The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, March 06, 2008

To Mars and back stay!

Brian Dewhirst has commented on my Sputnik post
Posting here because it is closest to on-topic...

I'm rather eager to hear your thoughts on the "Spirit of the Lone Eagle" one-way, one-person mission to Mars proposal, if you have any.
I'm embarrassed to admit that the first time I heard this proposal, from Dolan Cummings of the Manifesto Club, I mistook it for the morbid notion that someone should go to Mars and die. Not at all - the proposal is that one person should go to Mars and live there, explore, and in time be joined by others. It's easier to send supplies one-way than to take even one person back. This makes a human Mars mission feasible in a much shorter time than we've imagined.

I like it. It'd probably do everything that Apollo is supposed to have done to screw up space development, but what the heck.

Now, if we could get the PRC interested in sending a taikonaut there first ...


Interesting article, but, a few things grate. This might have to do with being ex-military (US Navy), and from the Clear Lake area (a couple of miles from JSC).

NASA does not put a premium on human life. The X-15 program was snuffed not because of a fatality, but because it was seen as taking away from the efforts of the Manned Space Program.

The bone-headed cock-up that was Apollo 1 was no different than the Very Large Fireworks Display that was flight 51-L: Contractors said things were one way, when in fact they were another way.

The Apollo program no more set the precedence for crew size than the Gemini or Mercury programs.

The crew sizes were determined by the intersection of technology and mission profile. The Mercury flights were spam in a can on top of an ICBM. A crew of one was all that was needed for an up-and-down.

Crew size doubled for Gemini. There was a lot more at stake: EVAs and docking maneuvers. While somebody like Ed White was outside washing the windows, somebody else had to be piloting. EVAs had one person spotting, while the other was piloting.

Apollo crews added one more, simply because of the multi-stage approach to getting on _and_ off the rock.

A solo shot to Mars is a stupid idea. Not because of the one way ticket. Again, it's the intersection of technology and mission profile. The mission calls for a landing on Mars, and there are way too many resource involved to put it all on one person.

There is also the psychological dynamic. The mission suggested would be sending a person to Mars to die.

That person will not be making a return trip, if for no other reason, than the time line for others to get to Mars and get the necessary things in place to allow _anybody_ to get back would be too long.

There is a big difference between a five and a half mile solo climb up Everest, and a 120 million mile one-way shot to Mars. A crew of two would be needed. And to further address the psychological dynamics, the next shot would need to be a crew of two, with subsequent flights consisting of crews of three.


Mike Nomad

Talk about a recipe for space madness, waiting there all alone on Mars for reinforcements that never come due to budget cuts . . .

But the problem of two-way mars flights is "mostly solved" in Zubrins plans "The Case for Mars". Unless you've got some form of guaranteed return, you've a recipe for insanity. its bad enough to be stuck on Mir as the USSR breaks up; want to be stuck on Mars during a NASA budgetary crisis?

Again the dynamics have been studied. Its one of the more important lessons from Mir, etc: you'll need at least three to stop people going insane. One or two is not enough.

Not really an original idea. Replace Mars with the Moon and you have the basic plot for "The Pilgrim Project" by Hank Searls, where a modified Mercury capsule is used to send a man to the Moon. It was made into a movie with James Caan (don't remember the title) using a Gemini. Both pretty dull and soap opera-ish.

I'd vote to spend my tax dollars on it. Were I not married I'd volunteer to go.

As for space madness or insanity - depends? People like company but if you know reinforcements are on the way, and you have meaningful work to do it should go a long way to keeping a guy sane.

Strange that the article specifies "man". OK, so it is from 2006, and thus from times before these great days of egalitarian presidential campaigning, but anyway...

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