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Just in case you missed the story yesterday, hundred-millionaire and first commercial spaceflyer Dennis Tito has made a preliminary announcement of plans to launch a 501-day roundtrip Mars mission in January 2018 - less than five years from now - and will provide details next week on the 27th.  This led to speculation (on my part as well) about exactly what kind of Mars mission it would be, with some thinking it might be unmanned, or if manned, wondering whether it would involve a landing.  There are now overwhelming indications that (a)it is a manned mission, and (b)there will not be a landing, but rather the mission would be a flyby of Mars on a free-return trajectory.    

This information comes from a brief post on NewSpace Journal that notes Tito is due to give a talk at the IEEE Aerospace conference March 3rd with the title "Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free Return Mission in 2018":

This publication obtained a copy of the paper Tito et al. plan to present at the conference, discussing a crewed free-return Mars mission that would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it. This 501-day mission would launch in January 2018, using a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket. According to the paper, existing environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) technologies would allow such a spacecraft to support two people for the mission, although in Spartan condition. “Crew comfort is limited to survival needs only. For example, sponge baths are acceptable, with no need for showers,” the paper states.
For help understanding what this kind of trajectory would look like, here is an example of one such trajectory based on a typical orbital diagram:

Mars Free Return Trajectory

A number of milestones will need to occur on the part of SpaceX before such a mission can occur, but fortunately most of them are already underway:

1.  Human-rate the Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX is presently pursuing this as part of its bid to win NASA crew transport contracts to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station, and plans to have it launching crew to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) as early as December 2015.  Dragon was designed and built from the very beginning with crew transportation in mind, so this is a natural and deliberate evolution.  A key test in this program - a "pad abort" where Dragon will launch itself off the Falcon 9 on the launch pad to simulate an emergency abort - is planned for as early as December of this year.  The next key milestone, an "in-flight abort" - where the Falcon 9/Dragon will be launched and Dragon will then blast away from the rocket on ascent to simulate an in-flight emergency - is planned for as early as April of next year.  

2.  Develop Falcon Heavy.

The Falcon Heavy rocket is a heavy-lift variant of the Falcon 9 that would be needed for Mars mission hardware, and its development is already underway with the maiden flight scheduled for this year.  The primary developmental milestones may already have been met, or are close to being met - basically, just extend the current Falcon 9 fuel tank, rearrange the engine configuration into a circle of 8 engines with 1 in the middle (the current arrangement is a 3-by-3 square), and then strap two additional first stages on the sides.  

I don't have enough information to figure out how much mass would need to be launched for this mission, but the highest list price for a Falcon Heavy launch is $128 million, and it's entirely possible that Elon Musk would be willing to subsidize such a mission since human colonization of Mars is the raison d'etre of SpaceX.  If Tito's plan succeeded, it would inject a truly massive level of interest, inspiration, credibility, and possibly investment toward that objective.

3.  Modify the Dragon for long-term habitation Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO).

This is the tallest order on the list, because the needs of BEO travel are significantly greater than those of LEO - particularly as it concerns radiation shielding, electronics hardening, and designing for massive redundancy far beyond what is acceptable for Earth orbit.  On a 501-day trip to and from Mars, there is simply no way to get back home in time to survive if a catastrophic failure on the level of Apollo 13 were to occur, so the systems have to be as unkillable as the state of engineering and money permits.  As a result, a manned BEO spacecraft designed for long-term missions has to be an order of magnitude more complex and robust than a short-term LEO transport, may have greater power requirements necessitating larger solar panels, and would also be considerably heavier.

SpaceX has long-term plans to evolve Dragon into a BEO craft, but as far as I know the first steps toward that are still a ways away, and would certainly have to come after experience had been built up using it for crewed LEO missions.  Perhaps this mission and the resources devoted to it could cause SpaceX to place a higher priority on BEO Dragon development.  To get a sense of the internal volume of Dragon, here is a panoramic zoom app of an empty cargo Dragon - you can drag the image a full 360 degrees in any direction, and also zoom in and out:

http://www.spacex.com/...

Also, here are mock-ups of the currently envisioned interior of the LEO taxi version of Dragon, seating seven astronauts:

Dragon3

Dragon1

Dragon2

Since the plan calls for two astronauts, they would have considerably greater space to work with than the 7-member crews who would be using Dragon as a space station taxi.  However, even with that advantage, 501-days inside a Dragon - most of the time with nothing to see out the window - would seem like a mental health nightmare.  We will have to wait for the press conference on the 27th to get further details, but this preliminary information makes no mention of Bigelow modules or other volumetric extensions to create more space for the astronauts, and the emphasis on "Spartan" conditions suggests that the astronauts would be confined to a single BEO Dragon for the entire mission.  Bigelow habitat modules would be a Good Idea, but if necessary to afford the mission, it seems the plan could still succeed only using them for cargo storage while limiting the living space to Dragon.  

Human beings have survived under worse conditions for longer - people chained in pitch-black dungeons for years on end come to mind - but I would not envy the astronauts on such a mission.  Personally, I would be too crazy and ill from stress by the time I got to Mars to appreciate it, but then astronauts are made of sterner stuff, and I believe such a mission is achievable.  The current record for time in space is 437.7 days, but that was on a space station with gorgeous views of a brilliant blue planet and night-lit cities constantly passing below - also with the promise of an emergency return within hours if something went awry.  The psychological stresses of this Mars mission would be on a whole other level, especially if, as stated, only the barest requirements of survival are cared for rather than comforts.  In terms of time and danger, it harks back to the epic voyages in the Age of Exploration, and would break new ground in the reach of the human species.  Yeah, this is exciting.

What remains to be seen is whether Tito already has the money for this.  We know he's worth 9 figures, but even if the cost of the mission is on that level, we don't know if he personally has enough or, if not, whether he has already lined up additional partners.  If the funding is ready, the mission is very credible, and I see no reason it would not happen.  However, if the funding is not already in the bag, despite the plausibility of the mission plan, it simply will not happen because they would need to begin work immediately in order to make the 2018 deadline - and it is a deadline, because it's based on a rare launch window opportunity that won't recur until 2031.  That is the key piece of information to look for in the press conference next week, and that will determine if this happens: Is the money already taken care of?  If he says "We're lining up investors," or "We're seeking investment," then it just won't happen.

In addition, there are indications that Tito may not himself be on the mission in recognition of his advanced age, but is rather playing the role of financier and organizer.  Younger crew would greatly improve the odds of both crew surviving: No matter how spry a person is, you don't subject a 78-year-old to unrelenting superhuman rigors for a year and a half straight.  Pending information on the financial situation, I will state plainly that this can happen.  Two human beings may be swinging by Mars in April of 2019.  Imagine video of this passing by out a window:

Mars Atmosphere

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Comment Preferences

  •  Gotta say (9+ / 0-)

    I can't really see the point of this.  If you are gonna go, you might as well land.  This seems more like a space stunt than space exploration.

    "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

    by Empty Vessel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:10:14 PM PST

    •  Because landing costs an order of magnitude more. (15+ / 0-)

      And greatly increases the danger.  If you have the resources and technical capability to do flybys, there's no reason not to do them.  It only helps lay the groundwork for future landings.  And don't tell NASA that flybys aren't exploration - they spent a hell of a lot of money on the New Horizons probe just to flyby Pluto.

      Some things you just can't unsmell.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:20:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Big difference... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        anonymous volanakis, Aunt Pat

        between an unmanned probe flyby and a manned attempt.

        I'm not sure what the scientific purpose would be, or if there would even be one beyond, "hey, we did this".  It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense on a whole lot of levels, other than the potential human spectacle of the mission.

        "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

        by Richard Cranium on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:25:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Who said this is about science? (5+ / 0-)

          Science exists to serve mankind, not the other way around.

          Some things you just can't unsmell.

          by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:25:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  And exactly what is the purpose of climbing (6+ / 0-)

          Mt. Everest?

          •  Not a great analogy, imo n/t (0+ / 0-)

            "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

            by Richard Cranium on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:38:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The point me and jpmassar seem to agree on (8+ / 0-)

              is that we don't just do things in order to learn - we also learn in order to do things.  People use what we've learned over decades of high-altitude health science to devise means of helping climbers summit Everest, and those climbers' experiences further help evolve their equipment.  You don't just dismiss Everest climbers as being inefficient weather balloons for testing high-altitudes.  

              The same is true with space exploration.  We explore in order to learn, but we also learn in order to explore - but it's far more important than mountain climbing because there are practical objectives behind it: The long-term expansion of human civilization into the rest of the solar system.  Flybys are a standard preliminary step in space exploration - they're the first step in robotic exploration (followed by impactors, orbiters, landers, and then rovers), and also in human exploration to date, although we've only gone to the Moon.

              Speaking of which...if they can afford a flyby of Mars, it seems they could even more easily afford one of the Moon.  Maybe they could fall back on that if the Mars schedule proves too difficult?

              Pour yourself into the future.

              by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:47:33 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  It will provide valuable experience and data (3+ / 0-)

          for future missions. The most dangerous part will be the "getting there and getting back" phase. We have to prove that people can survive just exactly that.

          Hell, there was a manned fly-by of Venus planned once, after the Apollo program ended. The science for long-duration spaceflight would be useful.

          •  If Tito's plan succeeds (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            subtropolis, blue aardvark

            there could be a follow-up mission that flies by Venus.  It's actually a lot easier than getting to Mars - there are more launch windows, and the orbit of Venus is closer to Earth than that of Mars.  You need more shielding, but not much can go wrong with that.  And, of course, while we're flying by things on long-duration missions, it would be that much easier to flyby the Moon - it would be a leisurely one-week vacation by comparison.  

            With a single mission, Tito could open up the entire space between Venus and Mars to human exploration, and the near-Earth asteroid missions NASA keeps talking about would be that much easier.

            Pour yourself into the future.

            by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:16:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nice thing about Venus is that (3+ / 0-)

              you can save on fuel by using a solar sail to help you get back home. Proven tech. In a way a Venus flyby would be more "practical", except that with Mars there's someplace to actually go to for follow-on missions.

              I'm kinda interested in ideas for Mercury, really. A mining colony, extracting rare minerals from a deep crater with ice, and solar-sailing the bulk cargo back? Oh, hell, yeah.

              •  It's really hard to reach Mercury. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                subtropolis, blue aardvark

                And twice as hard to get there and come back.  It took years of gravity-assist flybys of Earth and Venus for MESSENGER to get there.  It's damn deep in the Sun's gravity well, and the heat and radiation are profound.  It'll be a long time before we're experienced enough in space for that to be both practical and worthwhile.

                Pour yourself into the future.

                by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:28:04 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yeah, I'm thinking a one-way, (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Troubadour

                  long-term colony to set up automated extractors. The solar-sailing back to Earth would be the easy part. A Mercury post would be something you sign a few guys up for, say, a 3- or 5-year tour of duty with hardship pay, and you retire from the company after 20 years, etc.

                  Just hope the company isn't called "Weyland-Yutani"...

                •  No Mercury until we have some sort of (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Troubadour

                  transformational technological leap in launch vehicles. Sending a human there would require a BIG spacecraft moving fast.

                  Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

                  by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 06:41:16 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Megawatt-scale nuclear VASIMR, probably. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    blue aardvark

                    But even with that technology, that simply means we have the ability to go there - still wouldn't have much will in sending people to Mercury.  Asteroids are a way easier place to mine metals, and there's no reason whatsoever to colonize it, so it would be purely a matter of science and/or stunt mission.

                    Pour yourself into the future.

                    by Troubadour on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 07:36:04 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah (5+ / 0-)

        I know we did flybys of the moon too before landing...but with an eye too more.

        From this outline, it doesn't seem to me that we learn anything more about how to get to mars than we would locking 2 poor astronauts in a windowless crew capsule for 501 days in LEO.  

        Sure, at day 250 they get a quick look see as mars flies past their portal, but what else?

        We already got good cameras looking down at mars, we got landers running around mars.

        Basically, I could see this as useful if the trip would lead to gaining skills that would lead to a real Mars trip...but really this doesn't do that.

        More than anything, this would use mostly known technologies to do something really cool (for us), really unpleasant for the astronauts and not leading to any significant advances in science or technology.

        Yeah, getting up a down would be hell, but if they aren't even going to try to get into and out of orbit of Mars, this is basically nothing more than a massive manned howitzer shot.

        "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

        by Empty Vessel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:28:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  They probably don't have the money (6+ / 0-)

          to do the things you're talking about.  But if they do have the money to prove that people can at least reach the vicinity of Mars, why wouldn't they do it?  It would make history, and also maybe shame Congress into getting serious about NASA funding.

          Some things you just can't unsmell.

          by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:32:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I guess that is not so important to me (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PatriciaVa, Troubadour

            since I have long assumed we could do something like this, namely a fly-by.  Whether we could get the money to do it, that's another thing.  

            There are going to be many steps to make landing on Mars possible, and several have already been taken...I just don't see this mission as one of those steps.  

            I guess I would see the next step as getting people to mars orbit, then returning to earth.  Perhaps with some robot exploration and the return of some rocks to the orbitting spacecraft for return to earth.

            I don't see this mission as helping develop the tech needed for that next mission.

            "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

            by Empty Vessel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:39:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, it does help develop the tech. (9+ / 0-)

              As I discussed in the diary: We're talking about an interplanetary spaceship - a manned BEO system designed solely for transit that can withstand the environmental rigors outside of Earth's magnetic field and robust enough to survive for a year or more without the possibility of a quick return if something goes wrong.  

              The lander/ascender - not to mention any surface habitats that would have to be delivered - is something else entirely, and has to be even more robust because it's actually on a planet full of abrasive dust, so that's a completely separate step.

              A standard exploration progression for both robotic or human exploration goes like this:

              1.  Flybys / impactors (the latter only for probes, obviously).
              2.  Orbits
              3.  Brief / static landings.
              4.  Extended landings / mobile surface exploration.

              Steps can be skipped, but it costs a lot of money and increases the chance of failure.

              Pour yourself into the future.

              by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:56:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Seriously, I'm good with an orbiter (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mythatsme, PatriciaVa, Troubadour

                but I don't see the how we get much more info out of this than putting two folks in a capsule for 500 days in LEO, its not like we don't know how much more tough the capsule has to be for BEO.  Hell, they could even launch an empty capsule to mars and back to test it.

                IMHO, we've already demonstrated our ability to do flyby's with unmanned probes (Hell, we've even done orbiting and landings, but they are different). The key tech we need to develop is QUALITY life and lifestyle support.  Namely a crew capsule that can actually be genuinely useful for multi-year exploration.  Rather than do that, this mission would only push the existing technology to its maximum possible duration.  

                If we want to get to mars, the best thing we could do now is work on better capsules rather than just use existing capsules for a flyby.

                "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

                by Empty Vessel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:07:18 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  A flyby is necessary for minimum mission time. (0+ / 0-)

                  A Mars Orbit Insertion stage would also add expense, weight, and complexity.

                  Pour yourself into the future.

                  by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:39:48 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Fear not (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  blue aardvark, Troubadour

                  On one hand, I hear that SpaceX has been working with NASA/JPL for some time to prepare a somewhat modified Dragon (namely using fully propulsive landing via supersonic retro-rockets) to land on Mars in either 2018 or some time later. They're now just waiting for the next mission opportunity (I vaguely recall something like 2013) so they can officially compete to become the next NASA Mars Discovery  mission. Oh, and the price tag is supposed to be around $500 million - not bad for NASA standards these days...
                  On the other hand, a demonstration of Earth aerocapture/entry coming back from Mars, as would be required for the manned mission being suggested, is another really important technology demonstration to enable future two-way Mars flights.
                  Current capsule technology isn't all that much behind the requirements for a manned Mars mission...

        •  Apollo 13 doesn''t count. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour, eyesoars, blue aardvark

          Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 both orbited the moon.  Apollo 13 wasn't voluntary.

        •  you think a flyby is all they have planned? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour, blue aardvark

          I think you're missing the fact that stuff like this is best appoached carefully. Just as NASA did in the 60s. They achieved their goal in the end.

          From this outline, it doesn't seem to me that we learn anything more about how to get to mars than we would locking 2 poor astronauts in a windowless crew capsule for 501 days in LEO.
          hmmm ... a certain kossack would say, "Why not send them on a free return to Mars if they're going to be locked up for 500 days anyway.
          Yeah, getting up a down would be hell, but if they aren't even going to try to get into and out of orbit of Mars, this is basically nothing more than a massive manned howitzer shot.
          There's no point in building the infrastructure to go there, land, and return if we don't yet know how the "go there" part will turn out. That landing part of the scenario isn't as simple an addition to the program as you seem to think.

          All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

          by subtropolis on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:24:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  What you are learning (in no particular order) (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour
          • Testing crew life support systems under flight conditions
          • Testing avionics under flight conditions
          • Verifying that the entire vehicle holds together under the vibration and shock loads induced by the new Falcon Heavy
          • Checking if the psychological stresses of being several hundred million miles from Earth are different than those of being 250 miles from earth on the ISS
          • Check out all the human-in-the-loop interfaces to the guidance navigation and control system
          • Long term effects of weightlessness combined with a small space and little / no exercise
          • Thermal. Oh Dear Saint Leibowitz, thermal.
          • I reserve the right to think of another 20 or 30 things later

          All of these things can be tested with good fidelity on earth. Speaking as someone who has been helping design and build and fly spacecraft for 30+ years ... good fidelity is sometimes not good enough.

          Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

          by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 06:50:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, blue aardvark

        was talking about this with Phil Plait earlier and I think we were up eight easy ways to die before swinging around Mars. But I'll wait for them to release the plans, I'm told there's some stuff they haven't released yet and won't til this next Weds.

        •  I can come up with way more than that. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis, blue aardvark, DarkSyde

          1.  Explosion at liftoff.

          2.  Collision at rendezvous.

          3.  Explosion or other critical malfunction at TMI burn.  

          4.  Rapid cabin depressurization.  

          5.  Loss of oxygen.

          6.  Buildup of CO2 or other toxic gas.

          7.  Toxic substance leak into the habitat.

          8.  Explosion or other critical malfunction during course correction burns.

          9.  Freezing to death due to loss of power.

          10.  Loss of water.

          11.  Toxic contamination of water.

          12.  Failure of water recycling to replenish supply.

          13.  Meteoroid impact.

          14.  Loss, spoilage, or contamination of food.

          15.  Infection.

          16.  Cancer.

          17.  Other medical emergency.

          18.  Solar flare / CME too powerful for the shielding.

          19.  Failure of course correction burns, resulting in flying off into eternity on an elliptical solar orbit.

          20.  Suicide.

          21.  Homicide.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 06:06:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Let me see what I can add (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour
            1. Crew area overheating
            2. Fire
            3. Launch vehicle malfunction resulting in sub-orbital velocity
            4. Launch vehicle malfunction resulting in escape velocity headed the wrong direction
            5. Failure of the navigation software
            6. Sensor failure leaving the navigation software blind
            7. Thruster degradation resulting in lower specific impulse resulting in running out of fuel
            8. Contamination of the fuel or oxidizer
            9. Fuel / oxidizer slow leaks; every weld, out of hundreds, has to be PERFECT for a 510 day mission
            10. Batteries overheating
            11. Solar panel gimbal failure resulting in suboptimal pointing resulting in slow loss of power
            12. Simultaneous SEU in high radiation zones (VE Belts) resulting in loss of all flight computers for several seconds, combined with some other event requiring computing power to respond
            13. Re-entry is incredibly difficult. Angle of incidence, keeping the heat shield forward, and so on.

            Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

            by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 07:01:57 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I'd bet radiation or disease would end it. (0+ / 0-)

            Apollo astronauts were only outside the Van Allen Belt for a few days.  NASA had solar astronomers monitoring the sun's activity and they had no-go authority.  So whereas there was a risk of a CME or similar solar event injuring or killing the astronauts, the risk was managed to be small.  

            On a Mars trip, there's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.  All you can do is rely on your shielding...which, ideally, would take the form of several feet of water.  A little less solid polyurethane would be okay (for particle radiation, you don't want lead, god forbid; you want low-atomic-weight atoms, from oxygen on down).

            Shut into a can like that, you're just a big petri dish and antibiotics only stay good for so long, so the potential for infectious disease to take hold is not insignificant.

            With all this, I foresee a successful manned Mars mission being preceded by a few lost crews.

      •  Landing requires an entire additional vehicle (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        and a second Falcon Heavy to launch it, and the interface module for the two to dock, and an upgrade to the engines on the Dragon to be able to push the extra mass to Mars ... good luck.

        Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

        by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 06:32:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not to mention the Voyager and Pioneer probes. (0+ / 0-)

      Some things you just can't unsmell.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:22:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Apollo X to Moon was a Flyby (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      A manned dress rehearsal for Apollo 11.

      That said, I don't see manned flight to Mars in 10 years.

      I don't think the propulsion technology has been developed yet.

      A 500+ day trip would result in permanent muscle atrophy.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:23:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  One more point: This mission would probably (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark

      be in the same cost range as an unmanned probe, so why in the hell wouldn't you do it?  The whole point of robotic exploration is to pave the way for human expansion.  This is human expansion - or at least the very first, tentative toe-in-the-water.

      Some things you just can't unsmell.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:25:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Given how costly life support systems are (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sneakers563, Troubadour, exNYinTX

        I'd say that manned space exploration is at least 5x more costly than unmanned.

        Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

        by PatriciaVa on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:48:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's based on NASA's experiences (0+ / 0-)

          relying on cost-plus contracting and budgetary abuse by Congress.  A SpaceX-based human Mars flyby would probably cost somewhere in the vicinity of half the price of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter ($720 million).

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:05:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  My 5x is just a guess (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour

            But I do believe that providing life support systems will SIGNIFICANTLY increase costs.

            Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

            by PatriciaVa on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:14:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The manned LEO version of Dragon (0+ / 0-)

              is estimated to be priced at $140 million in total.  Let's double that for the BEO version, so $280 million.  If SpaceX does not give any discount on its Falcon Heavy flight, and the mass requirements are such that the higher-tier price is invoked, and that none of the payloads share a rocket with other customers, that's $128 million per launch.  Let's assume there would be three FH launches - one for the crewed BEO Dragon, one for the TMI (Trans Mars Injection) rocket stage, and one for a Bigelow cargo module ($88 million for a 1-year lease, so let's call it $100 million).  

              That gives us an upper limit expense of $764 million, or just a bit more expensive than the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter probe.  That doesn't include the expense of developing the BEO Dragon, but it's reasonable that SpaceX would largely shoulder that cost since it's already part of their program.  And if savings are achieved - as is likely - by perhaps having their Falcon Heavy flights discounted for the Mars mission; by (if possible) sharing rockets with payloads from other customers, as the LEO Dragon typically does, and thus splitting the cost of the launch; and perhaps getting a better deal from Bigelow, the actual cost could be substantially lower than that.

              Pour yourself into the future.

              by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:57:14 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Water and Food for at least two Crew Members (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Troubadour, blue aardvark

                For 501 days.

                How much would provisions weigh?

                Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon.

                And the launch cost for space shuttle cargo was 10k per pound, or 80k per gallon of water.

                Assuming you could cut that by 75%, that's still 20k dollars per gallon of water.

                Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

                by PatriciaVa on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:11:24 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Shuttle was the most expensive launch vehicle (0+ / 0-)

                  in all of history, and remains so.  Even SpaceX's competitors are much cheaper than that, and SpaceX is much cheaper than them.  We'll just have to wait for the press conference next week to get further details.  Also, don't forget that water is recycled with an efficiency of about 90%.

                  Pour yourself into the future.

                  by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 06:10:51 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think 5x is accurate (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour

          But I'll take an extra 50% just for the life support systems, and then the whole magnifier effect as the added mass and power makes propulsion and electronics bigger.

          Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

          by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 07:10:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Look at the history (4+ / 0-)

      of the Apollo program.

      We had to do a manned orbit of the moon to make sure we could.  Once we knew the machinery could handle that duration and intensity, we could go on to the next step.

      I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

      by trumpeter on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:55:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm good with an orbital mission (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        but this isn't even that.

        "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

        by Empty Vessel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:57:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problem is mission duration. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cassandra Waites

          They set the January 2018 deadline to make use of a rare launch window that allows such a mission to occur in 501 days.  If they stuck around by entering orbit, the mission would be extended by considerably longer than just the additional amount of time spent around Mars, because both Mars and Earth are moving.

          Now, you could enter orbit very briefly just to demonstrate an MOI (Mars Orbit Insertion) rocket stage, but then you're lugging the entire mass of it to Mars just to test hardware that could be tested in Earth orbit, not to mention adding the danger of something going wrong with either the insertion or departure burns.  That adds both expense, complexity, and danger.  It's not necessary for a first step.  Apollo skipped the flyby because the US was in a race with the Soviet Union, but a rational development program would have done a free-return first like Apollo 13 ultimately ended up doing as an emergency default.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:11:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  There's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, blue aardvark

      no way they can land. It's hotly debated if they can make the 2018 window for a flyby at all. They're depending on Falcon Heavy's, rockets that have never been built much less tested, and in which the prototype Falcon and Merlin engines have performed well in two flights, but there was an engine cut out on one of those flights. If that happened in a heavy loaded to the brim with fifty tons of hab and a departure stage, it won't even make minimum LEO.

      •  According to SpaceX's launch manifest (0+ / 0-)

        which they keep adding to on a regular basis, there are at least 40 launches scheduled for before 2018, and some of those manifest items are labeled "multiple launches," so it's actually substantially more than 40.  Three of those launches are currently listed as being of the Falcon Heavy, and since new contracts are being signed at a rapid pace, that number could easily increase.  The remainder of launches will be of the Falcon 9 v. 1.1, which is identical to one of the 1st stage cores of the Falcon Heavy.  

        They will have massive experience and flight heritage with these systems by January of 2018, and the first Falcon Heavy launch is scheduled for this year.  In fact, by 2018, even if the manifest holds steady, the Falcon 9 core will have more flight heritage than the Atlas V, and a far superior performance and economy.

        But as to the robustness of Falcon Heavy, are you saying it wouldn't have redundant engine-out capability?

        Pour yourself into the future.

        by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 06:19:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Prototypes? Not really... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        A variant of the Merlin Engine has also been flown on 5 Falcon I missions., so in total more than 30 Merlin Engines have flown (Falcon 9 has already flown 3 times, not two), in which there have been two failures (on the first Falcon I flight, where the mission was lost, and in the most recent Falcon 9 flight, where the mission to the ISS was still successful).
        And this "lack of flight experience" is only going to get better. Hell, once Falcon Heavy and the crewed Dragon have proven themselves (currently that would happen in ~2016), there might be many more people willing to strap themselves onto a rocket and blast on to Mars!

        •  Hey (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour

          I want them to succeed, I'm just relaying what I'm being told ... I promise on everything I hold dear I have some kick ass sources in this field. I had to sit on this freakin story for the last two days because the people who told me about it could have lost their jobs if I wrote it up. I wouldn't even be able to talk about now except someone obviously spilled the beans early.

           Yes, I've had enthusiastic pro NewSpace vehicle engineers refer to the Falcon Heavy as a design  prototype and the Falcon that has flown as a developmental prototype. They're good rockets, don't get me wrong, but if you lose an engine in the first min or two on a heavy loaded with max payload, the way they're configured now in design it won't even make a crater in Europe. It'll be in the drink. There's been speculation they're gonna use at least two launches of heavies, but so far everything I've seen has them with a small kick stage and a modified Dragon up on one shot.

      •  And I do not believe Dragon incorporates (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        a LAS, although they do have largish engines for landing.

        Something fails in a "get out of there NOW" way, and the crew is lost.

        Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

        by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 07:12:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Apollo 9 & 10? (0+ / 0-)

      Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

      by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 06:39:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I thought that for a second too--but you need to (6+ / 0-)

    demonstrate that you can get there.  Apollo 8 was a manned orbit around the moon--they didn't land...

    I think it does need to be incremental.  But at the same time it would seem to be a waste if a substantial number of scientific experiments couldn't be carried out...

  •  One major point of doing it would be to stimulate (5+ / 0-)

    interest in really doing a landing mission, and/or a permanent base mission.

  •  Living in a closet for almost 18 months... (3+ / 0-)

    And then, in the middle, JUST A FLYBY????

    No. I can see a period of orbiting the planet without landing. That was proven to be tolerated by Apollo 8 and 10 around the Moon. But the number of days in the capsule was less than 2 weeks.

    Naw. Maybe if that is what is necessary, and two persons can deal with it. MAYBE.

    Seems to me that we have a DOA plan.

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:53:28 PM PST

  •  I applaud those who may give their life (4+ / 0-)

    In an attempt of this goal.   This would have very high risk factors going beyond trajectory, air and other issues that are going to be built in.   Anything could fail that would kill the entire crew, environmental to inability to avoid debris, etc.

    Some have argued "without a landing, what's the point", well, we would establish a lot of science through this, point of fact.   We would establish the viability of long term space exploration, the bone mass variables that are impacted by orbit (which have been questioned) radiation control issues, etc.

    As a goal I am not in any way opposed to this.  And, if it launches I will follow it all the way.  

    Sometimes, the reason to do something is just to show it can be done.  Along the way, as they develop these technologies to accomplish this feat, the technological patents and research and development that will be conducted will benefit a lot of other industries.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 03:55:54 PM PST

    •  Re: Debris shielding. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PatriciaVa

      Debris shielding is pretty well understood today due to decades of dealing with it in orbit.  Earth orbit is a much more dangerous place with respect to debris than interplanetary space, because we've polluted the hell out of it with random detritus from decades of spacecraft both manned and unmanned.  Naturally-occurring debris is FAR more diffuse.  

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:17:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ethical Question (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        Should NASA ever ask for volunteers to undertake a one way trip to Mars.

        They would land and have enough provisions for perhaps one week.  They would conduct many experiments during that time, with the objective of establishing what natural resources Mars has available for future manned missions.

        Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

        by PatriciaVa on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:28:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Suicide missions, no. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PatriciaVa

          And not just because of ethics - it's a waste of the cost of sending them there.  However, that doesn't mean one-way trips are out of the question as long as you have some confidence that they would be able to sustain themselves.  That's basically how colonization has to occur.  Even then it wouldn't rule out coming back to Earth several years later once the infrastructure for Mars travel became more established.  But we're nowhere near that point - we'll want at least a decade of there-and-back exploration missions before leaving people to set up a self-sustaining settlement.

          On the other hand, no one could stop rich nuts from going on one-way private trips if they had the resources and resolve, so there might be quite a few pioneering corpses on the Red Planet before NASA got around to enabling something more regular.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:24:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have a feeling (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour

            That one of the first moves in this may be someone who would view it as a suicide mission against cause.  I'm reminded of "Contact" where an aging billionaire viewed it as his chance to leave a mark in the world.  

            In the end, a colony planning for something like Mars would be wildly difficult.... though not impossible.   Could an atmosphere be converted?  It seems so radically beyond us at the moment, but there are some effective theories and scientific papers on making such a thing happen.   But it's all speculation and theory.   Still, it's interesting.

            Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

            by Chris Reeves on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 06:25:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You don't need to terraform Mars to settle it. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              tmservo433

              It's just a matter of technological degree to go from living like we do with artificial control of temperature, humidity, light, and (in aircraft) pressure, to building entire cities where every environmental factor is controlled.  We already have submarines that stay submerged for months and a space station.  Living on Mars is a lot easier than living on a station in Earth orbit - there's plenty of subsurface water ice for use as both water and to generate oxygen and hydrogen.  The biggest constraint is energy, but since it's Mars and there's nothing to pollute, nuclear reactors wouldn't be a problem.

              Pour yourself into the future.

              by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 06:47:15 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  A manned flyby to the moon took about a week. (0+ / 0-)

    500 days just to pass by another planet? That's a totally different thing. And in this tiny ship, maybe even without a real life view, I think it would drive the astronauts insane to know to be confined in this little steel cell, on a very dangerous mission, without any reward or gratification from it, as they can't do about anything out there!

    If they get people to mars, and I would really like to see that, they should at least be able to experience it and actually do something out there.

    Just assemble a space ship big enough, or wait and sent unmanned probes, I'd say.

    "This isn't America" - Zenkai Girl

    by mythatsme on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:01:05 PM PST

    •  It has a window. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blackjackal

      And there's no reason they couldn't make it bigger for the BEO Dragon, as far as I know.

      If you don't think there would be any "reward or gratification" for it, why exactly do you think these people would volunteer to do it?  Frankly, qualified volunteers would be lined up a hundred deep for those two spots.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:10:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The reward or gratification .... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        .... would be ta do anything out there. Or make anything else anyhow meaningfull besides being guinea pigs.

        But don't get me wrong, I do want people go to mars and beyond!

        It just should work.

        "This isn't America" - Zenkai Girl

        by mythatsme on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:16:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  They'd be no more guinea pigs than the Mercury 7 (0+ / 0-)

          or the overwhelming majority of Gemini and Apollo astronauts who were not scientists.

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:19:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, but that were a few days. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour

            Psychologically, much easier endurable than such a trip. I seriously think that if you are doing the great step from one planet to another, you should and, I think, can, skip this. Financing provided.

            I really like the idea and the enthusiasm of this project. I just think the craft is not sufficient.

            "This isn't America" - Zenkai Girl

            by mythatsme on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:27:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Do You Think They'll Need to Park an Extra (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    stage or fuel tank in earth orbit for rendezvous before departing, or can they make the free return just on the departure velocity of the main rocket (+ some corrections along the way)?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:08:59 PM PST

    •  I don't really know. (0+ / 0-)

      But in my hand-wavy cost estimate in response to PatriciaVA above assumes a separate Falcon Heavy launch to deliver a TMI stage, just to derive an upper limit on the cost of the mission.  So if no such stage is necessary, that drastically improves the financials.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:01:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  501 days cooped up in a tiny box? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mythatsme, Troubadour

    yah, I don't see this being ready to go by 2018.

    I think it's awesome though, that someone's taking the initative.

    •  They say weightlessness makes spaces seem bigger. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blackjackal

      Because you're using the entire volume, not just some two-dimensional projection of one surface (the floor).  Still, I agree it would be very trying - most astronauts have trouble staying on ISS for more than a few months, even though it's huge and has awesome, constantly changing views.  Part of that could just be that they work them to death up there though, in order to cram as much use out of their time as possible.  A private mission could be more liberal with its time.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:06:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  and really (4+ / 0-)

    we really do need to be doing more and more space exploration. Manned or otherwise.

  •  I'd like to see calculations of cargo size (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    Exactly how many tons the food, water, and oxygen for 2 people for 500 days would be, and their cubic diameter. How big would the cargo section have to be? Would there have to be separate launches for cargo modules, then docking everything together in orbit? There's no way one big rocket could launch everything as one shot, when there also has to be engines and fuel to get there, and engines and fuel to return as part of the spacecraft. And whats the inflight power source for all systems? Would it have to have giant solar panels to provide all the power, or would it mean a private enterprise launch of a private nuclear power source? Lotta questions.

    I don't mind him doing this, it's his money to spend. How much is he paying the 2 astronauts? How much would it take to get YOU to do it?

    Bqhatevwr, dude. Srsly. Bqhatevwr.

    by Fordmandalay on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:31:05 PM PST

    •  Hopefully Tito will provide those numbers (0+ / 0-)

      in his press conference next week.  But we can say that with relatively efficient recycling, the water and air are not as big a deal as one might think at first.

      I would assume BEO Dragon would be solar-powered, since they don't have the time or money to go through the thicket of nuclear regulations.  And yes, we are probably talking about multiple launches with orbital rendezvous.  Fortunately SpaceX is building up experience with rendezvous via Dragon ISS berthing.

      As to the astronauts, I really doubt money would mean anything at all the sort of people who would volunteer for this.  They'd get paid, obviously, but that wouldn't be the point.  As for how much it would take me, I'd have to sit this one out - I'd love to flyby Mars, but I'd need more than a single Dragon capsule.  I'd need a Bigelow complex with some comforts and distractions.  And I'd need to have seen others do it before.  I'm not a member of the Right Stuff club.  But those guys do exist within the astronaut and cosmonaut corps, and they would all volunteer for this if it proves as credible as it looks from the early reports.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:31:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  About those multiple launches... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        ... they're probably not required IF an efficient (meaning, H2-based) upper stage is used, like the Centaur - then instead of 9t to Mars which SpaceX claims they're able to send with a single Falcon Heavy launch, they could send about 17t.
        That would unfortunately call for a more in-depth adaptation of existing technology, as opposed to minimal adjustments to existing spacecraft, which may put (even) more stress on the timeline... but it would certainly avoid the extra launch and the rendezvous.

  •  I'd like to see calculations of cargo size (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder

    Exactly how many tons the food, water, and oxygen for 2 people for 500 days would be, and their cubic diameter. How big would the cargo section have to be? Would there have to be separate launches for cargo modules, then docking everything together in orbit? There's no way one big rocket could launch everything as one shot, when there also has to be engines and fuel to get there, and engines and fuel to return as part of the spacecraft. And whats the inflight power source for all systems? Would it have to have giant solar panels to provide all the power, or would it mean a private enterprise launch of a private nuclear power source? Lotta questions.

    I don't mind him doing this, it's his money to spend. How much is he paying the 2 astronauts? How much would it take to get YOU to do it?

    Bqhatevwr, dude. Srsly. Bqhatevwr.

    by Fordmandalay on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:31:49 PM PST

  •  501 days doesn't seem too long. (5+ / 0-)

    Get WoW Planetary edition and a multiple terabyte storage drive with the full Netflix and TCM catalogs and the time would just fly by:)

    •  I like the idea of the TCM catalog (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      MAN they've got a great library! Just in the past couple of days I've enjoyed 'Grand Prix', 'Shoes of the Fisherman', 'Cabin in the Sky', 'Blow-Up', 'Wings'.....

      I could sit in a closet and watch movies all day for a year and a half, if those are the kind of movies!

      Bqhatevwr, dude. Srsly. Bqhatevwr.

      by Fordmandalay on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:04:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem is claustrophobia. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mythatsme

      It's one thing to stay a long time in a space of a certain size with the knowledge that you can leave whenever you choose, open a window if it gets stuffy, etc.  But even people who don't panic immediately when they're confined and can't leave can wear down from it and eventually crack.  

      Have you ever gone into low-ceilinged caves, where you can just sense the awesome, totally implacable mass all around you?  It's a much more anxiety-inducing experience than being in a room of the same size.  I imagine being months away from Earth, with your home planet just being a blue star, and confined to a Dragon the whole time would be psychologically corrosive even with numerous distractions.

      But I could be overestimating that.  Who knows?  Maybe with the kind of entertainment you're talking about people would just get used to the confinement and isolation.  I agree, there should be an inexhaustible supply of movies, TV shows, music, videogames (though they couldn't be MMO, because interplanetary broadcast communications are beneath 1980s modem speeds).  Probably porn too, although there wouldn't be enough privacy to use it for anything other than aesthetic pleasure.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:41:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm torn on the utility, and might be inclined (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    NOT to support this mission as a taxpayer-funded project.  On the other hand, I would note a point made in "The Right Stuff": in the Mercury program, the astronauts initially objected that their (live, human) presence aboard the Mercury flights added absolutely nothing of value-- these were extremely skills jet pilots who were being used simply as human payload, with no active role in the flights.  Finally they insisted that NASA at least install a window in the Merc capsules so they could see out!   But in fact, the value was in simply demonstrating that you could keep a human being safe during liftoff, orbit and re-entry, which was obviously necessary before moving on to any more active roles for the astronauts.

    So presumably you'd make the same argument here.

    Still, oy vey, I feel for the astronauts on this one...

    •  No politician would put seriously champion... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      ...a manned mission to Mars unless the US was engaged in a very cold war against China.

      In 1966, NASA's budget represented 4.4% of the US budget.

      Today, it's 0.5%.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:15:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's not taxpayer-funded at all. (0+ / 0-)

      Congress would never allow NASA to pursue human exploration of space at this point in time.  Astronauts today are simply lab techs working on the ISS, not pioneers.  Every genuine exploration mission would put their precious pork-barrel contracts in jeopardy if something went wrong, whereas a status quo space program can absorb periodic failure by virtue of having cultivated public indifference.

      You make a good point about the early astronauts.  People who say things like "We should solve problems down here instead of going out there" are what I call "entropic thinkers" - they're only interested in solving problems and filling holes, so their ideal universe would presumably be a featureless nothing.  Then there are people who seek out the new, including whatever problems arise from it, because they are driven by it - new possibilities, new perspectives, and by virtue of that just naturally finding answers to problems without insisting up-front that such answers be forthcoming.  These are the "counter-entropic" thinkers who are responsible for all progress.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:48:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The perfect pair to send are no longer available. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, mythatsme

    Father Time remains undefeated.

    by jwinIL14 on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:11:16 PM PST

  •  Very cool (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Canis Aureus

    This diary made my day. Love the cabin mockups and the 3-D panorama of the interior. The out-the-window pic is great too. I can't get enough of great Mars views.

    Please make this happen!

    The opposite of life is not death, but indifference. -- Jaki Gefjon (A.A.Attanasio)

    by Max Wyvern on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 05:23:37 PM PST

  •  WIll all the astronauts be over 60? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    Your odds of getting cancer are already elevated at that age.

  •  The only thing that could be better really (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    would be if they sent a bunch of Bigelow inflatable capsules to Mars orbit ahead of the launch window for assembly in orbit at Mars. Then we could have a ready-made space station to serve as a mission control hub for follow-on flights.

    Then these guys could rendezvous with the station, check it out, make sure the connections are good, and at least see Mars for a few days before squeezing back into the sardine can.

    We really need a space station in orbit at Mars proper.

  •  I'd volunteer and take an iPAD with Ray Bradbury's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    books on it to read. The Martian Chronicles might be required reading just because!

    I'd think a happy married couple with his and her (or his and his or hers and hers) Buspar dispensers would have a good chance of success.
     

    Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been "privatized," or taken over by private money lenders. Thomas Jefferson called them “bold and bankrupt adventurers just pretending to have money.” webofdebt

    by arealniceguy on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 10:04:49 PM PST

  •  Elaborating on this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour
    This is the tallest order on the list, because the needs of BEO travel are significantly greater than those of LEO - particularly as it concerns radiation shielding, electronics hardening, and designing for massive redundancy far beyond what is acceptable for Earth orbit.
    Radiation shielding and electronics hardening are related and fairly well understood. The radiation in the Van Allen belts is actually worse in most important ways than it is in deep space, as particles are worse than rays.

    Assuming they go for dual redundancy with cross-coupling and on-board fault detection isolation and recovery, the real cost will be the software and systems engineering. If they go to the old NASA standard of triple redundancy for all critical systems with no loss of life without two independent failures then it is probably inaccurate to say that the new craft will be based on Dragon, because EVERYTHING will change. And also they won't make 2018 unless every rich dude in the US decides he wants to go to Mars and kicks in $100M.

    Let's see how this works. I hope Tito enjoys his trip.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 06:39:07 AM PST

    •  The LEO Dragon has 6 or 7x redundancy (0+ / 0-)

      in its computer hardware and software, so that same level of protection - if not greater - would likely carry over to Red Dragon (the name for the BEO variant).

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 07:33:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not just the software. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        EVERYTHING.
        Batteries.
        Engines.
        Cooling systems.
        You'd be surprised how many things are interrelated. For example, a power sag to the engine valves can result in one commodity flowing while the other one shuts off, because the valves are not precisely identical. And then the power comes back, and you have a mixture ratio outside the run box.

        Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

        by blue aardvark on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 07:40:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Needs drapes and carpeting... (0+ / 0-)

    Oh, and BTW, the image of Mars from "orbit" won't be in the sunlight. It will be a night view. Hah.

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Thu Feb 28, 2013 at 04:53:52 PM PST

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