Why the hell are we going to Mercury?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by dsdsds, Aug 3, 2004.

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  1. Closet Philosopher Off to Laurentian University Registered Senior Member

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    I hope they don't screw up this time. Remeber the Mars Lander where they did the calculations in feet and programmed it in meters? Talk about NASA's rocket scientists...
     
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  3. MacM Registered Senior Member

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    And? Just kidding.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
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  5. Pete It's not rocket surgery Moderator

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    Actually, it was found that the lander (Mars Polar Lander) was likely lost due to spurious signals during descent that made the craft think it was already on the ground. It probably shut off its engines while it was still way up high (oops!).

    The feet/meters mixup was not with a lander, but with the Mars Climate Orbiter. This mixup was in no way as cut-and-dried as the previous post suggests (the gross simplification is understandable - the popular press is biased toward easy explanations, after all). Some thruster performance data was communicated between two teams (one in California, one in Colorado) without units attached. The California team assumed the values were metric (as required by NASA's software specs), the the output from the Colorado software was actually imperial. The erroneous values were the output from one small part of a very large project, but it was enough to put the Orbiter into the wrong trajectory at the critical time.

    Here's the relevant section from the investigation board's report:
    (Mars Climate Orbiter Mishap Investigation Board Phase I Report - large pdf)

    In the investigation board's final analysis, the problem was not solely with this error but with NASA's systems engineering. Several contributing factors were listed:
    (MARS CLIMATE ORBITER FAILURE BOARD RELEASES REPORT
     
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  7. Pete It's not rocket surgery Moderator

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    Reply 1:
    Reply 2:
    I guess I was asking for it!
     
  8. MacM Registered Senior Member

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    They also had designed it to shut off the engine by a sensor picking up the impact of the craft with the ground. They never tested the design. They spectulate that the opening shock of the parachute might have made the system think it was already on the ground.!

    I see Pete had already made comment on this.
     
  9. Facial Valued Senior Member

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    I long for missions like the ones to Pluto and Mercury. Sucks that we didn't do it earlier.
     
  10. eburacum45 Valued Senior Member

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    Mercury is formed from the material which was closest to the Sun during the formation phase of our solar system; according to some theories it is made of heavier material than the other planets, and might be a good source of heavy metals for trade in the future inhabited solar system.

    More importantly, the planet is bathed in intense sunlight; the metals found on this planet should allow a series of solar power collectors to collect enough energy to do the mining of this planet and to propell the products into orbit by mass driver.
    Eventually enough mined Mercurial material could be put into orbit to start collecting sunlight from the volume of space around Mercury; once the orbit of this planet is ringed with energy collectors, the disassembly of the planet can begin.

    Mercury contains enough material to cover the Sun in a shell the same diameter as Mercury's orbit, but only a few centimeters thick; I don't suppose the shell will be practical, but a huge array of power collectors may one day be built, providing enough energy to power a civilisation a billion times as power-hungry as our own, and to power a fleet of interstellar ships to find more Mercury-like planets and rip them apart.

    Mercury could be the key to the universe.
     
  11. sargentlard Save the whales motherfucker Valued Senior Member

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    What about Venus?...it is almost the size of Earth...worth exploring?

    Or Neptune...it has clouds and Nitrogen in it's atmosphere...worth exploring?

    Also what happened to planet X?
     
  12. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Venus has been explored extensively, Uranus is really far way and all we had visit was the voyagers.

    Planet X, where?
     
  13. Stokes Pennwalt Nuke them from orbit. Registered Senior Member

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    The better question is, why not?

    Humans have an inherent desire to see what's over the next hill. Not to mention that space exploration, in general, represents the only eventual future for mankind.

    It's easy to bitch about it. That's the problem with space exploration - there's never a good time for it. People don't long for the heavens when their home life is happy and contented.

    But that will always be the case. And I figure, now is as good a time as any.
     
  14. Facial Valued Senior Member

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    Venus is extremely difficult to explore by land. A hot atmosphere makes even the sturdiest built spacecraft like the Russian Venera fail in a matter of hours.
     
  15. Facial Valued Senior Member

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    Ah, excellent.
     
  16. eburacum45 Valued Senior Member

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    Actually Uranus and Neptune could be good places to colonise in the long run; if fusion power becomes available, the helium and deuterium of these gas giants could be extracted more easily than from the large heavy worlds of Jupiter and Saturn;
    there is enough oxygen, nitogen and hydrogen to support a large population using fusion energy, and carbon is also present as methane...
    we could inhabit the moons of these middle sized giant planets for billions of years until the Sun goes red giant.
     
  17. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    ya but there is not enough heavy elements.
     
  18. eburacum45 Valued Senior Member

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    True; the best source for heavy elements in the outer system is Io, essentially a rocky world amongst dozens of icy worlds.

    Another possible source of non-volatile elements is Miranda, which has been reassembled extensively following a major impact; some of the layers thus exposed may be heavy element bearing rock.
     
  19. Silas asimovbot Registered Senior Member

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    Why go to Mercury? Several reasons.
    1) The outer solar system (ie anything beyond Mars) is a frig of a long way to go and a bitch to get there, thanks to the asteroid belt (well worth exploring on its own account, by the way.)
    2) My science may be a bit out of date, but my impression was that Mercury has metals, ie seriously useful raw materials that we could make use of, unlike both the Moon and Mars which are dry rocks.
    3) Mercury is the closest practicable landing point to the biggest energy source in the Solar system. Back in the days before 1965 when it was thought that Mercury only turned one face to the Sun there wasn't a science fiction writer worth his salt who didn't think that direct tap to the energy would be more than worth setting up some kind of facility there. I personally believe that Mercury spins on its axis so slowly that it would still be worth doing something like that, only mobile - it would only have to move as fast as NASA's Vehicle Transporter as long as straight level roads could be made for it.
    4) As usual someone quotes a big number like "half a billion dollars" under the impression that is a large amount of money, but if you were to consider any one of the major departments of the government: health, social security, education, defence, transportation - it undoubtedly amounts to less than a single day's total spend. As it is, NASA feels the pinch on actual useful programs such as the ISS, because the biggest space program in the world is under the control of the most short-sighted, uselessly pennypinching, most scientifically illiterate legislative assembly in the world, the United States Congress.
     
  20. eburacum45 Valued Senior Member

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    Mercury is actually difficult to get to, as you have to change orbital velocity dramatically; that is why this probe has to fly by Earth and Venus.
    on the other hand...
    The asteroid belt is not dangerous; if you were standing on one asteroid you would be lucky to be able to see another asteroid with the naked eye. They are very far apart. But as resources, very valuable; imagine all the rocks contained inside the Earth ground up into small, mineable portions.
    Yes; it has many more heavy elements than Mars and the Moon; this is because of sorting during the formation of the solar system.
    You don't need to move the solar power collectors; just build twice as many as you need, and only use the ones on the dayside of the planet. The Sun is so bright there the amount of energy collected will be ample, even with half the collectors in darkness.
    Absolutely. Even if the collection of energy at the orbit of Mercury only extends to the surface area of that world, enough energy will be available to run all of Earth society. If extra collectors are plced in orbit, the energy collected will power a thousand civilisations like our own.

    --------------
    SFworldbuilding at
    www.orionsarm.com
     
  21. Pete It's not rocket surgery Moderator

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    Wouldn't it make more sense to put solar collectors in solar orbit, rather than on the surface of a planet?
     
  22. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Pete,

    ya but where do you get the material to make solar collectors? from a planet, mercury is closes by a chalked full of useful elements.
     
  23. sargentlard Save the whales motherfucker Valued Senior Member

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    I recall reading that Mercury has a solid ball of iron, the size of the moon, as its core....true?

    If accessed it can be mined for 2000+ years at 24/7 schedule.
     
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