The Scientific Exploration of Mars

Frederic W. Taylor 2010 / Beaverton 523.43 TAY

Interesting, but flawed, and somewhat dated. Dr. Taylor is an Emeritus planetary atmospheric scientist at Oxford.

Keith's Rant

Launch loops will someday make travel to Mars vastly less expensive. However, a 5 km deep gravity well, a high curvature planet in a thin and unreliable atmosphere, and three year missions, makes travel there very difficult. Dr. Taylor's book discusses this, but does not discuss the exponentially-increasing costs of perhaps 20 km/s more mission delta V than the Moon landings.

Making Mars habitable would be vastly more difficult than, say, restoring the Earth after a complete, full-arsenal-expended nuclear war.

We go there for knowledge; the most profitable knowledge will be xenobiological. Life transforms energy gradients into maximized global entropy; cold, dry, irradiated, poisonous Mars has (and had?) very different energy gradients. Earth may have shared microbes with Mars during the Late Heavy Bombardment, but different conditions predicate different solutions ... or NO solutions. Finding evidence of those different solutions, especially billion-years-decayed evidence, will be extremely difficult. Finding that evidence after a crashed human landing deposits quintillions of microbes may be MUCH harder than surviving a nuclear holocaust on Earth.

However, if xenobiology found a very different solution to life's puzzle, it would extend our biological reach as much as parallax taught us about the size and shape of our universe. Terrestrial molecular biology establishes a "point" in the solution space; Mars molecular biology, if it exists, establishes a line through the solution space. Without that line, can only grope in the dark. With the line, we can create quintillions of dollars worth of permanent value, striking out from there in all directions.

So - definitely send humans near Mars. 10 RPM centrifugal habitats 18 meters in diameter provide 1 gee. Most people can adapt to 30 RPM in a few days. Place the habitats in lined circular trenches on Deimos, then cover them with tents and 5 meters of Deimos dust. We can expect "Deimos Dust" to be as nasty as Moondust, but not nearly as nasty as bacteriocidal Mars dust. From Deimos, through a constellation of laser-connected relay satellites, robots on the Martian surface are only 200 milliseconds away, speed-of-light round trip, and sample returns can be delivered in hours. The round trip to Earth will be 8 km/s shorter, and the trip from Deimos to "home" on an Aldrin cycler colony might be days.

Want to send astronauts someplace special? Send them to Apophis, a near Earth object that may smash into Earth any century now. Know your enemy!

General Notes

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TaylorMars (last edited 2019-02-01 05:46:44 by KeithLofstrom)