Sample return mission date

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PostPosted: July 11, 2008 5:15 AM 

KPM Author Profile Page

Posts: 836

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PostPosted: July 11, 2008 5:18 AM 

Sorry it posted before I could write a post looks like 2023 - 2025 before we get a sample from Mars back on Earth really in this time scale surely we can send Humans up there by then.

Martin Gradwell

Posts: 141

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PostPosted: July 11, 2008 6:48 PM 

I think it's feasible to send a human to Mars by 2025, but that person wouldn't be coming back any time soon. Sending a person to Mars and back is only marginally simpler than the reverse task - sending a person from Mars to Earth and then back to Mars - would be. We know how difficult it is to send *anything* to Mars. Imagine how much more difficult it would be if, instead of having a huge infrastructure in place with launch pads and control rooms filled with technicians, and fire crews on standby, and the biggest boosters we can fabricate, all that we had available on Earth was what we could successfully land on Earth from orbit.

It isn't quite that bad, because Mars gravity is lower than Earth's, so we don't quite have to land a fully-fueled Saturn 5 there, but it's still a task that's at least an order of magnitude harder than going to the Moon and back, even before the longer travel time and longer signal transmission time is taken into account.

Nevertheless, I believe it's going to happen. People will go to Mars without any realistic chance or expectation that they will be coming back, and with no plan to bring them back. The pioneers of previous ages would set forth often without any reasonable expectation of return, and the same spirit will infuse some members of a future generation. I think the first person on Mars might be one with a terminal but non-disabling illness; there won't be such an outcry against an astronaut being sent on a one-way trip if that person's life expectation is severely limited anyway. Later astronauts will go as settlers, hoping to carve out a niche for themselves with prefabricated greenhouses.

It may seem inhumane, but, given that it's going to happen anyway, we should be planning for the first one-way human trip now, so it can coincide with the first sample retrieval mission. That way, the first human on Mars can collect lots of different samples from a variety of different locations, and pack them all carefully into the small return capsule, instead of all the samples coming from the same small area and being collected more-or-less haphazardly like they are with Phoenix.

extrasense Author Profile Page

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PostPosted: July 12, 2008 6:36 AM 


Who needs people on Mars, the timing and expenses are against it.

Sending Asimo robots instead can speed up things 5 times, and make it cheaper 50 times.

Rolling Eyes

Martin Gradwell

Posts: 141

Reply: 4

PostPosted: July 12, 2008 12:34 PM 

Asimo has enough coordination to walk up and down carefully positioned stairs, and to serve coffee in a special tray. It doesn't always succeed with the stairs. Obviously it will improve, but I don't think humanoid robots will be a match for humans on Mars by 2025.

We might have more success with quadruped robots designed for rough terrain, something like "Big Dog" with claws for manipulating objects. Or maybe with tiny humanoids along the lines of "Ema". The tinier and lighter they are, the easier and cheaper it will be to get them to Mars, the less likely they will be to sustain damage when they fall over, and the less likely it is that their weight will cause them to break through surface crusts and get bogged down in fine soil. But I'm pretty sure that, regardless of the basic design adopted, there won't be anything robotic that's anything like as versatile and smart as a human by 2025.

extrasense Author Profile Page

Posts: 1471

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PostPosted: July 12, 2008 12:46 PM 

Hi, Martin,

You do not need very intelligent robot, just one that takes general commands, splits them into steps, and corrects its plan if some deviations from that plan occur.

I am practically sure, that Asimo can do it right now.


Martin Gradwell

Posts: 141

Reply: 6

PostPosted: July 12, 2008 12:52 PM 

Hi ES,
I will continue this on your "Asimo on Mars" thread

Martin Gradwell

Posts: 141

Reply: 7

PostPosted: July 14, 2008 3:59 PM 

Another article:

There seems to be no consensus on how the sample or samples should be collected.

The guardian article says ... "the lander would touch down on the surface. It would then release a rover which would collect a variety of rock samples totalling around half a kilogram".

The BBC article says "In the most optimistic scenario, a US Atlas A 551 rocket would lift off in 2018 carrying a mobile rover - or stationary lander". The animation accompanying the BBC article shows only a stationary lander.

I think if we're going to all that trouble to make a capsule which returns from Mars, we owe it to ourselves to get the maximum possible value from this capsule, by loading it with samples taken from multiple widely-separated locations. That means a rover, or robots. And while wheeled rovers have been successful so far, I think it's time to move on to something with legs, and arms for picking up samples. Humanoid robots would be able to get to places that wheeled rovers can't reach.

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