Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mars Or Bust

h/t Silicon Graybeard

After the past week's reminiscing on his blog, about Apollo 11 at 50 years, SiG looks forward:
Apollo 11's 50th anniversary was a one day celebration of the media, although the mission goes on for another few days (and can be followed in real time here) and then it has gone back to being a history book story.  On to the next outrage of the day or whatever political story is grabbing headlines.  So what now?  
With current technology mission plans, called "boost and coast", a Martian trip is a long undertaking.  Mars and Earth reach opposition (closest point) roughly every two years (it varies).  
Some designs that have been investigated would allow 60 day trips to Mars instead of seven months.  By now everyone has heard of bone loss, edema and other problems astronauts on the ISS face.  Those can be solved by artificial gravity on the spacecraft, like the science fiction books used to say.  Yes, it will make the spacecraft heavier and the mission more expensive.   Nobody ever suggested there was anything remotely easy about it.  

There was, in the early 1980s, a weekly CBS radio essay by Dan Rather (of all people) I wish I could track down. I'd pay real money for it, either transcript or recording.

Because despite his liberal oafishness and stupidity, Rather is, at heart, a Texas kid, and a reporter who cut his journalistic teeth on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

In that missing essay, he was arguing, quite eloquently, about how Mars had to be next, and why cutting NASA funding in favor of expanding the usual beloved liberal welfare boondoggles was foolishly "eating our seed corn", in a very real way. True in the '80s, and even truer today.

I grew up literal blocks from where they built the Saturn V main engines. I rode my bike into the parking lot, and touched one, sitting outside their front door, many times. They tested them in the hills outside suburban L.A. every weekend. Long before the first Apollo mission launched, I'd heard those engines roar, many a time. I heard Neil Armstrong break the sound barrier (without knowing it was him) many times growing up, in the skies far enough above the SoCal desert that he could see the curvature of the earth. My friends' fathers helped design any number of bits and pieces of the space missions. Hardware, software, and cargo. Gauges, telemetry, pieces of spacesuit, a window, switches and lights, miles and miles of electrical wiring. Who even knows what? All sorts of things, in the aerospace world that ruled California in the 1960s. Space is as much in my blood as anyone's, perhaps more so. I grew up with it as the new normal.

The moon race, which happened, as Sig painstakingly points out to the idiot Moon Hoaxer retards, got us orders of magnitude in tech. Things that are toys now are a reality because we needed them to get to the moon.

Your average Casio G-Shock wristwatch has more raw computing power than NASA did in 1969. Your PC or laptop could run rings around what the NSA was using to crack codes then. Freeze-dried foods, mylar packaging, LED displays, microminiaturized circuits, and a gajillion other things, large and small, percolated out of the moon race and into everyday life. It wasn't just Tang.

Making a feather-fragile mylar-wrapped jungle gym that could carry human beings into the most inhospitable atmosphere ever attempted, safely, and bring them back, spawned solutions that we'd never have even thought up, because once, for one shining decade, the literal brightest minds on the planet all came together, amidst a terrible war, and internal social strife that would have sundered any five lesser nations, and surmounted every obstacle, culminating in a nearly flawless execution.
Nobody else has done it in fifty years, and nobody could do it, even now, despite a handy American road map to success, and another fifty years.

Just the U.S.
Just US.

We have to get back into space.
We must get to Mars. And back. And again and again.
And move outward to the other planets.

We ought to do it.
We can do it.
We must do it.

And taking the high-functioning retards who took the plot of Capricorn One and made it into a cottage-industry religion, and shutting them up forever, would just be sprinkles on the frosting of that effort.

All three astronauts from Apollo 11 were born in 1930.
1930, FFS!
They grew up on Buck Rogers. I grew up on them.

My generation's dreams of space were crushed and flushed by two generations of short-sighted idiots among TPTB. We can't let that sort of myopic idiocy continue in the halls of power, nor pinch the purse strings of exploration for its own sake.

Every day we're not plotting that mission, and funding it, is a wasted day in the American enterprise, and a betrayal of every generation of humanity that succeeds us.

"We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further; it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,

White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lies a prophet who can understand
Why men were born
" - James Elroy Flecker


Nikolai Vladivostok said...

You can argue about the cost, but in the end we must go, or perish. The Earth will be uninhabitable in 500 million years, probably less.
We keep thinking, oh whatever we've got 500 million years to think about it, and then 100 million years pass. We think, whatever, got 400 million years to think about it . . . and all of a sudden our time's up, and we'll think, shit! We could have been working on that for the last 500 million years! Like a student pulling an all-nighter to finish an essay he had a month to complete.

Dan said...

The phrase "eating our seed corn" is lost on most people these days. In the past vast numbers of Americans were either farmers or had their own gardens....even
big city denizens might have a small herb garden in a pot outside a high rise window. Now less the people who actually produce America's food comprise 2-3%
of the population. Many Americans don't even know what a seed IS.....they are
totally clueless as to where the food they eat comes from. Thus the idea of NOT
wasting the assets needed to create and expand our economy and culture flies
right over their heads. A recent poll reported that the number one job aspiration
of school children was to be a professional YouTuber..... with that type of outlook
on reality the future is not particularly bright.

Badger said...

I remember those engine testings as a youngster; shook the whole San Fernando Valley but to the point that natives got so used to it that it was noted, and life moved on in about 1/2 a second.

Anonymous said...

Hear, Hear!

With Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo we could actually point to real hardware, real accomplishments, and real jobs.

We stopped all that to plow the money into the War on Poverty. What do we have to show from 50 years of the War on Poverty, except more poverty, more homelessness, and more drug abuse?

Is the black ghetto any less ghetto? Is the barrio any less barrio? Are the trailer trash any less trashy?

Are the children any more literate and numerate? Are they healthier and eating more nutritious foods? Are the children more physically fit? Are there more stable two parent families? Are there less children born out of wedlock? Are there fewer men and women in jail? Are there fewer drug addicts and alcoholics?

Where are our Wonderful Victories in the War on Poverty? Where is Our Great Society?


Anonymous said...

Hey, 18 years ago we were supposed to have a permanent base on the moon and be on our way to Jupiter, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick said so! I was six when Armstrong and company landed on the moon, and it bugs me that it's been decades since a human has been outside low-earth-orbit.

A couple years ago there was a Mars mini-series. I really enjoyed the first season, it combined a story of a mission to Mars and the challenges and dangers of getting there and staying there, setting up a base etc, along with interviews of people who were giving serious thought to how it would be done. The second season went all global-warming/environmentalist/horse-squeeze to the point where I stopped watching.

@Nikolai: It won't take 500 million years for the Earth to be become uninhabitable. The dinosaurs could tell you we live in shooting gallery, and asteroids are the Universe's way of asking "How's that space program coming?" Expanding to permanent settlements off Earth is the ONLY way to avoid extinction.

Mark D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post.

I grew up around the same time, watched the landing `live` in 1969. Space stuff has always been close to my heart. And then I had the good fortune of marrying a 'NASA' brat, whose Dad worked at NASA from DAY ONE, when they had to "appropriate" equipment from the Army to do their work. He did optic research and camera work; his "stuff" flew on just about every mission. And after he retired, he went back as a contractor to do things with the Shuttle and was part of the Hubble fix.

Yes, species rule #1 is to continue the species - we've got to get our DNA off this rock. But currently I have my doubts...

And btw, I see our friend eBola is continuing its slow creep towards civiliation...


June J said...

Excellent essay Aesop. In the 60's we, as a country, had a majority that was obsessed with beating the Soviet Union. Today we have a majority that is obsessed with becoming the Soviet Union.
There is no unifying national goal to bring us together toward a common purpose.

Trillions of dollars wasted on regional military wars and "wars" on poverty and drugs. The globalist bankers have greedily brought the entire world's economy to the brink of bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the progressives marched steadily on toward their goal of fundamentally changing the country.

Short of spotting a planet killing asteroid on a 100% certain collision course with Earth, and 50 years to achieve an exodus solution, I see no hope of serious efforts by mankind in any country for manned exploration of space.

It's sad that mankind achieved the pinnacle of its exploration success 50 years ago and shows no signs of moving beyond past accomplishments.

kurt9 said...

I just saw a really good video that stated that it will be 20 years before we go to Mars.

In short, there is a lot of engineering work and bio-medical research that must be done before we can go to Mars.

Dinochrome One said...

We need a crash-program to develop our space capability.
We also need a peaceful way to limit human fertility world-wide.

Mars would be only one of many goals in space. To reach Mars,
there must first be a significant permanent space-borne industrial
base in Earth orbit and on Luna. At present, only governments or
government-size corporations can afford to develop that kind
of establishment.

IF, we don't have a solid permanent foothold in space AND
a way to control population growth, I predict that humanity
will suffer a major die-off within 51-500 years. This will be
caused by a steady loss of resources and a human population
nearing 20 billion in the next fifty years. Technology will be
strained to the limit to keep that many people fed, other
animal life will be reduced to samples in zoos, yeast will replace
meat in diets worldwide, every available inch of arable land will
come into frantic food production. The seas will be farmed
With most of the huge population living on the edge of starvation,
technological advancement will grind to halt, food-riots will devour
continents, transport systems will fail, and the government, (or
governments) will fall. After it's all over, the Earth will be supporting
a small widely-scattered population of hunter-gatherers fighting
rats and cockroaches for weed-seeds. Former major population centers
and worn-out farming areas will be toxic wastelands, forcing the
remaining humans to live in deserts and badlands.

From this sorry situation there will be no technological recovery;
all accessible fossil fuel supplies will already be exhausted, libraries
will be unusable due to having been converted into digital format
on now-unreadable media.

The die-off will likely be the result of a failure of agriculture and technology
due to the depletion of resources; clean water among others. After the
mass-death, there will be no return to our present level of civilization.

Moving into space in a big way is only half of the solution; a PEACEFUL
method of population control is the other half. Space is not the place
to dump excess population. Most humans will always be on Earth.

Space will be the source of industrial power, Luna-based, orbital-based,
and later, asteroid-based. The window for moving into space will close
when technology and resources are diverted to food-production to
feed excessive population. It will never open again.

This is a hurdle that will have to be cleared before there can be any
serious colonization of Mars by anyone.

Domo said...

Remember JPL/NASA was a front for developing ICBMs to deploy nukes.

"We keep thinking, oh whatever we've got 500 million years to think about it, and then 100 million years pass. We think, whatever, got 400 million years to think about it "

"@Nikolai: It won't take 500 million years for the Earth to be become uninhabitable. The dinosaurs could tell you we live in shooting gallery, and asteroids are the Universe's way of asking "How's that space program coming?" Expanding to permanent settlements off Earth is the ONLY way to avoid extinction."

True, but Extinction Level Events are quite rare.

For all their pomp, the moon landing didnt really achieve anything.

If you are serious about colonisation, you need to be thinking really big coil gun in Mt Whitney, or Mount Kenya, or Mt Chimborazo, so your payload can start at near the speed of sound, and some sort of Von Nueman Machine to handle resource collection.

Colonising the Americas was a nightmare, and resupply was a three month effort.
Anyone going to Mars will be waiting for 2 years for a washer.

James M Dakin said...

I love pissing in folks cornflakes, so here goes. Forget about money. If going to Mars made the Rothschild's money, we'd "find it" somehow. How about resources? Where do they come from? I know you all have joined the Fracking Fanboy Club, and think the globe is hollow and filled with petroleum goodness, but you can't deny that when we went to the moon, we were still the globes Big Cheese in oil production. Now we only hold that technical distinction if you count 5 to 1 EROI fracking on par with 20 to 1 conventional oil. Subtract Fake Fuel, and we produce 5 million barrels of real oil a day, one quarter of what we use. Half of what Russia produces. We are running our economy with a lot less NET energy. How does that get us to the moon, let alone Mars? All the surplus energy we could have used to go to space is instead being used to pump fake fuel out of the ground to give the illusion of economic growth. All those old timey space fantasies were written in an era of expanding energy. Now our net energy is contracting. Don't blame Democrats for that ( although you can blame them for everything else ). I could go on, but I know I'll be ignored so that is good enough for now.

Night driver said...

And just to drop the final punctuation mark 9A great big "PERIOD. FULL STOP,") on the era,

We need to acknowledge the ONE GREAT VOICE that all us Kool kids who took transistor radios to school (against the rules) to listen to Mercury et al recognized whenever he spoke to our phantasies has passed.

the one and only (relevant, ever) "Voice of Mission Control" has slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

Kris Kraft.

R. I. P.

Dunno who we'll get for the next run but it just won't be the same fo most of us old farts.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that speech will get you is spittle on your face from shouting into the gale that is the cultural wind blowing against you. And it is not a gentle zephyr.

We have not just spent the seed corn; we have instead also sown toxic weeds. The whirlwind will be a bumper crop.

Mars? Not hardly. We are currently living on past intellectual capital similar in nature to maggots on a dead corpse. The dinner host is not returning. It is over; hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Nikolai Vladivostok said...

You're preaching to the choir. Here's a good infographic showing all the different ways we're doomed:
But these might be survivable. When the sun expands and evaporates all the water, the gig is up.

A.B. Prosper said...

Baring an extreme long shot of some kind of useful reactionless or FTL drive humanity is not going to have exo planet colonies as our IQ, trust levels and time orientation are not up to it

Most of humanity is averaging 85 IQ low trust with poor future time focus.

It's not enough for anything much more complex than running water, if that.

That is also not the model for species to develop a social structure that will allow us to build the tech allowing us to travel light years. At 1/10c a speed we cannot reach it would require 40 years to go to the nearest possibly habitable world

Mars would not make any difference to us as its conditions are much worse than the Earth. Its not an extra basket for the proverbial eggs , it's a frying pan, just not heated up

So A Mars shot is a vanity project an expensive longshot to create fake social capital for a fake nation.

The old USA that did the moonshot , as worthless as that shot was is nearly dead and will be dead with Gen X now in their 40's.

What will happen is catabolic collapse and 2219 will be horse and buggy, trains if we are very lucky with a much smaller population.

Anonymous said...

Wakanda ain't happening. Detroit is happening, along with devolution of the West, courtesy of intentional demographic infection. The Han might ... might ... get to the moon. Off-planet to Mars ? ... LOL. AI won't do it. GM won't do it. IQs continue to drop, courtesy of blunted development as a result of the Little Digital Babysitter that humanoids keep in their hands and face unceasingly. Fluid intelligence ? Declining.


Rollory said...


No, not the fraud that NASA is currently attempting to foist upon the public. Not that bureaucrat employment program that will push mountains of paper but never build a single thing that flies. Prosecute, jail, and fire all those guys, then forget about them.

We need to build PROJECT ORION. The spaceship powered by atomic bombs. Nuclear pulse propulsion. The ultimate and quintessentially American spacecraft, the one that combines high thrust with high specific impulse, the one where the cost of lifting a pound of payload into orbit is about five cents, the one that gets us to Saturn in a seven week trip, the one that opens up space travel and space colonization in style.

We also need to clear all the regulatory hurdles out of the way of so they can get back to mass-producing their vehicles the way they want to and then designing and making new ones.

But we really need to build Project Orion.

Anonymous said...

Yep, my childhood was consumed with the moon missions, too. My father even snuck me into Grumman's Building 14 once on a weekend to see the LEM in development (he was a principle design engineer on the project, and our house on Lawn Guyland was a museum of NASA/LEM memorabilia throughout my formative years). Unfortunately, I broke the old man's heart by declaring in typical snarky-kid fashion that it looked 'flimsy' (or some other such description).

Funny thing, though. 50 years on we can't seem to make anything so 'flimsy' anymore that it can survive a quarter million mile one-way flight and keep those incredibly brave souls alive in an environment so unbelievably inhospitable that there is a significant fraction of the populace today who refuse to believe we ever made that journey. Numerous times.

Will we go back? No. Our national priorities have shifted seismically, and space exploration is regarded as strictly an amusement of the most deplorably White and toxically male among us. Why should we spend billions on the thirst for knowledge of the universe when there are butthurt POCs to appease with shadow-reparations? Even though the entire history of the space program, from the moment of the Sputnik surprise to Gene Cernan's final steps on the moon, cost a small fraction of the $20 trillion we've pissed into the wind on the futile effort to bring our failed ferals up to bare minimum human achievement standards, its considered a luxury we cannot afford.

I've spend my entire career in defense electronics and it astonishes me how just in the last ten years the entire focus of STEM in military application has been feminized and politicized to the point where we are clearly no longer interested in advancing the state of the art. ALL that matters is ensuring that everyone gets a piece of the pie, excellence be damned. I am not at all sure we COULD go back to the moon even if we managed to scare up the bucks for the affirmative action overhead and minority/female set-asides. Would YOU strap yourself to the business end of a rocket built by Diversity, Inc.?


James said...

About the radio show, I'm pretty sure you are referring to "CBS News Mark," a fantastic radio show I listened to religiously, and often taped them (cassettes!) when it was something of real interest to me. The June 1982 interview with Steve Jobs changed my career - got the tech without 99.99999% of the money. I was about to get out of the Army and had just read both Future Shock and The Third Wave by Toffler. Almost comic book stuff now but a real revelation to a soldier stationed in the boondocks.

Good radio is still superior to "good TV" for news, facts and background. I have XM - some good stuff there besides oldies - and some podcasts available now have superior knowledge to share.

Yeah, Dan Rather was a real piece of work, but he was as big a space fanboy as I ever was, and I was a huge one. My dear departed Dad and I drove up from Miami to watch Apollo 11 (as well as Apollo 8, 12, and 17) launch from the Cape.

Our future as a space faring nation was stolen by bureaucrats, not the lack of available science or engineering.

James Ponder

SiGraybeard said...

You mention all three of the Apollo 11 crew were born in 1930. All three were within 1 inch of five feet 11 inches and weighed the same - 165.

Somebody, I think it was Bill Whittle, pointed out nobody who walked on the moon was born after 1936.

I think Rollory got it right - the answer is to build an Orion spacecraft. The old design that runs by continuous small nuclear explosions. In Star Trek talk: impulse engines. It makes the Mars trips much shorter. Shorter flights mean the crew gets exposed to less radiation on a nuclear rocket than on a "boost and coast" chemical rocket. If we can get all that power, we can spin the spacecraft to create centripetal fake gravity.

James said...

Roger that, SiG! I got to spend three hours with Jerry Pournelle and speak with him several times on the phone. In his writings - fact & tech as well as excellent science fiction - he railed about the need for Orion. It was a need, not a want for us - the United States - to be a space faring nation.

Bring on the tiny propulsive nukes, and the Atom Jacks as a profession to get Orion launched.

James Ponder

A.B. Prosper said...

I'll pass on the Orion drive thanks. Last thing we need is more nuclear explosions.

In any case the US can basically no longer make tritium to detonate nukes, so we need to fix our nuclear deterrent first

An actual Star Trek impulse drive, an ultra high temperature superconducting ion drive wouldn't be bad though if we could build one.

We can't though

In any case as much respect as I have for the late Dr. Pournelle, he was outright wrong in thinking we "need" to be a spacefaring nation. We can never send another man into space again and the US will be fine for it . A lot of traditionalist Americans long for a frontier especially one as romantic as space but there will not be another frontier, we are a mature nation now so time to grow up and be boring

Or we could try undeseas habitats

In any case unless we get to the point where we match the culture and demography of the space era, we are going nowhere again

This means an 80% European White population with above replacement fertility , broad distribution of wealth and a surplus of money and engineers.

Got an idea how we get from Clown World to that?

MMinLamesa said...

Nice sentiment but from my porch, it ain't happening. This country is nothing like the United States in the 50s & 60s. Tell me how talk of reparations or gender "fluidity" would have gone over with my father or uncles-all WWll vets BTW.

Wish I was wrong.

Felix Bellator said...

Project Orion could work. But nuclear thermal rockets is the most practical way to go. We have tested this technology and the numbers are more than sufficient for trips to Mars without intermediate basing and six week travel times from any orbital configuration.

Dinochrome One said...

From reading these comments, the window for getting a foothold in space is already closed and NAILED shut. In a million years, our entire history and collective culture will be a thin grey layer in the yellow sandstone.

Go, Elon.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

What's lacking, anymore, is a sense of "universality" among humanity as a whole.
Connecting to outer celestial bodies, whether neighboring or in/of distant galaxies, will reinforce a better and broader perspective of mankind's "place" in "the scheme of all things universal"

ApoloDoc said...

Given the realities of how absolutely unique our home planet is, the idea of space colonization will remain sci-fi. To address a single factor: we have an entirely anomalous moon that keeps us on this axis tilt that makes life possible. A planet just the right size, just the right distance from the Sun, just the right sized moon in just the right orbit ... the factors go on and on. The boundaries of a planet habitable for life are infinitesimally small. These issues, as well as a great many others, are reasons that astronomers frequently develop theistic beliefs. The incredible level of fine tuning in the universe, our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet point towards an incredible intellect who designed and orchestrated this world.

This shouldn't surprise us. Christians were the first real scientists, as they were the only people who had a belief system that expected an orderly universe operating by discoverable "laws." Simply understanding the physics involved in the production of all of the elements, in 'just right amounts' needed for life will astonish you.

I grew up watching it all in the 60's and have always loved SciFi books & movies. Just don't forget the word that comes after 'science' which is FICTION.