Sunday, July 19, 2009

Space exploration: Moon, Mars, and then... Generation Ships

While I love the idea of the human race spreading through the cosmos like a sexually transmitted disease, I'm skeptical that we'll be able to establish a significant presence on Mars by 2050.

A senior Nasa official has told the Guardian that the world's space agencies, or the commercial firms that may eventually succeed them, could issue one-way tickets to space, with the travellers accepting that they would not come back....

If, as [John Olson, Nasa's director of exploration systems integration] predicts, humans reach Mars by the middle of this century, engineers and astronauts may then set their sights on the frozen planets, fiery moons and stars beyond.

"We're going back to the moon, not for flags and footsteps but for a sustained presence," Olson said. "We're going to use the moon as a stepping stone to Mars and we're going to look at other interesting spots, like asteroids and near-Earth objects, and we're going to look at all the other exciting places to go in this solar system."...

"Space is no longer for power and prestige; it's truly for economic benefit," the Apollo 11 flight director Eugene Kranz said. "The technology that emerges from high-risk, high-profile, extremely difficult missions is the technology that will keep the economic engine of our nation continuing to go through the years."

With currently foreseeable technology, a round trip to Mars launched from a lunar outpost would take two to three years – a journey of six to nine months each way and a year-long mission on the surface. |Space exploration volunteers wanted (The catch? It's a one-way ticket) - Guardian|

Maybe the Chinese will spend some of their $2 Trillion in hard currency reserves to send astronauts to the Moon...

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