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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • Fuel needn't be shipped all the way to Mars for a return voyage. Most of the fuel can be produced from materials available on the surface of Mars. For example, by shipping a very modest amount of hydrogen, it is possible to generate the needed rocket fuel with the carbon dioxide that makes up the bulk of the Martian air.

    Not only does this technology already exist, but it's extremely simple and cheap to build. Martin Marietta Astronautics, working for NASA in 1993, built a Sabatier reactor capable of converting hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methane and water (with 94 percent conversion efficiency) for $47,000 in three months.
    • Fuel to reach escape velocity isn't the only problem to solve. There's also going to be a huge energy requirement for the landing party, much bigger than what Spirit and Opportunity need. With a journey like that, they're also not going to visit for three days and come home. And even if they do bring the hydrogen with them, there's a lot of energy necessary to run shipboard systems for a few months there and back, as well as on the surface -- when atmospheric CO2 isn't available. Solar panels probably w
      • They're not even projecting a date for a manned mission to Mars, but it would, given the rest of the timeline, be at least 20 years from now. I won't worry about it jut yet. :-)
        • I must be misremembering something. When they first floated the trial balloon around the 100th anniversary of Kittyhawk, I think they alluded to a manned mission by 2015, with lunar exploration re-commencing around 2008 or 2012.

          Keeping up with history is hard! :-)

    • If they are going to produce the fuel there, I think we need to produce a fully automated return trip to and from Mars as proof of concept. If we can send a man-sized ship to Mars, harvest materials, produce fuel, and return, all without human presence, then we can modify the mission profile to include human beings and have more confidence in their safe return.

      --
      J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers