Want To Be A Martian?

Elon Musk, founder of the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX, promoted his idea for colonizing Mars with 80,000 people who’ll each pay $500,000 for the trip at the Royal Aeronautical Society on November 16.

Musk’s colonization program would begin with a small pioneering group who would fly to Mars aboard a huge reusable rocket powered by liquid oxygen and methane:

Accompanying the founders of the new Mars colony would be large amounts of equipment, including machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet’s subsurface water ice.

The Red Planet pioneers would also take construction materials to build transparent domes, which when pressurized with Mars’ atmospheric CO2 could grow Earth crops in Martian soil. As the Mars colony became more self sufficient, the big rocket would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment.

The element in this story that really caught my eye is that the pioneers are being asked to pay their way. Not because it’s a novel idea: a lot of sf stories use that premise. And it’s a commonsense principle of commercial space development – get the users to pay. However, having grown up in the first generation of space exploration, which was all done by national governments, it’s as if I feel a sense of socialistic entitlement, and that it’s somehow offensive that anyone willing to colonize the Red Planet won’t be getting a free ride.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

4 thoughts on “Want To Be A Martian?

  1. Well, that’s one way to rid the world of 80,000 people with more money than is good for them. The plan has disaster written all over it.

  2. National governments sending human beings to other planetary bodies seems to have fallen out of favor, except for Communist China, which has a definite manned lunar program in progress. Certainly the Bush and Obama administrations paid lip service while actually doing nothing — and President Obama is a Star Trek fan, too. You would think he’d care enough for a decent effort.

    I think personally subsidized ventures such as Mr. Musk’s and Sir Richard Branson’s appear to be the only ways we’ll get back to the Dreams of our Childhoods coming back to reality.

  3. Whether the attempt to colonize Mars is funded privately or publically, I just don’t think its practical. The technology is currently out of reach, with no immediate breakthroughs visible on the horizon. The cost of such a venture would probably exceed the $40 billion the plan intends to raise — I suspect such a sum would be barely sufficient for a new system to reliably lift small crews from ground to orbit and bring them back again, let alone thousands of would-be-colonists. Then there’s the deep space vehicle. We have zero real experience in such designs. Oddly, the ISS is as close to being relevent to deep space travel as anything we’ve launched so far, and it require constant maintenance and resupply that would be impossible if the ISS weren’t in orbit.

    I would love to see a deep space program begun, though I’d rather science be the focus of it rather than exotic real-estate development.

  4. Taral, you appear to be ignorant of the research which has been ongoing. We can build a spaceship capable of sending humans to Mars right now. Buzz Aldrin has suggested that the astronauts going knowingly regard themselves as permanent colonists rather than explorers who will return, to eliminate the problem of resupplying a return craft, although Robert Zubrin has worked out how to refuel using Martian resources.

    Rather than not knowing how to design deep space vehicles, we have already designed and used them: they were called Apollo. The difference between an Apollo spacecraft and a vehicle going to Mars is a difference of degree, not of kind.

    While not wanting to be personally insulting or trying to start a feud, I really wish you would stop being a curmudgeon who says about everything “we can’t do it” while not knowing what already has been done on the subject.

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