NASA's Maven Enters Mars Orbit: What's Next? - InformationWeek

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9/26/2014
08:06 AM
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NASA's Maven Enters Mars Orbit: What's Next?

Welcome to the start of a new space race to the Red Planet. Find out what's coming in Mars missions during the next decade, and when humans might set foot on the planet.
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(Source: Nesnad)
Mangalyaan
Mangalyaan, another Mars mission, arrived in orbit Sept. 24 from a rather unlikely source: India, which made it to Mars for the bargain basement price of $74 million. The country likes to brag that that is half the budget for the Sandra Bullock space movie Gravity. Mangalyaan is not the most sophisticated of research vessels. Not to demean it; it is meant mainly as a proof of concept. Its six-month mission will attempt to answer the question of whether we're alone by looking for methane (a sign of excretions for living things) and study the loss of Martian atmosphere. This marks the first time an Asian country has gotten to Mars (a Chinese mission failed when its Russian vehicle failed to exit Earth orbit) and the first time any organization made it on the first try. It represents a massive achievement and sets up India as a potential space power.

(Source: Nesnad)

Mangalyaan
Mangalyaan, another Mars mission, arrived in orbit Sept. 24 from a rather unlikely source: India, which made it to Mars for the bargain basement price of $74 million. The country likes to brag that that is half the budget for the Sandra Bullock space movie Gravity. Mangalyaan is not the most sophisticated of research vessels. Not to demean it; it is meant mainly as a proof of concept. Its six-month mission will attempt to answer the question of whether we're alone by looking for methane (a sign of excretions for living things) and study the loss of Martian atmosphere. This marks the first time an Asian country has gotten to Mars (a Chinese mission failed when its Russian vehicle failed to exit Earth orbit) and the first time any organization made it on the first try. It represents a massive achievement and sets up India as a potential space power.

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impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
9/26/2014 | 12:11:58 PM
Re: science is a way

I don't think it's a waste of money to investigate planets in our galaxy the more we understand about other planets the more we can do to protect our own planet and understand key issues of planetary evolution. As long as the missions have a clear goal and clear results it's beneficial, the missions that sound cool without clear research are the issue.

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 12:42:37 PM
Re: Three points.
@tzubair- Yes, I'm really thrilled for India. Great achievment. Any country not giving them a call right now and saying, "let's work together" is just plain crazy.

As for bringing something back from Mars to Earth, the problem is building something that can leave the MArs gravity after it lands. Right now, we're landing things there by having them literally smack into the ground with air bags to protect them. It is really more like a controlled crash.

We need to be able to create something which can land more like the moon landing with a softer touchdown. And it needs to be heavy enough to carry enough fuel with it to return. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot of fuel to leave Mars. It also takes a lot of fuel to break Mars orbit and come back all the way to Earth in a reasonable amount of time.

This is just a guess, but I'm guessing what we'll have to do is launch a super big rocket from Earth. Then when the rocket gets to MArs, we'll send a small lander down. That lander will get samples and take off and redock with the larger rocket that has the fuel and boosters to put it back on a retun to Earth. That's quite a difficult ask.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 12:51:05 PM
Re: science is a way
@prospecttoreza- Well, every time we post something on space, someone brings this up--the cost per knowledge learned ratio. I always bring up that we've actually gotten quite a lot of brealthroughs because of space programs. NASA has directly given us advances in safety including anti-icing and safer roads, networking and communications, hazardous chemical detection, and solar power. They've helped us learn about water purification, growing crops in less than ideal places, cleaning up chemical spills, LEDs, and countless other advances.

The commercial value of all of NASA's inventions far exceeds the cost of the programs. And the number of people who have been helped is countless. 

We learn from great engineering feats. And that's what this is. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 12:53:56 PM
Re: Three points.
@Staphne Parent- It is interesting. They're both very daunting. Going and returning is hard. Going and staying is just as hard. Surviving the radiation, learning to deal with the different gravity, getting enough water for people and for growing food, learning to live on a diet of what can grow there, medical care and dealing with the isolation are just some of the obvious problems. 

I'm not sure which I'd call easier. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 12:56:20 PM
Re: science is a way
@billbo31- Well, I won't argue over the debt itself. But i will say there are two ways out of an economic problem-- you can shrink your spending and sit in a shell for decades or you can grow your wealth. The space program has a long trakc record of creating products with commerical viability, and the NASA budget is a tiny fraction of the federal budget. Investing in the country's future needs to be a part of any budget.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 1:01:16 PM
Re: Mangalyaan
@ArijitR071- I'm sorry you don't like the characterizaiton. I meant no offense. You have every right to brag. You SHOULD brag. You got a craft to Mars. You did it with what appeared to be ease and skill. You did it cheaply and it will be the first of many great successes. 

If you didn't brag about that, I don't know what you get to brag about.

More importantly, I quoted the source of the bragging in the article. And frankly, it is a great brag. Hollywood can't make pretend space for less than India brought us real space. In every way it was meant as a compliment.

But again, I apologize for offending. That was not the intention at all.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
9/26/2014 | 2:07:28 PM
Mars mission blowback: It takes forever to get fast food
Count me as fainthearted, but I am not seeking a seat on the first human-occupied spaceship heading for Mars. I like to travel but a destination 450 million miles away would use up all my combined frequent flyer miles. Just getting a pizza delivered takes ForEver, and even Amazon Prime doesn't make deliveries there, and I thought they had distribution centers everywhere.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/26/2014 | 3:32:34 PM
Re: Mars mission blowback: It takes forever to get fast food
Charlie has finally found a weakness in Amazon's distribution system, LOL. Seriously, I hope to experience space travel in my lifetime. I would love to take a trip to fly around the moon instead of to Florida for once in my old age. And I love Florida.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 6:16:18 PM
Re: Mars mission blowback: It takes forever to get fast food
@Charlie- If Pizza Hut gets there first, maybe you cna go. I'm starting to feel like commercial (or at least non-government) missions seem to have a better chance at succeeded. I can imagine Pizza Hut or Starbucks or some big brand wanting to put a franchise on Mars as part of a sponsorship deal.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 2:21:24 PM
Re: science is a way
@Some guy- I see your joke there. But there's a serious point. The best part about the voyages of discovery are that they yielded unexpected benefits (though we'd be remiss without mentioning unexpected negative impacts as well). Improved ships, better navigation, a general boost in technology. Forget the economic benefits and you still see value. Add those economic ones (which admittedly carry cultural baggage) and it is a slam dunk for anyone except who the Europeans dunked on.

Hopefully, Mars will provide a more socially acceptable outcome while still gaining the technological and economic benefits.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 6:13:25 PM
Re: Mars
@ubuda301- I think you are right. There was a recent report that came out thast said NASA's "flexible approach" is making harder for them to get to Mars. They are not building MArs specific vehicles. They are still talking about how the rocket they are making could take them to the moon, a near-earth asteroid or Mars. 

A Mars-specific lifter would make me happier.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/26/2014 | 6:31:08 PM
Re: In my lifetime, wow
@kstaron- I doubt there's room for a cooling off room. I suspect the best you can hope for is to roll over and look out the window. I can imagine after 501 days you're tired of hearing the other person breathing. 

Still, I have to say, the idea of 501 days of time with my wife with no major job, no daily life distractions, no phone ringing or anything sounds appealing. I'd just prefer it on a beach in Hawaii. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/29/2014 | 2:21:55 PM
Re: Mars One
@Mak63- Well, I suspect they have a lot of good options. Also, I suspect that they are slowing down the selection because they know the technology isn't ready.
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