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Mars Exploration, what's next?

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posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 03:02 PM
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I wanted to discuss ideas and possible scenarios regarding a large scale, unmanned exploration of the Martian surface. We already have some rovers there, and in my opinion that have done an excellent job, exceeding their design specifications by an order of magnitude. I would like to see more rovers, maybe even several hundred (or more) on the surface. With more advanced sensors and equipment, these little guys should be able to investigate many of the sites that we find interesting, and probably so many more that we did not even know existed.

I envision a fleet of 600 small rovers, 200 high endurance, low speed UAV mapping and aerial recon drones, and maybe a few (10+) large rovers with more specialized and sensitive equipment. They could be launched together in a ferry craft deployed on a space shuttle launch, and while that would require more than a few shuttle missions, I think this is feasible.

What are your thoughts on how we could accomplish this? Besides the known state of the current NASA budget, what are some of the difficulties in making this work? What re our current technological limits as far as size, payload, and sensors? Should we be focused on unmanned missions to Mars, or should we be looking at the next step and send a human(s) there?

By the way, this is my first post, so be gentle on the newbie!




posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 03:18 PM
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Mars has been the flag ship nasa project for a good few years. You have phoenix landing there in a couple of months and 2 more rovers from nasa & ESA still to come.

After that NASA is moving to the outer solar system europa & the kuiper belt. They will continue to fund mars research but not to the level of the past 5 years.

[edit on 18-3-2008 by yeti101]



posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 03:48 PM
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Do you think it is worth spending the time and resources on exploring Mars further before we move on to the outer solar system? Granted, I find Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons far more fascinating than Mars, but I thought I should ask the question. I think there may have been life there at one point, but I think it is long since died, and it might be far easier to find life or evidence of life elsewhere in our system. I would like to see a human colony on Mars, but hey I also want to see a giant rotating space station in orbit around the moon too!



posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 04:38 PM
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Originally posted by armchairaviator
Do you think it is worth spending the time and resources on exploring Mars further before we move on to the outer solar system?


The farther out you get, the more expensive it becomes. That's most likely the limiting factor. Mars is really, really far away, but it ain't nothing compared to moving past the asteroid belt and heading to Jupiter and beyond.

Some of the exploration plans will depend on our ability to find new ways of moving ourselves through space. But if we don't find some kind up super duper atomic drive soon, we're going to be stuck sending slow moving probes.

And as the population continues to grow on Earth, and resources get tighter, it's going to be harder and harder to justify any larger exploration plans. That's what killed the Moon program, after all. People wanted more social programs here on Earth first.

In a way, you can't blame them. The pictures from Mars and are cool and all, but honestly, what value are they to the average dude on the street? Not much.



posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 04:42 PM
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They are planning on doing some research for life on one the Jupiter's moon! There is water there under sheet of ice, so hard to get to but that's the plan far as I know~!



posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 04:48 PM
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freightrain thats right , its europa. Im very interested to see if they confirm a subsurface ocean, how big it is and how thick the ice sheet is.



posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 05:53 PM
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Originally posted by Nohup
And as the population continues to grow on Earth, and resources get tighter, it's going to be harder and harder to justify any larger exploration plans. That's what killed the Moon program, after all. People wanted more social programs here on Earth first.

Social programs are definitely important, but...
The sad thing is that in the long run, Earth's growing human population is the very reason we need to explore. If everyone is on Earth and some huge disaster occurs.... or we start running out of resources.... then bye bye human race.



posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 06:53 PM
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Originally posted by GrayFox
The sad thing is that in the long run, Earth's growing human population is the very reason we need to explore. If everyone is on Earth and some huge disaster occurs.... or we start running out of resources.... then bye bye human race.


It wouldn't be too long after moving onto a new planet that we stop being human anyway. Terraforming Mars would be extremely difficult if not impossible. It just doesn't have a good carbon cycle. So any small number of humans there will quickly evolve because of the lower gravity and having to live in bubbles all the time.

And it's not like we're going to move a billion people to Mars. It would only be a handful, and after that they'd probably close the doors so no new immigrants would be able to move in. Damned Earthbacks!

Again, unless we come up with a great new propulsion method, moving to a possible planet around any of even the nearest stars will take centuries and be very, very expensive. We can't expect huge colonizations of any habitable planet around Alpha Centauri or Sirius.

No, as it looks now, humans are going to push this planet to maximum population density, and rely on frequent die-offs and cullings to survive.

And before any of this happens, we will be modifying our own DNA and our intelligent machines will be competing with us for resources. Our intelligent robot offspring might have a better chance to expand into the rest of the solar system and beyond, since they can shut themselves off for long, deep spaceflights, and quickly modify themselves to different environments. Living on sunshine or atomic energy, and not needing oxygen, nitrogen and water to live will be a huge advantage.

So, overall, it doesn't look like human species is going to have a particularly great future no matter what. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.


[edit on 18-3-2008 by Nohup]



posted on Mar, 18 2008 @ 09:16 PM
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You're very right, but...

I think we could get lots of people living on Mars with much long-term effort into such plans. But it would require lots of cooperation among many people, a lot of resources, and... would be really expensive. If we can't improve our social programs, then we don't have much hope as far as those needed resources, dollars, and cooperations are concerned. So I guess it's not a question of what we could do or should do.... but a question of what we will do. We don't always do what should be done and we don't always do the right things.

At this point, I don't think it will be long until we have AI that can think like humans. Actually, we do already, kinda. Hopefully our intelligent robot offspring will cooperate with us and help us rather than compete with us and try to destroy us.

[edit on 18-3-2008 by GrayFox]



posted on Mar, 19 2008 @ 10:28 AM
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Originally posted by yeti101
freightrain thats right , its europa. Im very interested to see if they confirm a subsurface ocean, how big it is and how thick the ice sheet is.

And don't forget Saturn's Moon Enceladus that may also have liquid water (possibly oceans of it) under its frozen surface. The Cassini probe flew through a water-ice geyser emanating from Enceladus last week in an attempt to analyze that water, looking for, among other things, organic molecules -- i.e. carbon-containing molecules (NOTE: Organic molecules DO NOT always = life).

Cassini's instruments did not work correctly to be able to analyze the water ice, but it will be flying through that geyser again later this year (October). Hopefully the instruments will be working for that fly-through.

 

...as for Mars, NASA has the Phoenix Lander (not a rover) getting there this May, as mentioned in another post above. Phoenix will land near the North Polar Ice Cap, hopefully at the ice/soil transition, hoping to find soil mixed with water ice -- or even liquid water under the surface. Pheonix will be able to dig in the icy soil and analyze that soil.

The next mission after that is the "Mars Science Laboratory" which is a rover that can collect soil and rock samples for analysis. That gets to Mars in 2010. Also, during NASA's budget hearings with the U.S. House of Representatives last week, they discussed possible funding for a "Mars Sample Return Mission" in which a probe will bring a sample of Martian soil back to Earth for detailed analysis. However, there is no timetable yet for this mission.


Finding signs of life on Mars -- even ancient long-dead "life" -- that developed independantly of Earth life would be one of the greatest developments in human history. Finding "living" life isn't the most important thing. Discovering that life independantly formed on two neighboring planets in the same solar system, even if one of those planets is now "dead", would mean that life is almost certainly abundant throughout the universe, and even in our own galaxy -- and that's a big discovery (although I already think life is abundant in the galaxy and universe).

However, we may find that life on Mars closely resembles life on earth, meaning that life did not independantly arise on Mars and Earth, but one "seeded" the other with life, possibly from a blown-off piece of one planet that traveled to the other; or that both planets were seeded by the same kind life that was living on icy comets. Discovering that all life in the solar system is closely related to each other and all came from a common source could indicate that life in the universe is a rare thing indeed.

[edit on 3/19/2008 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on Mar, 21 2008 @ 06:28 AM
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panspermia is an interesting idea but from all the evidence we have so far there are no signs of it. We have tons of meteor/comet samples and none contain the signs of micro-organisms or the development of them.

One can only conclude that despite having all the necessary raw materials the conditions inside these bodies are not right for life to start. It could happen & who knows what we will discover in future but i prefer the idea that life arises independantly and is not "seeded" from somewhere else.

personally i think the massive radiation levels in outer space are too much for life to start there.

[edit on 21-3-2008 by yeti101]



posted on Mar, 25 2008 @ 10:51 AM
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reply to post by yeti101
 
Like I said...While I do believe that life must be abundant throughout the universe, finding life that independently arose on Mars would provide great evidence that this is true.

I agree that the "panspermia" idea, however interesting, does have some fault.

However, I want to concentrate on one particular idea from my post:
I think life COULD have survived the trip between the Earth and Mars if a rock from the Earth was blown towards Mars, say 3.5 billion years ago. That life from the Earth could have taken root on Mars.

Therefore, before we can claim that microbial life on Mars (even long-extinct life) is evidence that life is abundant in the unviverse, we must first verify that the Martian life did not come from Earth.

That's something we can only do if we have that life in front of us -- either from a sample return mission, or if we go "boots down" to the planet itself.



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