Obama’s Cognitive Dissonance About Mars

Oct 14, 2016

By Marina Koren

In April 2010, Barack Obama gave a big space-policy speech at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s 30-year-old space shuttle program was winding down, and the space agency was looking ahead toward the next era of human space exploration.

Obama was feeling expansive. “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow,” he said. “And I expect to be around to see it.”

This week, with only 100 days left in his final term, Obama renewed that ambition in an op-ed in CNN. Someday, he wrote on Tuesday, “instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we’ll know that because of the choices we make now, they’ve gone to space not just to visit, but to stay.”


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16 comments on “Obama’s Cognitive Dissonance About Mars

  • @OP – link – Experts say the government would be better off using reusable rockets produced by commercial companies instead of pouring millions of dollars into one they can’t use again. The Obama administration has proposed cuts to the SLS, which have faced criticism from Republican lawmakers whose home states support NASA jobs. “This administration cannot continue to tout plans to send astronauts to Mars while strangling the programs that will take us there,” said Lamar Smith, a Texas congressman and the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, when Obama released his proposal in February. Smith has also criticized the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)—the administration’s plans to lasso an asteroid and bring it into the moon’s orbit, where astronauts can visit it, by the mid-2020s—calling it a “distraction” from NASA’s Mars goals.

    I think regular posters and readers on this site, will be aware of Smith’s (infantile) levels of perceptions of science and his stooging for establishment sponsorship!!!!

    US space projects have been plagued by fragmentation of projects, to share them out around the voters for particular congressmen.



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  • @OP – Obama was feeling expansive. “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow,” he said. “And I expect to be around to see it.”

    Expanding into Lunar orbit, asteroid mining, and putting an orbiting station orbiting Mars, would be progressive steps towards long term colonisation and the use of space resources.

    Directing real-time robotic constructions on Mars from Mars orbit – possibly from a base on one of its moons, would be more effective than trying to cope with the time-delay and disruption, on signals from Earth.

    http://www.astrosurf.com/luxorion/qsl-mars-communication3.htm

    Space Communications with Mars
    At the perihelion opposition, at 56 millions km from the Earth, a distance as short as 0.37 AU (1 A.U. = 149.56 million km), it takes 3 minutes and 7 seconds for a signal emitted by the DSN to reach Mars. But when Earth and Mars are the farthest apart at 2.52 A.U., it takes 20 minutes and 57 seconds to transmit the same radio signal. The communication lasts seven times longer !

    Due to these time delays it is impossible to communicate with and control the rover in real time.

    When Earth and Mars are in conjunction (opposite sides of the Sun) at a distance of 2.49 A.U. another problem arises. This distance is not as much of a problem as having the Sun in the way, for it produces a lot of radio interference making communication almost impossible. Indeed, for distances of less than 10 solar radii around the Sun, the thermal noise contribution is quite severe and the use of amplifier at reception still increases this difficulty. Therefore it is very important than the spacecraft flying to Mars reaches the Red planet far before the conjunction so that engineers and scientists can gather data during a few months before be handicapped by communications problems.

    These delays in signals travelling at light-speed apply in both directions, so operators on Earth have to wait for a device (-such as a rover), to respond to their instructions, and then they have to wait as long again for confirmation of the message. There is a further delay if the signal is from a side of Mars facing away from the Earth and an orbiting satellite has to be used as a relay, or if the Sun is blocking the signal.



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  • Alan4 :

    Quote :

    “…be aware of Smith’s (infantile) levels of perceptions of science and his stooging for establishment sponsorship!!!!”

    Ditto. Wasn’t he one of the clowns who sabotaged the original proposed location for Super Collider before the Swiss got their go ? …No excuses for this clueless, spiritually vapid dead-brain !!!



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  • James Ballard #4
    Oct 14, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    No excuses for this clueless, spiritually vapid dead-brain !!!

    There have been various comments on the stupidity of Smith, but these are the ones I was referring to!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/09/the-house-science-committees-anti-science-rampage/

    From climate change and evolution to sex education and vaccination, there has always been tension between scientists and Congress. But Smith, who has been in Congress since 1987 and assumed the chairmanship of the Science Committee in 2013, has escalated that tension into outright war. Smith has a background in American studies and law, not science. He has, however, received more than six hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions from the oil-and-gas industry during his time in Congress—more than from any other single industry. With a focus that is unprecedented, he’s now using his position to attack scientists and activists who work on climate change.



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  • We just about wrung the chicken’s neck on the feasibility of manned space flights to mars over on a thread about Elon Musk’s prophecy to colonize the red planet with earth’s surplus population by the end of the century.

    Alan4 makes the best case that the process must take place gradually: Expanding into Lunar orbit, asteroid mining, and putting an orbiting station orbiting Mars, would be progressive steps towards long term colonisation and the use of space resources. Spot on as long as we appreciate that the venture will take decades and require human resources and trea$$$$ure that beggar the imagination.

    Cold War political pressures aside, president Kennedy made an executive decision to implement a publicly proclaimed policy that enjoyed enthusiastic public consensus in 1961 “to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.” He met with the head of NASA, members of congress, targeting appropriations committees, then told NASA, “go forth and get this done. That’s an order and here is a blank check to cover payroll, procurement and expenses.”

    Today, the ambition to put a man/woman on mars by the end of the decade or the decade thereafter – has dwindled into wishful rhetoric in the face of the complexities and untenable cost that dwarf the Apollo program. Inventions or advances in aerospace technology may make a manned landing possible before 2040 but the piecemeal economy-size projects to date make achieving that goal a remote possibility.



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  • OHooligan #7
    Oct 14, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Is it time to revive interest in this:

    @ link – The first primitive Cycler orbits had been discovered sixteen years earlier, but these curiosities depended upon irregular planetary encounters, and they had round-trips on the order of a decade. In 1985, however, Dr Aldrin reasoned that there must be trajectories which swing by Earth and Mars every twenty-six months or so. This interval corresponds to the Earth-Mars synodic period, the time required for Earth’s orbit to overtake Mars around the sun. Guided by Aldrin’s advice, physicists sprang into action with renewed vigor and fistfuls of formulas. As predicted, such an orbit was indeed discovered, and it was promptly christened the Aldrin Cycler.

    There are a number of problems with this.

    First of all, long slow passages require lots of extra life-support for human passengers, so are more appropriate for freight.

    Secondly:- the freight has to be accelerated to match the orbital speed of the transit vehicle for docking and loading to take place.

    Thirdly:- unless the freight package NEEDS a container for protection from the space environment, the energy for matching an orbit and docking, is the same as the energy for a “push and go launch” from Earth orbit along that Solar orbit without a containing vehicle.

    Fourthly:- If the containing vehicle is to be left in this orbit, a docking vehicle is needed to unload and decelerate the load into an orbit around Mars. The fuel/energy, for this is about the same as for a Mars-based, space-tug vehicle, which simply grabs a free-flying package, and carries it to an orbit or landing on Mars.

    These orbits could be used for free-flying packages without any containing vehicles, but the question would be about the fuel required to insert and remove them from such an orbit, – versus the more usual strategies of choosing a slow minimum energy orbit, or a shortest passage trajectory, when Mars and Earth are lined up together on the same side of the Sun, with the Earth overtaking Mars on the inside of its Martian orbit around the Sun.

    These Aldrin Cycler orbits, being of a free fall nature, would also have the disadvantage of being unsuitable for craft solar-powered by constant thrust, ion-drive electric rockets, which give the fastest transit time for the propellant load.

    Electric rocket engines have been used for some time now, with articles available on them from several years ago.

    http://www.space.com/8009-rocket-engine-reach-mars-40-days.html

    New Rocket Engine Could Reach Mars in 40 Days
    By Jeremy Hsu, Astrobiology Magazine | March 5, 2010

    “People have known for a long time, even back in the ’50s, that electric propulsion would be needed for serious exploration of Mars,” said Tim Glover, director of development at the Ad Astra Rocket Company.



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  • Melvin #8
    Oct 15, 2016 at 12:17 am

    Alan4 makes the best case that the process must take place gradually:

    Expanding into Lunar orbit, asteroid mining, and putting an orbiting station orbiting Mars, would be progressive steps towards long term colonisation and the use of space resources.

    Spot on as long as we appreciate that the venture will take decades and require human resources and trea$$$$ure that beggar the imagination.

    This misses the point, that as with many present satellite developments, and as with the early maritime explorers of the Earth, the resource trading generates much of the costs of the explorations – and then some.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-satellites-business-idUSKCN0YO2VQ

    Global revenue from the satellite industry reached $208 billion in 2015, a 3 percent increase over 2014, a trade association report released on Thursday showed.

    U.S. companies accounted for 43 percent of the revenue, the Satellite Industry Association said in its annual report. Globally, 2015 revenues for the satellite industry totaled just over $208 billion, up from about $203 billion in 2014.

    Industry growth was led by the satellite services segment, with satellite broadband and Earth observation revenues each up by more than 10 percent, the report showed.

    Asteroid mining, satellite communications, and space research, are not some sort of costly amusement! They are front-end investment for a wealth creating trade in useful resources.



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  • U.S. companies accounted for 43 percent of the revenue, the Satellite Industry Association said in its annual report. Globally, 2015 revenues for the satellite industry totaled just over $208 billion, up from about $203 billion in 2014

    Exactly. Companies in cooperation with government funded space projects are focusing on satellites, low earth space launch vehicles, with honorable mention due to the now defunct space shuttle missions and the soon-to-be defunct space station.

    Deep space missions, like the Mars Rover and the NASA Mission to Saturn, enjoy popular support and adequate government funding. These missions are effectively and exclusively robotic by definition. We’re forgetting the topic that is clearly focused on MANNED MISSIONS TO MARS: President Obama: “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow,” he said. “And I expect to be around to see it.” No one questions Obama’s imagination and enthusiasm shared to a degree by the public. The “cognitive dissonance” revealed in cuts to the space program budget is also reflected in the dearth of the popular and political will to make government pay by funding NASA and private companies through subsidies. In my view neither the public nor the private sector is currently focused on the specific mission of landing a man/woman on Mars by 2035. Barring large leaps forward in technology guaranteeing prolonged human safety in deep space and gigantic increases in funding focused on material steps linked to manned-missions-to-Mars, the goal is likely to be achieved later rather than sooner.



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  • Melvin #11
    Oct 15, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Exactly. Companies in cooperation with government funded space projects are focusing on satellites, low earth space launch vehicles, with honorable mention due to the now defunct space shuttle missions and the soon-to-be defunct space station.

    The point I am making, is that same sort of unimaginative and obstructive claims, were made decades ago, about funding the earlier satellite research projects, which gave rise to this highly profitable industry.



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  • Obama will go down in American history as one of the most successful centrists of his time. I like some of the things he’s done and I detest others. The fact that he, corporatism in general, and an empty-headed republican party have paved the way for Hillary Clinton is a testament to centrism everywhere. As far as space travel and Mars, we need to proceed methodically. I also, as in another post on this website would still like to see a near self-sustaining city under the sea developed as soon as possible.
    Nemo be praised!



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  • savroD #13
    Oct 23, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    I also, as in another post on this website would still like to see a near self-sustaining city under the sea developed as soon as possible.

    If we don’t very quickly get a grip on global warming and melting ice-caps, there is a long list of coastal ports which will be likely candidates for such developments!



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  • @Comrade Rimmer….
    It’s a good observation, but only in that the rampant corporatism and infotainment have moved the goal line for the left to the center of the field.



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