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Viewpoint: Explore Mars with robots

John Merchant
8/18/2009 04:00 PM EDT

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homunculus2
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re: Viewpoint: Explore Mars with robots
homunculus2   8/18/2009 7:54:50 PM
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In the "40 year horizon" discussion (Lindbergh forward), the author neglects the fact that two wars were fought in that period in which multiple sides believed survival of their civilizations were at stake, and enabling science for jet propulsion, aerodynamics, and rocketry were core tasks. No such imperative exists for space travel. It's easy to fall into the science fiction trap to just declare an expanded technology so for advocacy purposes. To simply add self-diagnostic and repair technology to an observation and geology-focused telepresence is an order of magnitude complexity growth - too hard and too expensive. Redundancy is an easier path. Lastly, the power solution is obvious, but the environmental lobby will fight to the death to prevent launch of intact reactors. A simultaneous solution to this and redundancy is multiple launch - vehicles and unfueled reactors in one and fuel and "accessories" (for geology, observation, and consumables) in another. A simple Purpose-built vehicle to fuel the reactors could then be annexed to the main unit for motive-power redundancy. I fully support robotic exploration. However, one has to overcome the threat reaction of the manned space community. This is akin to the military resistance to cruise missiles and UAV's. Manned aircraft have aircrews and maintenance crews. Crews generate aircraft and squadron commanders, who need wing commanders, who need group commanders, who are all General Officers. Same thing, different job titles in NASA and every other National space organization. Robotic telepresence needs engineers and scientists, who don't require such a command structure. Bad for the ego and ambition of command.

george.leopold
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re: Viewpoint: Explore Mars with robots
george.leopold   8/18/2009 7:08:24 PM
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Thanks for your comments. There is another limiting factor involved in reaching Mars and other "gravity wells." As one writer has noted, "The energy requirements of going up and down those steep gravity hills are so great that it would take many heavy-lift rocket ships to carry supplies and fuel on a mission to the Martian surface." This reality argues in favor of either robots or the option Buzz Aldrin and others have proposed: One-way trips for human explorers. While there may be many adventurers willing to make such a trip, it seems robots will be the only way to reach Mars for the foreseeable future. Agree?

mr88cet
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re: Viewpoint: Explore Mars with robots
mr88cet   8/18/2009 6:31:16 PM
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This could be a good next step after robotic missions of the nature we currently have. It could improve our scientific capability. Still, let's not delude ourselves: This has nothing to do with "a human presence on Mars." Nothing whatsoever.

dkp
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re: Viewpoint: Explore Mars with robots
dkp   8/18/2009 5:47:48 PM
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Good points, telepresence ought to allow techlogy to continue to advance and of course much easier, cheaper and less risky to launch robots.

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