Mission to Mars? - Explorers Wanted

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Main Question or Discussion Point

The next frontier: MARS!

Ok, so the moon would probably be good too, but I want to talk about what kind of people NASA would want to send to Mars.

In Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, the optimal explorers are four married couples with varied expertise including:

an astrogator, medical doctor, cook, machinist, commander, semantician, chemical engineer, electronics engineer, physicist, geologist, biochemist, biologist, nuclear engineer, hydroponicist.

Presumably, you would want people that could function without contact from earth in the case of disaster.

With space exploration to Mars tantalizingly close, what do you think are the best skills to look for in a Mars crew?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Astronuc
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It probably depends on the mission. If it's strictly exploratory, then perhaps geologist or geophysicist/geochemist.

If however, there is to some base, then the first crew is likely to be engineers and technicians who establish the infrastructure - e.g. a power plant, oxygen system, and food and water services, and communications and IT.

But don't hold one's breath. Exploration is a decade or more away, since we don't have a transfer vehicle capable of a round trip to Mars yet, and NASA has put the moon ahead of Mars. However things can change, as it did several times during the last several administrations.
 
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  • #3
D H
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Human space exploration to Mars is not tantalizing close, unless by tantalizing close you mean within this century.
 
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Mars seems boring... why not shoot for Titan or Europa?
 
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I choose Mars because as we saw with the moon, it costs a lot of money to do round trip explorations when the technology isn't really there. I would expect the first manned missions to be one way. It's possible that a base on the moon would provide an excellent platform for building and launching new vehicles in space exploration (as non-earth resources are going to be much more economical for building material). But yes, I'm looking at a 20ish years from now (look how fast things went in the 60s).
 
  • #6
MATLABdude
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I was in a discussion with a few friends of mine... How many well-qualified individuals would you be able to find for a one-way mission to Mars? It wouldn't necessarily be an out and out suicide mission (you could attempt to make the colony self-sufficient), but it'd be understood that they're 2 years away from Earth (whenever a launch window is present). I don't think you'd want terminal cases (at least not immediately terminal) since you'd actually want them to make it to Mars and do something for you given how much you're spending to send them there. It'd be a whole lot easier than a two-way mission.
 
  • #7
D H
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A one-way trip, done on the cheap, is an out-and-out suicide mission. A non-suicidal colonization mission would cost far, far more than would a two-way trip and will necessarily be much further into the future. Twenty years is an optimistic time frame for a sortie mission. A colonization mission? Maybe this century. For one thing, many needed technologies for a colonization mission are at TRL 1. For another, the number of people needed to make a sustainable colony is far more than the number needed for a sortie mission.
 
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I choose Mars because as we saw with the moon, it costs a lot of money to do round trip explorations when the technology isn't really there. I would expect the first manned missions to be one way. It's possible that a base on the moon would provide an excellent platform for building and launching new vehicles in space exploration (as non-earth resources are going to be much more economical for building material). But yes, I'm looking at a 20ish years from now (look how fast things went in the 60s).
you can't compare with the 60s, that was the cold war era, and there was a sense of urgency then, I think the current administration has a lot more on their hands than even space exploration.
 
  • #9
Ivan Seeking
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  • #10
Nabeshin
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you can't compare with the 60s, that was the cold war era, and there was a sense of urgency then, I think the current administration has a lot more on their hands than even space exploration.
Right, but I think it would be a little irresponsible to assume the current level of urgency to remain constant. For one, I think it could be completely possible that a 2nd space race to establish a permanent offworld presence on the moon/mars will ensue between the US/India/China. A permanent settlement on the moon/mars would probably have tremendous political significance, even if it is pretty much scientifically meaningless. If something like this happens colonies could be established much sooner than a century. Two/three decades of extensive (apollo caliber) work would probably provide the means necessary to make the trip.

Without external pressure, a century is probably much more realistic.
 
  • #11
Ivan Seeking
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The cold-war space race was a finite commitment. In fact, as was portrayed in the movie, Apollo 13, after only a few moon missions the public lost interest. Whereas the lunar program was finite, a base on the moon, and a 1000 times more difficult, a base on Mars, are open-ended commitments going far beyond that required for the moon race.

As of right now we can barely maintain a permanent space station even with an international effort.

There is a significant portion of the population that doesn't trust science and that question [kill] the funding of large projects like the SCSC. If you want to convince the general public that science if frivolous, send people to Mars.
 
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  • #12
Nabeshin
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The cold-war space race was a finite commitment. In fact, as was portrayed in the movie, Apollo 13, after only a few moon missions the public lost interest. Whereas the lunar program was finite, a base on the moon, and a 1000 times more difficult, a base on Mars, are open-ended commitments going far beyond that required for the moon race.

As of right now we can barely maintain a permanent space station even with an international effort.
This is a good point, I suppose. It's not just a get there and come back kind of deal. But, in the heat of political pressure and all that I think people would forget (for good or for bad) what a commitment these kind of operations are. Not just the commitment of having an offworld settlement, but the development of all the technology to do it. After all, the Apollo missions few a dozen or so times, but there was a ridiculous amount of technology development that we had to find uses for once the project was scrapped.

There is a significant portion of the population that doesn't trust science and that question [kill] the funding of large projects like the SCSC. If you want to convince the general public that science if frivolous, send people to Mars.
People certainly do question funding for large projects, but I'm not sure how you make your jump to the fact that sending people to mars is equivalent to convincing people science is frivolous. If nothing else it would be a tremendous flex of technological muscle on whichever country managed to achieve that goal. It would be a testament to how practical everything that is being studied in laboratories all over the world is. A fusion of decades of technological research that may not have had many practical uses up to this point. In this sense, it seems it will represent a triumph of science rather than its frivolity.

If you want to convince people science is frivolous, spend billions of dollars sending probes and satellites into orbit when the public has no idea what they're doing. Design multi-billion dollar laboratory experiments to detect something nobody's ever heard of, and likely, don't give a damn about. This sense of frivolity probably arises from the sense that nothing being developed is of any immediate use to the general public, or more profoundly, they have no flippin clue what it is. It's difficult to get excited about the higgs boson when you just have a highschool education. Not the case when you're sending a manned mission to mars.

This has turned into me rambling but I want to state that I realize once a presence is established on mars it is going to be 99% useless. The scientific value of a colony is next to nil, especially compared to the cost. But the action of sending people certainly will not make people think science is wasteful. The public will surely lose interest after some time, but as it is with everything.
 
  • #13
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an astrogator, medical doctor, cook, machinist, commander, semantician, chemical engineer, electronics engineer, physicist, geologist, biochemist, biologist, nuclear engineer, hydroponicist.
You forgot poet.
 
  • #14
DaveC426913
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You forgot poet.
"They shouldn't have sent a scientist. They should've sent a poet..."
Dr. Ellie Arroway - Contact
 

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