The dust is very different
February 3, 2017 4:31 AM   Subscribe

Let's talk about this whole Moon vs. Mars thing for human spaceflight Jason Davis at the Planetary Society explores the differences in landing, mining and survival technologies required for the very different conditions space travelers would encounter on the two celestial bodies.
posted by mediareport (15 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
MATT

DAMON

In case you haven't heard, the Trump administration may direct NASA to land humans on the moon.[ALTERNATIVE FACT]

If they're so into immigration, I suggest we send Trump himself.

A robot will deliver my pizza long before someone walks on Mars.
posted by adept256 at 5:03 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


BOTH.

Have not read the link yet, and there are many many issues but 'uman-beans have been off the surface of the planet continuously for DECADES. It's doable. It's insanely lucrative. (what's after "trillionare"?) We can move all hazardous industry off the surface. People will die, but we are celebrating a game this weekend where guys voluntarily give each other brain damage, so not "so what" if there are problems off planet, but "we will work it out" and celebrate the explorers.
posted by sammyo at 6:42 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


(oh, and like Matt-space-pirate-Damon, take extra rolls of duck tape!)
posted by sammyo at 6:43 AM on February 3, 2017


I like the idea of an international Moon Village, but putting it on the moon seems overly complicated. They should build it in Lawrence, Kansas. The 3D printing robots could practice their in-situ resource extraction techniques on nearby wheat fields. Think of how insanely lucrative it will be without all the extra cost of building giant rockets to get there.
posted by sfenders at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ducks won't survive on Mars. Bring duct tape instead.
posted by sexyrobot at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


In the last 30 years it's been AI and robotics that have had the best success. Continue to send advanced robotic rovers to mars to prep for manned missions.
posted by judson at 7:05 AM on February 3, 2017


Until we've developed a self sufficient system at a base in the Antarctica, we shouldn't be going too far. Create a system that can hold 3-5 people first, then you can go anywhere.

In the meantime, use the robots to bring several mineral rich asteroids into Earth orbit and BOOM, hello global wealth.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:20 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


bring several mineral rich asteroids into Earth orbit and BOOM

There was a DLC for Mass Effect like that. You had to kill the terrorists before they steered the asteroid into the planet.

That was a totally fictional game though. Like all the sci-fi that just stayed as fiction.
posted by adept256 at 7:44 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yes, I want to make it clear that I'm not in favor of steering an asteroid into Earth or the Moon. Now Venus? Yeah, fuck Venus.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 AM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Have not read the link yet

It's worth it, honest, with lots of interesting embedded links. The main thrust is that technologies used in lunar exploration are a lot less transferable to Martian exploration than many people appear to think. The surface dust differences, e.g., mean "there is not necessarily a one-to-one design crossover for things like filters, seals, and garment fabrics."

Water extraction (to use in making rocket fuel, the story goes) will have to be very different on each body, too:

As an example, water ice is found near the Moon's poles, in permanently shadowed craters, where temperatures plunge to -249 degrees Celsius—just 24 degrees above absolute zero. Mining in such an environment would be difficult. The extracted ice also has to be converted to propellant, stored, and shipped somewhere useful, such as to an ascent vehicle and back into lunar orbit. Many experts I spoke with expressed skepticism. "Mining the regolith doesn't strike me as a winner," the NASA scientist told me....

[But] near the Martian equator, they would need to bake water out of hydrated minerals—basically, rocks with water trapped inside. Further north and south, actual ice sheets exist, but they lie below the surface.

"I think resource extraction on the Moon would inform techniques needed for Mars, but it would not be the same technology," Horgan told me. "It would be pretty different in the end."


There's more, about differing temperature ranges, spacesuit cooling systems (which sublimate ice into vacuum) not working as effectively in a Martian atmosphere, etc. I still think a constant presence on the Moon is the most logical next step, mostly because of distance, launch windows and ease of resupply, but liked the article a lot.
posted by mediareport at 8:22 AM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Ducks won't survive on Mars. Bring duct tape instead.

Or not
posted by IndigoJones at 12:10 PM on February 3, 2017


From TFA: Helium-3 could be converted into nuclear energy.

(sigh)

I'd be more likely to believe that something might be a good idea, if the supporters of that thing did not feel the need to spout a lot of bullshit to make it sound like a good idea.
posted by mark k at 1:40 PM on February 3, 2017


Until we've developed a self sufficient system at a base in the Antarctica, we shouldn't be going too far. Create a system that can hold 3-5 people first, then you can go anywhere.

Inside a Russian experiment to make life possible on the Moon or Mars
posted by MrVisible at 7:57 PM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


For routine repeating travel to Mars, establishing a waystation at a Lagrange point supplied by a Moon base (or just a Moon base) is pretty much a requirement for feasibility, so those design considerations pretty much need to be dealt with before considerations for routine landings on Mars need to even be considered.

Getting reaction mass and other consumables out of Earth's gravity well is too expensive - and barring a 'Space Elevator' type of technological advancement extraordinarily polluting also.

Having a Moonbase with H2O mining is essentially a requirement for regular trips to Mars; sure, different design requirements, but setting up on the Moon is pretty much a practical a prerequisite.

Water can be used as reaction mass as well as a source of O2. H2 is a useful byproduct. The missing pieces of the puzzle are nitrogen compounds and usefully reactive carbon compounds to complete the CHON quadfecta.

Water on its own can be an excellent shield against radiation harmful to 'uman beans out there beyond Earth's magnetosphere - in sufficient quantity. But sufficient quantity = mass so more reaction mass is needed to move it.

Nuclear material for energy might be worthwhile to export out of Earth's gravity well for a while, but if a mineable source outside of it could be found, that would help. Especially if metals required to build centrifuges to refine it are also available. If elements used to make photovoltaics are available, that could be a reasonable source of energy for refining radionucleides.

Later down the line, bring in a whole bunch of comets into orbit with Deimos or Phobos and gently crash them all in a convenient location to mine them.
posted by porpoise at 5:44 PM on February 4, 2017


adept256: "A robot will deliver my pizza long before someone walks on Mars."

I would hope so, you ordered that damned thing over an hour ago.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:37 PM on February 4, 2017


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