NASA warned plan to send humans to Mars may fail

Jun 06, 2014 by Jean-Louis Santini
The US space agency NASA has been warned that its mission to send humans to Mars will fail unless its revamps its methods and draws up a clear, well-planned strategy to conquer the red planet

The US space agency NASA has been warned that its mission to send humans to Mars will fail unless its revamps its methods and draws up a clear, well-planned strategy to conquer the red planet.

The National Research Council said in a congressionally-mandated report that Washington should use "stepping stones" to achieve its goal of a manned flight to Mars.

This could involve exploring an asteroid, building a moon outpost or building more international cooperation with countries like China.

"To continue on the present course... is to invite failure, disillusionment and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best," said the NRC's 286-page report.

NASA welcomed the report's findings, saying it was consistent with the agency's Mars plan approved by Congress and President Barack Obama's administration.

It promised to "thoroughly review the report and all of its recommendations" but insisted that it was worthwhile to set a goal of walking on Mars to set the bar high for other, parallel projects.

"The horizon goal for is Mars. All long-range space programs, by all potential partners, for human space exploration converge on this goal," it said in a statement.

"A sustainable program of human deep space exploration must have an ultimate, 'horizon' goal that provides a long-term focus that is less likely to be disrupted by major technological failures and accidents along the way and the vagaries of the political process and economic scene."

Journalists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California are shown April 9, 2014, a rocket-powered, flying saucer-shaped test vehicle that is aimed at enabling large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars

To date the world's space agencies have only managed to send unmanned robotic rovers to Mars, the latest being NASA's $2.5 billion Curiosity rover, which touched down in August 2012.

The US 's older Opportunity rover has been in operation for more than 10 years.

But advancing human exploration into the outer reaches of space will require decades of work, hundreds of billions of dollars of funding and "significant risk to human life," according to the NRC report.

US-China space cooperation?

That, the report said, makes it impossible for the United States to go to Mars within the current US space budget.

Instead, it called for increased cooperation with other nations, including with space rival China, as well as funding from the private sector and other sources.

Current federal law bars NASA from participating in bilateral programs with China, which the National Research Council warned "reduces substantially the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars."

An image of the surface of Mars taken by NASA's rover Curiosity, August 9, 2012

"Given the rapid development of China's capabilities in , it is in the best interests of the United States to be open to future international partnerships."

The report's authors said that returning to the moon would foster better international cooperation given the interest about the destination in other countries, and such a mission would help develop technology to land and eventually live on Mars.

The Obama administration is opposed to another moon landing, saying such a mission would be too costly. It wants instead to focus on capturing an asteroid and placing it into the Moon's orbit for future exploration.

The NRC highlighted three potential pathways to Mars, two of which include a return to the moon. The third is along the lines of the Obama administration's asteroid mission.

"It's probably the frankest assessment that there is no public demand for , that we really don't have a goal clearly stated and that the program that is being carried out won't get us anywhere," said expert John Logsdon.

However, the former director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute said: "I don't think the report will change anything."

Explore further: NASA should maintain long-term focus on Mars as 'horizon goal' for human spaceflight

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Osiris1
1.3 / 5 (12) Jun 06, 2014
NASA is bumbling along and subsidizing the international oil monopoly while giving the American public 'rope a dope' propaganda on total budgets designed for failure. Maybe the politicos know that kerosene rockets are a formula for failure yet do not want to abandon them and cut off their campaign contributions. All are most likely waiting for some string of breakthroughs that will enable some other form of propulsion, such as the compact low mass nuclear fission or nuclear fusion reactor that will generate energy without having to boil anything. Electromagnetohydrodynamic traveling wave generators aft of fusion reactors would be ideal. Such may also be used for take-off and landing in a single stage.for shuttle craft use to larger units in intrasystem ships that could literally 'drive' anywhere in our system. We would also want such to be as self sufficient as possible, like a nuclear sub in space. With fusion shuttles, we could make 'em 'bad as we wanna be'!..cheap access.
zorro6204
2.3 / 5 (12) Jun 06, 2014
This whole Mars idea is a colossal waste of resources, there's so many other important things we could be doing in space to move the ball forward. Mars isn't going anywhere, and in ten or fifteen years imagine the progress we'll have made in robot technology. You could easily imagine a robot being capable of doing anything a human in a cumbersome suit could handle, without any of the radiation and dust issues a habitat would face.
antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) Jun 06, 2014
is to invite failure, disillusionment and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best

Really? That's the INTERnational perception? I guess he meant to say NATIONAL perception.
The guy should start travelling outside the US. Oh my, is he in for a bit of disillusionment.

AFAIK the US currently doesn't have manned space flight capability.
dramamoose
4.5 / 5 (4) Jun 06, 2014
is to invite failure, disillusionment and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best

Really? That's the INTERnational perception? I guess he meant to say NATIONAL perception.
The guy should start travelling outside the US. Oh my, is he in for a bit of disillusionment.


Right, because of all the other countries who have put people on the moon/had a reusable shuttle/developed commerical crew capabilities. Even the ISS is majority funded by NASA. Just because they don't have a car right now doesn't mean they aren't the best driver. Even from a completely objective viewpoint (which this report obviously wasn't), NASA has achieved more in terms of human spaceflight than any other space organization.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.4 / 5 (7) Jun 06, 2014
"I don't think the report will change anything."

That's what I thought too, after reading NASA:s reflexive "we're doing that", then went into the report's 7 page summary and found that it recommended that underfunded stepping stones should be exited. That means no JWST at the time, no commercial crew, no Orion, no SLS and little planetary science at the moment. NASA doesn't heed the report at all.

@zorro: No. we can't pack field geologists, paleontologists, entire labs and lab experts into robots, which is why sample return is a priority. Neither can we colonize, which is on the public agenda if not NASA's.

The radiation issue from a 2 year trip is +5 % mortality, which is half of the +10 % mortality that people accept when they move into cities. Over half the world population has made that move, so it can be assumed that isn't a large problem with a Mars trip. (AFAIU NASA sees it as a moral problem, it's twice the added mortality they currently accept.)
Modernmystic
1.3 / 5 (8) Jun 06, 2014
If you use nuclear rockets you get to Mars, if you don't you won't...
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 06, 2014
@dramamoose: "NASA has achieved more in terms of human spaceflight than any other space organization." That is not relevant, the question is what they can achieve. Both Russia and China can loft astronauts into LEO. US can't. And China is much better positioned, at this year's end they will be the new economical superpower (who US is deeply in debt to too). They did what they always did after loosing world economical supremacy 1856 to foreigners - out-bred them. Now they are back, and they will stay on top (until India outgrow them in a century).

Sure, it will likely take a decade or two or more until China or international cooperation catch up. If commercial crew becomes reality, it will be an area that will keep even longer, no competition at all at the moment. But US will never get back to automatically being the "best".
antialias_physorg
4.4 / 5 (7) Jun 06, 2014
Right, because of all the other countries who have put people on the moon

He says "does best"...not "did best". Currently the US doesn't do manned spaceflight at all. So it certainly isn't doing it 'best' (Heck - the Iraqis have a better recent record of putting biologicals in space than the US)

Just because they don't have a car right now doesn't mean they aren't the best driver.

If you're looking do do some driving: How much use is someone without a car to you? Even if he's the best driver in all of the universe... you go shop somewhere else.

NASA has achieved more in terms of human spaceflight than any other space organization.

No question. "AchievED" is the operative word, though. I hope they get something going in the future again...at which time they may try to prove again that they are better than the other players.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 06, 2014
@MM: "If you use nuclear rockets you get to Mars, if you don't you won't..."

As we all know, chemical rockets suffice. They will also suffice for astronauts re radiation (see my previous comments), prolonged microgravity et cetera.
Modernmystic
2.4 / 5 (7) Jun 06, 2014
@MM: "If you use nuclear rockets you get to Mars, if you don't you won't..."

As we all know, chemical rockets suffice. They will also suffice for astronauts re radiation (see my previous comments), prolonged microgravity et cetera.


Sails suffice for crossing the pacific too...and there's a damn good reason we don't use them anymore.
sirchick
3 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2014
I don't think NASA will be first to get there. More likely China or ESA will get there first.

TBH i could give two f**ks who gets there first as long as someone does in my freaking life time.
Uncle Ira
2.9 / 5 (8) Jun 06, 2014
Sails suffice for crossing the pacific too...and there's a damn good reason we don't use them anymore.


Well Modern-Skippy, they can use the nuclear reactor to cross the pacific too. But unless you going to push the really really big boat, it don't make a lot sense. A gas turbine or even the big diesel makes the most sense.

Maybe if they going to build a rocket to go way out into far away space, or move something as big as a big city to to the moon or Mars it might make sense to use a nuclear, but not so much for something the size of a school bus. I think the size of the job you got to do is how you pick your damn good reasons.
philw1776
5 / 5 (4) Jun 06, 2014
NASA has done a fine job with its Great observatories program in space (OK excepting the JWST extreme over runs) and its robotic planetary missions have been excellent.
Since circa 1970, NASA has had "plans" for humans to Mars. Its manned spaceflight operations have been stuck in LEO since 1972. Power Point engineering has become the norm. The major problem with NASA Mars missions is the bloated cost estimates, which even limited intelligence congress critters know are way low vs reality.
The stepwise approach to Mars is simple. Follow a plan like SpaceX. Develop low cost launchers. Develop re-useable launchers to make access to orbit far lower cost. Then develop methane fueled engines, rockets that can be refueled from combining hydrogen from Earth with in-situ Mars resources.
One thing NASA is doing right relative to Mars is their soon to be test of the new inflatable Mars atmospheric entry technology.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (5) Jun 06, 2014
Interplanetary nuclear rocket implications.

http://en.wikiped...ications
PS3
3 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2014
I don't think NASA will be first to get there. More likely China or ESA will get there first.

TBH i could give two f**ks who gets there first as long as someone does in my freaking life time.

Where does this logic come from? China couldn't even do a moon mission without failing,whereas the US has a car sized bot on Mars right now sending data back every day!!
Rustybolts
5 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2014
Bad Report! Moon base, china and take baby steps.
Rustybolts
not rated yet Jun 07, 2014
Bad Report! Moon base, china and take baby steps.
Skepticus
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2014
Make your nose bleed thinking of all the trillions that has been poured into the bottomless ME sinkhole for subsidized security of America's alter ego could have done to science and space exploration!
dan42day
4 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2014
A stepping stone approach only compounds the risk of losing a crew by sending out multiple manned missions that don't even have a chance of reaching the goal of landing on mars. I can easily see us blowing 2/3 of the money we would need to go to mars on the R&D and logistics for these stepping stones, then losing a crew at some asteroid and giving up on the whole thing.

Design and build a spacecraft system that is fully capable and rated for a manned mission and send it to mars unmanned on a sample return mission. After it proves it can accomplish that, send two simultaneously, one manned and a complete unmanned backup.
freethinking
2.5 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2014
Yup now partner with China.... how did partnering with Russia turn out?
NASA's main goal under Obama and the Democrats is no longer space exploration, but making Muslim countries feel good.

As long as anti science and technology Democratic Party in power, we will not be having any reasonable space explorations.....
chrisn566
3 / 5 (2) Jun 07, 2014
You know,i was reading this one site with one of those crazy conspiracy theorists,when he said something i actually agreed with. Why is it with basically 50 + years and so many changes,improvements,new technology etc,are we still using basically giant bottlerockets to get us into space? Why hasn't technology moved foward in that department? Doesn't rockets seem kinda...primitive after all this time? Just curious.
Moebius
4 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2014
If exploration has to be safe we won't do any. Of course they may not make it there, likely. More likely they won't make a successful landing, even more likely they won't take off or get back here.

That's the risk, get used to it now. China won't be constrained by being overly safe. We can't afford to hand space over to them too.
freethinking
2 / 5 (12) Jun 07, 2014
If you want to hand China and Russia mastery of science, technology, and space...... vote Democrat.
Caliban
3.5 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2014
But advancing human exploration into the outer reaches of space will require decades of work,


Maybe -maybe not. It will depend upon available funding and tech development.

hundreds of billions of dollars of funding


So what? US military budget(light and dark) runs about USD500 billion per year. NASA can do quite a lot for 25% of that annually.

and "significant risk to human life," according to the NRC report.


Again -so what? Everyone who signs onto the program willingly accepts this risk. Were the Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle programs free from risk? Of course not.

So now we come to the main thrust of the report:

Instead, it called for increased cooperation with other nations, including with space rival China, as well as funding from the private sector and other sources.


IOW, more porkbarrel $$$, patents, and licensing for defense contractors, and more "partner" negotiating gridlock.

ctd

Caliban
4.5 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2014
ctd.

No, what is necessary is for NASA's annual budget to be scaled up, and that any additional funding --private, international, or added public-- should be considered supplemental or contingent, and every last bit of new technology funded by or developed in-house by NASA should remain the property of the US Government, and licensed to all other entities at fair market value, since NASA would be acting as a technology incubator on the taxpayers' dime.

Any contractors should be required to deliver on time/budget, with severe penalties when they fail in their tasks.

Any cooperative space ventures should only be entered into with caution, and with fully-defined, binding, legal committments of funding and resources by the individual partners.

If the goal is to do this via "International partnership", then an International Space Agency needs to be chartered and joint-funded in hard currency by the member states.

Anything else is just a recipe for disaster.
discouragedinMI
3.3 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2014
The shut the frack up and get to work. Enough of this BS discussion. Find the answers. We did it for the moon it can be done again.
Horus
1 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2014
The US space agency NASA has been warned that its mission to send humans to Mars will fail unless its revamps its methods and draws up a clear, well-planned strategy to conquer the red planet.

-----

Conquer the planet? Are they retarded?
Modulus64
2 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2014
To save time and money, the best way forward would surely be the one which uses the project to explore Mars as a model for the development of technology which can subsequently be used for interstellar colonisation. Even though FTL travel or even travel at significant fractions of c is not yet possible, it would not hurt to decide on as many of the tools and techniques for travelling to extrasolar planets as early on as possible. I am sure that with all of the new found knowledge of extrasolar planets, in a few years time the focus of more scienctific and industrial bodies will be dedicated to the solving of the problem of interstellar travel and maybe with more funding and specialised training, ways of achieving travel over such distances easily may be found.
antigoracle
3 / 5 (3) Jun 08, 2014
The moon, pshh... been there done that.
Robots, even when we do get to Mars, we will need them.
Bookbinder
2 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2014
In the time it's going to take bumbling along with chemical rockets, we could finish NASA's warp drive engine and cut the time and cost of space travel.
sirchick
5 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2014
I don't think NASA will be first to get there. More likely China or ESA will get there first.

TBH i could give two f**ks who gets there first as long as someone does in my freaking life time.

Where does this logic come from? China couldn't even do a moon mission without failing,whereas the US has a car sized bot on Mars right now sending data back every day!!


It is not about the technology it is the governments not having the same dream to do it.

As Neil DeGrasse Tyson says often, unless its a space race with undertones of war you won't get the government to send a man on mars for the sake of "because we can". There has to be a net return for it.

So perhaps a second cold war would make it very likely to happen, but right now especially given the debt USA have, i can bet the government won't even consider it unless theres a calculable return. Why else did they cut the NASA budget in the first place?

Alternatively a private company might do it first.
eric_in_chicago
1 / 5 (3) Jun 08, 2014
Man, are we ever confused about our government...

Bounce your head off of this!

https://www.youtu...qrl6Q2rk
krundoloss
3 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2014
Current federal law bars NASA from participating in bilateral programs with China,[


There's your problem right there. Space Travel should be a GLOBAL effort. Burdening one country with all that expense just for exploration and human achievement, is ridiculous.
Modernmystic
2.3 / 5 (4) Jun 09, 2014

There's your problem right there. Space Travel should be a GLOBAL effort. Burdening one country with all that expense just for exploration and human achievement, is ridiculous.


There's that word should. Thank you for that opinion.

The FACT is that since we still do in point of FACT operate under different political entities with differing goals and agendas it's sometimes necessary to keep things separate....more's the pity.

I, for instance, wouldn't want to combine our press agencies with the Chinese under the banner of "not burdening one country" with the expense and duplication of maintaining more than one press core...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
There's your problem right there. Space Travel should be a GLOBAL effort.
It is. Competition among equals is the best way to get results. Humans are a crisis-driven species.

This is why china and the soviets were given access to our best technologies from the cold war up to the present.