Re: A case for the eradication of unmanned Mars Missions

Eugene Leitl (
Tue, 7 Dec 1999 14:04:17 -0800 (PST)

Brian D Williams writes:

> The moon program ended because of a lack of will, Nixon was gutting
> it even as the final missions took place.

The Moon program was horribly mismanaged. It should have been planned so that we would never have to leave. You can't do that with shenanigans like shooting monkeys to Moon first. It has been a sham of a space program. No infrastructure in place before the visits, even no attempts to establish it during them. Okay, they didn't have good enough computers/robotics. But we do now. Heck, if you can adapt to the relativistic lag you can even teleoperate lunar systems.

> Mars is not particularly expensive, we're talking 30 billion over
> 10 years, the same amount we gave Mexico one afternoon a few years
> back....

You have strange notions about being "not particularly expensive". I'm reasonably certain that we could now make a self-rep lunar factory on a 30 G$ budget, perhaps even less. It's just a drop in the sea for a mission to Mars. Where's the money supposed to come from? From the government? Cold War is over. From the public? Good luck. Conquering Moon at least gives you a good ROI in terms of aerobraked processed material delivered at any point, and cheap microwaved power from the skies. None such from Martian stocks.

> There is alot more to Mars than dust, rocks, and sand!!!! Mars has
> water!!! lots of water!!! Mars has a useable atmosphere etc,etc. In

Why do we need a lot of water? We're not aquatic beings. And industrial processes are best done in a vacuum. I don't know how much water an artifical biosphere is going to need/human, but I doubt it will be much more than 100 l, if properly designed.

As to the thin excuse to the atmosphere, calling it usable is a fair stretch. Ok, it's a handy CO2 source. But otherwise it's mostly a nuisance. Drag, dust, aeolian erosion, static charge. You're still dead if there's a decompression. You still leak stuff outside and have to continuously replace it. But you cannot launch anything with a mass driver from the surface, with the possible exception of the top of Olympus Mons. Mars should be a second step. If you have the Moon, Mars is easy. Not vice versa. And you can't do both, it's too expensive.

> other words we can live on Mars fairly reasonably, it is our next
> home.... The moon is just a rock.....

That's the good thing about it. Mars isn't a second Earth.

> There is little if any water on the moon. Everything we need for

Many disagree. I'm still reasonably certain we will find megatons of water in cryotraps of the polar regolith. Whether physisorbed or chemisorbed, it isn't really a question as long as it is there. (And neutron data has found protons).

> life support on the moon we will have to send there, Mars can

I don't think one has to send anything up there apart from a self-rep factory and a biosphere starter culture. Anything else would be wasteful.

> sustain self developing colonies, we can make rocket propellant(
> with a bit of initial help) from the atmosphere.

You don't need rocket propellant on the Moon (and if you do, there is oxygen in the soil, and oxygen/hydrogen in the water). Mass drivers and solar sails.

> We need to become a space faring civilization.

We need to become a _postbiological_ space faring civilisation. Monkeys to Mars is a regression in that aspect.

> I have nothing against the moon, it will make an interesting place
> to have an observatory, but Mars is a place we can live.

I don't understand this infatuation with Mars. It's the second step, but there should a first step. We never really went to the Moon. Men are from Mars, indeed.