Onward to Mars


Sir Patrick Moore:

Sir Patrick Moore, CBE, Hon FRS: Astronomer, broadcaster and University of Leicester Honorary Graduate writes a guest post for Leicester Exchanges

Sir Patrick Moore, CBE, Hon FRS: Astronomer, broadcaster and University of Leicester Distinguished Honorary Fellow

Mars, the red planet, has always had a special fascination for us. It is our nearest celestial neighbour apart from the Moon and Venus, and it is more Earthlike than any other planet. Yet it has a painfully thin atmosphere and no seas or even lakes; the climate is bitterly cold, making it impossible for advanced life-forms of our type to survive there in natural conditions.

Our first Martian missions, such as the Vikings, were magnificent – but they were very limited. The Moon had to be our first target because it is so close, cosmically speaking; the there-and-back trip covers less than a million miles, whereas Mars never comes much closer than 35,000,000 miles and an actual journey is bound to take several months. A 21st Century rocket has to follow a roundabout route. However a Martian Base would be immensely valuable, and reaching Mars would necessitate full international cooperation – a point to which I will return later. The only other world within what we call reasonable range is Venus, which is overwhelmingly hostile. No astronaut would be enthusiastic about visiting a planet with a crushing atmospheric pressure, an intolerably high temperature, and clouds rich in deadly sulphuric acid.

My personal view is that the pioneer astronauts will not go directly to Mars, but will “stop off” at Deimos, the outer and smaller of the two tiny satellites discovered by Asaph Hall in 1877; using my 15-inch reflector I can just glimpse them, as tiny points of light, when Mars is best placed for observation. As it is less than ten miles in diameter; its gravitational pull is negligible and landing there will really be what we would call a docking operation. I select Deimos rather than Phobos, the inner satellite, which is only slightly larger, and for some investigations would be inconveniently close to the planet’s surface. Deimos can be used as a natural space-station – as if it were put there specially for our convenience!

Once on Mars itself, the first thing to do will be to construct a proper base. This is bound to take time, but once it is operational the value of the whole programme will quickly become obvious. Medical science, for example, will benefit immediately, as delicate operations immensely difficult on Earth will be much easier on Mars, where the gravitational pull is only one-third as strong. There is no need to stress the advantages of the Martian Base as a physical and chemical laboratory, and as an astronomical observatory it will be unrivalled. Geology too – we are still rather uncertain about the interior and the past history of Mars.

But to me there is another aspect, which is too often overlooked. It is possible that America or Russia might set up a base on the Moon in the foreseeable future; they might combine, because their “space race” is more or less over but it is conceivable that they could go independently of each other. A new nation has now entered the area, China, whose progress during the last few years has been striking. A journey to Mars is far more difficult than reaching the Moon, and establishing a Martian Base far more difficult and dangerous than developing a Lunar Base. If we are to attempt it, all nations – and I mean all – must be involved. It is possibly the one project attractive enough to unite all the space teams and if this does happen it could lead on to a really united Earth.

Of one thing I am certain: if a Martian Base becomes a reality it will be genuinely international, and space races will have been consigned to history. I hope that this will happen; the choice is ours. So – onward to Mars. It was named after the God of War, but to us it may prove to be the Planet of Peace.

Sir Patrick Moore, Kt 2001; CBE 1988 (OBE 1968), Hon FRS

Well-known as an astronomer, broadcaster and author, Sir Patrick Moore has an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Leicester and is also a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of the University as well as a Patron of the National Space Centre.

Sir Patrick is a former President of the British Astronomical Association and was an Honorary Member of the Astronomic-Geodetic Society of the USSR, the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Among his awards are: the Lorimer Gold Medal, 1962; the Goodacre Gold Medal, 1968; the Arturo Gold Medal (Italian Astronomical Societies), 1969; the Jackson-Gwilt Medal, RAS, 1977; and the Roberts-Klumpke Medal, Astronomers’ Society of the Pacific, 1979.

Since 1962 he has been Editor of the Yearbook of Astronomy and he is the author of more than 60 books, most of them on astronomy. He is universally known for his long-running BBC TV Series, The Sky at Night, which has been running since 1957. In 2001, Patrick received a knighthood from the Queen. In the same year, he won a BAFTA for his services to television and became a member of the Royal Society.

23 Comments

  1. Victoria Salter
    Posted 22/03/2011 at 20:40 | Permalink

    I don’t think that man should go to Mars as we might ruin it the same as we do with our earth. If we are not going to build anything there, fine let’s all go to Mars, but if we are going to build there, let’s just stay here.

    [Reply]

  2. WP
    Posted 21/03/2011 at 12:39 | Permalink

    Some ‘men’ should definitely go to Mars, yes.

    [Reply]

  3. Matthew Harrold
    Posted 21/03/2011 at 02:10 | Permalink

    Does a duck quack? Does a bear…well yes, you get the general idea. It’s not a question of “should we?”, but more “when will we have he drive to do so?”. Our long term future lays outside of planet earth. We need to evolve into a space faring race, even if we’re limited to just our own solar system. Without that, we risk losing everything the next time an extinction level event takes places. I’ve always thought this quote summed it up perfectly –

    “And there’s a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you’ll get ten different answers, but there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us. It’ll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes…[and] all of this…all of this…was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars”

    – Babylon 5.

    [Reply]

  4. Posted 21/03/2011 at 00:55 | Permalink

    Yes.

    Into space?
    Yes

    Survive?
    Yes

    Become wise?

    Yes.

    What form do we go in? How do we represen ourselves on mars?

    Now that is the question!

    [Reply]

  5. Posted 18/03/2011 at 16:10 | Permalink

    Of course we go to Mars. We use our infant planetary engineering expertise to make it just like home. And we’ll do the same to Venus one day too. If we can imagine it, we can do it, and always reaching out to achieve what we can imagine is our destiny and our heritage. It would be shameful to settle for any less, and anyone who argues otherwise is a visionless coward.

    [Reply]

  6. Davy
    Posted 18/03/2011 at 13:42 | Permalink

    No we should not go to Mars. At least not at the moment. I am all for exploration but with the current financial climate how about we work on pulling the country out of recession. There is not really much to be gained by going to Mars other then to appease curiosity.

    [Reply]

  7. Maxi
    Posted 16/03/2011 at 09:22 | Permalink

    Only if woman can go too.

    [Reply]

  8. Chris Newcombe
    Posted 12/03/2011 at 06:42 | Permalink

    Before they worry about the future, Patrick Moore & the University of Leicester should heave their language up out of the past.

    Humans should go to Mars, woman & man.

    [Reply]

    Kit Reply:

    What is wrong with using the word ‘man’ in its proper context – that of referring to man and woman of this planet??

    Anyhow……NO we shouldnt go to Mars – we’ve ruined this planet already so why ruin another one……unless we can sort out the damage we have done before we go to Mars

    [Reply]

    Chris Newcombe Reply:

    Maybe it was ‘proper’ to use “man” to refer to humans in the 19th century. It’s pretty unusual today. On the question, Should we go to Mars?, I would ask in turn, Why not?

    [Reply]

  9. Rupert Tiger
    Posted 10/03/2011 at 17:36 | Permalink

    Why be concerned with getting man to Mars when we’ve never even yet gotten man to the Moon?

    [Reply]

    Sir Humphrey Reply:

    Are you being serious? Because there is a lot of evidence that proves you very wrong. The biggest piece being that NASA astronauts left reflective panels on the moon to allow scientists to take measurements using lasers. How did they get there if we never went?

    [Reply]

  10. robert
    Posted 09/03/2011 at 17:55 | Permalink

    Some of your comments are quite correct the tests are nearly over and though not official there is a mission to Mars in 2023 if tests and results are feaseable but unfortunately no british or even american will make the journey this is purely funded russian mission with small part by Europe from what I gather the Americans can no longer fund such missions and the is only rockets into space

    [Reply]

  11. Posted 09/03/2011 at 13:52 | Permalink

    1 – Yes we should go. No discussion there.

    2 – We should get on with it.

    3 – Main obstacle, funding for a project that will not “yield” for many life times.

    [Reply]

  12. Chris Williams
    Posted 06/03/2011 at 11:43 | Permalink

    The moon missions made many people feel optimistic about mankind’s progress. It made me feel (quite unjustifiably) that the world was moving forward and all would be well. I was very young. But still I yearn for that old feeling and I support the international exploration of space that Patrick Moore advocates. If it does nothing other than to make people like me feel good about mankind and give hope that all humanity can work together to solve problems then it will have added greatly to the sum of human happiness. And you never know, doing it might make the dream a step closer than before.

    [Reply]

  13. L.W,Lane.
    Posted 05/03/2011 at 16:22 | Permalink

    We have hardly touched on exploration of our oceans as yet.Let us concentrate on the mysteries of the deep oceans of the world, before we even contemplate the billions it would cost on something that is far in the future.

    [Reply]

    Richard Webster Reply:

    Indeed. We already know more about the surface features of Mars than we do about the ocean beds. It could be argued that the situations are similar, with hostile external conditions necessitating technological and sociological solutions to allow long-term exploration. All this without having to haul several million tonnes of metal out of Earths gravity well. With the advantage that we will be developing a technology involving several atmospheres of pressure difference between external and internal. When we come to building Moon- or Mars-stations the pressure difference will be less than one atmosphere, but having technology that robust will help, and it will further help when we want to investigate Venus or the Gas Giants.

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    1) I don’t think exploration and colonisation of Mars’s surface and Earth’s ocean beds need be mutually exclusive. 2) Does the former have to involve “several million tonnes” of metal? A million is a pretty big number. The “Gross lift-off weight” of the Endeavour space shuttle was only 110,000kg – that’s just 110 tonnes ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle#Technical_data ) which is over nine thousand times smaller than a million tonnes. 3) I don’t know about atmospheric pressure, but if I’ve understood Richard Webster’s comment correctly then Martian surface atmospheric pressure is far more similar to Earth’s than is atmospheric pressure on ocean beds (presumably the latter also differs according to how deep down one is anyway, right?). If that is the case then presumably in terms of atmospheric pressure, Mars wins against the Earth’s seabed in terms of ease of colonisation? At first reading it looks to me like the effort needed outweighs the advantages gained from achieving some technological solution.

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    Regarding L.W. Lane’s comments, I see this in terms of exploration and colonisation, rather than just exploration. Living on the surface of Mars gives the advantage of day and night that we are all used to. The Martian day is only about 40 minutes longer than the Earth day. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars#Orbit_and_rotation ). Living on the seabed means no daylight at all, unless I’m mistaken. This might seem rather insignificant at first glance but I’m sure that day and night is very important to us humans for all sorts of psychological and physiological reasons! Round one to Martian surface colonisation vs seabed colonisation. Furthermore, colonising Mars could eventually involve “terraforming” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming_of_Mars ) – i.e. making the surface habitable by humans. This can involve all sorts of things so I suppose it just depends how earthlike we want or can afford to make it. Conversely, if we colonise the seabed of our own planet we will always have to live in some sort of protective bubble under lots of water. It might be counter-intuitive at first but surely this means that we will be able to provide a more similar environment to our current one by going to Mars and terraforming it than going underwater! Finally, if we are intending on preserving the human race, for instance from meteor strickes or whatever, I would think it is better to have us on one or more completely different planets than just on one, be it both on land and underwater…

    [Reply]

  14. Posted 05/03/2011 at 10:36 | Permalink

    Long term human survival depends directly upon the colonization of space.
    The definite effect that space-exploration has on mankind is that it forces him to contemplate his fragile relationship with his environment and obtain a real sense of mortality.
    With the rapid development of technology created for space colonization, it is much more likely that we will find solutions for restoring Terra. With technological and scientific advances, new responsibilities and political frontiers will present themselves – we will have no choice but to address the needs of our own planet in a multitude of ways.

    The downside is that I do fear an extraterrestrial war between the U.S. and China for resources in the future. I’m sorry to put a dampener on things but the Russians will almost certainly act as mercenaries in any large-scale conflict if they do not have a radical change of government in the next twenty years.

    [Reply]

    Eric Pritchard Reply:

    Long term human survival depends on controlling the human race. People are breeding like rats and outstripping the planet’s resources.
    The rest of the solar system is untenable without permanent support from Earth. Even with lunar and martian colonies we would have to supply them with air, water, food…We need that here.
    For the most part interplanetary exploration is expensive flytipping. We are leaving rubbish all over the solar system for little return.

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    I disagree with Eric Pritchard that “Long term human survival depends on controlling the human race. People are breeding like rats and outstripping the planet’s resources”. First the use of the phrase “breeding like rats” is rather emotive, as rats are commonly known as vermin, so it (mis)frames the debate to use such comparisons. Second, this argument has been around for a very long time. Malthus is a relatively recent (18th and 19th Centuries) and well known proponent ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malthus ) of these types of views and there are various responses to his views. One is that birthrates decline for all sorts of reasons when societies progress economically and socially. People tend to have fewer kids when there is less risk of the latter dying at a young age. People tend to have fewer kids when contraception is readily available. People tend to have fewer lids when women are empowered and educated as opposed to being treated like chattels. Third, the resources of the planet are not being oustripped. For instance it takes far less energy to provide a vegetarian diet than one which is heavily meat-based. Another example is that it is very common for people to sort their rubbish out into recyclable and non-recyclable, and for people to grow some of their own vegetables. These aren’t on the extremes of society – the hippies or pioneers (take your pick on what to call them) – they are “middle England” – ordinary (if there is such a thing) folk. So, this is a short response to the idea that we are oustripping resources. As to “controlling” the human race – who will do the controlling? Sounds very sinister. Far better to let us develop economically and socially. Far better to look towards the planets and stars for real long-term human survival. We are as a species exporers and pioneers, this is just the next step. Now, regarding the colonisation of other planets in the solar system being untenable without permanent support from Earth. At first this support will be necessary, but over time the need will drop. After all, the United States is no longer permanently dependent on England and the rest of the united Kingdom is it? It just depends on how far and how quickly we chose to take the terraforming of the other planet(s). I’m optimistic. The world and human society are completely different to just 300 years ago, pre-industrial revolution, and I would bet that the first human baby to be born on Mars will arrive safe and sound well within the next 300 years. I agree with Eric Pritchard about fly-tipping in the solar system. I think there needs to be a serious internatinal effort to reduce the amount of debris ending up floating around up there.

    [Reply]

    Eric Pritchard Reply:

    Population demographics of a developed society (USA):
    Poulation in 2000, 281 million. 2010 census: 308,745,538. UN predicts the US population will reach 439 million by 2050. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States)
    British population, 2001 census, 58,789,194, third largest in Europe. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_Kingdom)
    World population: according to the UN (http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf) their median prediction if the population stops growing is to stay constant at 9 billion – 29% higher than at present. That would only be the situation if the death rate rose (which it would if food and water became more scarce, one of the common climate change scenarios) or if people learnt to control themselves, but in the UK we live in a society where the government are more willing to provide free fertility treatments than treatment for cancer or Altzeimers. Worst case UN prediction is 36 billion in 2300, if it carries on increasing at the present rate. By that stage the only decent food source may be vegetarians…
    As to outstripping resources, at the beginning of the twentieth century copper ore containing 10% copper was barely economic, now it is so in demand we are leaching it out of the spoil of the old mines at 1% level or less. The demand for it increases because people can not live without their games machines, the latest phone, MP3 players. They prefer to sit indoors in their fantasy games worlds rather than walk in the countryside where the real world is.
    As to terraforming Mars, great if you like science fiction. Solar constant at Earth is 1.37 kilowatts per square metre, at Mars 590 watts per square metre, so the equatorial solar flux on Mars is approximately equivalent to what the Earth insolation would be at 65 degrees latitude (on the edge of the Arctic Circle) if there were no atmosphere. So outside the tropic zone you could not grow any sensible crops. Without plants, no free oxygen. So if you want to make food, it means hydroponics under glass, even for that you need nutrients. Such facilities would have to be imported from Earth. If you want to make them from raw materials, such as they are, then the factories have to come from Earth. So a Mars colony would start off as a disproportionally large per capita drain on Earth’s resources, and if it became independent it would not give anything back, unless we want to strip the mineral resources and scar the surface with open cast mines. What then? Rip the heart out of Venus? Grind the Asteroids to dust to build spacecraft to despoil other systems?
    An argument for space travel is that it pushes forward technology. Rubbish. Rockets were developed as a weapon, and space technology largely comes out of weapons research. High resolution sensors are developed first for defence satellites. Anything that goes on a satellite has to be proven on Earth first, otherwise the cost of launching makes the risk prohibitive. One of the best techniques in Earth Observation, the synthetic aperture radar, was developed as an airborne system decades before Seasat put the first into space. What science has come out of the ISS to justify the billions spent on it? As to inspiring the population, that was true of Apollo 11. Viewing ratings were down for Apollo 12. Apollo 13 would have had little interest if it had not almost been fatal. How many of the population remember the third man on the Moon? Precious few even remember poor Michael Collins, only a few miles above the surface.
    As an engineer I have worked on spacecraft, and share little of the optimism on this forum. As an Earth Scientist I find it more exciting when someone comes back from a forest no scientist has visited before with a catalogue of previously undiscovered species.
    If you keep your eyes on the stars you do not see what you are trampling under your feet.

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    Eric Pritchard said: “Worst case UN prediction is 36 billion in 2300, if it carries on increasing at the present rate”. Well, I haven’t looked at those stats, so I don’t know anything about them, but as I mentioned in the post you are replying to: “One is that birthrates decline for all sorts of reasons when societies progress economically and socially. People tend to have fewer kids when there is less risk of the latter dying at a young age. People tend to have fewer kids when contraception is readily available. People tend to have fewer lids when women are empowered and educated as opposed to being treated like chattels.” In other words, the figure will be lower because as economies develop and women gain emancipation the birthrate drops (e.g. Japan, parts of Italy etc are prime examples). Also, if the figure is correct then surely there’s all the more reason to colonise space, surely. By the way, by the way, is there any value in trying to predict populations 289 years in the future? Eric also said: “By that stage the only decent food source may be vegetarians…” which is presumably some sort of joke. Some veggies might be offended by this but I’m not bothered to be honest. Eric Pritchard also says: “So a Mars colony would start off as a disproportionally large per capita drain on Earth’s resources, and if it became independent it would not give anything back, unless we want to strip the mineral resources and scar the surface with open cast mines. What then? Rip the heart out of Venus? Grind the Asteroids to dust to build spacecraft to despoil other systems?” These are all rather emotive verbs – scar, rip, grind etc. I’m sure these desolate planets could be developed miore sympathetically than large parts of the Amazon rainforest has (where “development” is a questionable word to use.) I think the latter point that Eric makes could actually be a useful input into exploration/colonisation/terraforming, not least because I am very sympathetic towards his views. Eric does a diservice to his point of view by delivering it to vitriolically though. Eric Pritchard is also rather patronising about humankind – “The demand for it increases because people can not live without their games machines, the latest phone, MP3 players. They prefer to sit indoors in their fantasy games worlds rather than walk in the countryside where the real world is.
    “. I personally don’t act like that. In fact, come to think of it, these tend to be adolescent activities and lifestyles (in my country anyway) and wil make up a proportionately smaller amount of human activity as a society ages. It may be a stereotype but people aged 40+ do tend to spend more time walking in the countryside than playing on a computer. It’s not relevant to this discussion anyway. Finally, Eric. you have managed to be both an engineer on spacecraft and also an Earth scientist – which to me at least seem to be very different career specialisations. Is this actually true please, or an exageration? I only ask because the www is full of adolescents pretending to be things they are not. Finally, your input regarding the development of planets’ surfaces is I think very welcome to the debate, but if delivered in a more sober tone would be treated more seriously I think. Just an opinion, from my work with governments. I think I know where Eric Pritchard is coming from by the way, I practice low-intervention gardening (see the website http://www.paulisinthegarden.com/ ) which works completely with nature as opposed to it. Oh and i enjoy meditating in the sunlight in my garden too, the sounds of nature there are so wonderful and life-affirming. Anyway, we are straying off the subject. Maybe we shuold encapsulate Eric Pritchard’s views in the “action point” to develop planets such as Mars sympathetically? We could somehow develop them to have different themes. I think Cesar Manrique’s approach on Lanzorote is an excellent inspiration! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9sar_Manrique

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    see also the Lanzarotte approach to vineywads – dry stone walls shelter plants growing in small holes. The get watered by dew at night. Lanzarote has a very, very arid climate by the way… http://www.world-weather-travellers-guide.com/images/lanzarote-vineyards.jpg

    Eric Pritchard Reply:

    First: I deliberately put the stats in about the US because it contradicts the theory about birthrates declining as societies evolve.
    Second as to my background: I have been in engineering for thirty years – I was payload interface engineer for the European Polar Platform (launched as ENVISAT) for seven years. I was systems engineer for the ROSETTA platform for two years (before that I was on radar). Since then I achieved a degree in Geoscience with the OU and am now studying for a Masters. I do not exaggerate.
    The question of growing plants in arid conditions has not addressed the low insolation (see my previous comment) and corresponding low temperature to be found on Mars.

    P.Mudhir Reply:

    While i ofcourse agree that our race has become obsessed with menial possesions, and game fantasy worlds, the thought occurs to me that maybe this is more down to the profit based objectives of our larger organsations, and our constant bombardment with advertisement of said menial possesions and fantasy game worlds. Or maybe just maybe, its because as a species we dont have anything else to strive for, maybe if we did venture out beyond our little planet and menial existence we would spark greater interest in all sciences. So again maybe it would be best not to look at this adventure not from a profitable point of view, and not be so concerned with how much it can or will return to us, but instead decide to look at it from the prospective of IF we can IF we do succeed in colonisation of mars, irrelavant of the returns (except for obviously the trying and testing of relevant technology in order to achieve this), perhaps the profit will be a new direction for our species. Also try to think that the few men that boldly went before us and took those first steps out into space, and then onto the moon. These men wernt colonists they were astronaughts, a select group of specially trained professional people, much like the first people who will be attempting this. However if they succeed and prove that colonisation is possible, and is not a wasted endevour, the future large colonisation’s will not consist entirely of astronaughts and this should hold alot more interest for average people. Obviously this is a long way off but if we dont begin to set these events in motion then the contined lack of interest in exploratin is our future and maybe the next generations will be more interested in the “Xbox XXX” and such rather than science and the bolder more exciting futures we could have if we begin this process of change.

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    there’s no reply link on Mr Pritchard’s latest comment, so I’ll reply here. A) the stat is for American population increase, not birthrate increase. It might be due to increasing lifespan and net inward migration. However, this map does show the pretty close correlatoin between poverty, female subjugation etc and high birthrate: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c5/Birth_rate_figures_for_countries.PNG/800px-Birth_rate_figures_for_countries.PNG B) It sounds to me like his background is genuine and I’m pleased to be discussing this with someone with his knowledge. C) I don’t know enough about the details of terraforming (solar flux, insolation etc) to know whether this is (currently) the stuff of science fiction as he suggests. All I’ve read is the wikipedia page on it. From my reading of that it sounds like lots of it is viable so I’ll remain optimistic until such time as I understand what on earth all the jargon means. Maybe we’ll just be limited to living indoors on Mars and not terraforming it. D) regarding a return from an independent colony, the main return would be having the species living on more than one planet. There’s been plenty of viruses, natural disasters, wars and man-made disasters (plus climate change) to at least make us consider the usefulness of having an off-shoot colony on some other planet. E) and I think P. Mudhir and I share a similar view in that the very act of looking upwards and outwards, reaching out to ther planets might be a good way of shaking up and/or inspiring the human race in general and maybe moving us to the next “level of civilisatoin” whatever that may be. I’m all for doing it for its own sake, to see what social attitude changes come out of it all, as much as for what technological marvels come out of it. As for who will pay for it all, wel, maybe China will see some “soft power” reward for spending some of its vast wealth on this either in China itself or via some international “destination Mars” research institutes, a little bit like its worlwide Confucius institutes? I know this is all rather off-the-wall, but so what?

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    climate-change being man-made of course… I wasn’t suggesting that it is not a man-made disaster…

    P.Mudhir Reply:

    In order to save me commenting on everything Ben Anderson says, i shall simply say i think we clearly have a similar mentality when it comes to the future of our species, and space exploration. Hopefully this mentality can be encouraged in future generations. A responsibility that lies with all current generations. It is simply our responsibility to encourage and reinforce the need for space exploration in our children, our childrens children and so forth. People should realise that (acording to what we know about the universe at the moment), the fleeting moment in the grand lifetime of the universe in which life can be supported is a suprisingly breif amount of time( not when compared to our lives but the life of the universe), and if we are to advance and explore during this time, the time to start progressing is now, and if not now then when? If the means to begin this process of advancement and progress is by a manned, joint venture to Mars i say how can this not be the most important goal of our generation.

    [Reply]

  15. P.Mudhir
    Posted 04/03/2011 at 05:42 | Permalink

    Honestly i cannot imagine a more worthwhile pursuit than exploration, and more importantly the renewal of mans interest into space, space travel, and space colonizaion. In my opinin it is an area of exploration and adventure practically forgotten about by the civilizations of today, and if we arent striving to improve technology in this area it will take far longer than it could or should to advance. Sooner we land on Mars the better for future generations….

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    I agree completely with P Mudhir. Also, a lot of people I know feel quite disheartened and cynical about life, the universe and everything. Is the meaning of life in this post-modern, post-religious age (I’m a devout atheiest by the way!) really just to get a better paid job, to buy more “positional goods” – status symbols, toys and gadgets and so on, with all the environmental impact the latter has? I think space exploration, especially to Mars to start with, would really re-invigorate our world society and be a springboard to a new, optimistic future. I see humankind as a wonderful species, full of inquisitiveness and the sense of adventure. Collectively we can either turn inward on ourselves or we can take that sense of adventure and exploration to the next logical step – pioneering space exploration and eventual colonisation. It will be great to have a confederation or commonwealth of planets. I’m forty now, so if I die at say 80, then I hope to see in my lifetime the start of this. Onward and upwards, literally!

    [Reply]

    P.Mudhir Reply:

    “I hope to see in my lifetime the start of this. Onward and upwards, literally!”, couldnt agree with you more.

    [Reply]

    Ann Reply:

    I appreciate that you want to go to Mars, however, there are a lot of problems on this planat. For example, I heard in the news recently that one percent of the us population earned as much money as the remaining 99%.

    This is a very serious problem here on earth which negately effects millions. I feel this should be dealt with first.

    [Reply]

    P.Mudhir Reply:

    While i completley agree that theyre are issues on this planet that need to be looked at, i dont think such problems should hold us back from trying to advance, explore or expand our civilization, especially as a joint venture between countries. If anything it should encourage it.I do however think that the 1% of US population earning more than the remaining 99% isnt really one of the issues that I would consider a priority. At least not while children are still dying needlessly from dirty water consumption, and the cost of super power defense contracts still outweigh’s the cost of solving 3rd world poverty world wide. So yes theyre is alot of work to do on our planet but alowing these problems to limit our potential would be a greater tragedy in my opinion. I would also add that while theyre are no certanties in life, expanding our horizons above and beyond this planet could actually bring a greater sense of purpose to us as a hole. In reference to Ben Anderson’s post above our species has become rather bogged down with ““positional goods” – status symbols, toys and gadgets and so on” and this adventure could be just the push in the right direction we need as a species to make us take a look at the bigger picture.

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    at the risk of sounding like a mutual appreciation society I agree completely with P Mudhir’s last comment!

    [Reply]

  16. Ben Anderson
    Posted 03/03/2011 at 18:12 | Permalink

    By the way, one of my current fascinations is 3D printing. There are several ways that this can be achieved e.g. squirting tiny layers of polymers to build an object, or heating powdered polymer (by laser or electrical current I think) to solidify different shapes. Anyway, it’s basically a factory in a cabinet. It’s currently used to turn CAD files into protoypes and so on. You can even get the machines to “print” objects with moving parts like ball bearings! Surely this is great technology for maintenance aspects for communities on other planets – the door handle breaks, you get NASA at Houston to beam the CAD file up and then you print out the new door handle!

    [Reply]

    P.Mudhir Reply:

    Indeed would be amazingly usefull, even more so if they did intend to establish and maintain a “Marsbase”, Nasa could supply them with all the CAD files they needed. Either way could be a really useful piece of tech.

    [Reply]

  17. Ben Anderson
    Posted 03/03/2011 at 18:04 | Permalink

    I agree we ought to go to Mars as soon as possible. I’m interested in two things that Sir Patrick said. First he says the the journey will take several months. Brilliant! This is great for me to hear, for some reason I had the figure of two years stuck in my head as the time it would take! Several months seems very reasonable! Secondly, he says that delicate medical operations “immensely difficult on Earth will be much easier on Mars, where the gravitational pull is only one-third as strong.” Does he actually mean sending people up there from earth for say a spine operation or something? Or does he mean research on pharmaceutical drugs and so on? Answers much appreciated!

    [Reply]

  18. Richard Webster
    Posted 03/03/2011 at 17:53 | Permalink

    I am actually in favour of a Martian base, it would be a big adventure, but I’m dubious that the benefits you suggest will come about. The benefits from the space exploration we have done have come from the developments required to get up there rather than what we found when we arrived. The benefits of low gravity can be gained on the International Space Station for far less expense and astronomical observation is easier with no atmosphere than with even the thin Martian one. In short, I don’t see any scientific advantages to going to Mars that could not be gained by the current policy of creating orbital platforms. As for cooperation between the superpowers, there has been a lot of international cooperation in the scientific community without it leading to political harmony. I really can’t see a world government, or even world peace, from a Martian mission.

    [Reply]

  19. LoneDeranger
    Posted 02/03/2011 at 15:51 | Permalink

    Onwards to Mars!

    The payback from the Moon missions was enormous. The biggest failure was not to continue. The cancellation of the remainder of Apollo was a tragedy of colossal dimensions – a failure of imagination and will power beyond reckoning.

    Go there – Need any help??

    [Reply]

  20. Posted 27/02/2011 at 16:32 | Permalink

    IMHO, the practical spin-offs of expeditions into space have been so disappointing that further expenditure at the expense of solutions to the earth’s problems would be totally inappropriate.

    [Reply]

    Thomas Cuffe Reply:

    I believe it was Steven Hawking that said “To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.”

    Now I’m not one to bang on about ‘Human spirit’, but there will always be problems on the Earth, there is always someone in poverty. If you are talking about climate change etc. I can assure you that one place that will help us solve this problem is space.

    You think we spend too much on space and it is better spent solving our problems? I think rather than taking money from space programmes perhaps Defence budgets would be a better place to find money?

    Adding up the budgets for NASA, ESA and the Russian Space Program we get $25.43 Billion. Adding up the 3 largest defence budgets (USA, UK and France) we get $781.93 Billion. 5 countries in the world alone spend more on Defence than the 3 largest space programmes currently in operation, Canada just trails behind.

    So please, don’t say we should take money out of these necessary expeditions of science and learning, we need to take these baby steps into space now, we can’t just keep shelving it like we have the past 40 years.

    [Reply]

    Ben Anderson Reply:

    Thomas Cuffe:
    “Adding up the budgets for NASA, ESA and the Russian Space Program we get $25.43 Billion. Adding up the 3 largest defence budgets (USA, UK and France) we get $781.93 Billion. ” – Thanks for the stat, very useful to focus attention on the real waste going on…

    [Reply]

    LoneDeranger Reply:

    Errrm….you are joking right??

    [Reply]

    LoneDeranger Reply:

    to the first not second poster!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [Reply]

  21. Thomas Cuffe
    Posted 27/02/2011 at 13:55 | Permalink

    First off I hardly see the point in debating whether we should go to Mars, its out of the question that we should. What we should be debating is HOW we are going to get there, what we are going to do when we get there etc.

    I certainly like your comment about Deimos as a stop off point, I had never thought of the possibility of using one of Mars’ moons in such a way and I agree with you that Deimos is a far better choice than Phobos for the reason you stated (I believe there other problems other than simply investigations would arise from Phobos being so much closer to Mars).

    Why not also have our own Moon as a stop off point? We talk of establishing a base on another planet yet we have not even been able to establish a base on something a mere 400,000Km away (and thats near Apogee). Establishing a base on the Moon would certainly allow us to get experience in such things. The lessons learned from a base on the Moon would be invaluable for the building of a base on Mars.

    [Reply]

  22. Posted 27/02/2011 at 10:23 | Permalink

    I should be interested to see discussion of a one-way crewed mission to Mars. It is suggested that this would cut the costs to far less than half, and bring a Mars base into the realm of feasibility. Until I saw this proposed by Paul Davies and others I thought it was a hare-brained scheme. Actually I am still think it’s a hare-brained scheme, and am slightly shocked that Paul Davies has lent his name to it. Does it have any serious academic support?

    [Reply]

    LX Moderator Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Peter. This is something the other posters Paul Abel and Professor Martin Barstow are likely to have a view on. You may want to get inlvoved on the discussion on their posts, or I can repost your comment on one of these discussions to guage academic support for Paul Davies’ ideas?

    [Reply]

  23. Thomas Jefferson
    Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:25 | Permalink

    Hear hear!

    [Reply]

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.