Author Topic: Mars Express discovery reopens questions for future Martian Exploration  (Read 5426 times)

Offline Star One

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There is an easier way to create a hole. Just build a simple nuclear "reactor" designed purely to output heat (should be fairly compact). Start it up and let it melt its way down. Let gravity and physics do the work.

Not entirely sure if this isn't too unfriendly to the microbes you might wish to discover, but it does have the bonus of sterilising everything it touches, so cross contamination is less of an issue.

I’d thought we got passed this kind of thinking in the fifties that nuclear power was always the solution to these kind of issues. I very much doubt that NASA’s plans in this area, which seem the most advanced, are suitable for melting kilometres of ice. Especially as you’d need hundreds of Kilopower generators.
« Last Edit: 07/30/2018 12:00 pm by Star One »

Offline Selenaut

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If this is a Subglaciar Lake like earth's Vostok the liquid water occurrence is bound to the increased pressure of the ice tapper above.

If we drill through we need to choke the well or all the water will start sublimating and flowing out as vapor. This would make the biologists freak out but may actually be a viable geothermal-like resource. And a quite low tech one since it just needs a regular turbine system. Considering that the Lake is 20Km across...that is a significant energy reservoir right there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subglacial_lake#/media/File:Phase_diagram_of_water.svg

Offline Russel

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There is an easier way to create a hole. Just build a simple nuclear "reactor" designed purely to output heat (should be fairly compact). Start it up and let it melt its way down. Let gravity and physics do the work.

Not entirely sure if this isn't too unfriendly to the microbes you might wish to discover, but it does have the bonus of sterilising everything it touches, so cross contamination is less of an issue.

I’d thought we got passed this kind of thinking in the fifties that nuclear power was always the solution to these kind of issues. I very much doubt that NASA’s plans in this area, which seem the most advanced, are suitable for melting kilometres of ice. Especially as you’d need hundreds of Kilopower generators.

The generators are designed for electrical output, not heat. And they're limited because of the need for radiators amongst other things.

A device designed to put out hundreds of KW or even a couple of MW isn't nearly as complex. All is has to do is to melt everything around it and keep on doing so for long enough.

Offline Russel

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If this is a Subglaciar Lake like earth's Vostok the liquid water occurrence is bound to the increased pressure of the ice tapper above.

If we drill through we need to choke the well or all the water will start sublimating and flowing out as vapor. This would make the biologists freak out but may actually be a viable geothermal-like resource. And a quite low tech one since it just needs a regular turbine system. Considering that the Lake is 20Km across...that is a significant energy reservoir right there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subglacial_lake#/media/File:Phase_diagram_of_water.svg

I suspect that it would come to the surface as water, then form a rapidly boiling lake.
Not much use having a power generator that's located hundreds or thousands of Km from where you'll need it.

Offline Selenaut

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If we could proof the concept you would have water and energy sourced together, making for a truly nice place for a settlement.
Sadly it doesn’t work as I thought: If you have a closer look at the phases diagram you will see that even with a large pressure differential (250MPa to 600Pa) at the expected temperatures the water transforms into ice first and only part of it would become vapor. This would mean that the borehole and the surface equipment would get plugged with ice in no time.
It’s just a matter of a few degrees but if we had to heat the process the efficiency may come to a ridiculous figure considering how energy intensive it is to heat water.
To make things worse we know that surface conditions are pretty close to the vapor/solid interface given the stationary growth and shrink of the caps. At some seasons it may function but not on a permanent basis.

Offline tesla

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

I agree. But I believe that it is already too late for this. NASA has already declared special zones on Mars and might extend those zones to the entire planet. Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

Scientific evidence that hundreds of kg of martian rocks impact Earth every day and that recrystallization structures inside the rocks prove that live could have survived inside the rocks for thousands of years is being brushed aside for science fiction fantasies.

The implementation of the precautionary principle won't just end the nuclear industry (in which I am working), but also the space industry.
Go SLS and Orion! God bless America.

Offline Dalhousie

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If the goal is to get water as feedstock to ISRU processes, I think it would be easier to just melt the ice you are drilling through and use that water.  You have to melt it anyway and there is no point in going very deep for it other than to be getting H20 and not CO2 ice.

There is water ice at the surface, you don't have get through 1.5 km of ice to get it.

Quote
If the goal is to look for microbes for research, you do not need a very wide hole, and you might even be able to design a "one-way" probe that has a heated cable back to the surface with instruments on the end (particularly a microscope).  Once it melts its way to the water, the heat to the cable can be turned off and it just makes observations which are sent back to the surface over the cable.  Entire process automated?  Maybe.

If it was this easy it would have already been done in deep glacier drilling in Antarctica,Greenland and elsewhere.
"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

Online DigitalMan

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

I agree. But I believe that it is already too late for this. NASA has already declared special zones on Mars and might extend those zones to the entire planet. Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

Scientific evidence that hundreds of kg of martian rocks impact Earth every day and that recrystallization structures inside the rocks prove that live could have survived inside the rocks for thousands of years is being brushed aside for science fiction fantasies.

The implementation of the precautionary principle won't just end the nuclear industry (in which I am working), but also the space industry.

Another thing to consider is that regardless of any existing protection measures, the current administration would most probably take any action necessary if it could initiate boots on the ground on Mars during its administration.

Even without such interventions, my expectation is that after debate and reasoning out the various positions on planetary protection human exploration would eventually win the argument.

Offline Russel

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

I agree. But I believe that it is already too late for this. NASA has already declared special zones on Mars and might extend those zones to the entire planet. Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

Scientific evidence that hundreds of kg of martian rocks impact Earth every day and that recrystallization structures inside the rocks prove that live could have survived inside the rocks for thousands of years is being brushed aside for science fiction fantasies.

The implementation of the precautionary principle won't just end the nuclear industry (in which I am working), but also the space industry.

Another thing to consider is that regardless of any existing protection measures, the current administration would most probably take any action necessary if it could initiate boots on the ground on Mars during its administration.

Even without such interventions, my expectation is that after debate and reasoning out the various positions on planetary protection human exploration would eventually win the argument.

Even if it were no threat to planetary protection, there are simply easier ways to get water out of Mars. So its a moot point.

Offline dsky

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I’m wary about claims like this from the Mars Express team - they always seem a bit out of step with everyone else in their enthusiasm for water. Anyone else remember the ‘frozen sea and icebergs’ announcement?

The Italian team used two years worth of analysis and observation to gather extraordinary proof before making this extraordinary claim.

For those in the know, I have a question. Is there an upcoming orbiter that could be equipped with an instrument better optimized to look for and map more lakes? There can't be just one.

Btw:

https://www.theonion.com/world-eating-leviathan-awoken-from-500-million-year-slu-1827928509?utm

Perhaps, true, but...

http://www.psi.edu/pgwg/images/oct07image.html



The reference to the PSI article is off-topic. The options of "frozen seas" or soil that is more ice than dirt is also probed by radars. See the article on Utopia Planitia published about one year ago.

On the topic of the work done on the underground lake, the Italian team was working on a sub-surface detection since many years, a work started painstakingly by the late prof. Picardi, the original PI for MARSIS.

The subtle unconfirmed features found justification when after many years a different mode to acquire data was used, taking advantage of some internal memory storage that provided unprocessed radar echoes data to the researchers (MARSIS normally performs some processing onboard to reduce the data volume required for downlink).

Overal this research took more than three years.

For what regards future orbiters with radars ... :) ... however that depth can be obtained only with a low frequency radar which also signifies a low vertical resolution.

A final caveat: the real depth of the lake depends on assumptions on the dieletric constant of the layers of soil above it, which affects the velocity of propagation of radio waves. Small changes can vary the depth noticeably.

« Last Edit: 08/18/2018 10:07 pm by dsky »
Why be a rocket scientist, when you can be a spacecraft engineer?

Offline dsky

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Even if it were no threat to planetary protection, there are simply easier ways to get water out of Mars. So its a moot point.

I am afraid I have to repeat here, with some additions, a post I just did on another topic (related to the discovery of the underground lake). Maybe Chris can edit the other one out.


It is always said that there are easier ways, but which ones?

One that is never mentioned properly is the discovery of HUGE quantities of most likely nearly pure ice ON (not UNDER) the surface of Mars. These are called Debris Covered Glaciers. They are in fact covered by an estimated 2 to 10 meters layer of debris.

The options to get that ice instead of any other fancy method of evaporating ice from soil is a game changing paradigm for Mars exploration.

The quantity of ice in the probed zones at mid-latitudes (very suitable for exploration) are staggering. This is going to have a far-reaching impact in plans for human exploration. It is time to stop thinking about drilling for samples, but to go claim the first ice mines on the Red Planet.

Without wanting to enter the planetary protection issue, it is also pretty clear that the same glaciers, having protected the soil on which they rest for hundreds of thousands of years, may hold a few surprises. And if so, these surprises will be widespread and will not require special rules if the mining activity is concentrated within a certain "dirty" zone.

These results come from SHARAD, MARSIS little brother, which has less penetration but higher resolution, and it is flying on MRO.

So I do not think that MEX/MARSIS discovery will reopen questions for Martian Exploration. Talks are already ongoing based on SHARAD discoveries which are way more useful for practical purposes. The underground lake has important implications for science (think also internal heat) but that's all.
« Last Edit: 08/18/2018 10:29 pm by dsky »
Why be a rocket scientist, when you can be a spacecraft engineer?

Offline Russel

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Exactly where has ice been identified, within a few metres of the surface, at a 'mid lattitide'?

I'm slso skeptical of the term 'mid lattitude'.

My impression is that anything beyond 30 degrees is pushing the limits of habitability.

Offline KelvinZero

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Exactly where has ice been identified, within a few metres of the surface, at a 'mid lattitide'?

I'm slso skeptical of the term 'mid lattitude'.

My impression is that anything beyond 30 degrees is pushing the limits of habitability.
These were pretty easy to find:
https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/24sep_martianice
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/midlatitudes

(Ice exposed by recent meteor impacts about 1.5m deep, halfway between poles and equator.)

Offline ThereIWas3

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Oh great, something else to worry about when designing habitats on Mars.  Or even leaving your spacecraft parked outside.   What size object, moving at what speed, would make a 6m diameter crater like that?   This seems more worrisome than radiation levels.  You can bury the habitats, but you can't put a cover over a 55m tall BFS that you would kind of not want to have a hole punched through.
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Offline KelvinZero

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Oh great, something else to worry about when designing habitats on Mars.  Or even leaving your spacecraft parked outside.   What size object, moving at what speed, would make a 6m diameter crater like that?   This seems more worrisome than radiation levels.  You can bury the habitats, but you can't put a cover over a 55m tall BFS that you would kind of not want to have a hole punched through.
Im sure they are very rare. I do favour underground though.

Mars is also a lot safer than LEO because the atmosphere removes micrometeors which are pretty common and have already been observed to hit the ISS. Im sure the BFS is in far more danger from mechanical failure during use than from meteorites sitting on the ground.

Offline Russel

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So confirmed shallow ice at 45 degrees?
None closer to equator?

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

There's no such thing as "UN laws".  The United Nations charter gives the U.N. no such power.

Member states are not bound by the U.N. charter to follow resolutions of the General Assembly.

The only part of the UN that has any sort of real power over anything, even in theory, is the Security Council, and that power is only to the extent that member states choose to enforce its decisions.

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