Author Topic: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars  (Read 9070 times)

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Online wraper

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #100 on: July 21, 2018, 07:40:49 am »
Why not? What a human would be doing is collecting rock/soil samples and operating the measurement equipment that was prepared back on earth. A robot (remote controlled from earth) can do that as well (that's what the mars rovers have been doing). A human might be better at it but not enough that it motivates the extra cost/risk.
Results of what could be done with robots is pretty evident as they were already sent. The answer is - not that much. Something very simple for a human often is extremely difficult for a robot. Robots are good for doing tasks which are easily automated and need high volume of repeated operations. But general tasks are extremely difficult for them.
What specifically is it you need a human for that you couldn't have a remote controlled robot do?
Say dig a few meter deep hole in fully automated way. It would be quiet a task to make one which can do this reliably by itself. Remote control from earth pretty much won't work because of communications delay.
 

Online wraper

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #101 on: July 21, 2018, 07:46:01 am »
Even drilling a few inch deep hole is quiet a task https://bgr.com/2017/10/24/nasa-curiosity-drill-bit-testing-mars/
 

Offline rdl

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #102 on: July 21, 2018, 09:30:26 am »
Since 2012 the Curiosity Rover on Mars has traveled a little over 18 km. The Apollo 17 astronauts drove over 30 km in three days. As cool and impressive as our Martian robots have been, they don't really compare to what humans could do in the same situation. I think Mars is a great place for humans to explore. Colonizing can and should wait until it would be easy.
 

Offline apis

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #103 on: July 21, 2018, 09:31:58 am »
Say dig a few meter deep hole in fully automated way. It would be quiet a task to make one which can do this reliably by itself. Remote control from earth pretty much won't work because of communications delay.
It would also be quite a task to send humans to mars and back again. We have machines that are good at digging here on earth. I don't see why adding an excavator to a mars mission wouldn't be possible. I disagree that remote control won't work, it just takes a lot longer time, but digging very slowly is still a lot easier and safer than sending humans all the way to mars.

Today I would envision you would use a combination of autonomous digging and a human just guiding the work remotely so that the robot could dig without the operator having to control every single motion of the excavator. That way it would be able to dig fairly quickly. Although autonomous robot technology is something that is evolving very rapidly right now so it's hard to tell exactly what will be possible in the near future. In a few years it might even be possible to just tell a robot you want a hole over there that is x wide and y deep and it will go off and dig it for you.

Even drilling a few inch deep hole is quiet a task https://bgr.com/2017/10/24/nasa-curiosity-drill-bit-testing-mars/
Because the drill was broken. Hard for humans to drill with broken equipment as well...

A human would be much better and adaptable but in 99.9% of the time a robot will be able to do it well enough to get the job done.
 

Online wraper

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #104 on: July 21, 2018, 09:47:30 am »
Because the drill was broken. Hard for humans to drill with broken equipment as well...
Exactly, you'll have a tiny issue somewhere, and mission is doomed. Robots cannot fix themselves or face unexpected situations gracefully. Autonomous robot could simply drive into a pit and get stuck there or roll over.
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99.9% of the time a robot will be able to do it
That 0.1% likely will happen in just a few hours of operation if you try doing something beyond simplest tasks and doom the mission.
 

Offline apis

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #105 on: July 21, 2018, 10:23:44 am »
Because the drill was broken. Hard for humans to drill with broken equipment as well...
Exactly, you'll have a tiny issue somewhere, and mission is doomed. Robots cannot fix themselves or face unexpected situations gracefully. Autonomous robot could simply drive into a pit and get stuck there or roll over.
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99.9% of the time a robot will be able to do it
That 0.1% likely will happen in just a few hours of operation if you try doing something beyond simplest tasks and doom the mission.
A human can fix a lot of things a robot couldn't, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong that a human wouldn't be able to fix either and then all the astronauts would be dead. Worst case when sending a robot is that you have to send another robot after you fix the problem.

There have been four very successful rover missions to Mars so far, despite the difficulties. If you look at this list there are lots of failed missions as well:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_missions_to_Mars
Not because the rovers get stuck in a pit or roll over but because there was a problem getting to mars or landing.

« Last Edit: July 21, 2018, 10:28:44 am by apis »
 

Online wraper

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #106 on: July 21, 2018, 10:40:26 am »
There have been four very successful rover missions to Mars so far, despite the difficulties. If you look at this list there are lots of failed missions as well:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_missions_to_Mars
Not because the rovers get stuck in a pit or roll over but because there was a problem getting to mars or landing.
As I already said:
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Results of what could be done with robots is pretty evident as they were already sent. The answer is - not that much.
Things those missions have accomplished are a joke compared to what humans on the site could explore.
 

Offline apis

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #107 on: July 21, 2018, 10:55:32 am »
There have been four very successful rover missions to Mars so far, despite the difficulties. If you look at this list there are lots of failed missions as well:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_missions_to_Mars
Not because the rovers get stuck in a pit or roll over but because there was a problem getting to mars or landing.
As I already said:
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Results of what could be done with robots is pretty evident as they were already sent. The answer is - not that much.
Things those missions have accomplished are a joke compared to what humans on the site could explore.
You said that, but you haven't been able to provide any good examples of what humans on the site would explore that a modern custom robot couldn't. If those missions are a joke compared to a human mission surely you could provide a long list of things that only a human would be able to accomplish.

If a robot could do it even if it would be doing it slowly and awkwardly it would almost certainly be more cost effective to use the robot, and definitely safer.
 

Online wraper

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #108 on: July 21, 2018, 11:17:29 am »
You said that, but you haven't been able to provide any good examples of what humans on the site would explore that a modern custom robot couldn't.
Do you realize how complicated should be mechanism to just take a ground sample prepare it and make a simple analysis? Rovers not only cannot drill any deep, they are not even able to pick up a rock lying somewhere nearby. My work involves analytic laboratories, so I have some clue that certain things involved in sample analysis are very hard to fully automate, especially in a compact way. Heck, human could pick up a pneumatic hammer and blow shit out of the rock. Curiosity could not drill a decent hole even when mechanism was not broken.
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certainly be more cost effective to use the robot, and definitely safer.
It's always safer to sit in mama's basement than go out and do something. Cost effective for what? If you don't achieve anything significant, it does not matter how low was the cost.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2018, 11:19:15 am by wraper »
 

Online CatalinaWOW

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #109 on: July 21, 2018, 11:40:47 am »
It is interesting that there seems to be a consensus on this forum that self driving cars that can perform as well as the average Joe Schmoe are very far from reality, while many also feel that self driving exploration machines can match or exceed carefully selected and trained astronauts. 

But that is just an observation.  Those who are fervently for purely robotic exploration and those who argue for purely human exploration are both wrong.  They both have their strengths and weaknesses.  Robots have done particularly well to date in space because it is true that they are better suited to survive and operate in that environment, but also because when you are completely ignorant the low hanging fruit is easy to pick.  Improving our knowledge and utilizing that knowledge is going to get harder as time goes along which will tend to tip the balance to on scene human level intelligence.  Explorers that are not limited by huge communication delays and limited bandwidth between the sensors and the intelligence.

Of course if Musk is right the machines will have superhuman intelligence soon and this whole conversation will be moot.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #110 on: July 21, 2018, 12:54:49 pm »
That's an apples to oranges comparison. All being equal, a trained astronaut is going to be vastly superior to an automated rover but when you look at the whole mission cycle things change dramatically. A human needs far greater consideration to safety and redundancy, life support, creature comforts and all the other challenges that come with keeping human occupants comfortable, healthy and safe. A manned mission is vastly more expensive and more complex, and in most cases that tradeoff is simply not worth the advantages.

A remote rover on the other hand can "sleep" indefinitely on the voyage there, it needs no life support or food, it doesn't need to bathe, it's never going to argue with other rovers, it doesn't produce any waste to deal with, and the biggest of all advantage is it doesn't need a return trip. We can send a dozen rovers on one-way trips to different places and if half of them arrive safely at their intended destinations that could be considered a successful mission. Send out a dozen human crews and it's a whole different matter of half of them don't make it where they're going and none ever return home.
 

Online CatalinaWOW

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #111 on: July 21, 2018, 01:34:02 pm »
This not just a human vs machine discussion, but a society discussion.  In the age of exploration huge numbers of explorers and later colonists didn't survive.  And that was fine.  In today's society when people react with horror to very low risk things even sending a machine is questionable.  What if a launch failure makes it fall on our head.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #112 on: July 21, 2018, 04:35:05 pm »
Huge numbers of explorers died because there was no alternative, today we have alternatives. A launch failure that killed people could happen and it would be a disaster, but it's far less likely than a mission failure that kills the crew. The main thing is that unmanned missions are far cheaper and far simpler. You don't need human rated rockets, you don't need life support, you don't need to carry food, you don't need to dispose of bodily waste, you don't need to solve the huge problems of crew comfort and preventing muscle atrophy in zero G. There is a large array of problems and challenges you can simply bypass and not worry about. The end result is much like any other form of automation, automate the factory and you get people out of dangerous jobs, you greatly increase productivity and consistency while greatly reducing cost. At least in automating space missions you aren't putting millions of working class people out of a job. I don't have the numbers offhand but we can probably send out *at least* a dozen or more robotic explorer missions for the cost of one single manned mission and we can send them to places far too distant to send humans in a reasonable time scale. That's another big problem, Mars is the nearest planet, it takes months to get there and we've already sent rovers there. Where is the next closest planet that has conditions within the realm of human survival and how many centuries will it take to get there?
 
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Offline donotdespisethesnake

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #113 on: July 21, 2018, 05:32:49 pm »
Since 2012 the Curiosity Rover on Mars has traveled a little over 18 km. The Apollo 17 astronauts drove over 30 km in three days. As cool and impressive as our Martian robots have been, they don't really compare to what humans could do in the same situation. I think Mars is a great place for humans to explore. Colonizing can and should wait until it would be easy.

How much did the Apollo 17 mission cost vs Curiosity? Not that the two mission are in any way equivalent.
Bob
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Offline rdl

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #114 on: July 21, 2018, 10:35:54 pm »
I think if you compare only the mission cost they would probably not be too far apart, but if you factor in total development cost Apollo would be much more costly. The Curiosity mission was around $2.5 Billion whereas the entire Apollo Program cost is estimated at $20-25 Billion, which would be something like $120 Billion in 2012 Dollars. However, a lot of the Apollo cost was basic R&D, which Curiosity also eventually benefited from.


How much did the Apollo 17 mission cost vs Curiosity? Not that the two mission are in any way equivalent.
 

Offline GeorgeOfTheJungle

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #115 on: July 21, 2018, 10:47:47 pm »
Had to be many billions because at one point, during the space race, in the USA there were thirteen (IINM) totally different, independent, competing rocket designs.

« Last Edit: July 21, 2018, 10:49:32 pm by GeorgeOfTheJungle »
 

Offline Eka

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #116 on: July 22, 2018, 08:09:32 am »
Huge numbers of explorers died because there was no alternative, today we have alternatives. A launch failure that killed people could happen and it would be a disaster, but it's far less likely than a mission failure that kills the crew. The main thing is that unmanned missions are far cheaper and far simpler. You don't need human rated rockets, you don't need life support, you don't need to carry food, you don't need to dispose of bodily waste, you don't need to solve the huge problems of crew comfort and preventing muscle atrophy in zero G. There is a large array of problems and challenges you can simply bypass and not worry about. The end result is much like any other form of automation, automate the factory and you get people out of dangerous jobs, you greatly increase productivity and consistency while greatly reducing cost. At least in automating space missions you aren't putting millions of working class people out of a job. I don't have the numbers offhand but we can probably send out *at least* a dozen or more robotic explorer missions for the cost of one single manned mission and we can send them to places far too distant to send humans in a reasonable time scale. That's another big problem, Mars is the nearest planet, it takes months to get there and we've already sent rovers there. Where is the next closest planet that has conditions within the realm of human survival and how many centuries will it take to get there?
There are many deaths of brothers and sisters of my own ancestors who also tried to colonize North America pre 1700. All told around 30% of those that tried died on the voyage, or within a year of reaching North America. Yet members of my ancestral families kept sending their own over knowing full well others in their own families who had gone before had died. Many of my relatives are also the survivors of those that initially settled the midwest. Quakers would initially set up a town, and move their families there. Then others would move in. Eventually the area would get filled in by farms, non Quakers, etc. A bunch of young men with new families would go and setup a new town further west, and send for their wives and children once the houses were up, and crops were soon to be harvested. Many would die from raids on the new frontier towns, yet they kept at it, generation after generation.

Deaths trying to explore and colonize the moon or Mars are inevitable. The people who are willing to try, know they may die. That is life being an explorer or pioneer.

As for water, their is plenty on Mars. New outflows are being seen all the time. Looks like some drilling and maybe heating is what is needed to get at it. Habitats, what do you think the tunnel boring company Musk owns is for? You can sleep quite a few people in nice accommodations in a kilometer length of tunnel 30 feet in diameter. Some researcher had written an AI based control system for earth movers so a bunch of them could make the initial hole for placing the boring machine in before humans arrived. A large landing site could also be graded flat right next to the pit for the excavator and boring machine flights to land at. The site can be fully prepared and all the tunnel boring machinery landed before the first humans arrive. If you send 6 boring machines distributed over 28 rocket loads, loss of a half won't stop the program. In the process you learn how to land large loads long before any human makes the trip. My expectation is they will use a minor modification of the booster landing systems to land most of the initial supply loads on Mars. To save fuel, a huge airbag system could be used for initial atmospheric slowing to get down near to orbital speeds, then jettisoned before final decent on the booster rockets. They have been experimenting with bringing large booster sized craft in sideways so the heat of reentry is spread over the whole carbon fiber side rather than just the small end. That may be all they need for braking at Mars. Landing on mars will be routine by the time humans go. I also bet they will eventually refuel them and fly them home for reuse. Water can be cracked into hydrogen and oxygen which are great rocket fuels. Just design an engine that can have it's core replaced with a H2 O2 fuel system. The rock and mineral samples sent home in one of them would be a gold mine for researchers back on earth. It would be nothing to send back a few thousand kg of samples gathered from all over on each return flight. Those samples then could be analysed back on earth and construction materials developed from them. Except now there will be thousands of kg to work with. Construction materials for the moon have already been proposed and some even developed based on the small samples returned.

PS, I bet once large loads are successfully landed on Mars, world wide public interest will explode. Sometime go and read about the world wide interest in the US space program during the Apollo missions. I think Musk's biggest hurdle will be not having his effort nationalized.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #117 on: July 22, 2018, 10:09:26 am »
I remain skeptical. I'm sure interest will explode, for a while. During the Apollo missions there was huge worldwide interest at first, but after just a few years this died down substantially to the point where a launch was only a small mention somewhere, not the front page news it had been previously. The first time humans go to Mars it will be big news, a while after that it will be routine missions. The same happened with the space shuttle, the launches were a big deal at first, but after they became somewhat routine it wasn't really news anymore unless there was a disaster.

I also still think that a lot of the people who do take a one way trip to Mars will soon regret it when it sinks in that they are marooned in a small base on a desolate planet with the same small group of people for the rest of their lives. If a person wants to live in extreme isolation in a hostile environment there are still plenty of empty spaces right here on Earth that are more inviting than Mars. I suppose we could take the Australia approach and start shipping our criminals off to Mars and let them fend for themselves and maybe some day they will morph into a civilized society as happened to Australia. I think it's more likely they will all die though.
 

Offline donotdespisethesnake

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #118 on: July 22, 2018, 03:17:38 pm »
Getting to Mars and surviving for a few weeks will be a major technical achievement, on a par with achieving sustainable nuclear fusion. It's also probably 30 years away for a while yet.

Creating a "colony" on Mars is another order of magnitude (at least). It will be more like a research base for a century or two, solely dependent on supplies for Earth.

As for being a destination for pioneers like the New World, that will probably never happen. Living on Mars will be like living in a spaceship, on Mars. The only thing Mars brings to the table is some gravity. There are no natural resources available that don't need mining/extraction. There is nothing of sufficient value on Mars that could be traded with Earth, apart from Mars rocks. The only viable businesses are tourism and souvenirs, which doesn't get very far.
Bob
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Offline apis

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #119 on: July 23, 2018, 05:12:34 am »
You said that, but you haven't been able to provide any good examples of what humans on the site would explore that a modern custom robot couldn't.
Do you realize how complicated should be mechanism to just take a ground sample prepare it and make a simple analysis?
I do. Do you realise how complicated, expensive and risky it is to send people back and forth to Mars!? Making such a mechanism is trivial compared to the challenges involved in a manned mission to Mars. I'm sure it's doable though, but the money is better spent elsewhere, since rovers can do (almost) all of the things a human astronaut would for a fraction of the cost without any risk to human life.

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certainly be more cost effective to use the robot, and definitely safer.
It's always safer to sit in mama's basement than go out and do something. Cost effective for what? If you don't achieve anything significant, it does not matter how low was the cost.
To say the mars rovers haven't achieved anything significant is just preposterous. NASA wouldn't keep sending these robots to Mars if they didn't achieve anything. It's fine to take a calculated risk if it is necessary to achieve something meaningful. It's not fine to gamble with people's lives just for a publicity stunt. I'm convinced that if it made scientific sense to send people to Mars NASA would have done so a long time ago.

People have gotten too fixated on Mars. It makes much more sense to build a base on the moon (why not colonize the moon ;)), and a bigger space station with spin gravity and facilities for long time stay in orbit.
 

Online wraper

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #120 on: July 23, 2018, 05:27:28 am »
People have gotten too fixated on Mars. It makes much more sense to build a base on the moon (why not colonize the moon ;)), and a bigger space station with spin gravity and facilities for long time stay in orbit.
Nope people are too fixated on spending their money on time wasting things like iphone. If Apple revenue was spent on space exploration, we'd already have a base on Mars. Moon has fine dust that destroy everything it touches.
https://www.spaceanswers.com/solar-system/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-moon-dust/
« Last Edit: July 23, 2018, 05:41:23 am by wraper »
 

Offline Eka

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #121 on: July 23, 2018, 05:38:14 am »
There are no natural resources available that don't need mining/extraction. There is nothing of sufficient value on Mars that could be traded with Earth, apart from Mars rocks.
Well, for starters, Helium 3 would be worth shipping back to earth. It should be very abundant in Mar's regolith.
 

Offline apis

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #122 on: July 23, 2018, 06:06:59 am »
People have gotten too fixated on Mars. It makes much more sense to build a base on the moon (why not colonize the moon ;)), and a bigger space station with spin gravity and facilities for long time stay in orbit.
Nope people are too fixated on spending their money on time wasting things like iphone. If Apple revenue was spent on space exploration, we'd already have a base on Mars.
Smartphones are pretty darn useful I'd say. But people spend a lot of money on junk, no argument there. The way the economy works all of the wealth accumulates in the pockets of a tiny minority. It's not that there isn't enough money in the world, it's just that it's in the pockets of a few people who doesn't care about scientific advances, space exploration or the common good. People like Elon Musk and Bill Gates are notable exceptions. Not that politicians are any better. If anything they are spending less and less on science like space exploration in favour of tax cuts and military.

Moon has very small dust particles that destroy everything they touch.
https://www.spaceanswers.com/solar-system/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-moon-dust/
And Martian soil is full of toxic perchloate. If we can't build a base on the moon I don't think we would be able to build one on Mars either.
https://www.space.com/21554-mars-toxic-perchlorate-chemicals.html
 

Offline apis

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #123 on: July 23, 2018, 06:09:24 am »
There are no natural resources available that don't need mining/extraction. There is nothing of sufficient value on Mars that could be traded with Earth, apart from Mars rocks.
Well, for starters, Helium 3 would be worth shipping back to earth. It should be very abundant in Mar's regolith.
There's plenty of Helium 3 on the moon, makes no economic sens to go all the way to Mars for that.
 

Online wraper

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Re: Why SpaceX Are Going to Beat NASA to Mars
« Reply #124 on: July 23, 2018, 06:54:06 am »
Smartphones are pretty darn useful I'd say.
They increase productivity for maybe 5% of users at best. Others just waste their time and decrease productivity by using them for useless things. Selfies, instagram, facebook, youtube, you name it.
 


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