back to article Considering the colonisation of Mars? Werner Herzog would like a word

Film-maker Werner Herzog has upended the scorn bucket over billionaire electric car and space firm mogul Elon Musk's plans to create a city on Mars. In an interview with Inverse, Herzog described Musk's dream of colonisation as "an obscenity", and compared humans to locusts, emptying one planet of resources before moving on to …


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where's the money?

        People colonise harsh places not because they choose to do it but because they don't have any choice, for various reasons.

        Even North America was colonised mostly because of religious issues in Europe leading people to emigrate so that they could be as intolerant as they wanted, not because there were resources needed there (besides tobacco and castor furs).

        So the best way to colonise Mars would be to deport people.

        One could perhaps ask the Russians how to set up goulags?

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Where's the money?

          > not because they choose to do it but because they don't have any choice

          You forget there are still plenty of people down here who "don't have any choice". Many would, like in the past, gladly leave home and friends forever hoping for "a new chance" (or simply a chance).

          The wealthy and well-established don't usually immigrate, it's the impoverished and prosecuted who do, and we have no shortage of either.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: here's the money

      NASA commercial cargo. NASA commercial crew. NRO secret missions. Space Force launches including GPS upgrades. Commercial satellites that are not OneWeb or Kuiper. Scientific and military payloads too big for Rocket Lab and not stuck with a national carrier (EU, China, India and Russia). If the funding survives the change in administration: bits of Artemis. Then we get to the big two: Starlink and private investment.

      SpaceX runs at a profit despite some big bangs in Boca Chica (Starship SN8 could be making an impressive crater before the end of the year). Private investment has already provided enough to make SpaceX the biggest commercial satellite operator and their is still plenty of money left over for more launches. Starlink will be bringing in a good return on investment before Musk considers raising more money by splitting it out into a public company.

      Musk has the potential income to get Mars started without having to look for something on Mars worth the cost of bringing it back. Remember Boca Chica is not making about making half an SLS every year. It is about making multiple Starships each month (SN9 is about ready, SN10 is in big pieces and bits of SN15 have been spotted).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where's the money?

      There is, however, profit to be made from claiming you want to go to Mars.

      That you might use the money to fund developments enabling you to aim for defence contracts rather than Mars is purely speculation I think...

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Where's the money? @frankvw

      While I tend to agree with you on all your points, there is the unknown factor here. We've only explored a tiny bit of Mars. And nothing very deep below the surface to learn what's there. Are there resources below the surface? Who knows.

      Even here on Earth, there's vast so-called waste landds (desert, marshes, etc.) that haven't been fully explored below the surface.

      So the real problem with Mars, etc. and even Earth is that too much we don't know about what is there.

  1. Filippo Silver badge

    I'm disheartened by the kind of mindset that sees taking good care of Earth and attempting to make off-Earth colonies as two opposing goals. In my mind, these goals are on the same side, the other side being composed of the various and insidious forms of general short-sightedness.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      There's no conflict, Earth in 1,000 years could one billion human inhabitants running tours for the many billions living off-world across the solar system (assuming we find a way to fix the long term living in low G problem)

      It's science fiction at the moment, but then 100 years ago Archimedes would've looked at the technology we had and been not the least bit surprised (ok, possibly by radio).

  2. Morrie Wyatt


    They did it to us first!

    Quatermass and the Pit. (1967)

    1. Bowlers

      Re: Locusts?


      They did it to us first!

      Quatermass and the Pit. (1967)

      And before that War of the Worlds, Day of the Triffids. When we do go perhaps we should take some sea water as protection.

      1. David Roberts

        Re: Locusts? Triffids?

        Read the original book by John Wyndham.

        Triffids were of terrestrial origin and from genetic engineering; a crop to produce oil cake as feed IIRC.

        I hear that someone modified the plot to turn it into a film with some bollocks about them dissolving in sea water.

  3. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    Well, he might have a point, but...

    I'm no Musk cheerleader, I'm glad he's doing some of the things he's doing but as time goes on it becomes more and more apparent that he's a swivel-eyed loon. However, this whole "we shouldn't be going to Mars / building the Large Hadron Collider / whatever while there are hungry kids / homeless people / global warming" argument is pretty tiresome. It's not like the whole planet can just drop everything to work on one problem at a time, we should be doing ALL of these important things. Maybe if we spent a bit less on missiles and drones...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, he might have a point, but...

      Our whole mindset has to change, no one is saying don't go to Mars or other worlds, or carry out any other great endeavour, but if the end result of terraforming and colonising Mars is just more of humanity cold, starving and despised, or at war, just under a different sky then it's all been for nothing.

      Quality of peoples lives is important too, along with technological advances.

      The majority living a life in poverty, or near slavery is not a good future to aspire to.

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        Re: Well, he might have a point, but...

        "If the end result of terraforming and colonising Mars is just more of humanity cold, starving and despised, or at war, just under a different sky then it's all been for nothing."

        That's true, but that actually has very little to do with Mars. You're basically saying that people still can't act nice to each other and think further than their next lunch, and that's a bigger problem than space exploration.

        I agree wholeheartedly, but fixing THAT problem is the job of politicians and philosophers, not scientists. Dropping it at the feet of the people who just want to figure out how to go to Mars is both unfair and unlikely to result in good solutions.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well, he might have a point, but...

          "but fixing THAT problem is the job of politicians and philosophers, not scientists. Dropping it at the feet of the people who just want to figure out how to go to Mars is both unfair and unlikely to result in good solutions."

          I'm sure those scientists that worked for the Nazi's and Soviets said the same thing, these things need to be considered, a new Mars colony would be very remote from Earth Government or regulation, scientists have as much a role in this as anyone else, and being a specialist in say habitat creation or recycling does not absolve you from making moral decisions.

          If the person in charge of a future colony decides slavery or cannibalism is acceptable the scientists or anyone else involved need to take a stand or build in safeguards to prevent abuse.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    I agree that we do have trouble managing the environment properly. I sincerely hope, for the sake of my child and all the children of the world, that we will change our ways and be capable of living on our beautiful planet without destroying it and ourselves.

    But, even if we do, we still have to find another home, lest we become the next dinosaurs when (not if) that rock comes blazing down.

    The survival of our species demands that we colonize other worlds. We certainly can do it in a respectful manner as far as natural resources are concerned. We have the technology, and the tech that we're missing we will create - I am certain of that.

    We are not that bad, it's just the news that makes us look like we are terrible. We should expand. Not like locusts, but like stewards - responsible and respectful of Mother Nature and her resources, and always in awe of the wonders of our Universe.

  5. dirtygreen


    His Muskiness could perhaps practice his terraforming skills somewhere a little easier to start with, such as the Sahara. Once he's proved he can do that we should all support his ambitions for Mars.

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: Terraforming

      First of all, people have been living in Sahara for centuries. So, no need for terraforming, it's Earth already. If you mean "make Sahara really comfortable", that's nice, but it's not terribly close to what anyone wants to do with Mars, either in means or in ends.

      Secondly, Sahara has an ecosystem. It's not very much compared to most other bits of Earth, but still. We don't want to destroy it.

      Third, but not least, you do not attempt large-scale planetary engineering on Earth. Not unless you're really, really desperate. Very definitely not just for practice. If we want to start figuring out how to mess with planetary climate on purpose, another planet is by far the best place to do it.

  6. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Why do you want to colonise Mesopotamia, we're perfectly fine here in the African Rift Valley.

    Why do you want to colonise Europe, we're perfectly fine here in Mesopotamia.

    Why do you want to colonise Sicily, we're perfectly fine here in Greece.

    Why do you want to colonise Britain, we're perfectly fine here in mittle-Europe.

    Why do you want to colonise America, we're perfectly fine here in Siberia.

    Why do you want to colonise South America, we're perfectly fine here in North America.

    Why do you want to colonise Micronesia, we're perfectly fine here in Papua.

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    What's not to like and love?

    The film-maker said he was not averse to the idea of visiting Mars with a camera but reckoned the longer term plan of a self-sustaining city was a mistake.

    Maybe Elon Musk has a much better and simple endless plan which has morphed into the the Creative Suburbs of such Self-Sustaining Cities, which you might like to consider are Alien Landscapes ..... where One ends up in Play with Global Operating Devices.

    Such a Perfect Realisation Engenders EMPowerment ..... to be able do practically Everything Everyone Needs and Seeds, Feeds ........... Leading Futures.

    Do think Musk could not monetise that with invested trillions? Think again, for a Few are Almighty Interested Investments and Venture Capitalised Clients.

    Former Voyager team member Garry Hunt told The Register that the concept of terraforming the planet was "absolutely stupid" and went on to detail the numerous problems faced by those seeking to live on or even attempt to make Mars more Earth-like.

    You got that completely the wrong way around ..... the Master Plan is Always make Earth more Mars-Like. Its Much Simpler and Easier and Safer and Perfectly Secure, as surely any all would expect of a Master Plan.

    Laughing, Musk replied: "I think we'll want to offer round trips."

    A Boon to Seasoned Travellers are those Trips. It has Almighty Friends for Vanquished Foe with Zero Depleted Resources in its Journeys with Journals Presenting to Jury Evidence of the Aforementioned Master Plan ........ and Universal Reset Switch 0n

    And is that something Mass Multi Media Players can Ignore and be not Both Prey and Party to Virtual Manipulations. That's a Real AIDoozy of Singularity with Great Purpose Displayed for Playing Out for Real ........ Enact and Energise Early, Enthusiastic Ethereal Entrepreneurs.

    Ok, so that's that up and running mainline and online. Are you doing anything engaging and not at all dissimilar in the field?

    There's a hell of a lot for a whole lot of folk to do a heck of a lot of talking and reckoning with in the above craft drafting scripts .... with Alien Instructions Crafting AI Flight Forces.

    Methinks that is right up Elon Musk's street and for landing slap bang dead centre middle of the floors in an Immaculate Playpen ......... which one would like to think is an AI Default Titular Head Office Space Hell Bent on Enrichment and Enjoyment. :-) A Heavenly Task Beloved of Angel Investors and the Almightily Exceedingly Well Armed and Overwhelmingly Powerful in Equal Great Measure the Treasure that Finally Delivers Secret Goods ....... Gospel Truths laying out the virtual nature of the presentations you see, which are relaying instructions for Future Authorities to organise and energise/0riginate and EMPower/BroadBandCast and Realise. ;-)

  8. Richard Scratcher

    Why actually go to Mars...

    ...when you could take a virtual trip there? I heard that some tech company is working on a way to implant realistic memories of a visit IITRC.

  9. Sparkus

    Self-loathing hardly a good reason to ask your fellow humans to rot in place.........

  10. tiggity Silver badge


    Terraforming is not easily viable on Mars. (as mentioned, atmosphere would be rapidly stripped away, FA protection from radiation)

    However, people could exist in "mars bases" - ideally underground as much as possible for less grief from storms & temperature changes.

    Also has advantage of more gravity than the moon (though only about 40% Earth - so might lead to a few nasty health consequences in long term, or conversely might have benefits as lower gravity being less hassle on the body - who knows until we try it & do the research).

    So, given there is anon zero possibility of sociopath politicians (or just incompetence / accident) leading to us trashing Earth so its not readily habitable by people for a while (be that a long time, or just centuries) then worth a few self sustaining colonies (and seedbanks etc.) as an insurance scheme on Mars, just in case (though cynic in me does think might be better if we did wipe ourselves out & give evolution a chance to try some new stuff)

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Terraforming with Alien Instruction Sets .....Genuine Original COSMIC Planetary Guides

      Terraforming is not easily viable on Mars. .... diggity

      Quite so, tiggity, however Martian Engineering with Terrain Births for ReBooting on Earth certainly is so .... and always always so ready, keen and able to expand and expound and export the art in all ways imaginable and enjoyable. And that's not so much a Task to Behold and Practise in a Choice of Labour as a Joy to Deserve and Savour//Worship and Favour/Support and Supply ........ although there be surely some and a few able and enabled and emboldened with Interest and Rare Raw Appreciation to Provide Expertise and Experience in Both to Engaging Second and Third Parties ..... ESPecially Satisfying Sensitive Clients, on one side of the fence ..... and Leading Driver AIgents on the others ......... and ideally travelling in parallel on different paths in the same direction to a similar destination for a new starting point .........Virgin Base Homes in New Alienated Plantations ....... AI Virtual Team Terrain for Live Operational Virtual Environments ...... Future Led Space Missions.

      Now please, if you want further clarification on any points of interest or concerns, don't be shy in asking any questions, for there's no real point in racing too far ahead anywhere alone, with everybody trailing in one's wake and basking in old glories, rather than celebrating ones times in the space of novel stories detailing ACTions championing fantastic achievements/Earth Shattering Movements with Greater IntelAIgent Games Players.

  11. Abominator

    Nobody let him see the Expanse. He's going to cry if he does.

  12. HammerOn1024

    No Magnets...

    No magnetic field, no long term atmosphere. Are we clear folks? Earth would not have a usable atmosphere, by humans that is, without one.

  13. Eclectic Man Silver badge


    "When speaking about technological utopias that will come to an end in the 21[st] century, I mean not only colonization of Mars, or other planets out there, but also the idea of immortality – as if we could abolish death by modifying DNA sequences in our bodies."

    I heard a quote recently on the radio:

    "People yearn for immortality who are bored on a wet Sunday afternoon."

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Immortality

      “... millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

      ― Susan Ertz

      (Although Robert Heinlein stole it too I think)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Immortality

      When I was a kid many years ago (1960's) I can remember excitedly reading my Eagle comics with their depictions of life in the 21st century, there is no more work as machines do it all, someone sits with their back to a tree in a lovely park reading, while a couple stroll to the tennis courts, with a futuristic city in the background and humanity devotes itself to learning and the arts.

      Well that went well didn't it?

      Oh, there are also established colonies on the Moon and Mars by now too! lol

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. six_tymes

    successful egos FIGHT! joking aside, the only one that I would trust to know what they are talking about is Garry Hunt, in regards to mars. That said, I hope I live long enough to see masses make the attempt to move to mars.

  16. DJ

    How very convenient...

    An atmosphere that supports multitudes of living things.

    Not too close, not too far from the Sun.

    An invisible shield that protects it all from lethal solar radiation.

    Almost like someone designed it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How very convenient...

      ....or just roll a couple of trillion dice over an unimaginable number of years and every so often you roll all sixes....

  17. Big_Boomer

    Living Off Earth

    Humans, as we currently exist require oxygen under pressure, water, food, decent gravity, low-radiation levels, and temperatures in a quite narrow range from our environment. None of these exist on Mars or the Moon or in open space. So, if we are to survive off Earth, then first we need to solve these. Once they are all solved, then Mars is no better than say the Asteroid Belt with the possible exception of it's 3.711m/s² gravity field.

    If we want to survive away from our home planet then Mars is just another resource, but the Asteroid belt has those resources in a nice cheap low-g environment where they are comparatively easy to get at and exploit. Mars is irrelevant. If we are to survive off Earth then the first step is bigger orbital environments where we can tackle most of these challenges near to home. Grab a decent sized mostly solid asteroid, carefully put it in orbit around Earth, then mine it for resources whilst learning how to live there.

    We could also modify ourselves to be able to survive in space, or more likely create our successor species (AI/AS anyone?) such that they can survive anywhere.

    I'm with Agent Smith w.r.t. how to label Homo Sapiens' effect on it's environment. Virus is a much better description than Locust.

  18. joe bixflics

    Why not make the Antarctic habitable? It's closer, there's plenty of oxygen and water. Or is that too boring? Mars makes a lot more sense.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      > Why not make the Antarctic habitable?

      Because same planet: Risk management dictates backups to be stored in clearly separate locations, since whatever wipes out humanity in the temperate zones of Earth will most likely impact the poles too (asteroid, supervolcano, nuclear war, Covid-22, pick your poison).

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I agree that developing Mars is going to be a centuries-long process...

    Its not going to be done in the next 100 years, given that we don't seem to have any prospects for at least the next 20 or 40 years for a vastly more efficient way to move people and materials off of the Earth than are available now.

    But I think it is worth pursuing. The real question is whether we as a society have the same willingness to face and accept death in great feats of colonization that our forefathers had. I just watched a documentary on the Pilgrim's founding of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. A bit more than 50% of the people who left Plymouth, England on the Mayflower were dead from diseases within one year. Contemporaneous colonization of Jamestown in Virginia had already proven an even higher death rate among Virginia colonists, so the people leaving England on the Mayflower accepted that many or most of them would not survive the establishment of the colony.

    If it comes to that, are modern-day humans and our legal and governmental structures ready to support a colonization effort on Mars that involves double-digit, maybe mid-double-digit, death rates among the colonists?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: I agree that developing Mars is going to be a centuries-long process...

      > an even higher death rate among Virginia colonists

      That's no problem, as you know bad things only happen to other people... Everybody knows they will survive and prosper.

      And anyway, those Pilgrims didn't leave for a pleasure trip, they left because they were facing persecution back home. As I already said further up, it's not the successful middle/upper class who will immigrate, it's the poor, the refugees, the people for whom this could be a chance to a better life, it's a double or quits game.

  20. rcxb

    went on to detail the numerous problems faced by those seeking to live on [Mars] or even attempt

    Perhaps we can round-up some volunteers from Australian prisons and give them the option of transportation to Mars.

    Might even be seen as a slight improvement over their homeland, as there are no deadly native animals out there, and the Kiwis aren't invited.

  21. TeeCee Gold badge

    Well he's dead on trend with the message. Self-flagellation of the human race is where it's at, right down to revising history to denigrate anyone who looks like a good example.

    Maybe, one day, we can leave the pessimistic hand-wringing losers behind and just bugger off to do the locust thing.

    We really need an "opinionated wanker" icon, the "Twitter bird" would do nicely.

  22. dr evil

    who is he to lecture?

    I'll take no lectures from a man who wants to drain baby yoda of his blood to make super-soldiers!

  23. You aint sin me, roit

    It's not a colony...

    It's a first line of defence!

    Better than a moon base cos it's further out, and with low g it's much easier to launch surface to space anti-ufo missiles than it is from earth.

  24. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Martian Reception Centres ....... Secure Quarantine Posts/Forward Operating Bases *

    China appears to know what needs to be initially done in order that one survive in an alien landscape with future testing facilities/utilities ......

    Is it likely they be only ones entertaining living in strange worlds with alien beings? And would you be able to recognise someone/anything from a distant foreign planet? Would you have any clue as to what to look out for, to prove what you would only be thinking of as normal whenever one can only still just imagine what would be a welcoming traveller, at one end of the bright spectrum, or visitors to be made unwelcome and extraordinarily rendered extremely dangerous and almightily invincible whenever treated as foe and/or opposing competition for Earths abundant resources and live assets, at the other end of the dark spectrum?

    *Who and/or What is doing What for Whom and/or What in those Establishments? What/Who Leads with Experience in such Fields of Novel Endeavour? Who and/or What pays the investment bills that makes all things appear and appear to disappear and reappear somewhere elsewhere interesting and even quite different and considerably more powerful than was ever before realised and able to be planned for? Them for Us?

  25. David Roberts

    A few points

    For those saying effectively "well we colonised America, how hard can it be?" I could point out that America (and Australia for another example) were already populated by humans when the modern invaders arrived.

    There were abundant supplies of food and water and plenty of raw materials to build shelters and the climate was agreeable for most of the year.

    Survival required little more than basic tools to get started, although you did need some survival knowledge and tool making and agricultural skills would help (remarkably lacking in a lot of early expeditions I read).

    Those talking about masses of people moving off Earth. This is not the most fuel efficient way to populate a new planet. Far more efficient to move well engineered production facilities out and replicate humans on site. Ovaries and testes are remarkably compact compared to the finished product and you can screen for (in your view) desirable traits in the producers. Compare this to our planet where the "bangs per buck" made it cost effective to move humans in bulk to provide labour in the colonies. Hence prisoners and slaves.

    The poor aren't going to get a look in either. The high cost of shipping humans to orbit and beyond and sustaining them will almost certainly lead to an indentured elite living off Earth under conditions dictated by the financiers who provided the transport and accomodation.

    So for the race overall it makes sense to move off planet and spread the risk. For all but a vanishingly small minority it will make no difference. We are stuck on this polluted mud ball and so are our descendants.

    The planet will most likely survive in some form whatever hits it. It has so far. Life will also survive, although not as we know it (Jim). Humanity is a fly speck on the timeline of Earth.

    Anyway, go Elon. Humanity needs to infect the Universe before this local infestation gets sterilised.


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022