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Jay B. Harlow
08-13-2011, 09:18 PM
I love this guy! It's huge!

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?collection_id=18895&media_id=105929071

I love the new landing system.

Jay

RDL2004
08-13-2011, 09:35 PM
What? No bouncing balls? And it's nuclear powered?

wjsteele
08-13-2011, 11:42 PM
Yes... the MERs were at about the limit for what the air bag landing system could handle. This beast is 4 times their size. The "Sky Crane" landing system is a very cool piece of technology just by itself!

The Viking's landed using rocket desents as well... except they wern't lowered to the surface. This landing system was selected so that the rockets from the landing didn't spoil the landing area. In fact, when the crane drops off the lander, it will fly a safe distance away before crashing down.

Bill

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
08-14-2011, 12:10 AM
That is one complicated sequence of maneuvers! It'll be a real coup if they can pull it off, but the tiniest glitch would be a show-stopper.

-Phil

wjsteele
08-14-2011, 12:59 AM
Yep, it sure is. Thankfully, most of the technology has already been tested out with the Mars Phoenix Lander.

See this video of how it landed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZqT15DoVmM&feature=player_embedded#at=259

The only difference is that instead of it touching down, it'll hover several feet above the ground and lower the rover down. Once the rover detects wheels down, it'll fire off pyro charges to blow away the bolts holding the cables in place.

Bill

Jay B. Harlow
08-14-2011, 02:45 AM
One of the video's on the NASA site walks you thru step by step the landing of the Curiosity, from hurtling thru space, to entry into the atmosphere, to parachute, to thrusterts, to setting the lander on the group.

Lots of things moving really fast happens very quickly to safely drop Curiosity safely on the surface of Mars; They've had a number of successes and a handful of spectacular failures. Hard to believe it'll be almost a year before it lands...

Jay

alex123
08-14-2011, 02:58 AM
The JPL engineering team had so much fun and they still got paid for it. Unbelievable...
I would work there for food...

Gadgetman
08-14-2011, 08:40 AM
Hah!

I bet if they told you to bring a packed lunch, and to 'bring enough for the rest of us', you'd he happy to work there, anyway...

Me?
I'd be asking what they want on their sanwiches...

The JPL is the Shangri-la/Xanadu/Nirvana for geeks everywhere.

Humanoido
08-14-2011, 05:00 PM
Another wonderful step in the precursor towards landing on and colonizing Mars.. Interesting the trip takes only a year. Certainly it's not the most favorable opposition in 2012 as Mars subtends a mere 13.89 seconds of arc. We take what we can get in the bi-annual oppositional trend, whether the most favorable or not - But then, one would need to wait until 2018 for 24.31" which is about the same as it was in 1971 (absolutely a spectacular time for Mars study and Martian mercator projection mapping and land imaging) and of course 2018 is the time when we should colonize Mars (if ready). When we go there, it should be as a team - British, USA, Canada, Japan, India, France, Italy, Spain, China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, Austria, Australia, Norway, and the list goes on.. This puts 2014 and 2016 as the best years to send up self replicating robots that will build infrastructure prior to human arrival. Is anyone working on this?

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
08-14-2011, 05:33 PM
I'm content -- overjoyed actually -- to see an emphasis on robotic space probes at the expense of human space travel. As far as bang for the buck is concerned, robots can't be beat. Unlike humans, we don't have to feed them during the voyage or bring them back. And if something goes wrong -- and things do occasionally and inevitably -- it'll be an embarrassment and black eye for NASA, yes, but not the national tragedy it could be if astronauts were involved, with the consequent political hand-wringing, blame-gaming, and further budget-tightening.

In the Spirit of Opportunity, I say, "Go, Curiosity, along with all your mechanical brethren to follow!" We can take just as much pride in these radiation-hardened explorers of our own creation as we can by sending a hard-to-maintain bag of muscle and bone to do the same job at far greater expense.

-Phil

Jay B. Harlow
08-14-2011, 08:53 PM
I think the first manned mission to mars should plan on staying, more of a colonizing mission, rather then a there and back again.

I agree rovers et al for now...

This weekend I was contemplating Curiosity or larger (mini van to RV) rover that had smaller rovers or quad copter reconnaissance drones which could fly over check out a rock rather then making the larger & slower main rover investigate. Sort of a divide and conquer...

Jay

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
08-14-2011, 09:10 PM
It's impossible to imagine conditions getting so horrible on earth that I'd opt to emigrate to that cold, desolate, god-forsaken rock. I venture to say that anyone who'd actually want to could never pass the mental fitness screening required for inclusion in such a trip. The only way you'd get people with the "right stuff" would be to make the exodus involuntary.

-Phil

erco
08-14-2011, 09:25 PM
No word on any further Mars effort from the Brits since their Beagle went silent after landing. Is it possible that Beagle used British PicAxes? :)

JK, I love Brits, PicAxes & pints of Guiness too, Leon!

Gadgetman
08-14-2011, 09:44 PM
At the moment we don't have the required tools to make Mars habitable, or even to build a colony that could support a crew large enough to start colonisation.

Sure, we can send robots there, but at what cost?
And they're SMALL!

Now, imagine sending a couple of TONS of equipment?
Or food and other supplies for a group of colonists?

Anyone mentioning 'hydroponics', 'closed systems' and 'recycling' is in for a nasty surprise.
I don't care what has been 'proved' in assorted 'eden' type experiments with enclosed environments.
Plants = energy storage, yes... Unfortunately, a lot of that energy is derived from sunlight.
It takes a lot of light to run a hydro farm for 50 or more colonists.
(50 really is a minimum number for a startup colony that might be left 'incommunicado' for large periods of time. A multiple-generation colony really need to beging with 500 unrelated people for genetic diversity)

There's been all kinds of talk aout 'generation ships' or even 'in vitro' colonists for colonies in other starsystems.
Except... I thought slavery was abolished...

Until we get much more efficient orbital cargo lifting, and faster spacecraft, there's no way we can start colonising anything.
We can't even build a proper orbital facility yet.
(No the ISS isn't a 'proper orbital facility')
With 'proper' I mean something that can be lived in for years by anyone(read = needs some sort of gravity to stop muscle and bone problems), have cargo facilities and can accept multiple visiting ships at the same time.
It should probably be a bit higher up, too, so that it doesn't drag through Earths upper atmosphere, either.

Lifting may be acheived with a space elevator, as we are slowly developing the tools and materials needed.
(Carbon nanotubes for one)

Spacecraft propulsion, though, is a bit more iffy.
Solar sails have some potential for long-range 'out of the solar system' trips, but it's incredibly vulnerable to even the smallest speck of dirt.
Ion thrusters... Marvellous tech... Can run 'almost forever' but with such a low impulse it takes an ice age or two to reach max speed. (It also needs reaction mass, though only a fifth or so of conventional thrusters?)

The biggest reason we have right now for colonising other planets is the 'giant meteor strike' scenario; that aa falling rock will destroy civilisation on Earth. Some schmucks seems to think that the people on Mars, the Moon or wherever is then going to come back and rebuild everything. Or at least keep the memory of Earth alive...
And frankly, no... For any kind of 'organised rebuild' it would take thousands upon thousands of dedicated workers. And they'd probably need weapons to protect themselves from desperate surivors who wants to raid their supplies.
If we can move that many people into space and to a colony, the odds are we're also able to spot and remove all threats like that.
Nuclear war, deadly virus scenarios?
My guess is that they'd all vote to 'leave that poisonous ball of dirt well alone' instead of coming to help clean up the mess.

xanatos
08-14-2011, 09:55 PM
What a great vid. I'm practically vibrating with anticipation of the landing and the terabytes of high quality data and imagery that'll be coming back. The only thing I'm looking forward to even more is when we send a probe to land on Enceladus and drill through that ice, and send a robotic submersible down with illumination. I'll bet there's stuff living in there! I wish I could be a part of the design team on these projects... Heck, I'd settle for janitor! :-)

Humanoido
08-15-2011, 07:33 AM
Remember the "every 35 million year rule?" Well guess what folks. We are at the end of the cycle once again and justing waiting for the big one. At that periodic cycle, a big incoming rock destroys all life on Earth. If you're lucky, maybe in the near future you'll have a few volunteer relatives living on Mars who can survive such a holocaust. Mars is the planet most like Earth. It has lots of water stored under it's crust, with plenty of building materials and land to build upon. With an atmosphere of CO2, plants will love it. And CO2 can be processed for oxygen. Outside, big wind generators can supply power for heat, light, and electrical needs. While it's usually cold, Mars can reach 60 deg. during the summer months at favorable solar times. Packed soil can radiation harden habitats.

It has advantages with less gravity and currently it has no light pollution so telescopes will do well, as long as everything is protected from seasonal dust storms. It's good to send out our precursor exploratory robots to gain knowledge and understanding, set the pace, do the scouting, but the final journey is made by humans in the spirit of the grand exploration that is embedded in our souls and blood.

There was a time when people believed if you sailed too far off into the ocean abyss, you would fall off the flat Earth. But brave explorers ventured forth and founded new land which was colonized where we live today. The journey was not without challenges. Mars will be a great journey of exploration and colonization, a true verification of our ability overcome challenges, to paradigm shift and evolve ourselves and our science to where the rewards are the greatest.

Loopy Byteloose
08-15-2011, 07:50 AM
Well, if I ever get to Mars, I now know that all the world's greatest toys have been shipped ahead for me to play with.

I wouldn't worry too much about life on earth ending, my credit card company keeps telling me that the world will end in 90 days if they don't hear from me.

Gadgetman
08-15-2011, 07:57 AM
The '35million year rule' is statistics...

There's an oldd adage to remember:

There's lies,
there's d@mn lies,
and there's statistics...

A 'young' solar system will have more impacts, but as time goes by it 'cleans out' as the rocks drifting around impacts large bodies(planets mostly), therefore it's not that surprising that we haven't been hit that hard the last few million years...
Also, that rock doesn't necessarily 'destroy all life'. Sure, the one 65million years ago pretty much took care of the dinosaurs, but msot plant life and smaller animals survived just fine. And while it would cause chaos on Earth today, it probably wouldn't wipe out humanity.
(It would be tough going, but some would survive. Civilisation, though, would take a real nasty hit)

Low gravity isn't always an advantage, especially when your skeletal structure and circulatory system is optimised for 1G.

Tor
08-15-2011, 09:08 AM
Also, that rock doesn't necessarily 'destroy all life'. Sure, the one 65million years ago pretty much took care of the dinosaurs, but msot plant life and smaller animals survived just fine. And while it would cause chaos on Earth today, it probably wouldn't wipe out humanity.
(It would be tough going, but some would survive. Civilisation, though, would take a real nasty hit) Civilisation would most probably be gone forever, because all the easily accessible ores and resources are already gone, they've been used up. And you need easily accessible ores for metal etc. to bootstrap civiilsation. If you removed all industry from the world today, with no single person hurt, just leaving behind a world without any technology, then it's very unlikely that civilisation would bounce back at all.

-Tor

Gadgetman
08-15-2011, 10:13 AM
Not exactly right, but I see your point.

Yes, a lot of 'easily accessible' ores have been removed from the ground, but...
You can now find them in their 'refined' form on top of the surface...

There's enough metals accessible almost anywhere for a large group of survivors to 'restart' civilisation.
The 'bump' won't be before they run out of recyclables nearby and have to either start digging for ores or spread out to scavenge other sites.

Also, civilisation isn't defined by the level of their metallurgical sciences.
Metal is an 'enabler' for a lot of technology, but not an absolute requirement for civilisation.
(Feel free to borrow a time machine and take a trip back to the inuits acouple of hundred years ago)
Mostly, a civilisation can be defined by 3 attributes; history, cohesion and purpose.
(My opinion. Feel free to disagree, or come up with a better list)

Humanoido
08-15-2011, 10:52 AM
Indeed it's a statistical number that's followed through in the evolution of the Earth with a variance of +/- 10,000 years. Nothing to worry about you say? Think again. Recently a potential killer asteroid narrowly missed the Earth in a side swiping orbit that brought it between the Moon and the Earth and another one skimmed the upper Earth's atmosphere in a dazzling display but lucky it did not capture fully by gravitation or strike the Earth.

There's hundreds of thousands and millions of these rogue rocks in the asteroid belt just waiting for tens of thousands of years, and now and then one breaks lose in the orbit and gets swung around Jupiter (see the history of Jupiter to learn about the number of strikes that readily occur on this gas giant). That solar orbit and the proximity of Jupiter can modify the asteroid's orbit causing it to hit Earth. Lucky for us, most monster rogues are captured by Jupiter but now and then a few get through to Earth, and those are the 35 million year mongers.

There's several of these big hits on Jupiter reported in the J.A.L.P.O. for both Jupiter and the Moon. As the Moon lacks atmosphere, it gets bombarded by even smaller rocks that still form large enough to be seen craters and impact results. See the Lunar Transient Phenomenon program by the A.L.P.O.

http://alpo-astronomy.org/index.htm

Loopy Byteloose
08-15-2011, 11:35 AM
Statistics indicate a lot of things, but death is rather final and irreversible. So whether it comes from a cosmic event in the form of a planet killing asteroid or one chokes on a pretzel like G.W. Bush did, it seems to be rather dubious to speculate.

I find the technology to go to Mars quite entertaining. But having read quite a bit of science fiction about the development of colonies on the moon, withing our solar system, and throughout the galaxy; I find that I presonally am pretty much stuck here on the ground until I find a pretzel to choke on as I am just too old and too early in the timeline.

Don't worry, be happy. Enjoy the life you have and let the insurance companies worry about statistics.

Humanoido
08-15-2011, 01:40 PM
Indeed speculation can be dubious. But consider such thought contemplation has brought about groups of people searching for and identifying rogue asteroids, plotting their orbits of trajectory, and other groups are organizing towards developing methods to avert a large incoming asteroid. So conversation and consideration can lead to an evolution of greater things.

Science fiction has shown us many great things, and many of those things have come true (see the thread about the tricorder by prof_braino and the post about Star Trek). I'm happy to have seen men walk the Moon, the shuttle program, space station, space telescope, probes to all the planets (pluto excepted), computers, cell phones, 3D TV, walking humanoids, antimatter, black holes, climate control, spacecraft to land on asteroids and visit comets, mega-projects, the resolution of Quarks, satellites, GPS, the edge of the Universe, the world's largest telescope, proof of time travel, medical breakthroughs, and internet, all become reality. Consider the potential of what will materialize in the next ten. We're not too old or too early in the timeline - it's the best time to be alive at the prime of these events and to see the best of everything take off!

Gadgetman
08-15-2011, 04:38 PM
Please don't list the space shuttle among all that incredible stuff.
It's a overdesigned mess!
(The USAF requirement of it being able to reach a polar orbit for eample, meant that it had to be much more powerful, and therefore also heavier, and cost a lot more to launch. How many times did it actually USE that ability? and wouldn't it have been cheaper to use rockets to launch the payload then?)

As for the statistics of asteroids or other rocks dropping on us, it's strange that it has been so regular.
Such regularity would usually mean that there's an outside force causing them to be pushed from their normal orbit. And if the last time it happened was 65 million years ago, instead of 35, does that mean we 'skipped' a cycle? and that the next rock is due in 5million years?
Or that the reason for the rocks have disappeared?
(Random is math-speak for 'we can't figure out the formula and starting conditions', not 'there's no reason for it to happen')

Just rambling...

erco
08-15-2011, 09:50 PM
Also, that rock doesn't necessarily 'destroy all life'. Sure, the one 65million years ago pretty much took care of the dinosaurs, but msot plant life and smaller animals survived just fine. And while it would cause chaos on Earth today, it probably wouldn't wipe out humanity.

You'd be surprised how much you can learn from Hollywood. :)

Two independent movies, "2012" and "Deep Impact" both confirm that simply getting to high ground will save your life when asteroids hit, oceans rise and the earth crumbles. In 2012, you had to be on the top of Mt. Everest. Better safe than sorry.

Loopy Byteloose
08-16-2011, 04:56 AM
Not much air on the top of Everest - that may kill you as well. The safest place might be on a ship in the middle of an ocean rather than dry land.

There certainly is a place for fiction in the creativity of humankind, but statistical paranoia is not very helpful. Neither is Bruce Willis saving the world -- ask Demi Moore.

Humanoido
08-16-2011, 05:12 AM
Exobiologists believe that Earth was "seeded" for life from the same asteroids and comets that destroy life upon impact.

There is a random nature to some of these asteroids. As we travel through space, an asteroid can end up captured and flung about into a new direction, i.e. it need not originate from the Kuiper belt.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuiper_belt

The largest mass planets and the sun have the greatest influence on these objects. Some astronomical papers have stated Jupiter has "saved the Earth" on numerous occasions as it pulls in heavy mass objects.

As for the timing of the next large incoming, it's overdue, and that's one reason for escalating interest in finding ways to avert one before it strikes the Earth.

It only takes a small change in angular direction when the object is far away to avert it as opposed to a massive change when the object is near. So orbital mechanics tracking when the objects are still far away is very important.

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
08-16-2011, 06:17 AM
Orbital mechanics, when more than two gravitational bodies are involved, are chaotic, not random. There's a difference.

-Phil

xanatos
08-17-2011, 01:18 AM
...Mars is the planet most like Earth. It has lots of water stored under it's crust, with plenty of building materials and land to build upon. With an atmosphere of CO2, plants will love it. And CO2 can be processed for oxygen. Outside, big wind generators can supply power for heat, light, and electrical needs. While it's usually cold, Mars can reach 60 deg. during the summer months at favorable solar times....

...the final journey is made by humans in the spirit of the grand exploration that is embedded in our souls and blood... a great journey of exploration and colonization, a true verification of our ability overcome challenges, to paradigm shift and evolve ourselves and our science to where the rewards are the greatest.

It does have lots of water, and a CO2 atmosphere, but it is a VERY thin atmosphere with winds approaching 300 mph frequently... but the atmosphere is so thin that these 300 mph winds might actually have trouble blowing a tin can around. Plants like CO2, but they like it under some pressure. Wind turbines also need a sufficient mass of air to actually turn them. Colonizing Mars would take quite a while, starting with literally black-dusting the whole planet (carbon microparticles) to darken, and warm it, which would melt the water, release more water vapor and start the greenhouse cycle in earnest. It would take many years, but it would be a prime job for robotic craft. Then we could bring in the plants that thrive in the harshest alpine conditions, and give them a decade or so to take hold. Realistically, if we started today, it would take us 50 years before we could walk on Mars without pressure suits and O2. Even then, we'd still need supplemental O2.

All that aside, everything else you said is absolutely true. We humans are explorers, and without frontiers and challenges, we wither away. Only in the last century has humanity expanded to every corner of the globe, with every square inch mapped and claimed. Our frontiers on Earth are dwindling... basically the oceans, of which we know pathetically little, are the last true frontiers on Earth. But the vastness of space, and the call of the unknown possibilities for life - the limitless distance that will yield new discoveries for eternity, an endless frontier of mystery... THAT just stirs the soul to action and feeds our very core. So yes, robots, for now. But eventually, we will crawl over the bars of our cradle and walk into places we can only imagine now. I hope we all get to see it in our lifetimes.

Dave

Gadgetman
08-17-2011, 10:40 AM
Don't forget that Mars doesn'h have a molten core and therefore doesn't have much of(if any) a magnetic field to protect against many types of radiation.
Not much to stop a sunstorm from destroying unprotected electronics...
(Or cooking colonists out on the surface)

Bean
08-17-2011, 11:50 AM
As for the timing of the next large incoming, it's overdue, and that's one reason for escalating interest in finding ways to avert one before it strikes the Earth.


Assuming the strikes occur at truly random times. Then there is no such thing as "overdue".

The flip of a coin coming up heads is 50/50 regardless of how it has come up in the past.
If you flip a coin 9 times and just happens to come up heads each time, what are the chances that it will come up heads the 10th time ? Still 50/50.

If a big strike happens (on average) every 35 million years, then the chance of it happening in ANY given year is 1/35_000_000. It doesn't matter if we have gone 35 million years without a strike, 350 million years without a strike or 10 years without a strike. The chance is the same each year.

This commonly called the "Gambler's Fallacy". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler%27s_fallacy

P.S. Great discussion by the way...

Bean

icepuck
08-17-2011, 02:07 PM
Warming up mars will be a waste of time unless some one figures out how to "restart" mars molten core. A molten core is vital for generating a magnetic field strong enough prevent the water vapor from evaporating into outer space.
If it wasn't for earths magnetosphere life here wouldn't have had a chance.
-dan

wjsteele
08-17-2011, 03:27 PM
Hmmm... I'm not sure how the magnetic field would prevent water from evaporating... it's actually the density of the atmosphere that would do that. Water already exists on the surface of Mars and goes through various cycles depending on the climate, that's already been shown.

It's the wild temperature swings and low pressure that cause it to evaporate quickly on the surface, I thought.

Bill

Tor
08-17-2011, 08:10 PM
A magnetic field doesn't prevent water from evaporating, but it does protect an atmosphere from being gradually stripped off the planet by the solar wind. So Mars has several factors against it:
1: No magnetic field (bad for life, and bad for the atmosphere).
2: Low gravity (it's easier for light gases to escape the planet).
3: Far from the sun, so it's cold, which means less volatiles in gas form (you instead have water ice and CO2 ice underground and at the poles). This, of course, is a feedback loop which just makes it even colder which again means less atmosphere and so on.
4: Little internal heating due to its low mass, so no volcanism to help (re-)produce an atmosphere, no plate tectonics.

Terraforming is supposed to take thousands of years of geoengineering, although the Kim Stanley Robinson trilogy Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars does it quite a bit faster.

-Tor

Humanoido
08-18-2011, 10:29 AM
Assuming the strikes occur at truly random times. Then there is no such thing as "overdue". BeanBean:

Great observation. The random strikes is referring to the larger number of randomly organized smaller objects within the Kuiper belt orbit that are unpredictably thrown out and find their way to Earth. The 35 million year-point is from a collection of evidence from Astronomers and Geologists showing a historical periodic nature to large impacts throughout the Earth's evolution. As far as I know, no one has identified the origins of the largest cyclic impactors as contention is they come from deep space and cross our path, but this would make a good project.

Humanoido
08-18-2011, 10:38 AM
Warming up mars will be a waste of time unless some one figures out how to "restart" mars molten core. A molten core is vital for generating a magnetic field strong enough prevent the water vapor from evaporating into outer space. If it wasn't for earths magnetosphere life here wouldn't have had a chance.
-dan

Well said Dan. One model for Tera-forming Mars includes increasing its mass by capturing a number of larger asteroids and depositing their mass into the planet. That would certainly infuse a molten core, creating not only a "magnetosphere" but a more Earth-like planet and lead to screening of dangerous radiation. Otherwise efforts to convert CO2 to Oxygen, induce ozone, and create a thick atmosphere that's not lost into space would be fruitless.

Humanoido
08-18-2011, 10:47 AM
3: Far from the sun, so it's cold, which means less volatiles in gas form (you instead have water ice and CO2 ice underground and at the poles). This, of course, is a feedback loop which just makes it even colder which again means less atmosphere and so on. -Tor

Tor:

This is very interesting. A group of scientists some time ago proposed the orbital placement of giant mirrors around Mars to collect and focus the sun's light onto Mar's surface, thus helping to gradually warm the planet. It could be one of the later steps in Terraforming Mars. Probably no one would take on a thousand year project and so the push will be for faster results, especially when Earth's resources are exhausted and mining begins on the planet.

Tor
08-18-2011, 03:25 PM
Humanoido:
You just described one of the methods (out of many executed at the same time) that Kim Stanley Robinson used in that book trlogy I mentioned. :)

-Tor

potatohead
08-19-2011, 03:32 AM
I love the Mars programs. Great thread everyone.

I'm torn between two very basic things.

One is whether or not there is any kind of life, or was life native to Mars. That's a very important data point, not easily obtained elsewhere.

The other is whether or not life from here would survive there.

The selfish part of me wants to see the second one answered! We have some plants that could potentially survive there in the polar regions. Plant them!

Once done though, we are very likely to corrupt the other data point....

That said, "plant them", because I want to know. :)

Ale
08-19-2011, 12:54 PM
I think that a program like this, to reach other celestial bodies would help us to come together for a common goal. Not being able to act together as a species is holding us back. The LHC is a great example of what we can achieve... thousands from all over the world, now imagine billions...

Humanoido
08-19-2011, 02:38 PM
I think that a program like this, to reach other celestial bodies would help us to come together for a common goal. Not being able to act together as a species is holding us back. The LHC is a great example of what we can achieve... thousands from all over the world, now imagine billions...

Excellent point Ale. When we face our challenges in getting along together peacefully, making great achievements, exploring the universe, expanding our science and working together in cooperation, and not war, then we will have evolved to a better place on this planet. Mars could be an excellent stepping stone in achieving and continuing that goal. Already we have seen great marvels and strides of cooperation with the multinational ISS space station. It was undoubtedly one factor which led to the demise of the cold war between the USA and Soviet Union, replacing it with cooperation in the peaceful exploration of near Earth space.

The Forum is another example of the great achievements that are made through cooperation.