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A modest proposal - for Mars

07/14/2008 5:05 PM

We currently have the technology to send humans to Mars - except for a couple of things:

1) The radiation encountered on the trip, and on Mars, will eventually kill them

2) It's much easier to send them there than bring them back

So, I wonder - how about a series of one way trips. Let's suppose you have an incurable disease - an inoperable cancer, for instance. And you've got a reasonable chance of living another 18-24 months. Why not finish out your life on a trip to Mars? A one way trip. A year of training, 6 months to get there, with several months worth of supplies, and a supply of morphine for the pain. You get to spend the rest of your life on another planet, instead of a hospital, and you can do valuable scientific work, as well as help prepare a base for future missions.

How about it? I'd go.

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#1

"The Spirit of the Lone Eagle"

07/14/2008 8:33 PM

This concept is called "The Spirit of the Lone Eagle" by its originator (U.S., at least - seems it was related in some way to a Russian Cosmonaut as well) J. C. Mclane. Google it and you will find a lot of commentary online.

In Mr. Mclane's argument he reminds us of the Apollo program and the tremendous risks of failure that program accepted head-on. He reminds of the probable losses (opportunities lost) because NASA is so very risk-averse. He reminds us that Americans are by nature risk-takers and very accepting of high-risk activities (like driving on the freeway.) He compares his idea to Charles Lindberg's flight solo across the Atlantic ocean. His arguments are well considered, thoughtful and compelling.

I do not know all the technical realities, but past experience suggests whatever they are they can be overcome if sufficient effort is applied. (Of course funding would probably require cessation of U.S. recent habit of invading other countries. Not a bad side effect.)

Such a mission would have universal appeal. It is something with which people the world over can identify. The risks are those faced by explorers through the ages. If handled well it could be great P. R. for NASA and make some lucky astronaut much more than a footnote in history.

However, it would represent a huge shift in NASA's operational philosophy. It would require a return to its more adventurous past. Nancy Atkinson points out in her article in Universe Today that todays astronauts are selected for skills other than being adventurous and pushing the envelope. That is a reflection of NASA today. That NASA does not have "The Spirit of the Lone Eagle." That NASA could never even admit it might have discussed this project. It would not consider doing it.

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#2

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/15/2008 3:02 AM

Will there be pretty lady cancer sufferers going too????

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/15/2008 6:34 AM

The first mammal in space was a dog.

How about a change? How about a cat for the next one?

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/15/2008 8:17 AM

I vote for a cat......

ROFLMAO

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/15/2008 9:19 AM

Come on Del......it's not that far!

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#6

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/15/2008 1:00 PM

All suggestions to turn the sands of Mars into a giant kitty litter box aside...

I'm not sure how easy it would be to find someone who has an incurable & deadly ailment with high odds of surviving at least 20 months (1 year training + 6 months travel time plus a couple of months looking at rocks) in good physical shape without Earth-based medical treatments. And who is technically savvy enough to be well trained. And who is mentally healthy enough not only to go on such a mission, but also to end it. And end it at the "best" time - not mid-trip when boredom and melancholy is likley to set in.

But they do have to really accept that at some point the time will come to bite down on a cyanide capsule or else die unpleasantly from pain / starvation / thirst / suffocation / etc. A lot of people believe firmly they're up for that call, but when actually faced with it...not so much. It could go very ugly indeed.

I don't know how psychologists would screen candidates for that.

Anyway...that all ended up on a depressing note, didn't it? Ugh. Sorry.

Still, if I could sign up - I'd do it! Heck, I've already started building my own spacesuit. I mean, yeah, right now it's just a pair of coveralls spray-painted silver and the helmet is made out of some flattened beer cans and a scooter windscreen. But I'm way ahead of the rest of y'all!

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#7

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/16/2008 12:54 AM

Had you asked this question a year ago, I might have responded with a "Yes, I'd go, even if healthy, simply for the shear excitement of it"

Lately, however, I've come to question the appropriateness of the Mars mission.

Given that I am Mechanical Designer, an astronomer, a rabid telescope builder and a big supporter of the Hubble rescue mission, even I am a bit surprised by my about face on the Mars mission.

Frankly, with or without well people to go, we have some far more urgent and serious technological challenges here on Space Ship Earth.

For one thing, developing a commercially viable Hydrogen Fuel Cell is far more important to our well being and quality of life than a trip to Mars. Besides, we have yet to maximize the potential of robotic machines. Why risk people at this early stage? Why invest on the costly life support systems people require, reduce the useful payload and risk failure because if the increased complexity?

The inevitable technology spin-offs of such a modern "Manhattan Project" on a fuel cell would do more to further our economic well being as a nation than the short-lived ego satisfaction that might be ours should a Mars trip succeed.

I'm healthy and I'd still love to go. However, I'm concerned about the kind of world we will be leaving our kids. A trip to Mars does little to calm my concerns. IMO, the money is better spent elsewhere.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/16/2008 11:07 AM

I agree. I wish we would put half as much money into trying to improve the conditions existing on this planet as we do for war and for space exploration. The spin-offs would be enormous and have far reaching consequences.

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#13
In reply to #8

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/18/2008 10:08 AM

war and space exploration?

That's an interesting slice of the budget pie.


Just about the only things we spend less on than space are Indians and the environment.

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/18/2008 11:00 AM

VERY instructive - thanks for the graph!

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/18/2008 1:22 PM

Sobering statistics there...

I'm surprised NASA is so far down the food chain...

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/18/2008 2:36 PM

Most people are. We still carry the stigma of the Apollo days, when space spending was a significant portion of the budget.

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/16/2008 4:59 PM

Concur - and with almost as dramatic an about face from me, too. Also quite a surprise...

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#9

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/16/2008 2:34 PM

From what I have observed, most people want to be close to their family during their last hours. Money and fame doesn't really matter anymore. I am not sure that you would find many candidates willing to die alone on a cold planet.

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#11

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/17/2008 6:43 PM

Here is my opinion,

Our planet Earth is baking from heat by our activities. Definately we should pay more effort to improve our relationship to our earth.

Moon and Mars trip is a political reason. U.S. is challenged again by China this time.

However, moon trip has its pay off in terms of resources to Helium-3 for fusion reactors.

Mars trip - I dont know, but we shouldnt sit duck either. Columbus wasnt sitting duck. And so Marco Pollo and Vikings. I think its our nature to extend our comfort boundaries.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: A modest proposal - for Mars

07/18/2008 7:26 AM

It always has been our nature in the past - let's hope it remains so, or we shall surely stagnate and rot in our own juices.

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