Author Topic: Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won't take people to Mars  (Read 5375 times)

Offline Star One

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His basic argument is they are all too dangerous for humans because of the fuels they use. Also that they are too slow & the technology is far too primitive that human exploration of Mars will have to wait for the development of alternative, faster propulsion systems.

And you know what I don’t think he’s wrong. After all what we need to do at Mars now can be done by robotics.

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"Personally, I don't think any of those three rockets is taking people to Mars," Hadfield told Business Insider. " I don't think those are a practical way to send people to Mars because they're dangerous and it takes too long."

Hadfield's stance stems from the fact that all three rocket systems rely on similar fuels (plus oxygen) to lift off Earth and propel their ships through space.

"My guess is we will never go to Mars with the engines that exist on any of those three rockets unless we truly have to," he said.

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"We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk," he said. "The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn't make it. They'd die. Because the technology is still quite primitive."

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Hadfield said the rocket ships currently being developed will be key stepping stones in the quest to explore our solar system.

But he added that using those vessels to shuttle people 140 million miles to Mars — even with new materials and computer automation— would be akin to crossing a giant ocean in a canoe or paddle boat.

http://www.businessinsider.com/chris-hadfield-mars-travel-nasa-spacex-blue-origin-2018-6?IR=T&r=UK
« Last Edit: 06/17/2018 02:39 PM by Star One »

Offline Stan-1967

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His opinions were both interesting & disappointing.   His conclusion of not sending humans to mars with SX/BO/SLS, while reasonably probable, are not due to any of the main issues quoted in the article. 

How exactly did fuel choice & rocket cycle become the culprit for NASA’s record in loss of life?   (Non sequitor)

He strikes me as person using his laudable accomplishments as a mission specialist to insert his opinion on issues that he is not an expert.  If he’s suggesting new technology “hail marry’s“ have a better chance at Mars than scaling real proven technology & engineering,  he’s wrong on the math.   Ultimately he’s inserting his value judgement, apparently based on safety, over any other consideration,  while hand waving red herring arguments to support him.

Offline Star One

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His opinions were both interesting & disappointing.   His conclusion of not sending humans to mars with SX/BO/SLS, while reasonably probable, are not due to any of the main issues quoted in the article. 

How exactly did fuel choice & rocket cycle become the culprit for NASA’s record in loss of life?   (Non sequitor)

He strikes me as person using his laudable accomplishments as a mission specialist to insert his opinion on issues that he is not an expert.  If he’s suggesting new technology “hail marry’s“ have a better chance at Mars than scaling real proven technology & engineering,  he’s wrong on the math.   Ultimately he’s inserting his value judgement, apparently based on safety, over any other consideration,  while hand waving red herring arguments to support him.

The simple fact is he’s been into space, he’s ridden a rocket into orbit and from my prospective that gives him a leg up over the rest of us who haven’t when it comes to the hazards of space flight. So at least as far as that particular issue is concerned we have to give his words weight.

Online mme

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His opinions were both interesting & disappointing.   His conclusion of not sending humans to mars with SX/BO/SLS, while reasonably probable, are not due to any of the main issues quoted in the article. 

How exactly did fuel choice & rocket cycle become the culprit for NASA’s record in loss of life?   (Non sequitor)

He strikes me as person using his laudable accomplishments as a mission specialist to insert his opinion on issues that he is not an expert.  If he’s suggesting new technology “hail marry’s“ have a better chance at Mars than scaling real proven technology & engineering,  he’s wrong on the math.   Ultimately he’s inserting his value judgement, apparently based on safety, over any other consideration,  while hand waving red herring arguments to support him.

The simple fact is he’s been into space, he’s ridden a rocket into orbit and from my prospective that gives him a leg up over the rest of us who haven’t when it comes to the hazards of space flight. So at least as far as that particular issue is concerned we have to give his words weight.
Buzz Aldrin's been to space too and he seems to think we can do it. Granted he wants to use a cycler, but no new propulsion or fuels required. *shrug*
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Offline RonM

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His basic argument is they are all too dangerous for humans because of the fuels they use. Also that they are too slow & the technology is far too primitive that human exploration of Mars will have to wait for the development of alternative, faster propulsion systems.

Sending people to Mars is dangerous, but so were the Apollo missions to the Moon. Many people downplay the danger, but Chris Hadfield is overstating the risk by saying "The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn't make it." Sure it's dangerous, but the engineers designing missions know that and will try to reduce the danger.

And you know what I don’t think he’s wrong. After all what we need to do at Mars now can be done by robotics.

If all we want to do is explore Mars, then yes, we need to be patient and send robotic missions. If the goal is to colonize Mars, then sending people is the whole point.

Offline Coastal Ron

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After reading the article I'm not as concerned with the topic title.

I believe I understand the general direction of his concern, though I'm not sure he made the point about fuel choices clear enough. This is especially true since neither the SLS or New Glenn really leave LEO, only their upper stages do, and they are both spacecraft pushers, not the interplanetary spacecraft themselves. So I think he did a bad job of conflating Earth-to-orbit rockets with interplanetary spaceships - of which only the BFS is an interplanetary spaceship.

And he argues that we need to make safer interplanetary transportation systems before we ramp up our traffic to places like Mars, and I agree that would be nice. In fact I have been advocating that NASA should return to it's NACA roots, and one of the tasks it could take on would be to work with industry to make safer/better/cheaper interplanetary transportation systems.

But history has shown that humans don't wait until something is perfectly safe before they go off to settle new lands, so while Hadfield has a valid perspective, I don't take it as guidance.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline high road

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Quote
"We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk," he said. "The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn't make it. They'd die. Because the technology is still quite primitive."

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"We're sort of like those early sailing ships, in that we don't even know what we don't know yet," he said, referring to the historic voyages of Columbus, Magellan, and Cook. "I think we need some more improvements in technology before we'll cross the oceans that are between us and Mars in any sort of practical way."

Well, the fastest way to mature technology and learn what we don't know that we don't know, is to have a short-term programme in the first place. You're never going to know what you don't know, or mature systems before you've actually done the thing, no matter how many magic engines materialize without a clear need for them. If it turns out they're really necessary or beneficial for continued human presence on Mars, the new technology will materialize much faster.

I totally agree there are a lot of technologies that still require a lot of development before humans can survive on Mars and get back safely. However, propulsion technology by itself is not high on that list. And there are ways of maturing all of the subsystems without sending humans to Mars as guinea pigs. Not more than astronauts have always been guinea pigs, that is.

Offline zodiacchris

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The polynesians crossed the pacific ocean in canoes and settled the region, including Hawaii. So where is the problem?  ;D

Offline Star One

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I think Chris needs to read this.

http://duckboardsandstilts.com/waiting-right-moment-often-mistake/

My network security blocks that site as a security risk. So maybe don’t be posting links to it.
« Last Edit: 06/18/2018 11:01 AM by Star One »

Offline hopalong

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I think Chris needs to read this.

http://duckboardsandstilts.com/waiting-right-moment-often-mistake/

My network security blocks that site as a security risk. So maybe don’t be posting links to it.

McAfee reports it as safe


Offline Bynaus

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The polynesians crossed the pacific ocean in canoes and settled the region, including Hawaii. So where is the problem?  ;D

That is probably his whole point - sure you can do it that way - but its quite probable that a majority of polynesians setting off in canoes into the unknown never made it. We only know about the success stories, not about the many failures that preceeded them...

I think the SpaceX BFR/BFS system makes a reasonable attempt at cutting down travel times and overall system complexity, and thus has the best shot at sending people safely to Mars (and bring them back if they want to). But I totally agree with him that when it comes to Mars, we don't even know yet what we don't know. However, the best approach to fix this, IMO, is the one taken by SpaceX: just build it and find out along the way. Just waiting for the fusion ships will not make Mars colonization happen.

Online AncientU

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Quote
"We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk," he said. "The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn't make it. They'd die. Because the technology is still quite primitive."

Quote
"We're sort of like those early sailing ships, in that we don't even know what we don't know yet," he said, referring to the historic voyages of Columbus, Magellan, and Cook. "I think we need some more improvements in technology before we'll cross the oceans that are between us and Mars in any sort of practical way."

Well, the fastest way to mature technology and learn what we don't know that we don't know, is to have a short-term programme in the first place. You're never going to know what you don't know, or mature systems before you've actually done the thing, no matter how many magic engines materialize without a clear need for them. If it turns out they're really necessary or beneficial for continued human presence on Mars, the new technology will materialize much faster.

I totally agree there are a lot of technologies that still require a lot of development before humans can survive on Mars and get back safely. However, propulsion technology by itself is not high on that list. And there are ways of maturing all of the subsystems without sending humans to Mars as guinea pigs. Not more than astronauts have always been guinea pigs, that is.

Like going to the Moon for instance?
An immediate and productive effort to establish a base on the Moon would completely negate his argument.
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Offline woods170

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Quote
"We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk," he said. "The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn't make it. They'd die. Because the technology is still quite primitive."

Quote
"We're sort of like those early sailing ships, in that we don't even know what we don't know yet," he said, referring to the historic voyages of Columbus, Magellan, and Cook. "I think we need some more improvements in technology before we'll cross the oceans that are between us and Mars in any sort of practical way."

Well, the fastest way to mature technology and learn what we don't know that we don't know, is to have a short-term programme in the first place. You're never going to know what you don't know, or mature systems before you've actually done the thing, no matter how many magic engines materialize without a clear need for them. If it turns out they're really necessary or beneficial for continued human presence on Mars, the new technology will materialize much faster.

I totally agree there are a lot of technologies that still require a lot of development before humans can survive on Mars and get back safely. However, propulsion technology by itself is not high on that list. And there are ways of maturing all of the subsystems without sending humans to Mars as guinea pigs. Not more than astronauts have always been guinea pigs, that is.

Like going to the Moon for instance?
An immediate and productive effort to establish a base on the Moon would completely negate his argument.

Likely not. Six months of running your systems in deep space on the way to Mars is not equal to running your systems for six months on the lunar surface. They are two completely different environments. Lunar surface ops are, at best, a pre-cursor to Mars surface ops.

You'll need something out in deep space to test the deep space systems. Sending an unmanned version of the intended manned spacecraft might be one way to do it (BFR/BFS). Running a space station in the vicinity of the Moon might be another (LOP-G).

Having said that I think Chris Hadfield is wrong. I think it is a safe bet that manned exploration of Mars will eventually get people killed. But that is IMO no reason to not do manned exploration of Mars.

Offline Semmel

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I agree with most people here. If Failure is not an option, you are not getting anywhere. You can even fail at sitting on your sofa, as Chris has so famously demonstrated. Using chemical rockets is the only means to get to the Moon and Mars at moment. Waiting for some magic technology is a fallacy. I wouldnt necessarily recommend current rocket technology as a means to carry passengers, but people that sign up for the danger should be welcomed, not hindered.

Offline Dean47

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Let's see ... when was the last time we had a rocket engine explode in flight?  When was the last time we had a jet engine explode in flight?  I agree with most of the people on this thread  --  waiting until technology is "mature" and all risk has been eliminated is a surefire way to justify never doing anything or going anywhere.  Murphy (of Murphy's law fame) is always hanging around.  The job of a good engineer is to manage the risks you know and try to have good work-arounds and  backups for the risks you don't know.

Be that as it may, I also agree with the people who say we are not quite ready for Mars yet.  I think we are at the equivalent of 16th century technology that was conquering the oceans.  (Satellites with their solar panels even remind me of sailing ships.)  We need to press forward as much as we can with the technology we have while we are also inventing/developing/implementing new technology to make our efforts faster, more economical, safer, etc.  It's time for the moon!   

Offline Kansan52

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As a person disappointed in NERVA's cancellation in the 70's, it is always the balance of risk and reward.

My opinion is we can and should go with the best available because waiting on better always leaves you waiting.

Offline woods170

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As a person disappointed in NERVA's cancellation in the 70's, it is always the balance of risk and reward.

My opinion is we can and should go with the best available because waiting on better always leaves you waiting.

Wise words IMO.

Better is the enemy of good enough.

Offline Star One

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As a person disappointed in NERVA's cancellation in the 70's, it is always the balance of risk and reward.

My opinion is we can and should go with the best available because waiting on better always leaves you waiting.

Wise words IMO.

Better is the enemy of good enough.

Even if it costs some people their lives?

Offline woods170

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As a person disappointed in NERVA's cancellation in the 70's, it is always the balance of risk and reward.

My opinion is we can and should go with the best available because waiting on better always leaves you waiting.

Wise words IMO.

Better is the enemy of good enough.

Even if it costs some people their lives?

To name just a few examples: aircraft, trains, automobiles. Despite continuous improvements in safety features people still get killed in those human transportation vehicles. That however had not led to them not being used any more.
 
Why should space transportation be any different?

The only form of sustained human spaceflight that results in NO deaths is NO human spaceflight.

If the USA wishes to fly people in space it will have to accept that ultimately, inevitably, people will die.
If the USA is not willing to accept that than the USA might just as well stop flying people in space altogether.

To quote Gus Grissom: "The conquest of space is worth the risk of life".

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