Begin settling space,
and ship off thousands of vegetarians to Mars- what's not to like?
Billionaire space pioneer Elon Musk wants to get a Martian colony of 80,000 people up and running by ferrying folks out there for $500,000 a trip. Mars Musk wants to start his colony on Mars with just ten people or so, who would fly to the planet on a huge reusable rocket powered by liquid oxygen and methane. "At Mars, you …
It is nice to be optimistic about expanding civilization beyond Earth. Three things, though.
1) There is clearly naivete in Elon. On its first docking mission, one of the non-shielded computers failed in the very-short LEO mission (two others did capably back it up, though). I wonder what an extended mission would unearth.
2) They have yet to explain exactly how they will avoid another single-engine blowout during launch. In this case, they could sacrifice the secondary launch device. When loaded to full-rating, that wouldn't be an option.
3) Curiousity's team is expected to announce some kind of organic-find on Mars during the AGU in December. If there is ANY chance that indigenous organic activity exists on Mars, then we shouldn't assume that we can simply overlay it with Earth based life forms.
2) They didn't need to sacrifice anything: if the pesky ISS hadn't been in the way the secondary payload would still have been delivered. Losing one engine out of nine did not restrict the vehicle's capabilities - that's why it's built that way.
Elon is going to send only vegetarians, so he can get lots of methane to start global warming on Mars, and get it nicely terraformed. As a bonus, they can also help refuel his rocket.
I guess it's viable, so long as you can grow enough brussels sprouts, cabbage and beans in Martian conditions.
Good point, but you're looking at it the wrong way - maybe he's thinking you need to send up a lot of cows to help terraform with their voluminous gaseous emissions, and lack of complaining about working standards.
The vegetarian part is just so you don't get hungry and eat the cows while they're performing essential flatulent duties.
Not just dreaming- he's throwing time, money and other people's brains at launch vehicles, initially to reduce the cost of satellite launches. The Mars thing is down the line a little.
The full interview is over on Wired, and what he said about the cost of rockets was interesting. Fuel is only 0.3% of the cost of his rocket, cost of materials to make a rocket is traditionally 2% of the cost - compared to around 25% for a car - so there is room for greater efficiency in the manufacture; it suggests that the old system of contracting to contractors who in turn subcontract hasn't given NASA the most whoosh their buck. He's also used friction stir welding to add ribs to the frame, rather than machine them out of solid billets of alloy.
I have no doubt that Musk is skilled at PR, and he isn't yet addressing issues of radiation on astronaut's bodies on the journey, but its good to see a billionaire doing something interesting with his money rather than just get a yacht
he's throwing time, money and other people's brains at launch vehicles
And other people's money if he thinks governments should foot part of the initial cost. If it's not viable without tax money, then it's not viable.
I'd jump on the first flight if I was sure there was no taxes on Mars!
"but its good to see a billionaire doing something interesting with his money rather than just get a yacht."
Perhaps you give him too much credit. Maybe all he's doing is laying plans to build a giant space yacht...
With a name like his, he's clearly going to go mad at some point, and build an underground volcano base, or space station, and fill it with henchmen (and henchwomen). But fortunately they always build them with a convenient self-destruct system. Which makes thwarting them a lot easier.
I read the interview, he's certainly thought about it from a business perspective (i.e. creating a market where there is a constant stream of people willing to pay to be ferried to Mars). If we were thinking about colonising Mars from a practical perspective it would make much more sense to send a small group of people (enough form a viable gene pool for breeding) and let them get on with populating the planet by themselves.
Between asteroids, zombie apocalypses, ROTM, triffids, toxic overload, ocean acidification etc, its a hedging of our species' bets.
And there are people who live in Arctic regions, since more hospitable regions are already populated by other people.
Granted, it wouldn't be for most people, but in this world of 7 billion people, I'd hope there would be some volunteers.
I'd pay $500,000 dollars to send Pier Morgan on a one way trip to the cold desolate inhospitable wasteland that is Mars ;-)
Donations accepted to send the unwanted and unwashed to Mars are welcome. Other suggestions,Paris Hilton perhaps? anybody who's ever appeared on a reality TV show?
Just make sure we don't send them a video camera!
Surely if you lack in volunteers a quick round up of standard issue tv-wannabes with the old 'its a reality show' ploy would generate a hefty queue of volunteers and a couple of presenters as well. Unfortunately suitability of the applicants for establishing a sustainable and well run colony of humans somewhere else in the galaxy would probably be low
Come to think of it, the whole idea sounds a bit Douglas Adams to me...
I presume they're not taking anything living other than the plants and what the human body hosts on and within it. Unless they're taking livestock, I can only assume they're going to live as vegans.
Also, people in their mid-40's. Is that to reduce the risk of making native martians by the colonists?
Still, I like Elon "adventurous" Musk and his idea's. Better for humanity to dream than sit in our cave's wondering how to get round the problem of cold weather.
Musk does look like he could pass for Arnie's younger brother... similar eyes and forehead!
That recent Total Recall remake was less than the sum of its parts, though I liked their substitution of Australia for Mars! Hmm.. plan.... take $500,000 off people in return for a trip to Mars, tell them that they will be in suspended animation for the journey, they awake in a polythene greenhouse in the Aussie outback.
Why would anyone, Dr Who, make that simple mistake? It is not as if IT isn't Mentored and Monitored, is it?
But when it isn't, is Mentored and Monitored IT Born ........ Created and Floated Out into Virtual Space Lanes.
Building Gardens of Eden in Heavenly Locations on Earth would be an Alien Project requiring Great Game Imaginanation and Flashy Transfers of Stash Cash to Burn on SMARTR Spends, which really spooks the markets. If you can't create a heaven on Earth with all of the worlds resources patently always available to you, it don't say much for the chances on Mars whenever you have no successful working model worked out on Earth with all that IT can so easily provide.
Solving/Resolving Problems Earthbound has them disappear in Space Flight ...... which makes rebuilding Earth in an increasing number of places in the likeness of an Idyllic Space Living on Mars or Venus or wherever a sort of no-brainer, Elon. IT is Edutainment.
Simply because of launch costs.
You'd probably be looking iro $100k to orbit, which while sounding nice, isn't practical near term.
The fuel alone for the launch would cost more than that!
Dragon is about the size of the Apollo capsule, which could only carry 3 people, with tech improvements, lets say 5.
F9 launch is $50m currently.
To achieve $100k, would require 100x reduction in launch costs.
I doubt even Skylon could match that.
I admire the drive and the aim, but the practicality is questionable.
Apollo could carry 5 astronauts with the addition of two more seats in the equipment bays from the very start. Improvements meant it could probably have carried 6 or even 7 by the time it was used on Spacelab, though things would have been rather cosy.
Dragon has significantly more internal space due to the miniaturisation of much of the tech involved and it's not inconceivable that it could also carry 6 without any difficulty, or more if you want to get really friendly with your fellow passengers.
But lets just assume that they haven't made any advances at all on the Apollo-era tech and that they're never going to make any cost-saving improvements at all. Ever. That makes it so much easier to argue against the idea.
Yes there are tech improvements, which may increase capacity, lets say 10 people.
Assuming the $500k was on orbit only, which it obviously isn't, that's still a >10x reduction in launch costs. They are a business and need to make a profit somewhere.
Which many people have been promising and not delivered on for decades!
Many stating that the current $50m launch price for the F9 is subsidised.
Reusability may reduce launch costs (depending on how it is implemented), but 10x is very optimistic, certainly in the next 10 years.
Using chemical rockets you need about twice as much fuel to get to Mars (in human reasonable time frames, not robots) as you do to get into orbit.
Yes ion engine tech is coming, but the only thing close is VASIMR and even this is not adequate for a manned mission. They also require power sources that work for long periods without distance to the sun penalties, which means high power nuclear. While not impossible, more development work required.
There are lots of other tech that needs to be created to allow Humans to survive long term in deep space. While I don't believe this is technically infeasible, the development costs of such systems outweigh what Musk has done already, the F9 is based on well known and proven technologies. A lot of the systems required for a Mars mission, have either not been implemented before, or not been implemented to operate for the durations in question. There are many unknowns and potential gotchas that may creep up, more than anything adding cost.
All of this adds up to cost, I respect what Musk has done with the F9, but I personally believe $500k to Earth orbit is unrealistic in the near term, Mars for $500k is even more unrealistic in the timescales mentioned.
The only thing that may come close is Skylon, imo.
The Dragon can carry 7, lets say 6 as passengers, and fuel cost for a Falcon 9 is $300,000. For airliners fuel is half the ticket price, so let's use that for fully reusable launch every day Falcon just like a jet airliner. Total launch cost is $600,000 or $100,000 per passenger.
Then you go to Mars on a different vehicle, something with more room and supplies, it drops you off at Mars, refuels, and comes back to be re-used. You would need at least 1300 pounds of food, clothes, personal effects, and other supplies per person for the trip. Total payload mass would be 1500x6people = 9000 pounds. Then you have the weight of the empty transit vehicle, lets say 30,000 pounds same as an empty Apollo CSM.
Then you need the fuel to boost 40,000 pounds to escape velocity, a delta V of 9800 ft/sec. Maximum oxygen/methane vacuum isp is about 330, at an average acceleration of 1g the engine would have to run for 304 seconds, or in other words you need almost 1 pound of fuel to accelerate 1 pound to escape velocity. Since the fuel is also being accelerated, 70.000 pounds of fuel will be needed to get 40,000 pounds of vehicle and payload off to Mars.
The 70,000 pounds of fuel, 8,000 pounds of supplies, and a container for them weighing lets say 7000 pounds need to be brought up from earth orbit, a total of 85,000 pounds. This would take three falcon launches, $1.8 million total or $300,000 per person. So we are up to $400,000 already without the cost of the Mars base, the Mars refueling equipment, and the transit vehicle, all of which needs to be brought up from Earth and transported to Mars. I would say total cost would be more like $1 million per person, which is still pretty cheap.
You can see the biggest expense is fuel for the transit vehicle, if instead it had a solar powered ion engine using reaction mass magnetically propelled off the Moon and Mars, then it could probably be done for $500,000 a person.
You're assuming the F9 is fully reusable and 100% reliable.
You're also assuming that you have 80,000 people with that kind of money that actually want to go.
Solar power for Ion drives is the problem, there are distance penalties the solar energy in Mars orbit is about 1/3 that of Earth orbit. Hence why you need large space bound nuclear reactors.
With development costs and operating costs I'd personally put it in the $200B range, rather than the $80B you're suggesting.
I seriously doubt you'll get 80,000 paying participants, simply because having that kind of cash on Earth you need to be fairly successful, why go somewhere, where there is literally nothing, I'm not saying there won't be opportunities there, but I doubt they would do better there than here on Earth.
Assuming you could get 80,000 @ 2.5m each, still cheap compared to today.
There would need to be some serious breakthroughs in propulsion technology to make the technicalities side of this financially viable.
Then there needs to be something that draws people to Mars, beyond the I'll go for a couple of months and come back!
This would be the fundamental problem, demand. I'm sure you'd get plenty of people willing to go, but willing to stay, I doubt it.
Is that a reference to Martin Amis's sci-fi short "The Janitor on Mar's"? n the story a Mars-based alien robot contacts the NY Times, gives humanity some tips on escaping our gravity well and requests that scientists, artists and "examples of male and female pulchritude" are sent to the Red Planet. He asks that no politicians or religious leaders are sent, and says "Print the obscenity is full, else I go the Post. I repeat: No Fucking Monkeys."
This will be instead the secret of its success: 40s something men will pay for their tickets and additional tickets for 20s girls... and as most of the colony will be necessarily automated and there will be a lot of free time and few distractions, people will multiply like rabbits... see Dr.Strangelove final subterranean mines plan...
Actually, taxing a Mars colony wouldn't make much sense -- you're almost certain to waste more resources trying to collect, even if the colonists were willing to pay, than you would gain in taxation anyway.
And if they weren't willing to pay, the cost of enforcement would be astronomical.
It might appeal to a certain mindset to make the trip, but the first question I'd ask them is, do you really want to live in an enclosed space surrounded by frozen arid tundra where absolutely nothing can survive and catastrophe is one broken machine / widget away.
Settlers colonised the America's spurred on by promises of land, rich soil, gold, and other tangible things. What is there on Mars?
Wouldn't it be easier and better for human life to attempt to terraform Venus?
Smash a couple of ice comets into it at the right trajectory to speed the planets rotation up and you've almost got a like for like planet.
I'm not a boffin or even a one tenth boffin but something that always seems to escape the colonising Mars questions is gravity or lack of it on Mars. You can fake a lot of things on Mars. You could create enough greenhouse gases to heat the planet up, you could coat the surface with oxygen but you can't fake gravity on a global scale.
Would we not just turn into a Mr Soft like race several generations down the line?
Thoughts? Arse talking out of?
We call the local pub "The Mars Hotel" because it has hardly any atmosphere. Boom Boom!
But who in their right mind would want to live in a spacesuit? How long would a spacesuit last if you have to work in one every day? You would be patching the thing all the time and hoping it doesn't leak.
Why would anyone want to leave the Goldilocks Zone and go to a planet that has nothing to offer?
I get very grumpy if I have not been able to wash for a few days so I'm definitely not going. .
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... you have the right to form any opinion you choose of anyone? Because you base that opinion on a limited sub-set of predefined assumptions and guidelines?
I have not done, nor likely could ever do, what the man has done and caused to be done already. I try to avoid (on some occasions unsuccessfully) identifying anything not actually mammary tissue in the term you chose here - and (at the risk of being beaten about the head by my beloved) not even mammary tissue. To choose to do so is, I believe,your right.
When Elon Musk first started talking about building his own rockets, similar things were said. When Elon Musk first started talking about not just building them, but establishing their use and function as a commercial venture, similar things were said.
Perhaps irritatingly for those who said such things (and sadly, perhaps not) - the bugger went right on ahead and did it.
If it takes a Tit to think that way, to put those thoughts into action, and to go right ahead and achieve what he has achieved - even a rich Tit (though he had to be the person he is to get to be said rich Tit in the first place) - I can only wish I was such a Tit. Or that there were more such Tits among us.
Musk is by no means the first to consider colonizing Mars. His idea is childish at best. It won't happen in the near future. Getting a single human to Mars in one piece would be an achievement enough. Talking about settling Mars is about as plausible as talking about using wormholes to travel to distant galaxies. Great fun for sci-fi or a Morgan Freeman narrated documentary, but not even close to being in the ball-park of something that could be considered remotely practical.
"Talking about settling Mars is about as plausible as talking about using wormholes to travel to distant galaxies."
No its not.
Wormholes are a purely theoretical idea that humanity has no concept of how we could generate or make practical use of , vs rockets which have been in use for over 60 years, and have already demonstrated the ability to send stuff to Mars successfully. I would have to say there is a huge qualitative difference in those two endeavours.
Humanity could give a good go at colonising Mars if we dedicated a considerable proportion of our resources to it, using only existing technology.
Whereas opening "wormholes to distant galaxies" is total sci-fi bullshit
I agree fully.... maybe you don't like the guy as a person.. but it is not unreasonable to begin planning for a day (decades off still, but you have to start or never get there) in the future where we can colonize the moon and mars. The main reason being that is ice (which also means oxygen) and other precious resources (including physical space or room to grow). No he by far not the first to envision this, but he is rich enough and willing enough to be the first to accomplish it. I have to say I was mightily impressed when a private citizens company built a rocket that DID successfully dock with the international space station..... that achievement adds at least a little credibility to his further ventures in the same arena.
Oh come ON!
Given the relentless increases in house prices over the last decade, the average Londoner only needs to sell their flat to cover the majority of the fare and take out a modest loan for a fictitious purpose to cover the rest (which you wouldn't bother paying back - whose going to send a debt collector after you??)
You won't be coming back remember so quite a few people could get this together by selling house/car/absolutely everything they own, cashing in pension, emptying savings etc. The very rich on the other hand will be less likely to go because it is such a small part of their wealth and they won't be willing to leave the rest behind.
The English colonies in America only took off after they started exporting highly addictive tobacco to Europe. Does anything exists on Mars that could provide a similar revenue stream/ demand back here on Earth?
Also both France and Britain transported convicts to their colonies, hence the Brit's interest in Oz after American Independence, and there is no shortage of convicts in America these days.....
Seriously though, such a colony would need as much vegetation as it could produce, to form the recycling side of the oxygen/CO2 cycle generating breathable atmosphere for the colonists. Without plants you're a bit stuffed.
Thats the funny thing about the climate arguments on earth. Its all big talk about how much CO2 we produce ... but not a mention of the industrial scale deforestation which is over time reducing one of the planets most effective carbon sinks ...
Seems like they may have "mis-sold" the Mars package, $500k for one way trip to Mars that wil never be able to sustain an atmosphere as the solar winds will keep blasting it away... nice! Wonder can I start a class action now (as theyre fond of in the US)... I'll never be able to walk barefooted on those red sands and rocks under a red sky simultaneously freezing and suffocating, dammit! The dream is shattered!
Can just see the advert now now, "Come to Mars, live in a bubble! Eat veg and rock! Die of radiation! Live the dream!"
I'm all for smashing a few rocks into Mars to see if it can be restarted, otherwise its off to Jupiter!
Who ever gets there fist owns it.
Who ever can defend it keeps it.
And unless/until a good system of elections/government is in place: the one who is strongest/smartest/fastest to kill any opposition will lead it.
And yes it make absolute sense to not only have robots do the work, but plenty of pre-mapping of the planet first... which would mean we are decades away from this...
Much better to land in a large crater that was shielded from the worst dust storms, had an abundance of frozen ice, and maybe even some gold and iron deposits near by rather than say a vast desert of sand.
Well, Mars does have a lovely, deep valley that makes the Grand Canyon look like a drainage ditch.
Protected from the storms (dust and solar), highest air pressure at the bottom, and less temperature variation. Still freakin' cold tho'.)
A few preliminary explorations to map it out and find some nice, sheltered caves for early settlers to build in, land a few nuclear stations for power, or for the squeamish, large solar arrays up on the canyon rim, and there's a decent start for a prospective colony.
Very simple, same reason they came to the US, and other Americas:
You Own It. You can escape religious or societal prosecution and set up your own envisioned ideal isolated life system. Ironically the only group of people that I see in the world today that could really pull off these early stages of life there successfully would be the Amish or Mennonites here in the U.S. the have a pretty isolated sustainable culture that uses simple tools/resources.
You Take It. The other reason people flocked to the new world, (or that other historical empires expanded). You go there you find and take the resources that are there for the taking... use these resources to build your own society while at the same time sending back the precious resources to Earth in exchange for valuable earth commodities like Beef and technology. The plan will be of many to go, make their fortunes and return to the old world...though I bet just like with the new world here on Earth... once they get there, establish positions of ownership and leadership and develop a infinitival for their new way of life most will end up staying in the new world.
It would cost less and be much safer to place a colony in orbit around Mars, and allow colonists to explore the surface via telepresence robots. That way, the journey is not necessarily a one way trip (no gravity well), and resupply would be easier and more reliable.
Eventually, after the robots have built some reliable, life sustaining infrastructure, some colonists could choose to descend to the surface.
If Mr Musk is serious about colonising some other world, why not go for the asteroid belt rather than Mars? Find a nice metallic asteroid, hollow it out (bonus raw materials), spin it up for artificial gravity, then find a nearby carbon/water asteroid, and you have all the ingredients for setting up a biosphere. Most of the process could be automated, and people could move in once a stable habitat has been set up. Once you have done one, you can repeat as often as you like. Rather than create just one additional home for humans, this method could lead to many (more baskets for those eggs), and as an aside it could produce stuff which could conceivably be exported back to earth.
Mars seems to be a lot more work for very little extra benefit - any biosphere will have to be enclosed in any case, and anything produced there is stuck at the bottom of a gravity well. Mars is not an inherently safer place to live than an asteroid, as in either case, a malfunction of the life support equipment would be catastrophic.
1. you do not pay to go and "colonize" other planets
it's in our (humanity) best interest to colonize as many planets, moons, asteroids, orbital stations etc
when you look at the bigger picture, we are very fragile right now and a good number of catastrophes would simply end our species.
2. there has to be an international cooperation to colonize moon and mars asap
build an underground complex instead of naive "domes". (too many benefits of living underground to list)
as a power source use for example multiple small thorium reactors and plasma convertors, sufficient and long lasting energy generator are most important, when you have energy you can produce the rest of necessities.
ability to close off any segment of habitat in case of outbreak, failure, etc
3. do not send people who buy there way in, thats just not smart
you need smart and intelligent people each with multiple skillsets (so there is no single point of failure)
scientists, engineers, etc
definitely no single-skill people like janitors, chefs, lawyers and other lols etc
4. preselected people based on a number of psychological traits, should include ability to work both in team
and alone for extended periods of time, no egotistic, narcissistic personalities, religious people, no addicts of any kind (including smoking, drinking including "socially acceptable" drugs like coffee)
if you're building a new technological colony the last thing you need is personality cults
5. could become a new kind of society unlike the failed ones on earth (which are based on a number of traditional/cultural/social features which promote greed, selfishness, etc)
maybe some form of geniocracy
every colonist has medical diagnostic/monitoring implants
6. do not waste energy on pointless secondary resources like raising animals for food
much smarter to just grow primary food sources using aeroponics
(preferably fruits like tomatos, cucumbers, bananas, strawberries, pears, kiwis, and so on selected to fulfill complete nutrient needs of a human body) - natural and healthy fruitarian diet