Author Topic: Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won't take people to Mars  (Read 6075 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.

Quote
"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.

Offline 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.

Online 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.

Online 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."

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.

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 »

Online 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.
More of my thoughts: www.final-frontier.ch (in German)

Offline AncientU

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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."

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!   

Online 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".

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?

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".

But is that something the public at large will accept these days. To me the attitude seemed different back in the sixties compared to now, that there was a greater toleration for risk in the public mood.
« Last Edit: 06/20/2018 11:42 am by Star One »

Offline A12

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.. snip..

But is that something the public at large will accept these days. To me the attitude seemed different back in the sixties compared to now, that there was a greater toleration for risk in the public mood.

More than "public mood" I would say NASA/ESA mood, and, above all, in their managers, more concerned about careers than space exploration.

For what concerns Hadfield: he is right about current rockets, just forgot to mention Nerva.
I believe we need nuclear power to go and, above all, stay on Mars.
« Last Edit: 06/20/2018 12:06 pm by A12 »

Offline spacenut

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Mars can be obtained with current rockets with in space assembly and fuel depots.  Nautilus-X is one example.  In space assembly can also give us Mars Cyclers.   Therefore no need for SLS.  Design spaceships that can be assembled and fueled in space and launched using existing rockets.  Big rockets are nice but not absolutely necessary. 

Offline Star One

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.. snip..

But is that something the public at large will accept these days. To me the attitude seemed different back in the sixties compared to now, that there was a greater toleration for risk in the public mood.

More than "public mood" I would say NASA/ESA mood, and, above all, in their managers, more concerned about careers than space exploration.

For what concerns Hadfield: he is right about current rockets, just forgot to mention Nerva.
I believe we need nuclear power to go and, above all, stay on Mars.

I’d think you’d only need one mishap that cost lives on the journey to Mars for the whole endeavour to be brought to a grinding hold probably for a very extended period. No matter who was doing the transporting.

Offline Dean47

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If people fly into space, at some point people will die in space.  Period.  How we feel about that depends on our perception of risk versus reward.  Now we are in the realm of fundamental human behavior.
 
I was a test engineer for many years.  Some of our tests were inherently risky.  That could not be prevented.  All we could do was try to quantify and mitigate the risk.  The usual criteria was to limit the known risk to one in a million.  It was impossible to get the known risk to zero, and it was impossible to quantify the unknown risks (since we didn't know what they were).  Then someone had to decide  --  is this test worth it?

We do the same thing unconsciously every day.  In 2016 37,461 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S.  Obviously, the risk that you will die the next time you are in a motor vehicle is not zero.  As a matter of fact in 2016 about 12 people died per 100,000 population.  Engineers have done everything they can to minimize the risk (within the design constraints) but about 10-15 people still die per 100,000 each year.  We as a people have decided that the reward associated with driving is worth the risk. (The numbers came from wikipedia.)

The only question is:  Is expanding into space worth the risk?

Offline Rocket Science

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If people fly into space, at some point people will die in space.  Period.  How we feel about that depends on our perception of risk versus reward.  Now we are in the realm of fundamental human behavior.
 
I was a test engineer for many years.  Some of our tests were inherently risky.  That could not be prevented.  All we could do was try to quantify and mitigate the risk.  The usual criteria was to limit the known risk to one in a million.  It was impossible to get the known risk to zero, and it was impossible to quantify the unknown risks (since we didn't know what they were).  Then someone had to decide  --  is this test worth it?

We do the same thing unconsciously every day.  In 2016 37,461 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S.  Obviously, the risk that you will die the next time you are in a motor vehicle is not zero.  As a matter of fact in 2016 about 12 people died per 100,000 population.  Engineers have done everything they can to minimize the risk (within the design constraints) but about 10-15 people still die per 100,000 each year.  We as a people have decided that the reward associated with driving is worth the risk. (The numbers came from wikipedia.)

The only question is:  Is expanding into space worth the risk?
Yes...
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Offline Star One

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If people fly into space, at some point people will die in space.  Period.  How we feel about that depends on our perception of risk versus reward.  Now we are in the realm of fundamental human behavior.
 
I was a test engineer for many years.  Some of our tests were inherently risky.  That could not be prevented.  All we could do was try to quantify and mitigate the risk.  The usual criteria was to limit the known risk to one in a million.  It was impossible to get the known risk to zero, and it was impossible to quantify the unknown risks (since we didn't know what they were).  Then someone had to decide  --  is this test worth it?

We do the same thing unconsciously every day.  In 2016 37,461 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S.  Obviously, the risk that you will die the next time you are in a motor vehicle is not zero.  As a matter of fact in 2016 about 12 people died per 100,000 population.  Engineers have done everything they can to minimize the risk (within the design constraints) but about 10-15 people still die per 100,000 each year.  We as a people have decided that the reward associated with driving is worth the risk. (The numbers came from wikipedia.)

The only question is:  Is expanding into space worth the risk?

I think a lot of it boils down to a matter of perception. Look at the amount of attention there has been in the press when an automated car has caused a death. Yet how much coverage is there of the 45,000 deaths a year from cars driven by humans? We seem to accept the latter as the cost of having cars yet the former causes all kinds of questions to be raised, and worry about even the idea of automation of transport. Yet they are both deaths caused by cars just that in one they are driven by a person and the other by a machine.

The media in recent times always seem to play up the risk of space flight and I think that has transferred into a perception that it’s inherently risky activity and has caused a low toleration of risk. Would it be unfair to suggest that this has made space flight companies risk averse when it comes to transporting humans?
« Last Edit: 06/20/2018 03:41 pm by Star One »

Offline ulm_atms

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Good thing we are not putting people into space that don't want to be there.

The people going into space know the risks and decide they are worth it.  It is their life and they get to decide what to do with it.  Nobody has any right to tell them otherwise....period.

If Chris doesn't think it is safe enough....well...good thing he is not being forced to go or he would then have a argument then.  But the argument of "It's not safe enough so we should not do it" is not up to ANYONE but the person who put themselves in the vehicle to decide....and apparently there are quite a few people in the world that think it IS worth the risk and believe that the companies are not just out to kill them with avoidable/known risks for safety.

But as for "public" support....this is why Elon refuses to make SpaceX public until they are on Mars.  It would cripple them in my opinion.

 

Offline WindnWar

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I think the risk exists but there is a large appetite to explore, no matter the risk involved. People die climbing Everest every year yet there are no attempts to prevent people from climbing it. The people know the risk involved, so long as people don't die from something stupid/easily avoided, there is little chance it will stop people from going. The main thing will be keeping government out of it as they are the most risk averse groups these days.

People will die, it's simply a matter of when, as long as there are more willing to line up to keep exploring, we will keep on going.

Offline Kyra's kosmos

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If NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin don't send a crew to Mars on "primitive" rockets, then someone else will. (Hello, China and Russia.) Worldwide for the last 40 plus years there has been planning, re-planning, scrapping, and rethinking and overthinking this issue, which seems to propagate more overthinking, re-planning, and worrying. The Mars ship can be built modularly in Earth Orbit even if that takes a dozen expendable run-of-the-mill rocket launches. Think of a mini-ISS with propulsion stages and return capsule.

The first entity that is willing to see this through will do it, and hopefully the crew will come back intact. If not, lesson learned. Simple and reliable with brute force and risk is going to win the Mars race.

The bottleneck I see here is that everyone is afraid of finger pointing when an issue arises. In an automobile accident, it's pretty easy and inconsequential to blame one of the two, or three parties involved. But when something arises like a self driving car getting into an accident, there is more factors and parties who could potentially take the blame. Was this hardware? If it was a hardware fault, which engineers built the part? Did they know about the possibility of this happening? If they didn't, why didn't they? etc. It's like the scandal that happened with Toyota nearly a decade ago where the gas pedals were getting stuck down. Still cars being controlled by humans, but because it was a fault with the cars themselves, it blew up into a big news story.

The only way I see us ever getting to Mars, even with future technology that would get us there much faster, is if every little subset that had their hands on the vehicle, from the engineers and programmers, down to the dude who drove the truck that delivered the vehicle to the launch pad, accepts the risk that something could go wrong, and finger pointing isn't necessary.

Offline chrisking0997

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The only way I see us ever getting to Mars, even with future technology that would get us there much faster, is if every little subset that had their hands on the vehicle, from the engineers and programmers, down to the dude who drove the truck that delivered the vehicle to the launch pad, accepts the risk that something could go wrong, and finger pointing isn't necessary.

I think that group has already accepted the risk.  The problem lies with the media (who love a good tragedy, and pulling people down), politicians (who are blame-adverse), bureaucrats (who live to regulate), and armchair quarterbacks (who have created America's latest pastime: playing debbie downer so they can be there to say "I told you so").
Tried to tell you, we did.  Listen, you did not.  Now, screwed we all are.

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