Author Topic: Speculation and Discussion: Crew for first SpaceX Mars mission  (Read 40938 times)

Offline llanitedave

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As far as pilot/commander actions during landing it would be more like the commander/pilot tapping a finger on a location on the screen telling the BFS to "land here" overriding the automated system's choice for landing location. A manual control of such a large vehicle will never be a fully manual capability. It will always require a significant amount of computer and IMU support.

The crew would have little to no opportunity to review the quality of the landing site prior to the final approach.  If any last-minute change to the landing site is required, it's will probably be initiated by the ground.  There's just no need for crew control.
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Online RonM

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As far as pilot/commander actions during landing it would be more like the commander/pilot tapping a finger on a location on the screen telling the BFS to "land here" overriding the automated system's choice for landing location. A manual control of such a large vehicle will never be a fully manual capability. It will always require a significant amount of computer and IMU support.

The crew would have little to no opportunity to review the quality of the landing site prior to the final approach.  If any last-minute change to the landing site is required, it's will probably be initiated by the ground.  There's just no need for crew control.

What ground? Hope you're not talking about Mission Control. Don't forget the communications delay between Earth and Mars. On the first manned mission the crew will be on their own. Maybe later once a base is established there can be a Mars Mission Control.

Offline guckyfan

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Even something as "simple" as going to the ISS will require two demo flights: one unmanned demo and one manned demo. So you can bet NASA will require a manned test flight first, i.e. no paid customers, no foreigners, no scientists, just enough astronauts and engineers to do a viable mission, # of people is probably 4 to 6 given past mission designs. And they won't stay on Mars for long if an immediate return is at all possible, just a quick look around, plant a flag, then back. The intention is to verify the whole system works with people in it, the other stuff can be left to later missions.

Sure there will be such missions. But such tests will be done in cislunar space, probably LEO. Once the vehicle is tested out that way, they can send the first crew and it would not be a 4 person flight. If for no other reason then for psychological ones. A 4 person crew would need to be selected with NASA missions for compatibility and stress resistance. Meaning they would be NASA astronaut types. A larger group is much less likely to have these stress factors and can be selected to other criteria.


Offline guckyfan

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The crew would have little to no opportunity to review the quality of the landing site prior to the final approach.  If any last-minute change to the landing site is required, it's will probably be initiated by the ground.  There's just no need for crew control.

I think you underestimate what can be determined by orbital surveillance around Mars. I was surprised how many things they evaluated for potential NASA landing sites and how much they know, that they need to know. They will come down on the exact location that was determined from such data sets. No last minute changes initiated by a pilot.

Unlikely but not impossible that for some reason the landing site changes during flight due to new data. I think they did that with Opportunity. After they knew that Spirit was safely on the ground, they selected a landing site with slightly more risk. If memory serves me on this one. But that would be done from the ground on earth weeks or days before landing.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Even something as "simple" as going to the ISS will require two demo flights: one unmanned demo and one manned demo. So you can bet NASA will require a manned test flight first, i.e. no paid customers, no foreigners, no scientists, just enough astronauts and engineers to do a viable mission, # of people is probably 4 to 6 given past mission designs. And they won't stay on Mars for long if an immediate return is at all possible, just a quick look around, plant a flag, then back. The intention is to verify the whole system works with people in it, the other stuff can be left to later missions.

Sure there will be such missions. But such tests will be done in cislunar space, probably LEO. Once the vehicle is tested out that way, they can send the first crew and it would not be a 4 person flight. If for no other reason then for psychological ones. A 4 person crew would need to be selected with NASA missions for compatibility and stress resistance. Meaning they would be NASA astronaut types. A larger group is much less likely to have these stress factors and can be selected to other criteria.

I would also reiterate that this is not a NASA mission, and as such NASA won't have any real say-so as to what kind of precursor flights are required before people leave for Mars.

If NASA and SpaceX agree that NASA will send some of their astronauts as crew, then NASA has the right to say whether or not they will let their people fly.  But that's really it.

As we've discussed, I certainly expect that the first SpaceX expedition to Mars will likely carry some NASA astronauts.  But it won't be a NASA mission, and as such will not be under the command of NASA flight control.  At farther than cislunar distances, command and control functions will devolve completely to onboard systems and personnel regardless, so it won't really matter, but still...
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Offline Impaler

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I think 10 is a bit much.

Offline Dalhousie

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I love this thread!

I think Heinlein had it right, specialization is for insects, and as with SiaSL, each crew member needs to be trained in EVERYTHING. There will be accidents, deaths, temporary disasters, etc with the crew possibly divided, temporarily stranded, etc, and the truck factor[1] needs to be very high. 

We have the internet and compact storage and comms, so it makes sense to take the sum of human knowledge with us, and have experts on tap back on Earth, but in an emergency (for at least certain classes of emergency) you do not have time to consult the manual, you need at least basic familiarity with the equipment that is reflexive.

I like the OP list of skills but everyone needs everything at least a little. (I do agree with others upthread that piloting the MCT itself may not be AS important, but I think there will be a lot of piloting to do, if only UAVs or hoppers, or etc...

1 - IT joke, look at the skills needed for your project. If someone is the only person with a given skill, you are at truck factor one. One truck hitting one person and your project is dead in the water....

Heinlein did not have a clue about how societies and expeditions work.  Yes, people will be multi-skilled and cross trained, but they will still be specialists.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Lar

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Even something as "simple" as going to the ISS will require two demo flights: one unmanned demo and one manned demo. So you can bet NASA will require a manned test flight first, i.e. no paid customers, no foreigners, no scientists, just enough astronauts and engineers to do a viable mission, # of people is probably 4 to 6 given past mission designs. And they won't stay on Mars for long if an immediate return is at all possible, just a quick look around, plant a flag, then back. The intention is to verify the whole system works with people in it, the other stuff can be left to later missions.

Doubt very much that NASA will have this much say in how things are organized. Musk is not interested in flags and footprints, and expects some losses.

Heinlein did not have a clue about how societies and expeditions work.  Yes, people will be multi-skilled and cross trained, but they will still be specialists.
He was an officer in the USN between the wars so I'm assuming SOME familiarity with expeditions and shipboard operations and the like. (didn't have a clue is a bit strong)

I am not saying there won't be specialists but in a crew of 10, I would hope 3 were really good at each important area and everyone was cross trained.  One doctor, 2 that can do an appendectomy, diagnose common illness and injury, etc... everyone can do first aid. Same for every other specialty.  Which means a lot of polymaths, I think.


I think 10 is a bit much.

Why? seems prudent and given the number of specialties, less may not be enough to allow redundancy. We can't all be like Watney
« Last Edit: 07/07/2016 05:39 am by Lar »
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Zed_Noir

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...
I think we should send James Cameron.
No. He will send himself as a paying customer if he can pass the physical and the wife permits. Also if he finishes the Avatar sequel films on time.

Cameron should tale care of all media & PR needs of the mission.

Maybe Musk will ask him to be be on the first mission. After all he is only one of three persons to touch down in the Mariana Trench.

Offline Bynaus

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For the very first flight, which is a technology demonstrator and shakedown mission, you are not going to need geologists, geneticists, etc.

I strongly disagree with this. The technology demonstrator is the unmanned flight that comes before the manned mission.
The crew will probably spend at least a full synodic cycle on Mars. Simply waiting for the ISRU plant to make enough fuel for the flight back will take a long time. I'm sure they will do prospecting, scouting and research.

I guess this gets us into semantics, but yes, of course, the unmanned precursor is also a technology demonstrator / shake-down mission. Also, I presume we will see BFS flights in cislunar space before the manned Mars mission.

Nevertheless, on the first mission, you want as little things to go wrong as possible. Just show that you are actually capable of bringing people to Mars and back again - thats ambitious enough!!! Similar to the first Red Dragon: it will be an EDL demonstrator mission - everything else is bonus.

That first mission has to be as "bare bones" as possible. Bring the crew (I think even Elon recently said the first crews would be small to risk as few lifes as possible) there with plenty of redundant systems, let them test new technology (e.g., ISRU) without being too dependent on it, let them do some basic science (as the time allows), then bring them back relatively quickly and safely. This is the baseline, you can always take it from there into a full-fledged colonization program. I still think bringing in the hydrogen for the return fuel would be the simplest approach for the first few flights, when ISRU using Martian subsurface or atmospheric hydrogen has not yet been demonstrated, and it allows you to produce all your fuel in a comparatively short time in case anything goes wrong.

The crew that flies is one that conforms to this kind of mission profile: Resiliant, adventurous tinkerers.
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Offline jpo234

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What crew would SpaceX send on the first manned mission?

Diverse with respect to gender, race and possibly sexuality. Not disability though. Mostly American, but other nationalities if some nations are willing to cough up the cash. Telegenic and articulate (yes, professionally competent in a relevant skill, but the two are not incompatible and PR will be a relevant skill).

This begs the question: Is that much diversity compatible with a tight knit crew? There must be bodies of research in the psychology of crew selection. What does it say about diversity? The more the merrier? Or the opposite?
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Offline jpo234

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Inspiration Mars (Whatever happened to them??) planned to send an older couple beyond child bearing age to Mars. The rationale was threefold:
1) They would not pass radiation damage to eventual kids.
2) They would have less time left to develop cancer from radiation damage.
3) Older = more mature = more psychological stable

1) could be mitigated by freezing germ cells before the start of the mission, 3) is up for debate but 2) seems to be solid.  So: Average age of the crew around 50?
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline guckyfan

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2) They would have less time left to develop cancer from radiation damage.

2) seems to be solid.  So: Average age of the crew around 50?

The round trip time for Inspiration Mars is very long, all the time in space. A first crew landing on Mars would receive not nearly as much radiation, even with a 2 year stay on Mars and limited radiation protection on the surface.

Offline jpo234

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I don't see where pilots will be useful.
SX knows where the MCT will land.  This is not 1969 electronics. 

I think the motto of the mission will be: Expect the unexpected. While I agree that the landing will be beyond a human to handle, is there really no contingency where a manual override could be necessary to save the mission?

Pilots did not take over and fly the Space Shuttle during critical, precise Earth re-entry. 

Wrong. All Shuttle landings where manual. In fact, the first and only test of the autoland system during STS-3 was a debacle and commander Jack R. Lousma had to take over.
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline jpo234

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I once asked a member of the crew on one of those recreations of a 16th century square-rigged sailing ship why they carried (in the old days) such large crews of a couple hundred men, when these days they could sail the ship with a crew of under 20..  The answer was, "for spares".  People fall overboard, and a square-rigged ship can't turn around to pick you up.

That was true for Man-of-wars. They had a crew that could absorb battle losses (the "spares") and do the fighting. Merchants had much smaller crews.
« Last Edit: 07/07/2016 07:14 am by jpo234 »
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline jpo234

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This is not 1969 electronics.

BTW: What automation would be available? Space certified electronics usually lags far behind what is available on earth. Something suitable in LEO might not survive the harder radiation environment outside Earth's magnetic field.
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline JamesH65

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I don't see where pilots will be useful.
SX knows where the MCT will land.  This is not 1969 electronics. 

I think the motto of the mission will be: Expect the unexpected. While I agree that the landing will be beyond a human to handle, is there really no contingency where a manual override could be necessary to save the mission?

Pilots did not take over and fly the Space Shuttle during critical, precise Earth re-entry. 

Wrong. All Shuttle landings where manual. In fact, the first and only test of the autoland system during STS-3 was a debacle and commander Jack R. Lousma had to take over.

I think you missed the bit about 'precise Earth re-rentry', which AIUI was computer controlled.

He wasn't talking about the landing - although the tech for that is solved for airliners, and therefore for shuttle, should it fly again!


Offline jpo234

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I think you missed the bit about 'precise Earth re-rentry', which AIUI was computer controlled.

He wasn't talking about the landing - although the tech for that is solved for airliners, and therefore for shuttle, should it fly again!

Hmm. Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle#Re-entry_and_landing says:
Quote from: Wikipedia
Almost the entire Space Shuttle re-entry procedure, except for lowering the landing gear and deploying the air data probes, was normally performed under computer control. However, the re-entry could be flown entirely manually if an emergency arose. The approach and landing phase could be controlled by the autopilot, but was usually hand flown.
« Last Edit: 07/07/2016 09:33 am by jpo234 »
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline su27k

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Even something as "simple" as going to the ISS will require two demo flights: one unmanned demo and one manned demo. So you can bet NASA will require a manned test flight first, i.e. no paid customers, no foreigners, no scientists, just enough astronauts and engineers to do a viable mission, # of people is probably 4 to 6 given past mission designs. And they won't stay on Mars for long if an immediate return is at all possible, just a quick look around, plant a flag, then back. The intention is to verify the whole system works with people in it, the other stuff can be left to later missions.

Sure there will be such missions. But such tests will be done in cislunar space, probably LEO. Once the vehicle is tested out that way, they can send the first crew and it would not be a 4 person flight. If for no other reason then for psychological ones. A 4 person crew would need to be selected with NASA missions for compatibility and stress resistance. Meaning they would be NASA astronaut types. A larger group is much less likely to have these stress factors and can be selected to other criteria.

I would also reiterate that this is not a NASA mission, and as such NASA won't have any real say-so as to what kind of precursor flights are required before people leave for Mars.

If NASA and SpaceX agree that NASA will send some of their astronauts as crew, then NASA has the right to say whether or not they will let their people fly.  But that's really it.

As we've discussed, I certainly expect that the first SpaceX expedition to Mars will likely carry some NASA astronauts.  But it won't be a NASA mission, and as such will not be under the command of NASA flight control.  At farther than cislunar distances, command and control functions will devolve completely to onboard systems and personnel regardless, so it won't really matter, but still...

If NASA only jumps in at the last possible moment, then yes your scenario can happen. But I'm hoping the administration and congress would be smart enough to see the inevitable and allow NASA to join the effort early in a public-private partnership. If NASA put up significant funding for development (like COTS and CC), then they will have a say on mission design and I fully expect NASA flight control supports the mission and a NASA astronaut will be the commander. Really it's win-win for everyone, since I'm not sure SpaceX has sufficient funding to make the 2024 window on their own.

And there're also practical reasons for a small crew on the first flights, even if SpaceX wants to do this on their own:
1. Less people means less strain on ECLSS, remember 6 people is all we can support right now on ISS, a 12 person crew would double the current state of art in terms of long term ECLSS. I'm sure given enough time they can push the envelope, but if they want to make the 2024 window they need to pick their battles.
2. Less people also means less consumable to bring alone. I don't know the exact tonnage but I expect it would be significant, especially if you run part of the ECLSS in open loop.
3. Also given SpaceX's iterative development methodology, don't be surprised if the first generation MCT could only land 50mt on Mars, another reason you don't want to bring everyone plus the cook on the first mission...

Offline jpo234

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2. Less people also means less consumable to bring alone. I don't know the exact tonnage but I expect it would be significant, especially if you run part of the ECLSS in open loop.

From Human Needs: Sustaining Life During Exploration
Quote from: NASA Fact Sheet
A crew of four on a three-year martian mission eating only three meals each day would need to carry more than 24,000 pounds (10,886 kilograms) of food.

With consumables pre-deployed by the unmanned precursor mission in 2022, a crew of 10 would be in range.
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

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