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September 1, 2009 11:22 AM   Subscribe

In the next few weeks, NASA will present President Obama with options for the near-term future of human spaceflight. A manned flight to Mars is one possibility. But if we do send astronauts to Mars, do we really need to bring them home again?
posted by william_boot (138 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well the idea of sending an unmanned ship ahead of a manned ship with all the extra stuff is actually a pretty good idea.
posted by GuyZero at 11:25 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2009 [27 favorites]


Well, Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.
posted by Mister_A at 11:28 AM on September 1, 2009 [19 favorites]


Astronauts on Mars for the remainders of their lives, never to return to Earth? That'd be some damn good reality TV. The advertising revenue alone might pay for the trip.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2009 [15 favorites]


Yes, please.
posted by jquinby at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2009


Sure, it'd be nice to keep the astronauts on the planet, but what happens when they want to settle down and have a family? I've been led to believe that, since it's cold as hell up there, Mars ain't the kind of place to raise a kid.
posted by Spatch at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


(damn you Mister_A!)
posted by Spatch at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, just yesterday I learned what "Transported for Life" meant while snooping around the old bailey to see if any of my predecessors were scofflaws.

This gives Transported for Life a fresh new meaning.
posted by notyou at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2009


I vote for no return trips, no half-measures: start colonizing right from the very first step.

The first presupply ships would need to be full of all the colonists ever need to make sustainable food, water and oxygen, of course... because counting on the governments and economy of Earth to always be there to support them would be a baaaaad plan. Waiting on the space station for shuttles that were canceled was bad enough.
posted by rokusan at 11:31 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oriana Fallaci, in If The Sun Dies, addressing her space exploration-hating father:

a home you can never leave isn't a home at all, it's a prison, and you have always told me that man isn't made to stay in prison, he's made to escape from it and too bad if he risks getting killed escaping

That said, the centibillions it would take for even a one-way manned trip to Mars would build one hell of a robot, seems to me.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:31 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


As long as they make sure there are no Jamaican stowaways.
posted by PenDevil at 11:31 AM on September 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


Mars ain't the kind of place to raise a kid.

I'll take Ray Bradbury's opinion on the matter over Elton John's.
posted by GuyZero at 11:32 AM on September 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I endorse Joe's B's giant robot death machine idea.
posted by Mister_A at 11:33 AM on September 1, 2009




I worry about ending up in the ISS situation, where one day you go, "OK, we finished building the space station! Yay! Now what?"
posted by smackfu at 11:33 AM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yes, you have to bring them back. Otherwise, what's the point of the trip, to prove that you can shoot people into space to die? We already know how to do that.

Build some robots. And enough with Mars. Mars sucks. Let's go to Europa.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:34 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


What did that sign say, about Europa? Attempt landings here? Something like that?
posted by Mister_A at 11:35 AM on September 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


It seems to me that Mars-travel is an expensive solution in search of a big problem. To really get the dream off the ground we're gonna have to fuck things up on Earth pretty badly. Let's do our part, people, sell your Priuses and buy Grand Cherokees, leave your lights on all the time, keep the door open on your fridge and air condition the doghouse. When Earth is shitty enough, Mars at any price will seem like a bargain.
posted by Kattullus at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


In any case, I think it's gonna be a long long time.
posted by Mister_A at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing that Lawrence M. Krauss glosses over about New World explorers, many of who never returned is that they had the means to come back if things didn't go well. Sending a spaceship with the means not to return is plain suicide. Sending unmanned seed ships with fuel and supplies is an absolute necessity. No scientist in their right mind would travel on a one-way suicide mission. Do you want people who have no problems with that on a multi billion dollar mission?
posted by JJ86 at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2009


Off the rock! Who's with me?
posted by bastionofsanity at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2009


I think the colonists should be a rag-tag band of some description or other.
posted by Mister_A at 11:37 AM on September 1, 2009 [19 favorites]


They wouldn't be going there to die, JJ86. They'd be going there to live.

Unless you mean to say we're all on suicide missions.
posted by notyou at 11:38 AM on September 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


No, no, no, no, no.

Robots. It's all about the robots. Robots that don't have feelings, don't get tired and don't need life insurance for robot families. Robots that want nothing more than to do experiments, endlessly, and be our eyes and ears in the cold, dark, burning places.

Professor Hobby: [after stabbing the mecha's hand in a demonstration] How did that make you feel? Angry? Shocked?

Secretary: I don't understand.

Professor Hobby: What did I do to your feelings?

Secretary: You did it to my hand.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:40 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't believe that we faked the moon landing, but we could fake a Mars landing.
#1. We'd save hundreds of billions of dollars (estimated budget greater than Quantum of Solace but less than Spiderman 3)
#2. Not knowing it was faked, it would be one of the great inspirational events in the history of mankind.
#3. It would play to the strengths of America's last dominant industry: Hollywood.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:41 AM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Turning mountains into oceans, puttin' people on the moon.
posted by docgonzo at 11:42 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


What, no, this is a terrible idea. Listen, we get enough insane separatists inside our country, yes, hello Alaska and Texas, I am talking about you; can you imagine the crazy ass mars-ers conspiracists once they get started?
posted by boo_radley at 11:42 AM on September 1, 2009


As much as I love the Pixies song about the giant mountain on Mars, the New World had a lot more going for it in terms of scenery and activities.

The notion of being left on Mars for good has a poetic beauty to it, though. Reminds me of the tear-jerker ending to that old Infocom story, A Mind Forever Voyaging.
posted by Kirklander at 11:42 AM on September 1, 2009


notyou, unlike your typical south seas island Mars does not have the environment to support human life. When your oxygen generator, water recycler, or hydroponic garden fails, you can't go to a local Wal-Mart for parts. You are done. Living on Mars would still require mechanical means which will fail eventually. That is pretty much suicide.
posted by JJ86 at 11:43 AM on September 1, 2009


A: Carrot Top, Pauly Shore, and Dick Cheney.
posted by zippy at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


JJ86, we could design some hand-wavy machines that are self-replicating. Problem solved! Also:

FUSION
posted by Mister_A at 11:45 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I watched a really interesting TED talk on this recently - and dammit now I can't find it. But the gist was - why use all that extra fuel needed to bring them home? Why all the emergency fuel? What happened to the days of glory in exchange for death for a great purpose? Who cares if they can even live there long-term? Men on mars just for a few days or so would do great things for the future of space travel.

I have to say, I don't disagree, and I really doubt it'd be hard to find willingly adventurers. Death on Mars? Yes please.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:46 AM on September 1, 2009


Rumor has it that THIS IS WHAT A NATIONAL HEALTHCARE PLAN WILL DO TO GRANDMA! FORGET THE ICE FLOES! WITH GLOBAL WARMING, THERE WILL BE NO ICE FLOES!

(Let's see how fast that gets around the Internet. Hitting Faux News in 3-2-1...)
posted by jeanmari at 11:49 AM on September 1, 2009


Mister_A: please tell me how you did that.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:49 AM on September 1, 2009


I think the colonists should be a rag-tag band of some description or other.

Yeah, ideally you would send a "dirty dozen" type group made of convicts and outcasts who could be played by Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis, etc.
posted by Kirklander at 11:50 AM on September 1, 2009


Well, JJ86, once one has suspended enough disbelief to consider sending people to the moon, it's a small step to suspend a little more to believe the engineering kinks can be worked out.
posted by notyou at 11:50 AM on September 1, 2009


OBAMA'S GONNA SEND YOUR GRANDMA TO DIE ON MARS!
posted by neroli at 11:51 AM on September 1, 2009 [27 favorites]


You people are all crazy liars. It's manifestly unjust to send somebody to Mars or the moon while there are folks starving and kids dying of easily treated diseases, but if NASA does club up to buy you a one-way trip to the red planet, you'd better fucking take it and be grateful, because that's a geek fantasy. Every half-Aspergers chump among us would jump on the chance to leave the confines of our planet and we all know it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:51 AM on September 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have lots of ideas, Luto, just subscribe to my newsletter and give unto me a tenth of your possessions and I will hook you up.
posted by Mister_A at 11:52 AM on September 1, 2009


I'll go.
posted by trip and a half at 11:55 AM on September 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's manifestly unjust to send somebody to Mars or the moon while there are folks starving and kids dying of easily treated diseases

I'm the last person to disagree with this - however, I think off all the useless and money-wasting institutions on this planet, space travel is pretty far down on the 'we should really nix this dumb shit' list. Keep the space travel. Lose the war, wall-street, rampant and pointless consumerism, SkyMall...
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:55 AM on September 1, 2009


We're like 40 comments in and no one has offered to explore Uranus.
posted by Mister_A at 11:56 AM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, you have to bring them back. Otherwise, what's the point of the trip?

Because if we don't get off this planet eventually, we're doomed as a species?
posted by rokusan at 11:58 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have lots of ideas, Luto, just subscribe to my newsletter and give unto me a tenth of your possessions and I will hook you up.

Fine. You can have my entire CD collection from the 90's, my collection of match box cars, and my '93 Toyota Camry. No give me your secret coding secrets!!! I need them.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:58 AM on September 1, 2009


Not to be a spoilsport, but that trip and most every other trip into deep space will have a military component...we are out to grab what we can in space and beat out other nations. Not by chance that we actually spend more money on military things for outer space than we do for scientific studies in space. Do you think that all those announced science trips to space do not carry along new gadgetry (cameras etc) to test and place there.

If you sign up to go, make sure you bring your GPS. Once there, you can settle down and wait to be interviewed by Larry King.
posted by Postroad at 11:58 AM on September 1, 2009


Every half-Aspergers chump among us would jump on the chance to leave the confines of our planet and we all know it.

I don't know. I'm attracted to the old-West romanticism of it all, but... the website lag-times would be awful. Like, even worse than Comcast.
posted by rokusan at 11:59 AM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Bring back transportation... then in a few hundred years time we can play them at cricket.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd do it in a heartbeat.

But I'd want one bigass drilling machine and a couple of reactors, etc. Don't just send them up there to die. Send them up there to maybe make something happen.
posted by concreteforest at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2009


They wouldn't be going there to die, JJ86. They'd be going there to live.

Except that there's a decent chance that they would die from something that would be totally avoided on Earth, like a treatable medical condition that isn't treatable with their equipment on Mars. Something like the cancer case in Antarctica would almost certainly happen eventually on the Mars settlement, and it would be much more difficult for anyone on Earth to do anything but watch them die from millions of miles away.

Every half-Aspergers chump among us would jump on the chance to leave the confines of our planet and we all know it.

I kind of like our planet. It has a decent supply of food, water and oxygen, a climate I can survive in most of the time, levels of radiation that won't kill me or make me sterile, etc. Also, it's where all of my friends and family are, and where I happen to keep all of my stuff. To each his own I guess, but to me Space seems like a nice place to visit and all but I wouldn't want to live there.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It amuses me when people argue against this idea. We are literally surrounded by people perfectly happy to lose decades off the end of their lives for such noble reasons as hitting baseballs over fences with greater frequency, hitting men ~100 pounds lighter harder in the hopes they drop a ball, or just because what the heck, I enjoy the feelings I get when I alter my body chemistry. We consider all of that pretty much normal, and don't do much more than wag a finger at it most of the time.

But the thought of allowing people to trade in those same decades of life in order to do something that is at least an arguably useful thing, that is a controversial idea. Hilarious...
posted by Pufferish at 12:02 PM on September 1, 2009 [22 favorites]


From the article: Surely if the point of sending astronauts is to be able to carry out scientific experiments that robots cannot do (something I am highly skeptical of and one of the reasons I don’t believe we should use science to attempt to justify human space exploration), then the longer they spend on the planet the more experiments they can do.

If sending humans doesn't enable us to do stuff that robots couldn't manage -- scientific research, establishing foundations for a more permanent base, etc -- then what is the point of sending them? Sure the first steps would make for some great TV and give the country(ies) involved some bragging rights, but aren't there better ways we could spend that money? Finally eradicate smallpox, widespread malaria treatments, humungous windfarms/solar batteries, subsidised healthcare, etc. I'm reminded of the popular sentiment in the USA during the latter Appollo missions, when people resented the cash being spent on space while swathes of the population were suffering economic hardships. Is the inspiration worth all the other things that the resources could be spent on?

The only arguments I can see in its favour are incredibly long term ("First steps toward getting mankind permanently off-planet") and incredibly short-term ("Because it's awesome!"). Loads of people talk as if this mission is the logical and inevitable next step, but I've never heard a compelling reason why.
posted by metaBugs at 12:03 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because if we don't get off this planet eventually, we're doomed as a species?

Yea, the culmination of 3 billion years of evolution acclimating to a particular environment is certainly best put to use by shipping off to a freezing burnt orange globe of dust and broken dreams.

Eventually of course, the cat tracked garbage organizing robots will chave cleaned the place up for return.
posted by clearly at 12:04 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


notyou, unlike your typical south seas island Mars does not have the environment to support human life. When your oxygen generator, water recycler, or hydroponic garden fails, you can't go to a local Wal-Mart for parts. You are done. Living on Mars would still require mechanical means which will fail eventually. That is pretty much suicide.

Not to mention, being isolated in a desolate confined areas indefinitely can have some serious psychological effects.

"Go crazy?"
"Dont mind if I do!"

posted by shoebox at 12:04 PM on September 1, 2009


I would definitely volunteer to be the first. The second? No thanks. First gets all the glory.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:05 PM on September 1, 2009


Finally eradicate smallpox

Done and done. Now bring on the manned Mars missions.
posted by jedicus at 12:06 PM on September 1, 2009


Here are the pros and cons of moving to Mars:

Cons:
Deadly radiation
Freezing temperatures
Barren dusty "soil"
Martians

Pros:
Less humid than Philadelphia


So at this point it's a tossup.
posted by Mister_A at 12:08 PM on September 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


Manned. 100% manned. And it can be a reailty show.

Tagline:
He will be the most famous person on Earth...but he won't live there.

cue music *If you believe...they put a man on the moon!*

Fade In to Titles

Rocket Man
posted by beelzebub at 12:11 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll go.
posted by trip and a half at 1:55 PM on September 1


Eponysterical!
posted by jquinby at 12:13 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't believe that we faked the moon landing, but we could fake a Mars landing.
#1. We'd save hundreds of billions of dollars (estimated budget greater than Quantum of Solace but less than Spiderman 3)


You mean to tell me that you could convince me that we went to Mars with a budget less than a movie that couldn't convince me that Tobey Maguire was emo?
posted by clearly at 12:14 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, the comparisons between Mars and European colonies strike me as facile. Clearly it was possible for humans to live in the colonies, because the colonists displaced (or enslaved) other humans living there. The initial colonists may have been naive about adapting European farm economics, but with a bare minimum of iron, it was certainly possible to bootstrap a subsistence farm, or even live for extended periods of time as a hunter-gatherer. While the conditions encountered were sometimes uncomfortable, they were rarely so inimical as to stump human ingenuity.

Because if we don't get off this planet eventually, we're doomed as a species?

Well, I'd say we are pretty much doomed as a species. Unless you find a way to kickstart the Martian magnetic field, double the gravity, and create an atmosphere from nothing, human life as we know it is going to be limited to whatever cans we can export or create. Post-human life might be another matter. So is a mission with a limited expiration date of 20-30 years which is what Krauss seems to be advocating.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Earth. It's got all my stuff on it.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Registration required!
posted by mr. strange at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2009


Send the convicts. It's been done before.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:26 PM on September 1, 2009


Send Schwarzenegger. It's been done before.
posted by Mister_A at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Who knows what's up on Mars for us to find? They've got water, they've got iron, they've got silicon, and methane every once in a while. Let's go and find out what can be done!
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:28 PM on September 1, 2009


A: Carrot Top, Pauly Shore, and Dick Cheney.

The problem here is we lose America's best comedian. I don't know who those first two are, though, they can go.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:31 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yea, the culmination of 3 billion years of evolution acclimating to a particular environment is certainly best put to use by shipping off to a freezing burnt orange globe of dust and broken dreams.

Please leave Nebraska out of this.
posted by rokusan at 12:33 PM on September 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


Mister_A: We're like 40 comments in and no one has offered to explore Uranus.

'I'm sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all.'
'Oh. What's it called now?'
'Urrectum.'
posted by shakespeherian at 12:36 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Everyone needs to read "Red Mars". I think we need to start colonizing and mining in space in general. The ISS is a good step, but I do think we need to set up a permanent moon base with manufacturing capabilities before we head to Mars.
posted by TheCoyote23 at 12:37 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


For every hundred dollars we spent on chucking monkeys at Mars, we could spend a dime on getting biologically-applicable, scientifically-fascinating compounds out of the Amazon, or a buck finding the same in deep sea vents. Fusion hasn't been perpetually fifty years away so much as it has been half a trillion dollars away. We could be spending a fraction of the money just learning how to regrow and implant human teeth, or making viable ultracapacitors.

Instead, it's just KILROY WAS HERE and a few corpses, slowly dessicating.
posted by adipocere at 12:38 PM on September 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


I would go, as long as there are no jerks on board.
posted by Capt Jingo at 12:41 PM on September 1, 2009


Astronauts on Mars for the remainders of their lives, never to return to Earth? That'd be some damn good reality TV.

I wonder if they'll ever know, they're in the best-selling show?
posted by Brak at 12:47 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think we should send moss first, or some kind of lichens.
posted by snofoam at 12:47 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many of the same issues: long-term life support, working in low gravity, radiation, and resource extraction, can be solved for the moon with much shorter time frames and fuel costs.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:51 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


adipocere, I read the end of your penultimate sentence as "viable ultra-raptors," and I was all GRAR! Hell yeah!

Sigh.

I guess big batteries are cool too.
posted by Mister_A at 12:54 PM on September 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Done and done. Now bring on the manned Mars missions.
I'm an idiot. I got it confused with polio.
posted by metaBugs at 12:55 PM on September 1, 2009


Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip, usually because the places they were leaving were pretty intolerable anyway

Then again, they were going places with amenities like food, water, an atmosphere....
posted by exogenous at 12:56 PM on September 1, 2009


...something that is at least an arguably useful thing, that is a controversial idea.

Society would rather have someone die a pointless death than have them die a meaningful death. After all, pointless deaths are an opportunity for grandstanding and an occasion to glorify my particular belief system on the internet. They are politically and commercially useful.

Meaningful deaths, on the other hand, just make people feel bad because their lives are silly and irrelevant by comparison. You can still profit, but it's more of a pain in the ass, there's less of that fun finger-wagging know-it-all-ness to add that certain frisson, and it all seems so terribly old-fashioned, you know?

(Starting on the Moon seems like a good idea, deaths or no deaths)
posted by aramaic at 12:57 PM on September 1, 2009


Moreover, if the radiation problems cannot be adequately resolved then the longevity of astronauts signing up for a Mars round trip would be severely compromised in any case. As cruel as it may sound, the astronauts would probably best use their remaining time living and working on Mars rather than dying at home.

Truly, a modest proposal.
posted by caddis at 12:58 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


If NASA's presentations to the President don't include the expression "Get your ass to Mars!" or a detailed white paper on the need to launch a pre-emptive strike against alien tripods, when we have failed in our duties as sub-literate entertainment junkies.
posted by total warfare frown at 12:58 PM on September 1, 2009


when = then
posted by total warfare frown at 12:59 PM on September 1, 2009


Mars just needs a little Project Genesis and then everything will be fine.
posted by brain_drain at 1:00 PM on September 1, 2009


We're like 40 comments in and no one has offered to explore Uranus.

Fear of a brown planet.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 1:01 PM on September 1, 2009




What, no, this is a terrible idea. Listen, we get enough insane separatists inside our country, yes, hello Alaska and Texas, I am talking about you; can you imagine the crazy ass mars-ers conspiracists once they get started?

Super bad idea. I don;t want the lovely mars and stores of Little Mons all crawling with ex-American weridos trying to set up some barbed wire United States Of Dave every 50 feet going "oh! it's so RED! It looks just like Arizona! Let's build a golf course!' Blargh.


Yeah, ideally you would send a "dirty dozen" type group made of convicts and outcasts who could be played by Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis, etc.



TRAILER : MUSIC: A SLOW BUILD UP OF 'MARS BRINGER OF WAR" plays softly over the PRODUCTION COMPANY LOGO

INT SHOT: An officer enters a small high-security jail cell. We see Bruce Willis sitting on his cot. He hands him a clipboard.

OFFICER: GET UP. YOU'RE BEING TRANSFERRED.

BW: ANOTHER FACILITY?

OFFIER: SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

CLIP OF FOX NEWS=LIKE SHOW WITH TALKING HEADS.

LADY TALKING HEAD: NOW MR. STEVENS, THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO CLAIM THAT A ONE-WAY MISSION TO MARS IS TANTAMOUNT TO MURDER

DR. STEVENS: WELL NAN, I DON'T THINK I HAVE TO REMIND YOU THAT ALL THESE MEN WERE ON DEATH ROW TO BEGIN WITH. THEY'VE BEEN GIVEN A REMARKABLE OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO THE WORLD AND SERVE OUT THIER SENTENCE WITH DIGNITY.

LADY TALKING HEAD: I SEE. LET'S TAKE A CALLER,

BOZO CALLER: HEY NAN, I'VE WANTED TO GO TO SPACE MY WHOLE LIFE, NOW YOU'RE TELLIN' ME I JUST HAVE TO KILL A FEW PEOPLE FIRST-

POLITE TV HOST LAUGHTER.

WHILE THEY TALK, WE SEE SHOTS OF THE CONVICTS (ANY OF YOUR OLDER MALE MACHO LEADS FOR THIS) GABBING, STUFFING PHOTOS OF WIVES AND CHILDREN INTO THEIR SUITS, ZIPPING UP, ETC

HUGH JACKMAN-LIkE CHARACTER: NUH. *zips up* I'VE BEEN TO ALICE SPRINGS.

Shot of the rocket going off. Shot of the Men inside hibernation tubes. Shot of the ship landing. The vast Martian landscape.


VO: THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE THE FIRST MEN ON MARS

CONVICT WITH CAMERA: WOULD YA LOOK AT THAT!
HUGH JACKMAN-LIKE CHARACTER: YEP. THOSE SURE ARE SOME ROCKS. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU ARE AWARE OF THIS, BUT WE DO HAVE ROCKS ON EARTH-

OTHER MAN: GUYS! LOOK AT THIS!

VO: WE WERE WRONG

Handheld Camera POV Close up of a human footprint. A *naked* footprint.

CONVICT: What the he-

"BRINGEr OF MAR'S" BIG CRESCENDO THEN! LOUD FAST MUSIC!

Increasingly fast clips of explosions, screaming, odd alien biography,half-second nude hot a woman with red hair, a man screaming "I saw someone! i saw someone walking outside!" shaky cam running, and a man on the surface with his helmet cracking open and his breath turning to ice as he screams.

MAIN TITLE: THE RED PLANET

VO: (whisper) I DON'T THINK WE'RE ALONE.

SUMMER: 2020

(P.S I am still working for work people)
posted by The Whelk at 1:21 PM on September 1, 2009 [30 favorites]


My band made two albums that comprise a story that is in part about a group of scientists who colonize Enceladus because a giant tidal wave takes out the East Coast, etc.

I can tell you, it ends better for the scientists there than the ones who stayed home, where Meat as a unified consciousness becomes the dominant organic entity on Earth.

So, yeah...sign me up for the rocket ship.
posted by nosila at 1:22 PM on September 1, 2009


There should have been a

CONVICT: YOU EXCITED BOUT GOIN TO MARS?

up in there.
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on September 1, 2009


Enceladus sounds all crispy, like a salad. I would go there.
posted by Mister_A at 1:27 PM on September 1, 2009


I, for one, welcome our new Martian neighbors.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2009


One of US government's very early, pre-Apollo moon landing plans actually involved sending the astronaut(s) there with an assload of food and oxygen and then figuring out how to get him home later. The theory was it's easier and faster to design for a one-way trip than a two-way. Sure he/they might die, but we'd get there first, God damn it.

A one-way trip to Mars seems like a really bad idea; if nothing else, it makes for terrible PR. The first man on Mars will be a national/worldwide hero. Letting him die alone millions of miles away isn't exactly inspiring.

NASA: "Great news! A small team of astronauts has successfully landed on Mars!"

Citizenry: "Wow! That's great! But we'll sure be relieved when they get back on Earth, safe and sound. Those guys are heroes, and they deserve a warm homecoming."

NASA: [uncomfortable silence]
posted by Commander Rachek at 1:33 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Serious question: Won't travelers be irreparably harmed by the long slog through zero g?
posted by Mister_A at 1:40 PM on September 1, 2009


Mister_A: Not necessarily. People have spent long times in microgravity before. As I understand it, getting to Mars would take only a few months. True, bone and muscle loss would both be problems, since the astronauts would need to be fit and active once they got to the surface. But regular exercise would certainly be part of their routine, and it may be possible to create some sort of artificial gravity a la 2001.
posted by Commander Rachek at 1:53 PM on September 1, 2009


If I didn't have a woman who counts on me for stuff, I'd volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars. I can't really envision me doing anything more important than that would surely be. My name would be writ large in the history books for all time. Eventually I'd die of radiation or something, but eventually I'm gonna die of something anyway, wherever I am. And it wouldn't necessarily be bad PR. It's possible to die with grace and dignity and honor. Farrah Fawcett did it, and she had ass cancer. I think I could do it too. In fact, I'm planning on it, when that day comes.
posted by jamstigator at 1:57 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I vote for one way trips, many one way trips, intending upon full scale colonization.. and risking death otherwise. Earth or Mars will be destroyed by a meteor soon enough, let's make a back up.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:58 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Manned space flight is a huge waste of time. Although if we are going to go to mars I'd suggest sending people To this giant ice lake where they could melt fresh water easily. You could send robots first to build facilities for people.
posted by delmoi at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2009


Been there done that.
posted by Sailormom at 2:08 PM on September 1, 2009


Robots. It's all about the robots.

How about some mix of robots and babies? Babies because of the fuel savings and some robots to take care of them. Add in a few TV sets to teach the babies and a steady diet of Happy Meals rocketed in, it will almost be like growing up in the US. What could go wrong?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:16 PM on September 1, 2009


The largest stumbling block to a consideration of one-way missions is probably political. NASA and Congress are unlikely to do something that could be perceived as signing the death warrants of astronauts.

Yikes. Still, I'd be the first one to go in a heartbeat, even if I knew I wasn't coming back.

Yes, space is that awesome.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:24 PM on September 1, 2009


Pastabagel : Build some robots. And enough with Mars. Mars sucks. Let's go to Europa.

I'm all for manned exploration, when it seems that there is a reason to do it. "Just because we can" is awesome and all, but let's use robots until we find that crazy cool thing that we just can't possibly evaluate from afar. Thus far, I don't think we've discovered anything that qualifies for that.

Oh, and I agree; fuck Mars. Let's go to Venus.
posted by quin at 2:35 PM on September 1, 2009


To date, how many people have died in space?

A death on Mars would no more be "dying in space" than a death on Earth is.
posted by rokusan at 2:37 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I agree; fuck Mars. Let's go to Venus.

If we could solve the greenhouse gas effect on Venus, and reverse its global warming to the point it was long-term habitable... well, then we wouldn't need other planets in the first place.
posted by rokusan at 2:38 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


When Chrstopher Stasheff wrote this, the ship was full of SCA folk. I don't see any reason not to go with his plan.
posted by notashroom at 2:45 PM on September 1, 2009


I thought President Bush already said we were going to Mars.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:05 PM on September 1, 2009


This will be tough with the current US astronaut pool is that according to my sources, MARS. NEEDS. WOMEN.
posted by GuyZero at 3:10 PM on September 1, 2009


Why aren't we looking at Venus? It has an atmosphere, even if it is a harsh one. Let's verify that there is no life in the upper atmosphere there, and if there isn't, introduce a few hundred types of extremophilic bacteria and see how they do in the clouds. Earth's early atmosphere wasn't very friendly - the oxidizing atmosphere we have now was generated partially due to photosynthesis by living organisms.

Give it a few million years and the sulfur-breathing slime molds will be writing bad pop science articles about panspermia.
posted by benzenedream at 3:17 PM on September 1, 2009


Juffo-Wup is Life.
posted by The Whelk at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I say we send Pauly Shore to Mars. "Bio-Dome 2: Reality Edition" would be the balls. Amirite?
posted by fusinski at 4:02 PM on September 1, 2009


For every hundred dollars we spent on chucking monkeys at Mars, we could spend a dime on getting biologically-applicable, scientifically-fascinating compounds out of the Amazon, or a buck finding the same in deep sea vents. Fusion hasn't been perpetually fifty years away so much as it has been half a trillion dollars away. We could be spending a fraction of the money just learning how to regrow and implant human teeth, or making viable ultracapacitors.

Why don't we spend all of those dollars on all of those things and cut the military budget by half. We'd still come out ahead.
posted by vibrotronica at 4:05 PM on September 1, 2009


This will be tough with the current US astronaut pool is that according to my sources, MARS. NEEDS. WOMEN.

Well, my sources tell me Mars Needs Guitars. Do our Martian brethren really need both?
posted by kirkaracha at 4:41 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless there is some form of harvestable energy on mars, I'm not interested.
posted by empath at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2009


For every hundred dollars we spent on chucking monkeys at Mars, we could spend a dime on getting biologically-applicable, scientifically-fascinating compounds out of the Amazon, or a buck finding the same in deep sea vents

I'm pretty sure whatever money doesn't go into space exploration will either go to make-work defense industry contracts or straight into the pockets of bankers. NASA's budget is only $17B or so - about how much Goldman Sachs pays in bonuses in a good year.
posted by heathkit at 5:07 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, I researched this on a lark, but it's just so surprising I had spell it out again.

In 2006, Goldman Sachs paid it's employees $16B in holiday bonus pay.

In the same year, NASA's budget was just over $15B dollars.
posted by heathkit at 5:20 PM on September 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


That says more about Goldman Sachs than NASA. NASA likes to play up the "less than 1% of the federal budget" line, but that's mainly because the DoD is so huge. The NASA budget is not particularly small compared to other cabinet-level agencies (2009 budget).

Department of Justice: $26.5 billion
Department of Agriculture: $26 billion
Department of Energy: $26 billion
NASA: $18.69 billion
Commerce Department: $13.8 billion
EPA: $10.5 billion
posted by smackfu at 5:43 PM on September 1, 2009


Oh yeah, DOD: $533.7 billion.
posted by smackfu at 5:52 PM on September 1, 2009




offered to explore Uranus.

At least it's still a heavenly body orbiting the son.

(What? Too soon pluto?)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:24 PM on September 1, 2009


Sending a few people to Mars is.... dumb. There are two interesting things that can be done about Mars: 1. terraforming, in order to do that we need to invent robots and figure out the best and cheapest way to go about it. It would be nice to find out if Mars has a lot of water in permafrost under the surface. Again, send robots to find out. 2. Find out if there can be a sizable self-sustained settling without terraforming. Use robots to investigate possible sites, figure out a way to grow food, get enough water, protect from UV light, generate oxygen.

In either case, there's at least 50-150+ years of robotic exploration and science-making.

Other than that, we can send people to make footprints (see: moon landing), for something like $400-1000 billion. Money that'd be much better spent on other space exploration, or something else entirely, as long as it's not a war.
posted by rainy at 6:28 PM on September 1, 2009


One way trip, two way trip, bah!

I want to see a three way trip in space. Ideally involving Natalie Portman and Deepika Padukone.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:28 PM on September 1, 2009


A Modest Proposal

For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland
From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and
For Making Them Beneficial to The Public


there might appear to be parallels

it amuses me to see that anyone has actually taken the NYT op ed seriously ;)
posted by caddis at 7:47 PM on September 1, 2009


NASA and Congress are unlikely to do something that could be perceived as signing the death warrants of astronauts.

So a panel of legislators will be making these decisions? Hm.
posted by maxwelton at 7:56 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can someone with More Science than I tell me if the idea of a habitable Venus is even possible? Its orbital distance is, what, 67 million miles, which is a third closer to the sun, which I suspect means that it gets three times the solar radiation we do? So even if you were able to blast off its horrid acid atmosphere and replace it instantly with something resembling our own, there would still be some Might Big Problems, eh? I see a lack of a magnetic field as another problem to solve, too.
posted by maxwelton at 8:07 PM on September 1, 2009


The Wiki pages are pretty good. A little crazy, but still informative: "Colonies floating in this region could therefore have a much shorter day length by remaining untethered to the ground and moving with the atmosphere."

Terraforming of Venus
Colonization of Venus
posted by smackfu at 8:21 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


benzenedream - hells, yeah! There's the ethical problem of proving that there's not current life on Venus before we populate it with our choice of life.

Just introducing a terrestrial extremophile probably won't work, but taking a bunch of extremophiles and subjecting them to closer- and closer- Venusian environments to select for ones which just might survive would be do-able.

The question is the timescale; I suspect century-scale (even environmentally selected ones might not 'take' in the actual Venusian environment) but it could conceivably be a year-scale (life "always" finds a way) before noticeable results. Another problem is once life is established, how can we control it? It's possible that a terraformed Venus is even more hostile to humans than the current inhospitable Venus. Accidents happen, and biological accidents...

As for a one-way Mars ticket... as long as it was well thought out as a permanent colony; site with reasonably extractable materials to sustain an artificial Sol3 environment (water, oxygen, trace minerals of all kinds, &c), sunlight or radionucleids for energy, engineering for radiation resistance or engineering to dig underground (and perhaps have a pool of liquid water above the habitat to soak up solar radiation), equal numbers of both hetero sexes (and the same ratio of gay/lesbian)... yeah. I'd do it.

I could conceivably even stay in my same field of study there, just be asking different questions (such as those pertaining to whether living on Mars fucks brains evolved on Earth up).
posted by porpoise at 8:38 PM on September 1, 2009


I *heart* NASA, but given the recession, I would opt for several years focusing on reducing costs and improving performance of the things that they already do, as well as focusing on the threats from meteors, and actually determining whether there are hidden polar crater -- or buried -- water reserves on the moon that might make it the best choice for initial colonization.

The absolute best thing we can do for space research, longterm, is to find ways of making it profitable.
posted by markkraft at 9:08 PM on September 1, 2009


Think I'd go, maybe open up a hot dog stand....
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:22 PM on September 1, 2009


Just to clarify though... Obama shouldn't make any decisions until after the data comes back from Oct. 9th... Boom day for LCROSS, as it smashes into the moon, kicking up the contents of one of the deepest, darkest craters.

If there''s water to be had on the moon, we will hopefully find out then... and if it's there, it certainly should change NASA's priorities.
posted by markkraft at 9:28 PM on September 1, 2009


Once the robots manage to uncover a rich vein of Illudium on Mars, we'll have plenty of energy to run as many two-way trips as we want!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:14 PM on September 1, 2009


"NASA and Congress are unlikely to do something that could be perceived as signing the death warrants of astronauts"

China is.
posted by Laotic at 2:09 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, having a kid must be a real game changer, because I'm reading all these "sign me up to die on Mars!" comments and I wonder if I would've said the same thing a year ago, before my wife got pregnant and five or so years before that, when I was an unattached single man.

I just think of my son and it's easy for me, too--no way in hell.
posted by zardoz at 6:16 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know what cracks me up? How quickly the argument boils down to "But think of all the things we could do right here on earth to cure disease/poverty/hunger/etc. with all that money!"

Well guess what? Not going to Mars doesn't mean any of the money that would have been spent to go to Mars is going to go toward wiping out AIDS or cancer or feeding and housing those who need it most. If you think that it's one or the other, you're deluding yourself.

For all it might get us -- and I'm not placed to say whether it would be a lot or a little -- we may as well spend the money to colonize Mars because we all know deep down that the money probably isn't ever going to be used to make Earth all pretty-nicey.
posted by Never teh Bride at 10:35 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Commander Rachek: One of US government's very early, pre-Apollo moon landing plans actually involved sending the astronaut(s) there with an assload of food and oxygen and then figuring out how to get him home later. The theory was it's easier and faster to design for a one-way trip than a two-way. Sure he/they might die, but we'd get there first, God damn it.

My understanding is that Kennedy was the one who quashed that idea, when he publicly vowed to send men to the moon and bring them back home safely.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:02 PM on September 2, 2009


NASA's budget is only $17B or so - about how much Goldman Sachs pays in bonuses in a good year.

Wow. Yeah, okay, I now accept that our planet is broken.

Let's try a new one.
posted by rokusan at 12:41 PM on September 2, 2009


Once the robots manage to uncover a rich vein of Illudium on Mars....

I suspect the Mars-backers are hoping for unobtanium, that most powerful of materials last seen powering Saddam Hussein's nuclear stockpile.
posted by rokusan at 12:42 PM on September 2, 2009


Man, having a kid must be a real game changer, because I'm reading all these "sign me up to die on Mars!" comments.... I just think of my son and it's easy for me, too--no way in hell.

Dude, please consider the size of the back yard that kid would have.

I would have wanted to go EVEN MORE when I was five.
posted by rokusan at 12:43 PM on September 2, 2009


I WANT TO SEE THE WHELK'S MOVIE SO BAD I JUST GOT CHILLS AND I USUALLY HATE THAT MICHAEL BAY SHIT.

I think maybe it was the Holst playing in my head while I read it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:29 PM on September 2, 2009


I WANT TO SEE THE WHELK'S MOVIE SO BAD I JUST GOT CHILLS AND I USUALLY HATE THAT MICHAEL BAY SHIT.

I would like to say I am still totally available, movie people.
posted by The Whelk at 4:39 PM on September 2, 2009


The argument that there are problems here at home to spend money on so we shouldn't spend money on exploring -- that's a very, very old argument. The naysayers in the age of Columbus said the exact same thing. Spain wasn't some paradise when Columbus set off; there were LOTS of problems in Spain at that time that money could have been spent on instead. Exploration is like a scratch-off card except that you KNOW you're going to win SOMETHING; you just don't find out what you've won until you've done it.
posted by jamstigator at 5:49 AM on September 3, 2009


rokusan: Dude, please consider the size of the back yard that kid would have.

10 square meters in a tin can?

jamstigator: Sure, there are people who see basic space exploration as a money pit. The other side of the equation is that advocates for colonization on Mars are doing so based on some rather wacky notions that demonstrate contempt for the basic science involved.

Of course, we don't live in the 15th century where blindly throwing manpower and jacked-up commercial technology at a problem until something sticks is an especially effective solution. For one thing, commercial interests are struggling to get into orbit at all. And for another, it's certainly not true that European explorers were sailing in blind ignorance of the resources they hoped to exploit.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:53 AM on September 3, 2009


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