Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cool VASIMR graphic from the NY Times

Sadly, they perpetuate the misconception that we have not yet sent men to Mars because it takes too long to get there. No, the trip is already fairly short with normal rockets. We have not gone to Mars because of a lack of interest and money. There are no deal breakers, even using 1960s space technology. Indeed we could have (should have) continued Apollo simply by adding to lunar missions with deep space missions, and solar orbit missions to Mars and Venus. These, during the 1970s (including skylab which is a good model for a Mars transfer habitat) would pave the way for actual Mars landings in the 1980s. But at some point (when the space shuttle was given priority, followed by the space station), our manned exploration capabilities actually decreased.

This is great new technology, and perhaps it can help us with really far off trips (like unmanned probes!), but it is not needed. And we certainly should not wait for it to be ready, before we go to Mars. Also, it is important to note that low thrust rockets need to circle out from the Earth very slowly. This has to be done carefully because a month spent in the wrong orbit will give you a fatal dose of radiation several times over.


DTH Rocket said...

I'm sure there's a lot of interest in going to Mars, but space travel isn't exactly a high-profit activity. Sure there's a lot to be discovered about science and it would be an awesome exploration, but when it comes to money... it just sucks it all down the drain.

Lyle said...

BZZZT there is so much profit that can be made off of what is learned from space.

Is paying welfare to those who just don't want to work a much better thing than a sustainable budget for nasa?

R2K said...

I would argue that giving money to NASA projects creates good, high quality American jobs and also inspires kids to learn and do well as students.

But in the end, my personal reason is the intrinsic value of exploration. We do it because, as humans, it is what we do. We explore. What else is our purpose? Some people are simply not content to live, reproduce, and die. It isnt just about us. We are the universe witnessing itself. That is a serious responsibility.

richard said...

Money drives almost everything. Unless you are independently wealthy, you have to do what other poeple (the ones giving you the money) want. Even quitting smoking is, for some, a financial, not health decision.

Personally, I would be more interested in exploring Titan. It has real weather and is far more interesting (IMO) than mars. I remember being much more excited by the photos from Huygens than from Viking (despite wanting to be excited by Viking).

R2K said...

Landing humans on Titan may come some day, but that day is far off. You need to take reasonable steps. Deep space, mars, an asteroid, venus... these are reasonable first steps. Then using technology like that in this post, we could consider manned trips to Jupiter or Saturn. But keep in mind that these are an order of magnitude harder and farther, and even I will admit that we are not ready for them at this time.