Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Day We Land on Mars

The red planet as seen from 1955–the time when the idea of life on Mars was only opposed by a "few dissenters".  And we're not talking bacteria.

I particularly like this quote:
We should quit trying to think up logical, sensible reasons for space travel.  There are no such reasons.  If we ever reach mars it will be because we were lured there by that same vague but irresistible urge that led men to make one assault after another on Mt Everest: "Because it's there."
I've heard this sentiment time and time again over the past forty years and it never made sense to me–and bear in mind that I'm a vocal advocate of manned space travel.  "Because it's there" is all very well and good if you're doing something pointless like climbing Mount Everest or sailing around the world in a bucket, but if you're asking the public or investors to sink the cost of a large war to land a man on another planet for the hell of it, then you need to step back and look at what you're doing.

Go to Mars? Great.  I'm for it.  Just give me a solid reason to back it that justifies the cost and I'm there.  Otherwise, I say do a Joker, pile up the money and set fire to it.  You'll be doing about as much good.

I'm particularly amused by the magazine's stilted and convoluted argument for sending prostitutes to Mars.  If you want jolly wagons in space, man, just spit it out and be done with it.  Or, perhaps, he should have read C S Lewis's "Minstering Angels" first to see how it would more than likely work out.


Sergej said...

I'm still hoping for the Bugs Bunny version of life on Mars. "I'm going to blow [the Earth] up. It blocks my view of Venus."

Fruitbat44 said...

Maybe the future of manned space exploration lies in the hands of those for whom "Because its there" is reason enough. e.g. Eccentric millionaires (Errr . . .) Vainglorious dictatorships (Yuck!) Institutes of higher learning. (Oxbridg-Yavard Mars Expedition anyone?)

Well maybe.

eon said...

I always liked the idea of private industry doing it, as in Heinlein's "Destination Moon" (1949-50). Jim Barnes' remarks summed it up pretty well;

"Why go to the Moon? It's exploration, it's pioneering. What's the Moon?- another North Pole, another South Pole, our nearest neighbor in space. I want to go there because it's never been done."

"But what makes it worth going, Jim?"

"We'll know when we get there, we'll tell you when we get back."

There is a good argument for letting the military do it, as well, not least that historically most journeys of exploration have been military expeditions. (Columbus; Magellan; Drake; Lewis & Clark; etc.) But for the near future, I suspect our military will be fairly "tasked out" just dealing with our local (Terrestrial) problems. It won't do us much good to send a military recon mission to Mars if while they're raising the flag on Olympus Mons, somebody with Islamist ideas and a nuke decide to apply same to a major Western city.

It occurs to me that, sixty or so years ago, if the technology had been adequate to the job, Howard Hughes would have built a Mars ship. Simply because it would be the first time anyone had done it. Unfortunately, today instead of Howard Hughes, we have Donald Trump and Warren Buffett.

Maybe we need a few more rich dreamers- as opposed to those who just dream of staying richer than everybody else.



David said...

My personal notion is that we'll be going to Mars the same way Europe discovered the rest of the world; by using ships already developed for other purposes. If you look at Columbus, Cook, Scott et al, you'll see that none of them required a programme to create new types of ships for their voyages. They just used off-the-peg merchant and war ships for the job.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn in 2061 (via a ouija board in my case) that the flag was raised on Mars by an officer from a US Space Force frigate originally built to patrol the Earth-Moon corridor.

jayessell said...

The people of the 1950s couldn't imagine enough zeros on the estimate. $10B? Try $30T.

In the 10 years of pre-mission prep, how many 'Nice Girls' could get college degrees and training in the appropriate fields?

(Which Niven story said they also had to be able to play a musical instrument?)

Maybe they should send more women then men! 3:1?

Of course... there's the SURGICAL soultion. Maybe they could be reattached when they get back.

Fruitbat44 said...

jayessell - I think that you're thinking of "Ring World."

jayessell said...

PS: Those girls would literally be $10,000 a night 'ors.