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robheus

Exploration of Mars - Mars One project

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Not sure where to post this, there is no subforum about space travel, but since I want to make some points that are relevant for earth sciences too, I post it here.

 

Quite recently an announcment was made about a project called Mars One that is targeting to put people on Mars from 2023 and ongoing, and uses a quite remarkable strategy: there will be no return trip.

Technically we do not yet master a launch from Mars, and it would be quite expensive, and by dropping that part of the flight, Mars One conjectures that their plan to bring people to Mars can succeed and costs much less then other plans.

Finances for the project costs (around 5 billion euro or some) are conjectured to come from media exposure (a kind of "big brother" like media event.

 

From 2023 on, there will be 4 people on Mars, and every 2 year a new crew would come of 2 people.

 

They will have rovers, habitats and lots of living equipments and goods to sustain themselves for a long period. Water is caught from below the surface, where it is conjectured that water exists in frozen form, and oxygen is extracted from the water, and for both methods an array of solar panels are used.

 

Now, suppose that a return trip would not be possible in the long run, and that the total amount of money that can be spent on cargo expeditions to Mars to meet the living demands on the people living on Mars, is limited, is there a possible way they can stay there forever, and produce all their basic needs?

 

Official website:

www.mars-one.com

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Mars One has been discussed here to some extent already. See http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/66606-terraforming-nearby-planets/, posts #65 and on.

 

Mars One is nonsense. It's the basis for a TV reality show with no basis in reality. I suspect the founder reads science fiction. I can think of at least a couple science fiction stories that funded (and profited from) space exploration this way, and all of those pre-date Big Brother. I suspect he read those stories and thought "Big Brother! This can work!"

 

Except it can't.

 

Look at those drawings on the Mars One web site with landing capsules right next to one another. How's that going to happen? Our current landing capabilities would have those capsules spread out over hundreds of square kilometers. His proposal needs extremely pinpoint landing. We don't know how to do that yet.

 

The site says with a hand-wave that the crew will grow their own food. It says nothing on how to do this, nothing on the numerous projects where hydroponics inevitably fail. We don't know how to do this yet, either.

 

The site posits electrical power from thin film solar cells. The thin film cells are needed to keep the weight down. What's going to happen to that array of thin film cells when the first Mars dust storm comes by? What happens at night? There are no batteries in the proposal; batteries weigh too much.

 

The site posits obtaining water and oxygen from the water in the Martian soil. What water? Except for the poles (and this isn't landing at the poles), Mars makes the Mojave desert look like a lush paradise. Even if there was water, we don't know how to mine it and refine it. Just because we can mine and refine on Earth does not mean that technology will work in a vastly different and very hostile environment.

 

There's a whole of stuff in his proposal that falls into the "we can't do that yet" category. Hand-waving the problem away by saying he's only using existing, proven technology does not work. There is almost no existing, proven technology in this proposal.

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Not sure where to post this, there is no subforum about space travel, but since I want to make some points that are relevant for earth sciences too, I post it here.

 

This belongs under "Astronomy & Cosmology" which is near the top, under "PHYSICS".

 

D H made some good points about the difficulty with colonizing Mars. I have proposed artificial gravity for bases on Mars, but I haven't heard of it. Long-term it will become an issue. The crew quarters can be along the edge of a slowly rotating centrifuge, below ground for shielding from solar wind (looks like a merry-go-round) with floor sloping down towards center of the wheel-like structure.

Edited by Airbrush

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Thanks for the response. I am as sceptic about this as you are. I think it can't be done in this way, in this time frame and within this budget. It assumes technology either not available or net yet tested. It's a step in the dark, literally.

 

But my point is that even IF all those technical difficulties could be met (let us just suppose for a momen), I think still this mission is doomed, since you can not reach a situation of self-sustainance on Mars within a fixed (no matter how large) budget.

 

Of course, theoretically you could produce a lot of things yourself: the water, oxygen and food stuff. But then this all requires complicated technology, and every part of that and every part it is dependend on, ultimately you would need to produce yourself from bare rocks and soil deposits on Mars. A technological advanced society that could do that, would have to be magnitudes larger then foreseen.

 

And just to depict some subtle aspects of this enterprise in economic terms. The project will cost at least 5 billion euros, and will have at most around 24 people on Mars. Suppose each of them lives 60 years (from 20 to 80 or something), that will mean: 24 x 60 years of human life on Mars (we ignore births/deaths) which is: 1440 human years.

 

Per human year this will cost us:

5 billion euro / 1440 human years = 3.472.222 euro per human per year (4,387,847.22 US$)

 

Now please equate that with figures about average GDP:

 

World: 7759 US$ per person in the world

US: 44839.02 per person in the usa

Europe: 33849,89 US$ per person in the eu

 

So to put humans on Mars with an initial budget of 5 billion EU for a group of around 24 people, even if they could stay there till they die, costs tremendous amount of money. 100 times more as what it would cost for an average us citizin.

 

This belongs under "Astronomy & Cosmology". D H made some good points about the difficulty with colonizing Mars. I have proposed artificial gravity for bases on Mars, but I haven't heard of it. Long-term it will become an issue. The crew quarters can be along the edge of a slowly rotating centrifuge, below ground for shielding from solar wind (looks like a merry-go-round) with floor sloping down towards center of the wheel-like structure.

 

I think the post could be made there, but some aspects of such a mission (how to create a sustainable economy) would apply both to (future) citizins of Mars as to Earth. If such a mission were at all possible, the Mars citizins would face tremendous difficulties in sustaining themselves for even the most basic needs (oxygen, water, food). Suppose it COULD be done (but then I think it can't be done based on current technology), it would certainly make some developments available to us on earth, with which we could sustain ourselves here too (cheap solar panels with enough electric output, etc.).

 

Mars One has been discussed here to some extent already. See http://www.sciencefo...nearby-planets/, posts #65 and on.

 

Mars One is nonsense. It's the basis for a TV reality show with no basis in reality. I suspect the founder reads science fiction. I can think of at least a couple science fiction stories that funded (and profited from) space exploration this way, and all of those pre-date Big Brother. I suspect he read those stories and thought "Big Brother! This can work!"

 

Except it can't.

 

Look at those drawings on the Mars One web site with landing capsules right next to one another. How's that going to happen? Our current landing capabilities would have those capsules spread out over hundreds of square kilometers. His proposal needs extremely pinpoint landing. We don't know how to do that yet.

 

The site says with a hand-wave that the crew will grow their own food. It says nothing on how to do this, nothing on the numerous projects where hydroponics inevitably fail. We don't know how to do this yet, either.

 

The site posits electrical power from thin film solar cells. The thin film cells are needed to keep the weight down. What's going to happen to that array of thin film cells when the first Mars dust storm comes by? What happens at night? There are no batteries in the proposal; batteries weigh too much.

 

The site posits obtaining water and oxygen from the water in the Martian soil. What water? Except for the poles (and this isn't landing at the poles), Mars makes the Mojave desert look like a lush paradise. Even if there was water, we don't know how to mine it and refine it. Just because we can mine and refine on Earth does not mean that technology will work in a vastly different and very hostile environment.

 

There's a whole of stuff in his proposal that falls into the "we can't do that yet" category. Hand-waving the problem away by saying he's only using existing, proven technology does not work. There is almost no existing, proven technology in this proposal.

 

The foolish thing is that it is somehow assumed that colonizing Mars is just the extention of previous colonizing experiences on Earth. But they are totally apart things and can't be compared.

 

Suppose for a moment that (for example at altitued of 35 km above earth) we had on earth in some parts of the world living conditions comparable to Mars, would anyone go there and live their lives? Why are dessers, ocean floors and most of the polar regions and likewise harsh environments practically uninhabited?

 

So I think the assumptions are wrong.

 

You could better take some uninhabited dessert on earth, and turn that into a living space for people (for example build a CSP solar power plant, sell the electricity and desalinate water to make agriculture possible) you could in theory do that and build a sustainable environment on earth without using existing depleting resources.

Edited by robheus

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You could better take some uninhabited dessert on earth, and turn that into a living space for people (for example build a CSP solar power plant, sell the electricity and desalinate water to make agriculture possible) you could in theory do that and build a sustainable environment on earth without using existing depleting resources.

 

These are good points. Uninhabited regions of Earth could be much easier to make habitable than Mars. Bases on Mars would be more for scientific exploration than a place to put people, for the next few hundred years, but after that Mars is a possible place for humans to live.

 

If Mars could be terraformed by creating a dense, oxygen-rich atmosphere, would that atmosphere not get blown away by the solar wind in a short time because there is no magnetic field shielding Mars from solar wind?

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These are good points. Uninhabited regions of Earth could be much easier to make habitable than Mars. Bases on Mars would be more for scientific exploration than a place to put people, for the next few hundred years, but after that Mars is a possible place for humans to live.

 

Sadly though these more important (making desert like places habitable) and doable things don't get any media coverage, there is generally speaking little interest in doing that. However, desertec IS a real initiative and seems to be able to get funds in doing just that: developing clean energy based on solar or wind from inhospitable places in the MENA (middle-east, north-africa).

 

If Mars could be terraformed by creating a dense, oxygen-rich atmosphere, would that atmosphere not get blown away by the solar wind in a short time because there is no magnetic field shielding Mars from solar wind?

 

How could one do that? It requires huge amounts of activities on Mars not to be foreseen in nearby future.

 

Despite having a magnetic force field, the rate of decay of a hypothetical atmosphere on Mars seems to be quite small, and such an atmosphere could exist for some millions of years, but would ultimately decay.

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How could one do that [create denser, oxygen-rich atmosphere]? It requires huge amounts of activities on Mars not to be foreseen in nearby future.

 

Despite having a magnetic force field, the rate of decay of a hypothetical atmosphere on Mars seems to be quite small, and such an atmosphere could exist for some millions of years, but would ultimately decay.

 

I've heard scientists speculate it might take a few hundred years to create the atmosphere, by manufacturing greenhouse gasses from the soil to heat up the planet. Then get algae or other critters to exhale oxygen. And if it could last for millions of years before getting blown away, then all you need to do is continually manufacture atmosphere.

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Apart from all sort of technical challenges that must be face, I think it is not possible (yet) to put people on Mars and have them live there indefinately, provided that we can not spend indefinate amount of money to sustain them. The goal of the project is of course to reach a reasoable amount of self-sustainance (create own water, oxygen as first pre-reuisities, and also some food stuff and new living space).

 

Let me try to argue this as follows. The initial conditions are that everything that the people on Mars need (food, water, shelter, etc.) is provided by earth.

The amount necessary, let us say in units of amount of flights to Mars is equal to:

 

Flights(t) = k * Humans(t)

 

So, the number of flights is linearly dependend on the number of humans living on mars at any time t.

 

They can of course make their own water, their own oxygen, grow their own food, produce their own energy, etc.

 

But all that is produced at the basis of techniques and robots and equipment, they can not (yet) reproduce on Mars. Technicall and theoretically it might be possible to do that, but then, please figure out what kind of industry you would need to have installed on Mars, from mineralogy and mining to chemics and engineerding, to re-produce anything you are dependend on for living, and that recursively: if the tool you need is a hammer, then you also need to have the tool to reproduce the hammer, and the tool to reproduce the tool to reproduce the hammer, and so forth. Well it will ultimately settle down to some fixed amount of techniques and tools you need, but can be quite substantial large.

 

Long before you have that installed on Mars, including all the people that are needed, you have outrun any reasonable budget limit that can be provided in practice.

 

Since that won't be reach in any reasonable amount of time then, humans on mars keep being dependend on resources from earth.

 

But living costs for people on Mars yearly are unreasonable higher then living on any place on earth (I calculated that it is about a factor of 1000 above average GDP per person for humans on earth).

 

So, why do we need to go to Mars anyway?

 

It does NOT provide us with any addition material or energy resource (would be quite impractical to get any significant amount of material from Mars) , so the only real target would be to get scientific knowledge.

 

But acquiring scientific knowledge has it's cost price, I think it costs to much to station people on Mars indefinately, and there is no reasonable goal to spend so much money on that.

 

Besides, it would be better wating till we have a base on the Moon, and find an economic reason to keep humans there (mining He-3?) and have the technology needed for such long stay project on another celestial body.

Edited by robheus

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