Dream of Mars exploration achievable, experts say

May 05, 2013 by Jean-Louis Santini
This January 27, 2013 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSS handout photo shows a general view, captured by Mastcam:Left onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. NASA and private sector experts now agree that a man or woman could be sent on a mission to Mars over the next 20 years, despite huge challenges.

NASA and private sector experts now agree that a man or woman could be sent on a mission to Mars over the next 20 years, despite huge challenges.

The biggest names in exploration, among them top officials from the US space agency and , the second man to walk on the moon, will discuss the latest projects at a three-day conference starting Monday in the US capital.

Renewed interest in the red planet has triggered the of several initiatives in recent months, including one proposing a simple one-way trip to cut costs.

The American public also favors sending astronauts to , according to a survey by non-profit group Explore Mars and aerospace giant Boeing.

The poll in March of more than a thousand people published in March found that 71 percent of Americans expect that humans will land on Mars by 2033.

Seventy-five percent say NASA's budget should be doubled to one percent of the federal budget to fund a mission to Mars and other initiatives.

NASA receives only 0.5 percent of the US , compared to four percent during the Apollo project to conquer the moon in the 1960s.

The 's chief Charles Bolden has stressed that "a human mission to Mars is a priority."

But the US financial crisis is a major obstacle to such a project.

"If we started today, it's possible to land on Mars in 20 years," said G. Scott Hubbard of Stanford University.

"It doesn't require miracles, it requires money and a plan to address the technological engineering challenges," added Hubbard, who served as NASA's first Mars program director and successfully restructured the entire Mars program in the wake of mission failures.

Placing a mass of 30-40 tonnes—the amount estimated to be necessary to make a habitat on the —would be one of the greatest challenges, along with the well-known problem of carrying or producing enough fuel to get back, Hubbard stressed.

The Curiosity rover took a nail-biting seven minutes in August to make its descent on Mars. But it only weighed one tonne.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity mission, which is set to last at least two years, aims to study the Martian environment and to hunt for evidence of water in preparation for a possible future manned mission.

Robotic missions will therefore be necessary to prove the system works before scientists can even contemplate sending humans aboard.

NASA is developing a Space Launch System and the Orion capsule for distant .

Hubbard said a nuclear engine should be developed for any vehicle headed to Mars because it would provide a continuous thrust and thus reduce travel time by about three months, as well as reduce the risk of radiation.

The distance between Earth and Mars varies between 35 million and 250 million miles (56 million and 400 million kilometers), depending on the planets' position.

In addition to the technological challenges, the negative impact of long space journeys on the human body are not yet well known, especially with respect to cosmic radiation.

"Space radiation exposure is certainly a human risk we need to address and understand," said Stephen Davison, manager of 's Space Biology and Physical Sciences Program at Johnson Space Center where astronauts are trained.

Davison said it was important to understand "both the cancer risk to our crew members in more detail and also the effects on the central nervous system."

He added that more than half of crew members at the International Space Center have experience some degree of change in their vision, and also have experienced intra-cranial pressure.

Other physiological changes, such as reduced bone density and muscle loss, can be mitigated by exercise.

The third major challenge is a psychological one, for isolated astronauts who spend long periods of time confined in cramped spaces.

Davison said scientists need a "minimum" of 10 years to complete research about the trip's impact on the human body before going to Mars.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA budget will axe Mars deal with Europe: scientists

Feb 10, 2012

US President Barack Obama's budget proposal to be submitted next week for 2013 will cut NASA's budget by 20 percent and eliminate a major partnership with Europe on Mars exploration, scientists said Thursday.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

10 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

17 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

19 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

20 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

21 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 30

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
1.6 / 5 (23) May 05, 2013
There are priorities and there are "priorities". Obama's US can no longer afford the expense. Humanity can no longer afford the risk of a socialist tyranny in space.
The US space agency's chief Charles Bolden has stressed that "a human mission to Mars is a priority."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (9) May 05, 2013
There are priorities and there are "priorities". Obama's US can no longer afford the expense. Humanity can no longer afford the risk of a socialist tyranny in space.
The US space agency's chief Charles Bolden has stressed that "a human mission to Mars is a priority."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.
Well if we don't do it the communists will get there first won't they?
Whydening Gyre
2.6 / 5 (15) May 05, 2013
Hey, Hauser said "get your ass to Mars...".
I, for one, am up for that.
geokstr
2.5 / 5 (11) May 05, 2013
Instead of trying to send the whole kit and kaboodle to Mars in one ship, why don't they send several unmanned missions first, one with a habitat and food, one with fuel for the return trip and one with a motorized rover and oxygen supplies? Then send the astronauts in the fourth ship.

With Curiousity, they've proven the ability to soft land very near a pre-determined point and the technology will only get better over the next 20 years.
robert_inventor
1.4 / 5 (11) May 05, 2013
Nobody ever seems to mention in these news stories that a human landing on the Mars surface - a Category IV destination under COSPAR - would break the International Outer Space Treaty. Also those who advise on the COSPAR guidelines advise higher levels of protection rather than less as time goes on.

The skin flora alone for a single human has a trillion micro-organisms in 1000 species in 19 Genera! It's like landing an entire zoo and botanic garden of micro-organisms on Mars, and it just needs one of those to survive to contaminate the surface. And endospores can survive for millions of years., It's no good saying the surface of Mars is too hostile - used to be thought that it was - but now extremophiles have been found that can probably survive on niches on the Mars surface just as it is. Lichens can even survive on just the brief dampness of the morning and evening dew on the rocks.
robert_inventor
1.8 / 5 (12) May 05, 2013
A small change can make the missions into one without any of these problems. Mars explored by telepresence from orbit. There are several recent proposals of this type. Mars orbit is easier to get to - far easier, so costs less.

Studies (e.g. for HERRO) have shown that a single mission to Mars orbit can get as much scientific work done as three missions to the surface, via telepresence.

And for humans, Mars orbit is a cleaner, warmer, more pleasant location than the surface with its dust storms, the coldness of the planet (average temperature same as Antarctic interior but day night swings much greater so far colder at night), and the dull muddy grey brown landscapes.

It looks more Earthlike than it is because all the photos you see in news reports are white balanced to approximate what the rocks would look like illuminated by Earth sunlight. If you check out the original raw images there are no reds, no yellows in the landscape, just variations in muddy red brow
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (14) May 05, 2013
The skin flora alone for a single human has a trillion micro-organisms in 1000 species in 19 Genera! It's like landing an entire zoo and botanic garden of micro-organisms on Mars, and it just needs one of those to survive to contaminate the surface
So? None of them evolved to live on mars. If there is life there it will most likely make short work of any surviving earth life. Including humans. Because it knows how to live there far better than anything from here.
And for humans, Mars orbit is a cleaner, warmer, more pleasant location than the surface
-which is also nonsense. There is VACUUM in orbit. Also hard radiation, extreme temps, microgravity, and no resources. Mars is full of things needed to sustain settlement.

Your telepresence makes much more sense for the moon. Regolith is nasty stuff. But people will live and work on mars.
muddy red
Yeah just like many deserts here on earth where people enjoy living and working.
nkalanaga
4.5 / 5 (4) May 05, 2013
"The third major challenge is a psychological one, for isolated astronauts who spend long periods of time confined in cramped spaces."

Talk to the Navy. Submarine crews do that all the time, and they can't even look out the window.
Midcliff
1.4 / 5 (11) May 05, 2013
Mars is a waste of time and resources. We should investigate one of the water containing moons in the solar system instead. Spend the money to send more probes and get a really good understanding of the potential life bearing moons. Then plan a manned mission there. Mars is dead and won't give us any more information or experience than more Earth moon missions.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (14) May 05, 2013
Mars is a waste of time and resources.
Yep, but many so-called experts would get safe jobs and they could feel important and useful.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (15) May 05, 2013
Mars is a waste of time and resources. We should investigate one of the water containing moons in the solar system instead. Spend the money to send more probes and get a really good understanding of the potential life bearing moons. Then plan a manned mission there. Mars is dead and won't give us any more information or experience than more Earth moon missions.
Funny how so many fail to appreciate the precarious position that humanity is in at present on this little dustball of ours. Huge asteroids pass us monthly. One recently exploded over russia - did you miss it? Rocks that could end civilization ARE NOT RARE.

Designer diseases are on the horizon. Backwater countries are building nukes. Megavolcanos are simmering. AGW may render temperate zones uninhabitable. Pesticides are only a few years ahead of the ability of pests to develop immunity.

Who knows what will end our capability of leaving this planet and establishing ourselves elsewhere, or when this might happen?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (14) May 05, 2013
"Stephen Hawking, one of the world's greatest physicists and cosmologists, is once again warning his fellow humans that our extinction is on the horizon unless we figure out a way to live in space. Not known for conspiracy theories, Hawking's rationale is that the Earth is far too delicate a planet to continue to withstand the barrage of human battering. 'We must continue to go into space for humanity,' Hawking said today, according to the Los Angeles Times. 'We won't survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet.'"

-Colonization is not an option, it is a necessity. And mars is by far the most credible first step in securing the future of the human race. Or, for all you human-haters out there, all the furry little friends and geraniums we can pack along with us.
krundoloss
2.5 / 5 (10) May 05, 2013
Mars is a waste of time and resources.
Yep, but many so-called experts would get safe jobs and they could feel important and useful.


Lol! I agree that it would have high cost yet little potential benefit. However, it will definitely improve morale for everyone on the planet. It makes everyone proud, makes them feel that mankind is progressing, and hopefully it will inspire more young people to pursue a career in science or engineering. There is much value in that, so to say a manned mission to mars is a waste is not entirely true. Going to the moon was a great thing, I know I have always been proud that mankind went to the moon, even though there was no real benefit from the act itself (of course the tech developed for the mission was very beneficial). I think it should be done, because it will help usher in a new era of space travel. The greatest benefit will be in the hearts and minds of all of us, knowing that our species has become interplanetary!
Ober
3.4 / 5 (5) May 05, 2013
TheGhost Of Otto has made some very good points here.

We really MUST move a colony off this planet as soon as we can, WHILE WE CAN!!!!
Leaving this too late, will absolutely guarantee our extinction.

Also think of the spin offs this will have. The technology developed from living on a hostile world, will also help us live here on Earth, if all the doom and gloom predictions end up hurting Earths biosphere.

The investment in a Mars colony will also boost the economy as all the money spent stays right here on Earth, helping people pay bills and feed their families!!!!

In todays financial gloom, we NEED a goal, an objective to raise everyone's hopes for the future. Exploration runs through our blood, and a colonisation attempt of Mars will satisfy all of the above items.

If only Wernher von Braun were still alive. We need someone with his unrelenting passion, to make this dream come true. (To the pessimist, lets not bring up the NAZI issue here!!!!)
JK1
3.7 / 5 (7) May 05, 2013
There are priorities and there are "priorities". Obama's US can no longer afford the expense. Humanity can no longer afford the risk of a socialist tyranny in space.
The US space agency's chief Charles Bolden has stressed that "a human mission to Mars is a priority."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.

cut the so called "defense" budget by at least a half and "affordability" would not be an issue for NASA, rebuilding USA's infrastructure, funding vital research or strengthening social services for those who need them.. someone should tell Bolden that NASA is not the State Dept. and improving relations is primarily their job....
WarRoom
3.3 / 5 (3) May 05, 2013
"Davison said scientists need a "minimum" of 10 years to complete research about the trip's impact on the human body before going to Mars." Or they could do it the old fashioned way, as it was done during the space race: send a monkey, then a human, then pray.
Whydening Gyre
1.8 / 5 (12) May 06, 2013
Mars is a waste of time and resources. We should investigate one of the water containing moons in the solar system instead. Spend the money to send more probes and get a really good understanding of the potential life bearing moons. Then plan a manned mission there. Mars is dead and won't give us any more information or experience than more Earth moon missions.

won't be dead for long if we move in...
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2013
Interesting update, but some problems with the article:

- Curiosity's mission is not "to hunt for evidence of water in preparation for a possible future manned mission" but it was to look for habitable conditions, including water. (And it was successful early on, establishing surface habitability during Mars's first billion of years.)

- There is no "International Space Center" where crew members are "at", but an International Space Station with personel on.

- ISS personel have hopefully "experienced intra-cranial pressure" in order to survive. Likely they experience _increased_ such, as bodies tend to bloat in free fall. Since there is no pressure relief valve (blame evolution), this is potentially dangerous.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (4) May 06, 2013
Re Midcliff, ice moons remain a priority for astrobiology. But Mars is easier to reach and more rewarding for all types of science including astrobiology: had Mars surface life, has it still crustal refugia life, why did it loose its surface habitability?

@Doug_Huffman: This article is about space missions under decades, not the current administration.

The current administration a) wasn't the one underfunding Constellation, b) wants to increase taxes to get rid of the choke hold US debt is, c) isn't "socialist" by anyone's sane definition, it is far right compared to most Western nations.

@robot_inventor: "a human landing on the Mars surface - a Category IV destination under COSPAR - would break the International Outer Space Treaty."

No shit, Sherlock! That is the very idea, to do something new. And US only need to take responsibility and get authorization at some time (or simply break the treaty).

As for the astrobiology involved, TGO describes it splendidly.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (4) May 06, 2013
I should add on astrobiology missions that ice moon missions may a) get some science faster (say, life detection), b) get some science cheaper (say, deep samples).

A drawback is that its cycle time is perhaps 10 years at best, while Mars has a 2 year return-of-data so every other mission can use earlier results for updates leaving a mix 2/4 year cycle time. If we want to dig deeper into astrobiology, Mars is the best choice.

If we want to look for ice moon habitability, the largest biomass potential in the universe on account of ocean depths and number of ice moons within the gas giant tidal habitable zone, Europa/Enceladus are the best.

These are IMO complementary targets, we need to investigate both for best ROI.
alfie_null
2.3 / 5 (3) May 06, 2013
We go land on Mars. Then what? We putz around for a few weeks/months then return to Earth, never to visit again. Remember Apollo? Even the limited number of planned missions was never completed. After a couple landings, the financial support went away. The president, congress, and the electorate have fickle attention and are easily distracted.

You could argue that when we go to Mars, we should plan to stay. But a permanent colony is so much more complex. Very expensive and much more likely to fail if we try it at first go.

What are our long term goals? Permanent, self supporting colonization of places other than Earth? How can we best achieve that, given the ephemeral support we can expect from the United States, and other world governments? Crowdsourcing?
alfie_null
3.7 / 5 (3) May 06, 2013
Another thought: What if it turns out (with the goal of permanent residence) the only practical way to remediate physiological issues is through genetically engineering our offspring?
EnricM
1.4 / 5 (9) May 06, 2013
There are priorities and there are "priorities". Obama's US can no longer afford the expense. Humanity can no longer afford the risk of a socialist tyranny in space.


The People's Army of LGM?
LOL. You are funny mate XD
Whydening Gyre
1.7 / 5 (12) May 06, 2013
Many comments here are a reminder of the changes brought to the Americas over the last 1000 years by Eastern "explorations".
jsdarkdestruction
2.3 / 5 (3) May 07, 2013
So is the plan to start living there in an artificial habitat, establishing our first non-earth settlement and the people living there long term or more like the space station where you go for a while and then go home eventually? Just wondering.
Bruce Banner
1 / 5 (6) May 07, 2013
President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 which established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA's mandate is described below:
The preservation of the role of the United States as the leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere… The development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies, and living organisms through space... The preservation of the United States preeminent position in aeronautics and space through research and technology development related to associated manufacturing processes…The most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States (NASA).
I don't see anything about Muslim outreach in Nasa's mission.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (6) May 08, 2013
Hey, Hauser said "get your ass to Mars...".
I, for one, am up for that


lol, yeah, take advice from a guy who isn't even sure who he is?

Colonization is not an option, it is a necessity. And mars is by far the most credible first step in securing the future of the human race


Depending on what threat you're talking about, permanent colonies in the deep ocean could serve the same purpose, and perhaps even be profitable. Heck, if we get hit with a blast of deadly radiation, Mars would likely get just as cooked as Earth, but the bottom of the ocean might be safe.

So is the plan to start living there in an artificial habitat, establishing our first non-earth settlement and the people living there long term or more like the space station where you go for a while and then go home eventually? Just wondering


The plan is probably more like Apolo. Take a short trip to the surface with goals and try to complete them before leaving.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (6) May 08, 2013
Depending on what threat you're talking about, permanent colonies in the deep ocean could serve the same purpose, and perhaps even be profitable. Heck, if we get hit with a blast of deadly radiation, Mars would likely get just as cooked as Earth, but the bottom of the ocean might be safe.
We need many options. Deep sea colonies are critically susceptible to attack.

But humankind has been carving 1000s of cubic miles of underground space for 100s of years. We have had the tech to do this secretly and at a massive scale, for generations now.
http://en.wikiped...ct_Gnome
http://projectcam...ses.html
http://www.eskimo...um1.html

Sending plowshare-type nukes and robotic nuclear tunnel borers to the moon and mars would perhaps be the best way of creating habitable and protected space.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.5 / 5 (8) May 08, 2013
The threat from impactors has been known for 100 years. During the cold war the powers created some 6000 tons of fissile material, a good deal of it untracked and unaccounted for.

Was some diverted to create and power vast, completely autonomous underground cities worldwide, interconnected by evacuated tunnels and supersonic transport? Borers and plowshare nukes could have been at work since the 1950s.

A prudent civilization intent upon preserving itself at all costs would have done just this. And they would have had to have found ways of doing it secretly, because the public could be expected to be alarmed and outraged that a select few might survive an impending catastrophe while they would be left to burn.

Was this the Main Purpose for the production of all that fissile material? Was the cold war staged to make this possible? Staged it most obviously was, and the main product was this great heap of extremely useful material.
MaiioBihzon
1.6 / 5 (14) May 15, 2013
The fusion rocket is in the works.

http://www.nasa.g...ugh.html

Work has been done on growing things in martian dirt.

http://www.univer...a-robot/

And ISS has given us the experience we need for a big manned space project. The US can lead if it likes, and pay for the privilege, but it should also share the costs with partners. Bring in Europe and any others capable of making a real contribution. Design the project now and begin work on the first stage of the mission.

Instead of trying to send the whole kit and kaboodle to Mars in one ship, why don't they send several unmanned missions first, one with a habitat and food, one with fuel for the return trip and one with a motorized rover and oxygen supplies? Then send the astronauts in the fourth ship.


Geokstr is right. Break the problem down into doable pieces. Then do them.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.