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Space Mission Design and Operations

edX · École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne · 1 HN comments

HN Academy has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention edX's "Space Mission Design and Operations" from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne.
Course Description

Learn the concepts used in the design of space missions, manned or unmanned, and operations, based on the professional experience of the lecturer.

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This course is offered by École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne on the edX platform.
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When I was young becoming an astronaut would have been a dream. In recent years, after discovering the world of online learning, I learned too much though to have any desire to go into space, not with current or even soon-to-be technology. Physiological stress and radiation are very big problems. You must be young and thinking about health never entered your mind to apply for the job (yes of course, risk assessment vs. benefits is highly subjective, here, I'll even help you, see below).

Anyway, if you are interested start here (free courses):

- The Conquest of Space: Space Exploration and Rocket Science:

- Space Mission Design and Operations Learn the concepts:

- Human Spaceflight - An introduction:

- Introduction to Aerospace Engineering: Astronautics and Human Spaceflight:

and maybe even (the more "heavy-weight" and more theory-heavy course)

- Introduction to Solar Systems Astronomy:

- Talking about a journey to Mars, you just must read "Packing for Mars" (, Google Talk presentation by the author (40 minutes):


PS: For a first flight experience I recommend you look up and contact a flight school at a small airport near you. An introductory 1 hour lesson without any prior requirements can easily be booked, and it is "self-contained", meaning you don't need to feel you are taking advantage if you don't become a student, they get paid for that hour. But even getting your private pilot license is not all that hard. I got mine years ago :)

For those of you in the Bay Area: (not the only address there, but the one where I went) As you can see it starts at $99 and is common enough to be made available in "packaged" form.

> You must be young and thinking about health never entered your mind to apply for the job.

None of the current ISS crew are young; I suspect they just assess the risks differently.

They didn't apply to go to Mars - which is the subject. Although you are right, there will be no shortage of volunteers, there never was for risky exploration.

By the way, congratulations - of all the many things I wrote you managed to find the thing the (subjective) hair in the soup. If you have a different opinion about those risks, am I trying to argue you out of it? Instead, I give you (IMHO) some really good pointers to go beyond the "count me in" forum comment.

Also, I did read about one long-term astronauts numerous health issues. He may not regret his time in space, but he sure is suffering now. Don't remember whom the interview was with, and it wasn't one of those who were up there only for a week or two, but for months and multiple times. If you go to Mars it's even worse.

Just an example, and note that the radiation issue is going to be much worse on the way to Mars:

EDIT: Sorry for pointing out the negatives, but downvoting does not solve those problems.

I would like to see though the difference (or not) in the excitement about going to space before and after learning about everything it involves, of which health problems are just a part. Live on board a tiny spaceship already is bad enough, now imagine it going on for months.

Another quick read (with link to a longer one) to see that a mission to Mars is something different in terms of health risks is

    > For astronauts to be permitted to take on that risk in future missions, current safety
    > regulations would have to be expanded or waived. NASA had asked the IOM to review the
    > regulations and either make a special set of regulations for Mars missions or to make an
    > exception. The IOM has determined that the risk is not worth it and changing the current
    > restrictions is opening up an ethical can of worms.
> EDIT: Wow, several downvotes already. Sorry for pointing out the negatives, but downvoting does not solve those problems.

It's the tone, not the content, that is earning the downvotes. I suspect if you left out the second paragraph (and the edit), you'd seem less prickly.

Everyone dies, including those who do nothing.

* Grandchild-A: "My grandmother died on a mission to Mars."

* Grandchild-B: "My grandmother died writing a book on how space will kill you."

Grandchild-C: Not born because grandmother couldn't reproduce due to early death.
Don't worry, Grandchild-c. grandmother first had four kids THEN went into space. All is good.
Great...Grandchild-N: Never born because humanity never left Earth.
The juxtaposition of the "space is risky" with "go learn how to fly small planes" is weird to me. Small planes are pretty risky too, and you don't even get to go to space! (Don't believe the common refrain that the riskiest part of flying is the drive to the airport. That's true for airliners, but completely untrue for light aircraft.) By all means, be informed, but you certainly don't need to be ignoring your health to make that decision.

By the way, if you like flying but don't like being deafened by a big fan up front the whole time, consider a glider flight instead:

There is a big difference between space risk and small aviation risk. You always get health issues when you go to space long-term (see the links I have in other replies) with current technology. That is not true for aviation, and you overstate the risks too. That's (rare) accidents vs. "simply doing it is bad for you". I repeat that I'm talking about long-term space flights, not something like a week-long space shuttle mission.
Where am I overstating the risks?

Flying as a hobby probably doesn't have much in the way of long-term health consequences, but doing it as a profession does. Radiation exposure at cruise altitude is significantly higher, but nobody seems to warn prospective pilots or flight attendants that they're risking their health for their job. At least with astronauts, you can be certain that they'll be taught just about everything there is to know about the health consequences of space travel before they're given the opportunity to go on a long-term space mission.


    > Where am I overstating the risks?
2nd sentence

    >  long-term health consequences, but doing it as a profession does
Okay, you are just trolling, I didn't know that. My apologies. We were talking about a flight to Mars, it's obvious you are not serious. Sorry I missed your joke(s).
You go on and on about the risks of long-term space flight, but deny the risks of spending a lot of time at airliner cruising altitudes? How bizarre. Obviously, the ill effects aren't nearly as bad, since the radiation exposure is lower and there are no negative effects from zero g, but it's fairly well established that flight crews suffer greater incidences of certain diseases, like cataracts and some cancers.
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