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Aerospace Manned Mars mission to Mars before 2020?

  1. Yes, with Gas Core Nuclear Reactor rockets (mission time: 8...9 months)

  2. Yes, with chemical rockets (mission time: ~1000 days = ~2.7 years)

  3. Yes, with some other rocket technology

  4. No, impossible; missions to Moon were also faked

  5. No, too dangerous and expensive

  1. Jul 6, 2008 #1
    Should there be a world wide joint manned mission to Mars (including landing to the planet) before 2020?

    If Yes, then also sign the http://www.petitiononline.com/mars2019/".
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2008 #2


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    I would be much more interested in establishing a permanent self-sustaining colony on the moon than a simple manned visit to mars and return. Once we can do that reliably then we could make a one-way Mars trip.

    However, neither is going to happen by 2020, there is no political will to do either.
  4. Jul 6, 2008 #3


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    I voted no, not because it is to dangerous, but because it is to expensive for no real returns. The sole puropose of any manned mission is simply to keep the man alive. Science takes a backseat.
  5. Jul 6, 2008 #4
    I think the key issue is the rocket technology. Chemical rockets are too slow and they need too much fuel. Gas Core Nuclear Reactor is the answer. Nuclear thermal rockets were studied in the NERVA program in the 1960s.

    Shortening the mission time makes everything easier. GCNR also permits better radiation shields without the need to reduce science payload.
  6. Jul 6, 2008 #5


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    Too expensive, and not much point sending a man (and all the accompanying life support systems) when machines (pound for pound) do a much better job anyway.
  7. Jul 6, 2008 #6


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    Why does one conclude GCNR is the answer? No one has perfected a GCNR! It would take about 10-15 years of development and testing - and that can't be done on earth. I believe the shielding requirements for GCNR are somewhat greater in volume than for NTR, since the mass density (power density) of the GCNR is much less than NTR and therefore requires more volume and has less self-shielding for a given power level.

    NTR is tested, but not perfected.

    It might be feasible to send support infrastructure (an orbital station like Skylab (but larger) or ISS) to Mars by 2020.

    It is certainly very expensive, but the priorities on Earth seems to be making 'stuff', entertainment, treating preventable illnesses and waging war. Planetary missions require a more advanced civilization.
  8. Jul 6, 2008 #7
    http://internet.cybermesa.com/~mrpbar/rocket.html [Broken]
    "The GCNR is a concept which was also experimentally investigated in the 1960s during the Rover program. The idea is to use a gaseous nuclear fuel instead of the solid graphite core used in NERVA. A gaseous fuel could attain tempertures of several tens of thousands of degrees which would allow specific impulses of 3000 to 5000 seconds to be considered. Such an engine would allow manned missions to Mars to be accomplished in a few months each way. Currently, research into the GCNR concept is underway at the Los Alamos National Laboratory under a program from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center."

    See also: http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/rocket3c2.html#ntrgascoaxial
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  9. Jul 6, 2008 #8
    "The NERVA/Rover project was eventually cancelled in 1972 with the general wind-down of NASA in the post-Apollo era. Without a manned mission to Mars, the need for a nuclear thermal rocket was unclear. To a lesser extent it was becoming clear that there could be intense public outcry against any attempt to use a nuclear engine."
  10. Jul 6, 2008 #9
    Please, guys, check also this: http://www.lascruces.com/~mrpbar/GCNR%20Aero%20Amer.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  11. Jul 6, 2008 #10


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    Sadly, this outlook is all too prevalent. The truth is that the technology spawned from such an endeavor would have wide-ranging benefits in many fields far beyond the narrow confines of accomplishing the mission. For example, look at the http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/pdf/80660main_ApolloFS.pdf" [Broken].

    This unfortunate misconception is the primary reason why there is no political will to do it.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  12. Jul 6, 2008 #11


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    My objections to such a mission, even if the technical obstacles can be overcome, are (1) the existance of a cheaper alternative (robots/rovers) and (2) just what is the payback for doing this with live people?
  13. Jul 7, 2008 #12


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    I know Howe, who is now at the Center for Space Nuclear Research, Idaho Falls, ID, and others at NASA. The pages cited go back to 1988 and 1998, and to my knowledge, there is no active development program for GNCR at NASA or LANL, but I'll check. AFAIK, it's all on paper. Howe has been way out there with regard to advanced propulsion concepts.

    FYI, http://www.csnr.usra.edu/CSNR_Director.html [Broken]

    http://www.csnr.usra.edu/CSNR_Homepage.html [Broken]

    http://anst.ans.org/ (comments on the site would be greatly appreciated, particularly recommendations for improvement)

    For one's edification - http://anst.ans.org/RelatedLinks.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  14. Jul 7, 2008 #13

    D H

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    Notwithstanding an order of magnitude increase in the combined space budgets of all space-faring nations, the technical obstacles to a human mission to Mars by 2020 are insurmountable. Attempting to accomplish a task in too little time costs a lot of money, a lot more than doing the same job at a more appropriate pace. Attempting to accomplish a task in far too little time increases the chance of failure and costs an immense amount of money. Simply put, twelve years is not enough time. Fred Brooks said it best: Just because it takes one woman nine months to have a baby does not mean that throwing eight more women onto the task reduces the time to create a baby down to one month.


    Regarding item (1): This is a favorite objection of the anti-human spaceflight crowd. The rationale for robotic space exploration becomes vastly weakened without the added incentive that humans will someday go "out there". Only a small handful of nations have a space science budget that could be deemed "significant", and all of these nations are involved with human spaceflight in some form.

    Two decades ago, the pro space science / anti-human spaceflight crowd in Great Britain managed to convince the British government to explicitly ban any support for human spaceflight from that nation's budget. Things didn't work out as the pro space science crowd expended. The monies that Great Britain's had expended on human spaceflight did not go to space science. Those monies went elsewhere, and so did a good chunk of that nation's space science budget. The space scientists had a lot less money after they succeeded in getting the government to zero-out support for human spaceflight.

    Regarding item (2): Good point. The expenditure for such a venture will be very high, even if done on a more appropriate time scale. A dang good rationale needs to exist. http://www.thespacereview.com" [Broken].
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  15. Jul 7, 2008 #14


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    :rofl: Oh, that's funny!
  16. Jul 8, 2008 #15
    Like when NASA developed the space pen for astronauts to write in zero gravity conditions, costing time and money (I think the reported figure by most is $1mil, but this is such a convenient number, my guess it was a little less than this, but still) and everyone else just used a pencil. :wink:

    I love space and science and technology, but let's be reasonable. Let's use the cash to fix the problems here, on earth, first, before we start taking our problems elsewhere. I do think that advancements that we would make in performing such a mission could benfit mankind and earth, but would it really be in a reasonable ratio of time and money spent to benefit gained? I think 2020 is a little far fetched.

    We know, from history, that people can colonise places (even harsh environments like deserts and the tundra). We also know that people can live in space for extended periods. What more is to be acheived by sending a man to mars?
  17. Jul 8, 2008 #16
    Then we have to wait forever. There will always be problems here on Earth. Why should we wait?

    What is acheived by making wars and killing people? Nothing. The war of Iraq has cost almost 535 billion ($534,964,835,651) US dollars by now. And the results? Tens of thousands of people has lost their lives.

    The journey to the Mars and back to the Earth could cost well under 50 billion US dollars and it would be spend in 10 years and among the whole world (NASA, ESA, RSA, JAXA, CNSA, etc). That's not too much.

    And how do we know when a supervolcano blows or huge meteor hits the Earth? It could well happen in our lifetime. If we wait 30 years before we even visit the Mars and then some 30 more years before we have the technology to transfer thousands of people to Mars, it could be too long. The Earth may have been already destroyed and all the humans with it...
  18. Jul 8, 2008 #17


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    I'm not sure where you get that figure. It is probably an order of magnitude low, and the timeframe is also way too low:

  19. Jul 8, 2008 #18
    I'm not sure how you got from my argument to the war in Iraq? By colonisation I meant finding, cultivating and colonising uninhabited land (like mars, hopefully :wink:) If there is a link, then how does a manned mars mission make any difference to the war in Iraq? Perhaps a mars mission will use up some of the US budget so that their money will be used for advancement and not war, but other than that I still don't see your connection.

    I agree that a catastrophic disaster could make our entire species extinct, but that borders on the realm of a philosophical nature. A catastrophe has the same chance happening tomorrow as it does happening in 10 years or in the next 100. There hasn't been a cataclysm that has destroyed an entire species in millions of years, why should we be counting in decades now? Do you think the human race should live forever? Could this be acheived by sending thousands of people to Mars instead of letting them die here? What stops a meteor from hitting and destroying any future life on mars? Why not build a travelling metropolis in space and send it hurtling through the cosmos with thousands of people on board?

    Answering your first question, we don't have to wait to explore the options, but why rush into something that could result in failure just because somebody says: "2020, that sounds like a good date, yeah, let's go for 2020" Why not 2025 or 2050 or 2300?

    I think I posed too many questions to be helpful, sorry. It is a great concept to think about though and that always generates questions. Also note that I did not vote in the poll, because I am unsure and am looking forward to basing my decision on what I learn here from other people's opinions.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
  20. Jul 8, 2008 #19


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    Right, because the space pen is the only technology that came out of the space program to civilian use. :rolleyes:

    I agree that 2020 is a silly timeframe, but do you honestly believe that the problems here on earth can be solved with cash? The "solve our problems first" idea is a concept that leads to complete paralysis, we will always have problems, so why do anything? I disagree fundamentally with that attitude. In large measure the progress made in the last couple of centuries has been driven by innovation. This would be a great source of innovation and would contribute more towards really fixing our problems than the same amount of money spent in redistribution of wealth programs.

    Again, I would vote for developing a self-sustaining moon colony, or even a self-sustaining space-station, over a simple visit to Mars. No environment on earth, even Antarctica, is nearly as harsh as space, and we don't even have self sustaining colonies on Antarctica. There is plenty to learn, and if we don't learn it then, sooner or later, the human race is dead.
  21. Jul 8, 2008 #20
    I'm not saying the space pen is the only technology to come from space research, I was mentioning one example. Sure it's a biased example, just thought it said something about the cost to benefit ratio of any project.

    I would be interested to find out what kind of cost to benifit ratio could be acheived by people living off-earth. Do you think the main benefits would further our ability to continue to live off-earth and/or also provide benefits for the people that are living here on earth at the moment? Of course, I mean major benefits, unlike my pen comment earlier :tongue:

    I wonder if trying to make a self sustaining colony in the antarctic (seeing that we can't even do that yet, according to DaleSpam) or something similar (ok, like maybe a moon colony being it between antartica and mars in difficulty level) would be a more tentative first step than rushing straight of to mars. The lessons learned from this would also, assumably be beneficial. If we could perfect something like that I'm sure that would boost the populations confidence in more difficult and risky projects. Any reasons for mars in particular? Why not one of Jupiter's moons? (maybe too far?)
  22. Jul 8, 2008 #21
    Well, at least no one has voted for chemical rockets. Good, very good!
  23. Jul 8, 2008 #22

    D H

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    If that had been an option I would have voted for that -- except for the one-way trip part. We will need to return from Mars for quite some time before we are ready to colonize it.

    The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks is one of those must-read books for anyone involved in managing or planning a technology project. Another one-liner from the book is Brook's Law: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." The artificial 2020 deadline in the poll makes this book very relevant to this thread.

    The oft-quoted number is 1000 times that. Whatever the figure, the billion dollar space pen is used to denigrate NASA. But ooops, the billion dollar space pen is a http://www.thespacereview.com/article/613/1".

    This is an oft-used argument against spending money on space. It is a recipe for paralysis.

    This is a naive argument. Working on the long pole at the expense of all other tasks might work on a very small project. This strategy won't work on projects of any significant size because there are too many long poles. Projects of significant size must be partitioned into smaller projects and worked in parallel. The government as a whole is a project of gargantuan size. The government has to work on many things at once or nothing will get done.

    It is curious that those who use this argument often preface it with "I love space and science and technology". Claiming to love something in the same sentence where the claimant advocating killing that something just doesn't jibe.

    Yes, there will always be problems on Earth. I addressed that above. However, you have posed a false dilemma.

    Just as the government as a whole is a gargantuan problem, so is sending humans to Mars. This too is a project that needs to be broken down into multiple pieces that are worked in parallel. One of the reasons for sending robotic probes to Mars is to serve as a precursor to a human visit. One of the reasons for returning to the Moon and staying there is to learn how to solve the logistics and radiation protection problems. Trying to do it all in one swell foop is a recipe for failure.

    That is true. This is not just a matter of political will. If that were the case we could solve the problem by throwing money at it. The 2020 deadline is technologically unachievable. There are many known unknowns that must be solved, and 12 years is too short Some of the known unknowns are getting there safely (we have a paltry 50% success rate or so with unmanned missions to Mars), logistics (a Mars mission will require many vehicles launching and docking at multiple places, often autonomously), radiation (15 months of transit time will expose the crew to deadly doses of radiation), staying on Mars (is Mars dust deadly?), leaving Mars (we have never made a vehicle return from Mars), .... These known unknowns are bad enough. With all of these known unknowns, there certainly are quite a few unknown unknowns lurking out there.

    That figure is off by a factor of two, and possibly ten, and the timeframe is off by a factor of two as well.

    In that case we are f***ed because we will not be colonizing Mars for a long, long time.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  24. Jul 8, 2008 #23
    Why bother with spending all the effort to get out of a gravity well to go down another.
    To heck with mars.
    Are there no asteroids worth mining? With remotes.
  25. Jul 8, 2008 #24
    @ D H
    I think my approach to learning was a little wrong here. I've tried to clear it up, but people read what they want to and I will be labelled a naive, tree hugging hippy for the rest of this thread because I said that we should maybe fix some problems here first before we rush into another space mission. Some people even thought I was referring to the war in Iraq for some reason (there are other problems btw, energy crisis, hunger and disease, etc). Anyway, for those who read and contemplate entire posts... I do love science, technology and space (that's why I'm an aeronautical engineer and working for a company that supplies the ESA). If all I cared about was world peace I would have followed a different path. I know this would be a typical argument so I am suggesting it. Just because I love technology doe not mean that I will be ignorant enough to believe that technology is the only solution to everything. I am only posing questions from the "other side" to help me to understand the problem better. As I said before, I have not voted in the pole and have not taken a side in the debate. I am open to all the opinions and will use those to make a final decision for myself.

    I was unaware that the space pen was an urban legend (I knew it was embellished, but to what degree, I was not aware), but your link to that article cleared things up a little, are there more references like that? It just goes to show what you can learn by showing a little ignorance as long as you are willing to learn from your mistakes (I am) I actually used one of the space pens (it did write upside down and underwater if I remember correctly. I couldn't test it at 0g :wink:) that was given to someone I know as a gift for a project he did with NASA. The article you sent didn't state the development costs of the pen, only a price per piece, maybe this could be clarified. As I also specified, I believed the $1mil price tag to have been embellished. I'm not a complete sucker for urban myths, but where there is muck there is brass (I recently read that in one of the PF member's signatures, I like it :approve:)

    Instead of arguing who is right, maybe you can help my and other's understanding more if you explain some of the benefits that could possibly come from manned space missions, especially in terms of creating self sustaining colonies.
    Here are some that I can think of:
    - Developments in reducing energy requirements for generating motion, lighting, environmental control and appliances (such as computers, food preservers, cooking apparatus) during the design of a self sustainable colony/complex could easily be manipulated to cater for the same problems on earth. This could help the energy saving capabilities of everyday people doing everyday things on earth and for future space expeditions.
    - Possible medical (physical and psycological) discoveries from the interaction of people and how they would survive the tasks at hand during such a difficult project could be applied to people on earth in some situations.
    - Mining of minerals that maybe useful if transported back to earth.
    - Other experimentation that can only take place in low g conditions, vacuum conditions, outside of the earth's atmosphere or magnetic field etc.

    I think this is a constructive take on why or why not people should consider manned space missions.
  26. Jul 8, 2008 #25


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    I didn't choose an answer in the poll because the answers are all too biased. While a manned mission to Mars will happen some time in the future, it ceratinly won't happen by 2020, and most definitely will cost more than $50 billion. That's not to say it would be "too much," just commenting that it will be a very expensive edeavor.

    Take for example, the costs adjusted for inflation of the Apollo program:
    Considering the duration and required development for a manned mission to Mars, it doesn't seem too far fetched to guess that it could cost at very least triple that of the Apollo missions, approaching or surpassing $500 billion (in 2008 dollars, imagine what it will cost in 20 years. A couple trillion maybe...).
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
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