[extropy-chat] MARS: Because it is hard

Spike spike66 at comcast.net
Tue Apr 13 05:58:16 UTC 2004

> Emlyn ORegan
> Subject: RE: [extropy-chat] MARS: Because it is hard
> Is their some radically different form of propulsion
> that could be used to go moon-to-moon, where the transport craft isn't
> designed to go near a serious gravity well? Emlyn

Well, not really.  Propulsion has been well understood
for many years.  The natural constraints that go along 
with taking humans anywhere keep dragging us back to 
the old fashioned tried-and-true chemical propulsion.

The matter is not altogether desperate however.  At
the risk of sounding like a scratched CD, there is
room for improvement at the bottom.  Friends,
we really do need to work out means of transporting
humans in smaller volumes.  A smaller human is one
possibility, but that isn't the only way.

When I was a child 30 yrs ago, the Mars mission people
listed as perhaps the most difficult problem the maddening
boredom faced by the astronauts on the 8 month journey.  
In those three decades, we have made almost *no* real advances 
in propulsion, yet we have made *enormous* strides in 
figuring out how to prevent boredom-induced insanity.

Consider the teenage vidiot.  She sits in front of the
computer for hours on end, shooting at virtual aliens,
emailing, web surfing, to such an extent that the
resultant pasty white complexion has actually become a
fashion statement.

That sedentary indoor "activity" would be easier in space 
than on the deck, for the weightlessness there would prevent 
the chair-induced equivalent of bedsores from forming on ones
ass.  They didn't have such riveting video games 30 yrs
ago: one could not play pong for 7 months.  So a partial
solution to a daunting problem has fallen into our
laps, without any significant advances in the actual
bus that will carry the astronauts.

Currently space station astronauts spend much of their
time maintaining their muscle tone so that they might
be able to walk when they return to earth.  Well, what
if we go ahead and plan to stay on Mars?  That 1/3G
surface gravity would obviate special exercise
programs.  Furthermore, if one has not the equipment
to go outdoors upon arrival upon that harsh planet, it 
wouldn't matter if one could not walk.  The purpose of 
humans on Mars would be to repair and maintain the mostly 
autonomous construction equipment, not to explore.  We
already know what is out there.  No need to send humans
to look at what our robots can already see better than
we can.  Humans are needed only to help the machines
build stuff.  No, I am not kidding.  

Once we stop designing way beyond that which we really
need, humanity will collectively realize that the technology
to do Mars has quietly come into being while no one
was watching.


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