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Mars Space Television Entertainment

Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way 540

Posted by timothy
from the bring-plenty-of-coffee dept.
NASA's been solicited ideas for exploring Mars, but Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp is already planning a different kind of trip than is likely to come from the U.S. government. Lansdorp's Mars One project has the goal of putting humans on Mars in 2022, with a twist that might dampen many people's hopes to be a Mars-exploring astronaut: the trip Lansdorp plans is one-way only. That means dramatically less fuel on board, because unlike typical Mars voyage plans, there would be no need (or ability) to carry the mechanism or the energy storage to return to Earth. If you (and three close companions) are willing to go be the first people to die on Mars, you'll also need to give up more than a pinch of privacy, because the Mars One plan to obtain the necessary funding is straightforward: create a media spectacle, and monetize it through advertising. (Note: If Elon Musk's optimistic sounding predictions are right, maybe one-way Marstronauts can get a return ticket, after all.) Many questions about the proposed journey are answered in the project's FAQ; check there before formulating questions. Ask Lansdorp about the practicalities and impracticalities of reaching Mars with as many questions as you'd like, but (lest ye be modded down) please only one question per post.
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Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:18PM (#40453527) Journal
    This question may boil down to cultural differences but I'm an American, fairly non-nomadic and I have a lot of cargo -- both mentally and physically. There are places of my youth that I may never return to and I currently sit a thousand miles away from. But I'm okay with this because if I flipped out one day I could just board a plane or road trip it back. I'm aware that settlers who came to the Americas faced similar issues but they were moving to a new land that was already inhabited by humans and had new places to offer them. Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it's cold as hell. I would surmise that someone would need to be legally insane to willingly go to a place without society, without parks, without schools, without culture, without even atmosphere, without children, without the elderly and without the prospect of seeing those things first hand again. Furthermore, should a sane person make such a decision I can see no perceivable way they would remain sane. Even if the person is nomadic or adventurous in nature, you will bring them to a new world and require four of them to remain cooped up in a thousand cubic meters.

    Call it cabin fever, call it space madness, call it batshit insanity, call it whatever you want but aside from bombarding them with digital crap from Earth, how are you going to combat it? I know your ratings go up but what happens when all your reality television is 90% insane ramblings of home?

    If the Mars mission is brought to you as reality TV, you will see how the astronauts land on Mars, start construction on their habitat, cooperate, discuss, laugh and live.

    Exactly what kind of laughter did you have in mind?

    • by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:21PM (#40453587)

      how are you going to combat it?

      You give them a way to quickly kill themselves. The whole plan is somewhat brutal, I don't see why the final step wouldn't be included.

      • by Jeremi (14640) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:25PM (#40453643) Homepage

        You give them a way to quickly kill themselves.

        No need for that -- if they're on Mars, simply stepping outside will suffice.

        • by 0racle (667029)
          Ya, I should have said quickly AND painlessly. Without the painless part, the whole thing is incredibly cruel.
          • In vacuum, or in the almost-like-vacuum kind of atmosphere that Mars has, losing pressure means losing consciousness within ten seconds or so. Not much time for pain, I'd say. If you exercise before exposing yourself, it should be even faster.
            • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @04:50PM (#40457997)

              "...Not much time for pain, I'd say. If you exercise before exposing yourself, it should be even faster."

              Before becoming Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was exposed to the atmosphere of Mars and he exercised regularly. It looked rather painful, at least in the video of it that I saw. Not sure where I saw it (prolly Fox News).

    • by SQLGuru (980662)

      I would think that these types of plans would need to be preceeded by some teraforming efforts a few years (20? 50?) ahead of them. Not that a planned two-way trip ensures a return trip, but at least there's a plan. Send some extremophile algea "bombs" to blanket the landing area. Send probes to see how they progress. Start trying to set up a successful mission instead of one destined to fail.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:29PM (#40453701) Homepage

      Yeah, well, maybe you shouldn't apply for this. I'm sure there's some suitable people among the 7,000,000,000 others who live here.

    • Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it's cold as hell

      Wait I thought your name was Elvado, not Elton!

    • by OakDragon (885217)

      Exactly what kind of laughter did you have in mind?

      Heeeeere's Johnny! [tumblr.com]

    • Eh, I can see doing it to be the documented first, the one who pioneers the way, the guinea pig, one who advances the science. Though I'd have to a) convince myself and my family why this is important and worthwhile enough to justify the sacrifices involved (assuming it actually was worth it to me; it isn't), and b) my family would need to be set for life - college educations, annuities, etc for losing me. By accomplishing both of those things, you could actually improve the future for your family, their
    • by Mabhatter (126906) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:16PM (#40454413)

      If they were really serious, the first crew would be for setup. You would be able to give them 100% + extra resources for establishing the base up front.

      I think the problem is that much like founding America, trailblazers are supposed to be followed by supplies and crew at regular intervals. There were lots of problems where one crew would come ahead, then the crew to follow would never have LEFT to bring supplies.

      Mixing manned missions and supply missions might help too. You can pack a lot of supplies of you don't have to keep people alive in space 2 years. if they were really clever, they would launch supply and robot scouting missions first so the settlers had plenty of equipment on the ground when they got there.

      Personally, they should also build a space station over Mars before landing people. Again. They might not have fuel to return, but the "could" be rescued. And they can verify equipment is working befor landing it. A chain of Solar-synchronous stations in the orbit between Eatrh and Mars might not be bad either... Basically glorified lifeboats at the mission halfway points.

    • On this same note, one thing I was thinking about is the 'always on' aspect of filming these astronauts.

      Hopefully the mission will give them some privacy. Not everyone wants (okay, needs) to see a guy take a crap on Mars. If you have mixed-gender couples, I'm very sure they'll be wanting some 'alone time' to get their hormones on, so to speak. To top all that off, after seven months of living cheek-to-jowl, they'll most definitely want to get some space to re-collect their own personalities.

      So how exactly d

    • I'd go. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fzz (153115) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:55PM (#40455103)
      I'm in my mid 40s, already got kids, am reasonably fit, have a scientific background, and I've probably got the right sort of technical skills for such a trip. I'm half-way through a pretty successful academic career at this point in my life. In 15 years time (when such a trip might be feasible), I'll be 60. My kids will have left home, and I'll be looking forward to retirement.

      Trouble is I'm not the sort of person to settle down and play golf. If, instead of retiring, I could do something really amazing with the last few years of my (productive) life, I'd jump at the opportunity. Assuming I'm still fit enough, I'd jump at the chance to go to Mars on a one-way trip. Likely it would shorten my life significantly. But I'll have already lived most of it anyway - what a way to go out!

      The tough part wouldn't be missing Earth, or spending 6 months in a large can, but missing my family. Video conferencing isn't the same, especially with the time lag. But even so, I reckon I'd still go, if they gave their blessing. I think they'd probably understand, even if they weren't happy about it. Some things are just worth devoting the rest of your life to, even if it turns out to be short.

      • My kids are my only dealbreaker. I am an electronics guy by profession, but a jack of all trades (repairs and bodging is something I really enjoy, as is hydroponics/gardening). I think I would be ideal for this mission except I would not be willing to go.

        Part of me honestly lusts after the glory of being one of the first 4 on Mars, but I refuse to leave my kids. It really is that simple.
        -nB

  • Mars One plan to obtain the necessary funding is straightforward: create a media spectacle, and monetize it through advertising.

    Why is it in humanity's best interest to let this initiative be led and run by business interests rather than by a government space program?

  • Power Draw? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:22PM (#40453603) Journal
    Exactly how do you plan on broadcasting reality TV of your mission? Mars seems like a difficult place to get energy. When people's lives are at risk in a mercilessly harsh environment, isn't it a bit selfish for us to be asking them to use their solar panels to send us video of their daily lives? I understand the need for communications but how do you plan on sending enough video and audio back from the teams to make a reality show?

    Is the following statement morally reprehensible to you? "I know you've had a long day but we need someone to do a walk out to dust off the south solar panels because we're not getting enough power to transmit cameras five and six to monitor you while you sleep."
    • by Bigby (659157)

      1. Holy crap! We are on Mars! (on camera battery)
      2. Set up the solar array
      3. Get full-time camera online use a fraction of the power
      4a. Set up rechargeable transportation vehicle (on camera)
      4b. Set up airtight greenhouse (on camera)
      5. Find more sources of energy through exploration (on camera)
      6. Find Martian civilization (on camera)
      7. Have Ewalk Return of the Jedi style party with Martians (on camera)
      8. "Borrow" ship for return journey to Earth (on camera)

      • Re:Power Draw? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:53PM (#40455045)

        I'm thinking it might be more like this.

        1. We're on Mars, Hooray!
        2. Set up equipment.
        3. Transmit episodes of "Life On Mars".
        4, Get call from producer, "You had some great content, really, but the show's been canceled by the network execs for a new user-submitted video show called Cute Puppy Antics."
        5. All communication between Mars and Earth cut (show's canceled = no more budget).
        6. Weeks pass.
        7. Crew goes insane, kills each other.
        8. Last crew member alive, as he is dying from lack of food and water, notices that the cameras have been filming the whole time.
        9. Producer call comes through "Thanks. That 'going insane and killing everyone' stuff will make a great series finale."
        10. Video cuts out and last crew member dies.

    • You can get all the power you want with an RTG [wikipedia.org] or two.
  • Just one question. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dutchd00d (823703) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:22PM (#40453605) Homepage

    Just one question: Wait, what?!

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      A clever mediahack for some kind of scam, most likely.

    • This - and after reading their [laughable] 'FAQ', I'd expand that to "what are you smoking?'.

      I mean, seriously - they claim to have identified "potential suppliers" for equipment... when most of the technologies involved are barely at the "laboratory bench prototype" stage... (And keeping in mind that "things get heavier and more expensive is practically a law of nature in aerospace.) Not to mention the laughable notion that reality TV will fund even a fraction of the quoted six billion dollar cos

  • Which is the most efficacious way to get there?

    Because we all know Ralph Kramden could only send you so far as the Moon

  • by Deep Esophagus (686515) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:23PM (#40453621)

    "Living on Mars cannot be considered entirely risk-free, in particular during the first few years."

    Ya think?

  • by Cap'nSmithers (2474202) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:25PM (#40453647)
    Are you exploring any possibilities for creating fuel for a return trip while on Mars? There is at least one [usra.edu] study for the possibility, most likely more. If you're planning on the trip being a one-way mission, why not at least experiment with the idea for future Mars missions? And if it works, you get a ride home, and you've made some pretty hefty contributions to space travel.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's covered in Zubrin's book, "A Case for Mars" that describes his Mars Direct approach. I met him in Cookeville, TN about a decade ago - great speaker. Too bad nobody has yet given him the $20B necessary for a series of small bases.

  • All (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustOK (667959) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:26PM (#40453649) Journal

    We all gotta die somewhere.

  • If you're looking into one way trips, you'd be the first person to land on the sun. Though I don't think it would serve much purpose to bring a flag along.
  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:27PM (#40453667)

    will i still be liable for child support if I move to Mars?

  • by Bigby (659157)

    Are you going to secretly send a ship up ahead of time to plant actors imitating stereotypical Martian Aliens to bring some "action" to the Mars One plan?

  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:29PM (#40453703)

    if i move to mars for the rest of my life what are the entertainment options? what am i supposed to do in my off time?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You'll be coding applications for the mobile web. It's an unpaid internship, which will make you and your crewmates the low cost bidder.

      Make sure you bring a decent laptop with you.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      According to David Bowie albums it seems to involve exploring your sexuality and becoming some sort of rock Messiah.

    • by plover (150551) *

      if i move to mars for the rest of my life what are the entertainment options? what am i supposed to do in my off time?

      Watch reruns of Capricorn One, of course.

  • Pioneers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tmosley (996283) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:30PM (#40453719)
    It seems to me that a mission of this type which is meant to be permanent must by necessity focus on the production of those things which are necessary for survival on Mars. This means that your colonists, and they should be called colonists, will need to focus on the production of air, water, food, living space, and manufactured goods, in that order. Media spectacle or no, that is the order that things must take, prior to wasting time with research (wasting time in the hunter-gatherer sense).

    I think that the only way you are going to be able to get your colonists to do what you want them to do will be to have them earn money with their scientific research/media nonsense such that it funds resupply missions.

    That said, what is your business plan with regards to production of goods on Mars, and resupply missions?
    • by tmosley (996283)
      Keeping it to one question per post: how will you avoid the pitfalls of early American settlements, where those the desires of those funding the colonization conflicted with the basic psychological needs of the colonists, ie how to avoid depression which could quickly lead to death in such a hostile environment?
      • by tmosley (996283)
        Further question: how will you deal with the inevitability of childbirth on Mars? Note that if you don't send women, the men will be much more likely to fall into depression and refuse to work, even if it means their death.
  • If you're talking about a one way trip, wouldn't a single dog or monkey be even lighter?

    A huge PR high-tech group suicide seems extremely Jonestownsian to me.

    And it wouldn't get the support of any right-thinking people. Suicide is not a rational solution. Ever.

  • I've always been of the opinion that once a private Mars mission gets close to becoming reality, scientists and the government will go in league to shut it down because of environmental contamination. The question of whether there is life on Mars is still open, and once you have a group setting up a settlement, the planet is potentially contaminated forever with Earth bacteria, which might even kill off native bacteria, if any.

    My question is, are you concerned with the contamination question and do you think you might be prevented from going if scientists get the right politicians to listen? You sort-of have a FAQ question about this ("Will the mission be harmful to Mars' environment?"), but you don't really answer it.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:33PM (#40453761) Homepage Journal

    First of all, I'll contribute to any project that gets reality TV stars off the planet, and then kills them.

    My question is: Which reality stars are you shooting into space? Snooki? Kim Kardashian?

    Or is it going to be a series like "Survivor", where 7 start out, and eventually at least 4 are voted out the airlock during the trip there? We all know reality TV is fake though, so is this really 'Capricorn One'?

  • Suicide options? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:35PM (#40453803)

    Will the astronauts be supplied with the means to end their lives if they find themselves facing hopeless circumstances (e.g., slow life-support failure, debilitating depression)?

  • Will you be using the same selection criteria as this previous space-related 'media spectacle'?:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Cadets_(TV_series)#Audition_process [wikipedia.org]

  • by mfh (56)

    I was not at all impressed with this guy [reddit.com]. He has no real plan other than sending people to die while getting the footage of it because he's a greed-monster. This mission might even set back human space exploration by causing generations of people to fear space.

  • by Lanfranc (2670941) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:47PM (#40453967)
    I just have one very simple question: I understand that Mars One intend to send four people at a time to Mars. I also note that the Mars One team currently consists of four people. So are you and your three business partners willing to be the first group to go, and if not, why not?
  • "Emigration" supposes the potential for returning: previous emigrants have always known that they have the possibility to walk back to their place of departure, or pay for passage on a ship going back home. They have the capacity to achieve a return if they really want to do this. Mars One strikes me as more similar to a shipwreck, where participants know they do not have the ability to return home even if they want to. How will you manage their psychological well being?

    Also, what resources do you have in r

  • Why don't we focus on colonizing a easier target before we start colonizing Mars. Baby steps.
  • Radiation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zrbyte (1666979)

    On the surface of Mars, which lacks a magnetic field (such as that of Earth) and a thick atmosphere, the inhabitants would have to endure much higher levels of ionizing radiation [wikipedia.org] in comparison to the background radiation on Earth. How are you going to shield the people on the surface? Or will this kind of danger be just another part of the risks that the "astronauts" take, like burning up on entry in the atmosphere? How much fun will it be to watch cancer patients die on Mars?

  • Seems like I've already read a hypothetical account of this in Kim Stanley Robinson's 'Red Mars'. That trip to Mars involved more than 4 people and included many of the items necessary for the infancy of a new society, but one can still draw some parallels. I have a feeling, however, that the real life story proposed above would grow rather macabre toward the end.

    Rather than watch real people in a downward spiral I'd suggest that people read Red Mars and use their imagination. A manned mission can be sen

  • Funding sources (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Katatsumuri (1137173) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:11PM (#40454339)

    Are you considering a mix of different funding sources, like Kickstarter, private donations / investors, government / corporate sponsorship? TV show alone may not be sufficient. Maybe accept free hardware / volunteer labor / services like rocket launches as donations, too?

    On a related note, are you going to start the selection and training as soon as you have enough money for that first step? Or do you think it only makes sense if you have secured the funding for the actual trip? I personally think once this starts rolling, it will be easier to attract more funding.

  • Willing but able? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HarryatRock (1494393) <harry.rutherford@btinternet.com> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:21PM (#40454501) Journal

    In spite of all of the posts implying that any volunteers must be "insane", I would be quite willing to go, for the reasons below. The important thing is that they are reasons, i.e. I am sane and have thought about them logically.
    I am unlikely to live more than 5 to 10 years more even if I stay on earth, in fact reduced gravity might give me longer.
    I have a good knowledge of science and engineering and a practical turn of mind that could let me make a real contribution to the project. I, like most humans, would like to have a chance to "make a mark" and leave a lasting memory, so what better than "third man on Mars"?
    I have had a good life, and worked on some interesting projects, but other than /. all I can do now is "play". I help a few local organisations with IT related tech, but I would love to do "meaningful" work again. Don't tell me about Open Source projects, unless of course you are a planning an SST :), I am just not interested enough in the content of projects I've seen. A Mars colony, now that has to be a good gig.
    Now for the bad news. I probably would not be acceptable as a candidate because of my health problems. I have limited mobility and have already received a "life time doze" in radiation therapy, I do not rely on drugs, but I have a restricted diet which might cause problems in supply and/or production.
    I am probably too old, and although I see this as "having good experience with limited technology", some might see me as "past it".
    And finally the game stopper. I don't think I would make interesting TV. I am not "handsome" (downright ugly is closer), I am straight, but the fires burn very low (it's true, I'm old :( ), so no romantic lead for me. I get along with most people (guess we wouldn't be likely to have a young earther along), so probably no exciting arguments, I am British and white , so no points for ethnic origin. And I have no dependents, so no back story, no family problems to pull the heart strings.
    All in all then I guess I'm not going to get the trip, and the real sad thing is that I have a feeling that many if not most of those who would go and would have sane reasons for doing so, fall into the same category. Catch 23?

    • In spite of all of the posts implying that any volunteers must be "insane", I would be quite willing to go, for the reasons below. The important thing is that they are reasons, i.e. I am sane and have thought about them logically. I am unlikely to live more than 5 to 10 years more even if I stay on earth, in fact reduced gravity might give me longer.

      If you RTFA, you'll see that the launch of people isn't for 10 years.

  • by Mr. Theorem (33952) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:36PM (#40454701)

    Your FAQ, in the "sustainability" question, states

    The first four will also be carrying a device similar to a portable greenhouse, that will allow them to grow their own food.

    If we take 2000 calories per day as a baseline human need, that's 730,000 calories per [Earth] year, or about 3 million calories per Earth year per four-person crew, and the total need will grow by 3 million calories per Earth year every two years as more missions arrive. The diet would need to be varied, both to guard against catastrophic crop failure and to provide an appropriate spectrum of nutrients, and a reasonable estimate (e.g. based on a combination of corn, beans, and squash) suggests that 1 acre on Earth can provide such 3 million calories. But Mars gets, on average, only about 44% of the insolation as Earth does, so the first-order estimate suggests you'd need about 2.3 acres per mission-load of astronauts to grow a subsistence diet. This presumes that radiation won't negatively impact the crops, that the yield throughout the Mars growing season scales comparable to the Earth's, that your soil is comparable to Earth's, and many more things. You'll also need enough additional carbon and water to make the non-edible parts of the plants and soil, and you'll need to make sure there exists a suitable microbial community to decompose crop waste and turn it back into a useable food-growing medium (i.e. compost).

    I don't see in your concept drawing anything that approaches the size of land that would be needed to come anywhere close to such sustainable food production. Do you even have a back-of-the-envelope plan for sustainable food production, or is the bulk of the astronauts' calories going to need to come in perpetuity from the Earth?

  • False analogies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:51PM (#40454995)

    Every time manned space exploration is discussed on Slashdot, we usually see false analogies to the Age of Exploration on Earth. These analogies are false because they fail to account for the vast, vast difference between traveling to a foreign (but inhabitable and, in fact, already inhabited) continent on Earth, and traveling to a hostile desert in outer space.

    Christopher Columbus made not one trip to the New World, but four. It wasn't a one-way journey and he didn't die there; he died back in Spain, a successful and wealthy man. People who went to the New World didn't do it for shits and giggles; they did it because they calculated they could be more successful there, because they thought they would be freer in America than in Europe, or in some cases because they were expelled there as convicted criminals (this latter instance was even more common with Australia). And for the most part these were rational beliefs; America had a lot of good land available, while in Europe it was mostly in the hands of a few wealthy aristocrats. (And in an agrarian society where most of the population consisted of farmers, this was a big deal.) There were plenty of natural resources in America, and once the first communities got settled, people could have a decent life there for themselves and their children. It was far enough from Europe that the European countries couldn't meddle too deeply into local affairs, but near enough that there could be an import/export trade, communication, and a return to the homeland if need be.

    The same was true of America's Western frontier expansion - yes, there was an ideological element (Manifest Destiny) but the average pioneer did so because they thought they could better make their fortune out West, either by homesteading land or by prospecting for valuable minerals. And again, the land was livable and the native people had in fact been living there for thousands of years already.

    None of this applies to a mission to Mars. There is literally nothing for us out there. It's a vast desert worse than any on Earth - at least in the Sahara you can breathe. How could anyone plausibly think that going to Mars would mean greater material prosperity, or more actual freedom? (Yes, there are no governments on Mars, but remember you'll be relying on supply ships from Earth, and if they don't like what you're doing up there, you can easily be cut off.)

    This absurd proposal has more in common with Jonestown than with Jamestown.

  • by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:33PM (#40455761) Homepage

    No media spectacle in the history of the Earth has garnered 6 billion dollars.
    Why should we believe that your mars landing would?

  • Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:36PM (#40455835) Journal
    Given the need for many acres of land for food production, the practically non-existent atmosphere, the intense amounts of radiation that fall on the surface of Mars, the bleak landscape that makes Antarctica look vibrant, the perchlorate ridden soils, the incredible deep cold Every Night, the diurnal mismatch between human body clock and the rotation of Mars, the lack of fossil fuel or nuclear fuel or readily available oxygen, and then with the lack of food, the certainty of televised cannibalism, and the stupendously tacky addition of a reality TV structure I would like to ask you what made you think that that was even a remotely vaguely good idea, but a more accurate question would be, why are you such a third rate publicity whore?
  • Marketing (Score:5, Funny)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:59PM (#40456217) Journal
    The marketing opportunities cannot be undersold. Imagine.

    The Hershey landing module (a big F You to the Mars Chocolate [mars.com] family of brands) breaks off from the Orbitz.com Orbital Station and begins its descent, brought to you by American Airlines, where you're flying ALL the friendly skies. After 20 harrowing minutes of commentary, uninterrupted thanks to a generous grant from Microsoft (well uninterrupted except for two brief blue screens), the lander touches down within sight of the majestic Coors Mountain range on the VISA plains (where they don't take American Express).

    The Chevron chevrons unlock, and the capsule door slides open. The first man on Mars, Captain Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino descends the CareerBuilder.com ladder and says those immortal words that will ring throughout history: "That's one.smallstepfor a Nikeone, giant leap, thanks to Five Hour Energy."

    I'm tearing up just thinking about. Thank goodness I have a bottle of Clear Eyes handy.
  • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @03:41PM (#40456775)

    Here's the problem. The so-called plan these people have is so utterly, completely, and totally ludicrously unrealistic it is not even funny.

    They're planning to spend $6 billion to design something like 10 different spacecraft, which will perform entirely novel missions in a largely unknown hostile environment. Their budget alone is easily 1 and maybe 2 orders of magnitude short of what is required. Their timeline is so utterly naive as to be simply some sort of fantasy.

    Yes, I know all about "oh, those government dinosaurs can't do squat blah blah blah..." but the truth is that the public space agencies, when they're given a specific goal that doesn't change constantly and is realistic, work pretty well. It cost well over $100 billion to put a man on the Moon in today's dollars. It cost an equal amount to figure out how to get the ISS up there and run it. Now, albeit you can CERTAINLY do those things more cheaply now, the things that are going to be done in this proposed mission to Mars are vastly different. To just pass off life support on the Martian surface as "Oh, its just like the ISS but easier" for instance is UTTERLY LAUGHABLE!

    Just a small few things that instantly spring to mind as likely mission busting issues:

    1) How do you land a large payload on Mars? This sounds like a stupid question but actually Mars is VERY HARD TO LAND ON. The reason is you're coming in from a fairly high velocity transfer orbit into a VERY thin atmosphere. This is NOT like landing on the Moon at all where you approach from a rather slow orbital velocity in a low gravity and just touch down with thrusters. Look at the MSL, which in order to get to the surface with a fairly small rover has to resort to a hypersonic parachute followed by a sky crane, a totally untested system that IMHO has maybe a 25% chance of working. How many billions will it cost just to get one of these landers (that are cavalierly passed off as "oh just a minor variant of the Dragon Capsule, ROFLMAO!") onto the surface. You can't do it with just rockets, takes too much fuel on Mars. Can't do it with a parachute, payload is WAY too heavy, etc. There have been MANY engineering studies done on this and it is NOT a solved problem. Just this ALONE could (and probably would) eat up the whole time frame and a large chunk of the proposed $6 billion budget...

    2) Someone has actually sailed through interplanetary space? Yeah, probes have gone this way and that, but I'm sorry, nobody has sent a large manned spacecraft 100's of millions of miles through the void to another planet. Just living in orbit for 6 months is a pretty good feat which few people have accomplished, and only at huge cost. Nobody has ever done it without resupply and it is at best a very dicey proposition to operate such a craft autonomously for 7 months. Nor are we really certain what the effects of such a journey would be on the crew. While one could say that "no new technology is required" there is a lot of very serious engineering that IS required, billions of $ worth of it.

    3) God only knows what happens to you when you land on Mars. The Moon is one thing, but Mars is far harsher than the Moon. It is covered in caustic and probably toxic dust. The air may be thin, but it is still thick enough to blow dust into every crack and crevice. It will be tracked into your habitat, etc. And what about this water? It is going to be magically just nice and drinkable? Really? We know that? There are 1000's of easy ways to die, and Mars almost certainly holds quite a few secrets in that department.

    4) Lets just estimate the chances of success based on how many missions need to be successful for the whole thing to work. LESS THAN HALF of all the spacecraft ever sent to Mars have arrived there intact and functioned AT ALL. Here we're talking about A DOZEN different landers. What's the actual probability that you get enough of them onto the ground intact in the right place? Surely they'll be more reliable than past missions, but there are also surely going to be quite a

  • by BMOC (2478408) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @05:16PM (#40458373)
    Call me insane all you want. The reality I'm faced with is an indeterminate amount worthwhile life to then die of some disease that is incurable, or in some meaningless accident, or in some further meaningless criminal action. In the time I spend until that end of my life I may perhaps barely move myself up a single notch in the middle class of America to gain some wealth. My death will be mostly meaningless to 99.99999% of humanity, and for the tiny fraction to which it means anything, their childre'ns children's children in only about 30 years on from my death will only have archaic media of which to remind themselves of who came before them, and no direct contact. That's effin bleak already. There is definitely a percentage of humanity that would jump at the chance for an adventure likely ending in a more meaningful death, and that's not insane.

"Life sucks, but death doesn't put out at all...." -- Thomas J. Kopp

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