with one stone. Developing technology to find and reroute threatening asteroids and how to tow them to a location like the moon of phobos and proceed to mine them from there plus developing rail gun technologies to shoot some of the tailings at mars for increased gravity there is what will lead to Mars getting explored, the moon getting colonized and mined, colonizing the moon.

Aaron Baker
18th April, 2012 @ 05:40 pm PDT

@Slowburn

I noticed that you are particularly set against maglevs and made yourself an “expert” on the subject. I doubt you ever read the primary materials. Daryl Oster (the patent holder for ET3) was quite upset about the “wisdom” you spewed out in the discussion and made a post on that.

“[…] have to evacuate a Continent to keep from killing people with the magnetic fields used to support the rails.”

OK …so NMR scan (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) is the ultimate medical technology for killing people speedily?! Maybe we could save on healthcare expenses? (The field inside the machine is much more intense than what people on the “Continent” of yours would have been exposed to. (What about applying for a patent: “magnetic weapon?”)

“Even assuming that you could get the StarTrain to work […]”

Somebody here above is cleverer than a panel of experts bound on killing the project at Sandia National Laboratories who carried out a '"murder-squad" investigation? That is what I call confidence.

“[…] it cost way too much up front”

What about billions spent over the sixty years on fusion (with “breaking even” remaining a keen hope for the moment)? It is the goal (limitless energy) that makes the spending worth. The “only problem” is the technology.

With StarTram the technology EXISTS and is being used. NO new technology needs to be developed:

1. the amperage in the superconductors is what will become part of electric super-grid (and already exists).

2. Maglevs do already operate

3. Vacuum…I believe even you can produce one with a pump.

That is all it takes.

If you had read the primary materials for StarTram that was linked, you would learn that a smaller version with much higher acceleration could be built in half the time (in ten years) on a suitable mountain slope (take Mauna Kea’s western slope, or Kilimanjaro (envisioned by Millennium project as their primary launch site). The cost for this ten year project would be commensurate to the current one year NASA budget.

If you catapulted enough material at high g you can place at marginal cost solar panels in Space: the world supply of energy covered. (They are one order of magnitude more effective up there.) (Does THAT cost too much??)

The plans for orbital power stations have been around since the seventies and had even hearing in Congress; several government studies were done at various times. What keeps them grounded is HIGH COST TO ORBIT per unit of weight. Shuttle totally failed in this province. (I am afraid your futuristic vehicle has too many as of yet unproven technologies in it to be really cheap.) Power generation is only one fragment of what low cost to Space could mean. It is dirt cheap with StarTram.

Even if the StarTram full version cost TEN TIMES AS MUCH (e.g. 600B) it would be still a bargain in comparison to what costs will be necessarily incurred on the world if it is NOT built (environmental degradation, resource depletion, hopelessness and desperation, resource wars, you name it.)

(It is still a fraction of Iraq or Afghan wars to “spread democracy” costs.)

THE REAL PROBLEM with StarTram (or a similar project that would bring the cost of Space access radically down) is ARMS RACE.

(Dr. James Powell says something like: “mother of all arms races.”)

The only way how to avoid arms race it is to build it as an international project.

(That was what Neil Bohr proposed for Project Orion as well. The Nuclear Rocket failed only because Kennedy did not want to start arms race. If it were developed internationally you could possibly have an access to space TODAY. Even the pollution (one person premature death per year per Freeman Dyson’s calculation) would be marginal compared to millions of death old technologies (like cars) are causing right now.)

But hey, the Chinese may be already digging up inside their mountain slopes. They have particularly suitable ones. They have culture of secrecy. They already plumbed their country with a network of underground ICBM tunnels some 3000 km long, or much longer, so hey...why not to run one of those at an incline? It was already Hitler who was constructing a catapult against Britain...in his sweet years in power. THAT IS THE MAJOR PROBLEM: the dreams of the military conquest (or the current Space Dominance doctrine of the USA)

nehopsa
18th April, 2012 @ 07:39 pm PDT

I'm not a scientist just a big fan of humans using science.

Here's my ideas about mars. We attack the problem on multiple fronts.

First I will summarize, then I will go point by point in some detail and then I will at the end go into more detailed explanation about why I chose this combination and the underlying long term problems and motivations.

Summary

-----------

1) Tug Phobos into mars and take advantage of the heat, gases and gravity and study what happens to learn about Mars.

2) Tug the other moon into a closer orbit and use it as a base to mine the asteroid belt.

3) Shoot a portion of the tailings at Mars, use the lesser portion to build up the moon so Mars can have tides later

3a) Trade nitrogen and carbon with the mars colonists everything else gets traded with earth until the Mars colonies gets bigger.

4) Turn the rusty planet black to heat the ground using archae and vinegar (provided by the colonists). Rovers dig up ice and CO2 and bring it back to colonists.

5) Liberate the abundant oxides from the dirt and use it for the colonists to breathe.

Use solar concentrators. Use the carbon from the miners to do the magnegas process on the water ice and vent the CO to the atmosphere and keep the H2 for colonists' indoor fuel cells.

6) Create perfluorocarbon factories maintained by the colonists.

7) The Phobos miners will be responsible for creating and maintaining the giant reflective mirror that will shine on the north pole keeping the water in vapor and a weather system.

8) Build an underground network of tunnels over time.

A little more detail

---------------------

1) Tug phobos into mars. The idea is to add to its gravity, study the impact (including all the gases released) and create some temporary warmth.

2) Tug the outer moon closer to Mars and use it for a base to mine asteroids from the asteroid belt. Rail gunning the most of the tailings at mars will create a push outwards so the math has to be done beforehand.

3) From the moon a smaller portion of the mining tailings will be used to beef up the moon compared to the portion that is rail gunned at Mars enclosed in metal spheres. 3a) The valuables that Mars colonists will need are carbon and nitrogen so trade with colonists there will be for that and probably communication relay satellite repairs.

4) A fleet of nuclear powered bulldozer rovers that are mirrors of the ones on the Phobos mining colony are in charge of digging up ice and frozen CO2 and transporting it back to the Mars colony. They are also the ones working on turning the rusted planet into magnetite using geobacter metallireducens which will lower its albedo and widen the weird magnetic fields lines there. The colonists supply the vinegar that the geobacter will need and grow it indoors. These rovers come back to the colony to recharge possibly from a traveling wave reactor power source.

5) The place is a big rust bucket (oxides of everything) which means it has tons of oxygen so what the colonists do there is:

a) make and use solar concentrators to melt the regolith and collect the oxygen and any water coming off and use the resulting slag material as building materials. Assist from other power sources, possibly the traveling wave reactor Bill Gates is promoting.

b) use the carbon rods from the Phobos mining colony to make magnegas from the water (underground ice) and sewage which is basically CO plus H2 and a bunch of trace. Vent the CO into the atmosphere since it will not freeze out like CO2 which will build up pressure. Keep the H2 for indoors and use it to power all the small portable devices' fuel cells.

6) The colonists will begin the process of creating perfluorocarbon plants and vent those to the atmosphere. It will be up to them how much carbon they can spare for the super greenhouse gases.

7) The Phobos mining colony will be somehow obligated (if not from the obvious reason that they would eventually like to do mining on Mars themselves instead of letting the colonists do it) to create and maintain the giant sun reflecting mirror satellite that will sit above the north pole of mars and reflect a portion of the sun on to the north pole keeping a convecting water vapor weather system going on mars along with the reflected sunlight from Phobos over time that as it builds up to more mass eventually has a heating effect on Mars from tidal heating.

8) The colonists will build up a network of underground tunnels/structures

Aaron Baker
18th April, 2012 @ 10:07 pm PDT

The issues we are facing

----------------------------

Here on Earth right now we are facing the issue that capitalism has not been pointed in this direction and told "sick boy, sick."

The first thing is for NASA and other government space agencies to get capitalism chasing asteroid mining and space tourism through contests or partnering. This might even involve politics of going back to a mixed metal standards (gold/platinum/silver/copper) once a company actually succeeds in demonstrating they can mine and bring back valuables from an asteroid at profit and there is regular space tourism it is a very short leap from there to a mining moon base and a fleet of ships doing damage control plus mining.

The great thing about asteroid mining is that it is very likely to also be the technology of keeping them from hitting us and wiping us out! The main problem here for space exploration is that there is so little hours and money being applied to it compared to other industries because capitalism has not really entered the picture.

Once capitalism is involved with asteroid mining we have a vast increase in the man hours and money being invested in surviving in space and on the moon.

Pioneering and the Zubrin "live off the land" idea:

Mars is really lacking many things we need to survive so how do we survive there while we terraform it? The answer is we create underground environments complete with tower gardens, all of the life support systems and air scrubbing systems already created by NASA and some sort of internationally agreed upon long term energy source (or at least legal) for the colonists possibly voted upon at the UN if it involves nuclear and this will serve as the main source of all activities but the colonists are responsible for diversifying the energy sources as explained above.

To shield colonists from the radiation the pioneer colonists must be underground, burn off the O from the dirt to breathe, collect the frozen CO2 and water ice and then use the magnegas process on it to create CO (which does not freeze out quickly like CO2) for venting and the H2 for fuel cells.

If they are located within a crater in a temporary thick grancrete above ground structure they can dig there way out of the structure and into the face of the crater to establish the first of many underground structures. With regular resupply of Nitrogen and carbon from the beginner mining colonies setting up on Phobos they make their way into the Mars underground. A local somewhat pressurized atmosphere within the crater can be maintained. Yes it will get sucked out but it will be much better than the outside areas and over time combined with the archae geobacter metallireducens making the rust on the ground black should make things a little [UL] easier locally within the crater.

MY "winging it" idea for a domed grancrete like structure is to use an "umbrella missile" with a liquidmetal alloy tip currently being used as a DU replacement by the military. This is a tall, very large missile that has an umbrella "membrane" tucked within the shaft protected and unfurled after impact made of carbon nanotubes with maybe a plastic mesh or sponge like coating underneath for the next stage to stick too.

The shaft of the missile has some sort of internal tubing that the bulldozer rovers (one of them) will connect up to and mix a chemical combined with the fine regolith to form a grancrete like compound that will then spray from 4 protuding spinning nozzles located on the upper and middle part of the shaft which will spray it onto the underside of the umbrella membrane.

Before this spraying of the underside of the umbrella even happens the upper part of the shaft must lower for the umbrella edges to touch ground so it will be a sliding 2 piece shaft (unlocked by the rover) and prior to even this a set of nuclear charged bulldozer rovers are sent to Mars along with the central nuclear powered power source that the rovers will charge up from and these rovers will be waiting for this missile to arrive.

Once the missile has penetrated the ground and the umbrella has been unfurled and lowered to ground level and the one rover is stuck inside, the other rovers go into action and start bulldozing dirt around the perimeter of the umbrella to get as good a

seal/coverage from outside as possible before the grancrete starts spraying, sealing the inside edges and coating the inside. A small amount of atmosphere can be created within now if needed and preloaded with the rover or else the rover can have two carbon rods within the center of a drill bit that lowers in to the ground and just fire up to melt water ice and turn it into CO and H2 if needed.

This is the prelimenary structure. The pioneers arrive later to find that the rover stuck inside and the ones outside have now dug a tunnel from the outside to the inside of the structure.

The pioneers leave their inflatable temporary housing everyday to make finishing touches on the dome until completion and readiness to transfer into as their new base. From here they dig a tunnel into the side of the crater and start their underground colony.

So they go inflatable temporary housing --> temporary grancrete housing ---> permanent, deeper, more protected housing

NOW we have a colony. NOW they can start building it and begin their end of the terraforming process.

A number of large tanks of nitrogen and carbon rods will have to be sent prior to the colonists along with the pre planned power sources. The 3 problems outside of the underground colony will be lack of pressure, lack of nitrogen in the ground and lack of heat.

The gravity problem is a long term fix. Miners on Phobos making the moon bigger will gradually create some tidal heating and hence the beginnings of a global magnetic field given we are successful establishing underground life and seeding of the nitrogen cycle and bringing temperatures up to liquid water levels.

I believe that earths unusual magnetic field is a compound of underground life, tidal heating, the oceans, the atmospheric water, the heavy nuclear materials in the core and the interaction with the solar wind - that it all compounds and adds together. So we just have to try to duplicate it on Mars.

Nitrogen and the Mars rust:

Mars is basically a giant cold ball of rust. It not only has lots of Iron Oxide but oxides of lots of other things. Geobacter Metalli reducens is an underground archae here that converts rust to magnetite but it needs acetate. Well that is just vinegar and can be made by the colonists.

In fact the "dome home" that is first used by the colonists prior to digging tunnels into the crater side to make a permanent colony can be used later as the "magnetite producing headquarters." The rovers will come in and out of this dome dropping off fresh rust and hauling back geobacter filled darkened regolith to spread around the crater so it will retain some solar heat. I can't help but to think geobacter will gradually and eventually adapt over time to this and be able to dig deeper into the dirt and make use of eating its dead kin and using the other oxides for breathing and eventually we will have a small nitrogen base within the regolith in the crater.

The major issues here are a strong power source for the colonists since they are not a money making venture, until they can diversify their power and the cooperation of the capitalistic factors to actually provide the colonists with nitrogen in large quantities for trade of food or whatever else Mars will trade with the miners on Diemos.

Aaron Baker
18th April, 2012 @ 10:08 pm PDT

In Robert Zubrin’s book “A Case for Mars, The Plan To Settle The Red Planet And Why We Must”, he showed a method using TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY in how to get to Mars and return. There was no new launch systems being made from “pie in the sky” ideas such as the StarTram.

This required two launches per mission. One was an “Earth Return Vehicle (ERV)” and the first one would be launched a year in advance of the second launch. The ERV would land and start manufacturing fuel from the atmosphere of Mars.

The second launch would be a Habitat module and another ERV. So after the first launch there would always be a return vehicle being launched at the same time.

All of this being done with regular rockets. Nothing fancy.

JMOdom
18th April, 2012 @ 11:24 pm PDT

re; nehopsa

Saying that the exposure to a NMR scan is safe is like saying that getting a X-ray is safe; you are exposing yourself to damaging energies but only for a short time and in both cases the operators are well shielded from the energies they are unleashing. But yes I greatly exaggerated the size of the evacuation zone.

I would like to see the superconductor that can support the current needed to levitate the track to a height of 20 kilometers. This, and the necessary uninterpretable power supply is the only real technical problems that I see.

The financial problems are the big ones. And yes the money spent on fusion research has been wasted they have been saying that breakeven fusion power is just a few years away for something like forty years. I'm tired of it, build nuclear power plants that work NOW.

The spaceplane I suggest could be built using chemical powered rockets but distilled water is a lot cheaper than than least expensive chemical energy propellant. Plus the airframe could be shared with a commercial airliner. (probably cargo)

JFK was a fool and he was the best the Kennedy clan has ever had to offer.

Build the maglev launcher up the side of Kilimanjaro.

If Daryl Oster was hurt by my comments he needs to get a thicker skin.

Slowburn
19th April, 2012 @ 08:49 am PDT
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