back to article Elon Musk: I'm gonna turn Mars into a $10bn death-dealing interplanetary gas station

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has laid out an audacious multibillion-dollar plan to send colonists to probably die on Mars. On Tuesday, he unveiled an Interplanetary Transport System: a fleet of spacecraft capable of delivering people to the Red Planet so they can create a permanent human settlement complete with a fuel-generating …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Holy Shit!

    Yep, that's ... ambitious!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Holy Shit!

      Yes, someone has to have the vision or mankind gets nowhere.

    2. Winkypop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Holy Shit!

      "Yep, that's ... ambitious!"

      So was Apollo.

      Think big and build an even bigger rocket!

  2. inmypjs Silver badge

    Musk seems to be losing it

    Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2. Between 35 and 250 million miles away from the only source of supplies and aid. Yet he thinks "most of those passengers would be looking to permanently relocate to Mars". He might find a few loons wanting to spend the rest of their (possibly very short) lives on Mars, but, no one sane.

    1. stucs201

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      Well count me as a loon then.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        Hell.... I'd go in an instant also just because. I miight not pass the "age" requirement but it would be glorious. We all will die sometime so why not at least try make a better future?

        1. a pressbutton

          Re: Musk seems to be losing it

          Actually, dying on mars would make a nice contribution to the early stage eco-system there - after all you cannot waste anything

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: Musk seems to be losing it

            Uhm, yeah, Soylent Green crackers anyone? Anyone?

        2. Swarthy Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Musk seems to be losing it

          @ Mark 85

          And if you perish on the planet, your corpse could be used to enrich the soil to pave the way for a better ecosystem. Not a horrible fate, and one that I also would not object to.

      2. h4rm0ny
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        Yes. Another potential loon here. But there are unanswered questions about property rights. If I go to Mars as a colonist, can I stake out an area of it and have it be legally mine? Like colonists have in olden days (only with the difference being that this time the land really is vacant rather than displacing people already living there).

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Musk seems to be losing it

          @h4arm0ny:

          All you need is a flag.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      >Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

      That's all right, I know of a few people happy to spend their days inside... wait, what that? Netflix takes ages to buffer? Noooooo!

      1. Ragequit
        Joke

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        Don't worry, Netflix will probably offer to send a preloaded server on the trip. When they get there they can use the very high latency, very limited bandwidth comms to earth to slowly update the local cache of videos rather than do more important things.

        Seriously though how do you keep that many people entertained for months?

        1. DropBear

          Re: Musk seems to be losing it

          "Seriously though how do you keep that many people entertained for months?"

          You send the ones who like to read.

          Have you got any idea how ludicrously little storage you would need in today's terms to store absolutely EVERYTHING that has ever been written, if it were all available in digital.form..?

        2. Flip

          Re: Musk seems to be losing it

          "Seriously though how do you keep that many people entertained for months?"

          Sex?

    3. dan1980

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      "He might find a few loons . . ."

      Perhaps, but what I think he will find is a strong field of very resourceful, very intelligent, and very brave people willing to devote their lives to the difficult, dangerous and demanding task of helping start the long and laborious process of attempting to gain the a foothold out in the solar system.

      And it will be a long task and it will take many generations before any 'normal' people can ever hope to live in anything like comfort on another planet, but that doesn't make the inevitable pioneers 'loons' for helping get us there.

      Those people who do accept this challenge will be helping to create a future that neither they nor anyone else alive today will ever experience and for that I will applaud their courage rather than question their sanity!

      1. macjules

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        Quite rightly put. If we stuck with the 'few loons' mentality then Australia could possibly still be free of European influences, not that I am suggesting we ship several hundred convicts to Mars to act as slave labour of course.

        "People will have the option of coming back if they get homesick."

        Is there a discount for buying a return ticket, just in case?

      2. Keith Langmead

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        "And it will be a long task and it will take many generations before any 'normal' people can ever hope to live in anything like comfort on another planet, but that doesn't make the inevitable pioneers 'loons' for helping get us there."

        Indeed, it's arguably not unlike the early settlements in the USA with long dangerous journeys to cross the atlantic, unknown dangers and challenges to overcome, the very real possibility of not surviving, and the reality that you'd likely never see your homeland again.

        Hopefully it won't be too many more generations until "normal" people can start inhabiting the USA! :)

        1. noominy.noom

          Re: Musk seems to be losing it

          @Keith Langmead

          I'm a USAian but I had to upvote you. You owe me a keyboard though.

      3. Adhib

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        dan1980, that's possibly the worst possible outcome. Getting resourceful people to sacrifice themselves for a few generations getting a toe-hold on Mars will make it effectively impossible to terraform the place. They'll never be budged, but they will be stuck in a primitive system with little hope of ever taming it. Do you want to be the government that tries to pry them off-world to allow the comet barrage to commence?

    4. Schultz
      Unhappy

      Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

      The real problem is the lack of resources on Mars. On earth, we sit on the waste products from a few billion years of photosynthesis -- nice amounts of hydrocarbons, metals, amines, and oxygen. As a result we can eat, breathe, and dig up useful resources. It's the basis of stuff we call 'fire' and 'life' on earth.

      On Mars, you have iron oxide and CO2 -- it's near the chemical equilibrium and there are few or no spontaneous chemical reactions. Chemistry won't be your friend, you'd have to bring the energy for every single chemical reaction you'd want to drive.

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

        No, the real problem is an ionizing radiation on the way there and brain damage it causes. Scarcity of resources is not an issue if your colonists won't likely to survive a trip or arrive with brain cancer.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

          Scarcity of resources is not an issue if your colonists won't likely to survive a trip or arrive with brain cancer

          Obviously no-one is going until there is a solution to that. A hard problem, but not impossible. Elon's big booster rocket probably needs to make a few more trips to lift enough shielding material like water, or some hydrogen-rich plastic.

          1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

            "to lift enough shielding material like water, or some hydrogen-rich plastic."

            Would rocket fuel do ?

            1. cray74

              Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

              Would rocket fuel do ?

              Yes. Some Mars missions outline the use of propellant as shielding, though it depends on the propellant. You don't want to wrap a liquid hydrogen tank around a hot passenger cabin, for example. The SpaceX choice of methane is a bit challenging for space storage because of its very low boiling point, so it might not be suitable for shielding.

              The water requirements of 100 passengers offers one shielding option, and even unrecycled solid wastes may be considered for shielding.

              Water starts cutting down radiation levels pretty quickly. 10 centimeters should halve the full flight dosage. This .pdf is an excellent look at Mars and Lunar exploration shielding. Figures 11, 12, and 14 assess various materials.

              1. MacroRodent Silver badge

                Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

                Would rocket fuel do ? [as shielding]

                There is the little problem that your rocket uses it up to get going. So it is not there when coasting to Mars and you need the shielding.

                1. Brangdon

                  Re: Rocket fuel as shielding

                  No, the rocket won't use all its propellant to get going. It needs to keep some for landing when it gets there.

        2. VinceH
          Joke

          Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

          "the real problem is an ionizing radiation on the way there and brain damage it causes"

          Not a problem. I'll be sure to pack my tinfoil hat for the journey.

      2. Brian Miller

        Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

        And the soil is full of calcium perchlorate! Yes, it's all toxic to us. NASA claims that you just need to leach out the perchlorates from the soil before planting. I wish them good luck with that.

        1. Mike Richards

          Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

          There are also uncertainties over the health effects of exposure to Martian dust. A lot of it is very fine, the sort of size that gets deep into your lungs, and it will be everywhere. Perhaps only heavy smokers need apply?

      3. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

        Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

        @Schultz - I think you'd have to send solar panels and robots in advance of the people to build the kit that would collect the energy. It would take a great deal of patience. It would be interesting to know if SpaceX are working on calculating how much patience.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Average temperature -55C, atmosphere almost 100% CO2.

        Don't forget the peroxides. Lots and lots of peroxides.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      Let me guess, Brexiteer?

      1. hplasm
        FAIL

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        "Let me guess, Brexiteer?"

        Seems more like a Remainer- as in "Don't leave the cave!"

    6. pop_corn

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      > "He might find a few loons wanting to spend the rest of their (possibly very short) lives on Mars"

      Well when Mars One was announced, 200,000 people signed up for a 1 way trip. That's a queue of people that would have reached from London to Birmingham! And that programme didn't have anything like the credibility SpaceX does. There'd be millions of applicants for the first Heart of Gold mission to Mars, one way or not.

      The reality is that many people would prefer to burn out their lives brightly (possibly literally) and possibly go down in the history books, than continue to fade away in their current insignificance.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        I think that the 200,000 was not actually the true number according to a participant - more like 2,000 I believe.

        Steve

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a queue of people that would have reached from London to Birmingham!

        Well, strictly speaking, it's a queue of people that would fill 48.3 olympic-size swimming pools.

      3. inmypjs Silver badge

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        "Well when Mars One was announced, 200,000 people signed up for a 1 way trip."

        From the Mars One web site:-

        "Most people would give an arm and a leg to be allowed to stay on Earth so it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would want to go.

        Yet many people apply for Mars One’s mission and these are the people who dream about someday living on Mars. They would give up anything for the opportunity and it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would not want to go"

        Pretty much confirms what I suggested - that most people think ones that want to go are loons.

    7. Dr. G. Freeman

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      Mars or Dole queue.... Hmmmm?

      Mars it is. Let's go.

      -55 C- Pah, I'm from Inverness, I like the cold.

      almost 100% CO2- breathed worse, grew up in a pub before the smoking ban.

      250 Million miles- So, delivery companies think anything North of Glasgow is remote and whack a surcharge on delivery, nothing new there.

      I'll get packing.

    8. Graham Jordan

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      Amen,

      Whilst we should all command his eccentricity, this seems somewhat of a pipe dream.

      $200,000 rules the average "TOWIE" viewer that wants to be famous.

      I can't imagine any real scientists are going to want to be the first ones out there knowing full well it's a death sentence with no guarantee of a legacy.

      Here's a list of people signed up to Virgin Galactic flights, the likely candidates for more money than sense. I'm all in favour of sending Angelina Jolie as ambassador of Earth but can't envision her doing anything useful on the red planet.

      http://www.agent4stars.com/virgin-galactic-passenger-list/

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        "I can't imagine any real scientists are going to want to be the first ones out there knowing full well it's a death sentence with no guarantee of a legacy."

        You're not a scientist, are you ?

    9. Dr. Mouse

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      He might find a few loons wanting to spend the rest of their (possibly very short) lives on Mars, but, no one sane.

      Most of the explorers of the last few thousand years (and more) could be classified as "loons". They set out on journeys which most people thought were death sentences (and they probably realised their chances were slim). In fact, most of them did die, but a handful (those we remember) survived their journeys and discovered strange new lands.

      Without these explorers, we would not have discovered or colonised many places. I view this mission the same way: Very risky, not something I'd be able to do, has a lot of potential to be a complete disaster, but a very worthy goal which has the potential to benefit all mankind. Kudos!

    10. Orwell

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      100% CO2 but at an atmospheric pressure which we on earth would call a vacuum. And you forgot to mention the radiation (no shielding ozone layer or magnetic field).

      Inhabitants will have to quickly dig tunnels and get underground and rarely comeback to the surface. Not my idea of fun!

      1. DropBear

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        "Inhabitants will have to quickly dig tunnels and get underground and rarely comeback to the surface. Not my idea of fun!"

        Hmmmm, what is this strange "outdoors" concept you speak of...? (Oh, you might think I'm kidding...)

    11. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      >"He might find a few loons wanting to spend the rest of their (possibly very short) lives on Mars, but, no one sane."

      The advertising industry considers this one of the top hundred adverts from 1900-2000:-

      Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success." - Shackleton's advert for the north pole expedition.

      He got 5k applications. Given the profile of the people interested in going it shouldn't be totally impossible to get enough people who work in a technical field (say, IT) who are both capable of dealing with highly technical equipment, working under pressure and most importantly SICK AND FUCKING TIRED OF DEALING WITH IDIOTS.

      Ok, maybe we might have been driven insane over the years. Enough so to go to Mars to get away from an endless 9-5 grind which might end with a livable pension, if the pension provider doesn't go out of business and leave you a penniless serf unable to ever retire.

      1. macjules

        Re: Musk seems to be losing it

        @Peter2

        I'd go like a shot. House is worth well over the $200k requirement and wouldn't need currency there. I would require several guarantees though:

        1) That I won't have to drive a Tesla out there, will I?

        2) That I will never, ever see a Microsoft or Apple product again in my life,

    12. Afernie
      Facepalm

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      "He might find a few loons wanting to spend the rest of their (possibly very short) lives on Mars, but, no one sane."

      I suspect the population would be mainly scientists and engineers with the goal of dedicating their lives and careers to the wealth of scientific research such a base would allow. Pyjama-clad armchair critics with no imagination probably need not apply.

    13. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Musk seems to be losing it

      My wife, myself and everyone we count as friends would all go, without hesitation, even if we knew for a fact we'd last only days or months on the Red Planet.

      For exploration. For humanity. For our future.

      Some things are absolutely worth dying for.

  3. Unicornpiss
    Pint

    Props for the ship's name alone!

    And it's about time that humanity starts thinking about getting off this rock and spreading out.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Nah

      We actually need a 'B' ark. And about those telephone sanitisers, I hear Samsung has cracked that problem.

  4. srdegnan

    pass

    I'll stay here, thanks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pass

      No one is forcing you to go anywhere.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Link to slides

    A link to the slides from the presentation:

    http://spaceflight101.com/slides-elon-musk-unveils-spacex-mars-architecture/

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Link to slides

      That final slide...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That final slide...

        that's Europa, not Europe! I hope...

      2. T-Bo

        Re: Link to slides

        They'll want to be careful with those floodlights on Europa ... just sayin' ....

  6. ZSn

    Delays

    Knowing Musk's usually optimistic approach to delivery schedules for his cars (in essence a well know technology) I think that this schedule is wildly off. Kudos if he manages to pull it off, but I think it'll take a bit longer!

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Delays

      Minor nit pick, but electric cars are not a particularly well known technology. They are still clearly in the development stage.

      1. ZSn

        Re: Delays

        Yup, electric cars have only been around since 1884 - definitely new technology.

  7. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

    Heart of Gold...

    ... because it's hugely improbable, at all?

    I'm all for massive ambitions, and this programme will generate technological and possibly scientific progress, but sending people to die on Mars will be a huge turn-off for the general population, even if the pioneers are well-informed volunteers.

    1. Steve Knox
      Boffin

      Re: Heart of Gold...

      As long as it's a finite improbability, and he's got the kettle on...

      Oh, and:

      I'm all for massive ambitions, and this programme will generate technological and possibly scientific progress, but sending people to die on this ocean voyage will be a huge turn-off for the general population, even if the pioneers are well-informed volunteers.

      1. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Heart of Gold...

        As long as it's a finite improbability, and he's got the kettle on...

        Not just kettle. He needs to ensure he has decent tea on board.

    2. toxicdragon

      Re: Heart of Gold...

      "huge turn-off for the general population"

      Really? I might not be part of that then, yes it would be risky, yes the people will probably die of about 10 million different types of space cancer and hard vacuum but dammit it would be cool. I would happily do it.

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Has to be said

    It works in Kerbal Space Program

    Seriously though, this has been his aim from the start.

    And did anyone see that huge composite fuel tank? That's something Lockheed-Martin couldn't manage to do for X-33. They built a prototype, had one crack appear, and threw in the towel. Great show of American design talent and persistence right there.

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Re: Has to be said

      GC "...did anyone see that huge composite fuel tank?"

      No. You didn't see it. Nobody saw it.

      You saw an artist representation of it. The real version, ready?, hold tight!, DOES NOT EXIST.

      That's why it doesn't have any cracks in it.

      Are we, as a species, losing the ability to distinguish the difference between CGI and the real word?

      You've certainly conflated the two...

      1. Evil Auditor

        Re: Has to be said

        Jeffy, I fully agree with you.

        "Are we, as a species, losing the ability to distinguish the difference between CGI and the real word?" But I guess this is more of a generation Y thing than of our species. Not yet, that is...

      2. Poncey McPonceface

        Re: Has to be said

        What's this then?

        http://spaceflight101.com/slides-elon-musk-unveils-spacex-mars-architecture/its-033/

        1. JeffyPoooh
          Pint

          Re: Has to be said

          I stand corrected.

          Prototype carbon fiber tank, which is huge (in spite of being a smaller one), is real, not CGI.

          It's shown in the slides at about 1h20m into the two hour video.

          Thank you for the corrective rebuttals.

          1. Poncey McPonceface
            Pint

            Re: Has to be said

            Sir JeffyPooh,

            Well done for issuing a retraction and acknowledging that you were in error. As your icon of choice seems to be a pint of beer, have one on me.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Has to be said

        Umm, no that wasn't an artist's impression. That was a real tank which he commented that they have already done initial leakage tests on (and it didn't leak). It's very hard to leak test CGI. He said they started on the tank as that was one of the hardest things to get right.

        Did you watch the video?

      4. DropBear

        Re: Has to be said

        "Are we, as a species, losing the ability to distinguish the difference between CGI and the real word? You've certainly conflated the two..."

        No mate. He didn't. that would have been saying "Musk succeeded where Lockheed failed!". Instead he merely said "Lockeed failed. Does Musk really hope to best them?".

        Oh, and while I have enormous respect for hard science and engineering - at the rate vision paired with will and means to try something difficult keeps getting scarce these days, someone putting a CGI thing like that with a serious intent in a powerpoint presentation might soon become more remarkable than others figuring out how to make it actually happen.

    2. hplasm
      Boffin

      Re: Has to be said

      "Great show of American design talent and persistence right there."

      Lack of super profitability, also, sadly.

    3. cray74

      Re: Has to be said

      And did anyone see that huge composite fuel tank? That's something Lockheed-Martin couldn't manage to do for X-33.

      Lockheed Martin's design for the X-33 fuel tank - and the X-33 overall - had a lot of overly ambitious design features. The integral foam core and double-lobed design were a nightmare to produce with then-available composite manufacturing techniques and vulnerable to cryo-pumping in the core.

      A composite tank with a simple shape and external insulation is a much simpler proposition.

  9. JustNiz

    $200k? Where do I sign?

  10. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    "...cost of around $200K per passenger."

    Where's the math that somehow gets from $10B total to $200k each?

    The number 50,000 somehow springs to mind. Crazy.

    Space between Earth and Mars is going to be littered with human corpses. ...Yuck.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: "...cost of around $200K per passenger."

      Any effort to have humans leave Earth in large numbers will "litter the cosmos with human corpses". The medical problems of weightlessness alone are daunting.

      1. Brangdon

        Re: The medical problems of weightlessness alone are daunting.

        Journey time is only 100 days, which the ISS has shown to be tolerable. When you arrive, Mars has gravity.

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Re: "...cost of around $200K per passenger."

      Space between Earth and Mars is going to be littered with human corpses. ...Yuck.

      Not to mention Russell's Teapot

    3. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: "...cost of around $200K per passenger."

      "Space between Earth and Mars is going to be littered with human corpses. ...Yuck."

      Nah, they'll hold 'em on the ship to Mars - that's too good of a fertilizer to let it go to waste.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: "...cost of around $200K per passenger."

        WELCOME TO LIFE! THERE IS DEAD STUFF EVERYWHERE!

  11. Justin S.

    Death and taxes

    > SpaceX founder Elon Musk has laid out an audacious multibillion-dollar plan to send colonists to probably die on Mars.

    Well, yes, they're colonists. Whether they die on their second day or forty years later, after having children and grandchildren, they probably will die on Mars.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Death and taxes

      Colonists was what I was thinking.

      In 1840 my ancestors left Plymouth for the other side of the world, with no expectation of ever returning, and they never did. They did found New Plymouth though.

      Having an atmosphere to breathe did make the job somewhat easier I suppose.

  12. Tom 64
    Go

    Bonkers

    Yes, you may die on mars, but hey, you're going to die here on Earth anyway, unless you are Larry Ellison. I for one which Mr. Musk success in this endeavor.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...he'd like to call the first ship "Heart of Gold""

    Bloody hell, money and a fine sense of humour, that's rare as hens teeth.

  14. RIBrsiq
    Happy

    So... surely they'll have need of a versatile sysadmin with a physics degree who's fluent in several languages, no?

    1. Anonymous John

      Could be useful if they find intelligent Martians.

  15. the Jim bloke Silver badge

    Nobody Doesnt Die

    So doing it someplace different has to be worth something.

    Seriously, getting humanity onto more rocks has to be the most meaningful goal possible. Even better if we arent rock-dependant but thats probably further down the track.

    World peace and cures for cancer only count as waypoints or aids to that aim - they would be extremely helpful but I really hope they arent pre-requisites.

    1. Trilkhai

      Re: Nobody Doesnt Die

      By what metric would it be "the most meaningful goal possible" without resorting to circular logic? Or rather, what would it accomplish that couldn't far more easily be done on a planet that's superior for human habitation?

      It would seem far more meaningful & effective to figure out how to implement suspended animation, improve spacecraft speed, and find a human-habitable planet within reasonable reach, then colonize *that.* In the meantime, teams could use the Moon to invent & master techniques for tasks like terraforming, water production, and food production. Much of what they'd learn in the process could also be used to improve life/survival here on Earth as well — ultimately benefiting people on Earth, people that travel to the new planet, *and* the generation of kids that'd be stuck living there.

      That sounds like a more meaningful plan than "let's have some people live for a while in a hellish environment because it's on a planet written about heavily in early science fiction stories."

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Nobody Doesnt Die

        >>"By what metric would it be "the most meaningful goal possible" without resorting to circular logic"

        That's a pretty easy one. By the metric of safe-guarding the survival of the species. If humanity is wiped out, our ability to attribute meaning to things goes with it. A self-sustaining colony on another planet is one the most powerful things we could do to safe-guard our species. And you can't get to a self-sustaining colony without going through a dependent colony (at least not any time soon).

        That's how it can be defined as "the most meaningful goal possible". As Carl Sagan said: The dinosaurs are no longer with us because they didn't have a space program.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is it I keep thinkung about this movie I've seen a long time ago?

    Capricorn One

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Why is it I keep thinkung about this movie I've seen a long time ago?

      You should stop thinking about O.J. Simpson. He was just some black guy who killed some white gal in the 90s.

  17. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    I'm in as long as he goes as well

    As long as he puts himself on the line physically as well as his money then I'm in.

  18. Mystic Megabyte
    Stop

    42?

    "including a re-usable booster powered by 42 of its new Raptor engines."

    I'm sure I recently saw an article that showed how the Russian multi-engined (30?) rockets were a failure.

    There were too many points of failure and one engine exploding damages the adjacent ones.

    Apparently that's why they never got men on the moon.

    1. macjules

      Re: 42?

      I thought that the Soviet Union did land men on the moon? Apparently it was on the dark side of the moon so that the Decadent West could not copy advanced Russian technology.

    2. Anonymous John

      Re: 42?

      The Falcon 9 has nine engines and the Falcon Heavy has 27. One engine on one F9 did shut down early and the other compensated. The Apollo 13 Saturn V had a similar problem

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 42?

      That's the answer to the Ultimate question.

      Six by nine. Forty two

      That's it. That's all there is

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: 42?

        >>That's the answer to the Ultimate question. Six by nine. Forty two That's it. That's all there is

        Maybe, but it's meaningless unless you show your working.

    4. Francis Boyle

      Re: 42?

      It's just a matter of selecting the correct RAID level. That's why the Soviets failed - RAID hadn't been invented then.

    5. cray74

      Re: 42?

      I'm sure I recently saw an article that showed how the Russian multi-engined (30?) rockets were a failure.

      The Russian N-1 was a failure for many reasons. The 30 first-stage engines were a complication and engineering challenge, but not a cause for failure alone.

      The Russians only committed to the moon landing years after the Americans, and only did so with a fraction of the resources the Americans firehosed at Apollo (and its supporting programs: Gemini, Surveyor, Ranger, Little Joe, Lunar Orbiter, etc.) For example, when the N-1's main engine started the development of Apollo's first stage F-1 engine had been underway 5 years.

      They never tested an all-up first stage of the N-1 in static test fires. Instead, they only tested engines individually, and only 2 out of every 6 engines got a test fire. This means the Russians went into their first flight tests with no clue of the numerous plumbing problems; software problems with their KORD control system ("KORD" is apparently Russian for HAL 9000); poor welding that shed metal into engines; and exotic plume aerodynamics that forced spins on the rockets.

      So, by the time America had flown Saturn V's in Apollo 4 (unmanned), 6 (unmanned), and 7 (manned), and tested out the upper stages and lunar hardware in numerous Saturn I / IB launches, the Rooskies were just ready for their first launch - which they made into an all-up, complete launch of the untested N-1.

      There were engine explosions in the four test flights, but those weren't automatically fatal. The fires that followed could progress into problems (as happened in the fourth flight), but KORD tended to respond by first shutting down opposite engines to balance thrust, and then liked to turn off ALL the engines (launch 1). Or all but one, so the rocket flipped over and headed back for the launch pad (launch 2). So when unforeseen water hammer or pogo oscillations (found in Apollo 4 and 6) developed and engines caught fire, a recoverable problem turned into a crash for the N-1.

      Atrocious quality control meant the Russian pipelines tended to shed metal pieces from welds into the engines, which led to the second launch's failure. Instead of fixing the welds, they added mesh filters to the fuel lines. Likewise, the first launch's plumbing problems were fixed with fire extinguishers, not the dampers and improved plumbing that the US ironed out through Apollo test flights.

      Similarly, the lack of aerodynamic knowledge about the rocket, its unusual shape, and rocket plume meant the third rocket went into an uncontrolled spin and started flinging upper stages off. The Russians fixed this not by improving aerodynamics or the main engines, but by adding large roll control rockets.

      None of the N-1's problems stem solely from having lots of engines. Lots of engines do offer a lot of ways for things to go wrong. However, lack of testing, lack of quality control, rushed schedules, and low budgets can prevent the problems from going away. The same issues killed the Apollo 1 astronauts.

      By the fourth N-1 test flight, Apollo 17 had returned from the moon and there was no way the Russians could win the Space Race. The program was shutdown, and then the Russians convinced the West for 20 years that they had never been in the moon race to begin with. "Ha ha, stoopid Americans, wasting all that money on Apollo when we weren't even building rockets for the moon!"

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: 42?

        Very nice.

        But you have to say "soviets", as "russia" was just a part of the whole soviet republic thing.

        Lots of non-russians in that program.

        Don't sweat it though, Hillary's fanbase is packing out the hammer & sicle to paint The Other Candidate as a Red Menace, everybody forgets that the Soviet Union has gone away more than 20 years ago.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd go

    But I don't think Mars goes with a ginger.

  20. Erix
    Devil

    Some of you may die ...

    ...but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make

  21. Geoff Johnson

    Orbital tourism.

    No mention of taking groups of people for a week in orbit. If he can get people to Mars for 200k, he should be able to manage that for a reasonable price. Currently people pay tens of millions for a quick jaunt to the ISS and Branson is asking a small fortune for a few minutes of sub orbital flight.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Orbital tourism.

      If they pay 200K to be sent into orbit, I bet they'd pay double that to be brought back!

  22. Milton

    We're gonna need a bigger rocket

    I don't think much of El Reg's sneeringly defeatist tone about folks dying on Mars, nor the comments suggesting you'd have to be mad to want to go. There have always been people infected by what is arguably humanity's second greatest blessing (after the ability to feel compassion for others): curiosity—adventurousness; inquisitiveness; wanting to go, and wanting to know. I absolutely understand how some of our species, and not only the best and brightest, would jump at the chance to be pioneers, even on a very risky endeavour like this. The voyage to Mars might, after all, be statistically more survivable than three months across the Atlantic in 1750.

    My real worry is that these unrealistically aggressive timescales, which won't and can't be achieved with the stated technologies, ultimately foster the lubbers' and proxmires' carping that space travel isn't achievable and a waste of time anyway. If you're gonna say "People to Mars in six years", you have to offer something way better and more credible than the "Bigger fireworks" rationale. Shuttle was another big firework, and we saw how dismally that failed. We used fireworks to send men to the moon nearly 50 years ago ... and got bored and didn't bother any more. (Humanity's greatest curse—politicians: every single vice miraculously packed into a single mouthing head.)

    By my reckoning the only way to get placed on Mars a viable population and the enormous mass of infrastructure and stores needed to keep them alive using current technology would be an Orion¹ nuclear ship (it's powered by sequential nuclear blasts beneath a pusher plate), and a big one (big is better) could do the entire mission in a single lift. The tech and engineering sound wild but are actually eminently practical and achievable.

    Unfortunately "nuclear" has assumed the status of Unspeakable Bogeyman, without anyone actually running the math, so it won't happen unless we face an existential planetary crisis. A pity, because we DO need to get some our eggs out of this fragile basket. And using clean nukes, we could put a 100,000 tonne (yeah, the size of a supercarrier) Orion in Mars orbit with less fallout and cancer risk than one-thousandth of that created by decades of above-ground warhead testing.

    Perhaps we need an Asteroid-Is-Coming scenario to wake us up and get off our asses ....

    [¹ — If curious, search for DARPA Project Orion; Project Daedalus; or Project Longshot.]

    1. Geoff Campbell
      Go

      Re: We're gonna need a bigger rocket

      Nah. Big fireworks are fine, so long as you don't try and do the whole lift in one go. Hence, get to orbit, reassemble/refuel there, then go for it. I've been saying for decades that if the Apollo programme had done the same, we'd've got to the moon a bit later, but we would still have been in space today.

      I think Musk's approach should work, so long as the new engines can be made reliable enough. As far as I can tell they've cracked most of the technology problems already.

      GJC

    2. Black Rat

      Re: We're gonna need a bigger rocket

      When we can build a light-bulb that's guaranteed to last five years or longer then we might, just might be ready to tackle the engineering challenges for a Mars colony.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: We're gonna need a bigger rocket

        Er, all the bulbs in my house have been there for nearly 10 years, and are still going. Some of the bulbs in my 14 year old car are still original.

        So not sure what you point is.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: We're gonna need a bigger rocket

      The Orion program was insane. There was another program for nuclear powered rocket engines that didn't use bombs to make it go. I believe that the test facility in the US is mothballed, but could be brought back online. The ship would have to be assembled and launched from Earth orbit, but there is the possibility of being able to accelerate all the way (and decelerate, even though one doesn't use that word in physics). Travel time would be cut down considerably and/or trips wouldn't have to be scheduled only when the orbits allow for a minimum energy flight. Many possible health problems from low G and cabin fever would also be eliminated.

      The first flights could deliver infrastructure and tools. Later flights could position landers to go to and from the surface. Once everything is in place, people could make the trip.

  23. psychonaut

    where he suspects jobs will constantly be in demand.

    Well that'd be a great place to send him. We'll have to put up with Apple saying that they invented Mars for the rest of eternity though

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think my wife has a scale model of the rocket...

    And that's why I'm an anonymous coward.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: I think my wife has a scale model of the rocket...

      Dr. Barry Kripke would approve...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: I think my wife has a scale model of the rocket...

        Blessed be the wives that like models of those uniquely Russian-style knobby rocket contraptions.

  25. Joe 35

    Why not the Moon?

    OK its a 'bit' colder half the time, but otherwise isn't it pretty much the same in term of resources, easier to land on and take off from, and a heck of a lot closer?

    1. Geoff Campbell
      Meh

      Re: Why not the Moon?

      No CO2 and less water, AIUI. Not good for fuel production, although the solar energy situation is a lot better than Mars, of course. Shame, because it would be a good staging post.

      GJC

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Why not the Moon?

        What about He3? The lunar surface has a tonne of that, no?

        1. Geoff Campbell

          Re: Why not the Moon?

          Yes, I think there is plenty of He2 and He3, although I'm no expert.

          But the plan is to turn water and CO2 into Methane and Oxygen using solar power, for a whole bunch of very good engineering reasons around fuel handling, combustion, and ease of implementation.

          Fusion might be useful for spaceflight in the far future. Basing a plan that starts now on it would be somewhat, erm, brave.

          GJC

          1. Joe 35

            Re: Why not the Moon?

            I thought there was water at the poles?

      2. cray74

        Re: Why not the Moon?

        No CO2 and less water, AIUI. Not good for fuel production,

        There are options for lunar fuel production. The moon has plenty of oxygen in its minerals to begin with, which addresses half the requirements for most chemical propellants and most of the propellant mass. Even hydrocarbon fuels use about 2.3 times as much oxygen by mass as hydrocarbons, while hydrogen-oxygen rockets typically run at 6:1 (7:1 has been demonstrated).

        So, skipping the diffuse hydrogen detected on the moon, you could just bring hydrogen from Earth. With Musk's monster rocket, you're able to generate thousands of tons of hydrogen/oxygen fuel per rocket flight from Earth. That can fuel an entire network of orbital transfer vehicles and lunar landers.

        If you're daring, you can try to use oxygen in ion engines so unmanned LOX delivery vehicles to save the hydrogen required for most of the payload between low Earth and low Lunar orbits. That'd also combine well with a lunar rotovator.

        Another approach is to use sulfur, which the moon has in some quantity. "Brimstone rockets" are sulfur-oxygen rockets. While not efficient, with specific impulses of about 250, that's enough to escape a low gravity world like Luna and set up a completely moon-based fuel system for near Earth orbit. Again, it'll mesh well with a rotovator.

        The great advantage of a lunar base is travel time. When you're working in cis-lunar space you don't have lengthy flights of Mars missions and fuel delivery/storage becomes much easier. All shipments become much easier - in emergencies, for replacement parts, for passenger deliveries. Radiation shielding in flight doesn't need to shroud the whole vehicle, just small, short-term "storm shelters." Every problem is more fixable when the rescue mission or replacement for some failed mission is only 3 days away rather than 3 to 9 months. For modest increases in delta-V the travel time from Earth to the moon can drop to 1 day.

        Note that helium-3 isn't a useful resource until you can make a working fusion reactor. Helium-3 (with deuterium) is also significantly harder to fuse than tritium-deuterium selected for the ITER reactor. Also, it's quite possible to breed helium-3 on Earth - it's the decay product of tritium, and tritium can be bred by neutron bombardment of light elements like lithium and beryllium.

    2. annodomini2

      Re: Why not the Moon?

      That and a day on the moon is 28 days, 14 light/14dark.

      Lower gravity = bigger medical issues.

  26. Bogle

    Adams

    Heart of Gold? 42? Any more references? Me, I think we should sign up just to avoid the bypass that's coming through here ...

  27. The Bloke next door
    Happy

    Will everyone be welcome?

    Well I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships flyin'

    In the yellow haze of the sun

    There was laughing, crying and colors flying

    All around the chosen one

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    jobs will constantly be in demand

    And where, my good man, will I find the pleasure parlour, aka hookers' corner?! Oh, thanks a lot boy and... here's a tip towards your ticket home! There, good lad!

  29. Harry the Bastard

    not sure why the pessimism

    after all, if he can announce new cars and ship them on time, what could possibly... oh, er...

  30. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Trollface

    Can we send a couple of oxygen thieves with? Chances are they have surplus oxygen stored in their bodies (after stealing that much oxygen over the years) so they will be able to give a breath of fresh air to their fellow colonists.

  31. lukewarmdog

    about being mad

    So we have pioneering explorers who set out to climb Everest or find America (not that it was lost) and some died at sea and we don't know anything about them but some found.. stuff and lived. So those are the odds we're comparing here, just so I'm clear? The commentators here who want to go to Mars think going there is like finding America (still wasn't lost) which is on Earth which we already live in and can breathe the air on and walk around in and build stuff with stuff we find lying around.That's like going to Mars?

    I don't think so.

    And those who think that going would be heroic.. no you'd be like those people who died on the way to America who we don't know about. Except with the added bonus of Martian atmosphere, space travel, radiation poisoning and everything else.

    I'd love there to be a visitable colony on another planet. And sure, start with Mars if you must with the better goal of finding Earth 2. Which begs the question why land at all? Why not take the Battlestar Galactica approach and build ships we can live on rather than colonising a completely inhospitable planet? I'd sign up for space station duty before Mars duty.

    There was also a comment about curiosity being mankinds second greatest blessing. How far did that get Curie? It would imho be more sensible to send prison inmates to mars and see what happens. If they survive we can just humanely dispose of them later and then take over. Why send the scientists first? We still need those guys.Curiosity needs blending with various other human characteristics before it's safe to act on.

    1. Seajay#

      Re: about being mad

      The commentators here who want to go to Mars think going there is like finding America

      Not quite. They think that going to Mars with 2020 technology is similar to finding America with 1000 (Norse) technology.

      And those who think that going would be heroic.. no you'd be like those people who died on the way to America who we don't know about.

      Whether or not you ultimately become famous, it's heroic to try. Besides, the real question is not "Am I likely to be remembered by history as a hero?" it's "Is this more or less heroic than my current life as a vacuum cleaner engineer?"

      I'd sign up for space station duty before Mars duty.

      But a space station doesn't have access to any raw materials, it can never hope to make itself self-sustaining so it can never fulfil the ultimate point of a Mars colony, Backup Earth.

      There was also a comment about curiosity being mankinds second greatest blessing. How far did that get Curie?

      It got her two Nobel prizes, the discovery of two elements and probably more earned respect than any other woman born prior to 1900. Yes she got cancer but she lived to 66. I'd take that any day.

    2. IT Poser

      How far did that get Curie?

      I'd say pretty far. She is one of the most famous scientists of all time.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: about being mad

      Fine, you stay put. For myself, it's the adventure itself. Like moving to a strange place and seeing what happens. I'd like to see something that I've never seen before, even if it will kill me. I'm one of those with a sense of wonder about the universe and this would be a prime opportunity to fulfill that sense. So hell yes. I go in an instant with no regrets no matter the outcome.

  32. Scaryscary
    Alien

    Heart of Gold ? - Pah!

    B-Ark more like...

    1. fandom

      Re: Heart of Gold ? - Pah!

      People usually forget that it was the B-Ark passengers that survived while everyone else died.

      And they died precisely because the B-Ark people weren't there doing their jobs, phone sanitizing of all things.

      I don't know if Adams intended it, but it looks to me that it was a joke on people who think of others as their inferiors.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Multi-Choice Question - tick all that apply

    Q1: I'm gonna turn Mars into a:

    a) $10bn government subsidy.

    b) $20bn government bailout.

    c) $10bn personal profit.

    d) $20bn Parking Lot for unsaleable electric cars.

    e) $10bn CGI movie.

    f) $20bn Solar Wind Farm.

    g) $10bn Lithium mine.

    h) $20bn Rechargeable Lithium battery.

    i) $10bn Figment of your imagination.

    j) $30bn Waste of Space.

    k) $50bn Bankruptcy.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Multi-Choice Question - tick all that apply

      You forgot that staple of all multiple choice tables..

      L) None of the above.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mars B-Ark Express: Tickets Now Available

    The perfect trip for hairdressers, telephone sanitisers, traffic wardens, MEPs, MPs, County Councillors, Telesales personnel, Estate Agents, BBC employees, Newspaper reporters, Media personalities, Climate Change Scientists and (never forgetting) IT workers under 50.

    Return Journey: n/a

    Single Journey: $2,000,000

    (Price includes a personalise towel, digital watch and daily poetry readings)

    Please make your cheques payable to: CASH.

    1. You aint sin me, roit

      Re: Mars B-Ark Express: Tickets Now Available

      I suspect Musk will have a preference for engineers and miners - people who will be able to contribute to his "space gas station" as soon as possible. You're going to be there for a long time, not a good time...

      MuskMarsCo will pay you a pittance for hard labour, and then charge extortionate rates for "luxuries" such as food, oxygen, water.

      After a couple of generations of downtrodden servitude, Mars colonists will revolt, declaring cessation from Earth. Following a nasty internecine war Mars gains independence, though Martians continue to have a substantial chip on their shoulders...

      Of course all that can be avoided if Arnie goes on the first mission and starts the atmosphere regeneration reactor right at the start...

  35. Tom Paine

    Never gonna happen

    As Ars Technica pointed out, who's going to pay for this fantasy? (Spoiler alert: no-one.)

    The USSR tried to get to the moon by putting a very large number of engines in one booster: the N1. There's some spectacular footage of the consequent fireworks on YT; check it out. The more engines, the bigger the chance of one going bang, and though they claim to be able to survive an engine failure, I guarantee there are failure modes that lead to a very bad day.

    When you're only incinerating three or four astronauts -- that's bad enough. Incinerate 100 billionaires and you've bought yourself a permanent place in the big book of human hubris.

    Oh, and -- consider the mass of fuel this monster booster would have to carry (way more than SV.) How far away would you have to be at launch to be realistically safe in the event of a bad day? Again, YT has some horrific footage the Intelsat / Long March launch that rolled over to a trajectory parallel to the ground shortly after clearing the tower before crashing into a nearby town. The Chinese still haven't released casualty figures, but the footage of the aftermath shot by shocked western engineers on their way out of town makes it clear that hundreds was very optimistic. Doesn't the size of the energy release scale at something like the cube of the booster's mass?

    Anyway, as the piece implies, there's more chance of me taking over as Bake Off presenter than this thing ever flying.

    1. cray74

      Re: Never gonna happen

      The USSR tried to get to the moon by putting a very large number of engines in one booster: the N1.

      The USSR also built the highly reliable Soyuz rocket family from 1966 onwards, which uses 20 main engines and 12 roll-control engines in its first stage and boosters.

      The N-1's problem is that the USSR tried to get to the moon with a fraction of the US's budget, a much more compressed schedule, political divisions in the aerospace industry, grossly inadequate testing that didn't identify software and hardware problems, and terrible quality control.

      In a rush to beat Apollo 9 they tried launching a full-up rocket that had never even static test-fired its first stage - in fact, only 2 out of every 6 engines had ever been hot-fired, and then only individually. This missed numerous software, aerodynamic, fluid, and quality control problems of a 30-engine stage.

      By the time of the first N-1 explosion, the US had flown:

      1) The Gemini program to resolve questions behind the Apollo operations

      2) The Ranger program, to scout the moon

      3) The Surveyor program, to scout the moon

      4) The Lunar Orbiter program, to scout the moon

      5) 10 unmanned Saturn I missions testing the Saturn V upper stages, command module, and in-flight engine failures

      6) 2 pad abort tests

      7) 5 Little Joe II tests for aerial abort missions

      8) 3 unmanned Saturn IB flights

      9) 3 unmanned Earth orbit Saturn V flights, which ID'd critical problems like pogo'ing and water hammer that destroyed the N-1s

      10) 2 manned Saturn IB flights

      11) 1 manned circumlunar Saturn V flight

      This was accompanied by numerous ground tests of assembled Apollo stages, which the Rooskies never did for their N-1 first stage.

  36. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
    Coat

    "Musk sees humans then being able to establish similar facilities in the asteroid belt or on the moons of Jupiter."

    Except Europa, of course...

    (Mine's the one with the copy of 2010 in the pocket.)

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Looking forward to see Sean Connery on Io.

  37. Axman

    I wanna be hired for the conceptualisation team.

    My first area of interest would be dosh creation. We could start off with an exchange rate of one US Dollar to one Mars Unit. Once enough resources have been built up on the Martian surface we could have a central vault, and then of course we would move to the Mars Bar standard with the Mars Unit's value directly linked to actual transported and stored Mars Bars. Eventually of course, once a proper government had formed, we would dump the Mars Bar standard in favour of proper monetary fiat.

    1. Axman

      Re: I wanna be hired for the conceptualisation team.

      ... my second area of interest would be formatting the Martian year into something a little more user friendly. My initial thoughts would be to have bank holidays named after specific key stage events, and each having a nominated patron saint. Thus: Foundation Day would obviously be the day the first lander arrived; it's patron would be Saint Elon Musk himself.

      Another would be the day the first nuclear reactor sent from Earth was installed in the colony, Atomic Day: I think St Debbie Harry would be the appropriate patron for that day (Oh-o Atomic...)

  38. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    My question is: will the ships be on autopilot or not?

  39. Faszination
    FAIL

    I like Elon Musk but he is clearly as mad as onions.

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Yeah but.. @ Faszination

      I like Elon Musk because he is as mad as onions in all the right ways. We need more like him.

  40. Tim Greenwood

    Suicide mission !? People going to their deaths !?

    I can't understand why it seems so difficult for people to understand the concept of emigration or colonisation. How is this seen as a suicide mission with people going to their deaths ? The truth is that everyone reading this is heading for their death whether they stay right where they are or move elsewhere. Others have commented before me, but there will be plenty of people who would jump at the chance to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where apparently too many media types are scared to go at all.

  41. deconstructionist

    to die for ...wish he would

    the man's mental

    50 % percent of all missions to mars have failed usually in fireballs.

    The Apollo missions to the moon took one third of the American budget for 10years ...way way more than 10 billion in todays money.

    Isn't he happy with people dying driving his not so autonomous cars now he wants us to do the same in space.

    nice pictures though..shame about the lack of real science

    .

    1. cray74

      Re: to die for ...wish he would

      The Apollo missions to the moon took one third of the American budget for 10years ...way way more than 10 billion in todays money.

      True, at least for definitions of "one third" that include 4.4% peak. ;)

    2. James Hughes 1

      Re: to die for ...wish he would

      @deconstructionalist Plenty of real science in this, pity you don't understand enough to understand why.

  42. JJKing

    Shame Gene Roddenberry is not around. I think he might enjoy saying that we will boldly go where no man has gone before. [I mean man as in mankind, ok]

    I wonder if they will build a confectionary factory and make a chocolate bar called Earth.

  43. Mutton Jeff

    I'll go

    And setup the first hot dog stall!

  44. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    Just imagine...

    .... the replacement for Hubble, or rather James Webb, that could be lofted on that booster.

  45. AceRimmer1980
    Thumb Up

    Musk Eisley Spaceport

    All well and dandy, until the colonists declare independence.

    It could happen..

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Musk Eisley Spaceport

      Then muttering media types will gather in the cantina ... "A hive of scum and villany. We must issue careful press statements!"

  46. Mike 137 Silver badge

    the only missing items

    All he needs now is a fluffy white cat and a volcano to live in

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the only missing items

      ... Unfortunately already requisitioned by P.U.T.I.N.

  47. Champ

    Red Mars

    The Mars trilogy (Red Mars / Green Mars / Blue Mars) are brilliant books on the human settlement of Mars. The first, Red Mars, is not a scientific treatise, but to this lay reader seemed to at least have answers to the obvious problems of survival on the planet.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Red Mars

      KSR did consult many people at national space agencies and it's easy to see that he communicated with Robert Zubrin a lot. While he didn't go into detailed explanations the overall mission concept he outlined is very rational and methodical.

  48. Neoc

    "Heart of Gold"? Surely it should be "Wells' Revenge" or just "H.G. Wells".

  49. harmjschoonhoven

    May be, may be

    colonization of Mars by humans get interesting after the first transistor is manufactured there from locally mined raw materials, otherwise the colony is doomed.

  50. MachDiamond Silver badge

    People problems

    The hardware isn't the issue. There is nothing holding back a trip to Mars except engineering time and money as far as the tech goes. The issue is people. Could you live in a small space for a prolonged period of time. The people doing it on Earth know that in a set length of time they will be let loose where on Mars there is not reprieve for a foreseeable future. It is known that the human body deteriorates in a 0G field much more rapidly than while on Terra Firma. Will 0.33G be any better? Nobody knows If and to what extent. The first colonists are going to have to work very hard to establish themselves so health will be a big issue. The same will be true for many additional loads until there is a sufficient critical mass of people to create habitats and food production without having to work 12 hours a day every day just to stay alive. How about kids? It's going to happen not matter how many prohibitions get stuffed into the rule book. Will those children develop normally or will they be deformed? If they make it through the first 9 months, will they grow normally? Can the initial colonies spare the time to support the next generation with part of the workforce staying at home?

    Mars is too ambitious with so many unanswered questions. If Mars were covered in gold nuggets and diamonds, the cost to bring them back and the subsequent collapse of their value on Earth means that there isn't much of a commercial justification for spending the money to go. The payback is so long term that the risks outweigh the rewards right now.

    The Moon, on the other hand, has huge potential. It's a good place to put theories regarding living in sealed habitats to the test. Commercial possibilities are enormous for medical and semiconductor research and production. Where is a better place to do research on Ebola than on the moon? Gene research? Crystal growth for electronics is expected to be easier in Luna. 0G work would be cheaper in a lab orbiting the moon than orbiting Earth. Using the LaGrange points is another possibility. The Moon is also very close in case something goes terribly wrong. Crews could launch back to Earth in mere days any time they need to and additional supplies can be ferried up within a week if a rocket is kept on standby.

    Putting a colony on the Moon will not be easy, but it will be easier than trying to put one on Mars. Let's face it, if the first ship to Mars with 100 colonists is a total disaster, there won't be another trip for at least a century.

  51. Kaltern

    Too many bitter, selfish, lazy, pessimistic, arrogant, materialistic commentards on here, and throughout the western world.

    If Musk wants to attempt this, then who the hell are we to say it won't work, we can't do it, it's too expensive, etc etc.

    Today's humans seem to be so wrapped up in economics and their own hubris, that when anyone dares to do something that is beyond what is deemed uneconomical, or not in line with established physics, they jump on these people, and attempt to persuade them, and anyone else who is listening, that it can't/shouldn't be done, and they list reasons as to why. These reasons inevitably fall into the following categories;

    Too expensive

    Not economically viable/no profit

    Cannot be done with today's physics/technology

    Religious reasons.

    All of the reasons given above are irrelevant to those attempting whatever it is they're trying - assuming that it doesn't directly affect the safety of the human race of course. Look at the past, the way everything new and considered a direct threat to the authority of the time, be it religious or governmental, there were always detractors from the truth - the flat world, the centre of the galaxy, the ability to survive in space - all these things were entirely scorned and ridiculed, yet all were proven to be correct.

    How do we possibly know that what Musk is proposing won't be possible? People ridiculed the idea of a rocket that could land by itself on a moving platform in the ocean - but it's been proven to be possible.

    And consider this. People talk about a fossil fuel shortage, and there are of course those that say it's a myth, and we'll never run out (usually oil companies..), Yet solar power is being used already to help with the power grid, to reduce the amount of power being created with such fuels. But what if. What if EVERY single building in the world that receives sunlight, was given a proper solar panel. Imagine the amount of power that would produce. It would probably be vast, and would severely reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burned.

    But those detractors immediately point out the cost of such an endeavour. There is no profit in this, therefore it's not feasible. But what IS profit? Just numbers on a spreadsheet. Important numbers of course, but numbers none the less. Imagine, just for a moment, that these numbers were irrelevant? What it solar panels were freely available and installed.

    Wouldn't the global gain of such a thing become worthwhile? Profit would be second to the ability to no longer need fossil fuel. Surely THIS is the prize humanity should be aiming for, rather than how high a number we have in our bank accounts? Of course, as things are today, this isn't realistic. But with people like Musk, WILLING to use their vast resources to try these things, then the future could be a better place. But those of you who oppose this, do so with only the reasons I gave earlier - and these reasons are purely selfish. And as such, illogical.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Economics do play a role in all of our lives. The Apollo program paid back many fold through an incredible amount of research into metallurgy and electronics alone. Elon cannot pull off his vision without a tremendous amount of support from government. His wealth is mostly paper and SpaceX is currently in more trouble after blowing up it's second rocket in two years. At least one customer has pulled it's launch from SpaceX and booked with a competitor. Since they are a private company, it's hard to gauge how well the company is doing financially. It's readily apparent that Tesla Motors/Solar City are in a deep hole.

      Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin is roaring up behind SpaceX in the space launch market. Not only have they successfully landed their rocket 5 times, they did it with the same rocket where SpaceX has not reused any of theirs. BO also wasn't making substantial changes to the rocket for each flight the way SpaceX does.

      If you have to ask the question "What IS profit?", you need to race to California immediately and apply for a job at any of Elon Musk's companies. You'd fit right in.

  52. John Done

    Elon Musk aims to create a future in which 1000 spaceships will fly in orbit. The cost of a ticket at some point can be reduced to about 100-140 thousand dollars, this will depend on a number of factors during the operation of the ships. Those who want to return to Earth will be able to board the ship for free, Musk concluded.

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