Huge ice field found on Mars
March 4, 2002 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Huge ice field found on Mars The Mars Odyssey orbiter has found a vast field of water ice stretching from the Martian south pole to 60 degrees south.
posted by Zool (29 comments total)
Woohoo let's send Arnold Schwarzenegger there asap.
posted by riffola at 6:34 PM on March 4, 2002

Well, I'm packed. When do we leave?
posted by Poagao at 7:12 PM on March 4, 2002

As everybody knows, we can the Martian civilization's underground habitat by entering the Great Face through the nostrils...
posted by GriffX at 7:14 PM on March 4, 2002

enter the Martian civilization's underground habitat, I meant to say. Stupid brain.
posted by GriffX at 7:15 PM on March 4, 2002

what about the Great Ass of Mars? You can enter through there too.

(I guess having a Futurama episode set on Mars a day before this news doesn't really help the conversation much.)
posted by mkn at 7:18 PM on March 4, 2002

FWIW, we can't get to Mars until we solve some bone loss, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular, neurovestibular, and radiation problems. It's a long, cramped flight. And it's going to be a long time until anyone tries it.
posted by bloggboy at 7:56 PM on March 4, 2002

Not true, bloggboy. We can't get there without side effects -yet-, but we can get there right now if we were willing to spend the cash.
posted by Nothing at 8:09 PM on March 4, 2002

Not to hijack the thread, but wouldn't it be better if we privatized stuff like this and left NASA's huge budget to better society?
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:18 PM on March 4, 2002

Personally, Ufez ... I'd love to see a check-off box on tax forms for "NASA Mission to Mars". I never donate to the presidential fund, or (locally) to the State Wildlife refuge -- but I'd be willing to drop $50 to get something going again.

Now back to our regularly scheduled thread:
posted by RavinDave at 8:40 PM on March 4, 2002

Not to hijack the thread, but wouldn't it be better if we privatized stuff like this and left NASA's huge budget to better society?

Where do you think the NASA money goes? To the people doing the work for the NASA contractors and to the NASA employees. What's better than that?
posted by @homer at 9:10 PM on March 4, 2002

Big deal. Don't we have ice right here?
posted by dong_resin at 10:15 PM on March 4, 2002

mkn, it's on the other side of the planet.
posted by Dean King at 10:21 PM on March 4, 2002

Where do you think the NASA money goes? To the people doing the work for the NASA contractors and to the NASA employees. What's better than that?

Awww, c'mon homer. Everyone knows about the $80 million toilets and everything else. Who knows how much every botched spaced launch costed us all? So long as they remain a government funded project, so many more things will go underfunded, no?
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:26 PM on March 4, 2002

ok, a bit more related: The Case for Mars -- to Mars in 180 days for $30 billion. (see also Salon)
posted by Dean King at 10:36 PM on March 4, 2002

Privitization of space just gives leeway to corporations to despoil another planet (Arby's Mars anyone?) . I prefer for our exploration of the vast unknown to be run by the government, no matter how expensive it is.
posted by owillis at 10:44 PM on March 4, 2002

wouldn't it be better if we privatized stuff like this

At what point would parts of Mars start becoming private property? Please let us not allow Disney to get the deed to Olympus Mons.
posted by homunculus at 10:50 PM on March 4, 2002

The case for privatization is that competition would make the process faster, better, or cheaper (pick any two). What we'd most like to see is cheaper. There are any number of thought experiments that suggest that we could drop launch costs to low earth orbit from the present roughly $10,000/lb to somewhere in the $1000/lb range.

During the late 90s the explosion of interest in satellite communications technology led to the creation of multiple sat networks, and the push to launch these networks strained the existing satellite launch industry around the world, with excess capacity going to China, Russia, the Ukraine, and Europe. This sparked a rush of investment in building cheaper launch vehicles; one of the best bets and closest to market as Rotary Rocket. Other systems were less experimental but also less well-funded. In the end the financial failure of the satellite networks meant an end of the money train from top to bottom, and all such efforts are essentially moribund. This leaves us with standard expendable rockets as the chief launch vehicle of choice, with the US Space Shuttle being the only technologically different alternative (and its launch costs are even higher).

Until we can get to orbit quickly and cheaply, many things, a Mars mission included, will remain prohibitively expensive. Zubrin lays out a plan for doing it, though, and a lot of people at NASA have listened to him, leading to a somewhat hybrid Mars Semi-Direct plan. It's only a few tens of billions more, but Congress is still reeling from Bush the Elder's Space Council, headed by Quayle, who came up with a godawful socialism-in-space plan that would have cost literally trillions-with-a-T. Since NASA has not been able to hold the line on Space Station costs, embarassingly so, Congress continues to doubt that they can do anything in numbers remotely resembling the budgets they present. What gets done is mostly what Congress likes to get done because of the pork factor (which itself tends to drive up costs, e.g. by spreading manufacturing out among n facilities).
posted by dhartung at 11:39 PM on March 4, 2002

Privitization of space just gives leeway to corporations to despoil another planet.

I don't know. I'm looking forward to Cadbury's Mars bars.
posted by Neale at 3:48 AM on March 5, 2002

Isn't a good part of the Space Station's cost overrun because we had to wait on the Russians and their godawfully antiquated and cash deficient system?

Anecdotally speaking, I'm not too fond of the "faster, cheaper, better" mandate as exercised by NASA - what with landers smashing into the side of Mars. After the great job with Pathfinder, it was a heck of a letdown. Sometimes spending oodles of cash and taking it slow seems to work better.

It would be cool to have a concrete "Man on Mars" mission plan in place though.
posted by owillis at 4:07 AM on March 5, 2002

Cool, ideal terraforming material - send in the CO2 convertors (hardy algae and stuff) and a whole load of big bombs to melt the ice caps. Drown a few martians, get a new habitable world in return. Hmm, maybe it'd be a good idea to stock up on the iBooks to counteract any retaliation from the little green men first..
posted by Mossy at 4:43 AM on March 5, 2002

Little green hockey players shoveling off the canals and playing late into the night, even on school nights.
posted by pracowity at 4:47 AM on March 5, 2002

"When deep space exploration ramps up it'll be the corporations that name everything: the I.B.M. Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks..."
posted by UnReality at 6:13 AM on March 5, 2002

A fantastic book about Mars colonization is Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. First in a series of books going over the arrival, colonization, and subsequent effects very well. A good read if you are interested in Mars or Terraforming!
posted by Dantien at 6:21 AM on March 5, 2002

The first person on Mars should be a woman. The guys got the moon, we get Mars, dammit.

And everyone knows, Mars needs women.

Speaking of Marses, I'm surprised Mr. Saxman in Seattle hasn't piped up yet in this thread, actually...
posted by beth at 6:39 AM on March 5, 2002

I think the neglect of space exploration is possibly one of the worst mistakes we could make a society. We blithely destroy our planet, wipe out species.. hell, we kill every living thing in a lake to find dead people. If the privatization of space will make space exploration more cost effective and possible, I say go for it. The only problem is, once the US government lets NASA loose it would be pretty difficult to get it back. The astronauts working on the Hubble right now are in a shuttle that's older than the satellite. (Columbia was built in 1981 and refurbed last year.)

I don't think we'll be inhabiting other planets Star Trek fashion, but I do think that materials and information from space exploration could provide information vital to the survival of our planet. Hell, it would be nice to know when the next planet killer rolls our way, at the very least.
posted by xyzzy at 7:01 AM on March 5, 2002

Beth, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. Duh.
posted by Dantien at 7:31 AM on March 5, 2002

I don't think all space exploration should be privatized, but it would be nice if some were. But taking the first steps requires massive investment and massive losses that only a government could handle.

If we want to get to Mars in a useful way, we're going to need a massive support infrastructure in orbit before we can start. We should be focusing on building that infrastructure first.

Once that infrastructure is in place, though, it could easily be reused to open up commercialization of space, which is probably the only way regular joes can hope to get up there.

Just like European exploration and colonization of the Americas, getting up to space and established there is the hard, expensive part that you do more for glory, pride, and curiosity than for profit. Once you have established a strong connection, then you can start making money.
posted by daveadams at 8:50 AM on March 5, 2002

Heh... it does offer a fertile field for jokes, doesn't it?

I'm happy to hear about this. It will be another few decades, I think, before we can seriously think about sending people to Mars, but this icefield makes it much more likely that they will be able to stay when they get there.

I will be disappointed if a system of private land ownership gets established elsewhere in the solar system. While NASA's pace frustrates me, I would rather give them more money than less. We don't need any corporate space monopolies.

posted by Mars Saxman at 9:08 AM on March 5, 2002

What other reason to send a woman than the planet is frigid? Seems like they'd have much in common....

*oh, am I gonna catch hell*
posted by dwivian at 9:16 AM on March 5, 2002

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