# Terraforming nearby planets

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TransformerRobot,

I read somewhere that the illegal arms trade sucks up a few hundred billion per year. I think human slavery and sex trafficking takes hundreds of billions as well. If humanity were cooler there would be less slavery, killing, and Snooki, and more science, space exploration, and humanitarianism. We're kinda lame still. (I say 'still' because I'm hopeful that we'll have super awesome descendants in the far future.)

Then we need to get rid of human slavery and sex trafficking. The illegal arms trade needs to be destroyed.

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The recently launched Mars Science Laboratory cost $2.5 billion. A 2003 Decadal Survey document classified the MSL as a "medium cost mission" and estimated it would require a budget in the$325 - 650 million range. I can't help but chuckle.

Edit: And based on the wiki page the official MSL budget was still under 1 billion in 2008. And I think this is why those Mars One people are trying to do everything by partnering directly with private entities like SpaceX, presumably avoiding the vampirish onion skin of middle men and bureaucracy.

Then we need to get rid of human slavery and sex trafficking. The illegal arms trade needs to be destroyed.

Yeah, and I don't mean that as a practical suggestion, just a bleak social/cultural commentary. There are so many things that we apparently care a lot about as a species and global civilization. The noblest and most valuable things may be quite low on the list. Perhaps after considerable social evolution our world will be more dominated by the better parts of our humanity.

Edited by the asinine cretin
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One final problem is the reliance on nuclear technology. . .

"We do not require development and launch of a nuclear reactor." - Mars One

"The Mars One base will be powered by solar panels. This is possible because we do not require the production of fuel for a return journey. Many of the other plans propose the use of a nuclear reactor, which would have to be small enough to be launched all the way to Mars. Such a nuclear reactor does not exist yet and a great deal of time and money will have to be poured into the idea before it will. Moreover, seeking permission to launch a nuclear reactor – even with a great track record for the launcher – can set off political alarm bells. The chances of it being granted are diminutive due to fears of what would happen to those nearby if something were to go wrong."

http://mars-one.com/...really-possible

if you assume that untested technologies will work the very first try, if you ignore the two steps forward / one step back nature of developing new technologies, and if you use these untested technologies on humans right off the bat.

...

It's easy to say that the technology exists for extracting oxygen from CO2 via the Sabatier process. There's a problem here: Nobody has built a Sabatier reactor for use on Mars. You can't just say that the technology has been used elsewhere.

"No new developments – Our entire plan revolves around using existing, validated technology." - Mars One

I haven't seen anything suggesting that in situ fuel production is part of Mars One.

The kinds of people who would volunteer for such a mission are exactly the kind of people who would go nuts in a very bad way on an extended mission.

This is a baseless assertion. You don't know what kind of screening they will do and what kind of people they will select.

We do not know how to do the mining and refining needed to support human life on Mars.

There is nothing about mining in Mars One, and I've not seen anything about refining that we don't know how to do.

If SpaceX manages something like their Red Dragon Martian sample return mission in the next few years, and if it is as cheap as they say it will be, I'll consider this wacky Mars One thing to be a real possibility. Sort of a scary thought as I'm very uncomfortable with the finality of it. Even if they ask for it, sending people to live in tiny habitats on Mars with no hope of escape? Not cool.

I think the in situ fuel production and a return vehicle are not merely nice-to-haves, but that's just me.

We do not know how to perform aerocapture with the Martian atmosphere. Aerobraking has been used, but that takes a long time and also uses extra propellant compared to aerocapture. All of the low cost missions to Mars just assume aerocapture will work as a way to reduce mission cost.

Based on the Mars Design Reference 5.0 document we do know how to perform Martian aerocapture. It's been studied extensively via simulations and systems analysis and MDRM5 recommends it for cargo missions ("aerocapture for the crew transfer vehicle was eliminated from consideration due to the physical size of that element"). It's a viable option, not a fantasy, and it's not considered to be particularly risky. Basis: MDRM5 6.4 "Decision 3: Aerocapture vs. Propulsive Mars Orbit Capture of Cargo"

I get the feeling that you're overstating the difficulty. I want to come back to this thread in a few years (I'll say less than seven) after SpaceX aerocaptures a Dragon and possibly lands it on Mars with nothing but drag and retro-propulsion thrusters. Mark my words.

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"We do not require development and launch of a nuclear reactor." - Mars One

I was discounting Mars One as non credible. All of the credible Mars terraforming projects require a nuclear reactor. What happens to those light thin-film solar panels when the first Martian storm hits? Six landers, more than six launches from Earth, all for six billion dollars? That is not credible.

"No new developments – Our entire plan revolves around using existing, validated technology." - Mars One

Baloney. They use tons of new technology. Powered landing of those large landers on Mars. We don't know how to do that. Growing food on Mars. We don't know how to do that. Rovers that can haul large landers around on Mars. We don't know how to do that. Precision landing on Mars, in close enough proximity for those rovers to move the landers to one spot. We don't know how to do that. Extracting water and oxygen from the Martian soil. We don't know how to do that.

Aside: What water ice in the Martian soil? There's water ice in the Martian soil near the poles. Away from the poles, not much. Note that depending on power from solar arrays is highly problematic near the poles.

There is nothing about mining in Mars One, and I've not seen anything about refining that we don't know how to do.

They are extracting water and oxygen from the Martian soil. That's mining and refining.

Just because a technology exists on paper does not mean that it is an existing technology. Just because an existing technology has been used in a very different setting does it mean that it will work when used in a radically different environment. An existing technology deployed in a radically different setting is a new technology. NASA has learned this lesson, so have the various incarnations of the Soviet Union / Russian space programs.

There's no discussion of the landing process at that site. There's very little discussion of growing food. There's very little discussion of power, and no discussion of how the facilities will be powered at night. There's no discussion of waste management. There's no discussion of how to handle medical emergencies. This is just bunk.

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I was discounting Mars One as non credible. All of the credible Mars terraforming projects require a nuclear reactor. What happens to those light thin-film solar panels when the first Martian storm hits? Six landers, more than six launches from Earth, all for six billion dollars? That is not credible.

Baloney. They use tons of new technology. Powered landing of those large landers on Mars. We don't know how to do that. Growing food on Mars. We don't know how to do that. Rovers that can haul large landers around on Mars. We don't know how to do that. Precision landing on Mars, in close enough proximity for those rovers to move the landers to one spot. We don't know how to do that. Extracting water and oxygen from the Martian soil. We don't know how to do that.

Aside: What water ice in the Martian soil? There's water ice in the Martian soil near the poles. Away from the poles, not much. Note that depending on power from solar arrays is highly problematic near the poles.

They are extracting water and oxygen from the Martian soil. That's mining and refining.

Just because a technology exists on paper does not mean that it is an existing technology. Just because an existing technology has been used in a very different setting does it mean that it will work when used in a radically different environment. An existing technology deployed in a radically different setting is a new technology. NASA has learned this lesson, so have the various incarnations of the Soviet Union / Russian space programs.

There's no discussion of the landing process at that site. There's very little discussion of growing food. There's very little discussion of power, and no discussion of how the facilities will be powered at night. There's no discussion of waste management. There's no discussion of how to handle medical emergencies. This is just bunk.

I actually do agree. There are far more questions than answers. And just asserting that there are no new technology requirements won't make everything fall into place.

From the superficial stuff I've read on their website thus far, I'm thinking that even if they managed to launch all of these things to Mars and send four pioneers to Mars, it might end up being a highly publicized disaster for the entire world to watch that would set back human space exploration. I think of the heroic age of antarctic exploration and imagine that someone had the idea to send four people on an expedition deep in the antarctic where they would live out the rest of their lives somehow. It's inhumane.

And yet I am encouraged and excited about private space exploration ventures. Perhaps something legitimate will come of this in the end. I think it quite possible that my fears are at least somewhat misplaced.

Edit: There's always a f*ckin typo. Maybe I'll learn to proofread someday.

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Antarctica would be orders of magnitude easier to colonize than Mars yet we don't see any big shove to colonize Antarctica, Mars is difficult to colonize and if anyone thinks that terra forming Mars is going to create a tropical paradise i suggest living in Antarctica for a couple years....

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And yet I am encouraged and excited about private space exploration ventures. Perhaps something legitimate will come of this in the end. I think it quite possible that my fears are at least somewhat misplaced.

I too am quite encouraged by these developments. One thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority will inevitably fail. After all, the vast majority of restaurant startups fail, and starting a new restaurant ain't exactly rocket science. Starting a new private space exploration venture? That is rocket science.

Edit: There's always a f*ckin typo. Maybe I'll learn to proofread someday.

There's almost always a typo even after you proofread. Well, at least for me there is. I liked the prior software which didn't report that I had edited my post if I caught the problem and fixed it in short order (5 finites, IIRC).

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Thanks D H.

Antarctica would be orders of magnitude easier to colonize than Mars yet we don't see any big shove to colonize Antarctica, Mars is difficult to colonize and if anyone thinks that terra forming Mars is going to create a tropical paradise i suggest living in Antarctica for a couple years....

This is a tangent, but I think things like FMARS sound like a lot of fun.

Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station

I suspect that the Desert Rats have even more fun. Look at some of those toys.

Desert Research and Technology Studies

NASA D-RATS Website

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We do not know how to do pinpoint landing on Mars. Multiple landers must land in extremely close proximity to one another to make them useful. The Mars Science Laboratory (which hasn't landed yet) is supposed to improve our pinpoint landing skills to within 20 kilometers. That's not good enough for multiple landers that need to support humans. A factor of ten improvement is pushing it.

I'm watching the Mars Concepts 2012 presentations and 2.5 hours into session 1 of day 3 there is a slide which says that the current MER landing ellipse is 12 km x 10 km. Apparently the "modern" MER hardware has a much improved heat shield and thrusters for guided entry. Kind of cool. I'm pretty much willing to bet that the MER legacy will be utilized in meeting the MSR goal of the decadal survey.

As far as Mars One (a project I can't stand, incidentally), I'm guessing they're assuming SpaceX will meet their goals, including the "Red Dragon" project, and have a craft even more capable of precision landing.

Back to Mars One: It's the basis for a TV reality show. Here's a fluff piece at gizmag that highlights the details: http://www.gizmag.co...ent-2023/22799/.

Yeah, no thanks. Screw reality shows. That's a show stopper in my opinion - pun intended.

We do not know how to do the mining and refining needed to support human life on Mars. It's easy to say that the technology exists for extracting oxygen from CO2 via the Sabatier process. There's a problem here: Nobody has built a Sabatier reactor for use on Mars. You can't just say that the technology has been used elsewhere. Things don't work that way. The US and Russia have learned that lesson many times over. That's why they are so conservative when it comes to new technologies.

I recently read the 2011 update of The Case For Mars and it mentions recent end-to-end testing of a scalable reactor for Martian ISRU. The impression I have is that the TRL is perhaps 6. He says that Pioneer Astronautics has a serious demonstration system, fully automated and able to produce methane and oxygen in any ratio desired, that can run nonstop for days in simulated Martian conditions. I wish I knew more about it. I'll have to take a look at the references.

edit:typo

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I'm watching the Mars Concepts 2012 presentations and 2.5 hours into session 1 of day 3 there is a slide which says that the current MER landing ellipse is 12 km x 10 km.

That sounds wrong, way wrong. Those numbers are way too close to circular for one thing. The along track error should be much bigger. Another problem is the use of "current" and "MER" in the same sentence. Are those your words, or theirs? This paper, http://web.mit.edu/larsb/Public/KnockeDispersionAIAA04.pdf, gives a 63 km x 9 km three sigma ellipse for the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Your numbers are, I think, those for the Mars Science Lab (still in flight), see http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/msl/memoranda/MSL_Eng_User_Guide_v4.5.1.pdf. Note that those numbers were preliminary and did not include dispersions for winds during parachute descent. With winds, that 12 by 10 ellipse expands to 25 by 20. This site, http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2012/20120611-curiosity-landing-ellipse.html says that the ellipse has shrunk to 20 km x 7 km. Note this this is very current; it's from four days ago.

In any case, all of those numbers are far too big for a human mission, particularly one in which multiple vehicles must land in more or less the same spot (e.g., this silly Mars One proposal). NASA thinks that a pinpoint landing capability of 100 meters CEP ("circle of equal probability") is needed for a human mission with multiple landers. That's about two orders of magnitude smaller (linear dimension) than current capabilities. Two order of magnitude improvements usually means uncharted territory.

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The presentation was made yesterday and it's about a 2018 MER MSR mission, not MSL. Verbatim from the slide:

Updated EDL System Enables Precision Landing

- Reduces MER landing ellipse from 100 km x 20 km -> 12 km x 10 km. (Within one CRISM image.)

- New, larger heat shield fitted with thrusters for guided entry...

Basically, this is achieved by the incorporation of four RCS thrusters from MSL heritage. Heat shield redesign similar to Viking in that the heat shield is the component that carries those thrusters.

Now I have to say that this is not what the presentation was about. The next few hours of talks are about entry, descent, and landing; the set of talks to which this one belonged were about mission architectures and strategies. I'm sure there will be more detail to come.

Here are the session abstracts for the "entry, descent, and landing" presentations which I'll be watching either this evening or tomorrow.

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/marsconcepts2012/pdf/sess502.pdf

All the abstracts for the meeting can be found here. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/marsconcepts2012/pdf/program.pdf

The abstract for the talk that included the provocative slide is here (although I think you'll have to watch the lectures to see the slide, and it doesn't say much more than what I copied above and the talk itself had more to do with the caching machinery than with the details of the descent and landing).) http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/marsconcepts2012/pdf/4228.pdf

P.S. And yes, I did think the numbers were remarkable. That's why I thought to come here and post in the first place. I am suspending judgement for now as it may be nothing more than a lofty design goal, but it seemed to be a given for this mission since the CRISM footprint seems to establish a requirement.

In any case, all of those numbers are far too big for a human mission, particularly one in which multiple vehicles must land in more or less the same spot (e.g., this silly Mars One proposal). NASA thinks that a pinpoint landing capability of 100 meters CEP ("circle of equal probability") is needed for a human mission with multiple landers. That's about two orders of magnitude smaller (linear dimension) than current capabilities. Two order of magnitude improvements usually means uncharted territory.

Viking was able to touch down within 30 km of their targets without active guidance and I think a mission that required (or at least very much desired) high precision could be designed to employ beacons. I wouldn't put it past NASA's engineers. Apollo landers were able to come within 200 meters of their target. But I am curious to know the source of the 100 meter CEP. I think Zubrin and many others would not agree. I personally do not know very much about it and remain only curious.

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Ahh. Future, not current. Unfortunately, also canceled about a year ago, http://www.spacenews.com/civil/110418-single-rover-mars-mission-2018.html. And it's not coming back until 2020 at the earliest, http://www.spacenews.com/civil/120508-figuera-rules-out-rover.html. The way over-budget Mars Science Lab and the way over-budget James Webb Space Telescope are killing NASA's science budget. Not to mention that the current economy is killing NASA's budget in general.

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Ahh. Future, not current. Unfortunately, also canceled about a year ago, http://www.spacenews...ssion-2018.html. And it's not coming back until 2020 at the earliest, http://www.spacenews...-out-rover.html. The way over-budget Mars Science Lab and the way over-budget James Webb Space Telescope are killing NASA's science budget. Not to mention that the current economy is killing NASA's budget in general.

Damn. You know, that's what really sucks about these talks so far; a deluge of awesome concepts and partially developed systems, and no certainty that any of them will actually be fulfilled. I'm fairly confident that there will be a Mars sample return mission of some kind in this decade though.

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I'm fairly confident that there will be a Mars sample return mission of some kind in this decade though.

Not a chance. That might have been ExoMars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExoMars), but "Under the FY2013 Budget President Obama released on February 13, 2012, NASA terminated its participation in ExoMars due to budgetary cuts in order to pay for the cost overruns of the James Webb Space Telescope. With NASA's funding for this project completely cancelled, most of these plans had to be restructured."

Now it's well over a decade away, mid 2020s.

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Not a chance. That might have been ExoMars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExoMars), but "Under the FY2013 Budget President Obama released on February 13, 2012, NASA terminated its participation in ExoMars due to budgetary cuts in order to pay for the cost overruns of the James Webb Space Telescope. With NASA's funding for this project completely cancelled, most of these plans had to be restructured."

Now it's well over a decade away, mid 2020s.

That may be so. Mars sample return is the major goal of the current planetary decadal survey doc and formulating a plan for the 2018 launch opportunity is what this meeting is all about. I think there is a chance. The sample return space shuttle that lands like a harrier jet isn't going to be chosen, that's for sure. It'll be one of the small-scale, low cost missions. And some participation in ExoMars is not completely ruled out. Fingers crossed

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Shall we get back on topic?

I don't see how AIDS, or the ecological footprint of Western people has anything to do with terraforming other planets.

I say that because I think it is obvious that there are no deposits of oil, and the whole fossil economy will not work on another planet. Therefore, sustainable is the only way to go on another planet.

By the way, I'm not speaking as a moderator. We have a rule that you either participate, or you moderate. Not both.

Make that ANY planet; it is true for our planet too, as we are already seeing the end of the fossil fuels.

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One possible way for terraforming Mars or any other planet or moon in our solar system is to send humanoid robots to do the work for us. Of course artificial intelligent robots are out of the question because our technology is not ready yet for such enterprise. The best way to do this with our current technology is to design a remote controlled humanoid robot that can perform the same actions of its controller. Then we send it out there ready to perform any task such as constructing a post, performing experiments, etc.

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One possible way for terraforming Mars or any other planet or moon in our solar system is to send humanoid robots to do the work for us. Of course artificial intelligent robots are out of the question because our technology is not ready yet for such enterprise. The best way to do this with our current technology is to design a remote controlled humanoid robot that can perform the same actions of its controller. Then we send it out there ready to perform any task such as constructing a post, performing experiments, etc.

We aren't going to terraform Mars with existing technology. The technology required to terraform Mars is far, far beyond anything we are capable of doing today.

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