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I'm curious as to whether or not any country has any real plans for a manned mission to Mars. Not a conceptual thing, but real, hard plans. If so, are there any specifics?

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    $\begingroup$ What is the difference between a concept and a hard plan? $\endgroup$ – coleopterist Aug 6 '13 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ Concept: "We might be able to stuff a bunch of people into a space tub somewhere in the next half-century" Plan: "We have most of the technology to do this, and are anticipating doing this around 2018" $\endgroup$ – Undo Aug 6 '13 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ NASA has had 'plans' since it was created in 1958. Every unmanned mission to Mars you see, in one way or another, is regarded as a precursor to an 'eventual' manned mission. What you really want to know is does anyone have a plan that is authorized (given 'Authority To Proceed')AND budgeted with real spendable money. The answer, to each, is NO. No nation on Earth has an announced, authorized and budgeted project in existence to send people to Mars. Do not expect one in the US until the Federal Budget is at least balanced, Elon MKusk and the Mars One project notwithstanding. Sorry. $\endgroup$ – MercuryPlus Jun 16 '14 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ I think the real answer to your question is, "No, or at least, no country has made such plans public". Nobody has a credible plan to take humans to Mars (I added "credible" because, Mars One is not credible). Ultimately the issue is money - we'd need someone, or some group, to fund the ~$20 billion - $80 billion USD that is likely required for such a project. $\endgroup$ – Kirkaiya Mar 16 '15 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ If "real plan" means, they're building the ship, then, I think the answer is clearly no. To quote the great George Wendt in a very silly movie when he kidnapped himself, only to find his house surrounded by cops and his life in danger. "I now know the difference between an idea and a plan" There's lots of ideas out there, but "real plans" for manned (or womaned) missions to mars - that's a no. While not nearly as romantic, unmanned missions are so so so much easier. No food, no oxygen, no water, no human waste - much less mass needs transport. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Mar 17 '15 at 23:49
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I do not know of a country, but Mars One are looking for volunteers to send someone.

Sorry to extend your question to corporations rather than "countries" (assuming government-led).

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    $\begingroup$ Mars One is a publicity stunt run mostly by PR people who make fancy graphics and want to make a reality show (filmed on Earth). $\endgroup$ – user6972 Aug 6 '13 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ And a follow up to the Mars One organization, or lack thereof. medium.com/matter/… $\endgroup$ – user6972 Mar 16 '15 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ Mars One is a gimmick. An entertaining gimmick no doubt, but a gimmick. I'm also not sure how this answers the question in any real way. @user6972's answer, while flawed itself, is light-years better. $\endgroup$ – Erik Mar 16 '15 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ @user6972 Thanks for calling my MSc thesis a "fancy graphics reality show on earth". While the problem is obviously larger than people willing to admit, and without Russians pushing you from behind it's not easy to get a 8 year strict deadline, Mars One is still on track. And while I have no doubt it will probably be delayed much behind 2030 - I do think it will eventually launch in the 2030 decade. $\endgroup$ – paul23 May 11 '15 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ @paul23 I don't know anything about your thesis. I'm referring to the Mars One program and their progress to date and what little technical information they've published. $\endgroup$ – user6972 Jun 15 '15 at 20:34
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Perhaps you could say the Dutch, but Mars One is a Dutch corporate venture, not a government program.

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Laura Seward Forczyk gives one of the better summaries of potential manned Mars missions I've seen lately -- especially concerning Mars One. In summary, Mars One is a gimmick and no one is going to Mars in the next 15 years and probably longer. Most of what you hear otherwise is hype. The best chance for someone to do it in our lifetime is probably Elon Musk -- and he's a long shot.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hilarious. For all your unsupported criticism against my 'flawed' explanation that we can't give an exact date you post an opinion piece and say it's a summary of manned missions (which it isn't) as an answer? Even Laura says, "The technology to do this is in the works but it will take us decades before we figure out how to do it." Which is pretty much what I posted 2 years ago. $\endgroup$ – user6972 Mar 17 '15 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ See my comment under tomByrer's answer. I'm sorry my downvote has bothered you for 2 years. It's not personal. $\endgroup$ – Erik Mar 17 '15 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ Mars One and blind dishonest discussions about the complexities of space travel are what bother me. I don't care about you, sorry. $\endgroup$ – user6972 Mar 17 '15 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not even sure what you disagree with me on. We have the same opinion on the answer to the original question... $\endgroup$ – Erik Mar 17 '15 at 20:23
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Something not discussed much is we currently do not have the technology to depart earth, land on Mars, and then again depart Mars. There is way too much fuel required for such a round trip.

Right now with our chemical rockets it is strictly a one way trip. The definition of a suicide mission. So people may talk and speculate, but I doubt anyone is going to seriously spend the kind of money needed in the hopes there might be qualified people who would actually accept the mission (ethical issues aside).

For those who would like to read more about the challenges this type of mission must solve before we can even leave the atmosphere I suggest you read Robert Braun's paper on the subject. Or at least read something lighter by wired which covers a wide range of challenges many of which we still haven't technically found proven solutions for.

EDIT: Undo specifically stated is there any real plan which means: "We have most of the technology to do this, and are anticipating doing this around 2018"

Since people don't seem to read the links...The honest answer is no, we don't have the technology (meaning "application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes") to do this. We think we understand the some of issues well enough to investigate building the hardware. Since no human has left earth orbit, survived in space and returned to earth, no one can even claim we understand all the technical hurdles. Even long term experiments in isolated biospheres in the Earth's gravity, atmosphere and sunlight have failed miserably.

In fact it wasn't until 2005 that we realized it was impossible to send a chemical rocket there and back. Yet ask the general public in 2004 and they would tell you we have the technology to do it--build a big rocket.

And this is an illustration of why it seems our progress to voyage into space has stalled. Not because it would just cost too much, but we do lack technology knowledge in many areas for such a trip.

As an example: NASA's popular solution barring a technology breakthrough is to use heavy lift rockets (which we don't have yet) to build the ship in space and haul all the mass out there first then launch from there. Do we know how to build a ship in space? Not really, but ISS has taught us a lot about what we don't know any we can start looking at tools to develop the technology for exo-construction. But we (humans in general) are way too early in the technological process to claim we can go to Mars and back by year XXXX.

EDIT2: As a recent follow-up on Feb. 2015, Gerard ’t Hooft, a Dutch Nobel laureate and ambassador for Mars One project, said he did not believe the mission could take off by 2024 as planned.

“It will take quite a bit longer and be quite a bit more expensive. When they first asked me to be involved I told them ‘you have to put a zero after everything’,” he said, implying that a launch date 100 years from now with a budget of tens of billions of dollars would be an achievable goal.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/feb/23/mars-one-plan-colonise-red-planet-unrealistic-leading-supporter

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    $\begingroup$ -1 for simply not true. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 6 '13 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ "...we currently do not have the technology to depart earth, land on Mars, and then again depart Mars." This is simply not true. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 6 '13 at 4:22
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry you don't like the downvote. It's not personal. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 6 '13 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ It does appear that the only reason we won't currently do it is that the cost/benefit tradeoff is not worth it. Technologically, as Erik says, there is nothing to stop us sending craft there, sending tankers with fuel if necessary etc. It would be exorbitant, but we could do it. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Aug 6 '13 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ It's a matter of interpretation of do we have the technology. We don't have the vehicles. We could develop them, but we don't currently have them. I guess that's where the difference in interpretation stems from. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Aug 6 '13 at 9:51

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