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  #51  
Old 02-13-2018, 07:57 AM
dtilque dtilque is online now
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Originally Posted by eschereal View Post
Mars is nothing like the moon or LEO. The ISS gets regular support from Earth, which is closer to it than half the width of of the southern Pacific Ocean. The moon is a two or three day jaunt. At its closest, Mars is a hundred million miles away – further than the sun. At its farthest, it is over 280 million miles. Support must be planned long in advance, and if one of those support ships fails, its loss might break the colony.
Actually, the closest is around 40 million miles. That's just a nitpick, though, it doesn't change your point. It's still much further away than something in Earth orbit.

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So the colony basically has to establish self-sufficiency in order to be viable. It is not certain that this can be done. Martian soil is not suitable for growing stuff, so expanding a colony fed from hydroponics is questionable at best. I suppose we could give it a try, but do not cry for the colonists when they all die off sooner than we might have expected.
There's been a couple reports in the last couple of years that claim they managed to grow crops in what was claimed to be Mars-like soil. But I'm not sure if they allowed for the perchlorate that's now known to be there in fairly high quantities.

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Originally Posted by eschereal View Post
We get really, really good science from the rovers and stuff. Human visitors might discover interesting stuff. I would love to visit Mars myself, and maybe discover something interesting. But colonization does not make sense when unmanned devices can do much better science over the long term.
Much cheaper, anyway. I'm not sure the robots can do it that much better.
  #52  
Old 02-13-2018, 08:47 AM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Fun fact; Mars has about the same amount of dry land as Earth does. There's lots of room.


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Originally Posted by eschereal
At its closest, Mars is a hundred million miles away – further than the sun.
I have to nitpick this, but of course this is not true. At its closest Mars is less than 50 million miles away. Its average orbital distance from the Sun is 142 million miles, as compared to Earth's 93 million.

It's still a hell of a jaunt. Sending humans to Mars would be the most expensive single project humans have ever done and the likelihood of the astronauts dying would be frighteningly high.
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Last edited by RickJay; 02-13-2018 at 08:49 AM.
  #53  
Old 02-13-2018, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by dtilque View Post
Actually, the closest is around 40 million miles. That's just a nitpick, though …
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I have to nitpick this, but of course this is not true. At its closest Mars is less than 50 million miles away …


I looked it up quickly and glanced at the first number I saw. Failed to notice the “km” at the end. Good thing JPL never makes mistakes like that.
  #54  
Old 02-13-2018, 11:51 AM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Good thing JPL never makes mistakes like that.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:41 PM
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And if someone else wanted to found a colony, the first colony probably couldn't do much to stop them.
Nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
  #56  
Old 02-13-2018, 04:15 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
I assume eschereal is referring to the Mars Climate Orbiter which failed on insertion due to a mismatch in force units (the spacecraft used metric units in terms of newton-seconds to specify impulse where the ground software used pound(force)-seconds). While this is certainly the fault of the center responsible for mission success, the failure review report (and that of the Mars Polar Lander, also lost shortly after) identified the implementation of then-Administrator Dan Goldin’s “Faster-Better-Cheaper” approach in circumventing traditional integrated systems engineering and performing program management by requirements. The contractor responsible for the ground system, Lockheed Martin, had entrusted an engineering intern for checking software requirements without checking that units were consistent. This is an argument against assuming that it is possible to perform complex operations like going to Mars on a shoestring budget and assume that people will not make errors or oversights.

As for the queston of the o.p., as previously pointed out the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (“Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”) prevents signatories from claiming soveriegnty over celestial bodies. Since legal ownership can only be defined in terms of recognition a soveriegn governing body, it isn’t possible for a person or organization to claim ownership under, say, US or EU laws. However, there is nothing stopping an individual who can reach the surface of Mars and somehow manage to stake a habitat to stake a claim; it just wouldn’t have any legal standing in any terrestrial court. The person or company may be subject to various sanctions or actions stemming from violation of terrestrial statutes of their nation of citizenship or other interested parties, and since the ICAO regulates the frequency spectrum for transmissions going into space the party could be subject to legal action for unlicensed use of the spectrum, but pretty much anything that occurs beyond Earth orbit is essentially unregulated except by voluntary compliance to international agreements.

BTW, a US-registered company or private citizen performing a high altitude or orbital launch requires approval in the form of a commercial space launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation regardless of whether or not the vehicle is launched from US territory or not. It is not legally possible to circumvent the need to get FAA approval by simply going offshore, although it is certainly possible to launch a payload (that does not otherwise have ITAR or other export restrictions) using a foreign flag launch operator. SeaLaunch operations, when there was still a controlling interest by The Boeing Company, applied for and received FAA commercial space launch licenses. The same is true for the air-launched Orbital Science Pegasus and any future air- or offshore launches by US-flag operators.

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Originally Posted by dtilque View Post
Much cheaper, anyway. I'm not sure the robots can do it that much better.
It is an oft-stated trope here and elsewhere that an astronaut could do so much more (travel further, explore more, perform various fine motor operations and detail inspections) that a robotic probe or rover cannot do. However, these comparisons are inevitably made with the implicit assumption of an astronaut in effectively shirt sleeve conditions and without limitation on consumable resources like air, food, and power. The reality is the need to provide protection and resources to keep a human astronaut alive and functioning are a major burden on directly crewed missions (to the point that somewhere north of 98% of the the cost and effort of an interplanetary mission would be dedicated to supporting the crew rather than meeting any science or exploation goals), while an astronaut in a pressure suit is clumsy, easily fatigued, and not just a little dangerous. And of course, any instrumentation the astronauts use has to have accommodations for a human interface, and generally speaking one that can be operated through very bulky gloves and limited visual perception versus the minaturized and highly capable instrumentation on the MSL, which basically contains several terrestrial labs of equipment in one, slightly less than a metric ton self-mobile package.

The Mars Science Laboratory (“Curiosity”) on the other hand, has operated essentially continuously since it landed in August 2012, and while it has not kept the pace of a marathon runner, or even a particularly speedy tortoise, it has managed to function for over five and a half years without maintenance or rest. There have been some problems with unexpected erosion on the aluminium wheels due to unexpectedly abrasive rocks and soil, but even an MSL stuck immobile is a better situation than a crewed vehicle no longer able to return to the ascent vehicle site, and with careful engineering and experimentation mission controllers have been able to keep Curiosity moving and fulfilling mission objectives exceeding expectations. For the cost of a single crewed mission we could literally put a couple hundred MSL-type rovers anywhere on the surface of Mars that they could be safely landed and for that cost take the risk with a few iffy landing sites that we’d never put a human crew down at, notwithstanding what improvements in robotic and automation will provide in terms of scientific return for future missions. And of course, robotic probes can be thoroughly sterilized to prevent any issue with organic material or microorganisms from Earth contaminating samples from Mars and making it difficult to make definitive observations about whether there was or is life there or elsewhere, something that cannot be done with human astronauts.

Of course, all of this exploration is being done for human scientists and explorers, and the data is being interpreted (with the aid of a lot of computing power) so that humans can understand more about Mars and planet formation in general. Having a mission control crew within a few light-seconds, rather than minutes away, would permit faster responses and potentially more flexibility in achieving more science objectives rather than weighing the opportunity costs versus a more rigid schedule due to the time consumed by those communication delays, so there is certainly value for having humans in space or even on the surface, using robotic probes and rovers as advanced tools to go further and see more than a crew could feasibly do. But if the opportunity cost is one crewed mission for a cost exceeding dozens of robotic missions, the accounting is very clear. And It is more appropriate to think of robotic missions as being “remotely crewed” rather than just done by robots, because every action and goal is the result of hundreds of person-hours of work by a crew of engineers, scientists, and mission managers for the purpose of expanding human knowledge.

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  #57  
Old 02-13-2018, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train View Post
… Since legal ownership can only be defined in terms of recognition a soveriegn governing body, it isn’t possible for a person or organization to claim ownership under, say, US or EU laws. However, there is nothing stopping an individual who can reach the surface of Mars and somehow manage to stake a habitat to stake a claim; it just wouldn’t have any legal standing in any terrestrial court.
Goddam squatters.

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The person or company may be subject to various sanctions or actions stemming from violation of terrestrial statutes of their nation of citizenship or other interested parties, and since the ICAO regulates the frequency spectrum for transmissions going into space the party could be subject to legal action for unlicensed use of the spectrum, but pretty much anything that occurs beyond Earth orbit is essentially unregulated except by voluntary compliance to international agreements.
As I read it, the Outer Space Treaty imposes some kind of sanction against doing (significant, I would assume) damage to space stuff. So when Joe lands on Mars, stakes out a claim and sets up his habitat, he is almost certainly going to do some damage. Does he claim individual sovereignty (no national affiliation beyond his little patch) to avoid problems with the treaty? I mean, the nation of Joestan is not a signatory.
  #58  
Old 02-13-2018, 06:19 PM
joema joema is offline
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Originally Posted by eschereal View Post
...As I read it, the Outer Space Treaty imposes some kind of sanction against doing (significant, I would assume) damage to space stuff. So when Joe lands on Mars, stakes out a claim and sets up his habitat, he is almost certainly going to do some damage...
I'm not sure that's so. The US signed and ratified the treaty in 1967. Yet this did not prevent the US from landing 12 men on the moon, scattering scientific instruments and refuse over six different landing sites, and hauling 1/2 ton of rocks back to earth.

As already stated, there's a profound difference between claiming sovereign jurisdiction over the moon or Mars vs just living there and possibly harvesting resources for either scientific or economic gain. A deep sea fisherman in international waters doesn't claim sovereign ownership over the ocean itself, even though he hauls fish back to shore and sells them.

Theoretically Elon Musk (if approved by the US government) could build a moon base, mine a cubic kilometer of ore on the moon and use an electromagnetic catapult to shoot it back to earth for processing. Neither he or the US would be claiming sovereign ownership of the moon or a region thereof, any more than the fisherman claims ownership of the ocean.

For fishing in international waters there are regulations -- not about sovereignty but about conduct and resource management: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2...tional-waters/

There are no such regulations or laws about celestial bodies -- except for the 1967 treaty. Mainly, that treaty means (for example) the US can't build a military base on the moon or claim the moon as the 51st state.

There is no wording in the treaty about not damaging celestial bodies or contaminating them. The treaty only says signatories must not contaminate the *earth* as part of their space exploration, or harm the people or possessions of other nations while in space. IOW Elon Musk can't cart his lunar garbage over to the Russian moon base and dump it in their back yard.

Re human vs robotic exploration, at the current rate of progress a bipedal robot might be available before the launch vehicles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRj3...ature=youtu.be

Last edited by joema; 02-13-2018 at 06:21 PM.
  #59  
Old 02-13-2018, 06:21 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Originally Posted by eschereal View Post
As I read it, the Outer Space Treaty imposes some kind of sanction against doing (significant, I would assume) damage to space stuff. So when Joe lands on Mars, stakes out a claim and sets up his habitat, he is almost certainly going to do some damage. Does he claim individual sovereignty (no national affiliation beyond his little patch) to avoid problems with the treaty? I mean, the nation of Joestan is not a signatory.
The Outer Space Treaty really relies upon the individual signatories to police their own citizens, natural or judicial (see Articles VI through VIII). There isn’t any mechanism for the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, which oversees the treaty, to enforce any kind of penalties other than to petition the General Assembly to impose censure or sanction upon nations which don’t comply. For the most part, ‘space law’ is largely a collection of fairly loose international agreements and internal regulation by member states. As a practical matter, some rogue adventurer could land in and lay claim on, say, Hellas Planitia as a soverign nation, and the most anyone could do is sieze his terrestrial assets and threaten him with legal proceedings should he ever return to Earth, but despite the attempts by a handful of quixotic idealists, established nations are generally pretty reluctant to recognize microstates founded by individual, so the sovereignty of such a claim is more or less in the eye of the beholder. As space becomes more industrialized and claims are laid on material assets for exploitation this will have to be revisited or perhaps just obviated by people and companies operating in space under registry to nations of convenience, and perhaps eventually based in space beyond the soveriegn authority of any terrestrial government.

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  #60  
Old 02-13-2018, 07:02 PM
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some excerpts,
Article IV… The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.…
So, war between Mars bases is a treaty violation.
Article VII Each State Party to the Treaty that launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and each State Party from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the earth, in air space or in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies.
Do not mess things up.
Article VIII A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the earth.…
Which (“… or constructed on …”) could have an affect on bases. If you are, say, a Brazilian, miles from Earth, Brazil could have jurisdiction over your activities even if you renounce your citizenship. I think.
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Old 02-13-2018, 07:33 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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There is really no prohibition in Article VII to doing ‘damage’, however it may be defined, to a celestial body; only to the property or persons of another signatory. And in Article VIII, it is levying a requirement upon a nation to police the actions of its people and ‘objects’, e.g. spacecraft, rovers, outposts, et cetera, but it doesn’t directly apply to the actions of individuals or impose any specific penalties. Really, the intent of the treaty was to prevent the militarization of space at a time when the two spacefaring superpowers had been contemplating and investigating various scemes for orbital weapon basing. The scope of the treaty was never really intended to address sovereignty of independent organizations or provide authority to the UN to directly police the actions of individuals or ‘judicial persons’ (corporations).

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Old 02-13-2018, 07:51 PM
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Wait, am I arguing with Stranger? This can only end well
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:46 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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I would say ‘discussing’ rather than ‘arguing’. In any case, it is difficult to say much that is definitive about ‘space law’ beyond FAA and FCC/ICAO regulations, so what a person or company could or could not get away with doing in space and on Mars or elsewhere is largely opinion and speculation.

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  #64  
Old 02-13-2018, 10:00 PM
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Quote:
Quoth Stranger:

It is not legally possible to circumvent the need to get FAA approval by simply going offshore, although it is certainly possible to launch a payload (that does not otherwise have ITAR or other export restrictions) using a foreign flag launch operator.
Doesn't any space payload automatically fall under ITAR, just by virtue of being a space payload? I know that some of my colleagues who did space stuff had constant headaches with that.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:19 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Doesn't any space payload automatically fall under ITAR, just by virtue of being a space payload? I know that some of my colleagues who did space stuff had constant headaches with that.
Traditionally, yes. Pretty much every payload has used some components in sensors and power systems (and guidance, if so equipped) that falls within the provisions of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), even if they are built with freely available commercial S-class components.. But when you have CubeSats using Android-based smartphones for command and control, with commercial cryptography, and using ham frequency orbit-to-ground communication it is pretty hard to make the case that any technology they are using isn’t already widely available around the world, especially since most of the electronic components are built in South Korea, Indonesia, or China and purchased over the Internet. ITAR, in its current interpretation, is really a product of the mid-Nineties and concerns that Iran or Pakistan might get their hands on something that could be used to support their nuclear programs. Since then that cat has definitely escaped the bag, and ITAR is mostly an administrative hurdle unless you are doing observation of space objects above the horizon (still a no-no without DoD approval), are capable of eavesdropping on communications, or have a substatial propulsion system such that the spacecraft could be used as a kinetic weapon.

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  #66  
Old 02-14-2018, 12:35 PM
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Come to think of it, I'm not sure how much trouble my cubesat colleagues had with ITAR. Most of the complaints I heard were from the folks using sounding rockets for solar observations.

(for instance, the regulations required them to cover up the window in the door to their lab. Which they did, with a big friendly sign saying "This is not a secret government laboratory")
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