Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What if the only way to send astronauts to Mars is to leave them there for good?

I heard a segment on NPR a couple of weeks ago, and today found the transcript.
The gist of it was:

"What if the only way to send astronauts to Mars is to leave them there for good? Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and director of the Origins Initiative, argues that a one-way trip is worth considering, and that it wouldn't be hard to find passengers."

An interesting concept.
The argument is that a round trip would be exponentially more expensive.
According to the guest, he has been able to find quite a few people who would be willing to volunteer.

The Transcript

The Audio


Bourgeois_Rage said...

I read an article on this not too long ago. Here it is. I don't think it is a bad idea. Certainly now, it is much cheaper to do a one way trip and it has precedent in history. European colonists in the 16th and 17th century were doing exactly this in the Americas. And with current technology communication could be kept up at a reasonable rate as opposed to 400 years ago when a family member said 'goodbye' it was forever, or at least until mail could be delivered. Now we can see video and have relatively constant communications.

I think the way to sell this to the public is by calling it a colony with the understanding that the new martians having a probably permanent stay. Eventually as technology improves a round trip may be possible and future generations of martians may return to Earth.


Bernard Droege said...

The parallel to the colonization of the Americas was also mentioned in the interview. There is one major difference though, and that is the dependence upon earth for all supplies in the foreseeable future. It would require many subsequent deliveries of food, living modules and construction supplies. But even if they had to send yearly supplies, it would still be a lot cheaper. The cost of getting a lifting body powerful enough to reach Martian escape velocity to Mars would be astronomical.
One thing that has bothered me about NASA for years is the unwillingness to take risks. Everything has to be triple redundant, which makes the vehicles so heavy and complicated that we would have a hard time even making it back to the moon. There are plenty of people who would be willing to take risks, but the organization is not. During the early years of aviation, we were willing to take great risks. We advanced the technology very quickly, at the cost of 50% of the test pilots lives. But the volunteers who flew considered 50-50 acceptable.
Also, NASA no longer attracts the best and brightest, as it did in the 60's. In my time with Robotics Research Corp. I have dealt with some of their people, and it seems they are mostly older bureaucrats trying to protect their jobs. It's very sad.

Bernard Droege said...

Just a random thought. What about a penal colony? You wouldn't even have to send guards. I'll bet some of the hardcores in solitary for life would take a chance. It would be like the movie "Escape from New York" but truly inescapable.

Bourgeois_Rage said...

Re: Penal Colony.

I'm not a fan of that idea because our current system has been known to put innocent people on death row. At least with death row they can get appeals. If you send them to Mars with no hope of return, they are stuck there for good.

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