Thirteen miles in five years?
That's what, third of a gallon of petrol? Hardly worth it, somehow... or perhaps the locals nicked the wheels?
NASA's Mars rover Spirit last Saturday passed the fifth anniversary of its arrival on the Red Planet on 3 January 2004 - an achievement which will be matched on 24 January by its twin Opportunity. During their epic Martian jaunt, the pair have "returned a quarter-million images, driven more than 21 kilometers (13 miles), …
So for billions of dollars and a quarter of a million photographs we've surveyed less than if we'd just sent more useful orbiters. We've penetrated a full.. oooh... 10cm (maybe) under the surface. And covered less distance than even a british bus would in an hour or two. On a sunday when it's raining.
Meanwhile, with other billions of dollars, we've got orbiters revealing glaciers.
We really, REALLY need a better way of launching impressive sized loads into space, or we'll be stuck with these small-fry robots forever.
This is really good stuff, don't knock it! Incredible how AC's kick this, yet gloat how long their servers have been up. (Or whatever's been up for awhile).
Design life of a ZX81, and they're working longer than Maggie Thatcher? Bloody well done, US! On a planet far, far away they last longer than my Morris Marina did. In Coventry. Without hubcaps. Or wheels, eventually.
What did we do? launch a dog-of-a-project into space, and (not) see it splat on the Martian surface (Beagle?)
Best idea, build a fuc*king big shuttle, drag Mars down here and check it out. Then lob it back. For Chrissake, then some grease-monkey can even fix that dodgy wheel on Spirit, and even get the nicked hubcaps back from amanfrommars. (For the Rovers, not my sodding Marina. Vista-on-wheels, that effing thing.)
Sheesh. Ain't rocket science (or maybe it is....)
Mars has no metal core and as such, no magnetic field or magnetosphere. For that reason alone it will be impossible to create a sustainable atmosphere (solar winds will strip it clean) nor will there be anything to protect human settlements, and other organisms from the constant flux of harsh solar and cosmic radiation. It is a dead planet and will forever stay that way. All the talk about sending someone to Mars is a complete and utter waste of valuable resources that could be better spent here on Earth, exploring our own planet and finding ways to recover from the damage we have already inflicted on it. Why isn't that obvious enough to stop all this pointless discussion and planning?
There is no where else for us to go if we break this one.
Your argument is self defeating- arguing that we're breaking the planet and should funnel resources from mars probes into fixing it then saying that there's nowhere else for us to go if we break it. Mars research uses very few resources in the grand scheme of things- and the potential benefits are immense.
Surely the sensible thing is to use a fairly minimal amount of resources- and lets face it, NASA almost certainly uses bugger all compared to, say, Ford- to get us to our nearest neighbor so that if/when we break it we've got somewhere to go.
You never know, we might find deposits of useful materials up there too- things that are useful but ecologically damaging down here could be dug up on Mars with no environment to impact. It also provides a good stable stepping stone for the (probably) mineral-rich asteroid belt.
Its lack of an atmosphere and low gravity mean that launching things into space is far easier than from Earth.
It would provide a decent second place for an observatory- meaning that we could get a slightly better idea of what we're looking at when we look out into space, build up a stereo pair to do distance calcs, that sort of thing.
As for "it's pointless as we could never live there", I have to say "tish and pish!" Mars is certainly not the most hospitable of areas, but it's not THAT much of a technical challenge to live there. One big steel pressure housing should do it- and that's before we figure out any fancier technologies (artificial environments or forcefields or suchlike). Which, given the history of technial brilliance and adaptability of our race, we undoubtedly would.
I hope that if people ever establish a base on Mars, perhaps hundreds of years from now, someone will find these rovers, shake off the dust, recharge their batteries, and allow them to roam free to their little metal hearts' content. Without being told where to go by distant overseers.
There is nothing close enough* that is survivable without a self sufficient biosphere, there's no point in leaving the planet, even if we screwed this planet up it would be more practical to build biospheres on earth (or under the oceans harvesting geothermal energy).
That said, unmanned space exploration might reveal something useful/interesting/important and theoretically there could be life (Jim, but not as we know it) some kind of ultra extremeophile, even waterbears have survived is similar conditions to Mars, after all, some earth based life doesn't need solar energy to survive, but a manned Mars mission is a terrible idea.
*Unless we travel for several generations, invent a warp drive or suspended animation.
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