The main reason to terraform Mars (other than making humanity a multi-planet species) is that no one cares about Mars. If we want more water on Mars, we just throw a few hundred icebergs into it. And ignore the sonic booms, devastation, craters, etc. They can be fixed later.
But living on Mars is another prospect entirely. It's expensive to get there. Once there, you're damned closed to dying every minute of every day. If you forgot something on Earth, it will be 2 years before you can retrieve it.
It's sexy in science fiction, but the practicalities are pretty bad.
Let them die.
I'd go die on Mars. It's Mars.
I think there are just different kinds of people in the world. Some of us hear "It's Mars," and that's all the justification needed. Nothing else matters. Not the cost, not the danger, not the practicalities.
Your opinion is equally valid. But it's important to recognize the flipside.
On Mars, the frontier exists. I've wished for it all my life.
"A rich Internet wants to kill people by sending them to Mars. A hackernews says this is his true life's calling. Hackernews then debates the meaning of love, rationality, and backups."
You sound like you know this is irrational, but you don't care.
We won't be discovering any new land, nor will we be surprised by anything. But that energy -- the fact that people want to go there, and want to colonize it -- that's rare. That's why the Sahara isn't the frontier.
Love, in many ways, is completely irrational. There are countless advantages to spending your life alone. You'd conserve resources, you'd avoid heartbreak. If you want children, you can adopt. You could probably find someone to live with you, if you just want companionship.
But the irrationality makes the experience.
At least I know what love is. So when someone does something foolish for love, I understand.
But when someone tells me he wants to spend billions to live in a small box on a cold, airless desert planet constantly bombarded by lethal radiations, and when he justifies that by "that's mars, and that's the only justification I need", I tend to think that's quite an other level of irrationality.
I'm not sure Mars will turn out differently. But in the early days, the people will be unique. And that's worth experiencing, even if it's for a short while.
When you're in a situation where you could die tomorrow, and you're with other people who signed up knowing those risks, it's different than almost any other experience available to humans.
Yes, it's a form of craziness. But a dose of crazy can sometimes work out in rather interesting ways.
Or it won't. But there are worse ways to light billions on fire.
People have been writing stories about Mars for a long time. Isn't it worth a few billion dollars and a few million lives to bring those stories to life?
Do you really mean this, I mean, I don't even....
Also, that "lives" figure is counting the descendants of the people that eventually make a life for themselves on Mars. Those descendants won't get a choice, and one could argue it's unethical to put them in that position. So any analysis of how many lives Mars is worth must take this into account. And if it's anywhere near successful, a few million lives is at the low end.
What about their descendants? (by the way, who has a much better chance of surviving here on earth than in the fragile conditions in what ever planet)...
And often have been taken advantage of....Just saying...
There's even a saying : "nobody remembers the second person who climbed the Everest".
We're talking about colonization, not Everest-like conquest. Most colonizers will be anonymous. Whatever goals they'll have, fame will not be one of them.
uhh.. no it wasn't?
Nobody educated thought the Earth was flat. But Christopher Columbus miscalculated the size of the Earth, and everyone else correctly calculated it.
There was no way that Columbus's ships could cover a distance equal to the width of the Atlantic + the width of the Pacific + the width of North America. They would've all starved to death before they reached their actual goal: the islands east of Asia (or Asia proper).
It wasn't a calculated risk to find new land, they were trying to go to existing land and Columbus was just convinced that it was much, much, much closer than it actually was. Despite the fact that pretty close estimates of the size of the world had been calculated for a long time before him.
There's a difference between being wrong and being irrational.
Serious flat-Earth thought was ideologically motivated in the late 19th and early 20th century and bears some interesting parallels to climate change denialism.
Among educated people able to afford and read a copy of Eratosthenes yes, but there were probably a lot of ordinary people that were not literate and were never exposed to any actual evidence to the contrary，who believed it was flat.
Flat earthers in the modern world really do have no excuse, education in the basic geometry and simple tools they need to prove it themselves is near universal in the Western world, but back then it was perhaps more understandable
who were the ones capable of funding the project in the first place
At least they had a goal, even the trip was risky. I was replying to a comment from someone who wrote "It's mars. That's all the justification I need".
I think what you're looking for is a justification. Like love, sometimes there isn't one.
Maybe it's a waste of resources. But it's theirs to waste.
It's awesome, in the original sense of the word. That's the justification.
Not quite, since as Musk admits in this paper, he expects this madness to be "a huge public–private partnership".
So yeah, he expects tax-payer money to contribute.
Why wouldn't he? NASA has spent billions on Mars exploration. I suspect they'd jump at the chance to fund a few Geologist-in-Residence positions on Mars.
I tend to think scientific research deserves public funding. What musk advocates is not for scientific research, it's basically an extremely weird and expensive real estate project. And I don't think real estate deserves public funding, no matter how exotic it is.
And even if I did not think scientific research deserves public funding, that would not matter, for a wrong should not justify an other wrong.
I'd expect NASA to buy enough slots to found an Institute of Martian Studies pretty quickly.
Not a million of them. And if its purpose was scientific it wouldn't have to be "self-sufficient". Science is not Musk's goal. He wants to put people there for the sake of it.
Remember, we're only talking about the portion of the mission funded by tax dollars here. Not all of the funding is going to come from that source.
It would if the experiment is to test whether or not a self-sufficient human settlement beyond Earth is possible.
There's always scientific value in everything we do. It's just a matter of cashing in on that value.
In any worldwide disaster on earth, there are going to be a lot of people competing to survive. Building large fragile structures to, e.g., keep the now poisonous atmosphere out because people outside of those structures will have a tendency to destroy them. On mars, you don't have that, you have a relatively stable society where everyone is in one boat together.
If your on mars you also know exactly what you're going to face. The temperature, lack of significant atmosphere, and dust storms. That's pretty much it. You can prepare. On earth you don't know what's going to happen next. Significant die off of oxygen generating plants creating an unbreathable atmosphere? Lack of water? Too much water (flooding)? Hurricane? Nuclear war (or super volcano/asteroid, but those are less likely) throwing up dust and blocking out sun? Unmaintained dam breaking upstream? Unmaintained pipeline poisoning water supply? Earthquake? You can prepare for any one event, even in a post apocalyptic world, better on earth than on mars. But you can't necessarily prepare for them all as well. And even if you could, you won't be motivated to because you can cut corners.
Is Mars somehow immune to volcanos and asteroids?
Man some people really want to get off this planet! Earth has given birth and sustained life for so long, and now earth is "unpredictable"!
No comments about your other "arguments".
Asteroids, no, but it is likely more immune to long term dust clouds in the atmosphere as a result (since the atmosphere is so thin). On the other hand dust storms are similar.
Seems like we are not really sure about that...
I am not sure. Can you say how we have been looking for seismic/volcanic activity on mars.
It's implausible that one will hit us, but if you're looking for a scientific and logical motivation, it's a possibility.
Also, colonizing mars is a necessary step toward avoiding what happens when our star reaches the end of its life. May as well start while we have the opportunity.
No, it is not plausible.
Most bodies in the solar system easily fit into a hundred astronomical unit radius sphere. The nearest star is four light-years away, and a light year is eighty-six thousand astronomical units. The ratio between those distances is 2530. It'd be like hitting a meter size target from more than two and a half kilometer. Pretty good shot, and we're talking about Proxima centaury (which, last time I checked, won't go supernova anytime soon) and the distance between say Sedna and the Sun. If we were talking about an accuracy more of an astronomical unit, more like the distance between Earth and mars, then we're talking about a centimeter sized target.
Thus a gamma-ray burst would have to be insanely narrow to hit Earth and not mars. Not to mention how ridiculously unlucky we would have to be then in order for it to be precisely aimed at us.
Some people don't want all of our eggs in one basket. The chances a planet gets destroyed is a bit higher than a solar system or multiple planets.
Also one counter-argument to this is "But then why not the Moon?" I don't have as strong of a counterargument for that other than without the Earth's gravitational pull keeping the Moon in orbit, maybe it will get knocked into the sun or something when Earth is destroyed. Also I'm pretty sure international treaties and such prevent colonization of the moon.
Mars as a contingency plan is a weird idea. Whatever you plan on doing on mars to save mankind, you can do it much easier and for less money on Earth.
The idea of backups is to have another, "just in case". You can't always know, so have as many backups as you can afford.
But here are some concrete examples of threats that make earth a bad deal while leaving mars workable:
A nuclear war would like leave mars untouched and destroy civilization here. Even if earth is still "inhabitable" is doesn't matter if all the human on it are dead. Human Martians coming back a generation later and start anew or integrate with any meagre survivors.
A religious inspired genocide that works. If some group somehow got it in their heads that "technology is bad except for the purpose of destroying other technology" this would be bad. If this group goes to war with western democracy and wins it would be worse. This does sound a lot like one specific group that is currently not able to reach mars, and likely never will be able to no many how many western democracies the attack.
Any disaster that destroys then is done. Imagine a super-ebola that kills all humans. Because germs don't have a reliable space program mars is save and can wait 50 before sending scientists to check it out and trying to repopulate.
A backup on mars is basically the most ludicrously expensive backup you can imagine. It's as if when I make a backup for my hard-drive in Europe, I rent a safe in Japan to put it in. That would not make sense unless I think the whole European continent could be wiped out somehow. That's the thing : I don't think anything, not even the possibilities you mention, could make Earth worse a place to live than mars, not even a nuclear war. And I don't see a scenario that would wipe out all humans. Again, not even a nuclear war.
And even if one of these scenarios could indeed wipe out humans, chances are that in a world where interplanetary travel is cheap, mars would not be spared.
Backing up is also not the strongest reason to go to Mars. "Because its there" is easily the strongest, but its not understood by those who don't understand it... That seems tautological, but it is hard to label this thing, it is like a sense of adventure but less childish. It is the same thing started every other exploration into the unknown and left everyone who stayed behind alive and poorer for it. When it pays it pays off in vast sums, literal new worlds are the payoff.
1. Mallory is famously quoted as having replied to the question "Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?" with the retort "Because it's there", which has been called "the most famous three words in mountaineering". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mallory
I don't see why there is a threshold between moonshot and mars colonization, it seems arbitrary to me. Could you explain to me the method for determining the threshold of validity in the reasoning behind "Because it's there"?
It sounds to me like this person simply cares more about the prospect of living on Mars than about being wealthy, or being safe. There's no rule that says that a rational person must care about their own health, wealth, and safety above all else.
There are plenty of things that seem irrational because people don't calibrate their risk/reward calculations correctly. Anything can be made irrational with the wrong set of presumptions. History is strewn with wrong "rational" arguments, like phlogiston which started with things we all knew were true and reached the only rational answer. People make mistake in deciding what to include their "rational" calculations.
I am not saying rational logic is a bad tool, but it certainly shouldn't be the only tool. Clearly we need some way to filter out seemingly irrational but beneficial activities like exploration from actually irrational and detrimental activities, like sub-prime lending without losing all control. For rational logic to work you need to be able to fill in all (or at least most) of the blanks, and it you can't always do that.
I have often wondered if rationality isn't in the eye of the beholder.
So just call manned space exploration and settlement an extreme sport. We spend far more money on existing sports and sport-related media than we do on space.
None of those things are inherently irrational; they produce utility (subjective enjoyment is the definition of utility), and insofar as they are chosen against other alternatives to maximize realized utility, it's exactly rational.
Now, the absence of perfect knowledge and the fact that even with knowledge people don't always optimize total expected utility does mean that people are irrational, but the particular activities you point to are not inherently examples of irrationality any more than, say, investing in the stock market or wage labor are.
The human race needs a loss-leader.
But it doesn't need to be a loss leader. If that cost was reduced by some 5 orders of magnitude, more people could afford it, and that intersection could grow enough to be viable.
I doubt that it would be, though. If someone not only claims that they want to toil and die on Mars, but actually gets a ticket to leave all their friends and family behind on Earth to do so... that's not the sort of thing that people do lightly.
Also, I'm not entirely convinced it will be a waste. Even a 0.2% chance of success is worth taking if the payoff is high enough. And we're talking about forces with both social and economic consequences.
I assure you, there are places on Earth that are effectively as remote and frontier-like as Mars, where you can comfortably die, knowing that no assistance was coming or possible.
If your goal is to make Mars hospitable, I suggest you do some back of the envelope math to see how much energy it would take to divert some water comets onto Mars and then to terraform it to create some sort of rudimentary atmosphere.
That should hopefully rid you of the naivete and hubris about space frontierism.
I camp, I hike in the woods daily, and I've been to some pretty remote places. I still feel the pull of Mars. It's not just the remoteness of it for me - it's the idea of influencing a new society from the ground up, of doing something unprecedented.
Escaping all the problems of Earth to try and rebuild a society from first principles?
You can pretend I was condescending and downvote all you like, but it doesn't change the facts that I stated. It's extremely naive and arrogant to spend the resources to colonize Mars than try and make more places habitable on Earth.
It's even more arrogant to believe that a Mars society will be any different or better than the society on Earth.
What was arrogant in OP's post? They said they personally yearn for a new frontier, and that Mars satisfies it for them.
> It's even more arrogant to believe that a Mars society will be any different or better than the society on Earth.
It'd be an entire planet built with modern understanding of city planning, environmentalism, governance, etc. Whether a Martian society winds up better is hard to say, but different seems pretty certain.
Do you know what is the root cause of everything that is messy with todays life on earth?
I would say it is human nature.
So if you are sending human to mars...I say it is only a matter of time......
A city built from scratch in 2017 is going to look a lot different than a city that grew organically since the 1600s. Part of the appeal of Mars for me is the ability to build a planet knowing what we know now about city planning.
Have we stopped doing this since we have know better for a long time now?
> we built Boston's streets to fit horses and not cars, we built houses before public transit, etc.
You want to leave earth because streets are too crammed for cars? Seriously?
We're not perfect, but we've come a long ways from the excesses of the early Industrial Revolution in how we treat our environment. The developed world generally practices sustainable logging these days. A Martian colony would use clean energy, etc.
> You want to leave earth because streets are too crammed for cars? Seriously?
Congratulations on slaying the strawman. No, that's simply an minor example of how starting a planetary civilization with a fresh slate and modern knowledge could have benefits, despite "human nature".
I think greed, insecurity and shortsighted thinking are the root causes of most evils on earth. Does going to mars fix that?
Fights over land? We'd be opening up an entire Earth's worth of surface area.
Fights over resources? See above.
Fights over oil? None.
Fights over arbitrarily-drawn national boundaries drawn by collapsing colonialist empires? None.
It's remarkably pessimistic to argue that colonizing a new planet after two centuries of experience with industrialization, democracy, environmentalism, ex-colonialism, etc. under our belt wouldn't be at least slightly better than the situations we find ourselves in on Earth.
Do you know who will be still calling shots?
I am not even addressing the rest of your comment because that is quite frankly, very naive wishful thinking...You say that is pessimistic. But tell me, look around, do you see anything that make you feel even remotly optimistic?
Are you saying that the only worthwhile thing to do is come up with something that completely fixes one or more of those things?
If not then what are you trying to argue there?
Looking at your other comments in this thread, for someone who thinks short-sighted thinking is a big problem you seem to have strange issue with solutions that aren't directly addressing the here and now.
>what are you trying to argue there?
only how this mars thing won't solve anything in long term...
> who thinks short-sighted thinking is a big problem you seem to have strange issue with solutions that aren't directly addressing the here and now...
Of course. That you can see a mile ahead does not mean that you can ignore the pothole right in front of you.
> It'd be an entire planet built with modern understanding of city planning, environmentalism, governance, etc. Whether a Martian society winds up better is hard to say, but different seems pretty certain.
There's nothing stopping you from doing that in the inhospitable areas on Earth. If you bring the money and the plan, most governments will let you make a planned city.
This is precisely the arrogance I was talking about. Thinking it would be any different because of the extremely inhospitable conditions. If you don't see the arrogance here - I'm afraid there's nothing I can do to convince you of it. It's simply a difference of viewpoints.
He desires to be part of something grand and huge at the beginning of an era, then you insult and deride his grand dream by belittling it and telling him to make a planned city. It seems to me that he would rather be the lowliest janitor on Mars than a Mayor of planned city here and you cannot fathom how that could be, so you presume he is wrong or confused
He wants something that is impossible now. This is a common human goal. You fail to understand human nature then claim to have all the answers. Your points may all have been correct, but they were not the points that were needed.
I am not saying either of you are wrong or right, but you clearly brought plenty of arrogance and condescension.
Gee, probably the "If you'd just go camping you'd see your lifelong dream is bullshit" and "You're naïve and hubristic" bits.
You're fine rejecting my arguments for why his post is arrogant, but somehow yours about why my post is condescending are valid.
That's a toxic and arrogant way of arguing, so I'm not surprised you're projecting something I didn't say. Honestly I would have expected better from an HN audience, but techies are still people...
Also quite indicative of what would happen on Mars.
And I'll note that insults and ad hominems don't make a rational argument.
No one said that.
If your best arguments are insults and straw men... well, it's best to avoid a technical forum like HN where there are people trained in rationality, math, and rocket science.
>It's even more arrogant to believe that a Mars society will be any different or better than the society on Earth.
100% agree on both points.
Spacex is just selling dreams. Sadly, people today are so enamored with technology that they easily buy into such dreams sold by these companies....
"I have a dream." -Martin Luther King Jr.
Big difference pal.
I've dreamt about Mars colonization long before SpaceX existed.
Was the article about taking an overnight hike on Mars?
Was my response about taking an overnight hike in the Sahara?
No. So why do you feel the need to lie about it?
> I assure you, there are places on Earth that are effectively as remote and frontier-like as Mars, where you can comfortably die, knowing that no assistance was coming or possible.
You're arguing against a point I didn't make.
> If your goal is to make Mars hospitable, I suggest you do some back of the envelope math to see how much energy it would take to divert some water comets onto Mars and then to terraform it to create some sort of rudimentary atmosphere.
Which is a suggestion, not a rational argument.
> That should hopefully rid you of the naivete and hubris about space frontierism.
Is it really that necessary to engage in ad hominems?
Apparently it's now OK on HN...
I think it’s a good thing that not all humans optimize for the most practical routes in life. It makes us more diverse and greater as a species, and pushes us to accomplish amazing feats that seem impractical on the surface. If everyone was optimizing for the lowest hanging fruits, who would invest in constructing the really tall ladders that future generations could build off of?
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Embrace your inner childhood sense of adventure and wonder!
Notice that once they reach the summit, they don't stay very long. They don't plan on building a home there and plant potatoes.
Musk is not just talking about exploring mars in this paper. He's not talking about a Everest-like challenge. He's talking about colonization, which in the eyes of many, is extremely premature at best, completely delusional at worst.
At the risk of using stale analogies: In the eyes of many, crossing the Atlantic was premature at best. In the eyes of many, summiting Everest is a waste of tens of thousands of dollars. In the eyes of many, free climbing is border-line delusional.
And that’s the point. This diversity of prioritization is what makes our species so great. Let the dreamers dream. I can see how you might want to make an argument that we shouldn’t publicly fund every naïve dreamer, but it seems difficult to argue that both NASA and Musk are idiots with how much they’ve already accomplished.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
Look, I understand people can have dreams that I neither understand nor approve. As you correctly pointed out, as long as they don't divert tax payer money to fund them, I'm more or less fine with it.
Yet, when I see someone doing something that I consider silly, or even suicidal (for mars the term is almost appropriate), I feel compelled to at least say it loud. Like if I saw Franz Reichelt just before he jumped from the Eiffel tower. I would say "don't do that, you'll kill yourself" and nobody should blame me for saying that. Well, in the case of the colonization of mars, to me that sounds like a terribly wasteful and dangerous idea, and I feel compelled to say it whenever the subject comes up.
If it was allowed, someone would have tried.
Australia for instance, is mostly empty for this very reason. Why would mars be easier to colonize than Australia?
Not quite. The next step is colonizing Earth. I agree we can do it if we really want to, and Dubai is a valid example. We may colonize mars in the future, but to me it doesn't make sense to try to do it now.
Maybe they don't. I totally would.
Mars is such an hostile environment that you'd have to live in a highly controlled, mostly closed artificial habitat. Basically, a human-grade terrarium. Saying that men in such terrariums live on mars would be just as much as a stretch as saying that fishes in aquariums live on the ground.
Honestly, if people enjoy living in a closed box, they can do it on Earth, they don't have to go to mars.
Or perhaps some people care about things other than their immediate surroundings?
This is a disingenuous strawman argument, and you know it.
Exceptions are studying mars of course, and enjoying low-gravity. I don't see either one as a life-goal thing and anyway they are not the motivations that transpire from what I read from mars enthusiasts.
Call it a strawman argument if you want, but it's not disingenuous in the sense that it's my genuine, honest opinion.
No one wants to simply live in a small box. It's a ridiculous assertion that waters down the discussion.
Humanity has always looked to colonize places seemingly on the margin of livability. Northern Europe, the arctic, the Eurasian steppes, etc. Our ability to live and thrive in different environments has come concomitant with our development of the technology to do so. We push to new environments because we can, we develop technology to better live in new environments because we're there, it goes hand in hand.
Living in the Sahara (aside from all the other problems) is not living on Mars, it won't depend on and push the development of technology for living off-Earth. Living on Mars will be hard. Harder than many people appreciate today. But the more we do it the easier it will get, and the faster our technology will advance for living off-Earth. By living on Mars we'll unlock our ability to live not just there but in space and on other planets. Colonizing Mars won't just give us Mars, it'll give us the stars. It'll kickstart the development of technologies that will enable self-reliant space habitats, which will give us, eventually, generation ships, and will also feedback to improving life on Earth (better recycling systems, better power systems, things we can't even envision today). That doesn't happen if you just try to spread out on Earth more.
I think you're missing my point. It's just dreaming to call Mars "on the margin of livability". There's insufficient air to breath. No plants will grow there. There's no industry, etc. Every single thing outside of rocks and solar power will have to be brought from Earth.
> Northern Europe, the arctic, the Eurasian steppes, etc.
Comparing those places to Mars is again dreaming.
People have been living in those places for thousands of years, and subsisting on what they can grow / gather / kill locally.
No such local lifestyle is possible on Mars.
> By living on Mars we'll unlock our ability to live not just there but in space and on other planets.
How does that work?
Maybe some technology helps, but you can't get past the sheer volume of air / water required to terraform Mars. And once you've done that, it's all on Mars. You can't use it to do anything else.
I like science fiction as much as the next person, but your response is a fantastical vision of hope. It requires a hard-nosed engineering approach to turn that hope into reality.
Only if we don't make the air ourselves, which is totally doable because...
"No plants will grow there."
They'll grow in greenhouses, and they'll even grow with Martian soil, probably even with the carbon dioxide that makes up the majority of the Martian atmosphere. Some clever genetic engineering might allow plants to grow outside of greenhouses. Mars is cold, but not that cold compared to other worlds in our solar system.
"There's no industry"
We're talking about a colony of a million people or more. With that kind of workforce available, bootstrapping an industrial complex is not insurmountable.
Mars has actual ice caps. It might even have liquid water.
The water's not nearly as abundant as, say, Ceres (which is a giant sphere of water ice and rock), but it's not scarce, either. Just gotta land in the right spot.
Plants don't make air. Plants turn CO2 into O2. If there's no CO2, plants can't make O2.
There's 0.6% of the air of Earth. For all intents and purposes (i.e. human / plants), it's a vacuum.
And the surface temperature isn't much better.
-55C is common. An extreme heatwave at the equator is 20C. With lows of -153C.
So no, plants don't grow in a vacuum, and they don't grow in -55C.
Any greenhouse will have to be pressurized and sealed. This means that the main purpose of plants will be food, not O2 regeneration. Algae do O2 generation better and more efficiently than plants.
There is likely enough water for a small colony, if you can get to it, melt it, and it's in the right place.
> We're talking about a colony of a million people or more. With that kind of workforce available, bootstrapping an industrial complex is not insurmountable.
I suspect you severely underestimate the complexity of our industrial system.
It's very hard to create life-support on Mars for a million people. And a million people are nowhere near enough to create a modern industrial base, even with support from Earth.
What is this silliness of "for all intents and purposes it's a vacuum" and "plants don't grow in a vacuum"? Humans can build structures that hold pressure, we can build greenhouses on Mars. That's where we'll grow crops and feed the population of Mars. Please don't pollute the comments here if you're not even going to bother with the bare minimum of intellectual seriousness. Yes we can concentrate the atmosphere of Mars to higher pressures, this isn't even hard. Yes we can build structures to grow crops in. Yes we can keep structures insulated and heated to maintain higher temperatures than ambient outside conditions, as is done routinely across the globe every second of the day on Earth. Is that the limit of your straw-man argument here or do you have anything of substance to say?
Ah, yes. The new HN. Everyone else is stupid and lazy.
> Yes we can keep structures insulated and heated to maintain higher temperatures than ambient outside conditions, as is done routinely across the globe every second of the day on Earth.
Please show me on-Earth greenhouses which are pressurized to 14PSI over external.
Constructing a greenhouse isn't hard. Constructing a pressurized greenhouse on Mars is rather a lot harder.
> Is that the limit of your straw-man argument here or do you have anything of substance to say?
Yes... everyone else is stupid and lazy. And has bad intentions. And isn't honest.
Welcome to the new HN. You could take my words at face value. But it's easier (and more intellectually dishonest) to assume the stupidest possible interpretation, and then attack them for your own inadequacies.
Nothing grows there, it's too dry: Saudi Arabia, San Joaquin valley, etc. (solution: irrigation or importation of food)
There's no industry: anywhere on Earth before humans lived there (solution: build industry there)
In comparison to the leaps that humans have historically achieved, the leap of 21st century man to colonize Mars is practically easy. Polynesians ranged across the Pacific Ocean, not even knowing what they would find until they got there.
Yes it will be hard. Uniquely difficult in the history of mankind? No. Impossibly hard? Also no.
Worthwhile? Almost certainly.
You don't need to terraform Mars to make it habitable anymore than you need to terraform Oslo or Anchorage. You build your own habitats, you make your own air just as today we make our own food and sometimes make our own potable water (using desalination). The difference is merely one of degree. As the 21st century advances our technology will advance as well. People will come to rely on technology producing air and water and food just as today we rely on technology to provide electricity, shelter, heating, and water, and food.
The key fallacy here is taking our present state of living as somehow "natural" or non-technological. Humans in the developed world live at the apex of a pyramid of innovation and technological invention that in some cases is only a few years old, and built on a web of industry that spans the globe. It's easy to take such things for granted and imagine that we could live simply without being so dependent on modern technology and industry but that's only a pleasing falsehood, we're quite dependent on modern technology and industry. Without it millions would die, and many settlements would not be feasible. Indeed, the current population levels of California are not sustainable without substantial modern technology. The same will be true for people living on Mars, the only difference is that they won't have the illusory fantasy of believing otherwise available to them.
The key fallacy in your argument is taking each solution in isolation.
Winnipeg, etc. have summers. They're not always winter. And they have breathable air. And cheap resupply from Mexico via tractor-trailer.
Saudia Arabia, etc. has breathable air.
And it's just laughable to suggest that because parts of Earth didn't have industry before people, it should be simple to do the same on Mars. Earth has air, water, resources, readily available local food, and cheap re-supply.
Mars has none of that.
Mars is Winnipeg in the winter (i.e. all the time), with the water of Saudi Arabia (i.e. none), with the resources of a polynesian volcanic island (i.e. rock), and the breathable air worse than the top of Everest, the food availability of Saudia Arabia, and is at the end of a 1-2 year resupply line. All at the same time.
I like dreaming as much as the next person. But colonizing Mars won't be done on dreams. It will require hard-nosed engineering.
- No life or ecosystems to disrupt; Mars would be ours to build on, dig up, pollute, irradiate, etc. without wiping out any native species. The only thing to spoil would be the views and landscapes, but we'd be the only ones able to appreciate them anyway.
- Not being stuck on this rock. Mars and the Moon are first steps. In a few centuries, maybe the clouds of Venus, tunnels on Mercury, etc. would be viable. Such colonies aren't "backups" in case of disaster on Earth, any more than people live in Europe as a backup in case of disaster in Africa.
Antarctica doesn't fulfil any of my reasons to live on Mars. In fact, Antarctica is the only place on Earth we've agreed to avoid exploiting! If anything, colonising Antarctica would be a backwards move.
You can't manufacture fuel in orbit (it's a vacuum), and you can't manufacture fuel on the Moon (oxygen can be extracted with a lot of heat, but we can't make rockets without a fuel).
But you can manufacture fuel with Martian atmospheric CO2 and frozen water.
* It would be a challenge, and (as there is lots of historical evidence for) innovation comes from people working on hard problems. So it would lead to innovations
* It would inspire a generation to be more interested in areas like science and technology
* The fresh start of a new planet would provide the opportunity for people to try out new forms of social structure. The founding of the USA is a historical example of this. Broken systems and structures is a big problem on earth right now.
* Ultimately if humanity only exist on a single planet, then it's at great risk of being wiped out by some catastrophe. Getting off earth is important for our future existence.
(A long time ago, I read Robert Zubrin's "The Case for Mars" and I think a lot of these ideas came from that. https://www.amazon.com/Case-Mars-Plan-Settle-Planet/dp/14516...)
I still think we should go, it's just that it seems getting there is the easy part, and even that is almost impossible.
That said, we may well have 70 million years to plan for that one.
Yet all our ancestors have survived. I don't see why we, who are considerably more intelligent, who can predict celestial events, who can store food and water for years, who can build nuclear-bomb-proof bunkers, can generate energy from urianium dust, would do worse a job at surviving than tiny mouse-like animals 65 million years ago.
Having a Martian society existing concurrently is like the difference between saying "yeah, we could back up our server to tape" and actually running concurrent instances. Or like the difference between legislation to require eco-friendly behavior and technology that makes eco-friendly behavior more economical than the old way.
It exists not as a resource drain but as an improvement. Useful things that happen to also solve problems are often superior to perhaps less expensive things that solve the problem but might be seen as a cost center.
Also, I don't disagree that post-apocalypse, 99% of those Martian manufacturers of orbital solar collectors should hop on the next shuttle back to Earth.
I wonder what you would have posted if they hadn't.
Also not saying going to Mars is necessary, just pointing out that it seems that's Musk's thoughts on the matter.
The question is how much harder is it to build a self-sustaining civilization on the moon than Mars, and is that difference worth the easier orbit?
I don't know the answer. I suspect what matters is the number of stages to orbit for a large mass vehicle. We can just about build a single stage craft from earth, but it can't carry anything. On Mars, a SSTO can carry many tons. You could carry even more from the moon, but I suspect a viable SSTO to orbit is key, and a few extra tons doesn't add much. So at that point, you may as well go with the warmer site with more-comfortable gravity, Mars.
This was the most approachable explanation of gravity wells I've seen.
For now, because mass-produced starships are not a thing yet. SpaceX is on the best way to change this.
> If you forgot something on Earth, it will be 2 years before you can retrieve it.
Assuming regular (monthly) spaceship travel it's anything from 150 (you noticed the same day the ship is launched and Earth is at optimum position) to 330 days (ship just launched a second after you noticed and Earth is at longest distance), but not a full year.
> Once there, you're damned closed to dying every minute of every day.
I'd guess if you put in a proper emergency hospital kit on a pre-manned-flight-mission and two ER doctors on the first manned flight you're pretty much set.
Lots of dangers that kill in short time on Earth are simply not present on Mars - you won't have deadly new pathogens, no cars, no dangerous animals and cancer can be kept at bay until a flight back to Earth can be arranged.
The immediate dangers however will be decompression/Mars atmosphere exposure, structural failure in the buildings that will be used for housing, fire and critical breakage of oxygen generation.
Ignoring the cost of the rockets, the biggest expense in space travel is delta-V, followed by life support. That's basic physics, and no amount of cheap rockets will help.
> I'd guess if you put in a proper emergency hospital kit on a pre-manned-flight-mission and two ER doctors on the first manned flight you're pretty much set.
Your ER doctors won't help if the habitat springs a leak.
What I meant was:
* ripped space-suit? Die.
* leak in habitat? Die
* run out of water? Die
* plants get disease? Die.
* air recyclers break? Die.
Plus, there's all the Earthly ways of dying! Fall down a hole, have a rock fall on you, etc.
> Lots of dangers that kill in short time on Earth are simply not present on Mars - you won't have deadly new pathogens, no cars, no dangerous animals and cancer can be kept at bay until a flight back to Earth can be arranged.
The same can be said for the space station... no diseases, wild animals, etc.
Why not build LEO habitats instead? Lots cheaper than going to Mars, and re-supplies are just a few hours away.
This is all presented as a project where people who want in are paying for themselves. People who want out can just as well continue their life and stop telling others what is meaningful, what they're allowed to dream about.
That's the hard thing about reasoning about the future: by definition it doesn't look like the present, but you're a product of the present.
Many people talk about terraforming as taking "thousands of years". Go back a few thousand years and tell someone how you travelled to the other side of the earth in less than a day.
Genetic engineering. AI. Nanotech. Quantum Computers. And that's just the next 100 years.
Ain't no way we're gonna have to wait that long to build sandcastles on Mars.
Nobody could have predicted the huge technological advances we've made in the last 100 years, let alone the speed at which they were developed.
If we just keep brushing ideas like this off as "totally impractical right now" then there's no goal to work towards.
It's no secret the our time on Earth is limited, and becoming more limited as the human race expands and evolves.
It really comes down to weather or not you believe the human race is capable of existing outside of Earth. I am in the camp of "we'll figure it out" just like we have up to this point. My fear is that most people fall into the "I'll die before it happens so why bother thinking about it" camp.
I've felt for a while that a more practical path would be along the lines of:
- Asteroid capture around Earth to develop material processing/construction in space (seems way cheaper than launching ships and resources into orbit, makes space station construction practical?)
- Robotic moon base with electromagnetic launcher (cheaply/easily launch resources from the moon, provide practical, closer, safer experience in constructing human habitation away from Earth?)
Am I missing something here? Can SpaceX really make launches cheap enough that the benefits of construction in orbit aren't worth it? Is trying to move a biosphere to another planet easy enough with no prior experience?
Moon is close, we've already been there, escape velocity is low but there appears to be very little water, not very accessible at least. The day/nigh cycle is 28 days long, so there are issues with overheating during the "day" and lack of power during the "night". Solar radiation induces static charge on dust, which makes it go everywhere, particularly difficult condition to run mechanical devices for long periods of time. That said an air-sealed cavern on the Moon could be a great intermediate solution for making humans interplanetary. Electromagnetic launcher could also make our interplanetary ambitions more sustainable.
Mars on the other hand has an atmosphere (faint but still), better day/night cycle, more accessible water and carbon dioxide - allowing to manufacture rocket fuel and many chemicals needed for agriculture. Ultimately it seems better then the Moon in many respects, but it is very far away. In case of emergency there is very little that can be done to evacuate, transporting anything there will be more expensive (though not that much more expensive than the moon actually). There is the danger of irradiating astronauts during the trip, so crew missions should take faster transfer windows and trade more fuel for speed. Cargo missions could take longer, with better fuel efficiency.
Asteroids would be great but they are hard to work with because of the very low gravity (and electrostatic dust as on the Moon). Capturing one, though perhaps theoretically possible, would require enormous amount of force to change the orbit in any meaningful way. Perhaps detonating a hydrogen bomb near one could provide enough thrust, but likely not enough precision (we would not want such asteroid to accidentally hit the Earth). It would take many years to tow one any close to Earth with regular propulsion, so that is probably out of the question for now.
From a economic and safety perspective, it would seem far more practical to establish a foothold in non-Earth environments with robots that do the initial habitat construction for humans. I fear we are hand-waving much of the risk the first batch of humans we send to Mars have to shoulder - think the Roanoke Colony of the 16th century
I always think about Von Neumann probes. May be in a 100 years we'll figure out how to make them and we'll colonize the entire galaxy.
But first we need to figure out how to get to space in frequent reliable cheap trips.
With robots, all that risk is mitigated since there's no risk of loss of life. At the worst we have our bots self-destruct or something.
Since Mars has an atmosphere, you can use it to get the delta-v costs to be in the ball-park of landing on the moon.
If the numbers SpaceX posted for going to Mars are in the right ballpark, it looks like bypassing construction in orbit is the fastest way to backup humanity. Long term it might be more expensive to do it that way, but it would extend the timeline by decades.
Another advantage of doing Mars first is that anyone wanting to do orbital construction will be able to sell their goods to colonists which need lower tech items than the advanced stuff like semiconductors you need for making satellites. This should help bootstrap the industry as making simple, heavy goods (eg: shovels) is easier than trying to make more complex items.
Maybe once we're able to terraform the planet to resemble the world we evolved on, or build enough Bio-Domes for his million people to enjoy (keeping in mind it only takes one Pauly Shore to ruin a dome), and compensate for the lack of gravity somehow, then I'd consider going.
With less gravity, you'll see native be considerably taller. Hopefully their retinas won't detach, as tends to happen in zero-G.
Make no mistake, the first colonists to Mars will NEVER return to Earth. They will die there. Will they be able to propagate? We have a LONG way to go. Biosphere II is an amazing project that shows many of the problems we'd face trying to create a new contained eco-system. They're incredibly complex.
We need advances in automatic-machine-fabrication (we literally need to be able to drop factory robots that can both dig and make buildings), advances in radiation shielding (you can only come above ground in a fully shielded suit), advances in CO2/O2 recycling, advances in food production and self contained eco-systems.
It's not impossible, but I'd say it's a good 90 ~ 100 years out minimum. All of these needs to be in place and highly advances and reliable, with test units dropped to Mars, before the first colonists go there .. and eventually die there.
You'll be able to choose to stay, of course. But you can choose to leave.
Another way of looking at it is that if you have medical problems that make it hard to walk in full gravity, low gravity might make the difference between being stuck in a wheelchair and being able to walk.
Ignoring for a moment the optics of sending our old people away to Mars, I think a Martian old folks home could actually be quite popular and successful.
It'd be awful if you're a person who is concerned with physical comfort/health. The drive for those that wish to go is the big transcendent picture and goal. It's beyond those desires for self preservation and comfort.
In the "Why Mars?" section, Musk writes:
> It is a little cold, but we can warm it up.
In the very, very, long term we might be able to terraform Mars, but in the next few hundred years I think it would be more accurate to say that heating is a lot easier to manage than cooling.
We can survive in Martian temperatures that occur on Earth with nothing more than well-insulated clothing. But as Phoenix, AZ is discovering this week, even a few degrees over body temperature is really bad.
In the section on the importance of reusability, he writes:
> However, with frequent flights, you can take an aircraft that costs $90 million and buy a ticket on Southwest right now from Los Angeles to Vegas for $43, including taxes.
That's because the casinos subsidize it. Flights to and from Vegas from anywhere are cheaper than others, even more frequent or shorter flights.
Vegas casinos subsidize public air travel? I didn't realize they did this...do you have a source for this?
Even in the face of claims to the contrary: https://m.lasvegassun.com/news/1997/nov/17/no-airline-subsid... the difference between air fares to Vegas and comparable cities and the difference in hotel rates clearly shows that there is something going on.
It may not be a true subsidy; perhaps the airlines found that the high volume of very price-sensitive travelers to Vegas justified thinner margins than to other cities. But the point stands that it's disingenuous to use a $43 flight to Vegas as a price point for the cost of air travel.
But we need pressurized suits to survive on Mars. Mars is really not a smart place to colonize. Clouds of Venus are much nicer.
Forced to choose between fighting cold and low pressure or fighting heat, high pressure, and fighting gravity that wants you to plummet 50 km through the acid clouds....I'd pick the Martian colony, thank you very much!
Hot air balloons are a well-understood technology.
Resources can be brought from asteroids.
Mars is not only low pressure,but also low gravity, high radiation environment. Venus colony could be powered by solar power, as it's much closer to Sun, on Mars it would be much harder to generate power.
It's not like rockets launched from the surface spend a long time pushing on the planet.
There's probably some trick to do with the crew portion of the rocket too, where it could be buoyant before it got down to 9 atmospheres.
Am I alone in feeling this way?
Therefore, no matter how bad one can feel about the prospect of humanity being wiped out, that feeling can be made arbitrarily low by delaying the expectation of its occurrence.
That number seems highly speculative ...
But afaik, there is no self-sustaining city on earth, so I doubt there are more solid numbers on that topic. Economic cycles are quite complex, thats for fure.
But aside from that, I think the much more realistic plan, than building and leaving in a huge fleet at once and then see how it goes, would be sending robots first and let them build at least a rudimentary base first and mine resources and teleoperate the whole thing from a save distance ... if that works, we might be ready for colonisation.
And the needed technology is evolving right now on earth.
Maybe less spectacular, but more realistic in my opinion.
Indeed. That's an other concept that I'm not sure Musk is fully aware of. Economies, industrial production systems are highly inter-dependent on Earth. In our "technological civilization", even to build something as simple as a pencil, you need lots of people collaborating from all over the planet . So to me the idea of building a "self-sustaining technological civilization" on mars sounds quite ludicrous.
I agree. I think smaller cycles of dependency are possible (and for the sake of stability maybe better). But we probably have to figure that out, before we go to mars ...
Sure, but it does show how speculative Musk's plan for a "self-sustaining city" is. There is no such city on Earth. What makes him think it would work on mars?
Then scale back from 100% self supporting and make a place on mars that is most self-supporting or self-supporting in an emergency. They don't need to be self sufficient from day 1, they need need to be self sufficient enough to eventually get by without constant injection of resources. At some point that can be part of this economy that makes it unprofitable to have self-sufficiency on Earth, but because of trade costs the economics will look different, but not impossible. Locally source will be 1% the cost so buying from Earth with done only for the most valuable items. Things like seeds or IP make perfect sense to buy across the gulf of space. Thing like bulk lumber and toilet paper do not and probably never will.
(not saying that it is worth the effort to go for it in the beginning, that would be up to the martians to decide I guess)
The main problem is that robots (currently) suck without humans to guide them. And with an up-to 20-minute speed of light delay each way, it's really hard to guide robots on Mars. Curiosity, the most complex robot we've landed on Mars, is managing something like <5 km/year.
Autonomous robots would be needed- multiple, very smart and very tough. We don't have that yet.
A business doing this would drop several hundred of the same machine on mars. If they were semi-autonomous like Curiosity and controlled from earth each one might get a dedicated driver instead of a team of scientists. A command might include placing location markers, flattening the surface between two markers, pick up dust inside a region and filtering it for some material.
The driver would determine what tasks he needed to get done (probably from a jira ticket :( ) then would coordinate with other nearby drivers and even with high latency they could get decent throughput. It might even be that one driver might get several construction machines if the tasks were simple enough. If a machine breaks, the simply move it out of the way until a manned mission.
It might also be that there could be a small team on the surface and a slightly larger team in orbit. The surface team could do maintenance and the team in orbit could control a small army of machines. These people could be rotated around or semi-permanent depending on the details of the work and the economics of this situation.
We also don't have self-sustainable city's yet.
But autonomous robots (or even self replicating ones) are very helpfull for reaching self-sustainable citys.
So ... we should work on both ... while Elon Musk is doing the rockets ...
The only absurd thing here is that you seemingly enjoy informing people on facts about themselves despite knowing nothing about them.
It's an interesting strategy, but I think it has a major downside too. It strikes many people (me included) as a bit detached from reality and even cold to the concerns of the many people here on Earth that are struggling.
Interesting Venn diagram in Fig 2. If "COST OF TRIP TO MARS" = "INFINITE MONEY", shouldn't "CAN AFFORD TO GO" be an empty set?