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MTO Cancelled
Guest_Analyst_*
post Jul 22 2005, 07:05 PM
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Now the "fun" ends. From www.nasawatch.com

QUOTE
Belt-tightening at NASA has forced the space agency to cancel a planned $500 million Mars orbiter that was expected to be built by Lockheed Martin in Jefferson County. Negotiations between the aerospace company and NASA had been expected to lead to the award of a design-and-build contract for the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter."

Editor's note: Word has it that Mike Griffin wants to delay the Mars Science Laboratory by 2 to 4 years as well - this would mean a launch as late as 2013.


If this is true we don't have to worry about MTO anymore sad.gif We get MSL without MTO in 2013 (And now I doubt even more we will get the Europa Orbiter by 2015). I'm not proud to say this, but I was talking about it: Missions get canceled before they leave the drawing board, new one appear and disappear ... sad.gif
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djellison
post Jul 22 2005, 07:38 PM
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Relay capacity guestimates...

Odyssey : 0.1 - 0.4 Gbits
MRO : 1 - 2.5 Gbits
MTO : 18 - 64 Gbits

This is why I laughed out loud at the press conf when they said the
loss of MTO wouldnt affect MSL.

Things such as MARDI with it's 2 Gbits of memory for the 100 second, 5fps 1600 x 1200 colour movie, or the 9 Gig of memory built into Mastcam... sad.gif

Doug
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Jul 22 2005, 11:42 PM
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The central loss from the absence of MTO is that it will hugely reduce the distance that MSL (and later rovers) can drive, and the number of sites they can examine, per week. And, given the great variability of Martian geology (and biological evidence) over distance, that IS a very serious loss -- especially given the potential MSL would have for driving very great distances during its 2-year mininum lifetime if it wasn't for the communications bottleneck. Its drive distance
would have been multiplied severalfold, providing us with the same additional science return that we'll now have to get from at least one and maybe more separately launched MSL rovers in the new MTO-less plan. (By the way, at the Roadmap meeting I also learned that a 2-minute streaming video sequence from MSL comprises 1 Gbyte. I think we can forget about most of the video from this mission, although that is a PR rather than any kind of a science loss.)

On top of this, we just ahve word from "NASA Watch": "Word has it that Mike Griffin wants to delay the Mars Science Laboratory by 2 to 4 years as well. This would mean a launch as late as 2013."

Might be a better arrangement, actually. By then, it's possible that we might be able to reshuffle funds to allow some sort of orbital com relay link after all -- and the delay might also allow more orbital reconaissance of possible MSL landing sites if we put up the right sort of Mars Scout in the meantime. But, yet again, the manned program continues to wreck every genuinely worthwhile thing NASA is doing.

I'm not going to jump up and down on Griffin for this, or for the cuts in the Terrestrial Planet Finder's funding -- he was under orders not to actually increase the total FY 2006 funding for space-based science, and something had to go in order to fund "Glory" (which is still more important) and the preliminary work on the Hubble repair. MTO was arguably the most expendable major program. But this shows yet again how much useful space science funding is being flushed down the toilet of the manned space program.
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Bob Shaw
post Jul 23 2005, 12:49 AM
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Bruce:

I have the sense that Mike Griffin's heart is in the right place, but that his hands are tied. At least he has the technical nous to understand the issues, unlike his probably equally well-meaning predecessor, who was rather more of a reactive bean-counter lumbered with an agency crippled by amazing boondogles. I am an ardent supporter of manned spaceflight as well as unmanned spaceflight, but certainly not a supporter of the sort of stop-go-and-reverse schemes which have characterised NASA since it's glory days. Perhaps the new Lunar and planetary exploration vision, plus the gradual upsurge of spaceflight entrepeneurs, will serve to break the log-jam - I certainly hope so.

Unmanned space exploration isn't about humanity not being present, just about vehicles not having people actually aboard, and all are part of the human urge to explore, discover, and - perhaps - settle. Who among us hasn't dreamed of walking beside Spirit, striding across the Moon, or looking back at the dimming sun from Voyager? The inspiration and joy remains the same whether or not our proxies have men aboard or not!

Let's support *all* sensible exploration, and decry only the foolish and merely wasteful stuff!

Bob Shaw


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MiniTES
post Jul 24 2005, 10:27 PM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jul 22 2005, 11:42 PM)
... But, yet again, the manned program continues to wreck every genuinely worthwhile thing NASA is doing... But this shows yet again how much useful space science funding is being flushed down the toilet of the manned space program.
*


Bruce: I agree with Bob here. While I agree that the shuttle, and especially the ISS, is for the most part a waste of money (a COMPLETE waste of money as far as the ISS goes), I think that it's unfair for you to consider the manned program worthless. If we actually build a lunar- and Mars- capable CEV and follow through with the Moon-Mars initiative, we will see some genuine science that's orders of magnitude better than what we've been getting robotically.

Robots are fine on Mars (or anywhere) for orbital photographic surveys, long-term seismology and meteorology, and limited geochemical science. But searching for fossils, let alone extant life, requires intelligence and versality of an entirely different type. Fossil hunting requires both very heavy and very fine work. It also requires complex perception. MER and Sojourner- indeed, anything I think we can realistically expect before 2020 with the exception of MSR (and I don't expect to see that before maybe 2016 at the very earliest) has absolutely no manipulative capabilites whatsoever.

Zubrin, while controversial, has made the fair point that one could parachute thousands of MERs onto Earth, and it is a fair bet that they might not find any fossils, "at least not before the arrival of the next ice age, when they would be crushed by the glaciers which they would not be able to outrun."

Take an Apollo mission, Apollo 15. The ALSEP, for starters would unquestionably be way too complex for even the most advanced modern robots to set up. Could these same robots than explore the region? Remember everything the Apollo astronauts did; they traversed several miles over rough terrain, they carefully examined and photographed the terrain, found the "Genesis Rock", and were able to do other work like removing the stuck drill for the core sample to take back to Earth. In just three EVAs they explored a significant fraction of the Hadley area and collected over 200 lb of lunar samples. I think a robot would be hard-pressed just to land and try to take the drill core, let alone get it unstuck (if indeed it got stuck), and then somehow send it back to Earth.

It took Spirit almost 2 1/2 months to a reach a crater that was about 800 feet away from it. I think anyone on this board could probably walk 800 feet in about two minutes. That's the time factor; robots simply take forever to do whatever they are doing, at least compared with humans. Remember Purgatory Dune? I think that would make any self-respecting toddler who's played in a sandbox laugh as he lifted his foot up out of the dune.

Opportunity spent six months in Endurance exploring the rock outcrop. Considering the size of the outcrop, a trained geologist could probably completely cover the outcrop in an hour or two, with just as much or more thoroughness as Opportunity. More important, the scientists could do things Opportunity or even MSL could never do, such as drill deep into the outcrop and bring the samples back to a lab for (immediate) study. Plus, the scientists would probably not take a whole day to try to climb out of the crater if they failed the first time. Remember the Spirit/Opportunity trenching acitivites earlier in the mission? I could probably dig ten times that far with my bare hands in five minutes. Spend all the money you want on drills and robot arms, nothing beats a human with a drill and shovel for exposing geologic layers or drilling holes in a rock.

Now don't get me wrong here; the rovers are doing a phenomenal job. But they have the intelligence of watermelons when it comes to their usefulness in terms of exploring unassisted from earth.

The discovery of the unknown includes data collection, but it is not limited to data collection.

To quote someone from another board, "Even in Apollo there was a combination of automated and manual data collection. A camera is a camera, whether it's operated by an astronaut or by a robot. Either way you get a photograph. The difference is in the tight coupling of a human brain to the data collection process. It's not a matter of the ability to collect data, but the intuition to know where to look for data, and to adapt the study on the fly. Telepresence is just not good for that. A geologist can tell a lot about a rock by just how it feels when he bangs on it with his hammer. There are plenty of examples of expertise in observation that just aren't translatable to machine automation.

Now the point about making the best use of limited funds is certainly valid. I'm not saying manned exploration is better in all respects. It's better in the same way that hand-detailing is better than driving your car through an automated washer. You get a higher quality product, but you pay for it. Since space travel in all its forms is currently very expensive, and the willingness of the public to expend resources on it is limited, prudent financial management is the rule. But just because your budget forces you to eat mac-and-cheese six days a week doesn't mean you won't enjoy saving up for that 16-oz 30-day-aged steak on Saturday night."

So robots simply can't navigate and ambulate intelligently, make their own decisions about exploration, and analyze their findings the way humans can. Consider trying to use a MER, or MSL, to explore the Grand Canyon, or Disney World. It cannot be done.

Granted, we haven't landed people on Mars yet, and I would much rather see MTO than any STS mission, even Hubble servicing, which is probably the only real scientifically useful Shuttle activity undertaken with any regularity. However, I think it's unfair to dismiss manned missions out of hand. When we get a real, manned lunar and manned Mars program, with extended surface stays, we'll get some serious science.

Until then, of course, the loss of MTO is a great waste; the half-a-Shuttle-mission we'll get in return is not worth it in anybody's checkbook (except maybe the United Space Alliance).


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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Jul 25 2005, 01:10 AM
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Yeah, but at what cost compared to the serious science of all sorts -- or serious useful endeavors of other sorts -- we'd get from spending the hundreds of billions of $ we'll need for this elsewhere? Lunar geology, dammit, is LUNAR GEOLOGY; unless and until we conclude that mining the Moon might be useful in alleviating earth's need for non-fossil fuel energy (and we are a very long way from establishing that), it amounts to just spending $200 billion or so for the amusement of a (very) small clique of geologists -- period.

As for a manned Mars trip, remember that Catch-22 I talked about -- certainly a lot of Mars scientists have been mentioning it for several years now. The one thing that, scientifically, could conceivably justify the staggering cost of a manned Mars expedition (I'm still estimating about $300 billion for the very first expedition) would be the discovery of present or fossil life on Mars -- but the moment a manned lander touches down to investigate such evidence, it will very seriously contaminate it at its landing site, and maybe end up contaminating the whole planet. The one way around this dilemma would be to limit humans to orbiting Mars and running surface robots and sample-retrieval vehicles by remote control -- but, once again, we're talking several hundred billion $. And the Administration proposes to start spending money on this endeavor BEFORE WE EVEN KNOW IF THERE IS ANY EVIDENCE OF LIFE ON MARS. Any move whatsoever toward a manned Mars expedition can damn well wait until we know whether there is any reason to spend money on it.

I mean, the government -- both the White House and Congress -- isn't even seriously pretending anymore that the manned space program has any real justification other than continuing to feed the Aerospace/Industrial Complex. One wonders how much support for it there would be if the state of Florida hadn't decided the last two presidential elections (and is likely to decide all close ones for some time to come, thanks to the cretinous way the Electoral College is set up).
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MiniTES
post Jul 25 2005, 11:01 AM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jul 25 2005, 01:10 AM)
Yeah, but at what cost compared to the serious science of all sorts -- or serious useful endeavors of other sorts -- we'd get from spending the hundreds of billions of $ we'll need for this elsewhere?...(I'm still estimating about $300 billion for the very first expedition)


Again this isn't really a fair comparison. The only manned initiative with a price range in the hundreds of billions was SEI, and the current plan on the table certainly isn't going to cost that. The NASA Mars Reference Mission 3.0 - a manned mission - is only costed at $55 billion, and that's by the same group who did the jaw-dropping $450 billion SEI analysis. The Planetary Society did a detailed report (with Mike Griffin) showing the total cost of a manned Mars program over 30 years to be between $119 and $129 billion. A lot, but not ridiculous over so long a time period. The main issue is the up-front non-recurring investment in hardware. Once you do that, the cost of each individual mission shouldn't be much more than a sample return mission (and we'd certainly get way more samples, better picked, studied, and from deeper drill points than we'd get with a robotic MSR). Why do you estimate $300 billion? Over how long a time period would that be spent? - surely NASA's budget is not going to be increased by that proportion. (If it were, it could only help the unmanned missions).

QUOTE
As for a manned Mars trip, remember that Catch-22 I talked about -- certainly a lot of Mars scientists have been mentioning it for several years now.  The one thing that, scientifically, could conceivably justify the staggering cost of a manned Mars expedition (I'm still estimating about $300 billion for the very first expedition) would be the discovery of present or fossil life on Mars -- but the moment a manned lander touches down to investigate such evidence, it will very seriously contaminate it at its landing site, and maybe end up contaminating the whole planet.  The one way around this dilemma would be to limit humans to orbiting Mars and running surface robots and sample-retrieval vehicles by remote control -- but, once again, we're talking several hundred billion $.  And the Administration proposes to start spending money on this endeavor BEFORE WE EVEN KNOW IF THERE IS ANY EVIDENCE OF LIFE ON MARS.  Any move whatsoever toward a manned Mars expedition can damn well wait until we know whether there is any reason to spend money on it.


If there are any real fossils, like stromatolites, I don't think the contamination issue is a problem. The problem with contamination is what it might do to studies of extant life. This is, of course, a problem that must be dealt with somehow. However, any extant life is likely to be in underground liquid water and therefore could probably be separated from direct human contact (which is not to say forward contamination should not be examined closely). But I think humans would be so much more effective at finding fossils than robots that they should be sent to search for fossils, not just to study what robots have already found. No robotic missions currently being funded could find unambiguous evidence of fossil life (certainly not extant life) without really enormous stromatolite-like structures.

QUOTE
I mean, the government -- both the White House and Congress -- isn't even seriously pretending anymore that the manned space program has any real justification other than continuing to feed the Aerospace/Industrial Complex.
*


What do you mean by this? Was there some specific action or statement by someone?
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MiniTES
post Jul 25 2005, 01:46 PM
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But I do agree with you that these cuts are a waste. TPF and the Europa Orbiter and MSL and really valuable missions like them are being delayed for these useless ISS construction activities. Now that, I will agree to some extent, is flushing money down the toilet. But once we get out of LEO, and have manned lunar, NEO, and Mars flights, I think we'll see some real science out of them.

And to look at if from another perspective, we're going to have manned flights no matter how you look at it- better to be flying to a NEO than lapping the LEO racetrack. Interestingly, the period when there no manned flights at all, from 1975-1981, was perhaps the starkest period ever for unmanned spaceflight. The rising tide raises all the boats, as they say. The new moon-Mars initiative isn't what's killing MTO and company; it's the Shuttle RTF costs. And personally, I would be perfectly fine with retiring the Shuttle right now and sending to the NASM. But we're not going to do that, so we need to do the next best thing and retire them as soon as possible.

Pork-barrel poilitics is, of course, really bad. Sean O'Keefe and Craig Steidle's protracted, DoD-like procurement plan for the CEV would have stretchted it out endlessly and wasted billions, and generally made the pork-eaters quite happy. At least Mike Griffin knows what he's doing and will save billions of dollars and years of work on the CEV with his plan for acceleration. The cost of anything from a contractor isn't in hardware; it's people multiplied by time. Compared to labor costs the hardware itself is virtually negligible. So by downselecting early, you have one company working much faster, rather than two with endless amounts of time for CEV development, so you're saving billions of dollars that might otherwise have come from the unmanned stuff.
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tty
post Jul 25 2005, 06:36 PM
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QUOTE (MiniTES @ Jul 25 2005, 03:46 PM)
The cost of anything from a contractor isn't in hardware; it's people multiplied by time. Compared to labor costs the hardware itself is virtually negligible.
*


Very true. There is even a school of thought that highly secret black programs give the best value for money. Reason: It's such a pain in the neck to get security-clearances that you use only the people you absolutely must have.
There is certainly a number of projects that seem to confirm this theory (U2, SR71, Corona, F117....). Consider what e g SR71 would have cost and how long it would have taken to procure using ordinary DoD (or NASA) procedures. smile.gif

tty
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dvandorn
post Jul 25 2005, 08:00 PM
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I disagree with the postulate that the ISS is entirely useless.

ISS is not all that useful (especially in its present configuration) for scientific research. Most of the research that can be done on the ISS can be done better and more cheaply on science STS flights such as Columbia's last flight. Or on unmanned satellites.

But, in my humble opinion, the ISS is absolutely required *experience* for anyone who wants to travel beyond the Earth/Moon system and out into the greater solar system.

ISS is a learning laboratory on how to mount multi-year missions. Once you have figured out how to keep a crew alive and well on the ISS for a good fraction of a year, you've figured out how to send people to other planets on trips that will last from months to years.

NASA engineers had a belief about the Russian space station program -- that the Russians used crude and unreliable technology that constantly exposed their crews to needless danger. That the Russian stations broke down because Russian engineering was inherently inferior to American engineering.

ISS is proving the NASA engineers wrong -- equipment breaks down, be it in space or on the ground. Even bulkheads and other structural elements that are given a full reliability factor of 1.0 (never, ever expected to fail) can indeed fail given extraordinary circumstances.

The Russians found this out early on, and developed systems that can be serviced on-orbit. They even came up with techniques for servicing equipment that was never meant to be serviced. But us Americans, we wouldn't allow ourselves to learn those lessons, because it was *easier* to believe that the Russians were simply semi-competent entrants into the space game.

It is my belief that if the U.S. had decided to mount a manned Mars expedition without going through the learning curve of operating an ISS-style station for several years, the expedition would end in abort at best, and loss of vehicle and crew at worst. That this would have been inherent in the engineering mindset that believed you can design and build each and every system on such a complex spacecraft with *no* potential for disastrous failure.

Granted, such a station doesn't serve many other purposes beyond teaching us how to keep people alive and well, and keeping their spacecraft working properly, over months and years of flight time. Which is why the ISS *seems* to be such a waste. But unless we want to give up on the idea of manned solar system exploration, we *have* to gain this kind of experience before we can move on.

So, give the ISS a break. Everyone needs to spend some time in grade school before we can think about graduating into high school, much less attending university...

-the other Doug


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dvandorn
post Jul 25 2005, 08:12 PM
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Oh, and for mini-TES' question -- Bruce was referring to a comment made by President Dwight Eisenhower late in his term. He gave a speech in which he sounded a warning against simply giving what he called the "military-industrial complex" everything it wanted simply because it wanted it. He pointed out that the large aerospace companies (they were mostly just airplane manufacturers back then), and all the companies that built tanks and guns and ships, had a very narrow world-view that *required* you to believe you were going to fight one major war and several smaller skirmishes every generation. That belief was their reason for existence, so they believed it very strongly.

They still do.

-the other Doug


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Mark6
post Jul 25 2005, 08:56 PM
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QUOTE (dvandorn @ Jul 25 2005, 08:00 PM)
But, in my humble opinion, the ISS is absolutely required *experience* for anyone who wants to travel beyond the Earth/Moon system and out into the greater solar system.

ISS is a learning laboratory on how to mount multi-year missions.  Once you have figured out how to keep a crew alive and well on the ISS for a good fraction of a year, you've figured out how to send people to other planets on trips that will last from months to years.

NASA engineers had a belief about the Russian space station program -- that the Russians used crude and unreliable technology that constantly exposed their crews to needless danger.  That the Russian stations broke down because Russian engineering was inherently inferior to American engineering.

ISS is proving the NASA engineers wrong -- equipment breaks down, be it in space or on the ground.  Even bulkheads and other structural elements that are given a full reliability factor of 1.0 (never, ever expected to fail) can indeed fail given extraordinary circumstances.

The Russians found this out early on, and developed systems that can be serviced on-orbit.  They even came up with techniques for servicing equipment that was never meant to be serviced.  But us Americans, we wouldn't allow ourselves to learn those lessons, because it was *easier* to believe that the Russians were simply semi-competent entrants into the space game.

It is my belief that if the U.S. had decided to mount a manned Mars expedition without going through the learning curve of operating an ISS-style station for several years, the expedition would end in abort at best, and loss of vehicle and crew at worst.  That this would have been inherent in the engineering mindset that believed you can design and build each and every system on such a complex spacecraft with *no* potential for disastrous failure.

Sorry, but that is not a good argument for ISS. What you presented is a good argument against arrogance and "Not Invented Here" syndrome. In other words, spending umpteen billion dollars on ISS is necessary, but only because NASA was too arrogant to learn from the Russians.
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djellison
post Jul 25 2005, 10:53 PM
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QUOTE (Mark6 @ Jul 25 2005, 08:56 PM)
Sorry, but that is not a good argument for ISS. What you presented is a good argument against arrogance and "Not Invented Here" syndrome. In other words, spending umpteen billion dollars on ISS is necessary, but only because NASA was too arrogant to learn from the Russians.
*


Someone else who's read 'Star Cross Orbits'. smile.gif Excellent read.

Doug
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MiniTES
post Jul 26 2005, 12:09 AM
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QUOTE (dvandorn @ Jul 25 2005, 08:12 PM)
Oh, and for mini-TES' question -- Bruce was referring to a comment made by President Dwight Eisenhower late in his term.  He gave a speech in which he sounded a warning against simply giving what he called the "military-industrial complex" everything it wanted simply because it wanted it.  He pointed out that the large aerospace companies (they were mostly just airplane manufacturers back then), and all the companies that built tanks and guns and ships, had a very narrow world-view that *required* you to believe you were going to fight one major war and several smaller skirmishes every generation.  That belief was their reason for existence, so they believed it very strongly.
*


I understand what the complex is - I was asking what Bruce meant by saying "both the White House and Congress -- isn't even seriously pretending anymore that the manned space program has any real justification other than continuing to feed the Aerospace/Industrial Complex," whether someone in the White House or Congress had said something to the effect of "science is secondary".


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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Jul 26 2005, 02:33 AM
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In reply:

(1) I find that $55 billion price tag for Mars Direct about as plausible as the original $8 billion price tag for ISS, and for much the same reason. I take for granted that the cost on this thing will rapidly explode once it actually gets underway -- and the staggering size and complexity needed even for a 6-man ship according to the latest studies backs me up. See the documents from the first two Mars Strategic Roadmap meetings:
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/apio/ppt/mar...man_studies.ppt

(2) Even assuming that you can get support for manned Mars landing expeditions that would ONLY look for fossils and restrain themselves from poking into any sort of environment that might conceivably contain extant Martian life -- which is extremely doubtful -- the dangers of their accidentally contaminating such an extant biosphere would be huge. And just how likely is it in any case that we can get support for such a hugely expensive manned fossil hunt UNLESS we already have strong evidence for Martian fossils from robot explorers?

Moreover, by an overwhelming margin, the most valuable fossil evidence we're likely to find on Mars is not of the shape of Martian microbes -- microbes, for elementary physical/chemical reasons, are likely to have the same shapes on any world -- but of their biochemistry. It's the variations in that, compared with Earth germs, that will make extraterrestrial life interesting -- and, given the great difficulties in interpreting whether apparent fossilized microbes even on Earth are really biological or are just copycat nonliving mineral formations, such preserved biochemical evidence may very well be necessary even to determine that any possible martian fossils really ARE fossils. But it is also precisely this kind of delicate, trace organic-chemical fossil evidence that will be disastrously contaminated at the landing site of any manned Mars lander.

(One point made clear in the testimony of NASA officials at the first Mars Roadmap meeting is that any manned Mars landing expeditions will be radically different in overall concept from our Apollo visions of spacesuited explorers tromping around the landscape. Given both the dangers of forward and back-contamination, and the greater difficulty in developing spacesuits and backpacks that are easy to wear in the greater Martian gravity, any landed Mars crew will do as much of their work as possible, even after landing, using robots remote-controlled from their home base or from the presurized cabins of their rovers. Actually suited-up EVAs will be limited to the minimum necessary. But you could run those robots just as well from Mars orbit.)

(3) As an Earth-orbital training ground for manned deep space ships, the ISS is absolutely ludicrous. It must be constantly resupplied; it will be very hard to build any closed-cycle, self-reliant (and leakproof) life-support system into it -- and in any case any such systems (absolutely crucial for manned deep space ships) can be tested on the ground, BETTTER, for literally about 0.1% of the cost of testing them on the ISS.

Indeed, the only aspect of manned deep-space flight for which any kind of Earth-orbital facility might be useful is to determine the effectiveness of various levels of artificial gravity in fending off the harmful effects of 0-G. But the ISS can never be equipped with artificial gravity -- unless you count the Centrifuge Module that Japan is building for it, which npw seems very likely to get kicked completely off the ISS due to NASA's funding oroblems, and whose usefulness in understanding the effects of low-G on humans themselves is extremely limited anyway. By far the best way to test that is simply to put a simulated manned-deep space ship cabin, spun up to provide some level of artificial gravity, into Earth orbit and simply put a crew on that.

(4) I didn't mean to say that NASA is actually officially saying that "science is unimportant in manned spaceflight" -- although I was at one meeting at NASA's 2004 Astrobiology Conference at Ames Research Center, at which a group of scientists hd been ordered to come up with (so help me God)strong "astrobiological" justifications for manned LUNAR exploration. Sean O'Keefe informed them threateningly in a message that the Great Leader was determined to fly a manned lunar program in any case -- and that, if the scientific community didn't get with the program and start coming up with official scientific justifications for it, the Great Leader would order it flown WITHOUT any science onboard. (Since, by now, the Bush Administration's ability to threaten people was already on a rapid downhill slide, the scientists literally jeered this announcement.)

But what I was really saying is simply that the "scientific" and "commercial" justifications being put forward by both the White House and Congress for NASA's manned program are at this point so ridiculously lame, pathetic and transparent that it's clear that not even they really expect anyone to believe them -- they're just going through the motions of a standard political Kabuki Play as the obligatory (if transparent) fig leaf for a pure pork program. Certainly this is entirely the case with Shuttle/Station,; the arguments for a return to the Moon are just as ridiculous when looked at, and not even Bush dares to push something as expensive as a manned Mars expedition on us at this point.

(5) Regarding a manned Moon program as an expensive blind alley when it comes to sending men to Mars: the Mars Roadmap group came close to a rebellion on the third day of its first meeting for precisely this reason. O'Keefe showed up in person at the start of the first day (I was there) and blew threateningly through his mustache that they were under no circumstances to actually question the advisibility of any part of the Great Leader's manned program; theirs was but to suggest the best way to carry it out. But since it was plain to everyone that a manned lunar program is probbly just a very expensive side distraction from a manned Mars program, the Committee (led, in the rebellion, by Tom Young and Sally Ride) nevertheless on the third day came close to issuing a statement to that effect -- and I wrote it up in my SpaceDaily piece on the meeting. Unfortunately, by the time the Committee actually isssued its preliminary Roadmap, enough additional arms had been twisted that they just ended up sticking in a brief, bland statement that the manned lunar program might provide useful experience for a manned Mars program, without going into any significant detail as to what such experience might be: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/apio/pdf/mars/mars_roadmap.pdf (pg. 29-30). Every one of the five listed areas in which manned lunar exploration might be useful in acquiring experience for manned Mars expeditions could probably be achieved much more cheaply in other ways.

And that is also the conclusion reached by the IAA's carefully thought-out, incremental 2004 plan for manned deep space flight ( http://www.iaanet.org/p_papers/exploringspace.pdf ) -- in which the movement is toward manned deep-space expeditions over longer and longer distances (first the Earth-Sun L-2 point, then near-Earth asteroids, and finally Mars), and it specified that a manned lunar base, while quite possible to incorporate into the program, is actually a side branch whose relevance to manned Mars mission planning is seriously doubtful. (Pg. 56, 63 and 69.) The Roadmap Committee was very interested in this report and indeed incorporated it into their background briefing material.
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