Re: A case for the eradication of unmanned Mars missions

Brian D Williams (
Wed, 8 Dec 1999 07:39:41 -0800 (PST)

From: Eugene Leitl <>

>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.

There's nothing like a retrospectroscope. When JFK commited America to the moon virtually none of the technology existed to do the job, and yet in less than a decade, it was developed, and the mission completed successfully. JFK was a man of vision, nixon was not.

>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.

The notion of "Cheap Power from space" has been thoroughly discredited, see Robert Zubrins "Entering Space" for details.

Yes 30 billion is a pittingly small amount, as I already pointed out we gave Mexico that amount in an afternoon a few years back. A shuttle flight is 600 million dollars.

Our economy is three times the size it was back when we went to the moon, and we can use existing tech to do the job. In real numbers, we can begin to colonize Mars for less money than it took to colonize America.

Mars is well within the budget of Japan, China, the former soviets, and even the EU.

Since your so hot on the Moon, why not start the Lunar Society? Lets see if your decendants, or my Martian decendants settle it first......

>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.

I'd like a little bigger reserve thanks, besides most industrial processes use large quantities of water. Undoubtably we will devise new processes since water will be more expensive, we can sell these technologies back to earth.

>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.

Atmospheres are good for a number of things, like blocking UV, Mars is thick enough to do that, making structures to grow things in considerably lighter/less expensive. As I've said, the primary goal is to live on Mars.

A much better place to do large scale industrial work would be the asteroid belt, easily accessable/ profitable (14 times cheaper) by a mature Mars civilization.

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

I believe it is possible to transform Mars into a living world (terraforming)

>> 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).

There are less that disagree after the recent attempt failed to disclose any sign of water. There are other things the moon lack's that Mars has.

>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.

Hey I love self-rep factories as much as the next guy, but if we create one, mine's going to Mars.

>> 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.

Love mass drivers also, but water and therefore hydrogen is still a big if on the moon.

>> 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 still don't get the monkey part, man didn't decend from the apes, man and apes had a common ancestor, totally different.

>> 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.

The equipment we are developing for Mars can also be used for the moon, let a thousand flowers (martian flowers) bloom.


Member, Extropy Institute, Life Extension Foundation,
National Rifle Association,, 1.800.672.3888 Mars Society,
Ameritech Data Center Chicago, IL, Local 134 I.B.E.W,2669,SAV-9912070 023,FF.html


December 7, 1999
A century or more from now, the loss of the Mars Polar Lander--if NASA concludes it is lost--will be a footnote in the story of humankind's incredible journey to visit and explore its first planet other than Earth.

Like old sailing ships that foundered at sea in the early centuries of European exploration for a New World, NASA's lost robotic emissaries to Mars will be considered inevitable, incidental losses in the more significant pioneering of a distant world.

NASA may yet reestablish contact with the Mars Polar Lander, which disappeared Friday approaching the planet's south pole and offered nothing but silence as of Monday evening. If not, Americans and other Earthlings should not despair or be discouraged. The U.S. space program to explore the solar system will go on despite what could be, for this era, the catastrophic loss of three landers and one orbiter since 1993.

Some may theorize humorously that Martians don't want visitors, but there are more down-to-Earth lessons here. When the $1 billion Mars Observer vanished in August 1993, NASA moved to a better/faster/cheaper mode--sending several less-sophisticated probes that wouldn't cost as much if they failed. It also made a virtue out of lower budgets in a post-Cold War era when space competition with Moscow waned. But NASA apparently failed to learn that cheaper can't mean cheap.

The Clinton administration and the GOP-controlled Congress gave NASA budgets that left it trying to do $250-million missions on budgets of $150 million. Something had to give, and it did. The lesson here is to spend what it takes to go the distance, or don't go.

The other lesson is that sooner or later, humans will be needed again at the controls--just as it took Neil Armstrong to maneuver an Apollo 11 craft around obstacles to the first manned landing on the moon.

Sticking our human toes out into the vast ocean of our solar system, the first tentative steps beyond the moon, was bound to be hazardous. No big shock there. Perhaps the real mistake is that humans are being too timid and tentative. When we landed on the moon 30 years back, many predicted humans would be walking on the Red Planet by now.

Too much timidity and too many budget cuts stalled our exploration of planets. But let's be clear. Humans will go to Mars, whether it takes 15 years or 100. What's lacking is only the vision, the will and a leader who will chart the course, set the deadlines and take the political heat--for committing the billions needed to get there. It's not a question of if anymore, merely of when. It ought to be sooner.