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MIT Students Analysis of the Mars One Mission Plan, Tuesday, 11-25-14 November 26, 2014

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MIT Students Analysis of the Mars One Mission Plan, Tuesday, 11-25-14


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Guests:  Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Sam Schreiner, Andrew Owens.  Topic:  This program provides a comprehensive discussion of the Mars One Mission Plan by the MIT student team.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.  We welcomed the MIT team from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics to discuss their paper and work “An Independent Assessment Of The Technical Feasibility Of The Mars One Mission Plan.  Download their study at http://web.mit.edu/sydneydo/Public/Mars%20One%20Feasibility%20Analysis%20IAC14.pdf.  You can also download the Reddit discussion mentioned in the second half of our program at http://www.reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/2irk1u/mit_study_predicts_marsone_colony_will_run_out_of.  In addition, check out the MIT Strategic Research Engineering Group at http://strategic.mit.edu.  During the first segment of our 1 hour 49 minute program, Sydney started with background on why the team undertook the Mars One Mission Plan analysis, told us their goals and objectives for doing the analysis, and the role that each team member played in examining the Mars One Mission Plan.  We addressed most of the issues brought to our attention by the MIT study, many in great detail.  We also asked the team about their feedback from the space community as well as Mars One. So far, they have not been in touch with Mars One though they did ask Mars One for information in doing their analysis but no reply was received.  What they have heard from Mars One to date has been through third party reports.  On the other hand, the public’s response has been both very good and helpful.  You will have a better understanding of this and the open source software the team used when you listen to Kirk’s call at the top of the second segment.  The MIT team did not seek out or interview any of the Mars One mission volunteers, advocates, or supporters.  Much was said about Mars One website claims that their mission could be done with current technology including technology used on the ISS.  The MIT team took a hard look at these claims and then evaluated the claims which fell short.  They explained the technologies, the TRLs, and why they fell short of Mars One claims and needs.  We also talked about the ever increasing launch mass every two years with a new crew, supplies, etc.  They showed how this was not sustainable and why.  We talked about the very high number of launches needed before the first crew ever got to Mars plus the increasing number of launches needed at each two year launch window using the Falcon Heavy and a modified Dragon as suggested by Mars One.  The number of launches and their close-in interval has never been done before, even on a global basis.  We talked about making parts on Mars with 3D printing but noted that was not a current technology but that it would evolve over time with no time line available as to when 3D printing could reduce launch masses on the resupply missions.  Much was said about growing crops on Mars, separating the crop environment from the human environment and why, the need for much larger crop space than suggested by Mars One, plus a host of other critically related issues revolving around CO2 and O2.  As you will hear, the logistics of the Mars One settlement are complicated, costly, and very challenging.  The MIT team also determined that it might prove cheaper to bring food up from Earth rather than trying to grow the needed food supplies on Mars.  The MIT team pointed out that the one way mission not only made the Mars settlement far more complex but significantly more costly given it does not have an ending point.  During both segments, our MIT guests pointed out many of the assumptions in play by Mars One, where they were able to work with Mars One assumptions, and when they had to go to the literature, including NASA, to work the problem.  In this segment, I asked out guests at what point would the Mars One settlement be independent from Earth.  Their answer might surprise you.  As the segment closed, a listener asked if they had read the book “The Martian” and what they thought of it.  A few team members had read it & they liked it.  Listen to what they said about that type of survival on Mars and how missions were plan to avoid such a predicament.


In the second segment, Kirk was first up with his call from Trinidad.  He talked about the plant models and open source files and the error the MIT team made which they briefly mentioned in the first segment.  This relates to a flaw in the open source program dealing with CO2 and O2.  It’s a good discussion which also took place offline with Sydney and Kirk.  The MIT team is working this problem and error.  This is important so do pay attention to the discussion with Kirk.  Food systems were talked about again with the team suggesting the colony would be better off bringing food from Earth.  INSITU Resource Usage was talked about as well as sustainability issues to get the settlement up to 12 people over several years.  Tim called in asking about a Mars One analog here on Earth and what drove the costs so high for Mars One.  Again, we heard the one way mission was a huge cost driver.  Tim also asked if the costs would be the same for a lunar settlement.  Surprisingly, our guests said the costs would be similar if the lunar settlement was a one way project as the same type of issues would then have to be dealt with just as is the case for Mars.  Our final call was from John in Montana who applauded the team for their realism.  He mentioned that the health of the crew on Mars was not considered but assuming the crew is healthy when it lands on Mars and can live their, as people age, their medical care and costs rise.  As we heard, no such analysis was made or considered for these issues or their ethical component which the MIT team brought up.  Here we learned that the main assumption was a healthy crew from landing on Mars all the way through the Martian settlement process.  Such an assumption is not realistic but to do the analysis, one has to decide at what level an illness or injury will be treated and at what level crew members will not get treatment.  As the team said, to answer these questions also requires a study of ethics.  In fact, given the extreme financial requirements for the mission plan and its continuation every two years, our guests were asked what would happen and who would pay to keep the Martian settlers alive if Mars One defaulted and could not come up with the needed funds to sustain the mission.  While our guests were familiar with this issue, it was not part of their study.  Nobody knows if governments would come to the rescue or if the Martian settlers would be left to their own survival efforts.  The MIT team said these types of ethical issues would need resolution for any Mars settlement mission. They also questioned if it would be sufficient to just sign informed consent documents that included their knowing there would be no rescue attempts for any reason.  They suggested the UN as the forum that might undertake this type of analysis and policy.  As the show was ending, our team was asked about animal food stocks brought from Earth.  Each of our guests offered us closing comments which you will want to hear.


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