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Debate: Manned mission to Mars

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-*'''[[Argument:Health-on-Risk-Not a good idea| Health-on-Risk-Not a good idea]]''' [http://express.howstuffworks.com/mb-mars.htm "Ask Marshall Brain: Why haven't we sent astronauts to Mars?" March 2009]:"If you launched a spaceship flying at 15,000 miles per hour, it would take at least five months to get to Mars (probably six or seven). And once you got there, the planets wouldn't be lined up nicely anymore. You would have to wait 18 months for them to get "close" again. Then it's another six-month trip home!All of this would be extremely hard on the astronauts. The weightlessness would cause their bones to lose 1% of their mass per month. Then there's the radiation in space. The Earth's atmosphere and its magnetic field protect us from most of this radiation, but in space, astronauts are totally exposed.And don't forget the psychological issues. Imagine being cooped up in something the size of an RV with the same five or six people for two or three years. The typical family would get pretty testy in just two or three days.Another problem is the sheer size of the spaceship. It would have to carry more than 1,000 pounds of dehydrated food per person, plus tons of water and fuel, a big lander, life support systems, medical equipment and supplies, radiation shielding and so on."+*'''[[Argument:Health-on-Risk-Not a good idea| Health-on-Risk-Not a good idea]]''' [http://express.howstuffworks.com/mb-mars.htm "Ask Marshall Brain: Why haven't we sent astronauts to Mars?" March 2004]:"If you launched a spaceship flying at 15,000 miles per hour, it would take at least five months to get to Mars (probably six or seven). And once you got there, the planets wouldn't be lined up nicely anymore. You would have to wait 18 months for them to get "close" again. Then it's another six-month trip home!All of this would be extremely hard on the astronauts. The weightlessness would cause their bones to lose 1% of their mass per month. Then there's the radiation in space. The Earth's atmosphere and its magnetic field protect us from most of this radiation, but in space, astronauts are totally exposed.And don't forget the psychological issues. Imagine being cooped up in something the size of an RV with the same five or six people for two or three years. The typical family would get pretty testy in just two or three days.Another problem is the sheer size of the spaceship. It would have to carry more than 1,000 pounds of dehydrated food per person, plus tons of water and fuel, a big lander, life support systems, medical equipment and supplies, radiation shielding and so on."

Revision as of 06:17, 7 August 2009

Is a manned mission to Mars a good idea, or are unmanned mission better?

Background and context

A human mission to visit and land on the planet Mars has long been a subject for science fiction writers and a dream of space exploration advocates. Though various mission proposals have been put forth by multiple space agencies for such a mission, the logistical and financial obstacles are considerable, and many critics contend that such a mission would be a risky sub-optimal use of government resources. Regardless, preliminary work for such a mission is being undertaken by NASA and the European Space Agency, with each projecting a possible attempt in the late 2020s or the 2030s.

See Wikipedia's article on the topic for more background: Manned mission to Mars

Inspiration: Would a mission to Mars provide needed inspiration to the World?

Pro

  • Mission to Mars creates needed heroes. James Cameron. "Why Go to Mars?" Space.com. August 25, 1999: "Our children are raised in a world without heroes. They are led to believe that heroism consists of throwing a football the furthest, getting the most hang time during a slam dunk, or selling the most movie tickets with your looks and your boyish charm. [...] Going to Mars is not a luxury we can't afford. It's a necessity we can't afford to be without. We need this. [...] We need this, or some kind of challenge like it, to bring us together to all feel a part of something and to have heroes again."
  • Going to Mars would help unify the world. Captain Alan Bean, The 77-year-old was part of the Apollo 12 mission and became the fourth man to walk on the Moon, sidedd with going to Mars instead of returning to the Moon: "We ought to gather the international community and go to Mars. I know it isn't how others feel because it is much cheaper to go back to the Moon but I would rather we went to Mars. If we did it with all those other countries it would have a tremendously unifying effect on the Earth. It would be an inspiration for all people on Earth."[1]
  • A manned mission to Mars would unify humankind. A manned mission to Mars would go a long way in inspiring and unifying all humans around the world. This is a particularly important political objective, as conflicts around the world are currently driven by certain ideological and religious differences. A mission to mars can help reduce those differences by putting them in the context of our common humanity.
  • Manned mission to Mars begins journey of colonization of space. Stephen Hawking: "Robotic missions are much cheaper and may provide more scientific information, but they don’t catch the public imagination in the same way, and they don’t spread the human race into space, which I’m arguing should be our long-term strategy."[2]
  • Mars mission would inspire kids to become scientists "Why we must go to Mars." On to Mars: "The first manned landing on Mars would serve as an invitation to adventure for children around the world. There will be some 100 million kids in the U.S. schools over the next 10 years. If a Mars program were to inspire just an additional 1 percent of them to pursue scientific educations, the net result would be one million more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors."


Con

  • That brave men exist, does not mean we should send them to Mars. Jazz Shaw. "Robots Should Go Where Man Hesitates." Pajamas Media. July 20, 2009: "It’s not that American heroes are in short supply. The waiting list of brave, daring professionals hoping to enter the space program is massive, and many stand ready to risk their lives to advance the cause of science and push mankind past any and all boundaries. But is this really the way we wish to spend those lives?"
  • Robotic missions to Mars succeeded; why use humans? Jazz Shaw. "Robots Should Go Where Man Hesitates." Pajamas Media. July 20, 2009: "Robotic exploration delivers countless advantages. It is true that there will always be situations where a live human being will be able to adapt and think through situations which would leave a machine crippled in the dust. But have we done so badly with the robots currently in service? Two rovers on Mars are still trundling along, dragging disabled wheels and running on low power due to dust covered solar panels, but performing their mission years beyond initial projections. Also, unmanned missions are free of the burden of delivering air, food, water, and all of the other requirements for keeping humans alive. They weigh less, cost less, and can take all the time they need to arrive at their destination."
  • Risks of mission to Mars are better assumed by robots. Jazz Shaw. "Robots Should Go Where Man Hesitates." Pajamas Media. July 20, 2009: "When the Mars Polar Lander entered the Martian atmosphere in 1999, it immediately fell silent and was never heard from again. It is now believed that it crashed into the wall of a canyon, smashing on the rocks far below. It was a terrible loss in terms of technology and discovery, disappointing many, but imagine our reaction if that had been a landing craft with five astronauts on board. Some risks are still best left to our machine surrogates."
  • A manned mission to Mars would be too expensive. Jazz Shaw. "Robots Should Go Where Man Hesitates." Pajamas Media. July 20, 2009: "And finally, what of the cost? The Mars Express plan is conservatively estimated to carry a price tag of more than 100 billion dollars. Many observers feel this is only a down payment, with the eventual bill coming in closer to one trillion. As much as we may yearn for bold adventure and discovery, we are currently watching Congress burn through imaginary cash as if it were the last known fuel source on the planet. Is this really the time to consider incurring such a debt load?"
  • Long weightless travel to Mars would weaken Astronauts' bodies "Astronauts face bone danger." BBC. May 4, 2000: "Astronauts returning from missions in space may take months to start recovering from dangerous bone-thinning. Living in conditions of near zero-gravity places less stress on bones, and in response, they weaken. This thinning could mean that astronauts are vulnerable to bone fractures." Also because of the lack of work done by the muscles during long durations of weightlessness, the human heart weakens very much from underuse which could endanger a long-term space mission by far.
  • Entry into the Martian atmosphere is very hazardous. "Going to Mars: A mission fraught with risk." Canadian Space Agency. September 9, 2003: "Hazards of entering into the Martian atmosphere. Entry into the Martian atmosphere is a crucial stage of the mission and represents a massive obstacle to its success. Various factors—such as the density of the Martian atmosphere, a sandstorm, an outcrop of rock, the spacecraft's speed, a faulty trajectory, a lack of fuel, or an electronic glitch—could jeopardize a mission. Many missions have, in fact, failed at this stage."
  • Rescue mission to Mars is not possible. Sam Dinkin. "Colonize the Moon before Mars." The Space Review. September 7, 2004: "First, on a mission to the Moon, Earth rescue is a decent possibility for certain kinds of failures. On a trip to Mars, this would be out of the question. As NASA is finding out with its shuttle return to flight efforts, having a standby rescue ship and a space station to go to makes failure recovery for many failures feasible without too much increased capability from our existing hardware."
  • Weight of supplies for long Mars trip is impractical. The Apollo missions crammed as much food as possible to keep the astronauts alive and it ended up that even freeze-dried food is heavy. It costs about $35,000 per pound to send things into space (non-living) which would also be incredible food costs for just one mission.
  • Craft to Mars must carry exercise, artificial-gravity equipment. Because long periods of weighlessness deteriorates astronaut's bones, a "Space Shuttle" to Mars must make room for special exercise equipment and enough extra air for this exercising. Without this equipment astronauts could be dead from underwork by the time they get to Mars in the 2-3 months it takes to get there.
  • Mission to Mars will have major communications time-lag "Going to Mars: A mission fraught with risk." Canadian Space Agency. September 3, 2008: "The 20-minute communications lag. Another difficulty is the communications lag between Earth and a spacecraft travelling to Mars. Depending on the distance between the two, it can take almost 20 minutes to send commands, and then another 20 minutes before a response is received. Scientists must react quickly when problems arise, and then wait with great patience for the response, which will arrive 40 minutes after they send the initial signal. This also means that robots and systems we send to Mars must be able to make some of their own decisions, or at least know to wait for a command if something is not right."

Feasibility: Is a manned mission to Mars feasible?

Pro

  • Artificial gravity can overcome zero-gravity on Mars mission. The problem of zero gravity during the trip to Mars is actually not a problem at all: zero-gravity conditions can be eliminated altogether during the trip, as artificial gravity can be created through the use of centrifugal force. Furthermore, we should take into account the Mir cosmonauts, Sergei Avdev spending a total of 748 days in zero-gravity over 3 missions, and Valeri Polyakov spending 438 consecutive days without gravity. There were no long term negative impact, having no reason to believe that zero gravity causes health problems. [3]
  • We can commit to a mission to Mars before knowing how. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society: "This idea that you have to know how to do it before you can commit yourself to the program is completely false. We didn't know that we could do Lewis and Clark successfully before we set them out [to explore the American West in the 1800s]."[4]
  • Committing to Mars will inspire NASA/Scientists to make it happen. "Why we must go to Mars." On to Mars: "There are additional reasons to send humans to Mars. Nations, like people, thrive on challenge; they languish without it. The space program needs a challenge. Consider these statistics: Between 1961 and 1973, with the impetus of the moon race, NASA produced technological innovations at a rate several orders of magnitude greater than that it has shown since. Even so, NASA's average budget in real dollars then was only about 20 percent more than today ($16 billion 1998 dollars compared with $13 billion). Why the enhanced productivity? Because NASA had a goal that forced its reach to exceed its grasp. Far from being a waste of money, having NASA take on the challenge of a manned mission to Mars is the key to giving the nation a real return for its space dollars."
  • Mars has a uniquely suitable environment for a manned mission. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. "Why Go to Mars." 2004: "Mars, as cold as it is, is not as oppressive an environment as almost any other place we can think of going in the Solar System. From a runaway greenhouse effect, Venus is 900 degrees Fahrenheit and would melt or vaporize most things you sent to its surface. Mercury is also very hot, being close to the Sun. So when you look at the nearby terrestrial planets, Mars is looking … just right, in spite of the challenges."


Con

  • Robotic missions to Mars are many times more feasible.
  • Unmanned missions to Mars are equally effective. "TNR Flashback: The Case For Exploring Mars." The Plank, The New Republic. July 17th, 2009: "One objection to a manned mission to Mars is that robotic craft could do the job just as well at a fraction of the cost--a compelling argument as we watch the Spirit rover successfully bound (or rather inch) over the surface of the Red Planet. On January 10, The Washington Post's editors wrote, 'The success of NASA's latest Mars venture has proved the worth of unmanned missions, while manned space flight is exorbitantly expensive.' The Los Angeles Times approvingly quoted physicist and space guru James Van Allen as saying that we could explore Mars with robots 'at far less cost and far greater quantity and quality of results.' Or, as Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, bluntly summed it up, 'There's no real rationale for a manned space program.'"


Risks: Are the risks of a manned mission to Mars tolerable?

Pro

  • Many astronauts are willing to assume risks of Mars Mission. Kirk, Alex. The Mars Society Frequently Asked Questions. 8 April 2008: "There are many of people who, if told that they could be part of an expedition to Mars only if they abandoned all hope of returning to Earth, would jump at the chance. Thousands more would sign up for a trip where their chances of returning were only 50/50. Looking back over time, people have always been willing to risk their lives for things they care about, for great missions of exploration. More importantly, why should people who will be staying safely here on Earth deny the people who wish to take that chance the opportunity, just because the explorers might die?"
  • Solar radiation is no major danger to Mars astronauts. Radiation only becomes dangerous when absorbed in large quantities, over short periods of time. According to the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council, a dose of 100 rem causes a 1.81% increase in the likelihood of cancer in the next 30 years of a person's life. Astronauts inside a spaceship during any of the last 3 large recorded solar flares would have experienced doses of 38 rem; inside of the storm shelter - 8 rem. On the surface of Mars, which offers much radiation protection due to its atmosphere, the unshielded dose would have been 10 rem, the shielded dose 3 rem. In total, radiation doses of 52.0 and 58.4 rem taken on the missions, are well below dangerous thresholds -- even were they to come all at once. [5]


Con

  • Health-on-Risk-Not a good idea "Ask Marshall Brain: Why haven't we sent astronauts to Mars?" March 2004:"If you launched a spaceship flying at 15,000 miles per hour, it would take at least five months to get to Mars (probably six or seven). And once you got there, the planets wouldn't be lined up nicely anymore. You would have to wait 18 months for them to get "close" again. Then it's another six-month trip home!All of this would be extremely hard on the astronauts. The weightlessness would cause their bones to lose 1% of their mass per month. Then there's the radiation in space. The Earth's atmosphere and its magnetic field protect us from most of this radiation, but in space, astronauts are totally exposed.And don't forget the psychological issues. Imagine being cooped up in something the size of an RV with the same five or six people for two or three years. The typical family would get pretty testy in just two or three days.Another problem is the sheer size of the spaceship. It would have to carry more than 1,000 pounds of dehydrated food per person, plus tons of water and fuel, a big lander, life support systems, medical equipment and supplies, radiation shielding and so on."


Science: Is a Manned mission to Mars important for scientific reasons?

Pro

  • Manned missions to Mars are necessary to reveal any underground life. Glenn Zorpette. "Why Go to Mars?" Scientific American. March 2000: "Another reason why humans may have to be on site to conduct a thorough search for life stems from the fact that if any such life exists it is probably deep underground. Mars's atmosphere contains trace quantities of a strong oxidizing agent, possibly hydrogen peroxide. As a result, the upper layers of the soil are devoid of organic matter. So most strategies for microbe hunting involve digging down to depths where life or organic matter would be shielded from the oxidizing agent as well as from searingly high levels of ultraviolet light. [...] Upcoming probes will be equipped with robotic assemblies that can bore several centimeters into rocks or dig a few meters down into the soil. But barring any discoveries at those shallow depths, researchers will have to bring up samples from hundreds of meters below the surface, maybe even one or two kilometers down, before they can declare Mars dead or alive. Drilling for samples at such depths 'most likely will require humans,' says Charles Elachi, director of the Space and Earth Sciences Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif."
  • We should send human life to explore life on Mars. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. "Why Go to Mars." 2004: "We learned in the 1960s that Mars's surface has features that, as far as we can tell, can only have been made in the presence of water: standing water, running water, deluging water. There are features that look like they're floodplains. There are riverbeds that are straight and riverbeds that meander. Combine all of this, and you consider how important water is to life on Earth, you can't help but speculate that Mars was once a really wet place, possibly even harboring life at one point. So much of what drives cosmic exploration involves the quest to learn whether or not we're alone in the Universe—as an intelligent species, or as life at all. Mars being so close compared with the rest of the cosmos—it's a slam dunk as a place you want to go visit."

Con

Economics: Would a manned mission to Mars be economical?

Pro

Con

  • A manned mission to Mars would be too expensive. "TNR Flashback: The Case For Exploring Mars." The Plank, The New Republic. July 17th, 2009: "One objection to a manned mission to Mars is that robotic craft could do the job just as well at a fraction of the cost--a compelling argument as we watch the Spirit rover successfully bound (or rather inch) over the surface of the Red Planet. On January 10, The Washington Post's editors wrote, 'The success of NASA's latest Mars venture has proved the worth of unmanned missions, while manned space flight is exorbitantly expensive.' The Los Angeles Times approvingly quoted physicist and space guru James Van Allen as saying that we could explore Mars with robots 'at far less cost and far greater quantity and quality of results.' Or, as Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, bluntly summed it up, 'There's no real rationale for a manned space program.'"


Public mission: Does the public support a mission to Mars?

Pro

  • Public opinion polls favor sending a manned mission to Mars. "Poll: Americans Say U.S. Should Go To Mars." CBS News. July 20, 2009 "A slim majority of Americans believe the United States should send astronauts to Mars despite the current economic crisis, a newly-released CBS News poll finds. [...] Fifty-one percent of those surveyed back the journey to Mars. Forty-three percent opposed it. In 2004, 48 percent said the U.S. should send astronauts to Mars, while in 1999 that figure was 58 percent."


Con

  • There is little public support for a mission to Mars "Mars beckons." Cumbrian Sky. July 21, 2009: "THE PUBLIC AREN’T INTERESTED IN SENDING PEOPLE TO MARS. There. I’ve said it. We were all thinking it, but no-one was saying it. Time to face facts. There is, at present, NO public demand – or even support – for a manned mission to Mars. They think it would be a huge amount of money spent for absolutely bugger all practical use. And until space enthusiasts and the space community, and, yes, NASA itself, can give the public a damned good reason for sending people to Mars and not just more rovers, WE ARE NOT GOING TO MARS."



Pro/con sources

Pro


Con



See also

External links

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