Re: Exploring Mars

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 08 Dec 1999 17:23:49 -0800

Brian D Williams <> writes:
> Actually I think we need to separate two ideas, the idea of a
> manned mission to Mars, and the idea of Mars colonization.
> In the Mars direct plan, after a voyage of 6 months, the team would
> spent a year and a half on the surface.
> Anybody think that is a bad idea?

Yes, I do. I'd much rather expend that effort on establishing a permanently staffed base on Luna. Eugene Leitl made an excellent point that the Apollo program would have served the species better if it had been designed with the accumulation of Lunar infrastructure on each mission in mind. I see no reason why we should repeat the mistakes of Apollo on Mars when we could be rectifying the mistakes of Apollo on Luna.

Of course, I'm not going to be satisfied until we have permanently staffed bases and artificial-biosphere research going on at Luna, at an asteroid, and at Mars and its satellites. (Of course, even then I won't be satisfied, I'll probably be thumping a drum for the industrialization of Jupiter.)

But the extra appeal of Mars that you have been explaining is more than cancelled out for me by the gravity well, the distance/lagtime, and the delta vee. You can't reasonably teleoperate robotics on Mars from Terra, which means that any settlement there will have *much* less direct skill support from Terra than a Lunar base would. There are so many technologies that need to be tested and proven. If we do this on Luna, we are far more likely to be able to rescue the victims of any failures than we are on Mars.

I really don't think it's a good idea to spend anything but robots on Mars until we have a continuous (preferably but not necessarily permanent) population on Luna. That will be a good enough test of long-term continuous artificial-biosphere closure that I'd be willing to risk sending highly-trained human beings (the sort you really hate to see get killed) to Mars. And frankly, I'd rather see a near-Earth asteroid as steppingstone number two, for similar reasons.